After Lica's departure, Mrs. Vera had vainly peeked from behind the curtains, trying to see whether they turned their heads one after the other. Lica hadn't turned his head, so Mrs. Vera reached the banal conclusion that all men deride women, and that all women are dead set. Sia hadn't turned her head because it was hanging heavily, yet she had remained at the gate for a while. She was sorry that Lica had gone and she didn't feel like getting back to the house. Lica came over to see her quite often, but their strolls became rarer than before. The pride of being useful, and the new rank acquired by being a nurse in the Rim house, were fighting, in her slow mind, with the regret that she felt for her yesterday's comfortable life. Lica hadn't turned his head because, once gone from a place, he never looked back. During today's visit he only noticed, with satisfaction, that things were going smoothly. It had never crossed his mind to measure the time spent, or to re-run for himself the film of the past. Indeed, how come that this trunk-like girl had set her cap at Lica, who was such a slim boy, medium sized, with a small, black moustache above a cute little mouth, always whistling between his small, strong, white teeth that he would usually press, whether he was content or unhappy. That little mutt of a girl had easily fallen in his arms and she wasn't too much trouble either. It was precisely a stupid and ugly girl who had made him this gift. When the trouble befell her, the ugly, stupid one whined and sobbed. Since he couldn't stand seeing an ugly girl making wry faces, in a moment of irritation, Lica said: "Bring her on then!" He was extremely young, but even thoughtless gestures suited Lica. That was an incident that didn't prevent his existence from going on as it was, and Lica was pleased with his existence. He had left the ungainly woman in the hostess's bed, he had grabbed the kid and had taken it to a midwife that he knew well. Miss Mari had well fed the little girl with a bottle made of cloth and sunk in milk and water with sugar, then she found at the Filipeshti barrier some woman whose baby had just died three days before. The midwife made her regain her milk and gave her a new broom in order for her to keep everything neat. Since one of the two small rooms that she had was empty, Miss Mari hosted Lica for a while, thus saving him from another of his hostesses who was beginning to nag him by talking about divorce and marriage. Miss Mari was pretty and her body was as delicate as a bird's, and she had no clue about what marriage could have meant. When, after a while, Miss Mari told Lica that she had found a serious tenant for the room, he was just thinking of searching for a place elsewhere, for he was a bit starved due to the dairy regime that he was forced to take up. Since she was used to eating at her clients', the midwife couldn't stand cooking and whenever she was free at home, she would only lick a cup of milk, like a kitten. Having a soft spot for Miss Mari, Lica was coming over quite often and he was always welcomed with trills of pleasure. The midwife didn't stop from watching over the little girl and they would both go to see her like a nice couple. At the baptism, Miss Mari, who was the godmother, laughingly asked Lica what was the mother's name. Lica, out of respect for the ceremony, had chewed on the swearing aimed at
the mysterious mother. Since it was Saint Athanasie's day, the priest named her Anastasia. When she managed to speak, the girl called Miss Mari "mommy", without associating any precise idea to that word. In order to tangle her notions, there was also "the maternal wet nurse"– a decent woman, though a bit abrupt, a carpenter's wife; then there were the neighbors who, according to their moods, would call on to her "Come to mommy" or they would chase her with curses about the unknown mother. When necessary, Miss Mari would scare off the nurse by mentioning Lica, although she snorted at the idea of how "not so terrible" was Lica. She only knew him as a small butterfly who loved nicely. Lica, the frolicsome boy, would nevertheless ruffle when necessary, and the wet nurse feared him. Lica had also another way of behaving, unnoticed by Miss Mari. Still the midwife was right. It would have been hard to find, in the entire army, a first sergeant finer than Lica. He never beat his soldiers; he had only slapped a woman once and she had deserved it, and it was also only once that he had wrung a bit in anger somebody's neck, because that man wasn't minding his own business. But since Lica had quickly vanished from the scene, he found out only later on that the victim had regained his breath. Lica couldn't stand brutality, but he had a quick temper. Although he wasn't a barrack kind of man, he liked the tunic, the stripes and his job. He had had no wish of being a sub-lieutenant. He was supposed to go through an exam and, all the bosses' assurances put aside, he was horrified by everything that was printed and written. Even the registers had a strong impact on him and he always left them to the military clerk. In front of a register, he felt less at ease, as if he had been in a one-door room that any dangerous man might enter. Besides, as far as his environment and principles were concerned, a secondary lieutenant was less than a non-com. It was a job that lacked "posture". At the Lime Inn, when one of them would show up, only one single suspicious gaze was circling the room if he was a stranger, whilst if he was a known person, he was received with indifference. Even Lica greeted them with negligence. Neither the innkeeper, nor his wife, nor the innkeeper's miss would have chatted with such a gull. So no love, no fodder business, no honors. Whenever he got bored with the army, Lica was considering civilian life. If it hadn't been for the tunic, he would have loved the red ties. After his leaving Miss Mari, Lica got back to his former hostess, who had come to her senses. He even put together a small business with her husband. When he had cigarettes, Lica was a bit careless with money, still nothing pleased him more than an easily and cunningly earned penny. The wet nurse's hostel had been an unpleasant surprise for Lica, but he quickly solved the matter by putting some more zest in his usual transactions. He would never stretch too much. He couldn't stand the risks or the obvious abuse, but nothing prevented him from making money, when in need. His business resulted often in just merry pranks pulled on the deliverers for the use of the army and which brought a few pennies for him as well, or consisted in an intelligent aid given to the bosses, without direct responsibility. He tried to score big only once; he didn't take offense in anything, but he got scared of himself. He was daring and fearful at the same time. The thought that his business was registered troubled him and the things that he knew about the military justice's formalities were making him unbearably anxious. The war council got him into covetously thinking about the red ties that the civilians wear. At that time, he even quit his job, but he came back rather quickly. He had moved the girl from the wet nurse only when she was six. A huckster was taking care of her then. Lica couldn't take her with him. He never knew for sure where he was going to sleep or eat. Beginning with the huckster, Sia had begun a nomad's life: moved from hostess to hostess, according to circumstances, or entrusted to Lica's numerous girlfriends, when the Troubadour was running out of money. Those girlfriends admired Lica even more for being a father. They thought the young scamp
was all the more cute, by being so kind to a child that a scamp woman had given him – for Lica had always a curse for Sia's mother in hand. Some of them, less smart, thinking that he liked prodigies, expressed their wish to breed too, but Lica was pressing his teeth with meanness and they saw their error. Most of them understood him better and Sia had a collection of traditional little shirts in all sizes, made by Lica's pretty dames. The number of the benevolent mothers never ceased to grow. They never mentioned the other one, the real one. Lica wasn't confidential; otherwise, he didn't seem to pay special attention to the matter. He had turned his back on the ugly girl and that was it. Ever since his daughter started to walk, Lica was having fun in dragging her along wherever he went. As nomad as he was, he was a loner. Although close, he wasn't friendly. He was doing business with men, therefore he couldn't bond with them. The women were devoted to him but he didn't take them seriously and didn't trust them except for the womanly matters: for patching up, for sewing, laundering, ironing and mothering the girl. Discreet and cautious by nature and by trade, he also had some sort of shyness related to his slum-like living. Lica was somewhat ambitious and very clean. As he would always wash, pomade, dress up to the nines, he would also clear his conscience of some small, inevitable dirty business. True enough, he was in a particular situation. He had quarrels with his family because he had never studied, he had relatives who were well-off, his sister Lenora for example, since she married the landlord Hallipa, was treating him as if he were her husbands' dogs. That's why that girl, having shown up by accident in his life, became a small pivot of his living. Lica would have rightfully mocked anyone saying that he was a good father. The same whim was dictating all his principle-less doings. He would drag the girl along because he had noticed, when he first tried, that the one passing by, male or female, noticed him and that the ever numerous army "stripes" didn't stop him without reason; or because the girl served as an excuse to escape a meeting that didn't suit him; or because he had nothing better to do that day. Sia was a harmless presence which suited him. He could also enjoy himself by talking freely, without the precautions that one has to take when talking to others. When she began to talk and understand, and would utter a monosyllabic reply, Lica turned the monologue into a dialogue, undaunted. True enough, she was a bit slow in her speech and also in her walk. Next to the nimble Lica, Sia was crawling in order not to be left behind. Lica's thin hands were unwillingly crushing her fist, while dragging her. From his nervous fist, clenched on hers, she had learned the feeling of command more than from her nurses' beatings. Lica also taught her fear. She wasn't afraid of the darkness of the rooms or of the yards, nor of lumber rooms or in cellars at night. Yet on the street, amidst the coaches and the people, when Lica would lose her hand and she would get lost, or whenever he would forget her in some corner in order to talk to someone, she had known fear and the feeling of protection embodied in Lica at the same time. He was playing with her fears according to his moods. He was hiding on purpose just to have a laugh when seeing her flummoxed; he was gloating on her fear, or he would suddenly show up in front of her, playing "boo", or he would slap her with his greasy hand because she looked like an idiot and couldn't manage on her own. Lica was always a cheerful lad and a bit cruel, with a scanty pedagogical education. In the same summary manner, she was learning that he was the lord of good and evil. She also learned from Lica about the superior aspects of the world. Lica was talkative, he would comment on everything he saw: people, landscapes. Too lazy to tire herself by discovering these things on her own, Sia would thus take all the notions for granted and refused anything coming from elsewhere. She also got her moral notions from Lica. He was talking freely about anything crossing his mind, with the conviction that she doesn't understand anything on the one hand, and satisfied that there's someone to listen to him on the other. He was delicate enough, in his own way, but he had a juicy vocabulary and so had his stories. He sometimes remembered to refrain, but on other occasions, the echo that he was getting from Sia amused him. Nevertheless, if she was bursting into a stupid, gross laughter at one of his indecent words, a slap would set her on the right track. Lica was also a great provider of various joys. He liked gardens, therefore on Sundays all the bowers and the vaults knew him. Accustomed to seeing various couples, they would still look in wonder at that frolicsome young man with that clumsy child and later on, at that trunk-like girl with that agile companion drinking a single draught beer and eating only one beefsteak, for Lica was sober and thrifty with his own money. He would often take Sia to see his friends. Those were the winter parties. When the girl was very small, those loving women never ceased to spoil her, in order to please Lica. As sullen as she was, the girl felt some kind of a cat's purring when its throat is swelling and its claws hide due to the caresses. Once she grew up, she understood the pleasure of food and of presents. Then there was the time when she could be sent out playing; she had become curious and started to hate the women because of whom she was driven away. Sometimes she was forgotten at their party and then the women, who were laughing out loud, and because of whom Lica ceased to notice her, seemed obnoxious and happy. When she tried to show her stubbornness, Lica, while whipping her, would say in despise: "She is a bit of a dullard!" But, all in all, they were living just fine. Lica preferred doing his business with the pretty women's husbands, who would intervene in the Troubadour's favor. He didn't take money from women, nor would he give them any. Sometimes he gave to a woman a flower that he had given to another. Only once, some stupid woman had put some money in his pocket. He had turned the pocket inside out, with a frown that didn't announce anything good. The woman collected the money from the floor and humbly said: "Why all the sorrow?!" rightfully bemused of such principles. Lica didn't have any principles, he had preferences. He didn't like the procedure. But usually women were treating him the way he liked it. If he needed a small loan, he could find it, and he could always enjoy a refined meal, without which love would have been incomplete. Not only that Lica had his cover set on the table, but his bed was always prepared, as a guest or as a lover. From all these pilgrimages, it is obvious that he associated a certain street with a certain kind of feast and of bed. This adventurous way of living had a sort of a discipline, by repetition. Sia was about ten when Lica saw, one day, on a house, a banner that brought before his eyes cousin Lina from Tecuci. The discovery made him grit his small teeth. He had noticed, the Sunday before, that Sia, ill-dressed as she was, was embarrassing him. He was ready not to go out with her anymore. Then he found another cure. He decided that Lina would, from then on, take care of the girl's trousseau. Regardless of his decision, he had his doubts about the procedure. He knew that Lina was married to a German doctor and it wasn't an easy job for him to set his foot in the door. He collected information first. The German doctor was teaching in Jassy, and Lina spent most of her time alone. He chose that time of the day when she was receiving medical visits. This unexpected guest had a great effect on Lina. She remained stuck to the medicine cabinet. In that emotional effect there was great bewilderment, enough care and some content. From the first moment, Lica was sudden and harsh in his speech. He hadn't prepared his attitude; he had found it in his feelings. He would always keep that mean harshness and Lina would feel at every visit the same fear mixed with some pleasure. Lina didn't fight any of Lica's demands. She didn't have baby clothes, but she would get them. She still hadn't forgotten about Rim's existence and ever since the first meeting, she presented the doctor under the auspices of terror, due to her own worry. Lica was counting on the fact that the doctor was away for the time being, and strongly believed that Lina had to provide
. Since there was no debate over his opinions, his point of view was well spoken. Lacking energy, and without Rim's actual protection, kind Lina had taken the road to servitude. Her discontent reflected on the girl, who was the tireless pretext of Lica's demands. At each visit, she would wonder in spite what kind of needs she still had, what ever happened to the child. She, who loved all children, rejected no one else but Sia. She never wanted to see her and never asked to do so, she was only asking about her out of duty, as a measure for preventing trouble. She was meeting his requests all the more quickly, as she would have hoped for Lica to change the subject. The interest that Lica showed in the girl satisfied her, but she would have liked that Sia's name missed at least once from this tithing, even though Sia was precisely the tithe's reason. On the contrary, Lica would forget about Sia at any time, but would remember her on a regular basis whenever he visited "M'am Lina". Although he had discovered this source of subsidies, Lica had some other business to do. He had received a proposal to be a clothes salesman. He had the right qualities: he was engaging, insinuating and jesting, skilful in presenting his merchandise and, after a night spent on the train, he could still be fresh and well humored. Thus, he expanded his activity in the province, but wasn't capable of persevering. He would only work according to his moods, and from time to time. An acquaintance of his introduced him to the Capital's Police. He was a good civil detective for certain delicate businesses that requested more cunningness than intervention. A refined espionage, a trap well set where, at the last moment, he would let the others, more prepared than him, take the punches. For Lica was still a "delicate" being. He didn't lack force, but one could see in him more quick impulses than true resistance. In training, even in barracks, he was appreciated for his audacity and for his "way" more than for his work. In show productions, he was the artist, because he had the gumption, the silhouette, he had the skill and, when in need, a will's tension that would sustain the muscles but didn't endure for long. What made him leave the military life for good had been, besides the new subsidies from Lina, besides the benefits that dropped in now and then, besides the love for the red ties, another, more subtle, reason – the headmistress of the primary school, where he finally registered Sia, had told him in a very nice voice that impressed him: "Too bad that you are in the army!" What in the world did she mean by that?! The lady wasn't, of course, anti-military, but she must have had some prejudices regarding the inferior ranks. The headmistress was in her thirties, green eyed, beautifully busted, and was wearing two big pony tails on her head, which made her look like an icon. Without thinking any further, Lica had gotten rather tired of the barracks. In the long series of his sentimental affairs, Miss headmistress had a unique platonic place. The book list, the term grades, Sia's laziness, were opportunities of which Lica was taking advantage and the lady – especially since he became a civilian – didn't find his visits to be a bother. The lady was naïve and probably had serious thoughts about Lica, which the flippant Lica wouldn't have set aside. But war broke out. Lica, summoned to the regiment, regained his tunic and vanished somewhere in Ilfov, taking care of urgent supply matters. That's how he arrived in Prundeni, at Hallipa's, his brother in law's estate. In normal times, Lica would avoid his family that was avoiding him. His vagrancy had put him in an inferior position among his relatives. Yet, in those agitated times, things had changed: Hallipa had shown to be polite and "the beautiful serpent" – for that's what Lica called his sister – couldn't chase him away, as he was invested with official military business. Lica had found kind Lina established at Prundeni and brought the subject "Sia" into the conversation, for he did not know what to do with her. But Lina had to ask Lenora Hallipa who definitely refused. Lica's anger had, of course, fallen on Lina who impotently tucked her head between her shoulders. Then Lica told Miss headmistress about his sorrow, who suggested that Sia should remain by her side. Since times seemed to be harder by the day, the girl would keep her company and help her out. The offer was made in a delicate manner and there was something romantic to it. Lica had accepted by repeatedly kissing her hands and the lady admired his uniform this time. At Prundeni, Lica had shouted at Lina: "I found something for the girl! A beautiful and educated young lady who loves me!" Only ugly Lina could provoke such a brutal summary of the distinguished feelings between him and the headmistress. "Make sure that you send them everything they need!" Lica added. There you go! That was something that Lina could do. The idea that she had to refuse him and that "poor Lica" was leaving for the front had provoked a comical sentimental grimace in Lina. One would have said that she was about to cry. But Lica wasn't leaving yet. He had remained among the last ones. That's how the bosses decided and he would gladly support their orders. He would come ever so often to Prundeni, but would go to the bailiff's house and not to the boyar's mansion, where the women were chatting too much about the war. Yet he always met Hallipa and was benevolent at all times. Hallipa was very much worried of the successive departures of all the men in his service. Naturally, they were doing their duty, and Lica was late because that was his duty. But Hallipa was wondering about what he would do on his own and he thought that Lica's presence could go on forever. The young man almost had the same thought, that he would stay there forever, an absurd, yet persistent thought. Maybe it was just a hunch, an anticipation on the facts to occur or some kind of suggestion! Lica wasn't a coward, but he didn't feel the patriotic necessity of his departure. Nevertheless, he would leave, when his turn came, with the arrière-train
's last columns! Hallipa was as well heart and soul for action and victory, but the responsibilities towards his family and fortune, that this enthusiasm generated, troubled him and he didn't associate heroism with his brother in law's tunic. During his traveling in the countryside, which surpassed his working habits, Lica had fallen ill with a strong fever. He had been hospitalized. The doctors hesitated between typhoid fever and a recurrent illness. The evacuation took place without him at the time when he was just about to begin his recovery. He couldn't say how he managed not to leave on the sanitary trains. Therefore, he finished his convalescence period under German supervision, and left the hospital with a lot of proving small papers that he had kept with great care. Ugly times! He was at the enemy's disposal and, a funny matter that was, he was being used for the supply services. Lica couldn't stand the capital under occupation, and he thought that it would be better not to be seen around. He had left without seeing Sia. It would have been hard for him to face Miss headmistress. He hadn't called on any other girlfriends either. The women, although they didn't get along badly with the Germans, out of necessity, proved some sort of a lunacy for heroes when it came to the battles, and for them the Romanians were merely the ones on the other side. Lica wasn't getting along with the Germans either, but for reasons of necessity. He had never liked foreign nations, especially the oppressive ones. The forced supply service brought him back to Prundeni. Lica had shown to be craving for his regiment and since Hallipa asked him, rather severely, how come that he stayed, Lica, irritated by these suspicions, showed him the proofs. His visits to the mansion were rare. The beautiful landlady was shouting about his being a traitor and a deserter, and Lica would turn yellow at the thought of the punishments that awaited deserters. Yet there, at the bailiff's mansion, Lica was substituting Stefan, the first bailiff, successfully. Hallipa had made a transaction with his acquaintance: "If he's guilty, he will settle the matter with the ones entitled to ask those questions." Until then, he had obtained the approval for his staying from the military headquarters. Thus, Lica was forced to discover the villages' charm. The peasants didn't know much about his business, but since he was protected by the "boyar", nobody suspected him. When everything came to an end, along with the return of the first soldiers, Lica had left Prundeni without saying good bye. First, he went straight to Miss headmistress to search for Sia. A meeting lacking sympathy. Lica was afraid of questions and the lady was in a bad mood because she hadn't been pleased with Sia's behavior. The girl couldn't forgive her protector for having put her to work. When, that same night, Lica came to take away Sia for good, the lady wasn't at home, so the departure seemed to be a runaway. This parting ended the platonic novel between Lica and the headmistress. Lica rediscovered Sia with great surprise: she had grown a lot, but she was ugly and clumsy. She seemed to be dragging one foot. He showed her to a doctor who said that there was nothing wrong with her except for the fact that the left leg was lazier. Lica had shaken her with such despise that the girl started to walk more vividly. Of all the former hostesses, Lica had thought about Miss Mari. Indeed, the midwife hadn't left for Moldova, and had quite an easy living with her guests, as she said, and even made good business. He had taken Sia and Lica in with great pleasure, and acted so nicely that it was to her alone that Lica had told the story of his suffering, without her showing any bewilderment or discontent. When the regiment came back, Lica, as anxious as he was, went to the headquarters and asked for temporary reassignment. It was fear but also caution that sent him back to the wolf's lair. There, close to the danger, he could protect himself better. In the happy disorder of the return, when discharges were made, and vacations were granted, and great voids were being noticed, his request was welcome. Lica avoided his comrades. Their fresh heroic memories upset him. The conversations that had no other subject could have easily taken him into the trap of detailing his own passed time. But he knew how to be useful to the bosses. Being sent again on missions of supplying and registering, the indulgence of those benevolent and relaxing times, protected him from suspicions. He was sheltered, and in plain light at the same time, as he had wisely predicted. At the first alarm, he would undoubtedly flee. That was a feeling that needed no further analysis. Lica couldn't face hardships. Anyways, was he guilty or not? He had been taken ill! Not ill enough for him no to be able to leave! Why hadn't he left? All that time he had regrets and a certain worry that one might call remorse. He had hated the enemy his teeth clenched, yet impotent. Naturally, there were other reasons than those of the ones from the other side, from the action field, and a different hatred than the one on the battlefield must have felt! Nobody had wished for victory and peace more than him. For him it would secure again the peace of mind that satisfied him! But who can search for the small vices within a virtuous aspiration! What he felt then was a great jealousy of the ones who had fought. He imagined that he could have done heroic deeds himself. Why not?! He was impulsive and cautious, cunning and careless. He had the attributes of a hero. He could have done who knows what great deeds whistling at the same time! Besides dying! He would have liked to have decorations… red ribboned… he had only had the necessary relationships with the Germans. Due to his good negotiations, the brother in law's estate had been spared. Fortunately, the obnoxious German columns were far away. Lica thought he was a good patriot, but didn't have much faith in the small German papers.Therefore, after a while, when the regiment had to leave for Transylvania, Lica, although nobody had upset him, decided to take to civilian life for good. A certain circumstance forced him to leave Bucharest for a while. Miss Mari had married the enriched merchant, she, who had never believed in the necessity of marriage and precisely then, when the communism of love was booming! A simple happening! The merchant thought about opening a depot in Galatzi: maybe he feared the possible research on the origins of fortunes or maybe he thought Galatzi might be a better place for new trafficking! The position of a family man suited him better there and since he was taking Miss Mari with him, he decided to stop by the church and the city hall. It was a beautiful wedding and Lica enjoyed himself splendidly. The midwife, still pretty and delicate, seemed a little girl dressed in white and wearing a veil. She had suggested to Lica to join the wine business as a salesman.
Sia, who was good for nothing in that professional school where Lina had registered her, and who had fled the orphanage where she was staying, was taken to Galatzi to a nursing school. Lica found a change of air to be quite appropriate. Anyway, he would come and go! He started again to visit Lina on a regular basis. He didn't bother to mention Sia anymore and Lina was content knowing her to be as far away as possible. She had never been able to get used to her existence. Especially now, since Rim was back!At the first meeting with cousin Lica, the doctor was dignified yet polite. His moving to Bucharest, due to Lina's persistence, was still a novelty. He received quite well the first demand for a loan. Then, little by little, he was less easy to handle; he had acquired the nasty habit of sermonizing, then he appealed to rudeness and refusal. Rim was torturing Lina because of Lica, who was torturing Lina in turn; she couldn't defend herself from either one of them. Quickly disgusted by all occupation, Lica started to neglect the commission fee from Galatzi quite soon. Since she couldn't get used to marital life, Miss Mari had returned to her clients and the nurses' school moved to Mogoshoaia. For Lina, Sia's being near, although she didn't see her, had become a burden. That was the time when the Rim marriage had reached the misery of brutal scandals. For poor Lina, life had become unbearable. The teacher would take revenge on real, or imaginary, pains, persecuting her. Lica, being despised by the doctor, was stewing in his own grease, clenching his small teeth and whistling in a manner that predicted no good. Rim called him a "crook" – an inappropriate word just as "deserter".Mini had a fairer opinion on him, although a bit too imaginative. Whenever she saw him, appearing and disappearing from behind a door, at Rim's, she would be startled, as if an apache had been sneaking around and he had had the right keys for every drawer in the coat pocket, yet he didn't use them, but invited the hostess to open them up on her own. When she met him unexpectedly at some street corner, he seemed to be a modern brigand whose forest is the city. Lica fitted rather well in this description. The devoted girl friends, scattered everywhere, represented quite accurately the simple organization of some thief-hostesses; Lica's slender, juvenile, likable and suspect silhouette didn't contradict the same resemblances. The harmless vagrant, his hands always in his pocket, could have been holding a gun or a knife's sheath. Weapons that needn't serve their master as long as he could disarm his opponent with the sharp and cruel smile, under the small moustache, with the way he gazed, with the precise demand and, after the deed, with the dismissing movement of his shoulders turned in the exercise of a careless movement. Nevertheless, Lica's balance sheet was seriously affected, and that made him act with a mean cruelty that was especially directed at
Lina. Those were times when one could easily earn a lot of money, but Lica wasn't familiar yet with the mechanism of the new world. He was trying to go back to the interrupted business, but the old key-thread couldn't be mended. Of course, his careless manner made him feel less of the great changes around him, but he could not take advantage of them either. In fact, almost all of the new business was done by associations with foreigners and Lica couldn't stand the "scoundrels". His entire attitude – good or bad – made him a true aborigine. Somewhat hungry, in need, he was sharpening his teeth without daring to bite. Sia had grown into a woman. Yet she was as numb and grumpy as ever. Whenever someone made a pass at her, nothing would come out of it. The girl wasn't afraid but she wouldn't flirt either. She was indolent and she feared Lica – of that consisted her defense and her virtue. She barely got out of the hands of a coarse steward at the last moment, fighting with her fists and mentioning Lica's name as a menace. She had been used to seeing men and women together ever since she lived in the wet nurse's house. But she didn't like people, men or women; considering her laziness, they were tiring. One was supposed to take care of them, to talk to them! Besides, she was Lica's daughter, she couldn't have been a match for just anyone. All the lady comrades knew Lica: in the middle of thirty white aprons, he would jest with the girls, next to his own, as careless as usual.Although she lacked imagination, Sia had that popular need of exaggerating and distorting things. Lica's adventures, his occupations, the family's nobility were told by Sia not accordingly to the strict truth, but to the importance that she invested in anything that had to do with Lica. Sia was the kind of being who was completely subjected to the man whom she had been taught to call a father. The girl had always shown to be keen on business. Lica's financial arrangements had been of interest to her ever since she was a little girl. Whenever she was around, she would open her eyes and ears, a bit more agile than before, and watch closely the transaction, strongly desiring for Lica to have his gain. Sometimes he would give her a coin of that turnover, but, to his great surprise, she would give it back to him. "You keep it! So that there will be more!" Later on, she had proved the same avidity for money and the same lack of interest. When Lica, at the end of his patience, had mooted the good idea of installing Sia at Lina's, not even he had imagined that it would pay off so well. Sia was proud and happy at being used in a financial operation. Naturally, her salary went to Lica, as a justified right. She was only an instrument, for him to get the interest from a capital of old hatred and of cancelled debts that he had to score with cousin Lina and with the German guy. Until then, Sia had known Lina just as she knew, from Lica's stories, all the gallery of relatives and friends. She had known Lina in the forceful and dismissing manner in which Lica had presented her. When Sia had to take that job of confidence, Lica gave her all the necessary records. Now, when talking about Lina, they both used that "auntie" in accomplice laughter. Sia proved to be skilful in her new job and Lica thought that her having been installed there was a good, and well-paid, joke. He was never serious except on the day when he had to ask or to receive money. He was furious with Lina only by habit now. The doctor seemed more tamed since Lica had been invested as the nurse's father. Lica, he too, began to look less and less like a brigand, and changed his habits. Sia's schedule was not the same either. She didn't have so much freedom anymore, and with Lica she only went to the confectionaries and to the cinema. The highlight of refined entertainment in the company of a handsome chevalier. Still, she regretted the old places, but Lica had decided never to go back there. In return, he would tell her every detail of his whereabouts as if she had been a comrade. Sia didn't resent the women that Lica was merchandising in detail and understood their passion for him. Life had no mystery, nor shyness to her. Of late, Lica was one of the intimate friends of a resigned captain, who was married to a very pretty woman, who sang and played the piano and was, of course, crazy about Lica. But Lica had become cautious in choosing his friends. He didn't want the Rims to be mixed with just about anyone; he kept them secure from curious people and from who knows what dangerous contact with his former slum relations. In his living there were some missing points when he met princess Ada. Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu
(1876-1955) was often compared to Proust in her art of seizing personal dramas – and dirt – hidden under polished social conventions. The variegated urban society in her novels is strewn with clinical cases, snobs and arrivistes weaving an intricate, yet very realistic, web of social relations.
by Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu (1876-1955)