At nightfall, after a rather sultry day, in a small station on the Braşov-Cluj line in Transylvania, I was waiting for the express train to Budapest… I did not have to wait too long… the train arrived… I picked up my travelling bag and climbed into the nearest second class carriage; there was no time to choose long; the train would leave afterwards. In fact, I heard the whistle as soon as I have climbed up and pulled out of the station.It's very hot in the carriage and it is very crowded, particularly along the corridors, where several languages are spoken very loudly and the heavy smell of lignite smoke mixes with the smoke of cheap cigars. I entered a compartment where I saw a vacant seat; I heaved my bag to the luggage – rack and I sat in a corner, by the door.For the time being, in the compartment I chose, there were only two people, sitting together opposite me, in the corner by the window. Although the night-lamp threw very poor light and I could not make out their faces, I could realise by their silhouettes that they were a young couple, a gentleman and a lady, whispering in a very low voice; however low their whispers were, and in spite of the rhythmical rumble of the wheels, which now rolled at creditable speed, I could nevertheless gather a few words exchanged by the young couple: "The devil alone could have brought in this fellow!" the lady said."Hush!" the gentleman appeased her. "He might hear! He may be Romanian…"So I said to myself: "Oh, is that your game? All right!" and with that mental remark, I buttoned down my waterproof, pulled down my cap over my eyes and leant back as if getting ready for sleep. But hardly had I finished the preparations when I heard – close by, at the very door of the compartment – a loud, short cough, repeated three times, so that unwittingly I stood up and looked round, as if I had heard a signal conveyed to me in keeping with some previous arrangement. An elderly lady – now I could see her fairly well in the light of the lamp in the corridor – it was she that had coughed. A sort of suburban woman… None of my acquaintances… I resumed my seat and glancing inside the compartment I noticed the gentleman having moved to the other end of the seat, right in front of me.For a moment I closed my eyes."Excuse me!" I heard a woman say.And I felt somebody nudging me and pushing my knees. I drew them back as far as I could and I opened my eyes.The lady who had coughed a minute before was now helping a rather portly gentleman to come in from the corridor. The gentleman was almost tottering and, being closely supported by the lady, titubated rather heavily, also rolled by the movement of the train, and took his seat at the window, on my side, opposite the young lady who seemed to have gone to sleep."Madam Sophia," the gentleman panted, "please draw aside the little curtain of the lamp for I've lost my cushion…"The lady who had coughed climbed on the seat and made more light.Now I could get a better view of my travelling companions.The young lady who leant her head against the back of her seat, with her eyes closed, is a brilliant blonde beauty of about 22 or 23. The young gentleman, now sitting opposite me in the same pose as the young lady, but in the opposite position like an architectural counterpart was a swarthy man of about 30, well-built and handsome, wearing a very mild expression on his face. The heavy gentleman – having found his cushion and prepared for sleep, cuddling up on half of the seat, his face to the wall as it were, that is his back turned to the seat opposite him – was a not very old man, in his early or perhaps late fifties; he seemed to be very tired with the travelling; he might even be ailing, considering the care with which the lady looked after him. That fourth travelling companion of mine was a dried-up woman of 40-odd years; she must have been rather pretty in her heyday: full of sex-appeal and boasting sparkling eyes, bright with vividness and slyness.As soon as she had put to sleep her burdensome charge, the lady climbed on the seat again and drew the curtain back over the lamp.All the while I pretended to slumber, peeping from under my peak-cup. "Mother!" the young lady asked in a subdued voice, raising her head a little. What is Michael doing? Is he asleep?""Far from it!" the gentleman opposite me answered in an even more subdued voice."Then why aren't you coming back?" the young lady continued."Wait at least a minute, my dear," the middle-aged lady said, "you won't die for it so soon! Look, there's this stranger too.""The devil may take him! Who the dickens sent him here?""Keep quiet, girlie! Suppose he hears and understands Romanian?"Having said this, the middle-aged lady sat herself near me abruptly, pushing me rather hard. I jumped up as if rising from heavy sleep and the lady apologised:"I'm sorry! I've disturbed your sleep… Can you speak Romanian?""Nem tudom!" I answered in Hungarian."You Magyar?""Ighen!""And can't you understand at all? At all…?""Nem tudom!""May God strike you for a blasted Hungarian!" the young lady cursed. Then she added, humorously: "Michael, Michael! come, don't tarry!"That very moment, the sleeping gentleman began snoring. The younger gentleman left his seat opposite me and resumed the one where I had first found him, close to the younger lady. The middle-aged lady rose from my side and changed to the seat formerly occupied by the young man."Mummy, you ought to go to sleep yourself! It's rather late!" the young woman advised her.Indeed, it was fairly late; practically everybody had withdrawn from the corridor to their compartments, and, luckily, all people had found seats; nobody climbed into our compartment anymore.The middle-aged lady stretched on the two vacant seats opposite me; I did the same on the two seats on my side, as a counterpart to the loudly snoring elderly gentleman.I closed my eyes, in all sincerity this time; it wasn't light enough anyhow; with my eyes closed, I could hear better…"Ah!" the young lady sobbed. "Ah! Michael, one more day! Another 24 hours, and tomorrow night we'll be alone!…"And… they kissed… I could hear it perfectly. They kissed: one long kiss, then several short ones, frequently repeated and rather loud…"You've gone stark mad!" the mother grumbled."Now, mummy, do go to sleep for God's sake!""It's not for my sake; but there's this stranger too…"I gave a snort."Let the Hungarian go hang. Can't you hear him driving pigs to market? Michael! My dear Michael!"And the kisses again…Then, from the bottom of her heart:"Ugh! …Mike! …Mummy! …Mummy!""Well, what's the matter my girl? What else would you like?""Still not asleep?""I'm hot! I can't sleep…""Then why don't you go outside for a while?"The lady got up and went out on the corridor…I was awfully hot myself; I pretended to writhe in my sleep… A long kiss was stifled… I half rose, then stood up and, without looking to the opposite corner, I followed the lady on the corridor.She was about to roll a cigarette; I produced my case and gallantly offered her filter cigarettes."Thank you.""Keirem," I said, giving her a light."And so you don't happen to know Romanian at all?""Mit?" I asked."Romanian!… Romanian!!"I shrugged my shoulders in obvious regret at being unable to understand her; at the same time I offered her cognac out of my hip bottle. The lady took it gladly, then added:"Bravo cognac! that's good quality indeed… Thank you!… It must be rather expensive…"I shrugged my shoulders again and offered her another cigarette.Although I could not understand Romanian, so to speak, I was resolved to remain in the lady's company on the corridor until she thought it fit to enter the compartment… The lady went in… Moments later I went in myself and resumed my seat, stretching as far as I could on half of the seat's length……Aha! Our train was passing under a rain cloud; the rain pattered against the wagon roof and clashed against the window."Mummy… Go to sleep… yourself.""I will… Here I am going to sleep… But the two of you must do the same… and be qui.." I seem to hear music… What bright harmony!… A majestic march! …Yes! … A parade… And what crowds! … Troops… many troops… Oh no! It's at the theatre… No! There's no army… A flight of pigeons rather… Here is a couple… How they bill and coo… Am I dreaming?…What was that? What a noise!…What thuds! I jumped up… I have fallen asleep! I had dreamt! It was broad daylight. How frightened I was! I had thought it was broad daylight. How frightened I was! I had thought it was an accident… What was it? God know how, the young lady had glided during her sleep off her seat and had hit the portly gentleman who had also woken in a fright. The curious thing however was that we had all awaked in the compartment. It's only the young gentleman that was asleep… now in the corner opposite me.I went back to sleep; I still needed some rest.It's broad daylight.. The heavy gentleman rose and sat up, with his bare feet dangling. The young lady was again leaning back, with her eyes closed. The middle-aged lady, sitting by her, was yawning."Madam Sophia, the gentleman said blandly, "try to find my trumpet, please!"The lady climbed to the luggage rack and produced an ear-trumpet. The gentleman took it from her hand, put it to his ear, and then asked: "Madam Sophia! How do you suggest I should begin? As Dr. Buicliu suggested? As Dr. Schachmann advised me? Or as Dr. Urechia recommended?"The lady started speaking loud into the broad mouth of the ear-trumpet:"What did Buicliu recommend?""Kneipp's cure for four months running, on the spot…""And Schachmann?""The electric machine…""And Urechia?""The American pills… what do you call them?"The lady shouted deep into the ear-trumpet:"Pink pills.""Ha, ha, yes…""I suggest you start them on all at once.""I also think so.""You've got plenty of time now: Miţa too will stay for a couple of months at Francisbad…""How long?" the gentleman asked."For two or three months!" the lady shouted into the ear trumpet."At least four, the doctor advised!" answered the gentleman.Having said this, he returned the ear trumpet to the lady and again lay down, his back turned to the opposite seat.In my mind I said: "Now I've got it!"The elderly man started snoring."Michael! …Michael!! … Michael!!!""He's fallen asleep!" the middle-aged lady said."Wonderful!" the young lady said… "What about the Hungarian, mother, is he asleep?"I gave a groan."Can't you hear him?"The young lady stood up and changed to Michael's side, opposite me, while the middle-aged lady took the seat opposite the groaning gentleman.…Some time went by… perhaps an hour … perhaps barely moments… Something struck my knees… I opened my eyes: the sun was shining…The gentleman kept rattling… The middle-aged lady smoked, watching over his sleep…Before me, the young couple were asleep, with smiles on their lips: the lady with her pretty head on the sturdy shoulder and chest of the man who held her waist in his strong right arm, while his left hand held both hers.We were approaching Pest.Having nodded and drowsed for a long time, the middle-aged lady herself had gone to sleep… Oh! Argus! The snoring gentleman budged… He was about to wake up… He was waking up! In a desperate fright, I seized the three hands in front of me and shook them violently.The young couple jumped to their feet:"Pooh! For shame, you Hungarian! You frightened me out of my wits!"But as I could understand no Romanian, I just pointed at the old gentleman who was rolling over and opening his eyes, while the young man had already vanished on the corridor. In the splendid refreshment room of the Pest railway station, there were at one table, having their milk and coffee, the elderly gentleman, the young lady and her mother. On the table, beside the gentleman's cup, lay the ear trumpet… At another table, close by, was my young travelling companion, whose name was Michael.I drew near the table of the ladies, I bowed politely, picked up the ear trumpet and brought it close to the gentleman's ear; the gentleman fitted it properly, as he knew it better; bringing my lips close to the mouth of the trumpet, I said loudly and clearly:"Sir! Although I haven't been favoured enough by your acquaintance… I beg you to look this way…"And I pointed to the table where Michael was sitting. The gentleman looked where I had directed him; the ladies were struck dumb."Sir!" I resumed. "Can you see that youngster?… D'you see him?""Yes, I do. What is it?""I was just asking you out of curiosity!"Then, turning to the flabbergasted ladies: "Have a good trip and a good time, ladies! I kiss the hands of both of you!"…And the Hungarian strutted away, proud at not having found it in his heart to avenge himself on a wanton bit of fluff, troubling her honeymoon for more than a transient moment.

by I. L. Caragiale (1852-1912)