'Ma'am, I don't know what to do. I'm pregnant.''What are you talking about, Maria? Have you no shame?'Maria was 18, had an athletic body and a heavy step, like that of a pack horse. Still, on top of a thin neck, her child-like face with very blue, doll-like eyes and crimson cheeks expressed an ageless naiveté. When standing, Maria looked like a shut umbrella with an agate knob. She had been in Madam's service for 11 years, ever since she had been taken away from her home, village and parents.'Upon my faith, Ma'am, you must forgive me for it's not my fault.''What do you mean it's not your fault? You must have had something to do with it.''Upon my word, I have no idea how it happened.''You must have dreamt something.''Had it been just a dream, perhaps nothing would have happened,' answered Maria, raising, as a sign of deep thought, a hand to her mouth.'You drank after somebody.''After a man?''Or after a pregnant woman.''Oh, yes. I've heard you can catch it…''You catch consumption the same way, Maria.''I have thought of all the possibilities. I'll be damned if I understand anything.''Why don't you think some more while making my coffee!' 'Here's your coffee, Ma'am. I kept thinking while grinding.''Thinking of what, Maria?''Of what I told you a while ago. I think it might be… the secretary.''What secretary?''The one next door… the lawyer's secretary.''Don't you say!''Maybe. Maybe not.''Yet what's the connection between your kitchen and the lawyer's secretary?''You know I would take him a kettleful of water every morning.''From our kitchen?''Yes, from o… your kitchen.''Still, it is not enough to take somebody water from our kitchen to get pregnant.''Well, I don't know Ma'am, I was just thinking. There may have been other things as well. I once took him a spoon.''Which he returned, I trust. But what's a spoon to do with…''Well, you see, there was also a drop of… marmalade in the spoon.''Of our marmalade?''Of your marmalade.''Why, I must say, that's very nice of you, Maria, to take things from our household and give them to neighbors. Even so, spoon and drop of marmalade are still not enough to get you with child.''Actually it was a… spoonful.''A spoonful is not enough either.''I keep trying and still cannot find out anything. Might have been the mărţişor[1]. He gave me a mărţişor.''So he did, did he?''That must be it! When he gave me the mărţişor I also made him a cake… a tiny one… this big… please do not get upset. I took it to him one morning on a tray with a cup of caffè latte.''Was it the day you didn't know what happened to the sour cream?'Maria looked down, pale with terror.'If I had known you were into pilfering, I wouldn't be surprised. But I haven't caught you with anything so far.''Let my hand dry and drop if I have ever stolen anything…''You have just confessed to a thing or two. As for those left unsaid…''You're right, Ma'am, I can see it now too, but when I did that I didn't think I was stealing, it seemed to me I was making a present…''Did he ask for it?''He's never asked for anything, I took it to him, it was my idea. It was very wrong of me, Ma'am, wasn't it, to take and not tell you about it? I must know.''If it wasn't him who told you to do it and if you didn't feel guilty either, it is not all that wrong. What is wrong however is that you got pregnant. What will your mother say when she finds out?''Do say that again, if you will. What? Is that why I got pregnant?''I should think so.''You see I haven't thought of my mother before: what will mother say?''Stop crying, Maria. What's done is done. It would have been better if you hadn't done it, but once it's done…''For God's sake, Ma'am, I haven't done anything.''Maria, is this secretary handsome?''He's swarthy, Ma'am, and he seems of good family: his hands are white.''Poor wretch! You love him.''Love him? I don't know… Do you think so?''Can't you see you're all muddled when you speak of him?''Muddled, you say. He's a very important person, Ma'am, he writes all the time.''Have you never loved anyone before, Maria?''Oh, yes, I have… Miţuc.''The kitten?''Please stop calling him a kitten, Ma'am, for I get along with him better than with any human being.''And anyone else, have you loved anyone else?''Except for Miţuc, I don't know, Ma'am.''Maria, what did you do when you visited him?''Upon my word, nothing. I just stood in front of him saying: "How cosy your place is, sir!"''And what did he say?''At first, he would just look at me. Then he looked again for several times and once he asked me the same question you did: "Whom do you love, Maria?", and I answered I loved Miţuc, and I took Miţuc with me so that he could see him, and Miţuc scratched his face.''And what else did he say?''That I was a fool to love Miţuc. Maidens, he said, don't play with cats.''And didn't you get upset?''Why would I get upset, Ma'am? He was talking to me very nicely, always addressing me politely… But I also went over one evening.''Late?''At about nine. One evening when you were out to the theatre with the Master. I got lonely all by myself and went to ask him if he needed anything.''It's not appropriate to visit men so late.''Why, upon my word, do you say it's not appropriate?''Let's see: go on.''When I got in, he locked the door.''And didn't you get scared?''Why would I get scared? He was afraid that somebody might come in. And he said: "Marioara!" And got very close to me. And pushed me onto the sofa.''And you screamed!''Now why would I scream, Ma'am?''Weren't you frightened?''Frightened of what, bless my soul? Just then I heard Miţuc on the roof of the house and remembered he must be hungry and said: "Do let me just to go and feed Miţuc and I'll be right back".'What's that: do let me? All you had to do was to open the door and be gone.''I couldn't really, Ma'am, not anymore…''And you didn't scream, not even then?''Why would I do that? I did feel my heart breaking, but I didn't scream. I just looked at a picture on the wall and listened to Miţuc. And even if I had thought of screaming, I couldn't have anyway, because I was eating a bonbon. When he laid me on the sofa he put a bonbon into my mouth.''Well, now you see why you got pregnant? You should have told me from the very beginning.''Because of the bonbon?' 'Too bad, Maria, too bad. I'm just thinking of what you are going to have.''Why, nothing, Ma'am.''You're going to have a baby.''Baby? Why have a baby?''Aren't you pregnant?''And do you have to have babies when you're pregnant?''Not everybody, Maria. Ladies only get pregnant, peasant women have babies too. Listen, Maria: how long is it since you visited him that night?''About three months.''You know something, Maria?''I'm all ears, Ma'am.''Let's go shopping to make nappies and clothes for the baby. Get dressed quickly and let's go. Never mind, Maria, it's all right. We don't have children anyway and the house is too quiet. The Master is going to be so happy! Fetch my patent leather shoes quickly and change my stockings… No, no, leave that, don't bend…' 'Maria, I've been meaning to ask you something. Didn't anyone see you when you were taking the secretary water, marmalade, cakes and coffees?''Oh, yes, the neighbors did… But I always decorated my gifts with ironed napkins… used a new spoon… the blue cups from the cupboard…''And did they never ask how come you were taking from us and giving it to neighbors?''Why, no, Ma'am. The neighbors thought Ma'am was sending it.'
[1] Decoration worn by women on the first days of March as a symbol of the coming spring.

by Tudor Arghezi (1880-1967)