It was believed that John was not one of the «golden-mouthed St. Johns», only the kind of pious Little John (he did not even write his name with two ss), as there are three in every city.
There was his carpentry workshop in that cross-street angled onto Andrássy Avenue, one side of which is lined with two-story palaces, while the opposite is formed by beetle-backed ground-floor cottages interrupted by rusty planks that are studded with nails; this street is like when you pull up a puller and a bagaria boot next to a birch naughty black tailcoat and a bastard hat.
Master János Kiss, of course, had his apartment in this junk row: in a cottage with only two windows to the street. One window was covered with dense geranium bushes: there was a clean room, and the other was open in summer and curtained beautifully in winter with ice flowers; but in the corner of the uppermost window there was a small tin wind vane, kept in a constant buzz by the warm mist coming from inside and the fresh air coming in from outside. The Hungarians call it ventilation. That was the workshop.
János Kis did not call his workshop an ateli, nor did he call himself a carpenter. On the title sign there was his honest title: «Jr. Little János, carpenter ». Wow-195- house, that workshop, but even that address board he inherited from his father, only the «Younger» had to be written on the board in front of the name.
His father built the house in small pieces, as if he had a little money saved: another room, another chamber for him; the plot was inherited by his mother, who was born in Pest. They were not built on debt even then.
János Kis did not deal with construction carpentry: he only made furniture. But then they could be seen. They could have been exhibited even in the museum; but he never did that. “Why brag!” – “Good wine doesn’t have to be a jerk!” “Even so, he always had so many orders that he could hardly convince him to meet himself, the old bachelor, and a butler child (who had not been hailed as a« apprentice »yet.) And more than two planers could be set up in the workshop. Early in the summer, one could hear the squeaking of the planer through the open window, the abrasion of the circular saw, which the old man claimed to be saying, “milliram-strúdl”. But besides, you could even hear the beautiful songs that sweetened the young master’s handiwork. He had a very nice tenor voice. Yet they were never taught to sing. Just that he heard.
And then it happened that, like the shutters on the balcony of the two-storey palace built opposite, a copy of the carpenter’s songs was beaten on the huge Beregszászy piano through the open balcony doors. Maybe it was just a coincidence.
On Saturday afternoon, as the steam chimneys of the factories began to roar, reporting the six o’clock, János Kis also held a sore spot, and then, when the weather was nice, he sat down on the little horse in front of his house; he pulled out the freshly baked zipper and the «Sunday Newspaper» from under his work apron: and he enjoyed both with physical and mental serenity. The zipper ran out sooner than the newspaper, it remained until tomorrow.-196-
At the far end of the lócza, the German old man kept his rest, reverently away from his master, and sipped the bitter hoof tobacco from the long-stemmed selmeczi.
Little John didn’t even notice that while he was reading a newspaper, sitting on the balcony ledge of the house opposite, a beautiful girl was watching him intently, shielding his eyes against the fire of the sun with a palm fan.
And it was a figure to look at. Such a slender room does not come out of every bush. Then that faint, oil-enameled face, the big black eyes, the radiant eyebrows, hey but many young men could have been moon-old!
But János Kis found the interesting pictures recorded in the newspaper much more worth seeing: great people, great ladies.
Christoph, the old man, once spoke to him through the poppy pipe:
– Master! but the beautiful miss looks up at himself.
– Let me look. Free for him.
“If I were a master, I’d be sure to look back.”
– But why?
– To make you fall in love.
Little John laughed big.
“Well, it’s like the prickly badger at the zoo wants to kiss the giraffe.”
Bachelor Kristóf laughed at that.
The beautiful lady noticed something upstairs, got annoyed, turned her back, leaned on the balcony ledge.
… Soh’se be angry, beautiful miss!
Once, however, János Kis had to get along with his charming neighbor.-197-
It was Miss Florinda, the daughter of the owner of the large tenement house opposite.
And his father, in addition to home ownership, also owned an upscale banking business. There, his firm shone in one of the most upscale streets in the capital. In the shop window of his shop, the lottery tickets promising hundreds of thousands of prizes and a whole set of gold coins from all over the world were temptingly magnificent; so those rainbow-printed banknotes! Those Russian thousands of rubles. Among them are large print announcements, in cynobia, ultramarine, in national color «DRAWING TOMORROW!» – «Lottery tickets for installments!» – “PROCESSES.” – “Two hundred thousand for five forints!” – “Some profit!” – “God’s blessing at Heuteroth.”
That was the name of the beautiful Florinda’s dad.
Well, one fine morning (at twelve o’clock) by his secretary to the banker, Master János Kis, to visit him for an order. He was immediately told what the order wanted to be: a desk.
The master was very strong in this profession. He immediately found his drawing album, filled with blueprints of our own composed cabinets and desks, and hurried up to the gentleman’s apartment.
Well, he wasn’t really impressed with that gorgeous piece of furniture: they all knew it already; he only remarked that one piece of furniture did not fit the other.
The cypress Liberian butler led him from one room to another until he reached the room with which János Kis immediately figured out that it was the female boudoir.
But he could have guessed even more that, in addition to Banker Heuteroth, Miss Florinda was there, in a straw-yellow silk home, smoking a cigarette.
That cigarette in that lady’s mouth is the incense, because it indicates that she is incense herself.
The banker was a fine lord: he hurried with the Atonement, -198-he offered the invited guest out of the leather trunk of the cigar on the table: let him light it up too.
Little John blushed to the ear.
– Thanks, I don’t live with it.
“These are Chinese cigarettes, real Fu-Chu: made for the Russian Tsar.
– Then they’re not for me.
Then he pulled out his drawing album.
– Make a choice.
The banker didn’t even look at it.
– I need something extra, Master. Take a look at my daughter’s boudoir: here you need another desk that matches the style of our set.
“I see, sir, and I’ll make a plan for it.”
– But you need something else. This desk should be a hidden drawer that no thief or detective can figure out. Can you make one?
– I know. The piece of furniture will fit into the set of its size and there will be a hidden drawer that no one can find, which cannot be opened with a key. I’ll be ready with him in a week, and then I’ll leave him here for a week to try to figure out the opening of his hideout. If they figure it out I ask for nothing for it; if they are not invented, the price is one hundred forints.
“And I’ll double that amount if the secrets really become unimaginable.”
The fact that the Hungarian proverb says: “there is not a drop of fire, not a spark of water” means that Master János Kis must have had a poppy-seed of English blood in his veins so that, deviating from the ancient virtue, not a week later than promised, but exactly -199-send the finished desk to Mr. Heuteroth Banker by the day.
It fit right into the set of the young lady’s room, where the table of all the furniture was made of rosewood, the pedestal and the legs were made of vinegar (sumac). In the carpentry work, the rosewood is reddish in the color of the liver, interspersed with blood vessels, while the color of the sumac is broken with pale green, knurled waves. Both are rare beautiful pieces of wood, and the ingredient does not vomit in the wood chamber of every carpenter. But Master János Kis abounded in all these rare domestic furniture materials; he had in his storehouse a large selection of walnut, cherry, alder, plum, ash, which gave out so many variations of color; some are when it is worked out as if it were some painted landscape.
The artificial carvings, bends and inserts also corresponded quite well to the taste of the French Empire era, so that both Mr. Heuteroth and Miss Florinda were completely satisfied with it.
There was still a secret account to be scanned.
Miss Florinda did not want to wait at the mooring for a week. Either now or never!
The desk had five drawers in front, the same number in the back. They were all pulled out, but it was not for the judges to discover any secret accounts anywhere. They also turned it upside down: nothing was discovered anyway.
Then they surrendered. They took the matter nicely on request so that the master himself could solve the mystery.
– Well, look at you. These drawers, when pulled out, are all equally long. However, there is a gap between the bottoms of the two middle drawers and there is a hidden drawer in it. But there are no keyholes in its wall. But the top of the table is covered with pressed Moroccan leather. Among the arabesques of this is an edge, are there fish? flower. When you press it with your thumb, the secret spring pops up right away -200-from the side of the hidden drawer, turning at the corners invisible from the outside.
The banker and his daughter were completely taken aback by amazement.
– Well, that’s a really brilliant idea. With that, you could make yourself hundreds of thousands by asking the government for a patent.
Little John laughed a lot at this. That should be it! Patents.
“Tell me,” the banker asked, “have you ever made a desk with a similar hidden drawer for someone?”
“No one ever wanted that from me.”
– So this is the only one? Well then, please don’t even do it to anyone so they don’t know the secret. You see, once my daughter gets married, this secret box will be very good for her, to hide her letters with interesting content from her husband.
Little John was scared. What kind of speech is this? From a father who smokes a forint cigar in front of a young girl raised in the sacré coeur! Isn’t the one running out of the room right away? After all, his face (that of the carpenter) lit up the word as if it had been meant by something evil.
Florinda not only didn’t run out of the room, she didn’t even blush; his delicate red lips opened to a mocking smile, flashing his pearly dentures and pointing his daddy’s hand to his father’s shape, “don’t teach me that!”
– Well, “the fluff regrets it!” said János Kis to himself and pulled the price list out of his pocket, handing it to the banker. «A desk made of rose and sumac wood, 100 frt.»
Mr. Heuteroth took two hundred pieces from his wallet and, cracking them between his three fingers, handed them to the carpenter.
The master pulled one hundred out of the banker’s fingers, leaving the other there.
“Just take the other one,” the banker said with a generous wink.
– My price list is issued for one hundred forints.-201-
“And why don’t you want to marry the other one?”
– Because I would be ashamed of it.
– My friend! Said the banker, with a stimulating laugh, “he who is ashamed will never be rich.”
“The rich man is pleased with his destiny, and I am he.”
The banker looked big into his eyes: – believe this man in a leather apron is a «gentleman» – a gavaller; but he wears the tailcoat intact: tied up from the front.
“Please take a seat, my dear neighbor;” be lucky.
With that, he showed her a place on the silk couch next to her daughter; he himself stood standing with his back to the marble fireplace.
Little John did not apologize; he sat down nicely on the expensive couch.
“Well, you, my dear neighbor, have no idea that you are already rich.”
“In the sense that I said I am.”
– But also from a financial point of view. For you, the plot of land, which is opposite my house, is worth a hundred squares per lap between the brothers, at fifty thousand forints for our five hundred acres.
– It doesn’t matter to me.
“But you see, if you trusted me, I’d get you a loan from the bank you connected to me on your site so big that you could build a two-story house like mine.” The bank would take over the construction and income management with a forty-two-year six-minute repayment, from which even you would have a net income of one thousand forints.
– What about my carpenter’s workshop?
– It would also fit in the courtyard suite of the house and the accommodation would remain free of charge for you.-202-
Little John bit his head.
– It doesn’t work! “There’s a big blackberry tree in the middle of my yard; my poor mother sat underneath the last summer, when she no longer had the strength to walk; I climbed up as a child to learn my lesson; my hens get up in the evenings: I will not miss it for no one’s two-story house.
The banker laughed hard.
– I know I know! You are an idealist. Carpenters are all idealists.
Little John wanted to leave. Then he put his hand on Miss Florinda’s hand.
– Stay still. I want to tell you something too.
Do you want to tell him something? Missing such a porcelain for an unglazed tile craftsman?
– Dad says you’re an idealist. But then idealism can be very well connected to realism in today’s modern world. What was once a begging stick was now a treasure hunt; Wünschelruthe, is that the German says. You are also given the destiny by such a magic bullet.
– If I knew about it.
– Yes Yes. The beautiful tenor voice that sings folk arias while working. I’ve heard you sing many times and I always said to myself: this man has a gold mine in his throat if he could use it. In today’s world, it is a great rarity to have such an ore, ringing tenor voice.
Little John couldn’t hold back the laughter.
“Dear Grandma, I don’t know anything about me being a Danol.” It comes to me when the planer is in my hand; especially if the planks are lumpy, then I break big ones; but I have no idea what singing is; I have never seen a coke.
– And it’s a great pity that you don’t train this rare -203-talent. Art simultaneously elevates man to the highest degree of society.
There was a big throw in that word in the chest of Little John. Maybe the heart? He didn’t even know he had a heart until then. What is that heart for? But his head quickly grasped the thought. If that art elevates one so high at the same time, it could happen that János Kis is the artist, there he could sing alongside the goddess Florinda, who would accompany her songs on her piano.
Now he couldn’t hold back from sighing.
“It’s true that being a singer is a great glory, but for me, it’s my nature that when I notice they’re listening to me, every voice drowns in my throat at once; I have no courage to go to the stage where all men look at me; I would rather go to the cannon fire than to the fire of the eyes of the great public.
He also immediately arose from Miss János Florinda, lest he be tempted; by which time the banker cut the delicate trial in half by pulling a package out of the outer pocket of his jacket and holding it in front of the carpenter.
“All right, well, Master, just danoless yourself from now on.” But he doesn’t want to accept any thanks from me for his very satisfying work – in cash: so accept a lottery ticket from me. Here are a hundred pieces: choose from them for good luck. You can hit the jackpot with it; you can win two hundred and fifty thousand forints with it.
János Kis respectfully pushed the gift-giving hand aside; then he bowed his head humbly, as if to be ashamed of what he was saying.
“You know, great gentlemen, I don’t want cheap profits;” i will be satisfied if they get paid for my work. The easy money earned is a porter of our true earnings-204-also takes it with you. I’m fine now. I get up at dawn, I work until noon, then my lunch is good, ours is certainly not gorgeous, but it tastes good to me; then I work again until evening, and as I lay down my head I fall asleep until morning; my door, my window open, I’m not afraid of a thief. I don’t even know the many fashionable bastards by his name. But if I were to get something great at once that I had never served: I would no longer need my workshop or my tools, I would find glue and pickle to smell bad, I would do what other rich people, the who have a lot of money tickling their side to hang out in the cafe, hit the filth there, go to the nightclubs in my boredom, spend time among naughty ladies, hang out, rumble until late at night, head intoxicated, stomach upset; I would spend the winter boxing, and the summer with the Karlsbad devil; that I see from other gentlemen.
Mr Heuteroth grimaced at this speech. It was as if this carpenter had only painted his own portrait! This is his way of life: the banker, word for word.
Then János Kis wanted to say something very clever:
“See, great lord, I have a waste of myself.” My luxury is to carry drinking water from Mount Swabia, fresh every morning; my milky wife takes care of her. For me, this is such a fuss as when gentlemen are disgusted with champagne at home and choose from French champagne.
The banker reprimanded, speaking to his daughter in French:
– This is not an idealist, but an idiot (stupid).
And Little John understood the French well; since he learned carpentry in Paris.