Frederick Karinthy

An Investment

WIFE: Good gracious—a miserable fifteen pounds! It’s ridiculous! What do you think you can do with it?

HUSBAND: Just like you—to try and squash me like that. What I think I can do with it! That’s all you can say. . . . That's how you’ve been ruining me, preventing me from getting on . . . I get nothing but discouragement from you. . . . A cold douche whenever I’ve a plan to escape from this wretchedness. . . . What I think I can do with it! I suppose I ought to throw the money in the fire or distribute it in the street. . . . Other women have ideas. . . . They encourage their husbands, economise, believe in the future, have ambitions. . . . But all you can say is, “What do you think you can do with it?? There’s discouragement, insult—yes, insult!—in every word you say. I can do nothing right for you . . . .

WIFE: Please don’t make a scene. I’m not going to say another word. You’re right—fifteen pounds is a fortune. Go and buy up the Ford Works with it, or lease a theatre and engage Jeritza for six years. . . . That’ll be the best way to invest your fifteen pounds.

HUSBAND (angrily) Your sarcasm doesn’t impress me in the least! Yes, you can do something with fifteen pounds—when it’s a windfall and you can spare it. Fifteen pounds that you’ve to spare’s worth more than three thousand that’s earmarked for something . . . . you can invest the fifteen pounds. . . . you can experiment with it. . . increase it. . . .

WIFE: (drily) Well, buy a lottery ticket.

HUSBAND: Very witty of you, I must say. . . . At least you ought to think of something sensible. . . . That would help me a little in my struggle for success. . . . Then you’d be some use to me, considering you’ve brought nothing with you. . . .

WIFE: Oh. . . . And what’ve you brought, may I ask?

HUSBAND: It isn’t the custom for the husband to have a dowry, is it? Or is that the latest fashion?

WIFE: (drily) It’s been the fashion for a very long time that a man to whom a family entrust their most precious possession should have something—either money, or talent or some other advantage, good looks at the very least.

HUSBAND: (choking with rage) And I possess none of these things?

WIFE: (lightly) I wasn't talking about you. I was talking generally.

HUSBAND: Then let me tell you, speaking generally, without the slightest innuendo, and Without in the least referring to you, that. . . . that you’d neither money nor looks, nor even a good education when I married you.

WIFE: (drily) How strange ! Then how was it that you were so crazy about me? I refused you nine times, then I gave in to your mother, when she came to beg me to save your life and say yes, otherwise you’d shoot yourself. Why was that, I'd like to know?

HUSBAND My poor mother was mistaken.

WIFE: Why? Weren’t you going to shoot yourself?

HUSBAND: I was. Or rather, my mother advised me to act as if I was. You see, she was mistaken in your uncle.

WIFE: My uncle?

HUSBAND: Yes, in your Uncle Daniel, the rich one. My mother thought you were his favourite and that he’d give you a big dowry when you were married.

WIFE: (after a pause) Then you only married me because you thought Uncle Daniel was behind me?

HUSBAND: I was only talking generally.

WIFE: (vehemently) You mean I wasn’t Uncle Daniel’s favourite and only acted as if I was?

HUSBAND: But really, my dear——

WIFE: (with increasing vehemence) Well, let me tell you—I was and I am. . . . And Uncle Daniel only turned away from me and refused to give me anything because I married you . . . . He was always against this marriage.

HUSBAND: (ironically) Anyone can say that.

WIFE: Really! Then let me tell you that only yesterday . . . only yesterday . . . he said that he’d be prepared to make me a gift of his house on the boulevard, and the only reason he doesn’t do it is that you’d benefit by it and he detests you.

HUSBAND: (pale) That’s a lie!

WIFE: A lie? Then listen. . . . He said he’d let me have the house as soon as I had a baby, because then he’d feel he was giving the house to me and to someone that really belonged to me! I didn’t want to repeat it to you but there!

HUSBAND: (after a pause) Is this true?

WIFE: He’ll give it in writing if you like.

HUSBAND: (after long pause glances at his watch).

WIFE: (ironically) You mustn’t be late at the club . . . .

HUSBAND: (gentle tone) Really, darling . . . I was only looking at my watch because I don’t feel like going out.

WIFE: You’re not going out?

HUSBAND: (smiling) Do you mind if I stay at home?

WIFE: (gives shrug; pause).

HUSBAND: That frock, darling—ahem—it’s new, isn’t it?

WIFE: Why? Don’t you like it?

HUSBAND: Not like it! . . . Why, it suits you perfectly . . . . Y ou look so pretty in it. . .

WIFE: What’s this? Is anything the matter with you? I’ve never had a compliment from you.

HUSBAND: (smiling) It’s not my fault that you didn’t see the compliment in what I said . . . (after a pause). Then you don’t mind that I’m staying at home, do you ?

WIFE: shrug).

HUSBAND: (stretching out his hand, softly) Greta.

WIFE: (sulky) Go away. . . . You’re a beast. . . .

HUSBAND: (stormy embrace) A beast. . . . All right, let me be a beast . . . . so long as you’re sweet and kind . . . . (Softly) May I stay?

WIFE: (gives shrug, laughing) Oh, you . . . weathercock!

HUSBAND (electrified): Let’s make some Russian tea . . . Any apricot brandy left ? . . . . We’re going to have a jolly evening together—just you and I . . . .

WIFE: ( clinging to him) Oh . . . you big boy . . . . What’s happened to you?

HUSBAND: Why, nothing . . .I’m in love. . .

WIFE: (purring) With whom?

HUSBAND: With whom! . . . With whom! . . . (Jocular) With Uncle Daniel . . . (Kiss. Pause. Absently) By the way, the clothes . . . Tell me, is fifteen pounds enough for a layette? (Hugging and caressing her) It wouldn’t be a bad investment. . . . I hear prices’ll be going up in the autumn.

SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes [Frederick]. “An Investment,” in Soliloquies in the Bath, translated by Lawrence Wolfe, illustrated by Franz Katzer (London; Edinburgh; Glasgow: William Hodge and Company Limited, 1937), pp. 208-214.

Frigyes Karinthy, Humorist and Thinker” by Miklós Vajda

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
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Sándor Szathmári (1897-1974): Bibliografio & Retgvidilo / Bibliography & Web Guide

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Uploaded 24 February 2022