The Torrents of Spring
Part 1 out of 5
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THE TORRENTS OF SPRING
BY IVAN TURGENEV
Translated from the Russian
BY CONSTANCE GARNETT
THE TORRENTS OF SPRING
THE TORRENTS OF SPRING
'Years of gladness,
Days of joy,
Like the torrents of spring
They hurried away.'
--_From an Old Ballad_.
... At two o'clock in the night he had gone back to his study. He had
dismissed the servant after the candles were lighted, and throwing
himself into a low chair by the hearth, he hid his face in both hands.
Never had he felt such weariness of body and of spirit. He had passed
the whole evening in the company of charming ladies and cultivated
men; some of the ladies were beautiful, almost all the men were
distinguished by intellect or talent; he himself had talked with great
success, even with brilliance ... and, for all that, never yet had
the _taedium vitae_ of which the Romans talked of old, the 'disgust
for life,' taken hold of him with such irresistible, such suffocating
force. Had he been a little younger, he would have cried with misery,
weariness, and exasperation: a biting, burning bitterness, like
the bitter of wormwood, filled his whole soul. A sort of clinging
repugnance, a weight of loathing closed in upon him on all sides like
a dark night of autumn; and he did not know how to get free from this
darkness, this bitterness. Sleep it was useless to reckon upon; he
knew he should not sleep.
He fell to thinking ... slowly, listlessly, wrathfully. He thought of
the vanity, the uselessness, the vulgar falsity of all things human.
All the stages of man's life passed in order before his mental gaze
(he had himself lately reached his fifty-second year), and not one
found grace in his eyes. Everywhere the same ever-lasting pouring of
water into a sieve, the ever-lasting beating of the air, everywhere
the same self-deception--half in good faith, half conscious--any toy
to amuse the child, so long as it keeps him from crying. And then, all
of a sudden, old age drops down like snow on the head, and with it the
ever-growing, ever-gnawing, and devouring dread of death ... and the
plunge into the abyss! Lucky indeed if life works out so to the end!
May be, before the end, like rust on iron, sufferings, infirmities
come.... He did not picture life's sea, as the poets depict it,
covered with tempestuous waves; no, he thought of that sea as a
smooth, untroubled surface, stagnant and transparent to its darkest
depths. He himself sits in a little tottering boat, and down below
in those dark oozy depths, like prodigious fishes, he can just make
out the shapes of hideous monsters: all the ills of life, diseases,
sorrows, madness, poverty, blindness.... He gazes, and behold, one
of these monsters separates itself off from the darkness, rises
higher and higher, stands out more and more distinct, more and more
loathsomely distinct.... An instant yet, and the boat that bears him
will be overturned! But behold, it grows dim again, it withdraws,
sinks down to the bottom, and there it lies, faintly stirring in the
slime.... But the fated day will come, and it will overturn the boat.
He shook his head, jumped up from his low chair, took two turns up and
down the room, sat down to the writing-table, and opening one drawer
after another, began to rummage among his papers, among old letters,
mostly from women. He could not have said why he was doing it; he was
not looking for anything--he simply wanted by some kind of external
occupation to get away from the thoughts oppressing him. Opening
several letters at random (in one of them there was a withered flower
tied with a bit of faded ribbon), he merely shrugged his shoulders,
and glancing at the hearth, he tossed them on one side, probably with
the idea of burning all this useless rubbish. Hurriedly, thrusting his
hands first into one, and then into another drawer, he suddenly opened
his eyes wide, and slowly bringing out a little octagonal box of
old-fashioned make, he slowly raised its lid. In the box, under two
layers of cotton wool, yellow with age, was a little garnet cross.
For a few instants he looked in perplexity at this cross--suddenly
he gave a faint cry.... Something between regret and delight was
expressed in his features. Such an expression a man's face wears when
he suddenly meets some one whom he has long lost sight of, whom he has
at one time tenderly loved, and who suddenly springs up before his
eyes, still the same, and utterly transformed by the years.
He got up, and going back to the hearth, he sat down again in the
arm-chair, and again hid his face in his hands.... 'Why to-day? just
to-day?' was his thought, and he remembered many things, long since
This is what he remembered....
But first I must mention his name, his father's name and his surname.
He was called Dimitri Pavlovitch Sanin.
Here follows what he remembered.
It was the summer of 1840. Sanin was in his twenty-second year, and he
was in Frankfort on his way home from Italy to Russia. He was a man of
small property, but independent, almost without family ties. By the
death of a distant relative, he had come into a few thousand roubles,
and he had decided to spend this sum abroad before entering the
service, before finally putting on the government yoke, without which
he could not obtain a secure livelihood. Sanin had carried out this
intention, and had fitted things in to such a nicety that on the day
of his arrival in Frankfort he had only just enough money left to take
him back to Petersburg. In the year 1840 there were few railroads in
existence; tourists travelled by diligence. Sanin had taken a place in
the '_bei-wagon_'; but the diligence did not start till eleven o'clock
in the evening. There was a great deal of time to be got through
before then. Fortunately it was lovely weather, and Sanin after dining
at a hotel, famous in those days, the White Swan, set off to stroll
about the town. He went in to look at Danneker's Ariadne, which he did
not much care for, visited the house of Goethe, of whose works he had,
however, only read _Werter_, and that in the French translation. He
walked along the bank of the Maine, and was bored as a well-conducted
tourist should be; at last at six o'clock in the evening, tired, and
with dusty boots, he found himself in one of the least remarkable
streets in Frankfort. That street he was fated not to forget long,
long after. On one of its few houses he saw a signboard: 'Giovanni
Roselli, Italian confectionery,' was announced upon it. Sanin went
into it to get a glass of lemonade; but in the shop, where, behind
the modest counter, on the shelves of a stained cupboard, recalling
a chemist's shop, stood a few bottles with gold labels, and as many
glass jars of biscuits, chocolate cakes, and sweetmeats--in this room,
there was not a soul; only a grey cat blinked and purred, sharpening
its claws on a tall wicker chair near the window and a bright patch
of colour was made in the evening sunlight, by a big ball of red wool
lying on the floor beside a carved wooden basket turned upside down. A
confused noise was audible in the next room. Sanin stood a moment, and
making the bell on the door ring its loudest, he called, raising his
voice, 'Is there no one here?' At that instant the door from an inner
room was thrown open, and Sanin was struck dumb with amazement.
A young girl of nineteen ran impetuously into the shop, her dark curls
hanging in disorder on her bare shoulders, her bare arms stretched out
in front of her. Seeing Sanin, she rushed up to him at once, seized
him by the hand, and pulled him after her, saying in a breathless
voice, 'Quick, quick, here, save him!' Not through disinclination
to obey, but simply from excess of amazement, Sanin did not at once
follow the girl. He stood, as it were, rooted to the spot; he had
never in his life seen such a beautiful creature. She turned towards
him, and with such despair in her voice, in her eyes, in the gesture
of her clenched hand, which was lifted with a spasmodic movement to
her pale cheek, she articulated, 'Come, come!' that he at once darted
after her to the open door.
In the room, into which he ran behind the girl, on an old-fashioned
horse-hair sofa, lay a boy of fourteen, white all over--white, with
a yellowish tinge like wax or old marble--he was strikingly like the
girl, obviously her brother. His eyes were closed, a patch of shadow
fell from his thick black hair on a forehead like stone, and delicate,
motionless eyebrows; between the blue lips could be seen clenched
teeth. He seemed not to be breathing; one arm hung down to the floor,
the other he had tossed above his head. The boy was dressed, and his
clothes were closely buttoned; a tight cravat was twisted round his
The girl rushed up to him with a wail of distress. 'He is dead, he is
dead!' she cried; 'he was sitting here just now, talking to me--and
all of a sudden he fell down and became rigid.... My God! can nothing
be done to help him? And mamma not here! Pantaleone, Pantaleone, the
doctor!' she went on suddenly in Italian. 'Have you been for the
'Signora, I did not go, I sent Luise,' said a hoarse voice at the
door, and a little bandy-legged old man came hobbling into the room in
a lavender frock coat with black buttons, a high white cravat, short
nankeen trousers, and blue worsted stockings. His diminutive little
face was positively lost in a mass of iron-grey hair. Standing up in
all directions, and falling back in ragged tufts, it gave the old
man's figure a resemblance to a crested hen--a resemblance the more
striking, that under the dark-grey mass nothing could be distinguished
but a beak nose and round yellow eyes.
'Luise will run fast, and I can't run,' the old man went on in
Italian, dragging his flat gouty feet, shod in high slippers with
knots of ribbon. 'I've brought some water.'
In his withered, knotted fingers, he clutched a long bottle neck.
'But meanwhile Emil will die!' cried the girl, and holding out her
hand to Sanin, 'O, sir, O _mein Herr_! can't you do something for
'He ought to be bled--it's an apoplectic fit,' observed the old man
addressed as Pantaleone.
Though Sanin had not the slightest notion of medicine, he knew one
thing for certain, that boys of fourteen do not have apoplectic fits.
'It's a swoon, not a fit,' he said, turning to Pantaleone. 'Have you
got any brushes?'
The old man raised his little face. 'Eh?'
'Brushes, brushes,' repeated Sanin in German and in French. 'Brushes,'
he added, making as though he would brush his clothes.
The little old man understood him at last.
'Ah, brushes! _Spazzette_! to be sure we have!'
'Bring them here; we will take off his coat and try rubbing him.'
'Good ... _Benone_! And ought we not to sprinkle water on his head?'
'No ... later on; get the brushes now as quick as you can.'
Pantaleone put the bottle on the floor, ran out and returned at once
with two brushes, one a hair-brush, and one a clothes-brush. A curly
poodle followed him in, and vigorously wagging its tail, it looked up
inquisitively at the old man, the girl, and even Sanin, as though it
wanted to know what was the meaning of all this fuss.
Sanin quickly took the boy's coat off, unbuttoned his collar, and
pushed up his shirt-sleeves, and arming himself with a brush, he
began brushing his chest and arms with all his might. Pantaleone as
zealously brushed away with the other--the hair-brush--at his boots
and trousers. The girl flung herself on her knees by the sofa, and,
clutching her head in both hands, fastened her eyes, not an eyelash
quivering, on her brother.
Sanin rubbed on, and kept stealing glances at her. Mercy! what a
beautiful creature she was!
Her nose was rather large, but handsome, aquiline-shaped; her upper
lip was shaded by a light down; but then the colour of her face,
smooth, uniform, like ivory or very pale milky amber, the wavering
shimmer of her hair, like that of the Judith of Allorio in the
Palazzo-Pitti; and above all, her eyes, dark-grey, with a black ring
round the pupils, splendid, triumphant eyes, even now, when terror and
distress dimmed their lustre.... Sanin could not help recalling the
marvellous country he had just come from.... But even in Italy he had
never met anything like her! The girl drew slow, uneven breaths; she
seemed between each breath to be waiting to see whether her brother
would not begin to breathe.
Sanin went on rubbing him, but he did not only watch the girl. The
original figure of Pantaleone drew his attention too. The old man was
quite exhausted and panting; at every movement of the brush he hopped
up and down and groaned noisily, while his immense tufts of hair,
soaked with perspiration, flapped heavily from side to side, like the
roots of some strong plant, torn up by the water.
'You'd better, at least, take off his boots,' Sanin was just saying to
The poodle, probably excited by the unusualness of all the
proceedings, suddenly sank on to its front paws and began barking.
'_Tartaglia--canaglia_!' the old man hissed at it. But at that instant
the girl's face was transformed. Her eyebrows rose, her eyes grew
wider, and shone with joy.
Sanin looked round ... A flush had over-spread the lad's face; his
eyelids stirred ... his nostrils twitched. He drew in a breath through
his still clenched teeth, sighed....
'Emil!' cried the girl ... 'Emilio mio!'
Slowly the big black eyes opened. They still had a dazed look, but
already smiled faintly; the same faint smile hovered on his pale lips.
Then he moved the arm that hung down, and laid it on his chest.
'Emilio!' repeated the girl, and she got up. The expression on her
face was so tense and vivid, that it seemed that in an instant either
she would burst into tears or break into laughter.
'Emil! what is it? Emil!' was heard outside, and a neatly-dressed lady
with silvery grey hair and a dark face came with rapid steps into the
A middle-aged man followed her; the head of a maid-servant was visible
over their shoulders.
The girl ran to meet them.
'He is saved, mother, he is alive!' she cried, impulsively embracing
the lady who had just entered.
'But what is it?' she repeated. 'I come back ... and all of a sudden I
meet the doctor and Luise ...'
The girl proceeded to explain what had happened, while the doctor went
up to the invalid who was coming more and more to himself, and was
still smiling: he seemed to be beginning to feel shy at the commotion
he had caused.
'You've been using friction with brushes, I see,' said the doctor to
Sanin and Pantaleone, 'and you did very well.... A very good idea ...
and now let us see what further measures ...'
He felt the youth's pulse. 'H'm! show me your tongue!'
The lady bent anxiously over him. He smiled still more ingenuously,
raised his eyes to her, and blushed a little.
It struck Sanin that he was no longer wanted; he went into the shop.
But before he had time to touch the handle of the street-door, the
girl was once more before him; she stopped him.
'You are going,' she began, looking warmly into his face; 'I will not
keep you, but you must be sure to come to see us this evening: we are
so indebted to you--you, perhaps, saved my brother's life, we want to
thank you--mother wants to. You must tell us who you are, you must
rejoice with us ...'
'But I am leaving for Berlin to-day,' Sanin faltered out.
'You will have time though,' the girl rejoined eagerly. 'Come to us
in an hour's time to drink a cup of chocolate with us. You promise? I
must go back to him! You will come?'
What could Sanin do?
'I will come,' he replied.
The beautiful girl pressed his hand, fluttered away, and he found
himself in the street.
When Sanin, an hour and a half later, returned to the Rosellis' shop
he was received there like one of the family. Emilio was sitting on
the same sofa, on which he had been rubbed; the doctor had prescribed
him medicine and recommended 'great discretion in avoiding strong
emotions' as being a subject of nervous temperament with a tendency to
weakness of the heart. He had previously been liable to fainting-fits;
but never had he lost consciousness so completely and for so long.
However, the doctor declared that all danger was over. Emil, as
was only suitable for an invalid, was dressed in a comfortable
dressing-gown; his mother wound a blue woollen wrap round his neck;
but he had a cheerful, almost a festive air; indeed everything had
a festive air. Before the sofa, on a round table, covered with a
clean cloth, towered a huge china coffee-pot, filled with fragrant
chocolate, and encircled by cups, decanters of liqueur, biscuits
and rolls, and even flowers; six slender wax candles were burning
in two old-fashioned silver chandeliers; on one side of the sofa,
a comfortable lounge-chair offered its soft embraces, and in this
chair they made Sanin sit. All the inhabitants of the confectioner's
shop, with whom he had made acquaintance that day, were present, not
excluding the poodle, Tartaglia, and the cat; they all seemed happy
beyond expression; the poodle positively sneezed with delight, only
the cat was coy and blinked sleepily as before. They made Sanin tell
them who he was, where he came from, and what was his name; when
he said he was a Russian, both the ladies were a little surprised,
uttered ejaculations of wonder, and declared with one voice that he
spoke German splendidly; but if he preferred to speak French, he
might make use of that language, as they both understood it and spoke
it well. Sanin at once availed himself of this suggestion. 'Sanin!
Sanin!' The ladies would never have expected that a Russian surname
could be so easy to pronounce. His Christian name--'Dimitri'--they
liked very much too. The elder lady observed that in her youth she had
heard a fine opera--Demetrio e Polibio'--but that 'Dimitri' was much
nicer than 'Demetrio.' In this way Sanin talked for about an hour. The
ladies on their side initiated him into all the details of their own
life. The talking was mostly done by the mother, the lady with grey
hair. Sanin learnt from her that her name was Leonora Roselli; that
she had lost her husband, Giovanni Battista Roselli, who had settled
in Frankfort as a confectioner twenty--five years ago; that Giovanni
Battista had come from Vicenza and had been a most excellent, though
fiery and irascible man, and a republican withal! At those words
Signora Roselli pointed to his portrait, painted in oil-colours, and
hanging over the sofa. It must be presumed that the painter, 'also
a republican!' as Signora Roselli observed with a sigh, had not
fully succeeded in catching a likeness, for in his portrait the late
Giovanni Battista appeared as a morose and gloomy brigand, after the
style of Rinaldo Rinaldini! Signora Roselli herself had come from
'the ancient and splendid city of Parma where there is the wonderful
cupola, painted by the immortal Correggio!' But from her long
residence in Germany she had become almost completely Germanised.
Then she added, mournfully shaking her head, that all she had left
was _this_ daughter and _this_ son (pointing to each in turn with her
finger); that the daughter's name was Gemma, and the son's Emilio;
that they were both very good and obedient children--especially Emilio
... ('Me not obedient!' her daughter put in at that point. 'Oh,
you're a republican, too!' answered her mother). That the business,
of course, was not what it had been in the days of her husband, who
had a great gift for the confectionery line ... ('_Un grand uomo_!'
Pantaleone confirmed with a severe air); but that still, thank God,
they managed to get along!
Gemma listened to her mother, and at one minute laughed, then sighed,
then patted her on the shoulder, and shook her finger at her, and then
looked at Sanin; at last, she got up, embraced her mother and kissed
her in the hollow of her neck, which made the latter laugh extremely
and shriek a little. Pantaleone too was presented to Sanin. It
appeared he had once been an opera singer, a baritone, but had long
ago given up the theatre, and occupied in the Roselli family a
position between that of a family friend and a servant. In spite of
his prolonged residence in Germany, he had learnt very little German,
and only knew how to swear in it, mercilessly distorting even the
terms of abuse. '_Ferroflucto spitchebubbio_' was his favourite
epithet for almost every German. He spoke Italian with a perfect
accent--for was he not by birth from Sinigali, where may be heard
'_lingua toscana in bocca romana_'! Emilio, obviously, played the
invalid and indulged himself in the pleasant sensations of one who has
only just escaped a danger or is returning to health after illness;
it was evident, too, that the family spoiled him. He thanked Sanin
bashfully, but devoted himself chiefly to the biscuits and sweetmeats.
Sanin was compelled to drink two large cups of excellent chocolate,
and to eat a considerable number of biscuits; no sooner had he
swallowed one than Gemma offered him another--and to refuse was
impossible! He soon felt at home: the time flew by with incredible
swiftness. He had to tell them a great deal--about Russia in general,
the Russian climate, Russian society, the Russian peasant--and
especially about the Cossacks; about the war of 1812, about Peter the
Great, about the Kremlin, and the Russian songs and bells. Both ladies
had a very faint conception of our vast and remote fatherland; Signora
Roselli, or as she was more often called, Frau Lenore, positively
dumfoundered Sanin with the question, whether there was still existing
at Petersburg the celebrated house of ice, built last century, about
which she had lately read a very curious article in one of her
husband's books, '_Bettezze delle arti_.' And in reply to Sanin's
exclamation, 'Do you really suppose that there is never any summer in
Russia?' Frau Lenore replied that till then she had always pictured
Russia like this--eternal snow, every one going about in furs, and all
military men, but the greatest hospitality, and all the peasants very
submissive! Sanin tried to impart to her and her daughter some more
exact information. When the conversation touched on Russian music,
they begged him at once to sing some Russian air and showed him a
diminutive piano with black keys instead of white and white instead
of black. He obeyed without making much ado and accompanying himself
with two fingers of the right hand and three of the left (the first,
second, and little finger) he sang in a thin nasal tenor, first 'The
Sarafan,' then 'Along a Paved Street.' The ladies praised his voice
and the music, but were more struck with the softness and sonorousness
of the Russian language and asked for a translation of the text. Sanin
complied with their wishes--but as the words of 'The Sarafan,' and
still more of 'Along a Paved Street' (_sur une rue pavée une jeune
fille allait à l'eau_ was how he rendered the sense of the original)
were not calculated to inspire his listeners with an exalted idea
of Russian poetry, he first recited, then translated, and then sang
Pushkin's, 'I remember a marvellous moment,' set to music by Glinka,
whose minor bars he did not render quite faithfully. Then the ladies
went into ecstasies. Frau Lenore positively discovered in Russian
a wonderful likeness to the Italian. Even the names Pushkin (she
pronounced it Pussekin) and Glinka sounded somewhat familiar to her.
Sanin on his side begged the ladies to sing something; they too did
not wait to be pressed. Frau Lenore sat down to the piano and sang
with Gemma some duets and 'stornelle.' The mother had once had a fine
contralto; the daughter's voice was not strong, but was pleasing.
But it was not Gemma's voice--it was herself Sanin was admiring. He
was sitting a little behind and on one side of her, and kept thinking
to himself that no palm-tree, even in the poems of Benediktov--the
poet in fashion in those days--could rival the slender grace of her
figure. When, at the most emotional passages, she raised her eyes
upwards--it seemed to him no heaven could fail to open at such a look!
Even the old man, Pantaleone, who with his shoulder propped against
the doorpost, and his chin and mouth tucked into his capacious cravat,
was listening solemnly with the air of a connoisseur--even he was
admiring the girl's lovely face and marvelling at it, though one would
have thought he must have been used to it! When she had finished the
duet with her daughter, Frau Lenore observed that Emilio had a fine
voice, like a silver bell, but that now he was at the age when the
voice changes--he did, in fact, talk in a sort of bass constantly
falling into falsetto--and that he was therefore forbidden to sing;
but that Pantaleone now really might try his skill of old days in
honour of their guest! Pantaleone promptly put on a displeased air,
frowned, ruffled up his hair, and declared that he had given it all
up long ago, though he could certainly in his youth hold his own,
and indeed had belonged to that great period, when there were real
classical singers, not to be compared to the squeaking performers of
to-day! and a real school of singing; that he, Pantaleone Cippatola of
Varese, had once been brought a laurel wreath from Modena, and that
on that occasion some white doves had positively been let fly in the
theatre; that among others a Russian prince Tarbusky--'_il principe
Tarbusski_'--with whom he had been on the most friendly terms, had
after supper persistently invited him to Russia, promising him
mountains of gold, mountains!... but that he had been unwilling to
leave Italy, the land of Dante--_il paese del Dante!_ Afterward, to
be sure, there came ... unfortunate circumstances, he had himself
been imprudent.... At this point the old man broke off, sighed
deeply twice, looked dejected, and began again talking of the
classical period of singing, of the celebrated tenor Garcia, for
whom he cherished a devout, unbounded veneration. 'He was a man!'
he exclaimed. 'Never had the great Garcia (_il gran Garcia_)
demeaned himself by singing falsetto like the paltry tenors of
to-day--_tenoracci_; always from the chest, from the chest, _voce di
petto, si!_' and the old man aimed a vigorous blow with his little
shrivelled fist at his own shirt-front! 'And what an actor! A volcano,
_signori miei_, a volcano, _un Vesuvio_! I had the honour and the
happiness of singing with him in the _opera dell' illustrissimo
maestro_ Rossini--in Otello! Garcia was Otello,--I was Iago--and
when he rendered the phrase':--here Pantaleone threw himself into an
attitude and began singing in a hoarse and shaky, but still moving
"L'i ... ra daver ... so daver ... so il fato
lo più no ... no ... no ... non temerò!"
The theatre was all a-quiver, _signori miei_! though I too did not
fall short, I too after him.
"L'i ra daver ... so daver ... so il fato
Temèr più non davro!"
And all of a sudden, he crashed like lightning, like a tiger:
_Morro!... ma vendicato ..._ Again when he was singing ... when he was
singing that celebrated air from "_Matrimonio segreto_," _Pria che
spunti_ ... then he, _il gran Garcia_, after the words, "_I cavalli
di galoppo_"--at the words, "_Senza posa cacciera_,"--listen, how
stupendous, _come è stupendo_! At that point he made ...' The old man
began a sort of extraordinary flourish, and at the tenth note broke
down, cleared his throat, and with a wave of his arm turned away,
muttering, 'Why do you torment me?' Gemma jumped up at once and
clapping loudly and shouting, bravo!... bravo!... she ran to the poor
old super-annuated Iago and with both hands patted him affectionately
on the shoulders. Only Emil laughed ruthlessly. _Cet âge est sans
pitié_--that age knows no mercy--Lafontaine has said already.
Sanin tried to soothe the aged singer and began talking to him
in Italian--(he had picked up a smattering during his last tour
there)--began talking of '_paese del Dante, dove il si suona_.' This
phrase, together with '_Lasciate ogni speranza_,' made up the whole
stock of poetic Italian of the young tourist; but Pantaleone was
not won over by his blandishments. Tucking his chin deeper than ever
into his cravat and sullenly rolling his eyes, he was once more
like a bird, an angry one too,--a crow or a kite. Then Emil, with a
faint momentary blush, such as one so often sees in spoilt children,
addressing his sister, said if she wanted to entertain their guest,
she could do nothing better than read him one of those little comedies
of Malz, that she read so nicely. Gemma laughed, slapped her brother
on the arm, exclaimed that he 'always had such ideas!' She went
promptly, however, to her room, and returning thence with a small
book in her hand, seated herself at the table before the lamp, looked
round, lifted one finger as much as to say, 'hush!'--a typically
Italian gesture--and began reading.
Malz was a writer flourishing at Frankfort about 1830, whose short
comedies, written in a light vein in the local dialect, hit off local
Frankfort types with bright and amusing, though not deep, humour.
It turned out that Gemma really did read excellently--quite like an
actress in fact. She indicated each personage, and sustained the
character capitally, making full use of the talent of mimicry she had
inherited with her Italian blood; she had no mercy on her soft voice
or her lovely face, and when she had to represent some old crone in
her dotage, or a stupid burgomaster, she made the drollest grimaces,
screwing up her eyes, wrinkling up her nose, lisping, squeaking....
She did not herself laugh during the reading; but when her audience
(with the exception of Pantaleone: he had walked off in indignation
so soon as the conversation turned _o quel ferroflucto Tedesco_)
interrupted her by an outburst of unanimous laughter, she dropped the
book on her knee, and laughed musically too, her head thrown back, and
her black hair dancing in little ringlets on her neck and her shaking
shoulders. When the laughter ceased, she picked up the book at once,
and again resuming a suitable expression, began the reading seriously.
Sanin could not get over his admiration; he was particularly
astonished at the marvellous way in which a face so ideally beautiful
assumed suddenly a comic, sometimes almost a vulgar expression. Gemma
was less successful in the parts of young girls--of so-called '_jeunes
premières_'; in the love-scenes in particular she failed; she was
conscious of this herself, and for that reason gave them a faint shade
of irony as though she did not quite believe in all these rapturous
vows and elevated sentiments, of which the author, however, was
himself rather sparing--so far as he could be.
Sanin did not notice how the evening was flying by, and only
recollected the journey before him when the clock struck ten. He
leaped up from his seat as though he had been stung.
'What is the matter?' inquired Frau Lenore.
'Why, I had to start for Berlin to-night, and I have taken a place in
'And when does the diligence start?'
'At half-past ten!'
'Well, then, you won't catch it now,' observed Gemma; 'you must stay
... and I will go on reading.'
'Have you paid the whole fare or only given a deposit?' Frau Lenore
'The whole fare!' Sanin said dolefully with a gloomy face.
Gemma looked at him, half closed her eyes, and laughed, while her
mother scolded her:
'The young gentleman has paid away his money for nothing, and you
'Never mind,' answered Gemma; 'it won't ruin him, and we will try and
amuse him. Will you have some lemonade?'
Sanin drank a glass of lemonade, Gemma took up Malz once more; and all
went merrily again.
The clock struck twelve. Sanin rose to take leave.
'You must stay some days now in Frankfort,' said Gemma: 'why should
you hurry away? It would be no nicer in any other town.' She paused.
'It wouldn't, really,' she added with a smile. Sanin made no reply,
and reflected that considering the emptiness of his purse, he would
have no choice about remaining in Frankfort till he got an answer from
a friend in Berlin, to whom he proposed writing for money.
'Yes, do stay,' urged Frau Lenore too. 'We will introduce you to Mr.
Karl Klüber, who is engaged to Gemma. He could not come to-day, as he
was very busy at his shop ... you must have seen the biggest draper's
and silk mercer's shop in the _Zeile_. Well, he is the manager there.
But he will be delighted to call on you himself.'
Sanin--heaven knows why--was slightly disconcerted by this piece of
information. 'He's a lucky fellow, that fiancé!' flashed across his
mind. He looked at Gemma, and fancied he detected an ironical look in
her eyes. He began saying good-bye.
'Till to-morrow? Till to-morrow, isn't it?' queried Frau Lenore.
'Till to-morrow!' Gemma declared in a tone not of interrogation, but
of affirmation, as though it could not be otherwise.
'Till to-morrow!' echoed Sanin.
Emil, Pantaleone, and the poodle Tartaglia accompanied him to the
corner of the street. Pantaleone could not refrain from expressing his
displeasure at Gemma's reading.
'She ought to be ashamed! She mouths and whines, _una caricatura_!
She ought to represent Merope or Clytemnaestra--something grand,
tragic--and she apes some wretched German woman! I can do that ...
_merz, kerz, smerz_,' he went on in a hoarse voice poking his face
forward, and brandishing his fingers. Tartaglia began barking at him,
while Emil burst out laughing. The old man turned sharply back.
Sanin went back to the White Swan (he had left his things there in the
public hall) in a rather confused frame of mind. All the talk he had
had in French, German, and Italian was ringing in his ears.
'Engaged!' he whispered as he lay in bed, in the modest apartment
assigned to him. 'And what a beauty! But what did I stay for?'
Next day he sent a letter to his friend in Berlin.
He had not finished dressing, when a waiter announced the arrival
of two gentlemen. One of them turned out to be Emil; the other, a
good-looking and well-grown young man, with a handsome face, was Herr
Karl Klüber, the betrothed of the lovely Gemma.
One may safely assume that at that time in all Frankfort, there was
not in a single shop a manager as civil, as decorous, as dignified,
and as affable as Herr Klüber. The irreproachable perfection of his
get-up was on a level with the dignity of his deportment, with the
elegance--a little affected and stiff, it is true, in the English
style (he had spent two years in England)--but still fascinating,
elegance of his manners! It was clear from the first glance that this
handsome, rather severe, excellently brought-up and superbly washed
young man was accustomed to obey his superior and to command his
inferior, and that behind the counter of his shop he must infallibly
inspire respect even in his customers! Of his supernatural honesty
there could never be a particle of doubt: one had but to look at his
stiffly starched collars! And his voice, it appeared, was just what
one would expect; deep, and of a self-confident richness, but not too
loud, with positively a certain caressing note in its timbre. Such a
voice was peculiarly fitted to give orders to assistants under his
control: 'Show the crimson Lyons velvet!' or, 'Hand the lady a chair!'
Herr Klüber began with introducing himself; as he did so, he bowed
with such loftiness, moved his legs with such an agreeable air, and
drew his heels together with such polished courtesy that no one could
fail to feel, 'that man has both linen and moral principles of the
first quality!' The finish of his bare right hand--(the left, in a
suede glove, held a hat shining like a looking-glass, with the right
glove placed within it)--the finish of the right hand, proffered
modestly but resolutely to Sanin, surpassed all belief; each
finger-nail was a perfection in its own way! Then he proceeded
to explain in the choicest German that he was anxious to express
his respect and his indebtedness to the foreign gentleman who had
performed so signal a service to his future kinsman, the brother of
his betrothed; as he spoke, he waved his left hand with the hat in it
in the direction of Emil, who seemed bashful and turning away to the
window, put his finger in his mouth. Herr Klüber added that he should
esteem himself happy should he be able in return to do anything for
the foreign gentleman. Sanin, with some difficulty, replied, also
in German, that he was delighted ... that the service was not worth
speaking of ... and he begged his guests to sit down. Herr Klüber
thanked him, and lifting his coat-tails, sat down on a chair; but he
perched there so lightly and with such a transitory air that no one
could fail to realise, 'this man is sitting down from politeness,
and will fly up again in an instant.' And he did in fact fly up again
quickly, and advancing with two discreet little dance-steps, he
announced that to his regret he was unable to stay any longer, as he
had to hasten to his shop--business before everything! but as the next
day was Sunday, he had, with the consent of Frau Lenore and Fräulein
Gemma, arranged a holiday excursion to Soden, to which he had the
honour of inviting the foreign gentleman, and he cherished the hope
that he would not refuse to grace the party with his presence. Sanin
did not refuse so to grace it; and Herr Klüber repeating once more his
complimentary sentiments, took leave, his pea-green trousers making a
spot of cheerful colour, and his brand-new boots squeaking cheerfully
as he moved.
Emil, who had continued to stand with his face to the window, even
after Sanin's invitation to him to sit down, turned round directly his
future kinsman had gone out, and with a childish pout and blush, asked
Sanin if he might remain a little while with him. 'I am much better
to-day,' he added, 'but the doctor has forbidden me to do any work.'
'Stay by all means! You won't be in the least in my way,' Sanin cried
at once. Like every true Russian he was glad to clutch at any excuse
that saved him from the necessity of doing anything himself.
Emil thanked him, and in a very short time he was completely at home
with him and with his room; he looked at all his things, asked him
about almost every one of them, where he had bought it, and what was
its value. He helped him to shave, observing that it was a mistake not
to let his moustache grow; and finally told him a number of details
about his mother, his sister, Pantaleone, the poodle Tartaglia, and
all their daily life. Every semblance of timidity vanished in Emil; he
suddenly felt extraordinarily attracted to Sanin--not at all because
he had saved his life the day before, but because he was such a nice
person! He lost no time in confiding all his secrets to Sanin. He
expatiated with special warmth on the fact that his mother was set
on making him a shopkeeper, while he _knew_, knew for certain, that
he was born an artist, a musician, a singer; that Pantaleone even
encouraged him, but that Herr Klüber supported mamma, over whom he had
great influence; that the very idea of his being a shopkeeper really
originated with Herr Klüber, who considered that nothing in the world
could compare with trade! To measure out cloth--and cheat the public,
extorting from it '_Narren--oder Russen Preise_' (fools'--or Russian
prices)--that was his ideal! [Footnote: In former days--and very
likely it is not different now--when, from May onwards, a great number
of Russians visited Frankfort, prices rose in all the shops, and were
called 'Russians',' or, alas! 'fools' prices.']
'Come! now you must come and see us!' he cried, directly Sanin had
finished his toilet and written his letter to Berlin.
'It's early yet,' observed Sanin.
'That's no matter,' replied Emil caressingly. 'Come along! We'll go to
the post--and from there to our place. Gemma will be so glad to see
you! You must have lunch with us.... You might say a word to mamma
about me, my career....'
'Very well, let's go,' said Sanin, and they set off.
Gemma certainly was delighted to see him, and Frau Lenore gave him a
very friendly welcome; he had obviously made a good impression on both
of them the evening before. Emil ran to see to getting lunch ready,
after a preliminary whisper, 'don't forget!' in Sanin's ear.
'I won't forget,' responded Sanin.
Frau Lenore was not quite well; she had a sick headache, and,
half-lying down in an easy chair, she tried to keep perfectly still.
Gemma wore a full yellow blouse, with a black leather belt round the
waist; she too seemed exhausted, and was rather pale; there were dark
rings round her eyes, but their lustre was not the less for it; it
added something of charm and mystery to the classical lines of her
face. Sanin was especially struck that day by the exquisite beauty of
her hands; when she smoothed and put back her dark, glossy tresses he
could not take his eyes off her long supple fingers, held slightly
apart from one another like the hand of Raphael's Fornarina.
It was very hot out-of-doors; after lunch Sanin was about to take
leave, but they told him that on such a day the best thing was to stay
where one was, and he agreed; he stayed. In the back room where he was
sitting with the ladies of the household, coolness reigned supreme;
the windows looked out upon a little garden overgrown with acacias.
Multitudes of bees, wasps, and humming beetles kept up a steady,
eager buzz in their thick branches, which were studded with golden
blossoms; through the half-drawn curtains and the lowered blinds this
never-ceasing hum made its way into the room, telling of the sultry
heat in the air outside, and making the cool of the closed and snug
abode seem the sweeter.
Sanin talked a great deal, as on the day before, but not of Russia,
nor of Russian life. Being anxious to please his young friend, who
had been sent off to Herr Klüber's immediately after lunch, to
acquire a knowledge of book-keeping, he turned the conversation on
the comparative advantages and disadvantages of art and commerce. He
was not surprised at Frau Lenore's standing up for commerce--he had
expected that; but Gemma too shared her opinion.
'If one's an artist, and especially a singer,' she declared with a
vigorous downward sweep of her hand, 'one's got to be first-rate!
Second-rate's worse than nothing; and who can tell if one will
arrive at being first-rate?' Pantaleone, who took part too in the
conversation--(as an old servant and an old man he had the privilege
of sitting down in the presence of the ladies of the house; Italians
are not, as a rule, strict in matters of etiquette)--Pantaleone, as a
matter of course, stood like a rock for art. To tell the truth, his
arguments were somewhat feeble; he kept expatiating for the most part
on the necessity, before all things, of possessing '_un certo estro
d'inspirazione_'--a certain force of inspiration! Frau Lenore remarked
to him that he had, to be sure, possessed such an '_estro_'--and
yet ... 'I had enemies,' Pantaleone observed gloomily. 'And how do
you know that Emil will not have enemies, even if this "_estro_" is
found in him?' 'Very well, make a tradesman of him, then,' retorted
Pantaleone in vexation; 'but Giovan' Battista would never have done
it, though he was a confectioner himself!' 'Giovan' Battista, my
husband, was a reasonable man, and even though he was in his youth led
away ...' But the old man would hear nothing more, and walked away,
repeating reproachfully, 'Ah! Giovan' Battista!...' Gemma exclaimed
that if Emil felt like a patriot, and wanted to devote all his powers
to the liberation of Italy, then, of course, for such a high and holy
cause he might sacrifice the security of the future--but not for the
theatre! Thereupon Frau Lenore became much agitated, and began to
implore her daughter to refrain at least from turning her brother's
head, and to content herself with being such a desperate republican
herself! Frau Lenore groaned as she uttered these words, and began
complaining of her head, which was 'ready to split.' (Frau Lenore, in
deference to their guest, talked to her daughter in French.)
Gemma began at once to wait upon her; she moistened her forehead with
eau-de-Cologne, gently blew on it, gently kissed her cheek, made her
lay her head on a pillow, forbade her to speak, and kissed her again.
Then, turning to Sanin, she began telling him in a half-joking,
half-tender tone what a splendid mother she had, and what a beauty she
had been. '"Had been," did I say? she is charming now! Look, look,
Gemma instantly pulled a white handkerchief out of her pocket, covered
her mother's face with it, and slowly drawing it downwards, gradually
uncovered Frau Lenore's forehead, eyebrows, and eyes; she waited a
moment and asked her to open them. Her mother obeyed; Gemma cried
out in ecstasy (Frau Lenore's eyes really were very beautiful), and
rapidly sliding the handkerchief over the lower, less regular part of
the face, fell to kissing her again. Frau Lenore laughed, and turning
a little away, with a pretence of violence, pushed her daughter away.
She too pretended to struggle with her mother, and lavished caresses
on her--not like a cat, in the French manner, but with that special
Italian grace in which is always felt the presence of power.
At last Frau Lenore declared she was tired out ... Then Gemma at once
advised her to have a little nap, where she was, in her chair, 'and
I and the Russian gentleman--"_avec le monsieur russe_"--will be as
quiet, as quiet ... as little mice ... "_comme des petites souris_."'
Frau Lenore smiled at her in reply, closed her eyes, and after a few
sighs began to doze. Gemma quickly dropped down on a bench beside her
and did not stir again, only from time to time she put a finger of
one hand to her lips--with the other hand she was holding up a pillow
behind her mother's head--and said softly, 'sh-sh!' with a sidelong
look at Sanin, if he permitted himself the smallest movement. In the
end he too sank into a kind of dream, and sat motionless as though
spell-bound, while all his faculties were absorbed in admiring the
picture presented him by the half-dark room, here and there spotted
with patches of light crimson, where fresh, luxuriant roses stood in
the old-fashioned green glasses, and the sleeping woman with demurely
folded hands and kind, weary face, framed in the snowy whiteness
of the pillow, and the young, keenly-alert and also kind, clever,
pure, and unspeakably beautiful creature with such black, deep,
overshadowed, yet shining eyes.... What was it? A dream? a fairy
tale? And how came _he_ to be in it?
The bell tinkled at the outer door. A young peasant lad in a fur
cap and a red waistcoat came into the shop from the street. Not one
customer had looked into it since early morning ... 'You see how much
business we do!' Frau Lenore observed to Sanin at lunch-time with a
sigh. She was still asleep; Gemma was afraid to take her arm from the
pillow, and whispered to Sanin: 'You go, and mind the shop for me!'
Sanin went on tiptoe into the shop at once. The boy wanted a quarter
of a pound of peppermints. 'How much must I take?' Sanin whispered
from the door to Gemma. 'Six kreutzers!' she answered in the same
whisper. Sanin weighed out a quarter of a pound, found some paper,
twisted it into a cone, tipped the peppermints into it, spilt them,
tipped them in again, spilt them again, at last handed them to the
boy, and took the money.... The boy gazed at him in amazement,
twisting his cap in his hands on his stomach, and in the next room,
Gemma was stifling with suppressed laughter. Before the first customer
had walked out, a second appeared, then a third.... 'I bring luck,
it's clear!' thought Sanin. The second customer wanted a glass of
orangeade, the third, half-a-pound of sweets. Sanin satisfied their
needs, zealously clattering the spoons, changing the saucers, and
eagerly plunging his fingers into drawers and jars. On reckoning up,
it appeared that he had charged too little for the orangeade, and
taken two kreutzers too much for the sweets. Gemma did not cease
laughing softly, and Sanin too was aware of an extraordinary lightness
of heart, a peculiarly happy state of mind. He felt as if he had
for ever been standing behind the counter and dealing in orangeade
and sweetmeats, with that exquisite creature looking at him through
the doorway with affectionately mocking eyes, while the summer sun,
forcing its way through the sturdy leafage of the chestnuts that grew
in front of the windows, filled the whole room with the greenish-gold
of the midday light and shade, and the heart grew soft in the sweet
languor of idleness, carelessness, and youth--first youth!
A fourth customer asked for a cup of coffee; Pantaleone had to be
appealed to. (Emil had not yet come back from Herr Klüber's shop.)
Sanin went and sat by Gemma again. Frau Lenore still went on sleeping,
to her daughter's great delight. 'Mamma always sleeps off her sick
headaches,' she observed. Sanin began talking--in a whisper, of
course, as before--of his minding the shop; very seriously inquired
the price of various articles of confectionery; Gemma just as
seriously told him these prices, and meanwhile both of them were
inwardly laughing together, as though conscious they were playing
in a very amusing farce. All of a sudden, an organ-grinder in the
street began playing an air from the Freischütz: '_Durch die Felder,
durch die Auen_ ...' The dance tune fell shrill and quivering on
the motionless air. Gemma started ... 'He will wake mamma!' Sanin
promptly darted out into the street, thrust a few kreutzers into
the organ-grinder's hand, and made him cease playing and move away.
When he came back, Gemma thanked him with a little nod of the head,
and with a pensive smile she began herself just audibly humming
the beautiful melody of Weber's, in which Max expresses all the
perplexities of first love. Then she asked Sanin whether he knew
'Freischütz,' whether he was fond of Weber, and added that though
she was herself an Italian, she liked _such_ music best of all. From
Weber the conversation glided off on to poetry and romanticism, on to
Hoffmann, whom every one was still reading at that time.
And Frau Lenore still slept, and even snored just a little, and the
sunbeams, piercing in narrow streaks through the shutters, were
incessantly and imperceptibly shifting and travelling over the floor,
the furniture, Gemma's dress, and the leaves and petals of the
It appeared that Gemma was not very fond of Hoffmann, that she even
thought him ... tedious! The fantastic, misty northern element in
his stories was too remote from her clear, southern nature. 'It's
all fairy-tales, all written for children!' she declared with some
contempt. She was vaguely conscious, too, of the lack of poetry in
Hoffmann. But there was one of his stories, the title of which she
had forgotten, which she greatly liked; more precisely speaking, it
was only the beginning of this story that she liked; the end she had
either not read or had forgotten. The story was about a young man who
in some place, a sort of restaurant perhaps, meets a girl of striking
beauty, a Greek; she is accompanied by a mysterious and strange,
wicked old man. The young man falls in love with the girl at first
sight; she looks at him so mournfully, as though beseeching him to
deliver her.... He goes out for an instant, and, coming back into the
restaurant, finds there neither the girl nor the old man; he rushes
off in pursuit of her, continually comes upon fresh traces of her,
follows them up, and can never by any means come upon her anywhere.
The lovely girl has vanished for him for ever and ever, and he is
never able to forget her imploring glance, and is tortured by the
thought that all the happiness of his life, perhaps, has slipped
through his fingers.
Hoffmann does not end his story quite in that way; but so it had taken
shape, so it had remained, in Gemma's memory.
'I fancy,' she said, 'such meetings and such partings happen oftener
in the world than we suppose.'
Sanin was silent ... and soon after he began talking ... of Herr
Klüber. It was the first time he had referred to him; he had not once
remembered him till that instant.
Gemma was silent in her turn, and sank into thought, biting the nail
of her forefinger and fixing her eyes away. Then she began to speak in
praise of her betrothed, alluded to the excursion he had planned for
the next day, and, glancing swiftly at Sanin, was silent again.
Sanin did not know on what subject to turn the conversation.
Emil ran in noisily and waked Frau Lenore ... Sanin was relieved by
Frau Lenore got up from her low chair. Pantaleone came in and
announced that dinner was ready. The friend of the family, ex-singer,
and servant also performed the duties of cook.
Sanin stayed on after dinner too. They did not let him go, still on
the same pretext of the terrible heat; and when the heat began to
decrease, they proposed going out into the garden to drink coffee in
the shade of the acacias. Sanin consented. He felt very happy. In the
quietly monotonous, smooth current of life lie hid great delights,
and he gave himself up to these delights with zest, asking nothing
much of the present day, but also thinking nothing of the morrow, nor
recalling the day before. How much the mere society of such a girl as
Gemma meant to him! He would shortly part from her and, most likely,
for ever; but so long as they were borne, as in Uhland's song, in
one skiff over the sea of life, untossed by tempest, well might
the traveller rejoice and be glad. And everything seemed sweet
and delightful to the happy voyager. Frau Lenore offered to play
against him and Pantaleone at 'tresette,' instructed him in this not
complicated Italian game, and won a few kreutzers from him, and he
was well content. Pantaleone, at Emil's request, made the poodle,
Tartaglia, perform all his tricks, and Tartaglia jumped over a stick
'spoke,' that is, barked, sneezed, shut the door with his nose,
fetched his master's trodden-down slippers; and, finally, with an
old cap on his head, he portrayed Marshal Bernadotte, subjected to
the bitterest upbraidings by the Emperor Napoleon on account of his
treachery. Napoleon's part was, of course, performed by Pantaleone,
and very faithfully he performed it: he folded his arms across his
chest, pulled a cocked hat over his eyes, and spoke very gruffly and
sternly, in French--and heavens! what French! Tartaglia sat before his
sovereign, all huddled up, with dejected tail, and eyes blinking and
twitching in confusion, under the peak of his cap which was stuck on
awry; from time to time when Napoleon raised his voice, Bernadotte
rose on his hind paws. '_Fuori, traditore!_' cried Napoleon at last,
forgetting in the excess of his wrath that he had to sustain his rôle
as a Frenchman to the end; and Bernadotte promptly flew under the
sofa, but quickly darted out again with a joyful bark, as though to
announce that the performance was over. All the spectators laughed,
and Sanin more than all.
Gemma had a particularly charming, continual, soft laugh, with very
droll little shrieks.... Sanin was fairly enchanted by that laugh--he
could have kissed her for those shrieks!
Night came on at last. He had in decency to take leave! After saying
good-bye several times over to every one, and repeating several times
to all, 'till to-morrow!'--Emil he went so far as to kiss--Sanin
started home, carrying with him the image of the young girl, at one
time laughing, at another thoughtful, calm, and even indifferent--but
always attractive! Her eyes, at one time wide open, clear and bright
as day, at another time half shrouded by the lashes and deep and dark
as night, seemed to float before his eyes, piercing in a strange sweet
way across all other images and recollections.
Of Herr Klüber, of the causes impelling him to remain in Frankfort--in
short, of everything that had disturbed his mind the evening
before--he never thought once.
We must, however, say a few words about Sanin himself.
In the first place, he was very, very good-looking. A handsome,
graceful figure, agreeable, rather unformed features, kindly bluish
eyes, golden hair, a clear white and red skin, and, above all, that
peculiar, naïvely-cheerful, confiding, open, at the first glance,
somewhat foolish expression, by which in former days one could
recognise directly the children of steady-going, noble families,
'sons of their fathers,' fine young landowners, born and reared in
our open, half-wild country parts,--a hesitating gait, a voice with a
lisp, a smile like a child's the minute you looked at him ... lastly,
freshness, health, softness, softness, softness,--there you have the
whole of Sanin. And secondly, he was not stupid and had picked up a
fair amount of knowledge. Fresh he had remained, for all his foreign
tour; the disturbing emotions in which the greater part of the young
people of that day were tempest-tossed were very little known to him.
Of late years, in response to the assiduous search for 'new types,'
young men have begun to appear in our literature, determined at
all hazards to be 'fresh'... as fresh as Flensburg oysters, when
they reach Petersburg.... Sanin was not like them. Since we have
had recourse already to simile, he rather recalled a young, leafy,
freshly-grafted apple-tree in one of our fertile orchards--or
better still, a well-groomed, sleek, sturdy-limbed, tender young
'three-year-old' in some old-fashioned seignorial stud stable, a
young horse that they have hardly begun to break in to the traces....
Those who came across Sanin in later years, when life had knocked him
about a good deal, and the sleekness and plumpness of youth had long
vanished, saw in him a totally different man.
* * * * *
Next day Sanin was still in bed when Emil, in his best clothes, with
a cane in his hand and much pomade on his head, burst into his room,
announcing that Herr Klüber would be here directly with the carriage,
that the weather promised to be exquisite, that they had everything
ready by now, but that mamma was not going, as her head was bad again.
He began to hurry Sanin, telling him that there was not a minute to
lose.... And Herr Klüber did, in fact, find Sanin still at his toilet.
He knocked at the door, came in, bowed with a bend from the waist,
expressed his readiness to wait as long as might be desired, and
sat down, his hat balanced elegantly on his knees. The handsome
shop-manager had got himself up and perfumed himself to excess: his
every action was accompanied by a powerful whiff of the most refined
aroma. He arrived in a comfortable open carriage--one of the kind
called landau--drawn by two tall and powerful but not well-shaped
horses. A quarter of an hour later Sanin, Klüber, and Emil, in this
same carriage, drew up triumphantly at the steps of the confectioner's
shop. Madame Roselli resolutely refused to join the party; Gemma
wanted to stay with her mother; but she simply turned her out.
'I don't want any one,' she declared; 'I shall go to sleep. I would
send Pantaleone with you too, only there would be no one to mind the
'May we take Tartaglia?' asked Emil.
'Of course you may.'
Tartaglia immediately scrambled, with delighted struggles, on to the
box and sat there, licking himself; it was obviously a thing he was
accustomed to. Gemma put on a large straw hat with brown ribbons; the
hat was bent down in front, so as to shade almost the whole of her
face from the sun. The line of shadow stopped just at her lips; they
wore a tender maiden flush, like the petals of a centifoil rose, and
her teeth gleamed stealthily--innocently too, as when children smile.
Gemma sat facing the horses, with Sanin; Klüber and Emil sat opposite.
The pale face of Frau Lenore appeared at the window; Gemma waved her
handkerchief to her, and the horses started.
Soden is a little town half an hour's distance from Frankfort. It lies
in a beautiful country among the spurs of the Taunus Mountains, and
is known among us in Russia for its waters, which are supposed to be
beneficial to people with weak lungs. The Frankforters visit it more
for purposes of recreation, as Soden possesses a fine park and various
'wirthschaften,' where one may drink beer and coffee in the shade
of the tall limes and maples. The road from Frankfort to Soden runs
along the right bank of the Maine, and is planted all along with fruit
trees. While the carriage was rolling slowly along an excellent road,
Sanin stealthily watched how Gemma behaved to her betrothed; it was
the first time he had seen them together. _She_ was quiet and simple
in her manner, but rather more reserved and serious than usual; _he_
had the air of a condescending schoolmaster, permitting himself and
those under his authority a discreet and decorous pleasure. Sanin saw
no signs in him of any marked attentiveness, of what the French call
'_empressement_,' in his demeanour to Gemma. It was clear that Herr
Klüber considered that it was a matter settled once for all, and
that therefore he saw no reason to trouble or excite himself. But
his condescension never left him for an instant! Even during a long
ramble before dinner about the wooded hills and valleys behind Soden,
even when enjoying the beauties of nature, he treated nature itself
with the same condescension, through which his habitual magisterial
severity peeped out from time to time. So, for example, he observed
in regard to one stream that it ran too straight through the glade,
instead of making a few picturesque curves; he disapproved, too, of
the conduct of a bird--a chaffinch--for singing so monotonously.
Gemma was not bored, and even, apparently, was enjoying herself; but
Sanin did not recognise her as the Gemma of the preceding days; it
was not that she seemed under a cloud--her beauty had never been more
dazzling--but her soul seemed to have withdrawn into herself. With her
parasol open and her gloves still buttoned up, she walked sedately,
deliberately, as well-bred young girls walk, and spoke little.
Emil, too, felt stiff, and Sanin more so than all. He was somewhat
embarrassed too by the fact that the conversation was all the time
in German. Only Tartaglia was in high spirits! He darted, barking
frantically, after blackbirds, leaped over ravines, stumps and roots,
rushed headlong into the water, lapped at it in desperate haste, shook
himself, whining, and was off like an arrow, his red tongue trailing
after him almost to his shoulder. Herr Klüber, for his part, did
everything he supposed conducive to the mirthfulness of the company;
he begged them to sit down in the shade of a spreading oak-tree, and
taking out of a side pocket a small booklet entitled, '_Knallerbsen;
oder du sollst und wirst lachen!_' (Squibs; or you must and shall
laugh!) began reading the funny anecdotes of which the little book was
full. He read them twelve specimens; he aroused very little mirth,
however; only Sanin smiled, from politeness, and he himself, Herr
Klüber, after each anecdote, gave vent to a brief, business-like, but
still condescending laugh. At twelve o'clock the whole party returned
to Soden to the best tavern there.
They had to make arrangements about dinner. Herr Klüber proposed
that the dinner should be served in a summer-house closed in on all
sides--'_im Gartensalon_'; but at this point Gemma rebelled and
declared that she would have dinner in the open air, in the garden, at
one of the little tables set before the tavern; that she was tired of
being all the while with the same faces, and she wanted to see fresh
ones. At some of the little tables, groups of visitors were already
While Herr Klüber, yielding condescendingly to 'the caprice of his
betrothed,' went off to interview the head waiter, Gemma stood
immovable, biting her lips and looking on the ground; she was
conscious that Sanin was persistently and, as it were, inquiringly
looking at her--it seemed to enrage her. At last Herr Klüber returned,
announced that dinner would be ready in half an hour, and proposed
their employing the interval in a game of skittles, adding that this
was very good for the appetite, he, he, he! Skittles he played in
masterly fashion; as he threw the ball, he put himself into amazingly
heroic postures, with artistic play of the muscles, with artistic
flourish and shake of the leg. In his own way he was an athlete--and
was superbly built! His hands, too, were so white and handsome, and he
wiped them on such a sumptuous, gold-striped, Indian bandana!
The moment of dinner arrived, and the whole party seated themselves at
Who does not know what a German dinner is like? Watery soup with
knobby dumplings and pieces of cinnamon, boiled beef dry as cork,
with white fat attached, slimy potatoes, soft beetroot and mashed
horseradish, a bluish eel with French capers and vinegar, a roast
joint with jam, and the inevitable '_Mehlspeise_,' something of the
nature of a pudding with sourish red sauce; but to make up, the beer
and wine first-rate! With just such a dinner the tavernkeeper at
Soden regaled his customers. The dinner, itself, however, went off
satisfactorily. No special liveliness was perceptible, certainly;
not even when Herr Klüber proposed the toast 'What we like!' (Was
wir lieben!) But at least everything was decorous and seemly. After
dinner, coffee was served, thin, reddish, typically German coffee.
Herr Klüber, with true gallantry, asked Gemma's permission to smoke a
cigar.... But at this point suddenly something occurred, unexpected,
and decidedly unpleasant, and even unseemly!
At one of the tables near were sitting several officers of the
garrison of the Maine. From their glances and whispering together
it was easy to perceive that they were struck by Gemma's beauty;
one of them, who had probably stayed in Frankfort, stared at her
persistently, as at a figure familiar to him; he obviously knew who
she was. He suddenly got up, and glass in hand--all the officers
had been drinking hard, and the cloth before them was crowded with
bottles--approached the table at which Gemma was sitting. He was
a very young flaxen-haired man, with a rather pleasing and even
attractive face, but his features were distorted with the wine he had
drunk, his cheeks were twitching, his blood-shot eyes wandered, and
wore an insolent expression. His companions at first tried to hold him
back, but afterwards let him go, interested apparently to see what he
would do, and how it would end. Slightly unsteady on his legs, the
officer stopped before Gemma, and in an unnaturally screaming voice,
in which, in spite of himself, an inward struggle could be discerned,
he articulated, 'I drink to the health of the prettiest confectioner
in all Frankfort, in all the world (he emptied his glass), and in
return I take this flower, picked by her divine little fingers!' He
took from the table a rose that lay beside Gemma's plate. At first she
was astonished, alarmed, and turned fearfully white ... then alarm
was replaced by indignation; she suddenly crimsoned all over, to her
very hair--and her eyes, fastened directly on the offender, at the
same time darkened and flamed, they were filled with black gloom, and
burned with the fire of irrepressible fury. The officer must have been
confused by this look; he muttered something unintelligible, bowed,
and walked back to his friends. They greeted him with a laugh, and
Herr Klüber rose spasmodically from his seat, drew himself up to his
full height, and putting on his hat pronounced with dignity, but not
too loud, 'Unheard of! Unheard of! Unheard of impertinence!' and at
once calling up the waiter, in a severe voice asked for the bill ...
more than that, ordered the carriage to be put to, adding that it was
impossible for respectable people to frequent the establishment if
they were exposed to insult! At those words Gemma, who still sat in
her place without stirring--her bosom was heaving violently--Gemma
raised her eyes to Herr Klüber ... and she gazed as intently, with the
same expression at him as at the officer. Emil was simply shaking with
'Get up, _mein Fräulein_,' Klüber admonished her with the same
severity, 'it is not proper for you to remain here. We will go inside,
in the tavern!'
Gemma rose in silence; he offered her his arm, she gave him hers, and
he walked into the tavern with a majestic step, which became, with his
whole bearing, more majestic and haughty the farther he got from the
place where they had dined. Poor Emil dragged himself after them.
But while Herr Klüber was settling up with the waiter, to whom, by way
of punishment, he gave not a single kreutzer for himself, Sanin with
rapid steps approached the table at which the officers were sitting,
and addressing Gemma's assailant, who was at that instant offering her
rose to his companions in turns to smell, he uttered very distinctly
in French, 'What you have just done, sir, is conduct unworthy of an
honest man, unworthy of the uniform you wear, and I have come to tell
you you are an ill-bred cur!' The young man leaped on to his feet, but
another officer, rather older, checked him with a gesture, made him
sit down, and turning to Sanin asked him also in French, 'Was he a
relation, brother, or betrothed of the girl?'
'I am nothing to her at all,' cried Sanin, 'I am a Russian, but I
cannot look on at such insolence with indifference; but here is my
card and my address; _monsieur l'officier_ can find me.'
As he uttered these words, Sanin threw his visiting-card on the table,
and at the same moment hastily snatched Gemma's rose, which one of the
officers sitting at the table had dropped into his plate. The young
man was again on the point of jumping up from the table, but his
companion again checked him, saying, 'Dönhof, be quiet! Dönhof, sit
still.' Then he got up himself, and putting his hand to the peak of
his cap, with a certain shade of respectfulness in his voice and
manner, told Sanin that to-morrow morning an officer of the regiment
would have the honour of calling upon him. Sanin replied with a short
bow, and hurriedly returned to his friends.
Herr Klüber pretended he had not noticed either Sanin's absence
nor his interview with the officers; he was urging on the coachman,
who was putting in the horses, and was furiously angry at his
deliberateness. Gemma too said nothing to Sanin, she did not even
look at him; from her knitted brows, from her pale and compressed
lips, from her very immobility it could be seen that she was suffering
inwardly. Only Emil obviously wanted to speak to Sanin, wanted to
question him; he had seen Sanin go up to the officers, he had seen him
give them something white--a scrap of paper, a note, or a card.... The
poor boy's heart was beating, his cheeks burned, he was ready to throw
himself on Sanin's neck, ready to cry, or to go with him at once to
crush all those accursed officers into dust and ashes! He controlled
himself, however, and did no more than watch intently every movement
of his noble Russian friend.
The coachman had at last harnessed the horses; the whole party
seated themselves in the carriage. Emil climbed on to the box, after
Tartaglia; he was more comfortable there, and had not Klüber, whom he
could hardly bear the sight of, sitting opposite to him.
* * * * *
The whole way home Herr Klüber discoursed ... and he discoursed alone;
no one, absolutely no one, opposed him, nor did any one agree with
him. He especially insisted on the point that they had been wrong
in not following his advice when he suggested dining in a shut-up
summer-house. There no unpleasantness could have occurred! Then
he expressed a few decided and even liberal sentiments on the
unpardonable way in which the government favoured the military,
neglected their discipline, and did not sufficiently consider
the civilian element in society (_das bürgerliche Element in der
Societät_!), and foretold that in time this cause would give rise to
discontent, which might well pass into revolution, of which (here
he dropped a sympathetic though severe sigh) France had given them
a sorrowful example! He added, however, that he personally had the
greatest respect for authority, and never ... no, never!... could be a
revolutionist--but he could not but express his ... disapprobation at
the sight of such licence! Then he made a few general observations on
morality and immorality, good-breeding, and the sense of dignity.
During all these lucubrations, Gemma, who even while they were walking
before dinner had not seemed quite pleased with Herr Klüber, and had
therefore held rather aloof from Sanin, and had been, as it were,
embarrassed by his presence--Gemma was unmistakably ashamed of her
betrothed! Towards the end of the drive she was positively wretched,
and though, as before, she did not address a word to Sanin, she
suddenly flung an imploring glance at him.... He, for his part, felt
much more sorry for her than indignant with Herr Klüber; he was even
secretly, half-consciously, delighted at what had happened in the
course of that day, even though he had every reason to expect a
challenge next morning.
This miserable _partie de plaisir_ came to an end at last. As he
helped Gemma out of the carriage at the confectionery shop, Sanin
without a word put into her hand the rose he had recovered. She
flushed crimson, pressed his hand, and instantly hid the rose. He
did not want to go into the house, though the evening was only just
beginning. She did not even invite him. Moreover Pantaleone, who came
out on the steps, announced that Frau Lenore was asleep. Emil took a
shy good-bye of Sanin; he felt as it were in awe of him; he greatly
admired him. Klüber saw Sanin to his lodging, and took leave of him
stiffly. The well-regulated German, for all his self-confidence, felt
awkward. And indeed every one felt awkward.
But in Sanin this feeling of awkwardness soon passed off. It was
replaced by a vague, but pleasant, even triumphant feeling. He walked
up and down his room, whistling, and not caring to think about
anything, and was very well pleased with himself.
'I will wait for the officer's visit till ten o'clock,' he reflected
next morning, as he dressed,' and then let him come and look for me!'
But Germans rise early: it had not yet struck nine when the waiter
informed Sanin that the Herr Seconde Lieutenant von Richter wished
to see him. Sanin made haste to put on his coat, and told him to ask
him up. Herr Richter turned out, contrary to Sanin's expectation, to
be a very young man, almost a boy. He tried to give an expression of
dignity to his beardless face, but did not succeed at all: he could
not even conceal his embarrassment, and as he sat down on a chair, he
tripped over his sword, and almost fell. Stammering and hesitating, he
announced to Sanin in bad French that he had come with a message from
his friend, Baron von Dönhof; that this message was to demand from
Herr von Sanin an apology for the insulting expressions used by him
on the previous day; and in case of refusal on the part of Herr von
Sanin, Baron von Dönhof would ask for satisfaction. Sanin replied that
he did not mean to apologise, but was ready to give him satisfaction.
Then Herr von Richter, still with the same hesitation, asked with
whom, at what time and place, should he arrange the necessary
preliminaries. Sanin answered that he might come to him in two hours'
time, and that meanwhile, he, Sanin, would try and find a second.
('Who the devil is there I can have for a second?' he was thinking to
himself meantime.) Herr von Richter got up and began to take leave
... but at the doorway he stopped, as though stung by a prick of
conscience, and turning to Sanin observed that his friend, Baron von
Dönhof, could not but recognise ... that he had been ... to a certain
extent, to blame himself in the incident of the previous day, and
would, therefore, be satisfied with slight apologies ('_des exghizes
léchères_.') To this Sanin replied that he did not intend to make any
apology whatever, either slight or considerable, since he did not
consider himself to blame. 'In that case,' answered Herr von Richter,
blushing more than ever,' you will have to exchange friendly
shots--_des goups de bisdolet à l'amiaple_!'
'I don't understand that at all,' observed Sanin; 'are we to fire in
the air or what?'
'Oh, not exactly that,' stammered the sub-lieutenant, utterly
disconcerted, 'but I supposed since it is an affair between men of
honour ... I will talk to your second,' he broke off, and went away.
Sanin dropped into a chair directly he had gone, and stared at the
floor. 'What does it all mean? How is it my life has taken such a turn
all of a sudden? All the past, all the future has suddenly vanished,
gone,--and all that's left is that I am going to fight some one about
something in Frankfort.' He recalled a crazy aunt of his who used to
dance and sing:
'O my lieutenant!
My little cucumber!
My little love!
Dance with me, my little dove!'
And he laughed and hummed as she used to: 'O my lieutenant! Dance with
me, little dove!' 'But I must act, though, I mustn't waste time,' he
cried aloud--jumped up and saw Pantaleone facing him with a note in
'I knocked several times, but you did not answer; I thought you
weren't at home,' said the old man, as he gave him the note. 'From
Sanin took the note, mechanically, as they say, tore it open, and
read it. Gemma wrote to him that she was very anxious--about he knew
what--and would be very glad to see him at once.
'The Signorina is anxious,' began Pantaleone, who obviously knew what
was in the note, 'she told me to see what you are doing and to bring
you to her.'
Sanin glanced at the old Italian, and pondered. A sudden idea flashed
upon his brain. For the first instant it struck him as too absurd to
'After all ... why not?' he asked himself.
'M. Pantaleone!' he said aloud.
The old man started, tucked his chin into his cravat and stared at
'Do you know,' pursued Sanin,' what happened yesterday?'
Pantaleone chewed his lips and shook his immense top-knot of hair.
(Emil had told him all about it directly he got home.)
'Oh, you know! Well, an officer has just this minute left me. That
scoundrel challenges me to a duel. I have accepted his challenge. But
I have no second. Will _you_ be my second?'
Pantaleone started and raised his eyebrows so high that they were lost
under his overhanging hair.
'You are absolutely obliged to fight?' he said at last in Italian;
till that instant he had made use of French.
'Absolutely. I can't do otherwise--it would mean disgracing myself for
'H'm. If I don't consent to be your second you will find some one
'Yes ... undoubtedly.'
Pantaleone looked down. 'But allow me to ask you, Signor de Tsanin,
will not your duel throw a slur on the reputation of a certain lady?'
'I don't suppose so; but in any case, there's no help for it.'
'H'm!' Pantaleone retired altogether into his cravat. 'Hey, but that
_ferroflucto Klüberio_--what's he about?' he cried all of a sudden,
looking up again.
'_Che_!' Pantaleone shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. 'I have, in
any case, to thank you,' he articulated at last in an unsteady voice
'that even in my present humble condition you recognise that I am a
gentleman--_un galant'uomo_! In that way you have shown yourself to be
a real _galant'uomo_. But I must consider your proposal.'
'There's no time to lose, dear Signor Ci ... cippa ...'
'Tola,' the old man chimed in. 'I ask only for one hour for
reflection.... The daughter of my benefactor is involved in this....
And, therefore, I ought, I am bound, to reflect!... In an hour, in
three-quarters of an hour, you shall know my decision.'
'Very well; I will wait.'
'And now ... what answer am I to give to Signorina Gemma?'
Sanin took a sheet of paper, wrote on it, 'Set your mind at rest, dear
friend; in three hours' time I will come to you, and everything shall
be explained. I thank you from my heart for your sympathy,' and handed
this sheet to Pantaleone.
He put it carefully into his side-pocket, and once more repeating 'In
an hour!' made towards the door; but turning sharply back, ran up to
Sanin, seized his hand, and pressing it to his shirt-front, cried,
with his eyes to the ceiling: 'Noble youth! Great heart! (_Nobil
giovanotto! Gran cuore!_) permit a weak old man (_a un vecchiotto!_)
to press your valorous right hand (_la vostra valorosa destra!_)' Then
he skipped back a pace or two, threw up both hands, and went away.
Sanin looked after him ... took up the newspaper and tried to read.
But his eyes wandered in vain over the lines: he understood nothing.
An hour later the waiter came in again to Sanin, and handed him
an old, soiled visiting-card, on which were the following words:
'Pantaleone Cippatola of Varese, court singer (_cantante di camera_)
to his Royal Highness the Duke of Modena'; and behind the waiter in
walked Pantaleone himself. He had changed his clothes from top to toe.
He had on a black frock coat, reddish with long wear, and a white
piqué waistcoat, upon which a pinch-beck chain meandered playfully; a
heavy cornelian seal hung low down on to his narrow black trousers. In
his right hand he carried a black beaver hat, in his left two stout
chamois gloves; he had tied his cravat in a taller and broader bow
than ever, and had stuck into his starched shirt-front a pin with a
stone, a so-called 'cat's eye.' On his forefinger was displayed a
ring, consisting of two clasped hands with a burning heart between
them. A smell of garments long laid by, a smell of camphor and of musk
hung about the whole person of the old man; the anxious solemnity of
his deportment must have struck the most casual spectator! Sanin rose
to meet him.
'I am your second,' Pantaleone announced in French, and he bowed
bending his whole body forward, and turning out his toes like a
dancer. 'I have come for instructions. Do you want to fight to the
'Why to the death, my dear Signor Cippatola? I will not for any
consideration take back my words--but I am not a bloodthirsty
person!... But come, wait a little, my opponent's second will be here
directly. I will go into the next room, and you can make arrangements
with him. Believe me I shall never forget your kindness, and I thank
you from my heart.'
'Honour before everything!' answered Pantaleone, and he sank into
an arm-chair, without waiting for Sanin to ask him to sit down. 'If
that _ferroflucto spitchebubbio_,' he said, passing from French into
Italian, 'if that counter-jumper Klüberio could not appreciate his
obvious duty or was afraid, so much the worse for him!... A cheap
soul, and that's all about it!... As for the conditions of the duel, I
am your second, and your interests are sacred to me!... When I lived
in Padua there was a regiment of the white dragoons stationed there,
and I was very intimate with many of the officers!... I was quite
familiar with their whole code. And I used often to converse on these
subjects with your principe Tarbuski too.... Is this second to come
'I am expecting him every minute--and here he comes,' added Sanin,
looking into the street.
Pantaleone got up, looked at his watch, straightened his topknot of
hair, and hurriedly stuffed into his shoe an end of tape which was
sticking out below his trouser-leg, and the young sub-lieutenant came
in, as red and embarrassed as ever.
Sanin presented the seconds to each other. 'M. Richter,
sous-lieutenant, M. Cippatola, artiste!' The sub-lieutenant was
slightly disconcerted by the old man's appearance ... Oh, what would
he have said had any one whispered to him at that instant that the
'artist' presented to him was also employed in the culinary art! But
Pantaleone assumed an air as though taking part in the preliminaries
of duels was for him the most everyday affair: probably he was
assisted at this juncture by the recollections of his theatrical
career, and he played the part of second simply as a part. Both he and
the sub-lieutenant were silent for a little.
'Well? Let us come to business!' Pantaleone spoke first, playing with
his cornelian seal.
'By all means,' responded the sub-lieutenant, 'but ... the presence of
one of the principals ...'
'I will leave you at once, gentlemen,' cried Sanin, and with a bow he
went away into the bedroom and closed the door after him.
He flung himself on the bed and began thinking of Gemma ... but the
conversation of the seconds reached him through the shut door. It was
conducted in the French language; both maltreated it mercilessly,
each after his own fashion. Pantaleone again alluded to the dragoons
in Padua, and Principe Tarbuski; the sub-lieutenant to '_exghizes
léchères_' and '_goups de bistolet à l'amiaple_.' But the old man
would not even hear of any _exghizes_! To Sanin's horror, he suddenly
proceeded to talk of a certain young lady, an innocent maiden, whose
little finger was worth more than all the officers in the world ...
(_oune zeune damigella innoucenta, qu'a elle sola dans soun péti doa
vale pin que tout le zouffissié del mondo_.'), and repeated several
times with heat: 'It's shameful! it's shameful!' (_E ouna onta, ouna
onta_!) The sub-lieutenant at first made him no reply, but presently
an angry quiver could be heard in the young man's voice, and he
observed that he had not come there to listen to sermonising.
'At your age it is always a good thing to hear the truth!' cried
The debate between the seconds several times became stormy; it lasted
over an hour, and was concluded at last on the following conditions:
'Baron von Dönhof and M. de Sanin to meet the next day at ten o'clock
in a small wood near Hanau, at the distance of twenty paces; each to
have the right to fire twice at a signal given by the seconds, the
pistols to be single-triggered and not rifle-barrelled.' Herr von
Richter withdrew, and Pantaleone solemnly opened the bedroom door, and
after communicating the result of their deliberations, cried again:
'_Bravo Russo_! _Bravo giovanotto_! You will be victor!'
A few minutes later they both set off to the Rosellis' shop. Sanin, as
a preliminary measure, had exacted a promise from Pantaleone to keep
the affair of the duel a most profound secret. In reply, the old man
had merely held up his finger, and half closing his eyes, whispered
twice over, _Segredezza_! He was obviously in good spirits, and even
walked with a freer step. All these unusual incidents, unpleasant
though they might be, carried him vividly back to the time when he
himself both received and gave challenges--only, it is true, on the
stage. Baritones, as we all know, have a great deal of strutting and
fuming to do in their parts.
Emil ran out to meet Sanin--he had been watching for his arrival over
an hour--and hurriedly whispered into his ear that his mother knew
nothing of the disagreeable incident of the day before, that he must
not even hint of it to her, and that he was being sent to Klüber's
shop again!... but that he wouldn't go there, but would hide
somewhere! Communicating all this information in a few seconds, he
suddenly fell on Sanin's shoulder, kissed him impulsively, and rushed
away down the street. Gemma met Sanin in the shop; tried to say
something and could not. Her lips were trembling a little, while her
eyes were half-closed and turned away. He made haste to soothe her by
the assurance that the whole affair had ended ... in utter nonsense.
'Has no one been to see you to-day?' she asked.
'A person did come to me and we had an explanation, and we ... we came
to the most satisfactory conclusion.'
Gemma went back behind the counter.
'She does not believe me!' he thought ... he went into the next room,
however, and there found Frau Lenore.
Her sick headache had passed off, but she was in a depressed state of
mind. She gave him a smile of welcome, but warned him at the same time
that he would be dull with her to-day, as she was not in a mood to
entertain him. He sat down beside her, and noticed that her eyelids
were red and swollen.
'What is wrong, Frau Lenore? You've never been crying, surely?'
'Oh!' she whispered, nodding her head towards the room where her
'Don't speak of it ... aloud.'
'But what have you been crying for?'
'Ah, M'sieu Sanin, I don't know myself what for!'
'No one has hurt your feelings?'
'Oh no!... I felt very low all of a sudden. I thought of Giovanni
Battista ... of my youth ... Then how quickly it had all passed away.
I have grown old, my friend, and I can't reconcile myself to that
anyhow. I feel I'm just the same as I was ... but old age--it's here!
it is here!' Tears came into Frau Lenore's eyes. 'You look at me, I
see, and wonder.... But you will get old too, my friend, and will find
out how bitter it is!'
Sanin tried to comfort her, spoke of her children, in whom her own
youth lived again, even attempted to scoff at her a little, declaring
that she was fishing for compliments ... but she quite seriously
begged him to leave off, and for the first time he realised that for
such a sorrow, the despondency of old age, there is no comfort or
cure; one has to wait till it passes off of itself. He proposed a game
of tresette, and he could have thought of nothing better. She agreed
at once and seemed to get more cheerful.
Sanin played with her until dinner-time and after dinner Pantaleone
too took a hand in the game. Never had his topknot hung so low over
his forehead, never had his chin retreated so far into his cravat!
Every movement was accompanied by such intense solemnity that as one
looked at him the thought involuntarily arose, 'What secret is that
man guarding with such determination?' But _segredezza_! _segredezza_!
During the whole of that day he tried in every possible way to show
the profoundest respect for Sanin; at table, passing by the ladies, he
solemnly and sedately handed the dishes first to him; when they were
at cards he intentionally gave him the game; he announced, apropos of
nothing at all, that the Russians were the most great-hearted, brave,
and resolute people in the world!
'Ah, you old flatterer!' Sanin thought to himself.
And he was not so much surprised at Signora Roselli's unexpected state
of mind, as at the way her daughter behaved to him. It was not that
she avoided him ... on the contrary she sat continually a little
distance from him, listened to what he said, and looked at him;
but she absolutely declined to get into conversation with him, and
directly he began talking to her, she softly rose from her place, and
went out for some instants. Then she came in again, and again seated
herself in some corner, and sat without stirring, seeming meditative
and perplexed ... perplexed above all. Frau Lenore herself noticed
at last, that she was not as usual, and asked her twice what was the
'Nothing,' answered Gemma; 'you know I am sometimes like this.'
'That is true,' her mother assented.
So passed all that long day, neither gaily nor drearily--neither
cheerfully nor sadly. Had Gemma been different--Sanin ... who
knows?... might not perhaps have been able to resist the temptation
for a little display--or he might simply have succumbed to melancholy
at the possibility of a separation for ever.... But as he did not
once succeed in getting a word with Gemma, he was obliged to confine
himself to striking minor chords on the piano for a quarter of an hour
before evening coffee.
Emil came home late, and to avoid questions about Herr Klüber, beat a
hasty retreat. The time came for Sanin too to retire.
He began saying good-bye to Gemma. He recollected for some reason
Lensky's parting from Olga in _Oniegin_. He pressed her hand warmly,
and tried to get a look at her face, but she turned a little away and
released her fingers.
It was bright starlight when he came out on the steps. What
multitudes of stars, big and little, yellow, red, blue and white were
scattered over the sky! They seemed all flashing, swarming, twinkling
unceasingly. There was no moon in the sky, but without it every object
could be clearly discerned in the half-clear, shadowless twilight.
Sanin walked down the street to the end ... He did not want to go home
at once; he felt a desire to wander about a little in the fresh air.
He turned back and had hardly got on a level with the house, where was
the Rosellis' shop, when one of the windows looking out on the street,
suddenly creaked and opened; in its square of blackness--there was
no light in the room--appeared a woman's figure, and he heard his
He rushed at once up to the window ... Gemma! She was leaning with her
elbows on the window-sill, bending forward.
'Monsieur Dimitri,' she began in a cautious voice, 'I have been
wanting all day long to give you something ... but I could not make
up my mind to; and just now, seeing you, quite unexpectedly again, I
thought that it seems it is fated' ...
Gemma was forced to stop at this word. She could not go on; something
extraordinary happened at that instant.
All of a sudden, in the midst of the profound stillness, over the
perfectly unclouded sky, there blew such a violent blast of wind, that
the very earth seemed shaking underfoot, the delicate starlight seemed
quivering and trembling, the air went round in a whirlwind. The wind,
not cold, but hot, almost sultry, smote against the trees, the roof
of the house, its walls, and the street; it instantaneously snatched
off Sanin's hat, crumpled up and tangled Gemma's curls. Sanin's head
was on a level with the window-sill; he could not help clinging close
to it, and Gemma clutched hold of his shoulders with both hands, and
pressed her bosom against his head. The roar, the din, and the rattle
lasted about a minute.... Like a flock of huge birds the revelling
whirlwind darted revelling away. A profound stillness reigned once
Sanin raised his head and saw above him such an exquisite, scared,
excited face, such immense, large, magnificent eyes--it was such a
beautiful creature he saw, that his heart stood still within him, he
pressed his lips to the delicate tress of hair, that had fallen on his
bosom, and could only murmur, 'O Gemma!'
'What was that? Lightning?' she asked, her eyes wandering afar, while
she did not take her bare arms from his shoulder.
'Gemma!' repeated Sanin.
She sighed, looked around behind her into the room, and with a rapid
movement pulling the now faded rose out of her bodice, she threw it to
'I wanted to give you this flower.'
He recognised the rose, which he had won back the day before....
But already the window had slammed-to, and through the dark pane
nothing could be seen, no trace of white.
Sanin went home without his hat.... He did not even notice that he had
It was quite morning when he fell asleep. And no wonder! In the
blast of that instantaneous summer hurricane, he had almost as
instantaneously felt, not that Gemma was lovely, not that he liked
her--that he had known before ... but that he almost ... loved her!
As suddenly as that blast of wind, had love pounced down upon him.
And then this senseless duel! He began to be tormented by mournful
forebodings. And even suppose they didn't kill him.... What could come
of his love for this girl, another man's betrothed? Even supposing
this 'other man' was no danger, that Gemma herself would care for him,
or even cared for him already ... What would come of it? How ask what!
Such a lovely creature!...
He walked about the room, sat down to the table, took a sheet of
paper, traced a few lines on it, and at once blotted them out....
He recalled Gemma's wonderful figure in the dark window, in the
starlight, set all a-fluttering by the warm hurricane; he remembered
her marble arms, like the arms of the Olympian goddesses, felt their
living weight on his shoulders.... Then he took the rose she had
thrown him, and it seemed to him that its half-withered petals exhaled
a fragrance of her, more delicate than the ordinary scent of the rose.
'And would they kill him straight away or maim him?'
He did not go to bed, and fell asleep in his clothes on the sofa.
Some one slapped him on the shoulder.... He opened his eyes, and saw
'He sleeps like Alexander of Macedon on the eve of the battle of
Babylon!' cried the old man.
'What o'clock is it?' inquired Sanin.
'A quarter to seven; it's a two hours' drive to Hanau, and we must
be the first on the field. Russians are always beforehand with their
enemies! I have engaged the best carriage in Frankfort!'
Sanin began washing. 'And where are the pistols?'
'That _ferroflucto Tedesco_ will bring the pistols. He'll bring a
Pantaleone was obviously putting a good face on it as he had done the
day before; but when he was seated in the carriage with Sanin, when
the coachman had cracked his whip and the horses had started off at a
gallop, a sudden change came over the old singer and friend of Paduan
dragoons. He began to be confused and positively faint-hearted.
Something seemed to have given way in him, like a badly built wall.
'What are we doing, my God, _Santissima Madonna!_' he cried in an
unexpectedly high pipe, and he clutched at his head. 'What am I about,
old fool, madman, _frenetico_?'
Sanin wondered and laughed, and putting his arm lightly round
Pantaleone's waist, he reminded him of the French proverb: '_Le vin
est tiré--il faut le boire_.'
'Yes, yes,' answered the old man, 'we will drain the cup together to
the dregs--but still I'm a madman! I'm a madman! All was going on so
quietly, so well ... and all of a sudden: ta-ta-ta, tra-ta-ta!'
'Like the _tutti_ in the orchestra,' observed Sanin with a forced
smile. 'But it's not your fault.'
'I know it's not. I should think not indeed! And yet ... such insolent
conduct! _Diavolo, diavolo_!' repeated Pantaleone, sighing and shaking
The carriage still rolled on and on.
It was an exquisite morning. The streets of Frankfort, which were just
beginning to show signs of life, looked so clean and snug; the windows
of the houses glittered in flashes like tinfoil; and as soon as the
carriage had driven beyond the city walls, from overhead, from a blue
but not yet glaring sky, the larks' loud trills showered down in
floods. Suddenly at a turn in the road, a familiar figure came from
behind a tall poplar, took a few steps forward and stood still. Sanin
looked more closely.... Heavens! it was Emil!
'But does he know anything about it?' he demanded of Pantaleone.
'I tell you I'm a madman,' the poor Italian wailed despairingly,
almost in a shriek. 'The wretched boy gave me no peace all night, and
this morning at last I revealed all to him!'
'So much for your _segredezza_!' thought Sanin. The carriage had got
up to Emil. Sanin told the coachman to stop the horses, and called the
'wretched boy' up to him. Emil approached with hesitating steps, pale
as he had been on the day he fainted. He could scarcely stand.
'What are you doing here?' Sanin asked him sternly. 'Why aren't you at
'Let ... let me come with you,' faltered Emil in a trembling voice,
and he clasped his hands. His teeth were chattering as in a fever. 'I
won't get in your way--only take me.'
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