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 past.
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 neck.
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 doctor?'
'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 him?'
'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 him.
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 room.
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 pavee une jeune fille allait a 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 voice:
"L'i ... ra daver ... so daver ... so il fato lo piu no ... no ... no ... non temero!"
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 Temer piu 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 e 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 age est sans pitie—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 premieres'; 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 the diligence!'
'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 queried.
'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 laugh!'
'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 Klueber, 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 fiance!' 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 Klueber, 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 Klueber. 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 Klueber 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 Klueber 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 Klueber 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 Fraeulein 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 Klueber 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 Klueber supported mamma, over whom he had great influence; that the very idea of his being a shopkeeper really originated with Herr Klueber, 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 Klueber'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, what eyes!'
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 Klueber'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 Freischuetz: '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 'Freischuetz,' 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 flowers.
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 Klueber. 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 his appearance.
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 role 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 Klueber, 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, naively-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 Klueber 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 Klueber 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, Klueber, 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 shop.'
'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; Klueber 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 Klueber 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 Klueber, 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 Klueber, 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 Klueber 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 sitting.
While Herr Klueber, 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 Klueber 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 the table.
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 Klueber 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 Klueber, 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 faint applause.
Herr Klueber 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 Klueber ... and she gazed as intently, with the same expression at him as at the officer. Emil was simply shaking with rage.
'Get up, mein Fraeulein,' Klueber 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 Klueber 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, 'Doenhof, be quiet! Doenhof, 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 Klueber 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 Klueber, whom he could hardly bear the sight of, sitting opposite to him.
* * * * *
The whole way home Herr Klueber 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 buergerliche Element in der Societaet!), 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 Klueber, 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 Klueber; 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. Klueber 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 Doenhof; 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 Doenhof 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 Doenhof, 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 lecheres.') 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 a 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 his hand.
'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 Signorina Gemma.'
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 be possible.
'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 Sanin.
'Do you know,' pursued Sanin,' what happened yesterday?'
Pantaleone chewed his lips and shook his immense top-knot of hair. 'Yes.'
(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 ever.'
'H'm. If I don't consent to be your second you will find some one else.'
'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 Klueberio—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 pique 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 death?'
'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 Klueberio 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 soon?'
'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 lecheres' and 'goups de bistolet a 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 peti doa vale pin que tout le zouffissie 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 Pantaleone.
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 Doenhof 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 Klueber'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.