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Title: The Gentleman from San Francisco - and Other Stories
Author: Bunin, Ivan Alekseyevich
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Gentleman from San Francisco - and Other Stories" ***

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[Illustration]

                           THE GENTLEMAN FROM
                             SAN FRANCISCO

                          _AND OTHER STORIES_

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           THE GENTLEMAN FROM
                             SAN FRANCISCO

                          _AND OTHER STORIES_



                                  NOTE

               The first story in this book "The
               Gentleman from San Francisco" is
               translated by D. H. Lawrence and S. S.
               Koteliansky. Owing to a mistake Mr.
               Lawrence's name has been omitted from the
               title-page. The three other stories are
               translated by S. S. Koteliansky and
               Leonard Woolf.



                PUBLISHED BY LEONARD & VIRGINIA WOOLF AT
               THE HOGARTH PRESS, PARADISE ROAD, RICHMOND
                                  1922

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           THE GENTLEMAN FROM
                             SAN FRANCISCO

                          _AND OTHER STORIES_


                                   BY

                              I. A. BUNIN


                     TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY

                  S. S. KOTELIANSKY AND LEONARD WOOLF


                PUBLISHED BY LEONARD & VIRGINIA WOOLF AT
               THE HOGARTH PRESS, PARADISE ROAD, RICHMOND
                                  1922

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       _Printed in Great Britain
                                   by
                   William Clowes and Sons, Limited,
                          London and Beccles._

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

                                                               PAGE

      The Gentleman from San Francisco                            1

      Gentle Breathing                                           41

      Kasimir Stanislavovitch                                    51

      Son                                                        66

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         THE GENTLEMAN FROM SAN
                               FRANCISCO

               "Woe to thee, Babylon, that mighty city!"
                                             Apocalypse.


The gentleman from San Francisco--nobody either in Capri or Naples ever
remembered his name--was setting out with his wife and daughter for the
Old World, to spend there two years of pleasure.

He was fully convinced of his right to rest, to enjoy long and
comfortable travels, and so forth. Because, in the first place he was
rich, and in the second place, notwithstanding his fifty-eight years, he
was just starting to live. Up to the present he had not lived, but only
existed; quite well, it is true, yet with all his hopes on the future.
He had worked incessantly--and the Chinamen whom he employed by the
thousand in his factories knew what that meant. Now at last he realized
that a great deal had been accomplished, and that he had almost reached
the level of those whom he had taken as his ideals, so he made up his
mind to pause for a breathing space. Men of his class usually began
their enjoyments with a trip to Europe, India, Egypt. He decided to do
the same. He wished naturally to reward himself in the first place for
all his years of toil, but he was quite glad that his wife and daughter
should also share in his pleasures. True, his wife was not distinguished
by any marked susceptibilities, but then elderly American women are all
passionate travellers. As for his daughter, a girl no longer young and
somewhat delicate, travel was really necessary for her: apart from the
question of health, do not happy meetings often take place in the course
of travel? One may find one's self sitting next to a multimillionaire at
table, or examining frescoes side by side with him.

The itinerary planned by the Gentleman of San Francisco was extensive.
In December and January he hoped to enjoy the sun of southern Italy, the
monuments of antiquity, the tarantella, the serenades of vagrant
minstrels, and, finally, that which men of his age are most susceptible
to, the love of quite young Neapolitan girls, even when the love is not
altogether disinterestedly given. Carnival he thought of spending in
Nice, in Monte Carlo, where at that season gathers the most select
society, the precise society on which depend all the blessings of
civilization--the fashion in evening dress, the stability of thrones,
the declaration of wars, the prosperity of hotels; where some devote
themselves passionately to automobile and boat races, others to
roulette, others to what is called flirtation, and others to the
shooting of pigeons which beautifully soar from their traps over emerald
lawns, against a background of forget-me-not sea, instantly to fall,
hitting the ground in little white heaps. The beginning of March he
wished to devote to Florence, Passion Week in Rome, to hear the music of
the Miserere; his plans also included Venice, Paris, bull-fights in
Seville, bathing in the British Isles; then Athens, Constantinople,
Egypt, even Japan ... certainly on his way home... . And everything at
the outset went splendidly.

It was the end of November. Practically all the way to Gibraltar the
voyage passed in icy darkness, varied by storms of wet snow. Yet the
ship travelled well, even without much rolling. The passengers on board
were many, and all people of some importance. The boat, the famous
_Atlantis_, resembled a most expensive European hotel with all modern
equipments: a night refreshment bar, Turkish baths, a newspaper printed
on board; so that the days aboard the liner passed in the most select
manner. The passengers rose early, to the sound of bugles sounding
shrilly through the corridors in that grey twilit hour, when day was
breaking slowly and sullenly over the grey-green, watery desert, which
rolled heavily in the fog. Clad in their flannel pyjamas, the gentlemen
took coffee, chocolate, or cocoa, then seated themselves in marble
baths, did exercises, thereby whetting their appetite and their sense of
well-being, made their toilet for the day, and proceeded to breakfast.
Till eleven o'clock they were supposed to stroll cheerfully on deck,
breathing the cold freshness of the ocean; or they played table-tennis
or other games, that they might have an appetite for their eleven
o'clock refreshment of sandwiches and bouillon; after which they read
their newspaper with pleasure, and calmly awaited luncheon--which was a
still more varied and nourishing meal than breakfast. The two hours
which followed luncheon were devoted to rest. All the decks were crowded
with lounge chairs on which lay passengers wrapped in plaids, looking at
the mist-heavy sky or the foamy hillocks which flashed behind the bows,
and dozing sweetly. Till five o'clock, when, refreshed and lively, they
were treated to strong, fragrant tea and sweet cakes. At seven
bugle-calls announced a dinner of nine courses. And now the Gentleman
from San Francisco, rubbing his hands in a rising flush of vital forces,
hastened to his state cabin to dress.

In the evening, the tiers of the _Atlantis_ yawned in the darkness as
with innumerable fiery eyes, and a multitude of servants in the
kitchens, sculleries, wine-cellars, worked with a special frenzy. The
ocean heaving beyond was terrible, but no one thought of it, firmly
believing in the captain's power over it. The captain was a
ginger-haired man of monstrous size and weight, apparently always
torpid, who looked in his uniform with broad gold stripes very like a
huge idol, and who rarely emerged from his mysterious chambers to show
himself to the passengers. Every minute the siren howled from the bows
with hellish moroseness, and screamed with fury, but few diners heard
it--it was drowned by the sounds of an excellent string band,
exquisitely and untiringly playing in the huge two-tiered hall that was
decorated with marble and covered with velvet carpets, flooded with
feasts of light from crystal chandeliers and gilded girandoles, and
crowded with ladies in bare shoulders and jewels, with men in
dinner-jackets, elegant waiters and respectful _maîtres d'hôtel_, one of
whom, he who took the wine-orders only, wore a chain round his neck like
a lord mayor. Dinner-jacket and perfect linen made the Gentleman from
San Francisco look much younger. Dry, of small stature, badly built but
strongly made, polished to a glow and in due measure animated, he sat in
the golden-pearly radiance of this palace, with a bottle of amber
Johannisberg at his hand, and glasses, large and small, of delicate
crystal, and a curly bunch of fresh hyacinths. There was something
Mongolian in his yellowish face with its trimmed silvery moustache,
large teeth blazing with gold, and strong bald head blazing like old
ivory. Richly dressed, but in keeping with her age, sat his wife, a big,
broad, quiet woman. Intricately, but lightly and transparently dressed,
with an innocent immodesty, sat his daughter, tall, slim, her
magnificent hair splendidly done, her breath fragrant with violet
cachous, and the tenderest little rosy moles showing near her lip and
between her bare, slightly powdered shoulder blades. The dinner lasted
two whole hours, to be followed by dancing in the ball-room, whence the
men, including, of course, the Gentleman from San Francisco, proceeded
to the bar; there, with their feet cocked up on the tables, they settled
the destinies of nations in the course of their political and
stock-exchange conversations, smoking meanwhile Havana cigars and
drinking liqueurs till they were crimson in the face, waited on all the
while by negroes in red jackets with eyes like peeled, hard-boiled eggs.
Outside, the ocean heaved in black mountains; the snow-storm hissed
furiously in the clogged cordage; the steamer trembled in every fibre as
she surmounted these watery hills and struggled with the storm,
ploughing through the moving masses which every now and then reared in
front of her, foam-crested. The siren, choked by the fog, groaned in
mortal anguish. The watchmen in the look-out towers froze with cold, and
went mad with their super-human straining of attention. As the gloomy
and sultry depths of the inferno, as the ninth circle, was the submerged
womb of the steamer, where gigantic furnaces roared and dully giggled,
devouring with their red-hot maws mountains of coal cast hoarsely in by
men naked to the waist, bathed in their own corrosive dirty sweat, and
lurid with the purple-red reflection of flame. But in the refreshment
bar men jauntily put their feet up on the tables, showing their
patent-leather pumps, and sipped cognac or other liqueurs, and swam in
waves of fragrant smoke as they chatted in well-bred manner. In the
dancing hall light and warmth and joy were poured over everything;
couples turned in the waltz or writhed in the tango, while the music
insistently, shamelessly, delightfully, with sadness entreated for one,
only one thing, one and the same thing all the time. Amongst this
resplendent crowd was an ambassador, a little dry modest old man; a
great millionaire, clean-shaven, tall, of an indefinite age, looking
like a prelate in his old-fashioned dress-coat; also a famous Spanish
author, and an international beauty already the least bit faded, of
unenviable reputation; finally an exquisite loving couple, whom
everybody watched curiously because of their unconcealed happiness: _he_
danced only with _her_, and sang, with great skill, only to _her_
accompaniment, and everything about them seemed so charming!--and only
the captain knew that this couple had been engaged by the steamship
company to play at love for a good salary, and that they had been
sailing for a long time, now on one liner, now on another.

At Gibraltar the sun gladdened them all: it was like early spring. A new
passenger appeared on board, arousing general interest. He was a
hereditary prince of a certain Asiatic state, travelling incognito: a
small man, as if all made of wood, though his movements were alert;
broad-faced, in gold-rimmed glasses, a little unpleasant because of his
large black moustache which was sparse and transparent like that of a
corpse; but on the whole inoffensive, simple, modest. In the
Mediterranean they met once more the breath of winter. Waves, large and
florid as the tail of a peacock, waves with snow-white crests heaved
under the impulse of the tramontane wind, and came merrily, madly
rushing towards the ship, in the bright lustre of a perfectly clear sky.
The next day the sky began to pale, the horizon grew dim, land was
approaching: Ischia, Capri could be seen through the glasses, then
Naples herself, looking like pieces of sugar strewn at the foot of some
dove-coloured mass; whilst beyond, vague and deadly white with snow, a
range of distant mountains. The decks were crowded. Many ladies and
gentlemen were putting on light fur-trimmed coats. Noiseless Chinese
servant boys, bandy-legged, with pitch-black plaits hanging down to
their heels, and with girlish thick eyebrows, unobtrusively came and
went, carrying up the stairways plaids, canes, valises, hand-bags of
crocodile leather, and never speaking above a whisper. The daughter of
the Gentleman from San Francisco stood side by side with the prince,
who, by a happy circumstance, had been introduced to her the previous
evening. She had the air of one looking fixedly into the distance
towards something which he was pointing out to her, and which he was
explaining hurriedly, in a low voice. Owing to his size, he looked
amongst the rest like a boy. Altogether he was not handsome, rather
queer, with his spectacles, bowler hat, and English coat, and then the
hair of his sparse moustache just like horse-hair, and the swarthy, thin
skin of his face seeming stretched over his features and slightly
varnished. But the girl listened to him, and was so excited that she did
not know what he was saying. Her heart beat with incomprehensible
rapture because of him, because he was standing next to her and talking
to her, to her alone. Everything, everything about him was so
unusual--his dry hands, his clean skin under which flowed ancient, royal
blood, even his plain, but somehow particularly tidy European dress;
everything was invested with an indefinable glamour, with all that was
calculated to enthrall a young woman. The Gentleman from San Francisco,
wearing for his part a silk hat and grey spats over patent-leather
shoes, kept eyeing the famous beauty who stood near him, a tall,
wonderful figure, blonde, with her eyes painted according to the latest
Parisian fashion, holding on a silver chain a tiny, cringing, hairless
little dog, to which she was addressing herself all the time. And the
daughter, feeling some vague embarrassment, tried not to notice her
father.

Like all Americans, he was very liberal with his money when travelling.
And like all of them, he believed in the full sincerity and good-will of
those who brought his food and drinks, served him from morn till night,
anticipated his smallest desire, watched over his cleanliness and rest,
carried his things, called the porters, conveyed his trunks to the
hotels. So it was everywhere, so it was during the voyage, so it ought
to be in Naples. Naples grew and drew nearer. The brass band, shining
with the brass of their instruments, had already assembled on deck.
Suddenly they deafened everybody with the strains of their triumphant
rag-time. The giant captain appeared in full uniform on the bridge, and
like a benign pagan idol waved his hands to the passengers in a gesture
of welcome. And to the Gentleman from San Francisco, as well as to every
other passenger, it seemed as if for him alone was thundered forth that
rag-time march, so greatly beloved by proud America; for him alone the
Captain's hand waved, welcoming him on his safe arrival. Then, when at
last the _Atlantis_ entered port and veered her many-tiered mass against
the quay that was crowded with expectant people, when the gangways began
their rattling--ah, then what a lot of porters and their assistants in
caps with golden galloons, what a lot of all sorts of commissionaires,
whistling boys, and sturdy ragamuffins with packs of postcards in their
hands rushed to meet the Gentleman from San Francisco with offers of
their services! With what amiable contempt he grinned at those
ragamuffins as he walked to the automobile of the very same hotel at
which the prince would probably put up, and calmly muttered between his
teeth, now in English, now in Italian--"Go away! Via!"

Life at Naples started immediately in the set routine. Early in the
morning, breakfast in a gloomy dining-room with a draughty damp wind
blowing in from the windows that opened on to a little stony garden: a
cloudy, unpromising day, and a crowd of guides at the doors of the
vestibule. Then the first smiles of a warm, pinky-coloured sun, and from
the high, overhanging balcony a view of Vesuvius, bathed to the feet in
the radiant vapours of the morning sky, while beyond, over the
silvery-pearly ripple of the bay, the subtle outline of Capri upon the
horizon! Then nearer, tiny donkeys running in two-wheeled buggies away
below on the sticky embankment, and detachments of tiny soldiers
marching off with cheerful and defiant music.

After this a walk to the taxi-stand, and a slow drive along crowded,
narrow, damp corridors of streets, between high, many-windowed houses.
Visits to deadly-clean museums, smoothly and pleasantly lighted, but
monotonously, as if from the reflection of snow. Or visits to churches,
cold, smelling of wax, and always the same thing: a majestic portal,
curtained with a heavy leather curtain: inside, a huge emptiness,
silence, lonely little flames of clustered candles ruddying the depths
of the interior on some altar decorated with ribbon: a forlorn old woman
amid dark benches, slippery gravestones under one's feet, and somebody's
infallibly famous "Descent from the Cross." Luncheon at one o'clock on
San Martino, where quite a number of the very selectest people gather
about midday, and where once the daughter of the Gentleman from San
Francisco almost became ill with joy, fancying she saw the prince
sitting in the hall, although she knew from the newspapers that he had
gone to Rome for a time. At five o'clock, tea in the hotel, in the smart
salon where it was so warm, with the deep carpets and blazing fires.
After which the thought of dinner--and again the powerful commanding
voice of the gong heard over all the floors, and again strings of
bare-shouldered ladies rustling with their silks on the staircases and
reflecting themselves in the mirrors, again the wide-flung, hospitable,
palatial dining-room, the red jackets of musicians on the platform, the
black flock of waiters around the _maître d'hôtel_, who with
extraordinary skill was pouring out a thick, roseate soup into
soup-plates. The dinners, as usual, were the crowning event of the day.
Every one dressed as if for a wedding, and so abundant were the dishes,
the wines, the table-waters, sweetmeats, and fruit, that at about eleven
o'clock in the evening the chamber-maids would take to every room rubber
hot-water bottles, to warm the stomachs of those who had dined.

None the less, December of that year was not a success for Naples. The
porters and secretaries were abashed if spoken to about the weather,
only guiltily lifting their shoulders and murmuring that they could not
possibly remember such a season; although this was not the first year
they had had to make such murmurs, or to hint that "everywhere something
terrible is happening." ... Unprecedented rains and storms on the
Riviera, snow in Athens, Etna also piled with snow and glowing red at
night; tourists fleeing from the cold of Palermo.... The morning sun
daily deceived the Neapolitans. The sky invariably grew grey towards
midday, and fine rain began to fall, falling thicker and colder. The
palms of the hotel approach glistened like wet tin; the city seemed
peculiarly dirty and narrow, the museums excessively dull; the
cigar-ends of the fat cab-men, whose rubber rain-capes flapped like
wings in the wind, seemed insufferably stinking, the energetic cracking
of whips over the ears of thin-necked horses sounded altogether false,
and the clack of the shoes of the signorini who cleaned the tram-lines
quite horrible, while the women, walking through the mud, with their
black heads uncovered in the rain, seemed disgustingly short-legged: not
to mention the stench and dampness of foul fish which drifted from the
quay where the sea was foaming. The gentleman and lady from San
Francisco began to bicker in the mornings; their daughter went about
pale and head-achey, and then roused up again, went into raptures over
everything, and was lovely, charming. Charming were those tender,
complicated feelings which had been aroused in her by the meeting with
the plain little man in whose veins ran such special blood. But after
all, does it matter _what_ awakens a maiden soul--whether it is money,
fame, or noble birth?... Everybody declared that in Sorrento, or in
Capri, it was quite different. There it was warmer, sunnier, the
lemon-trees were in bloom, the morals were purer, the wine
unadulterated. So behold, the family from San Francisco decided to go
with all their trunks to Capri, after which they would return and settle
down in Sorrento: when they had seen Capri, trodden the stones where
stood Tiberius' palaces, visited the famous caves of the Blue Grotto,
and listened to the pipers from Abruzzi, who wander about the isle
during the month of the Nativity, singing the praises of the Virgin.

On the day of departure--a very memorable day for the family from San
Francisco--the sun did not come out even in the morning. A heavy fog hid
Vesuvius to the base, and came greying low over the leaden heave of the
sea, whose waters were concealed from the eye at a distance of half a
mile. Capri was completely invisible, as if it had never existed on
earth. The little steamer that was making for the island tossed so
violently from side to side that the family from San Francisco lay like
stones on the sofas in the miserable saloon of the tiny boat, their feet
wrapped in plaids, and their eyes closed. The lady, as she thought,
suffered worst of all, and several times was overcome with sickness. It
seemed to her that she was dying. But the stewardess who came to and fro
with the basin, the stewardess who had been for years, day in, day out,
through heat and cold, tossing on these waves, and who was still
indefatigable, even kind to every one--she only smiled. The younger lady
from San Francisco was deathly pale, and held in her teeth a slice of
lemon. Now not even the thought of meeting the prince at Sorrento, where
he was due to arrive by Christmas, could gladden her. The gentleman lay
flat on his back, in a broad overcoat and a flat cap, and did not loosen
his jaws throughout the voyage. His face grew dark, his moustache white,
his head ached furiously. For the last few days, owing to the bad
weather, he had been drinking heavily, and had more than once admired
the "tableaux vivants." The rain whipped on the rattling window-panes,
under which water dripped on to the sofas, the wind beat the masts with
a howl, and at moments, aided by an onrushing wave, laid the little
steamer right on its side, whereupon something would roll noisily away
below. At the stopping places, Castellamare, Sorrento, things were a
little better. But even the ship heaved frightfully, and the coast with
all its precipices, gardens, pines, pink and white hotels, and hazy,
curly green mountains swooped past the window, up and down, as it were
on swings. The boats bumped against the side of the ship, the sailors
and passengers shouted lustily, and somewhere a child, as if crushed to
death, choked itself with screaming. The damp wind blew through the
doors, and outside on the sea, from a reeling boat which showed the flag
of the Hotel Royal, a fellow with guttural French exaggeration yelled
unceasingly: "Rrroy-al! Hotel Rrroy-al!" intending to lure passengers
aboard his craft. Then the Gentleman from San Francisco, feeling, as he
ought to have felt, quite an old man, thought with anguish and spite of
all these "Royals," "Splendids," "Excelsiors," and of these greedy,
good-for-nothing, garlic-stinking fellows called Italians. Once, during
a halt, on opening his eyes and rising from the sofa he saw under the
rocky cliff-curtain of the coast a heap of such miserable stone hovels,
all musty and mouldy, stuck on top of one another by the very water,
among the boats, and the rags of all sorts, tin cans and brown
fishing-nets, and, remembering that this was the very Italy he had come
to enjoy, he was seized with despair.... At last, in the twilight, the
black mass of the island began to loom nearer, looking as if it were
bored through at the base with little red lights. The wind grew softer,
warmer, more sweet-smelling. Over the tamed waves, undulating like black
oil, there came flowing golden boa-constrictors of light from the
lanterns of the harbour.... Then suddenly the anchor rumbled and fell
with a splash into the water. Furious cries of the boatmen shouting
against one another came from all directions. And relief was felt at
once. The electric light of the cabin shone brighter, and a desire to
eat, drink, smoke, move once more made itself felt.... Ten minutes later
the family from San Francisco disembarked into a large boat; in a
quarter of an hour they had stepped on to the stones of the quay, and
were soon seated in the bright little car of the funicular railway. With
a buzz they were ascending the slope, past the stakes of the vineyards
and wet, sturdy orange-trees, here and there protected by straw screens,
past the thick glossy foliage and the brilliancy of orange fruits....
Sweetly smells the earth in Italy after rain, and each of her islands
has its own peculiar aroma.

The island of Capri was damp and dark that evening. For the moment,
however, it had revived, and was lighted up here and there as usual at
the hour of the steamer's arrival. At the top of the ascent, on the
little piazza by the funicular station stood the crowd of those whose
duty it was to receive with propriety the luggage of the Gentleman from
San Francisco. There were other arrivals too, but none worthy of notice:
a few Russians who had settled in Capri, untidy and absent-minded owing
to their bookish thoughts, spectacled, bearded, half-buried in the
upturned collars of their thick woollen overcoats. Then a group of
long-legged, long-necked, round-headed German youths in Tirolese
costumes, with knapsacks over their shoulders, needing no assistance,
feeling everywhere at home and always economical in tips. The Gentleman
from San Francisco, who kept quietly apart from both groups, was marked
out at once. He and his ladies were hastily assisted from the car, men
ran in front to show them the way, and they set off on foot, surrounded
by urchins and by the sturdy Capri women who carry on their heads the
luggage of decent travellers. Across the piazza, that looked like an
opera scene in the light of the electric globe that swung aloft in the
damp wind, clacked the wooden pattens of the women-porters. The gang of
urchins began to whistle to the Gentleman from San Francisco, and to
turn somersaults around him, whilst he, as if on the stage, marched
among them towards a mediæval archway and under huddled houses, behind
which led a little echoing lane, past tufts of palm-trees showing above
the flat roofs to the left, and under the stars in the dark blue sky,
upwards towards the shining entrance of the hotel.... And again it
seemed as if purely in honour of the guests from San Francisco the damp
little town on the rocky little island of the Mediterranean had revived
from its evening stupor, that their arrival alone had made the hotel
proprietor so happy and hearty, and that for them had been waiting the
Chinese gong which sent its howlings through all the house the moment
they crossed the doorstep.

The sight of the proprietor, a superbly elegant young man with a polite
and exquisite bow, startled for a moment the Gentleman from San
Francisco. In the first flash, he remembered that amid the chaos of
images which had possessed him the previous night in his sleep, he had
seen that very man, to a _t_ the same man, in the same full-skirted
frock-coat and with the same glossy, perfectly smoothed hair. Startled,
he hesitated for a second. But long, long ago he had lost the last
mustard-seed of any mystical feeling he might ever have had, and his
surprise at once faded. He told the curious coincidence of dream and
reality jestingly to his wife and daughter, as they passed along the
hotel corridor. And only his daughter glanced at him with a little
alarm. Her heart suddenly contracted with home-sickness, with such a
violent feeling of loneliness in this dark, foreign island, that she
nearly wept. As usual, however, she did not mention her feelings to her
father.

Reuss XVII., a high personage who had spent three whole weeks on Capri,
had just left, and the visitors were installed in the suite of rooms
that he had occupied. To them was assigned the most beautiful and expert
chambermaid, a Belgian with a thin, firmly corseted figure, and a
starched cap in the shape of a tiny indented crown. The most experienced
and distinguished-looking footman was placed at their service, a
coal-black, fiery-eyed Sicilian, and also the smartest waiter, the
small, stout Luigi, a tremendous buffoon, who had seen a good deal of
life. In a minute or two a gentle tap was heard at the door of the
Gentleman from San Francisco, and there stood the _maître d'hôtel_, a
Frenchman, who had come to ask if the guests would take dinner, and to
report, in case of answer in the affirmative--of which, however, he had
small doubt--that this evening there were Mediterranean lobsters, roast
beef, asparagus, pheasants, etc., etc. The floor was still rocking under
the feet of the Gentleman from San Francisco, so rolled about had he
been on that wretched, grubby Italian steamer. Yet with his own hands,
calmly, though clumsily from lack of experience, he closed the window
which had banged at the entrance of the _maître d'hôtel_, shutting out
the drifting smell of distant kitchens and of wet flowers in the garden.
Then he turned and replied with unhurried distinctness, that they would
take dinner, that their table must be far from the door, in the very
centre of the dining-room, that they would have local wine and
champagne, moderately dry and slightly cooled. To all of which the
_maître d'hôtel_ gave assent in the most varied intonations, which
conveyed that there was not and could not be the faintest question of
the justness of the desires of the Gentleman from San Francisco, and
that everything should be exactly as he wished. At the end he inclined
his head and politely inquired:

"Is that all, sir?"

On receiving a lingering "Yes," he added that Carmela and Giuseppe,
famous all over Italy and "to all the world of tourists," were going to
dance the tarantella that evening in the hall.

"I have seen picture-postcards of her," said the Gentleman from San
Francisco, in a voice expressive of nothing. "And is Giuseppe her
husband?"

"Her cousin, sir," replied the _maître d'hôtel_.

The Gentleman from San Francisco was silent for a while, thinking of
something, but saying nothing; then he dismissed the man with a nod of
the head. After which he began to make preparations as if for his
wedding. He turned on all the electric lights, and filled the mirrors
with brilliance and reflection of furniture and open trunks. He began to
shave and wash, ringing the bell every minute, and down the corridor
raced and crossed the impatient ringings from the rooms of his wife and
daughter. Luigi, with the nimbleness peculiar to certain stout people,
making grimaces of horror which brought tears of laughter to the eyes of
chambermaids dashing past with marble-white pails, turned a cart-wheel
to the gentleman's door, and tapping with his knuckles, in a voice of
sham timidity and respectfulness reduced to idiocy, asked:

"Ha suonato, Signore?"

From behind the door, a slow, grating, offensively polite voice:

"Yes, come in."

What were the feelings, what were the thoughts of the Gentleman from San
Francisco on that evening so significant to him? He felt nothing
exceptional, since unfortunately everything on this earth is too simple
in appearance. Even had he felt something imminent in his soul, all the
same he would have reasoned that, whatever it might be, it could not
take place immediately. Besides, as with all who have just experienced
sea-sickness, he was very hungry, and looked forward with delight to the
first spoonful of soup, the first mouthful of wine. So he performed the
customary business of dressing in a state of excitement which left no
room for reflection.

Having shaved, washed, and dexterously arranged several artificial
teeth, standing in front of the mirror, he moistened his silver-mounted
brushes and plastered the remains of his thick pearly hair on his
swarthy yellow skull. He drew on to his strong old body, with its
abdomen protuberant from excessive good living, his cream-coloured silk
underwear, put black silk socks and patent-leather slippers on his
flat-footed feet. He put sleeve-links in the shining cuffs of his
snow-white shirt, and bending forward so that his shirt front bulged
out, he arranged his trousers that were pulled up high by his silk
braces, and began to torture himself, putting his collar-stud through
the stiff collar. The floor was still rocking beneath him, the tips of
his fingers hurt, the stud at moments pinched the flabby skin in the
recess under his Adam's apple, but he persisted, and at last, with eyes
all strained and face dove-blue from the over-tight collar that enclosed
his throat, he finished the business and sat down exhausted in front of
the pier glass, which reflected the whole of him, and repeated him in
all the other mirrors.

"It is awful!" he muttered, dropping his strong, bald head, but without
trying to understand or to know what was awful. Then, with habitual
careful attention examining his gouty-jointed short fingers and large,
convex, almond-shaped finger-nails, he repeated: "It is awful...."

As if from a pagan temple shrilly resounded the second gong through the
hotel. The Gentleman from San Francisco got up hastily, pulled his
shirt-collar still tighter with his tie, and his abdomen tighter with
his open waistcoat, settled his cuffs and again examined himself in the
mirror.... "That Carmela, swarthy, with her enticing eyes, looking like
a mulatto in her dazzling-coloured dress, chiefly orange, she must be an
extraordinary dancer----" he was thinking. So, cheerfully leaving his
room and walking on the carpet to his wife's room, he called to ask if
they were nearly ready.

"In five minutes, Dad," came the gay voice of the girl from behind the
door. "I'm arranging my hair."

"Right-o!" said the Gentleman from San Francisco.

Imagining to himself her long hair hanging to the floor, he slowly
walked along the corridors and staircases covered with red carpet,
downstairs, looking for the reading-room. The servants he encountered on
the way pressed close to the wall, and he walked past as if not noticing
them. An old lady, late for dinner, already stooping with age, with
milk-white hair and yet _decolletée_ in her pale grey silk dress,
hurried at top speed, funnily, henlike, and he easily overtook her. By
the glass-door of the dining-room, wherein the guests had already
started the meal, he stopped before a little table heaped with boxes of
cigars and cigarettes, and taking a large Manilla, threw three liras on
the table. After which he passed along the winter terrace, and glanced
through an open window. From the darkness came a waft of soft air, and
there loomed the top of an old palm-tree that spread its boughs over the
stars, looking like a giant, bringing down the far-off smooth quivering
of the sea.... In the reading-room, cosy with the shaded reading-lamps,
a grey, untidy German, looking rather like Ibsen in his round
silver-rimmed spectacles and with mad astonished eyes, stood rustling
the newspapers. After coldly eyeing him, the Gentleman from San
Francisco seated himself in a deep leather armchair in a corner, by a
lamp with a green shade, put on his pince-nez, and, with a stretch of
his neck because of the tightness of his shirt-collar, obliterated
himself behind a newspaper. He glanced over the headlines, read a few
sentences about the never-ending Balkan war, then with a habitual
movement turned over the page of the newspaper--when suddenly the lines
blazed up before him in a glassy sheen, his neck swelled, his eyes
bulged, and the pince-nez came flying off his nose.... He lunged
forward, wanted to breathe--and rattled wildly. His lower jaw dropped,
and his mouth shone with gold fillings. His head fell swaying on his
shoulder, his shirt-front bulged out basket-like, and all his body,
writhing, with heels scraping up the carpet, slid down to the floor,
struggling desperately with some invisible foe.

If the German had not been in the reading-room, the frightful affair
could have been hushed up. Instantly, through obscure passages the
Gentleman from San Francisco could have been hurried away to some dark
corner, and not a single guest would have discovered what he had been up
to. But the German dashed out of the room with a yell, alarming the
house and all the diners. Many sprang up from the table, upsetting their
chairs, many, pallid, ran towards the reading-room, and in every
language it was asked: "What--what's the matter?" None answered
intelligibly, nobody understood, for even to-day people are more
surprised at death than at anything else, and never want to believe it
is true. The proprietor rushed from one guest to another, trying to keep
back those who were hastening up, to soothe them with assurances that it
was a mere trifle, a fainting-fit that had overcome a certain Gentleman
from San Francisco.... But no one heeded him. Many saw how the porters
and waiters were tearing off the tie, waistcoat, and crumpled dress-coat
from that same gentleman, even, for some reason or other, pulling off
his patent evening-shoes from his black-silk, flat-footed feet. And he
was still writhing. He continued to struggle with death, by no means
wanting to yield to that which had so unexpectedly and rudely overtaken
him. He rolled his head, rattled like one throttled, and turned up the
whites of his eyes as if he were drunk. When he had been hastily carried
into room No. 43, the smallest, wretchedest, dampest, and coldest room
at the end of the bottom corridor, his daughter came running with her
hair all loose, her dressing-gown flying open, showing her bosom raised
by her corsets: then his wife, large and heavy and completely dressed
for dinner, her mouth opened round with terror. But by that time he had
already ceased rolling his head.

In a quarter of an hour the hotel settled down somehow or other. But the
evening was ruined. The guests, returning to the dining-room, finished
their dinner in silence, with a look of injury on their faces, whilst
the proprietor went from one to another, shrugging his shoulders in
hopeless and natural irritation, feeling himself guilty through no fault
of his own, assuring everybody that he perfectly realized "how
disagreeable this is," and giving his word that he would take "every
possible measure within his power" to remove the trouble. The tarantella
had to be cancelled, the superfluous lights were switched off, most of
the guests went to the bar, and soon the house became so quiet that the
ticking of the clock was heard distinctly in the hall, where the lonely
parrot woodenly muttered something as he bustled about in his cage
preparatory to going to sleep, and managed to fall asleep at length with
his paw absurdly suspended from the little upper perch.... The Gentleman
from San Francisco lay on a cheap iron bed under coarse blankets on to
which fell a dim light from the obscure electric lamp in the ceiling. An
ice-bag slid down on his wet, cold forehead; his blue, already lifeless
face grew gradually cold; the hoarse bubbling which came from his open
mouth, where the gleam of gold still showed, grew weak. The Gentleman
from San Francisco rattled no longer; he was no more--something else lay
in his place. His wife, his daughter, the doctor, and the servants stood
and watched him dully. Suddenly that which they feared and expected
happened. The rattling ceased. And slowly, slowly under their eyes a
pallor spread over the face of the deceased, his features began to grow
thinner, more transparent ... with a beauty which might have suited him
long ago....

Entered the proprietor. "Gia, e morto!" whispered the doctor to him. The
proprietor raised his shoulders, as if it were not his affair. The wife,
on whose cheeks tears were slowly trickling, approached and timidly
asked that the deceased should be taken to his own room.

"Oh no, madame," hastily replied the proprietor, politely, but coldly,
and not in English, but in French. He was no longer interested in the
trifling sum the guests from San Francisco would leave at his cash desk.
"That is absolutely impossible." Adding by way of explanation, that he
valued that suite of rooms highly, and that should he accede to madame's
request, the news would be known all over Capri and no one would take
the suite afterwards.

The young lady, who had glanced at him strangely all the time, now sat
down in a chair and sobbed, with her handkerchief to her mouth. The
elder lady's tears dried at once, her face flared up. Raising her voice
and using her own language she began to insist, unable to believe that
the respect for them had gone already. The manager cut her short with
polite dignity. "If madame does not like the ways of the hotel, he dare
not detain her." And he announced decisively that the corpse must be
removed at dawn: the police had already been notified, and an official
would arrive presently to attend to the necessary formalities. "Is it
possible to get a plain coffin?" madame asked. Unfortunately not!
Impossible! And there was no time to make one. It would have to be
arranged somehow. Yes, the English soda-water came in large strong
boxes--if the divisions were removed.

The whole hotel was asleep. The window of No. 43 was open, on to a
corner of the garden where, under a high stone wall ridged with broken
glass, grew a battered banana tree. The light was turned off, the door
locked, the room deserted. The deceased remained in the darkness, blue
stars glanced at him from the black sky, a cricket started to chirp with
sad carelessness in the wall.... Out in the dimly-lit corridor two
chambermaids were seated in a window-sill, mending something. Entered
Luigi, in slippers, with a heap of clothes in his hand.

"Pronto?" he asked, in a singing whisper, indicating with his eyes the
dreadful door at the end of the corridor. Then giving a slight wave
thither with his free hand: "Patenza!" he shouted in a whisper, as
though sending off a train. The chambermaids, choking with noiseless
laughter, dropped their heads on each other's shoulders.

Tip-toeing, Luigi went to the very door, tapped, and cocking his head on
one side asked respectfully, in a subdued tone:

"Ha suonato, Signore?"

Then contracting his throat and shoving out his jaw, he answered himself
in a grating, drawling, mournful voice, which seemed to come from behind
the door:

"_Yes, come in...._"

When the dawn grew white at the window of No. 43, and a damp wind began
rustling the tattered fronds of the banana tree; as the blue sky of
morning lifted and unfolded over Capri, and Monte Solaro, pure and
distinct, grew golden, catching the sun which was rising beyond the
far-off blue mountains of Italy; just as the labourers who were mending
the paths of the islands for the tourists came out for work, a long box
was carried into room No. 43. Soon this box weighed heavily, and it
painfully pressed the knees of the porter who was carrying it in a
one-horse cab down the winding white high-road, between stone walls and
vineyards, down, down the face of Capri to the sea. The driver, a weakly
little fellow with reddened eyes, in a little old jacket with sleeves
too short and bursting boots, kept flogging his wiry small horse that
was decorated in Sicilian fashion, its harness tinkling with busy little
bells and fringed with fringes of scarlet wool, the high saddle-peak
gleaming with copper and tufted with colour, and a yard-long plume
nodding from the pony's cropped head, from between the ears. The cabby
had spent the whole night playing dice in the inn, and was still under
the effects of drink. Silent, he was depressed by his own debauchery and
vice: by the fact that he gambled away to the last farthing all those
copper coins with which his pockets had yesterday been full, in all four
lire, forty centesimi. But the morning was fresh. In such air, with the
sea all round, under the morning sky headaches evaporate, and man soon
regains his cheerfulness. Moreover, the cabby was cheered by this
unexpected fare which he was making out of some Gentleman from San
Francisco, who was nodding with his dead head in a box at the back. The
little steamer, which lay like a water-beetle on the tender bright
blueness which brims the bay of Naples, was already giving the final
hoots, and this tooting resounded again cheerily all over the island.
Each contour, each ridge, each rock was so clearly visible in every
direction, it was as if there were no atmosphere at all. Near the beach
the porter in the cab was overtaken by the head porter dashing down in
an automobile with the lady and her daughter, both pale, their eyes
swollen with the tears of a sleepless night.... And in ten minutes the
little steamer again churned up the water and made her way back to
Sorrento, to Castellamare, bearing away from Capri for ever the family
from San Francisco.... And peace and tranquillity reigned once more on
the island.

On that island two thousand years ago lived a man entangled in his own
infamous and strange acts, one whose rule for some reason extended over
millions of people, and who, having lost his head through the absurdity
of such power, committed deeds which have established him for ever in
the memory of mankind; mankind which in the mass now rules the world
just as hideously and incomprehensibly as he ruled it then. And men come
here from all quarters of the globe to look at the ruins of the stone
house where that one man lived, on the brink of one of the steepest
cliffs in the island. On this exquisite morning all who had come to
Capri for that purpose were still asleep in the hotels, although through
the streets already trotted little mouse-coloured donkeys with red
saddles, towards the hotel entrances where they would wait patiently
until, after a good sleep and a square meal, young and old American men
and women, German men and women would emerge and be hoisted up into the
saddles, to be followed up the stony paths, yea to the very summit of
Monte Tiberio, by old persistent beggar-women of Capri, with sticks in
their sinewy hands. Quieted by the fact that the dead old Gentleman from
San Francisco, who had intended to be one of the pleasure party but who
had only succeeded in frightening the rest with the reminder of death,
was now being shipped to Naples, the happy tourists still slept soundly,
the island was still quiet, the shops in the little town not yet open.
Only fish and greens were being sold in the tiny piazza, only simple
folk were present, and amongst them, as usual without occupation, the
tall old boatman Lorenzo, thorough debauchee and handsome figure, famous
all over Italy, model for many a picture. He had already sold for a
trifle two lobsters which he had caught in the night, and which were
rustling in the apron of the cook of that very same hotel where the
family from San Francisco had spent the night. And now Lorenzo could
stand calmly till evening, with a majestic air showing off his rags and
gazing round, holding his clay pipe with its long reed mouth-piece in
his hand, and letting his scarlet bonnet slip over one ear. For as a
matter of fact he received a salary from the little town, from the
commune which found it profitable to pay him to stand about and make a
picturesque figure--as everybody knows.... Down the precipices of Monte
Solaro, down the stony little stairs cut in the rock of the old
Phœnician road came two Abruzzi mountaineers, descending from Anacapri.
One carried a bagpipe under his leather cloak, a large goat skin with
two little pipes; the other had a sort of wooden flute. They descended,
and the whole land, joyous, was sunny beneath them. They saw the rocky,
heaving shoulder of the island, which lay almost entirely at their feet,
swimming in the fairy blueness of the water. Shining morning vapours
rose over the sea to the east, under a dazzling sun which already burned
hot as it rose higher and higher; and there, far off, the dimly cerulean
masses of Italy, of her near and far mountains, still wavered blue as if
in the world's morning, in a beauty no words can express.... Halfway
down the descent the pipers slackened their pace. Above the road, in a
grotto of the rocky face of Monte Solaro stood the Mother of God, the
sun full upon her, giving her a splendour of snow-white and blue
raiment, and royal crown rusty from all weathers. Meek and merciful, she
raised her eyes to heaven, to the eternal and blessed mansions of her
thrice-holy Son. The pipers bared their heads, put their pipes to their
lips: and there streamed forth naive and meekly joyous praises to the
sun, to the morning, to Her, Immaculate, who would intercede for all who
suffer in this malicious and lovely world, and to Him, born of Her womb
among the caves of Bethlehem, in a lowly shepherd's hut, in the far
Judean land....

And the body of the dead old man from San Francisco was returning home,
to its grave, to the shores of the New World. Having been subjected to
many humiliations, much human neglect, after a week's wandering from one
warehouse to another, it was carried at last on to the same renowned
vessel which so short a time ago, and with such honour, had borne him
living to the Old World. But now he was to be hidden far from the
knowledge of the voyagers. Closed in a tar-coated coffin, he was lowered
deep into the vessel's dark hold. And again, again the ship set out on
the long voyage. She passed at night near Capri, and to those who were
looking out from the island, sad seemed the lights of the ship slowly
hiding themselves in the sea's darkness. But there aboard the liner, in
the bright halls shining with lights and marble, gay dancing filled the
evening, as usual....

The second evening, and the third evening, still they danced, amid a
storm that swept over the ocean, booming like a funeral service, rolling
up mountains of mourning darkness silvered with foam. Through the snow
the numerous fiery eyes of the ship were hardly visible to the Devil who
watched from the rocks of Gibraltar, from the stony gateway of two
worlds, peering after the vessel as she disappeared into the night and
storm. The Devil was huge as a cliff. But huger still was the liner,
many storeyed, many funnelled, created by the presumption of the New Man
with the old heart. The blizzard smote the rigging and the funnels, and
whitened the ship with snow, but she was enduring, firm, majestic--and
horrible. On the topmost deck rose lonely amongst the snowy whirlwind
the cosy and dim quarters where lay the heavy master of the ship, he who
was like a pagan idol, sunk now in a light, uneasy slumber. Through his
sleep he heard the sombre howl and furious screechings of the siren,
muffled by the blizzard. But again he reassured himself by the nearness
of that which stood behind his wall, and was in the last resort
incomprehensible to him: by the large, apparently armoured cabin which
was now and then filled with a mysterious rumbling, throbbing, and
crackling of blue fires that flared up explosive around the pale face of
the telegraphist who, with a metal hoop fixed on his head, was eagerly
straining to catch the dim voices of vessels which spoke to him from
hundreds of miles away. In the depths, in the under-water womb of the
_Atlantis_, steel glimmered and steam wheezed, and huge masses of
machinery and thousand-ton boilers dripped with water and oil, as the
motion of the ship was steadily cooked in this vast kitchen heated by
hellish furnaces from beneath. Here bubbled in their awful concentration
the powers which were being transmitted to the keel, down an infinitely
long round tunnel lit up and brilliant like a gigantic gun-barrel, along
which slowly, with a regularity crushing to the human soul, revolved a
gigantic shaft, precisely like a living monster coiling and uncoiling
its endless length down the tunnel, sliding on its bed of oil. The
middle of the _Atlantis_, the warm, luxurious cabins, dining-rooms,
halls, shed light and joy, buzzed with the chatter of an elegant crowd,
was fragrant with fresh flowers, and quivered with the sounds of a
string orchestra. And again amidst that crowd, amidst the brilliance of
lights, silks, diamonds, and bare feminine shoulders, a slim and supple
pair of hired lovers painfully writhed and at moments convulsively
clashed. A sinfully discreet, pretty girl with lowered lashes and hair
innocently dressed, and a tallish young man with black hair looking as
if it were glued on, pale with powder, and wearing the most elegant
patent-leather shoes and a narrow, long-tailed dress coat, a beau
resembling an enormous leech. And no one knew that this couple had long
since grown weary of shamly tormenting themselves with their beatific
love-tortures, to the sound of bawdy-sad music; nor did any one know of
that thing which lay deep, deep below at the very bottom of the dark
hold, near the gloomy and sultry bowels of the ship that was so gravely
overcoming the darkness, the ocean, the blizzard....



                            GENTLE BREATHING


In the cemetery above a fresh mound of earth stands a new cross of
oak--strong, heavy, smooth, a pleasant thing to look at. It is April,
but the days are grey. From a long way off one can see through the bare
trees the tomb-stones in the cemetery--a spacious, real country or
cathedral town cemetery; the cold wind goes whistling, whistling through
the china wreath at the foot of the cross. In the cross itself is set a
rather large bronze medallion, and in the medallion is a portrait of a
smart and charming school-girl, with happy, astonishingly vivacious
eyes.

It is Olga Meschersky.

As a little girl there was nothing to distinguish her in the noisy crowd
of brown dresses which made its discordant and youthful hum in the
corridors and class-rooms; all that one could say of her was that she
was just one of a number of pretty, rich, happy little girls, that she
was clever, but playful, and very careless of the precepts of her
class-teacher. Then she began to develop and to blossom, not by days,
but by hours. At fourteen, with a slim waist and graceful legs, there
was already well developed the outline of her breasts and all those
contours of which the charm has never yet been expressed in human words;
at fifteen she was said to be a beauty. How carefully some of her school
friends did their hair, how clean they were, how careful and restrained
in their movements! But she was afraid of nothing--neither of ink-stains
on her fingers, nor of a flushed face, nor of dishevelled hair, nor of a
bare knee after a rush and a tumble. Without a thought or an effort on
her part, imperceptibly there came to her everything which so
distinguished her from the rest of the school during her last two
years--daintiness, smartness, quickness, the bright and intelligent
gleam in her eyes. No one danced like Olga Meschersky, no one could run
or skate like her, no one at dances had as many admirers as she had, and
for some reason no one was so popular with the junior classes.
Imperceptibly she grew up into a girl and imperceptibly her fame in the
school became established, and already there were rumours that she is
flighty, that she cannot live without admirers, that the schoolboy,
Shensin, is madly in love with her, that she, too, perhaps loves him,
but is so changeable in her treatment of him that he tried to commit
suicide....

During her last winter, Olga Meschersky went quite crazy with happiness,
so they said at school. It was a snowy, sunny, frosty winter; the sun
would go down early behind the grove of tall fir-trees in the snowy
school garden; but it was always fine and radiant weather, with a
promise of frost and sun again to-morrow, a walk in Cathedral Street,
skating in the town park, a pink sunset, music, and that perpetually
moving crowd in which Olga Meschersky seemed to be the smartest, the
most careless, and the happiest. And then, one day, when she was rushing
like a whirlwind through the recreation room with the little girls
chasing her and screaming for joy, she was unexpectedly called up to the
headmistress. She stopped short, took one deep breath, with a quick
movement, already a habit, arranged her hair, gave a pull to the corners
of her apron to bring it up on her shoulders, and with shining eyes ran
upstairs. The headmistress, small, youngish, but grey-haired, sat
quietly with her knitting in her hands at the writing-table, under the
portrait of the Tsar.

"Good morning, Miss Meschersky," she said in French, without lifting her
eyes from her knitting. "I am sorry that this is not the first time that
I have had to call you here to speak to you about your behaviour."

"I am attending, madam," answered Olga, coming up to the table, looking
at her brightly and happily, but with an expressionless face, and
curtsying so lightly and gracefully, as only she could.

"You will attend badly--unfortunately I have become convinced of that,"
said the headmistress, giving a pull at the thread so that the ball
rolled away over the polished floor, and Olga watched it with curiosity.
The headmistress raised her eyes: "I shall not repeat myself, I shall
not say much," she said.

Olga very much liked the unusually clean and large study; on frosty days
the air in it was so pleasant with the warmth from the shining Dutch
fire-place, and the fresh lilies-of-the-valley on the writing-table. She
glanced at the young Tsar, painted full-length in a splendid hall, at
the smooth parting in the white, neatly waved hair of the headmistress;
she waited in silence.

"You are no longer a little girl," said the headmistress meaningly,
beginning to feel secretly irritated.

"Yes, madam," answered Olga simply, almost merrily.

"But neither are you a woman yet," said the headmistress, still more
meaningly, and her pale face flushed a little. "To begin with, why do
you do your hair like that? You do it like a woman."

"It is not my fault, madam, that I have nice hair," Olga replied, and
gave a little touch with both hands to her beautifully dressed hair.

"Ah, is that it? You are not to blame!" said the headmistress. "You are
not to blame for the way you do your hair; you are not to blame for
those expensive combs; you are not to blame for ruining your parents
with your twenty-rouble shoes. But, I repeat, you completely forget that
you are still only a schoolgirl...."

And here Olga, without losing her simplicity and calm, suddenly
interrupted her politely:

"Excuse me, madam, you are mistaken--I am a woman. And, do you know who
is to blame for that? My father's friend and neighbour, your brother,
Alexey Mikhailovitch Malyntin. It happened last summer in the
country...."

                  *       *       *       *       *

And a month after this conversation, a Cossack officer, ungainly and of
plebeian appearance, who had absolutely nothing in common with Olga
Meschersky's circle, shot her on the platform of the railway station, in
a large crowd of people who had just arrived by train. And the
incredible confession of Olga Meschersky, which had stunned the
headmistress, was completely confirmed; the officer told the coroner
that Meschersky had led him on, had had a _liaison_ with him, had
promised to marry him, and at the railway station on the day of the
murder, while seeing him off to Novocherkask had suddenly told him that
she had never thought of marrying him, that all the talk about marriage
was only to make a fool of him, and she gave him her diary to read with
the pages in it which told about Malyntin.

"I glanced through those pages," said the officer, "went out on to the
platform where she was walking up and down, and waiting for me to finish
reading it, and I shot her. The diary is in the pocket of my overcoat;
look at the entry for July 10 of last year."

And this is what the coroner read:

"It is now nearly two o'clock in the morning. I fell sound asleep, but
woke up again immediately.... I have become a woman to-day! Papa, mamma,
and Tolya had all gone to town, and I was left alone. I cannot say how
happy I was to be alone. In the morning I walked in the orchard, in the
field, and I went into the woods, and it seemed to me that I was all by
myself in the whole world, and I never had such pleasant thoughts
before. I had lunch by myself; then I played for an hour, and the music
made me feel that I should live for ever, and be happier than any one
else had ever been. Then I fell asleep in papa's study, and at four
o'clock Kate woke me, and said that Alexey Mikhailovitch had come. I was
very glad to see him; it was so pleasant to receive him and entertain
him. He came with his pair of Viatka horses, very beautiful, and they
stood all the time at the front door, but he stayed because it was
raining, and hoped that the roads would dry towards evening. He was very
sorry not to find papa at home, was very animated and treated me very
politely, and made many jokes about his having been long in love with
me. Before tea we walked in the garden, and the weather was charming,
the sun shining through the whole wet garden; but it grew quite cold,
and he walked with me, arm in arm, and said that he was Faust with
Margarete. He is fifty-six, but still very handsome, and always very
well dressed--the only thing I didn't like was his coming in a sort of
cape--he smells of English eau-de-Cologne, and his eyes are quite young,
black; his beard is long and elegantly parted down the middle, it is
quite silvery. We had tea in the glass verandah, and suddenly I did not
feel very well, and lay down on the sofa while he smoked; then he sat
down near me, and began to say nice things, and then to take my hand and
kiss it. I covered my face with a silk handkerchief, and several times
he kissed me on the lips through the handkerchief.... I can't understand
how it happened; I went mad; I never thought I was like that. Now I have
only one way out.... I feel such a loathing for him that I cannot endure
it...."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The town in these April days has become clean and dry, its stones have
become white, and it is easy and pleasant to walk on them. Every Sunday,
after mass, along Cathedral Street which leads out of the town, there
walks a little woman in mourning, in black kid gloves, and with an ebony
sunshade. She crosses the yard of the fire-station, crosses the dirty
market-place by the road where there are many black smithies, and where
the wind blows fresher from the fields; in the distance, between the
monastery and the gaol, is the white slope of the sky and the grey of
the spring fields; and then, when you have passed the muddy pools behind
the monastery wall and turn to the left, you will see what looks like a
large low garden, surrounded by a white wall, on the gates of which is
written "The Assumption of Our Lady." The little woman makes rapid
little signs of the cross, and always walks on the main path. When she
gets to the bench opposite the oak cross she sits down, in the wind and
the chilly spring, for an hour, two hours, until her feet in the light
boots, and her hand in the narrow kid glove, grow quite cold. Listening
to the birds of spring, singing sweetly even in the cold, listening to
the whistling of the wind through the porcelain wreath, she sometimes
thinks that she would give half her life if only that dead wreath might
not be before her eyes. The thought that it is Olga Meschersky who has
been buried in that clay plunges her into astonishment bordering upon
stupidity: how can one associate the sixteen-year-old school-girl, who
but two or three months ago was so full of life, charm, happiness, with
that mound of earth and that oak cross. Is it possible that beneath it
is the same girl whose eyes shine out immortally from this bronze
medallion, and how can one connect this bright look with the horrible
event which is associated now with Olga Meschersky? But in the depths of
her soul the little woman is happy, as are all those who are in love or
are generally devoted to some passionate dream.

The woman is Olga Meschersky's class-mistress, a girl over thirty, who
has for long been living on some illusion and putting it in the place of
her actual life. At first the illusion was her brother, a poor
lieutenant, in no way remarkable--her whole soul was bound up in him and
in his future, which, for some reason, she imagined as splendid, and she
lived in the curious expectation that, thanks to him, her fate would
transport her into some fairyland. Then, when he was killed at Mukden,
she persuaded herself that she, very happily, is not like others, that
instead of beauty and womanliness she has intellect and higher
interests, that she is a worker for the ideal. And now Olga Meschersky
is the object of all her thoughts, of her admiration and joy. Every
holiday she goes to her grave--she had formed the habit of going to the
cemetery after the death of her brother--for hours she never takes her
eyes off the oak cross; she recalls Olga Meschersky's pale face in the
coffin amid the flowers, and remembers what she once overheard: once
during the luncheon hour, while walking in the school garden, Olga
Meschersky was quickly, quickly saying to her favourite friend, the tall
plump Subbotin:

"I have been reading one of papa's books--he has a lot of funny old
books--I read about the kind of beauty which woman ought to possess.
There's such a lot written there, you see, I can't remember it all;
well, of course, eyes black as boiling pitch--upon my word, that's what
they say there, boiling pitch!--eye-brows black as night, and a tender
flush in the complexion, a slim figure, hands longer than the
ordinary--little feet, a fairly large breast, a regularly rounded leg, a
knee the colour of the inside of a shell, high but sloping shoulders--a
good deal of it I have nearly learnt by heart, it is all so true; but do
you know what the chief thing is? Gentle breathing! And I have got it;
you listen how I breathe; isn't it gentle?"

Now the gentle breathing has again vanished away into the world, into
the cloudy day, into the cold spring wind....



                        KASIMIR STANISLAVOVITCH


On the yellow card with a nobleman's coronet the young porter at the
Hotel "Versailles" somehow managed to read the Christian name and
patronymic "Kasimir Stanislavovitch."[1] There followed something still
more complicated and still more difficult to pronounce. The porter
turned the card this way and that way in his hand, looked at the
passport, which the visitor had given him with it, shrugged his
shoulders--none of those who stayed at the "Versailles" gave their
cards--then he threw both on to the table and began again to examine
himself in the silvery, milky mirror which hung above the table,
whipping up his thick hair with a comb. He wore an overcoat and shiny
top-boots; the gold braid on his cap was greasy with age--the hotel was
a bad one.

Kasimir Stanislavovitch left Kiev for Moscow on April 8th, Good Friday,
on receiving a telegram with the one word "tenth." Somehow or other he
managed to get the money for his fare, and took his seat in a
second-class compartment, grey and dim, but really giving him the
sensation of comfort and luxury. The train was heated, and that
railway-carriage heat and the smell of the heating apparatus, and the
sharp tapping of the little hammers in it, reminded Kasimir
Stanislavovitch of other times. At times it seemed to him that winter
had returned, that in the fields the white, very white drifts of snow
had covered up the yellowish bristle of stubble and the large leaden
pools where the wild-duck swam. But often the snow-storm stopped
suddenly and melted; the fields grew bright, and one felt that behind
the clouds was much light, and the wet platforms of the railway-stations
looked black, and the rooks called from the naked poplars. At each big
station Kasimir Stanislavovitch went to the refreshment-room for a
drink, and returned to his carriage with newspapers in his hands; but he
did not read them; he only sat and sank in the thick smoke of his
cigarettes, which burned and glowed, and to none of his
neighbours--Odessa Jews who played cards all the time--did he say a
single word. He wore an autumn overcoat of which the pockets were worn,
a very old black top-hat, and new, but heavy, cheap boots. His hands,
the typical hands of an habitual drunkard, and an old inhabitant of
basements, shook when he lit a match. Everything else about him spoke of
poverty and drunkenness: no cuffs, a dirty linen collar, an ancient tie,
an inflamed and ravaged face, bright-blue watery eyes. His
side-whiskers, dyed with a bad, brown dye, had an unnatural appearance.
He looked tired and contemptuous.

The train reached Moscow next day, not at all up to time; it was seven
hours late. The weather was neither one thing nor the other, but better
and drier than in Kiev, with something stirring in the air. Kasimir
Stanislavovitch took a cab without bargaining with the driver, and told
him to drive straight to the "Versailles." "I have known that hotel, my
good fellow," he said, suddenly breaking his silence, "since my student
days." From the "Versailles," as soon as his little bag, tied with stout
rope, had been taken up to his room, he immediately went out.

It was nearly evening: the air was warm, the black trees on the
boulevards were turning green; everywhere there were crowds of people,
cars, carts. Moscow was trafficking and doing business, was returning to
the usual, pressing work, was ending her holiday, and unconsciously
welcomed the spring. A man who has lived his life and ruined it feels
lonely on a spring evening in a strange, crowded city. Kasimir
Stanislavovitch walked the whole length of the Tverskoy Boulevard; he
saw once more the cast-iron figure of the musing Poushkin, the golden
and lilac top of the Strasnoy Monastery.... For about an hour he sat at
the Café Filippov, drank chocolate, and read old comic papers. Then he
went to a cinema, whose flaming signs shone from far away down the
Tverskaya, through the darkling twilight. From the cinema he drove to a
restaurant on the boulevard which he had also known in his student days.
He was driven by an old man, bent in a bow, sad, gloomy, deeply absorbed
in himself, in his old age, in his dark thoughts. All the way the man
painfully and wearily helped on his lazy horse with his whole being,
murmuring something to it all the time and occasionally bitterly
reproaching it--and at last, when he reached the place, he allowed the
load to slip from his shoulders for a moment and gave a deep sigh, as he
took the money.

"I did not catch the name, and thought you meant 'Brague'!" he muttered,
turning his horse slowly; he seemed displeased, although the "Prague"
was further away.

"I remember the 'Prague' too, old fellow," answered Kasimir
Stanislavovitch. "You must have been driving for a long time in Moscow."

"Driving?" the old man said; "I have been driving now for fifty-one
years."

"That means that you may have driven me before," said Kasimir
Stanislavovitch.

"Perhaps I did," answered the old man dryly. "There are lots of people
in the world; one can't remember all of you."

Of the old restaurant, once known to Kasimir Stanislavovitch, there
remained only the name. Now it was a large, first-class, though vulgar,
restaurant. Over the entrance burnt an electric globe which illuminated
with its unpleasant, heliotrope light the smart, second-rate cabmen,
impudent, and cruel to their lean, short-winded steeds. In the damp hall
stood pots of laurels and tropical plants of the kind which one sees
carried on to the platforms from weddings to funerals and _vice versa_.
From the porters' lodge several men rushed out together to Kasimir
Stanislavovitch, and all of them had just the same thick curl of hair as
the porter at the "Versailles." In the large greenish room, decorated in
the rococo style, were a multitude of broad mirrors, and in the corner
burnt a crimson icon-lamp. The room was still empty, and only a few of
the electric lights were on. Kasimir Stanislavovitch sat for a long time
alone, doing nothing. One felt that behind the windows with their white
blinds the long, spring evening had not yet grown dark; one heard from
the street the thudding of hooves; in the middle of the room there was
the monotonous splash-splash of the little fountain in an aquarium round
which gold-fish, with their scales peeling off, lighted somehow from
below, swam through the water. A waiter in white brought the dinner
things, bread, and a decanter of cold vodka. Kasimir Stanislavovitch
began drinking the vodka, held it in his mouth before swallowing it,
and, having swallowed it, smelt the black bread as though with loathing.
With a suddenness which gave even him a start, a gramophone began to
roar out through the room a mixture of Russian songs, now exaggeratedly
boisterous and turbulent, now too tender, drawling, sentimental.... And
Kasimir Stanislavovitch's eyes grew red and tears filmed them at that
sweet and snuffling drone of the machine.

Then a grey-haired, curly, black-eyed Georgian brought him, on a large
iron fork, a half-cooked, smelly shashlyk, cut off the meat on to the
plate with a kind of dissolute smartness, and, with Asiatic simplicity,
with his own hand sprinkled it with onions, salt, and rusty barbery
powder, while the gramophone roared out in the empty hall a cake-walk,
inciting one to jerks and spasms. Then Kasimir Stanislavovitch was
served with cheese, fruit, red wine, coffee, mineral water, liquers....
The gramophone had long ago grown silent; instead of it there had been
playing on the platform an orchestra of German women dressed in white;
the lighted hall, continually filling up with people, grew hot, became
dim with tobacco smoke and heavily saturated with the smell of food;
waiters rushed about in a whirl; drunken people ordered cigars which
immediately made them sick; the head-waiters showed excessive
officiousness, combined with an intense realization of their own
dignity; in the mirrors, in the watery gloom of their abysses, there was
more and more chaotically reflected something huge, noisy, complicated.
Several times Kasimir Stanislavovitch went out of the hot hall into the
cool corridors, into the cold lavatory, where there was a strange smell
of the sea; he walked as if on air, and, on returning to his table,
again ordered wine. After midnight, closing his eyes and drawing the
fresh night air through his nostrils into his intoxicated head, he raced
in a hansom-cab on rubber tyres out of the town to a brothel; he saw in
the distance infinite chains of light, running away somewhere down hill
and then up hill again, but he saw it just as if it were not he, but
some one else, seeing it. In the brothel he nearly had a fight with a
stout gentleman who attacked him shouting that he was known to all
thinking Russia. Then he lay, dressed, on a broad bed, covered with a
satin quilt, in a little room half-lighted from the ceiling by a
sky-blue lantern, with a sickly smell of scented soap, and with dresses
hanging from a hook on the door. Near the bed stood a dish of fruit, and
the girl who had been hired to entertain Kasimir Stanislavovitch,
silently, greedily, with relish ate a pear, cutting off slices with a
knife, and her friend, with fat bare arms, dressed only in a chemise
which made her look like a little girl, was rapidly writing on the
toilet-table, taking no notice of them. She wrote and wept--of what?
There are lots of people in the world; one can't know everything....

On the tenth of April Kasimir Stanislavovitch woke up early. Judging
from the start with which he opened his eyes, one could see that he was
overwhelmed by the idea that he was in Moscow. He had got back after
four in the morning. He staggered down the staircase of the
"Versailles," but without a mistake he went straight to his room down
the long, stinking tunnel of a corridor which was lighted only at its
entrance by a little lamp smoking sleepily. Outside every room stood
boots and shoes--all of strangers, unknown to one another, hostile to
one another. Suddenly a door opened, almost terrifying Kasimir
Stanislavovitch; on its threshold appeared an old man, looking like a
third-rate actor acting "The Memoirs of a Lunatic," and Kasimir
Stanislavovitch saw a lamp under a green shade and a room crowded with
things, the cave of a lonely, old lodger, with icons in the corner, and
innumerable cigarette boxes piled one upon another almost to the
ceiling, near the icons. Was that the half-crazy writer of the lives of
the saints, who had lived in the "Versailles" twenty-three years ago?
Kasimir Stanislavovitch's dark room was terribly hot with a malignant
and smelly dryness.... The light from the window over the door came
faintly into the darkness. Kasimir Stanislavovitch went behind the
screen, took the top-hat off his thin, greasy hair, threw his overcoat
over the end of his bare bed.... As soon as he lay down, everything
began to turn round him, to rush into an abyss, and he fell asleep
instantly. In his sleep all the time he was conscious of the smell of
the iron wash-stand which stood close to his face, and he dreamt of a
spring day, trees in blossom, the hall of a manor house and a number of
people waiting anxiously for the bishop to arrive at any moment; and all
night long he was wearied and tormented with that waiting.... Now in the
corridors of the "Versailles" people rang, ran, called to one another.
Behind the screen, through the double, dusty window-panes, the sun
shone; it was almost hot.... Kasimir Stanislavovitch took off his
jacket, rang the bell, and began to wash. There came in a quick-eyed
boy, the page-boy, with fox-coloured hair on his head, in a frock-coat
and pink shirt.

"A loaf, samovar, and lemon," Kasimir Stanislavovitch said without
looking at him.

"And tea and sugar?" the boy asked with Moscow sharpness.

And a minute later he rushed in with a boiling samovar in his hand, held
out level with his shoulders; on the round table in front of the sofa he
quickly put a tray with a glass and a battered brass slop-basin, and
thumped the samovar down on the tray.... Kasimir Stanislavovitch, while
the tea was drawing, mechanically opened the _Moscow Daily_, which the
page-boy had brought in with the samovar. His eye fell on a report that
yesterday an unknown man had been picked up unconscious.... "The victim
was taken to the hospital," he read, and threw the paper away. He felt
very bad and unsteady. He got up and opened the window--it faced the
yard--and a breath of freshness and of the city came to him; there came
to him the melodious shouts of hawkers, the bells of horse-trams humming
behind the house opposite, the blended rap-tap of the cars, the musical
drone of church-bells.... The city had long since started its huge,
noisy life in that bright, jolly, almost spring day. Kasimir
Stanislavovitch squeezed the lemon into a glass of tea and greedily
drank the sour, muddy liquid; then he again went behind the screen. The
"Versailles" was quiet. It was pleasant and peaceful; his eye wandered
leisurely over the hotel notice on the wall: "A stay of three hours is
reckoned as a full day." A mouse scuttled in the chest of drawers,
rolling about a piece of sugar left there by some visitor.... Thus half
asleep Kasimir Stanislavovitch lay for a long time behind the screen,
until the sun had gone from the room and another freshness was wafted in
from the window, the freshness of evening.

Then he carefully got himself in order: he undid his bag, changed his
underclothing, took out a cheap, but clean handkerchief, brushed his
shiny frock-coat, top-hat, and overcoat, took out of its torn pocket a
crumpled Kiev newspaper of January 15, and threw it away into the
corner.... Having dressed and combed his whiskers with a dyeing comb, he
counted his money--there remained in his purse four roubles, seventy
copecks--and went out. Exactly at six o'clock he was outside a low,
ancient, little church in the Molchanovka. Behind the church fence a
spreading tree was just breaking into green; children were playing
there--the black stocking of one thin little girl, jumping over a rope,
was continually coming down--and he sat there on a bench among
perambulators with sleeping babies and nurses in Russian costumes.
Sparrows prattled over all the tree; the air was soft, all but
summer--even the dust smelt of summer--the sky above the sunset behind
the houses melted into a gentle gold, and one felt that once more there
was somewhere in the world joy, youth, happiness. In the church the
chandeliers were already burning, and there stood the pulpit and in
front of the pulpit was spread a little carpet. Kasimir Stanislavovitch
cautiously took off his top-hat, trying not to untidy his hair, and
entered the church nervously; he went into a corner, but a corner from
which he could see the couple to be married. He looked at the painted
vault, raised his eyes to the cupola, and his every movement and every
gasp echoed loudly through the silence. The church shone with gold; the
candles sputtered expectantly. And now the priests and choir began to
enter, crossing themselves with the carelessness which comes of habit,
then old women, children, smart wedding guests, and worried stewards. A
noise was heard in the porch, the crunching wheels of the carriage, and
every one turned their heads towards the entrance, and the hymn burst
out "Come, my dove!" Kasimir Stanislavovitch became deadly pale, as his
heart beat, and unconsciously he took a step forward. And close by him
there passed--her veil touching him, and a breath of
lily-of-the-valley--she who did not know even of his existence in the
world; she passed, bending her charming head, all flowers and
transparent gauze, all snow-white and innocent, happy and timid, like a
princess going to her first communion.... Kasimir Stanislavovitch hardly
saw the bridegroom who came to meet her, a rather small,
broad-shouldered man with yellow, close-cropped hair. During the whole
ceremony only one thing was before his eyes: the bent head, in the
flowers and the veil, and the little hand trembling as it held a burning
candle tied with a white ribbon in a bow....

About ten o'clock he was back again in the hotel. All his overcoat smelt
of the spring air. After coming out of the church, he had seen, near the
porch, the car lined with white satin, and its window reflecting the
sunset, and behind the window there flashed on him for the last time the
face of her who was being carried away from him for ever. After that he
had wandered about in little streets, and had come out on the Novensky
Boulevard.... Now slowly and with trembling hands he took off his
overcoat, put on the table a paper bag containing two green cucumbers
which for some reason he had bought at a hawker's stall. They too smelt
of spring even through the paper, and spring-like through the upper pane
of the window the April moon shone silvery high up in the not yet
darkened sky. Kasimir Stanislavovitch lit a candle, sadly illuminating
his empty, casual home, and sat down on the sofa, feeling on his face
the freshness of evening.... Thus he sat for a long time. He did not
ring the bell, gave no orders, locked himself in--all this seemed
suspicious to the porter who had seen him enter his room with his
shuffling feet and taking the key out of the door in order to lock
himself in from the inside. Several times the porter stole up on tiptoe
to the door and looked through the key-hole: Kasimir Stanislavovitch was
sitting on the sofa, trembling and wiping his face with a handkerchief,
and weeping so bitterly, so copiously that the brown dye came off, and
was smeared over his face.

At night he tore the cord off the blind, and, seeing nothing through his
tears, began to fasten it to the hook of the clothes-peg. But the
guttering candle flickered and the paper bag, and terrible dark waves
swam and flickered over the locked room: he was old, weak--and he
himself was well aware of it.... No, it was not in his power to die by
his own hand!

In the morning he started for the railway station about three hours
before the train left. At the station he quietly walked about among the
passengers, with his eyes on the ground and tear-stained; and he would
stop unexpectedly now before one and now before another, and in a low
voice, evenly but without expression, he would say rather quickly:

"For God's sake ... I am in a desperate position.... My fare to
Briansk.... If only a few copecks...."

And some passengers, trying not to look at his top-hat, at the worn
velvet collar of his overcoat, at the dreadful face with the faded
violet whiskers, hurriedly, and with confusion, gave him something.

And then, rushing out of the station on to the platform, he got mixed in
the crowd and disappeared into it, while in the "Versailles," in the
room which for two days had as it were belonged to him, they carried out
the slop-pail, opened the windows to the April sun and to the fresh air,
noisily moved the furniture, swept up and threw out the dust--and with
the dust there fell under the table, under the table cloth which slid on
to the floor, his torn note, which he had forgotten with the cucumbers:

"I beg that no one be accused of my death. I was at the wedding of my
only daughter who...."

-----

Footnote 1:

  _I.e._ There was no family name. The name is Polish, not Russian.



                                  SON


Madame Maraud was born and grew up in Lausanne, in a strict, honest,
industrious family. She did not marry young, but she married for love.
In March, 1876, among the passengers on an old French ship, the
_Auvergne_, sailing from Marseilles to Italy, was the newly married
couple. The weather was calm and fresh; the silvery mirror of the sea
appeared and disappeared in the mists of the spring horizon. The newly
married couple never left the deck. Every one liked them, every one
looked at their happiness with friendly smiles; his happiness showed
itself in the energy and keenness of his glance, in a need for movement,
in the animation of his welcome to those around him; hers showed itself
in the joy and interest with which she took in each detail.... The newly
married couple were the Marauds.

He was about ten years her elder; he was not tall, with a swarthy face
and curly hair; his hand was dry and his voice melodious. One felt in
her the presence of some other, non-Latin blood; she was over medium
height, although her figure was charming, and she had dark hair and
blue-grey eyes. After touching at Naples, Palermo, and Tunis, they
arrived at the Algerian town of Constantine, where M. Maraud had
obtained a rather good post. And their life in Constantine, for the
fourteen years since that happy spring, gave them everything with which
people are normally satisfied: wealth, family happiness, healthy and
beautiful children.

During the fourteen years the Marauds had greatly changed in appearance.
He became as dark as an Arab; from his work, from travelling, from
tobacco and the sun, he had grown grey and dried up--many people mistook
him for a native of Algeria. And it would have been impossible to
recognize in her the woman who sailed once in the _Auvergne_: at that
time there was even in the boots which she put outside her door at night
the charm of youth; now there was silver in her hair, her skin had
become more transparent and more of a golden colour, her hands were
thinner and in her care of them, of her linen, and of her clothes she
already showed a certain excessive tidiness. Their relations had
certainly changed too, although no one could say for the worse. They
each lived their own life: his time was filled with work--he remained
the same passionate, and, at the same time, sober man that he had been
before; her time was filled up with looking after him and their
children, two pretty girls, of whom the elder was almost a young lady:
and every one with one voice agreed that in all Constantine there was no
better hostess, no better mother, no more charming companion in the
drawing-room than Madame Maraud.

Their house stood in a quiet, clean part of the town. From the front
rooms on the second floor, which were always half dark with the blinds
drawn down, one saw Constantine, known the world over for its
picturesqueness. On steep rocks stands the ancient Arab fortress which
has become a French city. The windows of the living-rooms looked into a
garden where in perpetual heat and sunshine slumbered the evergreen
eucalyptuses, the sycamores, and palms behind high walls. The master was
frequently away on business, and the lady led the secluded existence to
which the wives of Europeans are doomed in the colonies. On Sundays she
always went to church. On weekdays she rarely went out, and she visited
only a small and select circle. She read, did needle-work, talked or did
lessons with the children; sometimes taking her younger daughter, the
black-eyed Marie, on her knee, she would play the piano with one hand
and sing old French songs, in order to while away the long African day,
while the great breath of hot wind blew in through the open windows from
the garden.... Constantine, with all its shutters closed and scorched
pitilessly by the sun, seemed at such hours a dead city: only the birds
called behind the garden wall, and from the hills behind the town came
the dreary sound of pipes, filled with the melancholy of colonial
countries, and at times there the dull thud of guns shook the earth, and
you could see the flashing of the white helmets of soldiers.

The days in Constantine passed monotonously, but no one noticed that
Madame Maraud minded that. In her pure, refined nature there was no
trace of abnormal sensitiveness or excessive nervousness. Her health
could not be called robust, but it gave no cause of anxiety to M.
Maraud. Only one incident once astonished him: in Tunis once, an Arab
juggler so quickly and completely hypnotized her that it was only with
difficulty that she could be brought to. But this happened at the time
of their arrival from France; she had never since experienced so sudden
a loss of will-power, such a morbid suggestibility. And M. Maraud was
happy, untroubled, convinced that her soul was tranquil and open to him.
And it was so, even in the last, the fourteenth year of their married
life. But then there appeared in Constantine Emile Du-Buis.

Emile Du-Buis, the son of Madame Bonnay, an old and good friend of M.
Maraud, was only nineteen. Emile was the son of her first husband and
had grown up in Paris where he studied law, but he spent most of his
time in writing poems, intelligible only to himself; he was attached to
the school of "Seekers" which has now ceased to exist. Madame Bonnay,
the widow of an engineer, also had a daughter, Elise. In May, 1889,
Elise was just going to be married, when she fell ill and died a few
days before her wedding, and Emile, who had never been in Constantine,
came to the funeral. It can be easily understood how that death moved
Madame Maraud, the death of a girl already trying on her wedding dress;
it is also known how quickly in such circumstances an intimacy springs
up between people who have hardly met before. Besides, to Madame Maraud
Emile was, indeed, only a boy. Soon after the funeral Madame Bonnay went
for the summer to stay with her relations in France. Emile remained in
Constantine, in a suburban villa which belonged to his late step-father,
the villa "Hashim," as it was called in the town, and he began coming
nearly every day to the Marauds. Whatever he was, whatever he pretended
to be, he was still very young, very sensitive, and he needed people to
whom he could attach himself for a time. "And isn't it strange?" some
said; "Madame Maraud has become unrecognizable! How lively she has
become, and how her looks have improved!"

However, these insinuations were groundless. At first there was only
this, that her life had become a little bit jollier, and her girls too
had become more playful and coquettish, since Emile, every now and then
forgetting his sorrow and the poison with which, as he thought, the _fin
de siècle_ had infected him, would for hours at a time play with Marie
and Louise as if he were their age. It is true that he was all the same
a man, a Parisian, and not altogether an ordinary man. He had already
taken part in that life, inaccessible to ordinary mortals, which
Parisian writers live; he often read aloud, with a hypnotic
expressiveness, strange but sonorous poems; and, perhaps it was entirely
owing to him that Madame Maraud's walk had become lighter and quicker,
her dress at home imperceptibly smarter, the tones of her voice more
tender and playful. Perhaps, too, there was in her soul a drop of purely
feminine pleasure that here was a man to whom she could give her small
commands, with whom she could talk, half seriously and half jokingly as
a mentor, with that freedom which their difference in age so naturally
allowed--a man who was so devoted to her whole household, in which,
however, the first person--this, of course, very soon became clear--was
for him, nevertheless, she herself. But how common all that is! And the
chief thing was that often what she really felt for him was only pity.

He honestly thought himself a born poet, and he wished outwardly too to
look like a poet; his long hair was brushed back with artistic modesty;
his hair was fine, brown, and suited his pale face just as did his black
clothes; but the pallor was too bloodless, with a yellow tinge in it;
his eyes were always shining, but the tired look in his face made them
seem feverish; and so flat and narrow was his chest, so thin his legs
and hands, that one felt a little uncomfortable when one saw him get
very excited and run in the street or garden, with his body pushed
forward a little, as though he were gliding, in order to hide his
defect, that he had one leg shorter than the other. In company he was
apt to be unpleasant, haughty, trying to appear mysterious, negligent,
at times elegantly dashing, at times contemptuously absent-minded, in
everything independent; but too often he could not carry it through to
the end, he became confused and began to talk hurriedly with naïve
frankness. And, of course, he was not very long able to hide his
feelings, to maintain the pose of not believing in love or in happiness
on earth. He had already begun to bore his host by his visits; every day
he would bring from his villa bouquets of the rarest flowers, and he
would sit from morn to night reading poems which were more and more
unintelligible--the children often heard him beseeching some one that
they should die together--while he spent his nights in the native
quarter, in dens where Arabs, wrapped in dirty white robes, greedily
watch the _danse de ventre_, and drank fiery liqueurs.... In a word it
took less than six weeks for his passion to change into God knows what.

His nerves gave way completely. Once he sat for nearly the whole day in
silence; then he got up, bowed, took his hat and went out--and half an
hour later he was carried in from the street in a terrible state; he was
in hysterics and he wept so passionately that he terrified the children
and servants. But Madame Maraud, it seemed, did not attach any
particular importance to this delirium. She herself tried to help him
recover himself, quickly undid his tie, told him to be a man, and she
only smiled when he, without any restraint in her husband's presence,
caught her hands and covered them with kisses and vowed devotion to her.
But an end had to be put to all this. When, a few days after this
outbreak, Emile, whom the children had greatly missed, arrived calm, but
looking like some one who has been through a serious illness, Madame
Maraud gently told him everything which is always said on such
occasions.

"My friend, you are like a son to me," she said to him, for the first
time uttering the word son, and, indeed, almost feeling a maternal
affection. "Don't put me in a ridiculous and painful position."

"But I swear to you, you are mistaken!" he exclaimed, with passionate
sincerity. "I am only devoted to you. I only want to see you, nothing
else!"

And suddenly he fell on his knees--they were in the garden, on a quiet,
hot, dark evening--impetuously embraced her knees, nearly fainting with
passion. And looking at his hair, at his thin white neck, she thought
with pain and ecstasy:

"Ah yes, yes, I might have had such a son, almost his age!"

However, from that time until he left for France he behaved reasonably.
This essentially was a bad sign, for it might mean that his passion had
become deeper. But outwardly everything had changed for the better--only
once did he break down. It was on a Sunday after dinner at which several
strangers were present, and he, careless of whether they noticed it,
said to her:

"I beg you to spare me a minute."

She got up and followed him into the empty, half-dark drawing-room. He
went to the window through which the evening light fell in broad shafts,
and, looking straight into her face, said:

"To-day is the day on which my father died. I love you!"

She turned and was about to leave him. Frightened, he hastily called
after her:

"Forgive me, it is for the first and last time!"

Indeed, she heard no further confessions from him. "I was fascinated by
her agitation," he noted that night in his diary in his elegant and
pompous style; "I swore never again to disturb her peace of mind: am I
not blessed enough without that?" He continued to come to town--he only
slept at the villa Hashim--and he behaved erratically, but always more
or less properly. At times he was, as before, unnaturally playful and
naïve, running about with the children in the garden; but more often he
sat with her and "sipped of her presence," read newspapers and novels to
her, and "was happy in her listening to him." "The children were not in
the way," he wrote of those days, "their voices, laughter, comings and
goings, their very beings acted like the subtlest conductors for our
feelings; thanks to them, the charm of those feelings was intensified;
we talked about the most everyday matters, but something else sounded
through what we said: our happiness; yes, yes, she, too, was happy--I
maintain that! She loved me to read poetry; in the evenings from the
balcony we looked down upon Constantine, lying at our feet in the bluish
moonlight...." At last, in August Madame Maraud insisted that he should
go away, return to his work; and during his journey he wrote: "I'm going
away! I am going away, poisoned by the bitter sweet of parting! She gave
me a remembrance, a velvet ribbon which she wore round her neck as a
young girl. At the last moment she blessed me, and I saw tears shine in
her eyes, when she said: 'Good-bye, my dear son.'"

Was he right in thinking that Madam Maraud was also happy in August? No
one knows. But that his leaving was painful to her--there is no doubt of
that. That word "son," which had often troubled her before, now had a
sound for her which she could not bear to hear. Formerly when friends
met her on the way to church, and said to her jokingly: "What have you
to pray for, Madame Maraud? You are already without sin and without
troubles!" she more than once answered with a sad smile: "I complain to
God that he has not given me a son." Now the thought of a son never left
her, the thought of the happiness that he would constantly give her by
his mere existence in the world. And once, soon after Emile's departure,
she said to her husband:

"Now I understand it all. I now believe firmly that every mother ought
to have a son, that every mother who has no son, if she look into her
own heart and examine her whole life, will realize that she is unhappy.
You are a man and cannot feel that, but it is so.... Oh how tenderly,
passionately a woman can love a son!"

She was very affectionate to her husband during that autumn. It would
happen sometimes that, sitting alone with him, she would suddenly say
bashfully:

"Listen, Hector.... I am ashamed to mention it again to you, but still
... do you ever think of March, '76? Ah, if we had had a son!"

"All this troubled me a good deal," M. Maraud said later, "and it
troubled me the more because she began to get thin and out of health.
She grew feeble, became more and more silent and gentle. She went out to
our friends more and more rarely, she avoided going to town unless
compelled.... I have no doubt that some terrible, incomprehensible
disease had been gradually getting hold of her, body and soul!" And the
governess added that that autumn, Madame Maraud, if she went out,
invariably put on a thick white veil, which she had never done before,
and that, on coming home, she would immediately take it off in front of
the glass and would carefully examine her tired face. It is unnecessary
to explain what had been going on in her soul during that period. But
did she desire to see Emile? Did he write to her and did she answer him?
He produced before the court two telegrams which he alleged she sent him
in reply to letters of his. One was dated November 10: "You are driving
me mad. Be calm. Send me a message immediately." The other of December
23: "No, no, don't come, I implore you. Think of me, love me as a
mother." But, of course, the truth that the telegrams had been sent by
her could not be proved. Only this is certain, that from September to
January the life which Madame Maraud lived was miserable, agitated,
morbid.

The late autumn of that year in Constantine was cold and rainy. Then, as
is always the case in Algeria, there suddenly came a delightful spring.
And a liveliness began again to return to Madame Maraud, that happy,
subtle intoxication which people who have already lived through their
youth feel at the blossoming of spring. She began to go out again; she
drove out a good deal with the children and used to take them to the
deserted garden of the villa Hashim; she intended to go to Algiers, and
to show the children Blida near which there is in the hills a wooded
gorge, the favourite haunt of monkeys. And so it went on until January
17 of the year 1893. On January 17 she woke up with a feeling of gentle
happiness which, it seemed, had agitated her the whole night. Her
husband was away on business, and in his absence she slept alone in the
large room; the blinds and curtains made it almost dark. Still from the
pale bluishness which filtered in one could see that it was very early.
And, indeed, the little watch on the night table showed that it was six
o'clock. She felt with delight the morning freshness coming from the
garden, and, wrapping the light blanket round her, turned to the
wall.... "Why am I so happy?" she thought as she fell asleep. And in
vague and beautiful visions she saw scenes in Italy and Sicily, scenes
of that far-off spring when she sailed in a cabin, with its windows
opening on to the deck and the cold silvery sea, with doorhangings which
time had worn and faded to a rusty silver colour, with its threshold of
brass shining from perpetual polishings.... Then she saw boundless bays,
lagoons, low shores, an Arab city all white with flat roofs and behind
it misty blue hills and mountains. It was Tunis, where she had only once
been, that spring when she was in Naples, Palermo.... But then, as
though the chill of a wave had passed over her, with a start, she opened
her eyes. It was past eight; she heard the voices of the children and
the governess. She got up, put on a wrap, and, going out on to the
balcony, went down to the garden and sat in the rocking-chair. It stood
on the sand by a round table under a blossoming mimosa tree which made a
golden arbour heavily scented in the sun. The maid brought her coffee.
She again began to think of Tunis, and she remembered the strange thing
which had happened to her there, the sweet terror and happy silence of
the moment before death which she had experienced in that pale-blue city
in a warm pink twilight, half lying in a rocking-chair on the hotel
roof, faintly seeing the dark face of the Arab hypnotizer and juggler,
who squatted in front of her and sent her to sleep by his hardly
audible, monotonous melodies and the slow movements of his thin hands.
And suddenly, as she was thinking and was looking mechanically with
wide-open eyes at the bright silver spark which shone in the sunlight
from the spoon in the glass of water, she lost consciousness.... When
with a start she opened her eyes again, Emile was standing over her.

All that followed after that unexpected meeting is known from the words
of Emile himself, from his story, from his answers in cross-examination.
"Yes, I came to Constantine out of the blue!" he said; "I came because I
felt that the Powers of Heaven themselves could not stop me. In the
morning of January 17 straight from the railway station, without any
warning, I arrived at M. Maraud's house and ran into the garden. I was
overwhelmed by what I saw, but no sooner had I taken a step forward than
she woke up. She seemed to be amazed both by the unexpectedness of my
appearance and by what had been happening to her, but she uttered no
cry. She looked at me like a person who has just woken up from a sound
sleep, and then she got up, arranging her hair.

"It is just what I anticipated," she said without expression; "you did
not obey me!"

And with a characteristic movement she folded the wrap round her bosom,
and taking my head in her two hands kissed me twice on the forehead.

I was bewildered with passionate ecstasy, but she quietly pushed me from
her and said:

"Come, I am not dressed; I'll be back presently; go to the children."

"But, for the love of God, what was the matter with you just now?" I
asked, following her on to the balcony.

"Oh, it was nothing, a slight faintness; I had been looking at the
shining spoon," she answered, regaining control of herself, and
beginning to speak with animation. "But what have you done, what have
you done!"

I could not find the children anywhere; it was empty and quiet in the
house. I sat in the dining-room, and heard her suddenly begin to sing in
a distant room in a strong, melodious voice, but I did not understand
then the full horror of that singing, because I was trembling with
nervousness. I had not slept at all all night; I had counted the minutes
while the train was hurrying me to Constantine; I jumped into the first
carriage I met, raced out of the station; I did not expect as I came to
the town.... I knew I, too, had a foreboding that my coming would be
fatal to us; but still what I saw in the garden, that mystical meeting,
and that sudden change in her attitude towards me, I could not expect
that! In ten minutes she came down with her hair dressed, in a light
grey dress with a shade of blue in it.

"Ah," she said, while I kissed her hand, "I forgot that to-day is
Sunday; the children are at church, and I overslept.... After church the
children will go to the pine-wood--have you ever been there?"

And, without waiting for my answer, she rang the bell, and told them to
bring me coffee. She began to look fixedly at me, and, without listening
to my replies, to ask me how I lived, and what I was doing; she began to
speak of herself, of how, after two or three very bad months during
which she had become "terribly old"--those words were uttered with an
imperceptible smile--she now felt so well, as young, as never before....
I answered, listened, but a great deal I did not understand. Both of us
said meaningless things; my hands grew cold at the thought of another
terrible and inevitable hour. I do not deny that I felt as though I were
struck by lightning when she said "I have grown old...." I suddenly
noticed that she was right; in the thinness of her hands, and faded,
though youthful, face, in the dryness of some of the outlines of her
figure, I noticed the first signs of that which, painfully and somehow
awkwardly--but still more painfully--makes one's heart contract at the
sight of an ageing woman. Oh yes, how quickly and sharply she had
changed, I thought. But still she was beautiful; I grew intoxicated
looking at her. I had been accustomed to dream of her endlessly; I had
never for an instant forgotten when, in the evening of July 11, I had
embraced her knees for the first time. Her hands, too, trembled
slightly, as she arranged her hair and spoke and smiled and looked at
me; and suddenly--you will understand the whole catastrophic power of
that woman--suddenly that smile somehow became distorted, and she said
with difficulty, but yet firmly:

"You must go home, you must rest after your journey--you are not looking
yourself; your eyes are so terribly suffering, your lips so burning that
I cannot bear it any longer.... Would you like me to come with you, to
accompany you?"

And, without waiting for my answer, she got up and went to put on her
hat and cloak....

We drove quickly to the villa Hashim. I stopped for a moment on the
terrace to pick some flowers. She did not wait for me, but opened the
door herself. I had no servants; there was only a watchman, but he did
not see us. When I came into the hall, hot and dark with its drawn
blinds, and gave her the flowers, she kissed them; then, putting one arm
round me, she kissed me. Her lips were dry from excitement, but her
voice was clear.

"But listen ... how shall we ... have you got anything?" she asked.

At first I did not understand her; I was so overwhelmed by the first
kiss, the first endearment, and I murmured:

"What do you mean?"

She shrank back.

"What!" she said, almost sternly. "Did you imagine that I... that we can
live after this? Have you anything to kill ourselves with?"

I understood, and quickly showed her my revolver, loaded with five
cartridges, which I always kept on me.

She walked away quickly ahead of me from one room to the other. I
followed her with that numbness of the senses with which a naked man on
a sultry day walks out into the sea; I heard the rustle of her skirts.
At last we were there; she threw off her cloak and began to untie the
strings of her hat. Her hands were still trembling and in the half-light
I again noticed something, pitiful and tired in her face....

But she died with firmness. At the last moment she was transformed; she
kissed me, and moving her head back so as to see my face, she whispered
to me such tender and moving words that I cannot repeat them.

I wanted to go out and pick some flowers to strew on the death-bed. She
would not let me; she was in a hurry and said:

"No, no, you must not ... there are flowers here ... here are your
flowers," and she kept on repeating: "And see, I beseech you by all that
is sacred to you, kill me!"

"Yes, and then I will kill myself," I said, without for a moment
doubting my resolution.

"Oh, I believe you, I believe you," she answered, already apparently
half-unconscious....

A moment before her death she said very quietly and simply:

"My God, this is unspeakable!"

And again:

"Where are the flowers you gave me? Kiss me--for the last time."

She herself put the revolver to her head. I wanted to do it, but she
stopped me:

"No, that is not right; let me do it. Like this, my child.... And
_afterwards_ make the sign of the cross over me and lay the flowers on
my heart...."

When I fired, she made a slight movement with her lips, and I fired
again....

She lay quiet; in her dead face there was a kind of bitter happiness.
Her hair was loose; the tortoise-shell comb lay on the floor. I
staggered to my feet in order to put an end to myself. But the room,
despite the blinds, was light; in the light and stillness which suddenly
surrounded me, I saw clearly her face already pale.... And suddenly
madness seized me; I rushed to the window, undid and threw open the
shutters, began shouting and firing into the air.... The rest you
know...."

                  *       *       *       *       *

[In the spring, five years ago, while wandering in Algeria, the writer
of these lines visited Constantine.... There often comes to him a memory
of the cold, rainy, and yet spring evenings which he spent by the fire
in the reading-room of a certain old and homely French hotel. In the
heavy, elaborate book-case were much-read illustrated papers, and in
them you could see the faded photographs of Madame Maraud. There were
photographs taken of her at different ages, and among them the Lausanne
portrait of her as a girl.... Her story is told here once more, from a
desire to tell it in one's own way.]

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