Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Crushed Flower - Chapter II (By Leonid N. Andreyev)

An unusual day arrived. It was mother's birthday. Guests were expected in the evening; military music was to play, and in the garden and upon the terrace parti-coloured lanterns were to burn, and Yura need not go to bed at 9 o'clock but could stay up as late as he liked.
Yura got up when all were still sleeping. He dressed himself and jumped out quickly with the expectation of miracles. But he was unpleasantly surprised--the rooms were in the same disorder as usual in the morning; the cook and the chambermaid were still sleeping and the door was closed with a hook--it was hard to believe that the people would stir and commence to run about, and that the rooms would assume a holiday appearance, and he feared for the fate of the festival. It was still worse in the garden. The paths were not swept and there was not a single lantern there. He grew very uneasy. Fortunately, Yevmen, the coachman, was washing the carriage behind the barn in the back yard and though he had done this frequently before, and though there was nothing unusual about his appearance, Yura clearly felt something of the holiday in the decisive way in which the coachman splashed the water from the bucket with his sinewy arms, on which the sleeves of his red blouse were rolled up to his elbows. Yevmen only glanced askance at Yura, and suddenly Yura seemed to have noticed for the first time his broad, black, wavy beard and thought respectfully that Yevmen was a very worthy man. He said:
"Good morning, Yevmen."
Then all moved very rapidly. Suddenly the janitor appeared and started to sweep the paths, suddenly the window in the kitchen was thrown open and women's voices were heard chattering; suddenly the chambermaid rushed out with a little rug and started to beat it with a stick, as though it were a dog. All commenced to stir; and the events, starting simultaneously in different places, rushed with such mad swiftness that it was impossible to catch up with them. While the nurse was giving Yura his tea, people were beginning to hang up the wires for the lanterns in the garden, and while the wires were being stretched in the garden, the furniture was rearranged completely in the drawing room, and while the furniture was rearranged in the drawing room, Yevmen, the coachman, harnessed the horse and drove out of the yard with a certain special, mysterious mission.
Yura succeeded in concentrating himself for some time with the greatest difficulty. Together with father he was hanging up the lanterns. And father was charming; he laughed, jested, put Yura on the ladder; he himself climbed the thin, creaking rungs of the ladder, and finally both fell down together with the ladder upon the grass, but they were not hurt. Yura jumped up, while father remained lying on the grass, hands thrown back under his head, looking with half-closed eyes at the shining, infinite azure of the sky. Thus lying on the grass, with a serious expression on his face, apparently not in the mood for play, father looked very much like Gulliver longing for his land of giants. Yura recalled something unpleasant; but to cheer his father up he sat down astride upon his knees and said:
"Do you remember, father, when I was a little boy I used to sit down on your knees and you used to shake me like a horse?"
But before he had time to finish he lay with his nose on the grass; he was lifted in the air and thrown down with force--father had thrown him high up with his knees, according to his old habit. Yura felt offended; but father, entirely ignoring his anger, began to tickle him under his armpits, so that Yura had to laugh against his will; and then father picked him up like a little pig by the legs and carried him to the terrace. And mamma was frightened.
"What are you doing? The blood will rush to his head!"
After which Yura found himself standing on his legs, red faced, dishevelled, feeling very miserable and terribly happy at the same time.
The day was rushing fast, like a cat that is chased by a dog. Like forerunners of the coming great festival, certain messengers appeared with notes, wonderfully tasty cakes were brought, the dressmaker came and locked herself in with mamma in the bedroom; then two gentlemen arrived, then another gentleman, then a lady--evidently the entire city was in a state of agitation. Yura examined the messengers as though they were strange people from another world, and walked before them with an air of importance as the son of the lady whose birthday was to be celebrated; he met the gentlemen, he escorted the cakes, and toward midday he was so exhausted that he suddenly started to despise life. He quarrelled with the nurse and lay down in his bed face downward in order to have his revenge on her; but he fell asleep immediately. He awoke with the same feeling of hatred for life and a desire for revenge, but after having looked at things with his eyes, which he washed with cold water, he felt that both the world and life were so fascinating that they were even funny.
When they dressed Yura in a red silk rustling blouse, and he thus clearly became part of the festival, and he found on the terrace a long, snow white table glittering with glass dishes, he again commenced to spin about in the whirlpool of the onrushing events.
"The musicians have arrived! The musicians have arrived!" he cried, looking for father or mother, or for any one who would treat the arrival of the musicians with proper seriousness. Father and mother were sitting in the garden--in the arbour which was thickly surrounded with wild grapes--maintaining silence; the beautiful head of mother lay on father's shoulder; although father embraced her, he seemed very serious, and he showed no enthusiasm when he was told of the arrival of the musicians. Both treated their arrival with inexplicable indifference, which called forth a feeling of sadness in Yura. But mamma stirred and said:
"Let me go. I must go."
"Remember," said father, referring to something Yura did not understand but which resounded in his heart with a light, gnawing alarm.
"Stop. Aren't you ashamed?" mother laughed, and this laughter made Yura feel still more alarmed, especially since father did not laugh but maintained the same serious and mournful appearance of Gulliver pining for his native land....
But soon all this was forgotten, for the wonderful festival had begun in all its glory, mystery and grandeur. The guests came fast, and there was no longer any place at the white table, which had been deserted but a while before. Voices resounded, and laughter and merry jests, and the music began to play. And on the deserted paths of the garden where but a while ago Yura had wandered alone, imagining himself a prince in quest of the sleeping princess, now appeared people with cigarettes and with loud free speech. Yura met the first guests at the front entrance; he looked at each one carefully, and he made the acquaintance and even the friendship of some of them on the way from the corridor to the table.
Thus he managed to become friendly with the officer, whose name was Mitenka--a grown man whose name was Mitenka--he said so himself. Mitenka had a heavy leather sword, which was as cold as a snake, which could not be taken out--but Mitenka lied; the sword was only fastened at the handle with a silver cord, but it could be taken out very nicely; and Yura felt vexed because the stupid Mitenka instead of carrying his sword, as he always did, placed it in a corner in the hallway as a cane. But even in the corner the sword stood out alone-- one could see at once that it was a sword. Another thing that displeased Yura was that another officer came with Mitenka, an officer whom Yura knew and whose name was also Yura Mikhailovich. Yura thought that the officer must have been named so for fun. That wrong Yura Mikhailovich had visited them several times; he even came once on horseback; but most of the time he came just before little Yura had to go to bed. And little Yura went to bed, while the unreal Yura Mikhailovich remained with mamma, and that caused him to feel alarmed and sad; he was afraid that mamma might be deceived. He paid no attention to the real Yura Mikhailovich: and now, walking beside Mitenka, he did not seem to realise his guilt; he adjusted his moustaches and maintained silence. He kissed mamma's hand, and that seemed repulsive to little Yura; but the stupid Mitenka also kissed mamma's hand, and thereby set everything aright.
But soon the guests arrived in such numbers, and there was such a variety of them, as if they had fallen straight from the sky. And some of them seemed to have fallen near the table, while others seemed to have fallen into the garden. Suddenly several students and ladies appeared in the path. The ladies were ordinary, but the students had holes cut at the left side of their white coats--for their swords. But they did not bring their swords along, no doubt because of their pride--they were all very proud. And the ladies rushed over to Yura and began to kiss him. Then the most beautiful of the ladies, whose name was Ninochka, took Yura to the swing and swung him until she threw him down. He hurt his left leg near the knee very painfully and even stained his little white pants in that spot, but of course he did not cry, and somehow his pain had quickly disappeared somewhere. At this time father was leading an important- looking bald-headed old man in the garden, and he asked Yurochka,
"Did you get hurt?"
But as the old man also smiled and also spoke, Yurochka did not kiss father and did not even answer him; but suddenly he seemed to have lost his mind--he commenced to squeal for joy and to run around. If he had a bell as large as the whole city he would have rung that bell; but as he had no such bell he climbed the linden tree, which stood near the terrace, and began to show off. The guests below were laughing and mamma was shouting, and suddenly the music began to play, and Yura soon stood in front of the orchestra, spreading his legs apart and, according to his old but long forgotten habit, put his finger into his mouth. The sounds seemed to strike at him all at once; they roared and thundered; they made his legs tingle, and they shook his jaw. They played so loudly that there was nothing but the orchestra on the whole earth--everything else had vanished. The brass ends of some of the trumpets even spread apart and opened wide from the great roaring; Yura thought that it would be interesting to make a military helmet out of such a trumpet.
Suddenly Yura grew sad. The music was still roaring, but now it was somewhere far away, while within him all became quiet, and it was growing ever more and more quiet. Heaving a deep sigh, Yura looked at the sky--it was so high--and with slow footsteps he started out to make the rounds of the holiday, of all its confused boundaries, possibilities and distances. And everywhere he turned out to be too late; he wanted to see how the tables for card playing would be arranged, but the tables were ready and people had been playing cards for a long time when he came up. He touched the chalk and the brush near his father and his father immediately chased him away. What of that, what difference did that make to him? He wanted to see how they would start to dance and he was sure that they would dance in the parlour, but they had already commenced to dance, not in the parlour, but under the linden trees. He wanted to see how they would light the lanterns, but the lanterns had all been lit already, every one of them, to the very last of the last. They lit up of themselves like stars.
Mamma danced best of all.

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