Tuesday, October 12, 2010

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

Night arrived in the form of red, green and yellow lanterns. While there were no lanterns, there was no night. And now it lay everywhere. It crawled into the bushes; it covered the entire garden with darkness, as with water, and it covered the sky. Everything looked as beautiful as the very best fairy tale with coloured pictures. At one place the house had disappeared entirely; only the square window made of red light remained. And the chimney of the house was visible and there a certain spark glistened, looked down and seemed to think of its own affairs. What affairs do chimneys have? Various affairs.
Of the people in the garden only their voices remained. As long as some one walked near the lanterns he could be seen; but as soon as he walked away all seemed to melt, melt, melt, and the voice above the ground laughed, talked, floating fearlessly in the darkness. But the officers and the students could be seen even in the dark--a white spot, and above it a small light of a cigarette and a big voice.
And now the most joyous thing commenced for Yura--the fairy tale. The people and the festival and the lanterns remained on earth, while he soared away, transformed into air, melting in the night like a grain of dust. The great mystery of the night became his mystery, and his little heart yearned for still more mystery; in its solitude his heart yearned for the fusion of life and death. That was Yura's second madness that evening--he became invisible. Although he could enter the kitchen as others did, he climbed with difficulty upon the roof of the cellar over which the kitchen window was flooded with light and he looked in; there people were roasting something, busying themselves, and did not know that he was looking at them--and yet he saw everything! Then he went away and looked at papa's and mamma's bedroom; the room was empty; but the beds had already been made for the night and a little image lamp was burning--he saw that. Then he looked into his own room; his own bed was also ready, waiting for him. He passed the room where they were playing cards, also as an invisible being, holding his breath and stepping so lightly, as though he were soaring in the air. Only when he reached the garden, in the dark, he drew a proper breath. Then he resumed his quest. He came over to people who were talking so near him that he could touch them with his hand, and yet they did not know that he was there, and they continued to speak undisturbed. He watched Ninochka for a long time until he learned all her life--he was almost trapped. Ninochka even exclaimed:
"Yurochka, is that you?"
He lay down behind a bush and held his breath. Thus Ninochka was deceived. And she had almost caught him! To make things more mysterious, he started to crawl instead of walk--now the alleys seemed full of danger. Thus a long time went by--according to his own calculations at the time, ten years went by, and he was still hiding and going ever farther away from the people. And thus he went so far that he was seized with dread--between him and the past, when he was walking like everybody else, an abyss was formed over which it seemed to him impossible to cross. Now he would have come out into the light but he was afraid--it was impossible; all was lost. And the music was still playing, and everybody had forgotten him, even mamma. He was alone. There was a breath of cold from the dewy grass; the gooseberry bush scratched him, the darkness could not be pierced with his eyes, and there was no end to it. O Lord!
Without any definite plan, in a state of utter despair, Yura now crawled toward a mysterious, faintly blinking light. Fortunately it turned out to be the same arbour which was covered with wild grapes and in which father and mother had sat that day. He did not recognise it at first! Yes, it was the same arbour. The lights of the lanterns everywhere had gone out, and only two were still burning; a yellow little lantern was still burning brightly, and the other, a yellow one, too, was already beginning to blink. And though there was no wind, that lantern quivered from its own blinking, and everything seemed to quiver slightly. Yura was about to get up to go into the arbour and there begin life anew, with an imperceptible transition from the old, when suddenly he heard voices in the arbour. His mother and the wrong Yura Mikhailovich, the officer, were talking. The right Yura grew petrified in his place; his heart stood still; and his breathing ceased.
Mamma said:
"Stop. You have lost your mind! Somebody may come in here."
Yura Mikhailovich said:
"And you?"
Mamma said:
"I am twenty-six years old to-day. I am old!"
Yura Mikhailovich said:
"He does not know anything. Is it possible that he does not know anything? He does not even suspect? Listen, does he shake everybody's hand so firmly?"
Mamma said:
"What a question! Of course he does! That is--no, not everybody."
Yura Mikhailovich said:
"I feel sorry for him."
Mamma said:
"For him?"
And she laughed strangely. Yurochka understood that they were talking of him, of Yurochka--but what did it all mean, O Lord? And why did she laugh?
Yura Mikhailovich said:
"Where are you going? I will not let you go."
Mamma said:
"You offend me. Let me go! No, you have no right to kiss me. Let me go!"
They became silent. Now Yurochka looked through the leaves and saw that the officer embraced and kissed mamma. Then they spoke of something, but he understood nothing; he heard nothing; he suddenly forgot the meaning of words. And he even forgot the words which he knew and used before. He remembered but one word, "Mamma," and he whispered it uninterruptedly with his dry lips, but that word sounded so terrible, more terrible than anything. And in order not to exclaim it against his will, Yura covered his mouth with both hands, one upon the other, and thus remained until the officer and mamma went out of the arbour.
When Yura came into the room where the people were playing cards, the serious, bald-headed man was scolding papa for something, brandishing the chalk, talking, shouting, saying that father did not act as he should have acted, that what he had done was impossible, that only bad people did such things, that the old man would never again play with father, and so on. And father was smiling, waving his hands, attempting to say something, but the old man would not let him, and he commenced to shout more loudly. And the old man was a little fellow, while father was big, handsome and tall, and his smile was sad, like that of Gulliver pining for his native land of tall and handsome people.
Of course, he must conceal from him--of course, he must conceal from him that which happened in the arbour, and he must love him, and he felt that he loved him so much. And with a wild cry Yura rushed over to the bald-headed old man and began to beat him with his fists with all his strength.
"Don't you dare insult him! Don't you dare insult him!"
O Lord, what has happened! Some one laughed; some one shouted. Father caught Yura in his arms, pressed him closely, causing him pain, and cried:
"Where is mother? Call mother."
Then Yura was seized with a whirlwind of frantic tears, of desperate sobs and mortal anguish. But through his frantic tears he looked at his father to see whether he had guessed it, and when mother came in he started to shout louder in order to divert any suspicion. But he did not go to her arms; he clung more closely to father, so that father had to carry him into his room. But it seemed that he himself did not want to part with Yura. As soon as he carried him out of the room where the guests were he began to kiss him, and he repeated:
"Oh, my dearest! Oh, my dearest!"
And he said to mamma, who walked behind him:
"Just think of the boy!"
Mamma said:
"That is all due to your whist. You were scolding each other so, that the child was frightened."
Father began to laugh, and answered:
"Yes, he does scold harshly. But Yura, oh, what a dear boy!"
In his room Yura demanded that father himself undress him. "Now, you are getting cranky," said father. "I don't know how to do it; let mamma undress you."
"But you stay here."
Mamma had deft fingers and she undressed him quickly, and while she was removing his clothes Yura held father by the hand. He ordered the nurse out of the room; but as father was beginning to grow angry, and he might guess what had happened in the arbour, decided to let him go. But while kissing him he said cunningly:
"He will not scold you any more, will he?"
Papa smiled. Then he laughed, kissed Yura once more and said:
"No, no. And if he does I will throw him across the fence."
"Please, do," said Yura. "You can do it. You are so strong."
"Yes, I am pretty strong. But you had better sleep! Mamma will stay here with you a while."
Mamma said:
"I will send the nurse in. I must attend to the supper."
Father shouted:
"There is plenty of time for that! You can stay a while with the child."
But mamma insisted:
"We have guests! We can't leave them that way."
But father looked at her steadfastly, and shrugged his shoulders. Mamma decided to stay.
"Very well, then, I'll stay here. But see that Maria does not mix up the wines."
Usually it was thus: when mamma sat near Yura as he was falling asleep she held his hand until the last moment--that is what she usually did. But now she sat as though she were all alone, as though Yura, her son, who was falling asleep, was not there at all--she folded her hands in her lap and looked into the distance. To attract her attention Yura stirred, but mamma said briefly:

And she continued to look. But when Yura's eyes had grown heavy and he was falling asleep with all his sorrow and his tears, mamma suddenly went down on her knees before the little bed and kissed Yura firmly many, many times. But her kisses were wet--hot and wet.
"Why are your kisses wet? Are you crying?" muttered Yura.
"Yes, I am crying."
"You must not cry."
"Very well, I won't," answered mother submissively.
And again she kissed him firmly, firmly, frequently, frequently. Yura lifted both hands with a heavy movement, clasped his mother around the neck and pressed his burning cheek firmly to her wet and cold cheek. She was his mother, after all; there was nothing to be done. But how painful; how bitterly painful!

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