17 Chapter 17: The new life of Joan and the duke
The sea was peaceful, and I could hardly feel the waves. The weather was unusually cold for Constantinople – the captain was explaining this as the influence of the storm. He was telling us that the storm had crashed many big and small ships, while the boats and the fishermen were still being counted.
“Yes, Lovushka, many of lucky persons were saved in my ship due to the heroic efforts of my crew and boundless courage of yourself and your brother. Now we are admiring this fantastic panorama,” he kept speaking, “but how many people didn’t make it to come here. Well then, how you could guess your destiny an hour ahead and how you could ever tell that you are happy thinking about tomorrow. Hence, I’m right by telling you that we are living only once and that we have to live in this moment, to catch that happiness which is flying past us in a twinkling.”
“Yes,” I answered him, “I also was thinking that I had to catch only my personal happiness up till the last moment, but when I got to know my new friends more closely, I understood that happiness to live isn’t hiding in my personal happiness, but in that absolute self-control when man himself is able to bring joy and harmony to others. Like you, I. is also talking about the value and meaning to live only in this moment which is flying past us now, but by saying so, he foresees man’s ability to embrace the whole, the entire world, all surrounding people, his activity for them and with them by perceiving himself as the little part of the entire universe. I still understand him a little and badly, but the new notes have already begun to sound within myself, my heart has opened for love widely. I’m feeling as though I had graduated some special university which helped me to perceive each new day as the whole string of the spiritual universities. I stopped thinking at all about that what was waiting for me in my life, while earlier I was living with that what would happen in ten years.”
“Yes, Lovushka, my universities are worse than yours,” the captain answered me. “I’m still living in my tomorrow or my past, because my present doesn’t satisfy or fascinate me. Now I’m thinking about Gurzuff tensely and I’m dreaming to meet Lisa. Somehow I cannot estimate the present enough.”
By taking advantage of the fact that the sailors couldn’t understand French, we continued our conversation by interrupting it time and again, because the captain knew the city perfectly and he was naming separate buildings, palaces and mosques to me. I hardly had time to admire them.
When our trip on the water was coming to the end, my thoughts came back to Joan again.
“I still cannot forget your low bow to the great suffering of Joan,” I assented to him.
“Poor woman, she’s a girl-mother! How many questions she will have to solve for her children. Educating a man from his very childhood is such an important beginning, and what Joan can give to them? She doesn’t know anything herself and she cannot read a single book about education, so that she could understand anything from it,” the captain was speaking to me, lost in thought.
“We also won’t understand much in those books about education if the man who has written it would be much more creative than us. Everything depends on those vibrations of man’s heart and thoughts, in which he’s living. One can understand only what is close to oneself. There is such general language that unites both the Beduin and the European, the Black and the Englishman, the Saint and the Robber – that’s the language of love and beauty. Joan is able to love her children; to love them not in a
brutal love as her body and blood by being proud of their advantages or disadvantages, or suffering because of them,” I interceded for Joan.
“But at the moment, she can love them only as her duty, as the lesson of her life, and lots of time will pass until her consciousness is able to perceive her life as the circumstances which are unavoidable, the only ones in the world sent only to her and nobody else. Only then there will be no place left for her grumbling or her tears, but there will be only her joyful work and gratitude,” the captain answered me.
I began to stare intensely at him, having forgotten everything in the world. His face was tender, kindness was gushing from his eyes. A charming wave of tenderness extended from my heart towards him.
“You certainly have to meet Florentian,” I mumbled. “At worst, you should at least talk to I. seriously. Forgive me, because I’m only the boy in comparison to yourself and your experience, I don’t know anything, but it seems to me that there’s the same mess in your head and your heart as within myself.”
The captain gave a joyful laugh.
“Bravo, bravissimo, Lovushka! If there’s a mess within yourself, then there’s the real muddle, only the pap within myself. I’m always searching for an opportunity to talk to your mysterious I. myself, but I still have no success. Well, here we are,” he added by ordering the sailors to row to the shore and to stop at the end of the pier.
We got out of the boat and we were climbing up the road to the city with the help of the clumsy sailor. Soon we reached the necessary place and we saw from the distance how our entire company of friends went inside through the door.
We caught up with them while they were still in the antechamber. To everyone’s amazement, the house was well established and furnished. The antechamber was bright and it had a big window. Judging from its furniture, it was a waiting-room, and the door from it was leading to a big room which resembled a Turkish sitting-room.
Stroganoff was explaining to Joan how he was planning to construct the glass ward-robes for readymade hats, plumes, flowers and bands, so the buyers could see Joan’s aristocratic talent and taste, and could instantly choose the item which they liked. There were also the premises behind the big room with two long tables for the studio, and from here one could get to the yard through the porch.
Joan’s children hung on me immediately, but I. forbade me to raise them up. They took offence and calmed down only when the clumsy sailor seated both of them on his powerful shoulders and went out to the yard and garden with them. There was a small fountain, and several big Eastern tanks with long narrow mouths were standing there.
Having examined everything downstairs, we went out to the antechamber once again and went up the winding metal stairs to the second floor.
There were three little rooms here. One of them was furnished like the dinning-room; two new childish beds and a sofa were standing in the second one; a splendid mirror in the bright frame, a wide Turkish sofa and several chairs were standing in the third room.
Tears were rolling down Joan’s cheeks. She extended both of her hands towards Stroganoff again and uttered silently.
“You taught me perfectly yesterday by saying that that person wins who starts his business easily. Today you showed me how really kind you were, how easily you did everything, so that you could help me to start my business easily. I will never forget your kindness and I will try to show gratitude to you with everything I will be able to. I’m your devoted servant forever now only because of these charming childish little beds, about which I didn’t dare even to dream.”
“Madam, these are only the details. I already wanted to tidy up the house a long time ago, because as I have already mentioned to you, I was born here and I value it both for my memories and for the lessons of life that I have experienced here. I’m glad of this excellent opportunity to arrange it for working woman and her children. And here’s my daughter,” Stroganoff was speaking to her, while stepping towards a woman who was going upstairs.
A tall woman was standing in front of us. She had muffled herself up in a black silky cloak with the black veil pulled down on her face.
“This is my daughter Anna,” he addressed Joan. “You are Joan, she’s Anna. It would be great if you could strike up a friendship, then it would be fascinating in your atelier,” he continued, laughing. “Anna in Hebrew means “attractive, fascinating”, right? My beloved, fascinating daughter is very easy to be dealt with…”
Anna cast the black veil off her face… me and the captain rooted to the spot from amazement and fascination: her oval-shaped face with big black eyes was pale, her black plait was extending over her shoulders below her waist, her charming mouth was smiling and her teeth were white like the porcelain…
Anna was extending her long and white hand to Joan and speaking to her in a deep, kind and soft voice.
“My father wishes very much that I could learn to work not only with my head, but also with my hands. I’ve been resisting his will for four years, but this time, after I found out that my teacher would be a woman with children, who has experienced a terrible disaster, I agreed easily and with joy, I even didn’t know myself why I did it. I cannot tell that hats or ladies would fascinate me,” Anna continued, laughing, “but some kind of intuition is telling me that I will be useful here.”
Her French language was clean and correct. She took the black cloak off and remained only in an ordinary, white, silky, elegant dress and black, patent-leather shoes which were unusually small in comparison to her height.
I don’t know with what – with her long plait, the grace of her figure or some elegance of her manners, - but Anna reminded me of Nal with something. I couldn’t hold out and I began to whisper.
“What’s wrong? What are you speaking here?” the captain asked me silently.
I. took my arm and asked me, too.
“Lovushka, what are you whispering here? This isn’t Nal, this is Anna. Come to yourself and don’t disgrace us when she’s introduced to us. Don’t kiss her hand, but wait until she extends it to you herself, otherwise you might get scared like you did by meeting Chava,” I. smiled to me.
“Scheherazade! Now my whole life is a fairy-tale, and the women are fairies,” the captain was talking, “but who is that man whom this Pallas Athena has been loving, if she’s still loyal to his remembrance? You could give half of your life, so that such woman would love you for at least one night.”
Anna’s father was introducing her to everyone who was present here. She was looking intently at everyone’s eyes, she was extending her hand to everyone and smiling lightly, but her entire attention was focussed on the children who were riding on the clumsy sailor’s shoulders. Anna went up to them by extending her hands towards them. The little ones were looking at her with their eyes opened wide. Having touched her plait slightly, the girl asked her.
“Aunt, why are you so black? Have you been painted with the soot?”
“No,” Anna gave a laugh, “my father gave such black colour of hair to me, but soon I will become grey, and you will stop being afraid of my plait.”
Finally, it was our turn.
First, the captain was introduced to her. He bowed low and squeezed her extended hand by looking straight into Anna’s face, because this time she was looking down; her cheeks turned slightly red, and it seemed to me that even an annoyance flashed in her face.
Anna looked at I. very intently, and her black eyes began to burn like torches.
“Of course, you are that Ananda’s friend about whom he was writing to me in his last letter? I’m glad to meet you. I hope that until Ananda comes here, you will have the honour to visit us at our home.”
“I will be glad to visit you, if your father doesn’t have anything against this,” I. answered her.
“Do you think that my Turkish appearance has anything to do with the Eastern education? I can assure you that it doesn’t. It’s impossible to find a more understanding and freedom giving father in the whole world. He is the first friend and assistant of both myself and all my sisters and brothers. Everybody of us is absolutely free to choose our acquaintances. There’s only one thing that my father doesn’t like – that’s one’s life without working. In the entire family only I still don’t earn my living, but now I also understand that I have to communicate and unite with people by bringing in help to daily routine according to my strength,” Anna was talking to us by taking an opportunity that her father with Joan kept examining the rooms.
“Let me introduce my cousin Lovushka T. to you.” I. told her. “He, just like me, is Ananda’s and Florentian’s friend, and he’s thinking about the last one both in the day-time and at night,” I. added by pushing me forward a little. “Perhaps, you will allow me to visit you with him, because we are almost inseparable, especially when Lovushka is a little unwell.”
“I will be glad to see both of you at our place,” Anna answered him pleasantly by extending her hand to me, which I squeezed a little.
“Oh, you fell into her hands, young man,” I heard Stroganoff’s voice behind my back. “Anna must have absolutely sensed the writer in you. She’s also a quite good poetess. She’s writing wonderful fairy-tales for children, but she doesn’t agree to publish them, but her work is known in Constantinople anyway. I bet she has already enslaved you. Only don’t believe her, she’s as though a hard-hearted.”
“Father, you’ve put the young writer to shame so much – if he’s really a writer – that he would certainly avenge you by describing you at least as the celebrity of Constantinople,” Anna gave a laugh in a very melodious voice.
Joan approached her, and both women stepped aside by the window in order to discuss something. Anna was standing with her profile turned to us, and the eyes of all four men were looking at her.
I remembered the evening in the odorous garden of Ali, I remembered not so dark Nal’s plait, her green eyes and the faces of three men who were looking at her intently, but with different expressions.
It was the same now – the captain strained his look and he saw only the physical charm of her turned forms within her. The expression of the cruel beast of pray which was already well known to me was hiding in his yellow eyes, he strained himself like a sting and reminded me of a tiger that was lurking for the prey.
Tenderness and kindness got stiff in I.’s face, he was as though blessing Anna, and the word “charming” flashed in my consciousness.
Her father was looking at his daughter with sad and thoughtful eyes, as though he was suffering because of some secret pain of his daughter, but he was unable to do anything about it, no matter how much it was breaking his heart.
I was all burning. Thoughts were flashing in my head, they were bubbling and breaking like waves by hitting one another. I could see Ananda next to the tall figure of Anna in my thoughts and I was pondering that no one else could ever become her chosen one if she knew such charming and handsome man with his eyes-stars closely.
I forgot absolutely everything; I could see only Ananda, I remembered his exceptional voice, and all of a sudden that voice was heard in my ears: “Not every love ties human bodies together, but that love which ties their spirit in a slavish way isn’t real, too. Only that love will be real, which will open all man’s talents and skills for his creative activity, which will liberate his spirit.”
The illusion of the sound was so strong that unawares I dashed forward, because I wanted to see Ananda through the window, but the iron I.’s hand was already holding me tightly.
The captain turned to the noise made by me.
“Do you feel unwell, Lovushka? You’ve turned so pale! It is stifling here, let’s go home,” he was talking to me by taking my arm from another side and trying to help me out tenderly.
Having heard these words of the captain, Joan went up to us quickly and told me.
“Don’t leave, Lovushka,” but, having noticed my paleness, she added silently. “What an egoist I am! I’m thinking only about myself. You certainly need to go home. Do you feel unwell?”
I was unable to utter a single word, because some sort of a spasm was squeezing my throat. I. answered Joan that now the captain would take me home, and in the evening we could have dinner with her if she made herself free from her business until seven o’clock. I. himself will help her to settle here if she has nothing against it.
Now the Turks, Stroganoff and Anna who’ve been silent during all this time interfered by protesting categorically against any help of I., by making him sure that everything would be done without him.
We said good-bye to the whole company and went out to the street, accompanied by the clumsy sailor.
I. wanted to accompany me to the boat, but the captain offered him to wait and sit on the bench with me for a while until he and the clumsy sailor would arrange one business not far away from here.
I was glad that I could sit in the shadow for a while and stay with I. I asked him to give me one strengthening pill of Ali, but he answered me that in this case no pill would help me.
“Lovushka, there are some people who can see and hear that what thousands of others can neither hear nor see such things. They are rewarded with an exceptional power of inner sight and hearing, which is operating on a totally different frequency of vibrations, which has nothing to do with the frequency with which most people are receiving their impressions and feelings. You possess that gift within yourself – to hear and to see through the distance, only you value it like a hallucination of your absent- mindedness. If you hadn’t received the blow to your fontanel so untimely, these talents of yours would have developed consistently. In the meanwhile, now your entire organism, your entire spinal cord is shaken so much that that still unawaken fire which is living in every man – that hidden reserve power – has forced its way through, it destroyed all obstacles on its way by exposing your hidden spiritual powers. When you recover from the concussion, I will explain everything about that what I have just mentioned to you in more detail. I want you to understand that you aren’t ill, you aren’t losing your mind, simply the powers, the frequency of vibrations which are much higher and stronger, it is of another nature than that to which you had been used to up to now, have opened earlier within yourself. Keep your self-control. Lie down for a while more often and with all your might try not to get irritated. Don’t mention this conversation of ours to anyone with a single word,” he added by seeing that the captain and the clumsy sailor were coming back already.
I saw an unusual view and I was unable to understand in any way who was approaching us. Only I. started laughing instantly.
“Congratulations, Lovushka! Now you will be travelling through Constantinople like a beauty of a harem.”
Finally, I also could see the big palanquin with the downcast curtains which was carried by two tall Turks. I was filled with indignation so much, I started stamping my foot with anger so much that I. who was just laughing so joyfully suddenly seized me with his strong hands, seated me and told me very strictly.
“I have just asked you not to get irritated, I warned you how serious the state of your health was. Do really my words and all possibilities of your future mean so little to you? And finally, don’t you have any sense of humour?”
“I understand humour and I highly appreciate every possibility to come closer to my knowledge, but I absolutely don’t want to be a figure of fun even in the eyes of those sailors who are carrying the stretcher,” I answered him in excitement.
“First of all, control yourself. Feel the great joy to be the master of yourself. Value the efforts of the captain, too. Be polite and try to educate yourself in such a way that you could always find a gentlemanly expression with which you could cover your feelings even if they are very unpleasant. Search for that tact about which Florentian is talking to you.”
The procession came nearer. The captain waved his cap joyfully.
“As you can see, I invented the way how to avoid shaking. This stretcher belongs to one of my legless friend. Mostly he prefers travelling like this. But, oh my God! You feel even worse, Lovushka! You were pale, and now you’re all with red spots,” the captain exclaimed.
I overcame the strong attack of my irritation and I already wanted to thank him for his efforts in an emphatically cold and polite way, when I. interfered and addressed the captain very tenderly.
“No, captain, Lovushka isn’t feeling any worse. This is still his reaction to the blow, but he will go to the boat on foot with you perfectly. This is even more useful for him now, and if you agreed, it would be the best to send the stretcher with the clumsy sailor to Joan’s children. Joan will have to go to the city to do some business, and the children will be only restricting her. If you agreed to use the stretcher in such a way as it seems to me, then I would return to children right away.”
“If you allow Lovushka to go on foot, then I will be glad to let you have this stretcher,” the captain answered him merrily, not even suspecting what a storm I was experiencing within myself because of this care of his.
I. squeezed my hand a little, asked the captain to put me to bed as soon as we return and also added that he would be back at six o’clock and, if I stayed in bed calmly during the whole day, he would take me to the duke’s.
We said good-bye to I. and went towards the boat. I was glad of getting rid of that idiotic palanquin, but an annoyance by myself and the captain was still boiling within myself.
“I don’t understand what kind of men are living in Constantinople,” the captain was talking as though to himself. “If such a woman like Anna is still free, then not the blood, but water is flowing in the veins of the local men. She would have already had time to marry somebody two or even three times in England, and at least ten duels would have taken place for her. She’s an incredible beauty, isn’t she?”
“I know a little about the womanly beauty,” I answered him, “but I think that Anna is indeed a rare beauty. I think that the men who haven’t enslaved her heart aren’t to blame, because only those women can be enslaved who want it. Men are courting and fighting only for those women who are trying to present themselves in a more useful and favourable way. Such women like Anna are searching for the real love, they always choose the most modest path if their talents or ambitions don’t betray them.”
The captain even stopped – he was so amazed by my thoughts.
“Well, that’s Lovushka! Well, this is how you put it!” the captain was throwing up his arms. “How old are you then? Fifty or twenty? Where have you had time to draw such conclusions?”
“I don’t understand, why are you so amazed? It seems to me that my uttered words are the simplest. In Russia we have lots of wonderful women without any coquetry, and the admirers are choosing not the most beautiful, but the most coquettish, right? My brother used to repeat this alphabetical truth to me in every right moment.”
We were deep in our own thoughts and kept silent during the rest of the way.
Having reached the hotel, we felt that we were hungry, so we ordered a light breakfast which I was eating in bed. After the breakfast, the captain lit up a cigar and returned to Anna once again.
“It is so strange,” he uttered. “I would really give a lot if I could love such goddess like Anna for a while. Namely only for a while, absolutely not imagining that I could be her husband or a constant knight. Something is hiding within her, which would hinder me to come even nearer to her.”
“For me Anna is distinguished for her spiritual culture. If you are still not leaving Constantinople soon, then you will meet one of I.’s friends who is also close to Anna at the same time. If she loves him even without his response, then nobody could ever compete with him and turn her attention to him. The eyes of that man are shining like the stars, while his voice enslaves one only while he’s talking. It is impossible to forget him if you see or hear him just once, and people say that he’s singing like a God.” I answered him.
“How can you know what is drawing one man to another? Anna could be a distinct episode of my life, but never my epoch. But if life brought me together with the girl Lisa again, then she could probably become my epoch.”
I started remembering Lisa, her manners, speech and I asked him.
“And what is your opinion about a wife artiste? How would you estimate her talent in a general way? People say that Lisa is exceptionally talented, don’t they, and you have so many superstitions. How would you feel setting in the front row of the concert hall, while your wife violinist would be playing the violin?”
“I have never thought that the stage or the place behind the scenes could play any part in my life at all. I was always avoiding the women from the theatre. All of them seemed to me to be soaked with social climbing and a desire to sell themselves as costly as possible.”
“But haven’t you met a single woman during your entire pithy life, who was really dedicated to the art, who didn’t have another life without that art to which she was serving, which she was breathing?” I was asking the captain again.
“No, I haven’t met one,” he answered me. “I knew some so called great actresses, but none of them seemed to have the divine gift of talent. I knew some high culture artists, and it seemed to them that the secrets of nature had already opened up to them, but… they turned out to be absolutely shallow in their everyday life.”
In this way our meeting was finished, because several business visits and work were waiting for the captain on the steamer, and in the evening he also wanted to go to see his friends. We said good- bye to each other until tomorrow.
I took a nap, because I was tired of today’s meetings and I woke up only from I.’s voice that was waking me up loudly. He was hurrying me to change my clothes, to take the first-aid kit and to go to the duke.
He gave me some bitter drops to drink. I was soon ready, and we went to the duke’s villa on foot, which was not far away at all. I was very interested in this meeting. Although his old wife seemed to be very wicked to me, anyway I was feeling a pity for her, for her nearing death and for her stiff body.
Unawares, I started thinking how it was difficult for every man to die: “And what Florentian was thinking about death? How was he going to die himself?” And all of a sudden, in the middle of the day, in the continuous noise and uproar of the street I heard his voice: “There’s no death. There’s only life – the only one, everlasting, and there are many of its external forms.” I stopped dead, and if I. hadn’t given a pull at me, I would have gotten under the wheels of the coach.
“Lovushka, I simply cannot let you alone to take a single step,” he told me by taking my arm.
“Yes, Lolion, you cannot leave me alone,” I was complaining to him in a plaintive voice. “The damn fist of the Turk has turned me into a madman. I’m making progress to madness so much that I cannot stop. The hallucinations keep growing stronger.”
“Not at all, Lovushka. Only today you were very irritated. What has excited you now?”
“A thought occurred to me with what difficulty the old duchess was dying. I thought for a while how it was terrible and not easy for everybody to die. I only thought what Florentian was thinking about death, and suddenly I heard his voice: “There’s no death. There’s only life – the only one, everlasting,
and there are many of its external forms.” Isn’t this the absurdity that I started to hear?” I kept complaining to I.
“My friend, you’ve heard the great wisdom. I will explain everything to you later. We are coming nearer to our goal. Forget yourself and your state. Think only about those unfortunate persons whom we are visiting. Think about Florentian, about his bright love for man. Try to see the Florentian’s goal within the duke and his wife, try to bring in that peace and light to this house, which is pulsating in the heart of your great friend. Think only about him and about them, and not about yourself, then you could be my loyal and useful assistant in this house. Then it will be easy here for both of us.”
We entered the duke’s house that was surrounded by the shady garden. The housemaid met us, whom we already knew, because she was cruising with them on the steamer. She told us that the duchess was still as though sleeping, while the duke was waiting for us impatiently.
We crossed several absolutely empty rooms and heard the quick steps following us. The duke caught up with us.
“I’m so glad that you came,” he addressed I. “I’m so worried about the duchess’ condition that I was already ready to go to you. I need both your help and your advice myself no less than my wife,” he continued by smiling sincerely and squeezing our hands.
“Why are you so worried about the duchess? I have warned you, haven’t I, that her returning to life would be very slowly and that she would be sleeping most of the time.”
“Yes, I remember all of that – and it is very strange for myself – I believe your every word unconditionally and completely. Even the very belief in you is somehow special, incomparable with anything,” the duke was speaking in his silent and musical voice by letting us pass the third room in a row, which was furnished a little and reminded of a study.
He pulled the chairs to the table for us, sat down himself on the Eastern style stool and continued.
“I wouldn’t be talking to you about my state if it didn’t seem to be so strange to me. Now the feeling of belief in you gives me strength to live. As though some power had flowed into my spine and held my entire body on its strong axis by forming the basis of my self-control. As soon as I imagine that you will leave soon – the whole power disappears, and I’m feeling helpless before the nearing difficulties of life.”
“Don’t worry, dear duke,” I. told him. “First of all, we aren’t leaving so soon, and second – my good friend will come here with his close disciple and friend who has already graduated all medical sciences. Both of them will help you, too. Maybe that friend of ours, the young doctor, will even stay with you for longer. As you can see, sometimes the destiny takes a very good care of us.”
“I cannot describe how I’m moved of your kindness, and most importantly – of that simplicity and easiness which are leading your actions, that everybody can accept all your greatest services as easy as if it was a trifle.”
Having lit up his cigarette and kept silent, the duke continued.
“My state worries me. My wife’s son must come here to meet his mother. He wants to receive a part of his property now, while she’s still alive. I was hoping very much from this meeting, thinking that the division of the property done now by my wife herself would liberate me from many trials and suffering after her death. That son of hers, although he’s a famous general, although he occupies a high post in the czar’s palace, - he’s a greedy liar, a selected crook and he loves to litigate. Namely today I
received the telegram that he wouldn’t come, but he would send two of his lawyers with full warrants of attorney from Moscow. You can imagine what a horror will be here when those two dandies come here and find my wife who will only mumble obscurely, who won’t be able to use neither her hands nor her legs…”
“I have already told you,” I. interrupted the duke, “that your wife’s speech and hands would recover pretty soon. Unfortunately, she probably won’t be able to use her legs until she dies, but her death itself won’t happen soon as well. Her heart is very strong, so you will have to take pains over tending her for two or even more years. Don’t look at this perspective menacing to you like a punishment. The great and wise life doesn’t recognize any punishments. It gives an opportunity for each man to mature and gain strength in exactly such circumstances which are needed for everybody personally – and only to him alone. In this case you should think not about yourself, but only about your wife. Try to open her eyes with your kindness from the bottom of your heart. Explain to her that there’s no death, exactly as there’s no a separate and only earthly life. Only an eternal, the only one life of heaven and earth exists for common welfare – the spiritual life of light and joy, which is tied in the human bodies made of hard and solid earthly matter. And the whole man’s life on earth isn’t only a final existence from his birth till his death, it is the whole string of his existences, the string of his visible material forms; in them there’s always the only one, eternal life which is unchangeable, and it is changing only its relative, temporary earthly forms. If you are interested in this, we can still analyse this endless subject many times. Now I would like you to perceive the grandeur and meaning of each man’s earthly life, to understand how clearly he should see everything both inside and outside of him; what a power is hiding in everybody if he has already learnt to control himself, if he is able – during the only one moment that has opened up to his knowledge – to forget himself like a temporary form and to find the boundless love within himself, so that with its help he could bring help of peace into another heart. Let’s go to visit your wife. From now on you will have to become her devoted and compassionate servant. Soon I will be able to tell you when she begins to recover, then she can spend her days in the arm-chair.”
With these words I. stood up. I was devouring his every word attentively by trying not to miss any of it, but all of it was so new and unexpected to me that I didn’t understand anything fully and I couldn’t put all of it into a logical chain of thoughts. From the perplexed face of the duke I decided that he also hadn’t understood much more than I had, although he was listening for I.’s words in some respectful ecstasy.
I and the duke stood up, too, and the three of us went to the duchess’s room.
How this room was different from what we had seen in the hospital’s cabin when the captain ordered to open it during the scandal. The windows were fully opened, the curtains were drawn, so there was a dusk. There were many flowers delivered, they smelt wonderfully, and the order was simply exemplary.
The duchess was lying on a high, excellent bed, dressed with a beautiful, batiste robe. The trained nurse was sitting next to her, she stood up in order to meet us.
The duchess turned her head towards the sound of the steps. That meaningless and idiotic expression had already been gone from her face, only the bruise was still left around her mouth.
One could feel consciousness in her eyes which were fastened upon I. She was trying to raise her hand, but only a spasm ran through her body from those efforts. She fixed her gaze on the duke pleadingly, and the tears came pouring from her eyes on her flabby and pale cheeks.
The duke went up to the bed, lifted his wife’s lifeless hand, kissed it and asked her.
“My dear, do you want to greet the doctor?”
This time the patient’s lips smiled a little, I. went up to her and took that absolutely dead hand from the duke.
“Duchess, don’t make any efforts,” I. was talking to her while he was feeling her pulse. “Everything is all right. Danger doesn’t threaten you anymore, and if you are following my instructions carefully during the day and night, I guarantee that your hands will recover completely, that your memory and your speech will come back entirely. However, you will have to learn self-control and patience. You didn’t know what self-control was during your entire life, so now you’ve reached such a sad end. Stop crying. Now you certainly need to accumulate all your thoughts not only to your wish to recover, but you also have to try to make the people that are near you happy, joyful and satisfied. Only the atmosphere that will be filled only with your joy and peace can help me to cure you. If your thoughts and feelings will be radiating anger or irritation, I will be helpless to help you. You have to unite with everybody who will be close to you with love and benevolently.”
The streams of tears kept rolling down the old woman’s face, which the duke who was totally confused was wiping carefully. All of a sudden the words “forgive me” in a wild, horrible and whistling voice slipped off her lips which were always trying to say something. These words – like the sound of a broken string – flashed across the air, and then a deadly silence followed. I felt the well-known nausea and dizziness instantly. I. put his arms round my shoulders and whispered.
“Be strong. Think about Florentian! Call him to help you.”
It was silent in the room for some time. I. was standing next to the duchess, still holding her hand. Her face was calming down little by little, her eyes got dry, and she already looked like a living person, not like the horrible mask pulled by the spasms.
I. told me to take a couple of medicine from the first-aid kit. He mixed them and melted the red powder from his bottle in them. I had never seen this bottle up to now, and it seemed to be golden to me. The liquid began to boil, and its colour turned into bright red. I lifted the duchess’ head a little, and I. gave her the medicine to drink carefully.
Finally, the duchess swallowed the last drop of the medicine, drew a sigh of relief, closed her eyes and fell into a light slumber. Having warned the trained nurse that the patient may be sleeping even for the next twenty-four hours, we left the room.
We returned to the duke’s study, sat down on our previous places, and I. continued.
“Duke, I should like to ask you a favour. You are always trying to show gratitude for me and my brother for the help provided to your wife.”
“Oh, you are helping not only my wife, but you’ve become the new meaning of my life for myself, too. I was already considering my life to be ruined,” the duke exclaimed. “You even don’t know what flight of imagination made me to marry my current wife. I was imagining that I was saving her from a thousand of her new mistakes. I didn’t save her from any of them, I only understood that I was weak and in this way I found myself into this misfortunate situation of contempt. You don’t know…”
“I know,” I. interrupted him, “I know that you are noble, very honourable and very kind man. Now I want to address exactly this kindness of yours. You’ve probably heard that we and the captain helped one poor French woman with two children to reach Constantinople. She was expecting to find her relatives here, but I think that she would fail to do it. We’re leaving her under protection of one wonderful family here, but the poor lady is so young, so unexperienced and so ill-bred that, of course, she will create lots of
difficulties for herself, which she could hardly overcome. Her character is very quick-tempered and peppery, while your tact and kindness could help in her life very much. Soon we’ll leave. You will have to spend here up to two years, because to move for your wife would mean death. If you agree, let’s come to visit Joan Moranjer. We will introduce you to her, and I can be calm that Joan will have a reliable and noble guardian.”
“I will be happy with the possibility to show gratitude somehow to the madam Joan,” the duke answered him, “but I have so little self-confidence myself and I experience parting with you so painfully. I’m ready to visit her right this moment. I will try to see only her heart within her, to which I must render all gratitude that I feel for you, and I will bring all my devotion to you into her heart.”
We said good-bye to the duke and agreed to visit Joan tomorrow at noon, after visiting his wife.
We came back home, and I was so tired that I went to bed immediately, because I couldn’t perceive anything anymore. All my thoughts interlaced, and I didn’t even remember how I fell asleep.
I heard the knocking at my door on rather late morning of the next day, and the sonorous voice of the captain was shaming me for such laziness.
“I have already done a hundred of workings. My steamer has already been brought to the dock for repairs, the sun has already had time to heat the streets, while you, the great man of the future, are still sleeping! I’m hungry like a gun dog. Lovushka, get up quickly, I will order the breakfast, we will wipe it out in your balcony if, of course, you admit me to your company,” the captain was talking loudly behind the door.
I answered him that I agreed, I dashed to the bath quickly, and we were already sitting at the table in a quarter of an hour.
I. had left not leaving any note for me, and I understood that he would be back soon. And so it was, soon I heard his steps, and he came to the balcony himself, somehow especially radiating with freshness and beauty. Having greeted us, he asked the captain about the steamer’s destiny.
The captain’s face frowned. It turned out that the steamer was in need of serious repairs; this delay when the big part of the travellers and freight had to continue their route gave him lots of worries and difficulties.
“But your nearness, doctor I., is very dear to me. I value the meeting with you as the most important event of my life and I’m ready to overcome even greater difficulties only if I could stay with you for longer, if this doesn’t cause you any trouble,” the captain finished his sentence in an absolutely silent voice by looking at I. sadly.
He already wasn’t that strong-willed captain, he wasn’t that “God and the Master” of his ship anymore, in front of whom the whole ship’s crew and the travellers were trembling. I saw the totally different side of the man’s soul once again and I made sure again what an immeasurable difference was between that what you could see and that what was hiding within a man.
“I’m also glad that we met, dear captain,” I. answered him, “and communicating with you isn’t causing any trouble for me – on the contrary, I feel a great brotherly friendship for you in my heart. Today I received some excellent news both from Lovushka’s brother and from my close friend Ananda for whom I wasn’t expecting here so soon. Lovushka, your brother and Nal got married in London at the presence of Florentian and his friends, while Ananda should be here no later than in ten days. Captain, I wish very much that your troubles would still detain you in Constantinople. Ananda surpasses any man so
much that even meeting him, even understanding what a man who is made from the same body and blood like is able to achieve on earth would lift you up to the higher level of ideas in comparison to the one on which you are living today. I can see lots of questions within your soul, and you have even more of them every time when we meet. If we could lay out your spirit’s bubbling in a literary form, we could make not only selected works of your questions and answers, but even a serial “The daily reader”. All these questions of yours are concentrating within you only because I haven’t reached such heights of spirit and knowledge as Ananda. The typical sign of the real wise man showing himself in the people masses – the string of questions isn’t growing any longer, but disappearing. Not an activity of mind is growing in people’s consciousness, but their intuition. The subconscious harmonizes the work of their hearts and minds, because the vanity and illusion of their own achievements and desires opens up for everybody in the atmosphere of the wise man. I’m sure that your meeting with Ananda will destroy the entire caravan of caste and national prejudices within yourself. There are so many true values and real beauty within yourself that neither your friends from your surroundings nor other acquaintances of yours can be equal to you.”
The captain’s cigarette went out, he didn’t finish his wine and he was sitting motionless, as though hypnotized, staring at the charming I.’s face. Only the city noise and the scattered guttural cries of the Eastern carriers could be heard in the established silence.
Every one of us immersed in himself, we didn’t want to disturb the silence and, apparently, every one of us was trying to imagine the wise man in his own way.
“Well, if you are talking about another man like this, you who are the highest man that I have ever met, then what kind of a man should be that Ananda of yours?” the captain was rubbing his forehead and kept speaking in the same silent voice.
I wanted to tell him that I have seen even a higher man than Ananda, my friend Florentian, but all of a sudden I felt that special lightness in my whole body, that concentration of my entire attention into one spot which was always accompanied by the hearing of the voice or seeing of the scene of the man who really wasn’t present next to me.
Suddenly my body began to tremble, as though an electric current had run through it, and I saw Ananda who was sitting at the table in the same posture like that night in his home. “Don’t be afraid and don’t worry. I. has forgotten neither Florentian nor sir Vomi, but now there’s no need to talk about them. Try to keep silent for as much as possible. The value of a word is so big that sometimes an untimely uttered word could make the whole ring of people to perish. Wait for my arrival and we will talk.” Now when I’m telling you about this, everything seems to be long-winded, but then it flashed with lightning speed.
I extended my hands towards Ananda, I even must have said something to him, because the captain got next to me in a flash and he was stretching out the glass of wine to me.
“My poor boy! Do you have a headache again?” he asked me tenderly.
I. also went up to me and smiled; and I understood from his sparkling eyes that he knew the real cause of my anxiety.
This imaginary ailment of mine distracted the captain’s attention from our conversation. Having stayed for several minutes more, the captain ran out to put many of his affairs in order. Since he was occupied in the evening, we agreed to meet tomorrow, at five o’clock. He wanted to take me to some famous confectionery “Bagdad” very much. He was trying to persuade me that I would see the surprises which would surpass even a living black woman there. I agreed with everything, because I wanted to stay alone with I. as soon as possible and to hear from him about my brother and Nal in more details.
Having seen off the captain, I. came back to me in the balcony and sat down next to me on the couch, because I was still lying down and I was really feeling unwell.
“My dear friend, you will be disappointed, because I also know about your brother and Nal only as much as I have already told you. In general, Ananda doesn’t like speaking much, and this time he particularly reconsidered every word sent to us. You look like as though you had been disappointed in their fulfilled marriage?” I. asked me.
“No, I’m not disappointed,” I answered him, “but if my brother’s and Nal’s happiness is in their marriage, then the goal of their lives – which is the most important for them now – has already been achieved. However, I was expecting for something more important, more significant than an ordinary marriage from this entire situation.”
Unexpectedly, I. gave a joyful laugh, embraced me, stroked my unwise head tenderly and told me.
“Where did you get it from, my dear philosopher, that marriage was such an ordinary and absolutely insignificant matter? The marriage depends on the people who get married. Marriages may have an exceptional meaning and touch not only those people who get married. Each marriage, a future birth and education of people in a new cell of society – family – is an exceptionally important and responsible matter. If the people – future fathers and mothers – have risen to a comprehension of themselves as the only one little parts of the whole universe, if their working day ties in the unified activity of all people with its beauty, then they are prepared to educate their new lives, too; they will be introducing this new comprehension by educating them not with their words, but by implanting a beauty with their living example in their children. If they have risen to the great heights of creativity, then they form such cells of society with their marriage, in which the future famous people, creators and genii may be incarnated, whose inspiration gives a name to the entire epochs of life of mankind.
Harmony of a family – that’s not the same way of thinking of all its members, not their available or unavailable interdependent secrets. That’s the love which is being raked up in a majestic way; here no one is demanding any obligation from anybody, everything is soaked in nobleness, there’s no even talking about selflessness here, but only thoughts about help, about joy to be helpful exist. Lovushka, all of this has caused only the flood of questions for you, but I have already told you: Ananda will come and he will awaken the creative spirit in you, and not the Niagara Falls which are running in question marks. You still must reconsider only one thing very much: the snake of jealousy has fluttered in your heart not for the first time already. One cannot even imagine the greater horror than life that is poisoned with the attacks of jealousy.
Even if your daily routine is diluted with jealousy, you can poison both the life of yourself and your beloved ones, and even the whole long life may lose its meaning. You can possess a great talent, you can lead mankind to new distances of literature, music, arts and at the same time, you can make such an iron cage of passions in your personal life that the entire centuries will be needed until you are able to clean out those toadstools and mould from your spirit, which you have grown with your jealous family life. And on the contrary – one man’s day lived in peace and harmony flies over him like a purifying atmosphere through the entire centuries, like an invisible assistance and his protection.
Today you shouldn’t reflect on your brother’s marriage. Still much water will have flowed under the bridges until you understand the great meaning of his life, until you can penetrate into his spiritual world. He was only a tender, loving nurse, a teacher, a father for you up to now, wasn’t he?
Get up, my friend. Here’s a half of Ali’s pill for you. Let’s go to the duke whom we have promised to introduce to Joan today. When you are thinking about your brother, believe that he was unable to behave neither light-mindedly nor sacrifice himself for saving Nal’s life. This marriage is one of the most important moments of his life. You must respect and even glorify it.”
I took my pill, took the first-aid kit and followed I. in silence.
We found the same oppressive atmosphere in the duke’s house. While the duke was accompanying us to his wife’s room, he was telling us about her efforts to smile and talk. It was a real torture for everyone to see these efforts, besides she didn’t make any progress.
“Good afternoon, duchess!” I. greeted her. He bent over the tortured, old, withered face of the patient; while she was lying like a heavy, decrepit mass among the wonderful, fragrant flowers.
The duchess opened her eyes with difficulty, but having seen I., she changed completely. Consciousness lit up in her eyes, her lips smiled without any grimace.
“You are doing perfectly. I’m very contented with you,” I. was talking to her by taking her hand. “We could even draw a part of the curtain and let some sunshine into the room,” he addressed the trained nurse.
When the sun lit up the room, I was surprised how carefully and with what taste it was furnished. It seemed that having forgotten his study which was furnished only Gods knew how, the duke focussed all his attention to this room, so that he could ease the patient’s suffering. How high the inner culture of this man had to be if he was wasting his kindness and care for the half-dead body of his terrible wife.
Could I ever reach such a level that, having forgotten all bitterness and humiliation of our joint life, I could care so much for my wife who had poisoned my young life so much?
I shuddered even to think of what an existence the duke’s life had turned into. My thoughts led me out of reality. Lovushka – the catcher of the crows was sitting next to I. instead of an attentive assistant of the doctor. I came to myself only when I. touched me. He was looking at me with a reproach.
“Lovushka, the duke is standing in front of you with the glass of water for several minutes already and waiting for an Ali’s pill. In this way we will be delayed here for a long time, and Joan will become wax angry at the mister young doctor for his being late again,” I. was talking to me and smiling only with his lips, while his eyes were looking straight at me attentively and strictly.
I blushed and thought that once again he read all my thoughts while I was rummaging in the duke’s life.
In several minutes I. gave the patient the red bubbling medicine to drink, he told all instructions to the trained nurse, and together with the duke we left his house.
It wasn’t very far to reach Joan’s house, but there was simply an unbearable heat in the city compared to the cool of the duke’s shady garden. Although we were walking along the central streets, they were dirty and smelling bad. The dust was making my throat smart and I always wanted to cough.
Finally we entered Joan’s house and we got straight into the surroundings of a merry scurry, work and childish laughter.
We could hardly recognize the flat. Yesterday the antechamber was still empty, and now an excellent wooden rack was already standing across the whole wall. There was a mirror, little table and high chairs placed next to another wall.
Glass cupboards and elegant counters were being mounted in the shop. Boris Fyodorovich himself was a chief for everything, consulting Joan and his wonderful daughter Anna. Only one couldn’t feel any joint “charm” in today’s job.
The wonderful face of Anna reminded me of an icon – there was so much tenderness and kindness in it. I couldn’t even imagine such a divinity and simply inhuman kindness in this pale face that was covered with the halo of her bluish black plait.
But Joan… she was sullen, as though unhappy with something, she could hardly utter any words through her teeth by answering Stroganoff. I couldn’t bear anymore, I turned straight to her and I was feeling as though I would attack a bear with only a club in my hands.
“So here’s how “easily” you start your business! So you disgrace I. so much with your ill breeding out of your gratitude to him? Smile as quickly as possible and try to be as kind as possible to these wonderful people, and you should be especially polite to that new friend whom I. has brought to you now,” I pattered everything straight into her eyes in French, like from a revolver.
Joan must have waited for me to come to her and greet her tenderly, now she was looking at me with her misty eyes. Not allowing her to recollect herself, I pattered one more French series to her.
“Control yourself as quickly as possible. Remember the steamer and the hold from which we dragged you out. We didn’t return you back to life so that you would demonstrate your poor character, did we? Where did your promises to think about your children disappear?”
“Lovushka, you are dissatisfied with me? But you were gone for so long! Everyone is strange to me here, it is so horrible and sad for me,” Joan was mumbling, while her face simply seemed to be childishly helpless.
“Strange!” I gave a shout with indignation. “But you are blind! Look at Anna’s face – which mother could radiate more love and kindness? Wipe your eyes immediately and give a pleasant smile to the new friend, because I see that I. is already coming here with him.”
“If you knew that this new friend is not anybody else, but the husband of the duchess who was persecuting you in the steamer!” I thought for myself exactly at that moment when I. introduced the duke to Joan. The whole comedy of this acquaintance manifested itself so clearly in my imagination that I couldn’t bear anymore and I was rocking with my urchin laughter.
“Oho!” I heard Stroganoff laughing. “We aren’t in the steamer, and as though the storm isn’t menacing, but it seems that the brave writer is declaring the danger in the style that is characteristic only to him.”
I couldn’t stop laughing in any way, even Anna laughed in her deep and ringing laughter.
“I will still have a serious talk to that captain,” finally I answered Stroganoff. “He’s making a reputation for me, which absolutely isn’t true. I’m especially ashamed of it before you, Anna Borisovna.”
“Why do I make you feel shy so much?” Anna asked me silently and tenderly, while helping her father to put the chairs.
“That isn’t the right word. You don’t make me feel shy, I respect you very much. I saw a perfectly furnished room in B. not so long time ago. I imagined that some higher beings should live in it. I think that you would be in your place in that room,” I answered her.
“Well, what a writer! He knew how to enslave the old father’s heart for ages! You haven’t yet had such a passionate admirer, Anna,” Stroganoff gave a shout.
“Allow me to take out one capable of working member of your atelier for a half of hour,” I heard I.’s voice. “If you don’t mind, I and Joan will take a walk in the garden. By the way, let me introduce one of our friends to you,” he addressed the father and his daughter by letting the duke go forward.
Anna was looking intently at the duke’s eyes, who was completely confused of meeting such a beauty. She smiled, extended her hand to him and told him tenderly.
“I’m pleased to meet one of I.’s friends. I will be glad to see you in our home if you wish to visit our family.”
“Doctor I. called me one of his friends out of his infinite kindness. For him I’m only the first person whom he met. He has poured me over with his favours, and I haven’t yet repaid him for all that help, but if you allow an ordinary and weak mortal to be next to you one day – I will be happy to. It seems to me that you, just as doctor I., give people strength and self-confidence.”
“You are absolutely right,” Stroganoff answered him. “Anna isn’t only my daughter, but also a friend and the meaning of my entire life. I will be glad to see you at any time. I and Anna are spending our evenings at home and almost always just the two of us. Our family is big, and everybody loves to have a good time. Only I and this nun of mine are always sitting at home.”
I., the duke and Joan with her children went out to the garden. I wanted to follow them, but as though a longing or a boredom made me stop and I sat down on the chair which somebody had left in the dark corner behind the cupboard.
Stroganoff and Anna were talking in the antechamber, I almost couldn’t hear them, but then the door slammed and they went to the room.
“Why are you so sad, Annushka? Perhaps, it is difficult for you to get down to business, because your soul is woven into arts? But what could we do, my child? You know how ill I am, don’t you? I can die at any moment. I will be at ease if I leave you provided with some independent work. You don’t want to write for the press. You don’t want to play in public. Only those two talents might provide for your life, right? The earth requires work from us – unskilled or privileged, - therefore, if you don’t want to serve it with arts for money, you need to get down to a trade.
But maybe I made a mistake by offering the companion for you? I thought that the disaster which Joan has experienced would urge her to work and she would appreciate you properly, but it seems that I made a mistake,” Stroganoff was talking to Anna, it seemed that they continued their started conversation.
I wanted to give them a sign that I could hear everything, I wanted to stand up and go out of my corner, so that I wouldn’t become an unwanted witness of the strange secrets, but an apathy, a drowsiness and irresistible doze took hold of me so much that I couldn’t move.
“No, father, I’m not sad. On the contrary, thank you very much for this meeting. My role is absolutely clear next to these wonderful, but neglected children. Their mother adore them, but it seems that her kisses and claps are the only system of her education, her only duty. You know well that I will
never have my own family. I will be an aunt-nurse for them, until…” her voice trembled a little, she was silent for a while, “until I leave for India where I will be learning a lot next to Ananda’s friends, but I have already promised you that this will happen only after your death.”
I didn’t see Stroganoff, but I could feel with my entire being that there were tears in his eyes. And I wasn’t wrong, because when I heard his voice again, it was through tears.
“Just think! How much beauty, how many talents you’ve got! What a mind, what a heart, and all of it must die, not reaching neither the earth nor people.”
“Just on the contrary, father. Since I love people, I want to work for them from the bottom of my heart. I want to be absolutely free, not tied up with any personal bonds. I don’t want to choose people for myself according to my taste, but I want to serve those suffering people whom life will bring to me. In this case your loving hand has given that meeting and those people to me, who may need me the most. It won’t be difficult for me with Joan, because she’s still a child, although the age difference between us isn’t great.
You were in my life, while she was educated by the greedy French farmers. And you, although you were laughing at my attraction to India and my searching for some higher wisdom of life – you are the most striking example of that person whom people call the great blessed.
Not knowing anything and absolutely not wishing to know anything about any “blessings”, you were showing me an example of the active kindness during your entire life. You haven’t gone past a man by not giving all your attention to him, not thinking what you could do for him. You used to help people, not waiting for them to ask you for your help.
I was following and I am following in your footsteps with my loyalty to those precepts which I can see in your activities. I know how difficult for you my love for Ananda is, which even seems for you to be without any response and killing me. Understand me now and forever. I’m talking about it for the first time during my entire life, but this time will also be the last one.
That love has brought not an undergoing, but a rebirth for me; not death, but life; not misery, but happiness. I understood the whole meaning of love when you aren’t asking anything for yourself, but you give everything and you don’t impoverish your spirit by doing so, but you become stronger.
That highest selflessness in which Ananda is living isn’t already an ordinary human creativity
- that’s the power of pure spirit, the spirit that is capable of turning every man’s daily routine into a shining reality.
And if you have created the joyful and happy life for me next to you, then he has taught me to value every moment of my life as the greatest wealth, when all man’s strength must be dedicated not to live an egoistic happiness, but to work for all people’s welfare. I’m walking my path easily, simply, joyfully, being free and loving.”
There were voices heard in the porch, their conversation stopped. Joan entered the room, the duke and I. followed her. The duke was cheerful, and Joan didn’t look gloomy anymore. She started placing small boxes joyfully.
There came a knock at the door, everyone pricked up one’s ears, I took advantage of this moment and slipped off into the garden.
I heard somebody calling me in several minutes, but instead of coming back inside, I stole into the furthermost corner of the garden.
Soon I saw the duke among the trees. He had a letter in his hands. He was searching for me by addressing me “Lovushka”, because he probably didn’t know my patronymic. I also didn’t know even his family name due to my absent-mindedness.
I was glad that it was him. Now it was the easiest for me to see him. The duke gave me the letter and told me that one clumsy sailor had brought it.
The captain was writing to me that he couldn’t dine with me today as agreed, because his affairs had changed. He was asking for my permission to postpone that Eastern idyll and to visit us tomorrow at ten o’clock in the evening.
I came back inside with the duke. I retold the contents of the letter to I. Stroganoffs were inviting us to stay with them, but I. thanked and told them that he wanted to use this extra time to write some letters, while I would have a chance to rest from the stress and running about.
We said good-bye to Stroganoffs, and I. offered Joan to spend the evening with us, but the old man reproached him categorically. He announced that Joan would dine with them and that at eight o’clock in the evening he would take both Joan and Anna to our place.
“That’s great,” I. continued. “Perhaps, you will join us, too?” he addressed the duke.
The duke blushed, became embarrassed like a boy and agreed with joy.
We left. I. was guiding me along the new road. He saw that I was catching crows, so he laughed and took my arm.
“And so,” he told me, “the new life of Joan and the duke has begun.”
“I see that the new life of the duke is clearer than Joan’s.”
“Maybe you are right, but if there’s any new life to begin here – that’s for Anna, not for those two,” I reproached him.
I. stopped so suddenly that two elegant ladies who were following us ran into me. They broke the panama off my head with their umbrellas not in an elegant way at all and they didn’t even think to apologize.
I got angry and gave a cry after them.
“That’s the real Turkish behaviour!”
Maybe I looked comically being mad, because the Turk who was going past us gave a laugh, and I became totally furious.
I. took my arm tenderly once again.
“Well, what a riddle you asked me… Well, that’s Lovushka,” I. was laughing.
We came back to the hotel successfully. I was glad that I. didn’t have a habit to throw reprimands around, which I pattered to Joan today, because I deserved namely this mostly.