Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"I am going where you will be"

(Jacques-Louis David, The Loves of Paris and Helen )

Such were Sanin's thoughts, as he went to bed; but what he thought next morning when Maria Nikolaevna knocked impatiently at his door with the coral handle of her riding-whip, when he saw her in the doorway, with the train of a dark-blue riding habit over her arm, with a man's small hat on her thickly coiled curls, with a veil thrown back over her shoulder, with a smile of invitation on her lips, in her eyes, over all her face--what he thought then--history does not record.

'Well? are you ready?' rang out a joyous voice.

Sanin buttoned his coat, and took his hat in silence. Maria Nikolaevna flung him a bright look, nodded to him, and ran swiftly down the staircase. And he ran after her.

The horses were already waiting in the street at the steps. There were three of them, a golden chestnut thorough-bred mare, with a thin-lipped mouth, that showed the teeth, with black prominent eyes, and legs like a stag's, rather thin but beautifully shaped, and full of fire and spirit, for Maria Nikolaevna; a big, powerful, rather thick-set horse, raven black all over, for Sanin; the third horse was destined for the groom. Maria Nikolaevna leaped adroitly on to her mare, who stamped and wheeled round, lifting her tail, and sinking on to her haunches. But Maria Nikolaevna, who was a first-rate horse-woman, reined her in; they had to take leave of Polozov, who in his inevitable fez and in an open dressing gown, came out on to the balcony, and from there waved a _batiste_ handkerchief, without the faintest smile, rather a frown, in fact, on his face. Sanin too mounted his horse; Maria Nikolaevna saluted Polozov with her whip, then gave her mare a lash with it on her arched and flat neck. The mare reared on her hind legs, made a dash forward, moving with a smart and shortened step, quivering in every sinew, biting the air and snorting abruptly. Sanin rode behind, and looked at Maria Nikolaevna; her slender supple figure, moulded by close-fitting but easy stays, swayed to and fro with self-confident grace and skill. She turned her head and beckoned him with her eyes alone. He came alongside of her.

'See now, how delightful it is,' she said. 'I tell you at the last, before parting, you are charming, and you shan't regret it.'

The same day, two hours later, Sanin was standing in his own room before her, like one distraught, ruined....

'Where are you going, dear?' she asked him. 'To Paris, or to Frankfort?'

'I am going where you will be, and will be with you till you drive me away,' he answered with despair and pressed close to him the hands of his sovereign. She freed her hands, laid them on his head, and clutched at his hair with her fingers. She slowly turned over and twisted the unresisting hair, drew herself up, her lips curled with triumph, while her eyes, wide and clear, almost white, expressed nothing but the ruthlessness and glutted joy of conquest. The hawk, as it clutches a captured bird, has eyes like that.

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

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