Thursday, January 21, 2010

"I don't want to flirt with you"




Long after midnight the lamp was burning in Sanin's room. He sat down to the table and wrote to 'his Gemma.' He told her everything; he described the Polozovs--husband and wife--but, more than all, enlarged on his own feelings, and ended by appointing a meeting with her in three days!!! (with three marks of exclamation). Early in the morning he took this letter to the post, and went for a walk in the garden of the Kurhaus, where music was already being played. There were few people in it as yet; he stood before the arbour in which the orchestra was placed, listened to an adaptation of airs from 'Robert le Diable,' and after drinking some coffee, turned into a solitary side walk, sat down on a bench, and fell into a reverie. The handle of a parasol gave him a rapid, and rather vigorous, thump on the shoulder. He started.... Before him in a light, grey-green barége dress, in a white tulle hat, and _suède_ gloves, stood Maria Nikolaevna, fresh and rosy as a summer morning, though the languor of sound unbroken sleep had not yet quite vanished from her movements and her eyes.

'Good-morning,' she said. 'I sent after you to-day, but you'd already gone out. I've only just drunk my second glass--they're making me drink the water here, you know--whatever for, there's no telling ... am I not healthy enough? And now I have to walk for a whole hour. Will you be my companion? And then we'll have some coffee.'

'I've had some already,' Sanin observed, getting up; 'but I shall be very glad to have a walk with you.'

'Very well, give me your arm then; don't be afraid: your betrothed is not here--she won't see you.'

Sanin gave a constrained smile. He experienced a disagreeable sensation every time Maria Nikolaevna referred to Gemma. However, he made haste to bend towards her obediently.... Maria Nikolaevna's arm slipped slowly and softly into his arm, and glided over it, and seemed to cling tight to it.

'Come--this way,' she said to him, putting up her open parasol over her shoulder. 'I'm quite at home in this park; I will take you to the best places. And do you know what? (she very often made use of this expression), we won't talk just now about that sale, we'll have a thorough discussion of that after lunch; but you must tell me now about yourself ... so that I may know whom I have to do with. And afterwards, if you like, I will tell you about myself. Do you agree?'

'But, Maria Nikolaevna, what interest can there be for you ...'

'Stop, stop. You don't understand me. I don't want to flirt with you.' Maria Nikolaevna shrugged her shoulders. 'He's got a betrothed like an antique statue, is it likely I am going to flirt with him? But you've something to sell, and I'm the purchaser. I want to know what your goods are like. Well, of course, you must show what they are like. I don't only want to know what I'm buying, but whom I'm buying from. That was my father's rule. Come, begin ... come, if not from childhood--come now, have you been long abroad? And where have you been up till now? Only don't walk so fast, we're in no hurry.'

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

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