Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sanin: 'I love her, love her madly!'

'Mamma told you I don't want to be Herr Klüber's wife?'

'Yes.'

Gemma moved forward on the seat. The basket tottered, fell ... a few cherries rolled on to the path. A minute passed by ... another.

'Why did she tell you so?' he heard her voice saying. Sanin as before could only see Gemma's neck. Her bosom rose and fell more rapidly than before.

'Why? Your mother thought that as you and I, in a short time, have become, so to say, friends, and you have some confidence in me, I am in a position to give you good advice--and you would mind what I say.'

Gemma's hands slowly slid on to her knees. She began plucking at the folds of her dress.

'What advice will you give me, Monsieur Dimitri?' she asked, after a short pause.

Sanin saw that Gemma's fingers were trembling on her knees.... She was only plucking at the folds of her dress to hide their trembling. He softly laid his hand on those pale, shaking fingers.

'Gemma,' he said, 'why don't you look at me?' She instantly tossed her hat back on to her shoulder, and bent her eyes upon him, confiding and grateful as before. She waited for him to speak.... But the sight of her face had bewildered, and, as it were, dazed him. The warm glow of the evening sun lighted up her youthful head, and the expression of that head was brighter, more radiant than its glow.

'I will mind what you say, Monsieur Dimitri,' she said, faintly smiling, and faintly arching her brows; 'but what advice do you give me?'

'What advice?' repeated Sanin. 'Well, you see, your mother considers that to dismiss Herr Klüber simply because he did not show any special courage the day before yesterday ...'

'Simply because?' said Gemma. She bent down, picked up the basket, and set it beside her on the garden seat.

'That ... altogether ... to dismiss him, would be, on your part ... unreasonable; that it is a step, all the consequences of which ought to be thoroughly weighed; that in fact the very position of
your affairs imposes certain obligations on every member of your family ...'

'All that is mamma's opinion,' Gemma interposed; 'those are her words; but what is your opinion?'

'Mine?' Sanin was silent for a while. He felt a lump rising in his throat and catching at his breath. 'I too consider,' he began with an effort ...

Gemma drew herself up. 'Too? You too?'

'Yes ... that is ...' Sanin was unable, positively unable to add a single word more.

'Very well,' said Gemma. 'If you, as a friend, advise me to change my decision--that is, not to change my former decision--I will think it over.' Not knowing what she was doing, she began to tip the cherries back from the plate into the basket.... 'Mamma hopes that I will mind what you say. Well ... perhaps I really will mind what you say.'

'But excuse me, Fräulein Gemma, I should like first to know what reason impelled you ...'

'I will mind what you say,' Gemma repeated, her face right up to her brows was working, her cheeks were white, she was biting her lower lip. 'You have done so much for me, that I am bound to do as you wish; bound to carry out your wishes.

(…)

Almost running, Sanin returned to his hotel room. He felt, he knew that only there, only by himself, would it be clear to him at last what was the matter, what was happening to him. And so it was; directly he had got inside his room, directly he had sat down to the writing-table, with both elbows on the table and both hands pressed to his face, he cried in a sad and choked voice, 'I love her, love her madly!' and he was all aglow within, like a fire when a thick layer of dead ash has been suddenly blown off. An instant more ... and he was utterly unable to understand how he could have sat beside her ... her!--and talked to her and not have felt that he worshipped the very hem of her garment, that he was ready as young people express it 'to die at her feet.' The last interview in the garden had decided everything. Now when he thought of her, she did not appear to him with blazing curls in the shining starlight; he saw her sitting on the garden-seat, saw her all at once tossing back her hat, and gazing at him so confidingly ... and the tremor and hunger of love ran through all his veins. He remembered the rose which he had been carrying about in his pocket for three days: he snatched it out, and pressed it with such feverish violence to his lips, that he could not help frowning with the pain. Now he considered nothing, reflected on nothing, did not deliberate, and did not look forward; he had done with all his past, he leaped forward into the future; from the dreary bank of his lonely bachelor life he plunged headlong into that glad, seething, mighty torrent--and little he cared, little he wished to know, where it would carry him, or whether it would dash him against a rock! No more the soft-flowing currents of the Uhland song, which had lulled him not long ago ... These were mighty, irresistible torrents! They rush flying onwards and he flies with them....

He took a sheet of paper, and without blotting out a word, almost with one sweep of the pen, wrote as follows:--

'DEAR GEMMA,--You know what advice I undertook to give you, what your mother desired, and what she asked of me; but what you don't know and what I must tell you now is, that I love you, love you with all the ardour of a heart that loves for the first time! This passion has flamed up in me suddenly, but with such force that I can find no words for it! When your mother came to me and asked me, it was still only smouldering in me, or else I should certainly, as an honest man, have refused to carry out her request.... The confession I make you now is the confession of an honest man. You ought to know whom you have to do with--between us there should exist no misunderstandings. You see that I cannot give you any advice.... I love you, love you, love you--and I have nothing else--either in my head or in my heart!!

'DM. SANIN.'

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

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