New Years Eve. Nellie, the daughter of a landowner and general, a young and pretty girl, dreaming day and night of being married, was sitting in her room, gazing with exhausted, half-closed eyes into the looking-glass. She was pale, tense, and as motionless as the looking-glass.
The non-existent but apparent vista of a long, narrow corridor with endless rows of candles, the reflection of her face, her hands, of the frameall this was already clouded in mist and merged into a boundless grey sea. The sea was undulating, gleaming and now and then flaring crimson.
Looking at Nellies motionless eyes and parted lips, one could hardly say whether she was asleep or awake, but nevertheless she was seeing. At first she saw only the smile and soft, charming expression of someones eyes, then against the shifting grey background there gradually appeared the outlines of a head, a face, eyebrows, beard. It was he, the destined one, the object of long dreams and hopes. The destined one was for Nellie everything, the significance of life, personal happiness, career, fate. Outside him, as on the grey background of the looking-glass, all was dark, empty, meaningless. And so it was not strange that, seeing before her a handsome, gently smiling face, she was conscious of bliss, of an unutterably sweet dream that could not be expressed in speech or on paper. Then she heard his voice, saw herself living under the same roof with him, her life merged into his. Months and years flew by against the grey background. And Nellie saw her future distinctly in all its details.
Picture followed picture against the grey background. Now Nellie saw herself one winter night knocking at the door of Stepan Lukitch, the district doctor. The old dog hoarsely and lazily barked behind the gate. The doctors windows were in darkness. All was silence.
For Gods sake, for Gods sake! whispered Nellie.
But at last the garden gate creaked and Nellie saw the doctors cook.
Is the doctor at home?
His honours asleep, whispered the cook into her sleeve, as though afraid of waking her master. Hes only just got home from his fever patients, and gave orders he was not to be waked.
But Nellie scarcely heard the cook. Thrusting her aside, she rushed headlong into the doctors house. Running through some dark and stuffy rooms, upsetting two or three chairs, she at last reached the doctors bedroom. Stepan Lukitch was lying on his bed, dressed, but without his coat, and with pouting lips was breathing into his open hand. A little night-light glimmered faintly beside him. Without uttering a word Nellie sat down and began to cry. She wept bitterly, shaking all over.
My husband is ill! she sobbed out. Stepan Lukitch was silent. He slowly sat up, propped his head on his hand, and looked at his visitor with fixed, sleepy eyes. My husband is ill! Nellie continued, restraining her sobs. For mercys sake come quickly. Make haste. Make haste!
Eh? growled the doctor, blowing into his hand.
Come! Come this very minute! Or its terrible to think! For mercys sake!
And pale, exhausted Nellie, gasping and swallowing her tears, began describing to the doctor her husbands illness, her unutterable terror. Her sufferings would have touched the heart of a stone, but the doctor looked at her, blew into his open hand, andnot a movement.
Ill come to-morrow! he muttered.
Thats impossible! cried Nellie. I know my husband has typhus! At once this very minute you are needed!
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|