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And, oh, my love, my love We both go down together. And my parents will never consent to this love. But I hold your hand. Meet me on my vast veranda. And in my mind I see Margueritte portray, with absolute clarity, both Pierrot I have not listened to myself speaking to the Pierrot of this veranda in Nice, I turn my head to look at my father. His muscled bulk. His drunkard's bloated red nose. His vast The pantomime on stage continues, but my father turns to look at me. And in my mind I see Margueritte portray, with absolute clarity, both Pierrot I have not listened to myself speaking to the Pierrot of this veranda in Nice, I turn my head to look at my father. His muscled bulk. His drunkard's bloated red nose. His vast The pantomime on stage continues, but my father turns to look at me.
For two years the young Makena was breastfed, and carried around by her mother or her Kikuyu nanny in a papoose. Days were spent playing in the garden, which her mother still tends, surrounded by peacock-coloured starlings splashing in birdbaths under yellow-barked acacia, teasing their pack of Alsatian dogs or spying on elephants at the watering-hole below the treehouse at the bottom of their garden.
In the evenings, Kuki would take Sveva for walks, with an armed askari to protect against predatory game and often the pair would sleep out under the stars in different parts of the conservancy: Today they are what Sveva calls 'so intensely close that we don't have to speak to communicate'. As a young child, Sveva went to school in Nairobi, where Kuki has a house and where the pair would spend weekdays together before retreating to the conservancy for weekends.
Although she was briefly sent, at the age of 12, to Aiglon College, the exclusive international boarding school in Switzerland 'because my mother's friends thought it was a good idea that I saw the world, got some space, tasted some freedom', that lasted just six weeks. It was a dumping ground for rich kids who didn't know what home was. I told my mother if she didn't come and get me, she wouldn't recognise me when she did. For a while we went to this religious retreat in Colorado, where there were Buddhists and Taoists and Hindus, all living together.
So I got a great religious education. Or doing mad things like painting our bodies and then wriggling on huge white canvases. It was about experiencing life in extreme ways. But then, I was sensible too — yes, we'd party all night, but I'd always be the one to drive everyone home at dawn. Surprisingly, she says, this did not come as a shock, intellectually or emotionally, to the bush child. And besides, I was pretty mature.
Remember, from an early age I'd been surrounded by adult conversation. One night we might have Ian Douglas-Hamilton or Richard Leakey to dinner, discussing the future of conservation. The next it might be a chief of a tribe over to talk politics. Most kids don't get those opportunities. Kuki, while being 'unbelievably strict' when Sveva was a child, encouraged her daughter to stretch her wings, giving her emotional and financial support to do so. During a two-year gap break she travelled the world, experiencing different cultures, traditions, religions — working in a leper colony in India, motorcycling through Israel, travelling round the Middle East 'to learn about Muslim culture, which I've always been interested in'.
But she can never stay away from home for long, she says regretfully. It soon became clear why she is so passionate. Perched on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, overlooking the vast Lake Baringo and taking in mountains, grassy plains, cedar forests and valleys bursting with equatorial palms, vines and lush vegetation, the ,acre land she calls home is not just enormous, but magnificent. The Gallmann Africa Conservancy is one of the biggest private wildlife reserves in the world, with the largest population of black rhino outside national parks in Kenya, as well as elephant, antelope, leopard, lion.
From the air, the area appears endless, spreading across the hot, arid land like an enormous belt of green, with only a sprinkling of homes and staff accommodation, a research station and two camps giving any indication of human habitation. Kuki, now 62, employs Kenyans on the conservancy — from the anti-poaching team needed to protect their rare rhinos to scientific researchers working on botanical papers, but it is she and, increasingly, Sveva who run the show.
It is a demanding hour operation. Over breakfast at Kuki's homestead, on a long grey slate garden table littered with vases of lurid pink bougainvillaea, African baskets of fresh rolls and fruit, and pottery urns of chilli jam into which brilliant blue starlings dip their beaks, I witness the Gallmann women starting their day. While hugely affectionate towards each other — regularly exchanging hugs and kisses — their relationship is clearly fiery.
They haggle, interrupt each other, tell each other off. As Kuki says with a shrug, 'The daughter of a lion will never be a rabbit, eh? One minute the pair are debating the pros and cons of having a business consultant to advise on future projects, the next they are on to their latest eco project to turn a rampant wild bush called leleshwa into charcoal, followed by a discussion about buying new automatic rifles for their anti-poaching team.
Kuki might be the boss, but it is abundantly clear that Sveva is as involved with the conservancy as her mother — and equally clear that Kuki is aware that her daughter is the person who will see her African dream through to the next generation. Thanks to the transfer of ownership to a charity, the Gallmann Memorial Foundation, in theory the land will be protected in perpetuity.
But although it is financially maintained through ecological grants and donations, the duo are constantly thinking of new ways to make their land pay for itself. In the past decade they have built two luxury camps that are rented out to safari-lovers in search of a private game experience: Mukutan, which sleeps eight above a soaring gorge, and Makena's Hills, which sleeps 12, overlooking the Great Rift Valley where the first hominid was found.
They have built an educational centre, where schoolchildren can stay and experience the bush first hand, a scientific station where researchers can come to study, and a distillery to create their eco-charcoal and to extract plant oil. Most excitingly, they have also started a unique art project. Putting on cross-cultural performances on the edge of the Rift Valley, 7,ft up and an hour's flight from Nairobi, would seem impractical — if not impossible — to most people.
But the Gallmanns are not most people. They had a vision of a place that would unite Kenyan artists with those from around the world, where 'thinkers and movers and singers and dancers could celebrate through art'. So above the deep twists and gorges of the Rift Valley, overlooking the great watery stretches of Lake Baringo, the pair built a stone stage.
It took months to complete — enormous stone slabs had to be hauled across a hillside. When it was finished, inthey invited international dancers, musicians, acrobats, actors, lighting designers and directors to come together for six days to concoct a minute trans-cultural performance, which they called Prelude.
An audience of a few hundred invited guests — from Italian socialites and African warriors to American billionaires — were flown in and put up in luxurious tents around the property. Sveva says that for many of the guests, the moonlit, firelit performance by African drummers, American musicians, South American acrobats and Italian dancers was not just enjoyable, but life-changing.
But it genuinely moved people. I think Africa does that — it has the power to move people. And art has it too. The combination of both was just incredible. Sveva hopes their third, next February, will be the best yet. Entitled Earth, the show will bring together performance artists from every corner of the earth: Her aim is not only to celebrate diverse world cultures, but also to bring what she calls 'thinkers' together — with the aim of raising awareness and funding for wildlife and conservation projects.
So people will realise what amazing talent we have here. Unlike many colonial farmers — in particular the old-school Brits, many of whom don't like the Italians' forthright manner or their status as celebrated conservationists and diplomats — Kuki and Sveva made friends with surrounding tribes and neighbours from the moment they came to live on the farm.
That's how it is here. Our neighbours are also now our friends. At her wedding at the age of 19 to an English banker whom she met while at university, but which lasted just three years thanks to what she very reluctantly reveals were 'cultural differences'scores of Samburu, Pokot and Kikuyu trekked in to witness the occasion.
Last year, she was the only white woman to be invited to a once-in-a-decade, two-week circumcision ceremony, at which Samburu boys become warriors. Her celebrated status is not only on their own property, either. Wherever we travel, so I can meet groups she is working with on educational projects, people run out to greet and hug her. Sitting on the side of a road while villagers mend a puncture, a smiling Samburu woman spots her and 10 minutes later is back with the gift of a necklace.
A tall, ancient man in traditional red Shuka cloth shuffles up and asks to send regards to her mother, 'the Simba' lion. We are offered sweet tea by nomadic pastoralists on vast plains, and brought stools by dispossessed Samburu, who beg her to try to find a way to sort out peace meetings to stop recent tribal disturbances. Next morning, while Vasily Petrovich was busy washing, combing his hair, and fastening a black tie to a starched collar, Petya had a chance to see what his father had been writing during the night.
An ancient home-made exercise-book sewn together with coarse thread lay on the desk. Petya recognized it immediately. Its usual place was in Father's dresser, next to the other family relics: Petya had leafed through the exercise-book once before. Half of it was taken up with la speech Vasily Petrovich had written on the hundredth anniversary of Pushkin's birth; there had not been anything in the other half.
The boy now saw that a new speech filled up this yellowed half of the book. It was written in the same fine hand, and its subject was Tolstoi's death. This is how it began: Our literary sun has set.
Petya watched his father drink a quick glass of tea and then proceed to the hall where he put on his heavy coat with the frayed velvet collar. The boy noticed that his fingers were trembling and his pince-nez was shaking on his nose.
For some reason, Petya suddenly felt terribly sorry for his father. He went over to him and brushed against his coat-sleeve, as he used to do when he was a very small boy. He put on his wide-brimmed black hat and went out quickly. The day slipped by, a short and, at the same time, an interminably long and dreary November day, full of a vague feeling of expectation, furtive rumour, and endless repetition of the same agonizing words: Petya had spent all his life on the southern sea coast, in the Novorossiisk steppe region, and had never seen a forest.
But now he had a very clear mental picture of Yasnaya Polyana, of woods fringing an overgrown ravine. In his mind's eye Petya saw the black trunks of the ancient, leafless lindens, and the plain pine coffin containing the withered, decrepit body of Lev Tolstoi being lowered into the grave without priest or choir boys attending. And overhead the boy could see the ominous clouds and flocks of crows, exactly like those that circled over the church steeple and the bleak Kulikovo Field in the rainy twilight.
As usual, Father returned from his classes when the lamp had been lit in the dining-room. He was excited, happy and deeply moved. When Auntie, not without anxiety, asked him whether he had delivered his speech and what the reaction had been, Vasily Petrovich could not restrain the proud smile that flashed radiantly beneath his pince-nez. And that goes for the young ladies too. I repeated it for the seventh form of the Maryinsky School.
I hold that the literature teacher is fully entitled to discuss with his class the personality of any famous Russian writer, especially when the writer in question happens to be Tolstoi. What is more, I believe that it is my duty to do so. One of the youths sported a crooked pince-nez on a black ribbon, wore top-boots, smoked a cigarette and emitted the smoke through his nostrils; the young woman had on a short jacket and kept pressing her little chapped hands to her bosom.
For some reason or other they were reluctant to come into the rooms, and remained in the hall talking with Vasily Petrovich for a long time. The deep, rumbling bass seemed to belong to the student with the pince-nez, and the pleading, lisping voice of the young woman kept repeating the same phrase over and over again at regular intervals: It turned out that news of Vasily Petrovich's talk had somehow reached the Higher Courses for Women and the Medical School of the Imperial University in Odessa, and the student delegation had come to express their solidarity and also to request him to repeat his lecture to a Social-Democratic student circle.
Vasily Petrovich, while flattered, was unpleasantly surprised. He thanked the young people but categorically refused to address the Social-Democratic circle. He told them that he had never belonged to any party and had no intention of ever joining one, and added that he would regard any attempt to turn Tolstoi's death into something political as a mark of disrespect towards the great writer, as Tolstoi's abhorrence of all political parties and his negative attitude to politics generally were common knowledge.
At least a month went by before the trouble began. Actually, the approaching events cast a few shadows before them. However, they seemed so vague that the Bachei family paid little attention to them.
He was in excellent spirits. I'd say that red means. But I'm talking about people, are there red people? Of course there are. Take the North American Indians, for example. He kept his eyes on Father and asked: Who is this Fedya Pshenichnikov? His father is senior clerk in the Governor's office in Odessa. If that's the case, then perhaps your Fedya knows best. However, I think you can see for yourself that I'm not red, the only time I ever get red is during severe frost.
Not long afterwards a certain Krylevich, the bookkeeper of the mutual aid society at the boy's school where Vasily Petrovich taught, -dropped in one evening to see him about some savings-bank matters. When they had disposed of the matter, Krylevich, whom Vasily Petrovich had always found to be an unpleasant person, remained for tea.
He stayed for an hour and a half, was incredibly boring, and kept turning the conversation to Tolstoi, praising Vasily Petrovich for his courage, and begging him for his notes, saying he wanted to read them at home. Father refused, and his refusal upset Krylevich. Standing in front of the mirror in the hall, putting on his flat, greasy cap with the cockade of the Ministry of Education, he said with a sugary smile: Your modesty is worse than pride.
There were other minor happenings of the same order; for instance, some of their acquaintances would greet Vasily Petrovich in the street with exaggerated politeness, while others, on the' contrary, were unusually curt and made no attempt to conceal their disapproval. Then, just before Christmas, the storm broke. His report-card for the second quarter was in his satchel. His marks were excellent, there were no unpleasant reprimands and he even had "excellent" for attention, diligence, and behaviour, which, to tell the truth, was overdoing it a bit.
But, thanks to his innocent chocolate-brown crystal-clear eyes, Pavlik had the happy knack of always landing on his feet. The boy's mood harmonized with the holiday season, and only one tiny little worm of anxiety wriggled down in the deep recesses of his soul.
The trouble was that today, after the last lesson, the preparatory class, throwing caution to the winds, had organized another "obstruction. The boys got together and tossed somebody's galosh into the cast-iron stove that stood next 'to the cloak-room, with the result that a column of acrid smoke rose up, and the doorman had to flood the stove with water.
At that moment the bell rang, and the preparatory class scattered in a body. Now Pavlik was worried that the inspector might get to know about their prank, and that would lead to serious complications. This was the sole blot in his feeling of pure joy at the thought of the holidays ahead. Suddenly Pavlik saw what he feared most. A messenger was coming down the street and heading straight for him; he wore a cap with a blue band land his coat was trimmed with a lambskin collar from which Pavlik could see the blue stand-up collar of his tunic.
He was carrying a large cardboard-bound register under his arm.
The messenger walked up leisurely to the gate, looked at the triangular lamp with the house number underneath it, and stopped.
Pavlik realized that his end had come. There could be no doubt that this was an official note to his father concerning the behaviour of Pavel Bachei, preparatory-class pupil-in other words, the most dreadful fate that could befall a schoolboy. Do they want Father? He did not recognize his own voice and blushed a deep crimson as he added, "You can give it to me, I'll deliver it and you won't have to climb the stairs!
It never dawned on the boy that the messenger was a stranger. And in any case, this being his first year at school, he could not possibly know all the personnel. The moment the front door closed after the messenger the light went out for Pavlik. The world with all its beauty and freshness no longer existed for him. It had vanished on the instant. The crimson winter sun was setting beyond the blue-tinted snow-covered Kulikovo Field and the station; the bells of the frozen cab horse around the corner tinkled as musically as ever; the pots of hot cranberry jelly, set out on the balconies to cool, were steaming as usual, the coat of delicate pale-blue snow on the balcony railings and the steam curling over the pots seemed as cranberry-red as the cooling jelly itself; the street, full of the holiday spirit, was as gay and as lively as ever.
Pavlik no longer noticed any of this. At first he made up his mind that he would never go home again-he would roam the streets until he died of hunger or froze to death. Then, after he 'had walked around the side-streets, he took a sacred vow to change his whole way of life and never, never take part in any "obstructions" again; moreover, he would be a model pupil, the best-behaved boy not only in Odessa, but in all Russia, and thus earn Father's and Auntie's forgiveness.
Then he began to feel sorry for himself, for his ruined life, and even started to cry, smearing the tears all over his face. In the end pangs of hunger drove him, home and, utterly exhausted with suffering, he appeared on the threshold after the lamps had been lit.
Pavlik was ready to confess and repent when he suddenly noticed that the whole family was in a state of great excitement. The excitement, apparently, had nothing at all to do with the person of Pavlik, as no one paid the slightest attention to him when he came in.
The dining-room table had not been cleared. Father was striding from room to room, his shoes squeaking loudly and 'his coat-tails flying. There were red spots on his face. I warned you," Auntie kept repeating, as she swung back and forth on the swivel stool in front of the piano with its wax-spotted silver candlesticks. Petya was breathing on the window-pane and etching with his finger the words, "Dear sir, Dear sir.
He had delivered a message to Councillor Bachei, requesting him to appear the following day "to explain the circumstances which prompted him to deliver an unauthorized speech to his students on the occasion of Count Tolstoi's death. The moment Petya saw his pale forehead and trembling jaw, he knew something terrible had happened. Father was reclining on the wicker back of the chair and rocking nervously, shoving off with the toe of his squeaking shoe.
His pince-nez had slid down, and Petya saw two tiny pink dents on the bridge of his nose which gave his face the appearance of helpless suffering.Анна. От 6 до 18 (1993) ⁄ Документальный
The boy recalled that he had had this same look when Mother had died and lay in a white coffin covered with hyacinths; then, too, Father had rocked back and forth nervously, arms folded behind his head, his eyes filled with tears. Petya walked over to Father, put his arms around his shoulders, which bore faint traces of dandruff, and hugged him.
Father shook the boy's arms off, jumped up, and gesticulated so violently that his starched cuffs popped out with a snap. He divested himself of jacket and shoes, lay down and turned his face to the wall. At the sight of Father lying huddled up, of his white socks and the blue steel buckle on the crumpled back of his waistcoat, Petya broke down and began to cry, wiping his tears on his sleeve. What actually had taken place at the Education Department? To begin with, Vasily Petrovich had spent a long and uncomfortable time sitting alone in the cold, officially sumptuous waiting-room on a gilded blue velvet chair of the kind usually seen in museums or theatre lobbies.
Then a dandified official in the uniform of the Ministry of Education appeared, his figure reflected in the parquet floor, and informed Vasily Petrovich that His Excellency would see him.
His Excellency was sitting behind an enormous writing-desk. He was hunchbacked and, like most hunchbacks, was very short, so that nothing could be seen of him above the massive malachite desk set with two bronze malachite candelabra, except a proud, malicious head, iron grey land closely-cropped, propped up by a high starched collar and white tie.
He was wearing his formal civil service dress-coat with decorations. Vasily Petrovich was taken aback, but when he tried to picture his old uniform with the rows of holes where Petya had once yanked the buttons off together with the cloth, he smiled good-naturedly, to his own surprise, and even waved his hands somewhat humorously. Don't wave your arms about: Be good enough to remember where you are and sta-a-and to attention!
I summoned you here to present you with an alternative," he continued, pronouncing the word "alternative" with evident relish, "to present you with an alternative: Should you refuse to do so, you will be discharged under Article 3 with no explanation and with all the unfortunate consequences as far as you are concerned.
I will not tolerate anti-government propaganda in my district. I will mercilessly and unhesitatingly suppress every instance of it. What have politics got to do with it? He is a man who dared to encroach upon the most sacred principles of the Russian Empire and its fundamental laws.
If you cannot grasp this, then government service is not the place for you! Vasily Petrovich left the office with his knees shaking, a shaking that he could not control either on the marble staircase, where in two white niches there were two gypsum busts of the tsar and tsarina in la pearl tiara, or in the cloak-room, where a massive attendant threw his coat to him over the barrier, or even later, in the cab, a luxury the Bachei family indulged in only on very special occasions.
And so here he was, lying on the bed-clothes with his feet tucked up under him, deeply insulted, powerless, humiliated, and overwhelmed by the misfortune that had befallen not only him personally but, as he now realized, his whole family as well.
To be discharged under Article 3 with no grounds stated meant more than the black list and social ostracism, it signified in all probability an administrative exile, i. There was only one way out-a public recantation. By nature Vasily Petrovich was neither hero nor martyr. He was an ordinary kind-hearted, intelligent man, a decent, honest intellectual, the kind known as an "idealist," and a "pure soul.
In his opinion a "bargain with one's conscience" was the epitome of moral degradation. And, nevertheless, he wavered. The pit they had dug for him so ruthlessly would not bear thinking about.
He realized that there was no way out, although he tried to think of one. Vasily Petrovich was so disheartened that he even decided to petition the Emperor and sent for ten kopeks' worth of the best "ministerial" stationery from the shop round the corner. He still adhered to his belief that the tsar-the Lord's Anointed-was just and upright. Perhaps he would actually have written to the tsar, had it not been for the fact that at this juncture Auntie took a hand in the matter.
She told the cook on no account to go for any "ministerial" stationery, and addressing herself to Vasily Petrovich said: Don't you understand that they are one and the same bunch?
Tell me, just what can I do? She retreated to her little room next to the kitchen, sat down at her dressing-table, and pressed a crumpled lace handkerchief to her red nose.
It was the day of Mother's patron saint. Every year on that day they visited the cemetery to offer up a mass for the dead. They set out today too. There was a blizzard blowing and the blinding whiteness hurt their eyes. The snow-drifts at the cemetery blended with the white of the sky. Fine, powdery snow crystals rose over the black iron railings and crosses. The wind whistled through old metal wreaths with porcelain flowers. Petya stood knee-deep in the fresh snow.
He had taken off his cap, but still had on a hood. He was praying diligently, trying to visualize his dead mother, but could recall only minor details: Two kind eyes were smiling at him through the dotted veil tied under her chin. That was all Petya could remember. There was a faint trace of a long past grief that time had healed, the fear of his own death, and the gold letters of Mother's name on the white marble slab from which the sexton had carelessly brushed the snow just before they had arrived.
Next to it was Grandma's grave, and there was a vacant place between the two graves where, as Vasily Petrovich was wont to say, he would one day be laid at rest between his mother and his wife, the two women he had loved so faithfully and steadfastly. Petya crossed himself and bowed at the proper moments, he kept thinking about his mother, and, at the same time, observed the priest, the psalm-reader, Father, Pavlik, and Auntie.
Pavlik was fidgeting all the time, the turned-up hood irritated his ears and he kept tugging at it. Auntie was weeping into her muff quietly. Father stood with eyes fixed on the tombstone, his folded hands held humbly before him and his greying head with the long seminarist's hair bent low. Petya knew Father was thinking about Mother. But he had no idea of the terrible conflict raging within him. Especially now did Vasily Petrovich miss her, her love, and her moral support.
He thought of the day when he, an eager young man, had read to her his essay on Pushkin, of how they had both discussed it long and heatedly, of the glorious morning, when he had put on his new uniform and was standing in the hall, ready to set out to read his essay, and she had handed him his freshly-pressed handkerchief, still warm from the hot iron, kissed him fondly, and crossed him with her thin fingers; and afterwards, when he had returned home in triumph, they had had a hearty dinner and little Petya, whom they were training to be an independent young man, had smeared his porridge all over his fat cheeks and kept repeating, "Daddy!
How long ago, and yet, how close it all seemed! Now Vasily Petrovich had to decide his fate alone. For the first time in his life he understood clearly something that he either could not or refused to understand before: One had to be a docile tsarist official, with no views of one's own, and obey the orders of other officials-one's superiors-unquestioningly, no matter how unjust or even criminal they might be.
But worst of all, as far as Vasily Petrovich was concerned, was the fact that the one responsible for this state of affairs was none other than the Russian autocrat himself, the Anointed of the Lord, in whose sanctity and infallibility Vasily Petrovich had trusted so deeply and implicitly. Now that this trust had been shaken, Vasily Petrovich turned whole-heartedly to religion.
He offered up prayers for his dead wife, and implored divine help and guidance. But his prayers no longer brought him consolation.
He crossed himself, bowed low, and yet somehow or other he seemed to see the priest and psalm-reader, who were rushing through the service, in a new and different light. Their words and actions no longer created the religious atmosphere of former years, but, instead, seemed crude, unnatural, as if Vasily Petrovich himself was not praying, but only observing two shamans performing some rite. That which formerly had moved him deeply was now bereft of all its poetry. The priest, in a mourning chasuble of brocade with a silver cross embroidered on the back, his short arms wrapped in the dark sleeves of a protruding tunic, was chanting the beautiful words of the requiem as he deftly swung the censer to and fro, making the hot coals glow like rubies.
Purple smoke poured from it, turned grey quickly and melted in the wind, leaving the air heavy with incense. The psalm-reader had an enormous moustache and his winter overcoat was exactly like Vasily Petrovich's, even to the frayed velvet collar. His bulging eyes were reverently half closed, and his voice rose and fell as he quickly echoed the priest's singing. Both priest and psalm-reader made a pretence of not hurrying, although Vasily Petrovich could see they were rushing the service, as they had to officiate at other graves where they were eagerly awaited and whence impatient relatives were already signalling them.
Their relief was evident when they finally reached the last part and put all their energy behind the words "the tears at the grave turn to singing," etc. The priest said, "I thank you! Have faith in the Lord, perhaps there is a way out. Good-bye for the present. Dreadful weather, isn't it?
Petya saw his face turn red. Suddenly there flashed into Vasily Petrovich's mind the Education Department official bawling at him and his own humiliating fear, and once again the feeling of pride, which until then he had tried so hard to subordinate to Christian humility, welled up in him.
At that moment he decided that not for anything in the world would he surrender, and if necessary he would suffer all the consequences for the sake of Truth. However, once they had returned home from the cemetery and he had calmed down a little, his former doubts returned: Meanwhile, the school holidays pursued their usual course, the only difference being that this time they were not as jolly or as carefree as in previous years.
Tedious and tiresome as usual was the waiting for nightfall on Christmas Eve; appetizing smells drifted in from the kitchen while they awaited the appearance of the first star in the window-the signal to light the lamps and sit down to dinner and Christmas pudding. They had the usual Christmas party next day, and carol-singers came in carrying a star hung with tinsel and a round paper icon in the centre. Blue diamonds of moonlight glittered festively and mysteriously on the frosted window-panes, and on New Year's Eve there was apple pie with a new silver coin hidden in it for good luck.
The regimental bands played as usual in the clear, frosty noonday for the Twelfth-Day parade on Cathedral Square. The holidays were coming to an end. Some kind of decision had to be made.
Vasily Petrovich became despondent, and his depression affected the boys. Auntie alone tried to keep up the holiday spirit.
meet · me · on · my · vast · veranda
She put on a new silk dress, and all her favourite rings were brought out to adorn her slender fingers; she smelled of "Coeur de Jeannette" perfume, and she would sit at the piano, open a large folio, and play Madame Vyaltseva's repertoire of waltzes, polkas, and gipsy serenades.
On Twelfth-Day Eve she decided to have the traditional fortune-telling. They poured cold water into a basin and dropped melted paraffin into it, as they had no wax, and then interpreted the various shapes it froze into; in the kitchen they burned balls of crumpled paper and then told the meaning of the shadows cast by them on the freshly whitewashed wall. But there was something strained in all this. How shall we live? Have I the right to do this? What a tragedy that Zhenya is no longer with us!
Instead, the cook was sent to the shop for "ministerial" stationery, and Vasily Petrovich wrote out his resignation in his clear flowing hand, unadorned by flourishes or curlicues. His resignation was accepted coldly.
However, there was no further unpleasantness-apparently, it was not in the interests of the Education Department to have the story spread round. And so, Vasily Petrovich found himself out of a job, the most terrible thing that could hap- pen to a family man with no other means of support except his salary. Vasily Petrovich had put aside a little money a long time ago; he had dreamed of going abroad with his wife, and then, after her death, with his 'boys.
Now that dream evaporated. This money, together with what he would get from the mutual aid society, would see the family through the next year, if they lived frugally. But it was still a mystery how they were to exist after that, especially as another question arose: As the sons of a teacher they had been exempt from tuition fees; now, however, he would have to pay out of their meagre budget a sum that was beyond his means.
But worst of all, where Vasily Petrovich was concerned, was his enforced idleness, for he had been used to work all his life. He did not know what to do with himself and hung around the house for days on end in his old jacket, forgetting to go to the barber's, looking older every day, and making frequent visits to the cemetery where he spent long hours at his wife's grave. Pavlik, still too young to be touched by the terrible thing that had befallen them, continued his former carefree existence.
But Petya understood everything. The thought that he would have to leave school, remove the cockade from his cap and wear his uniform with hooks instead of shiny metal buttons, as was the case with boys who had been expelled or had not matriculated, made him blush with shame. Things were aggravated by an ominous change in the attitude of the teachers and some of his class-mates.
In short, the New Year could not have begun worse. Petya was most unhappy and was amazed to see that Auntie, far from being upset or down-hearted, gave the impression of everything being fine. There was a look of determination in her eye which implied that she was going to save the family at all costs. Her plan was as follows: In order to add to the income Auntie decided to move into the dining-room, move the cook into the kitchen, and let the two rooms, thus vacated, with board.
Father winced painfully at the mere thought of his home being turned into an "eating-house," but as there was no other way out, he gave in and said: On the gate-post they nailed a little board that said: Auntie believed that this would impart a social, political, and even an opposition note to their commercial undertaking. She began to buy new kitchen utensils and put in a stock of the best and freshest foods; she had a new calico dress and snow-white apron made for Dunyasha and spent most of her time studying the Molokhovets Cookery Book, that bible of every well-to-do home.
She copied the most useful recipes into a special notebook and made up tasty and nourishing menus. Never before had the Bachei family eaten so well-or, rather, feasted so. After a month's time they had all put on weight, including Vasily Petrovich, a fact that seemed strangely at variance with his status of a man persecuted by the government. All would have gone well, perhaps even brilliantly, had it not been for the lack of customers. One might have thought that all the professional people had agreed never to dine again.
True, the first few days brought some customers. Two well-dressed bearded gentlemen with sunken cheeks and a fanatical glitter in their eyes called, discovered that there were no vegetarian dishes on the menu, and stamped out without bothering to say good-bye.
Then a saucy orderly in a peakless cap, serving in the Modlinsky Regiment, came in at the back door and asked for two portions of cabbage-soup for his officer. Auntie explained that there was no cabbage-soup on the menu, but that there was soupe printaniere. That, said the soldier, was quite all right with him, provided there was plenty of bread to go with it, as his gentleman had lost all his money at cards and was sitting in his quarters with a bad cold and nothing hot in his stomach for nearly two days.
Auntie gave him two portions of soupe printaniere and plenty of bread on credit, and the orderly doubled down the stairs on his short, thick legs in worn-down boots, leaving the heavy odour of an infantry barracks in the kitchen.
Two days later he appeared again; this time he carried off two portions of bouillon and meat patties, also on credit, and promised to pay as soon as his gentleman won back his money; apparently, his gentleman never did, because the soldier disappeared for good.
No one else came to dine. As far as letting the two rooms was concerned, things were not much better. The very day they put the little cards in the window a newly-wed couple made inquiries: They seemed to be the personification of happiness. Their new, twenty-four carat gold wedding-rings shone so dazzlingly, they were surrounded by such a fragrant aroma of scented soap, cold cream, brilliantine, hair tonic, and Brokar perfume, the mixture of which seemed to Petya the very essence of newly-weddedness, that the Bachei flat with its old wallpaper and poorly-waxed floors suddenly appeared to be small, shabby, and dark.
While the young couple was looking over the rooms, the husband never once let go of his wife's arm, as if he were afraid she'd run off somewhere; the wife, in turn, pressed close to him as she looked round in horror and exclaimed in a loud singsong voice: It's a real bahn!
It smells like a kitchen! No, no, it's not at all what we're looking for! The army surgeon's silver spurs tinkled delicately, and the young wife raised her skirts squeamishly and stepped gingerly as if afraid to soil her tiny new shoes. It was only after the downstairs door had banged behind them that Petya realized the strange foreign word "bahn" was just plain "barn," and he felt so hurt he could have cried. Auntie's ears were still burning long after they had gone.
No one else came to see the rooms. And so Auntie's plans failed. The spectre of poverty again rose up before the Bachei family. Despair banished all hopes. Who knows what the outcome would have been, if salvation had not come one fine day-out of the blue, as it always does. AN OLD FRIEND It was really a glorious day, one of those March days when the snow has melted, the earth is black, a watery blueness breaks through the clouds over the bare branches of the orchards, a fresh breeze sweeps the first dust along the dry pavements, and the incessant tolling of the Lenten bells booms over the city like a great bass string.
The bakeries sold pastry "skylarks" with charred raisin eyes, and swarms of rooks circled over Cathedral Square, over the huge corner house, over Libman's Cafe, and over the double-headed eagle above Gayevsky's, the chemist's, their spring din and clamour drowning out the sounds of the city.
It was a day Petya would long remember. It was the day he became a tutor and, for the first time in his life, was to be paid for a Latin lesson he gave to another boy. This other boy was Gavrik. A few days before, on his way home from school, Petya was walking along slowly, lost in unhappy thoughts and visualizing the day in the near future when he would be expelled from the gymnasium for arrears of fees.
Suddenly, someone crashed into him from behind and punched his satchel so hard that his pencil-box shook and clattered. Petya stumbled and nearly fell; he turned, ready to charge his unseen enemy, and saw Gavrik, his feet planted apart and a grin on his face. Where've you been all this time? You're a fine chap, hitting one of your own!
I socked the satchel, not you. Whenever they would meet and ask each other the usual "How are things? Such was the case with the owner of the bathing beach between Sredny Fontan and Arcadia who had employed Gavrik for the season to unlock the bathing-boxes, take charge of hiring the striped bathing-suits, and keep an eye on the bathers' clothes.
The beach owner disappeared at the end of the season without paying him a kopek, all he had had in the end were his tips. It was the same with the Greek who had hired a gang of dockers and who had brazenly cheated the men out of more than half their wages. It was the same again when he had worked as bill-poster, and on many of the other jobs which he had taken in the hope of being at least a little help to Terenty's family and at the same time earning a bit for himself.
It was much more fun, although just as unprofitable in the long run, to work in the "Bioscope Realite" cinema on Richelieu Street, near the Alexandrovsky police-station In those days the cinema, that famous invention of the Lumiere brothers, was no longer a novelty, but, none the less, the magic of "moving pictures" continued to amaze the world. Cinemas mushroomed up all over the city, -and they became known as "illusions.
Usually there were slot-machines in the foyer, and if you put five kopeks in the slot a bar of chocolate would slip out mysteriously, or brightly-coloured sugar eggs would roll out from under a bronze hen. Sometimes there would be a wax figure on exhibition in a glass case. As yet there were no specially built theatres for the "illusions," and the general practice was to rent a flat and use the largest room for the screen.
Madame Valiadis, widow of a Greek, an enterprising and highly imaginative woman, owned the "Bioscope Realite. To this end she first engaged Mr. Zingertal, a famous singer of topical ditties, to appear before each showing, and second, she decided to revolutionize the silent film by introducing sound effects.
Crowds thronged to the "Bioscope Realite. Zingertal, the popular favourite, duly appeared before each performance in front of a small screen in the former dining-room decorated with old flowered paper, a room as long and narrow as a pencil-box. Zingertal, a tall, thin Jew, wore a rather long frock-coat, yellowed pique vest, striped trousers, white spats and a black top hat which pressed down on his protruding ears. With a Mephistophelian smile on his long, clean-shaven, lined and hollow-cheeked face, he sang the popular tunes of the day, accompanying himself on a tiny violin, tunes such as "The Odessa girl is the girl for me," "The soldier boys are marching," and, finally, his hit song "Zingertal, my robin, play me on your violin.
The lamp of the projector hissed, the film buzzed and rattled on, and tiny, cramped red or blue captions, which seemed to have been typed on a typewriter, appeared on the screen. Then, in quick succession, carne the shorts: Then Bleriot's monoplane emerged from the clouds for an instant-his famous Channel flight from Calais to Dover.
Then came the comedy, and this was Madame Valiadis' greatest moment. Behind the flickering veil of raindrops a little monkey-like man called Knucklehead, learning to ride a bicycle, kept bumping into things and knocking them over; the audience not only saw all this, they heard it as well. The crash and tinkle of falling glass accompanied the shattering of street lamps on the screen. Pails banged and clattered as house-painters in blouses tumbled off ladders and landed on the pavement.
Dozens of dinner-sets were smashed to bits as they slid and dropped from the display window of a china shop. A cat mewed hysterically when the bicycle wheels rolled over its tail. The enraged crowd shook their fists and chased the fleeing Knucklehead. A fire-engine tore past. Bursts of laughter shook the darkened "illusion" room. And all the while, unseen by the audience, Gavrik sweated, earning his fifty kopeks a day.
It was he who waited for his cue to smash the crockery, blow a whistle, bark, mew, ring a bell, shout "Catch him! Petya helped Gavrik on several occasions. The two of them would raise such a rumpus behind the screen that crowds would gather in the street.
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The popularity of the electric theatre grew tremendously. But the avaricious widow was far from satisfied. Aware that the public liked politics, she ordered Zingertal to freshen up his repertoire with something political, and then raised the price of admission. Zingertal shrugged his shoulders, smiled his Mephistophelian smile and said, "As you wish"; next day he appeared with a new number entitled "Neckties, neckties" instead of the old "The soldier boys are marching.
X, Hangs ties on people's necks, A habit which we dreadfully deplore Zingertal was thrown out of the city within twenty-four hours; Madame Valiadis, forced to piay enormous bribes to the police and to close her "illusion," was ruined, while Gavrik was paid only a quarter of what he had earned.
Gavrik was going on fifteen. His voice had changed to a youthful bass. He had not grown very much, but his shoulders were broader and stronger, and there were fewer freckles on his nose. His features had become more definite and his clear eyes were firm.
And yet, there was still much of the child about him-such as his deliberate rolling sailor's gait, his habit of wrinkling his round forehead when puzzled by something- and his amazing accuracy in spitting through tightly-clenched teeth. Here, I'll show you some. Most of them were illustrated, and Petya immediately recognized them from the pages of the Odessa Leaflet, which the Bachei family took in.
And, finally, there were the impressive-looking, long, uninterrupted columns of joint-stock company reports and bank balances, showing their investments and fantastic dividends. Gavrik's small, strong, ink-stained hands held the damp newspaper sheet, that magic, miniature record of the wealth of a big industrial and trading centre, so far beyond the reach of Gavrik and the thousands of other ordinary working people like him.
You can't even make ends meet. You can't fool me. I know your old man was booted out of his job and you haven't a kopek. It's the talk of the town. But don't worry, Petya, they won't put him in the jug for it. What do you mean by the jug? He doesn't even know what the 'jug' means! It means being locked up in jail. Take it from me.