“Jean, your birdie’s been sea-sick.”
Afterwards when I was at Yalta I saw the same beautiful lady dashing about on horseback with a couple of officers hardly able to keep up with her. And one morning I saw her in an overall and a Phrygian cap, sketching on the sea-front with a great crowd admiring her a little way off. I too was introduced to her. She pressed my hand with great warmth, and looking at me ecstatically, thanked me in honeyed cadences for the pleasure I had given her by my writings.
“Don’t you believe her,” Shamohin whispered to me, “she has never read a word of them.”
When I was walking on the sea-front in the early evening Shamohin met me with his arms full of big parcels of fruits and dainties.
“Prince Maktuev is here!” he said joyfully. “He came yesterday with her brother, the spiritualist! Now I understand what she was writing to him about! Oh, Lord!” he went on, gazing up to heaven, and pressing his parcels to his bosom. “If she hits it off with the prince, it means freedom, then I can go back to the country with my father!”
And he ran on.
“I begin to believe in spirits,” he called to me, looking back. “The spirit of grandfather Ilarion seems to have prophesied the truth! Oh, if only it is so!”
The day after this meeting I left Yalta and how Shamohin’s story ended I don’t know.
It is one o’clock in the afternoon. Shopping is at its height at the “Nouveaute’s de Paris,” a drapery establishment in one of the Arcades. There is a monotonous hum of shopmen’s voices, the hum one hears at school when the teacher sets the boys to learn something by heart. This regular sound is not interrupted by the laughter of lady customers nor the slam of the glass door, nor the scurrying of the boys.
Polinka, a thin fair little person whose mother is the head of a dressmaking establishment, is standing in the middle of the shop looking about for some one. A dark-browed boy runs up to her and asks, looking at her very gravely:
“What is your pleasure, madam?”
“Nikolay Timofeitch always takes my order,” answers Polinka.
Nikolay Timofeitch, a graceful dark young man, fashionably dressed, with frizzled hair and a big pin in his cravat, has already cleared a place on the counter and is craning forward, looking at Polinka with a smile.
“Morning, Pelagea Sergeevna!” he cries in a pleasant, hearty baritone voice. “What can I do for you?”
“Good-morning!” says Polinka, going up to him. “You see, I’m back again. . . . Show me some gimp, please.”
“Gimp—for what purpose?”
“For a bodice trimming—to trim a whole dress, in fact.”
Nickolay Timofeitch lays several kinds of gimp before Polinka; she looks at the trimmings languidly and begins bargaining over them.