May her dear shade be not offended by this tardy blossom, which I venture to lay upon her grave!
THE LAST MEETING
We were once close, intimate friends.... But there came an evil moment and we parted like enemies.
Many years passed.... And lo! on entering the town where he lived I learned that he was hopelessly ill, and wished to see me.
I went to him, I entered his chamber.... Our glances met.
I hardly recognised him. O God! How disease had changed him!
Yellow, shrivelled, with his head completely bald, and a narrow, grey beard, he was sitting in nothing but a shirt, cut out expressly.... He could not bear the pressure of the lightest garment. Abruptly he extended to me his frightfully-thin hand, which looked as though it had been gnawed away, with an effort whispered several incomprehensible words—whether of welcome or of reproach, who knows? His exhausted chest heaved; over the contracted pupils of his small, inflamed eyes two scanty tears of martyrdom flowed down.
My heart sank within me.... I sat down on a chair beside him, and involuntarily dropping my eyes in the presence of that horror and deformity, I also put out my hand.
But it seemed to me that it was not his hand which grasped mine.
It seemed to me as though there were sitting between us a tall, quiet, white woman. A long veil enveloped her from head to foot. Her deep, pale eyes gazed nowhere; her pale, stern lips uttered no sound....
That woman joined our hands.... She reconciled us forever.
Yes.... It was Death who had reconciled us....
I was sitting at the open window ... in the morning, early in the morning, on the first of May.
The flush of dawn had not yet begun; but the dark, warm night was already paling, already growing chill.
No fog had risen, no breeze was straying, everything was of one hue and silent ... but one could scent the approach of the awakening, and in the rarefied air the scent of the dew’s harsh dampness was abroad.
Suddenly, into my chamber, through the open window, flew a large bird, lightly tinkling and rustling.
I started, looked more intently.... It was not a bird: it was a tiny, winged woman, clad in a long, close-fitting robe which billowed out at the bottom.
She was all grey, the hue of mother-of-pearl; only the inner side of her wings glowed with a tender flush of scarlet, like a rose bursting into blossom; a garland of lilies-of-the-valley confined the scattered curls of her small, round head,—and two peacock feathers quivered amusingly, like the feelers of a butterfly, above the fair, rounded little forehead.
She floated past a couple of times close to the ceiling: her tiny face was laughing; laughing also were her huge, black, luminous eyes. The merry playfulness of her capricious flight shivered their diamond rays.