Tamara asked for paper and pencil, and wrote a few words right on the spot. Then she gave the note to the waiter, together with a half-rouble piece for a tip, and rode away.
The following visit was to the artiste Rovinskaya, living, as Tamara had known even before, in the city’s most aristocratic hotel—Europe—where she occupied several rooms in a consecutive suite. To obtain an interview with the singer was not very easy: the doorman below said that it looked as if Ellena Victorovna was not at home; while her own personal maid, who came out in answer to Tamara’s knocking, declared that madam had a headache, and that she was not receiving any one. Again Tamara was compelled to write on a piece of paper:
“I come to you from her who once, in a house which is not spoken of loudly, cried, standing before you on her knees, after you had sung the ballad of Dargomyzhsky. Your kind treatment of her was so splendid. Do you remember? Do not fear—she has no need of any one’s help now: yesterday she died. But you can do one very important deed in her memory, which will be almost no trouble to you at all. While I—am that very person who permitted herself to say a few bitter truths to the baroness T—, who was then with you; for which truths I am remorseful and apologize even now.”
“Hand this over!” she ordered the chambermaid.
She returned after two minutes.
“The madam requests you. They apologize very much that they will receive you not fully dressed.”
She escorted Tamara, opened a door before her and quietly shut it.
The great artiste was lying upon an enormous ottoman, covered with a beautiful Tekin rug and a multitude of little silk pillows, and soft cylindrical bolsters of tapestry. Her feet were wrapped up in silvery, soft fur. Her fingers, as usual, were adorned by a multiplicity of rings with emeralds, attracting the eyes by their deep and tender green.
The artiste was having one of her evil, black days to-day. Yesterday morning some misunderstandings with the management had arisen; while in the evening the public had received her not as triumphantly as she would have desired, or, perhaps, this had simply appeared so to her; while to-day in the newspaper the fool of a reviewer, who understood just as much of art as a cow does of astronomy, had praised up her rival, Titanova, in a big article. And so Ellena Victorovna had persuaded herself that her head was aching; that there was a nervous tic in her temples; and that her heart, time and again, seemed suddenly to fall through somewheres.
“How do you do, my dear!” she said, a trifle nasally, in a weak, wan voice, with pauses, as heroines on the stage speak when dying from love and from consumption. “Sit down here ... I am glad to see you ... Only don’t be angry—I am almost dying from migraine, and from my miserable heart. Pardon my speaking with difficulty. I think I sang too much and tired my voice ...”