Torrents of Spring, by Ivan Turgenev

XII

It appeared that Gemma was not very fond of Hoffmann, that she even thought him . . . tedious! The fantastic, misty northern element in his stories was too remote from her clear, southern nature. ‘It’s all fairy-tales, all written for children!’ she declared with some contempt. She was vaguely conscious, too, of the lack of poetry in Hoffmann. But there was one of his stories, the title of which she had forgotten, which she greatly liked; more precisely speaking, it was only the beginning of this story that she liked; the end she had either not read or had forgotten. The story was about a young man who in some place, a sort of restaurant perhaps, meets a girl of striking beauty, a Greek; she is accompanied by a mysterious and strange, wicked old man. The young man falls in love with the girl at first sight; she looks at him so mournfully, as though beseeching him to deliver her. . . . He goes out for an instant, and, coming back into the restaurant, finds there neither the girl nor the old man; he rushes off in pursuit of her, continually comes upon fresh traces of her, follows them up, and can never by any means come upon her anywhere. The lovely girl has vanished for him for ever and ever, and he is never able to forget her imploring glance, and is tortured by the thought that all the happiness of his life, perhaps, has slipped through his fingers.

Hoffmann does not end his story quite in that way; but so it had taken shape, so it had remained, in Gemma’s memory.

‘I fancy,’ she said, ‘such meetings and such partings happen oftener in the world than we suppose.’

Sanin was silent . . . and soon after he began talking . . . of Herr Klüber. It was the first time he had referred to him; he had not once remembered him till that instant.

Gemma was silent in her turn, and sank into thought, biting the nail of her forefinger and fixing her eyes away. Then she began to speak in praise of her betrothed, alluded to the excursion he had planned for the next day, and, glancing swiftly at Sanin, was silent again.

Sanin did not know on what subject to turn the conversation.

Emil ran in noisily and waked Frau Lenore . . . Sanin was relieved by his appearance.

Frau Lenore got up from her low chair. Pantaleone came in and announced that dinner was ready. The friend of the family, ex-singer, and servant also performed the duties of cook.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05