Torrents of Spring, by Ivan Turgenev

XIV

We must, however, say a few words about Sanin himself.

In the first place, he was very, very good-looking. A handsome, graceful figure, agreeable, rather unformed features, kindly bluish eyes, golden hair, a clear white and red skin, and, above all, that peculiar, naïvely-cheerful, confiding, open, at the first glance, somewhat foolish expression, by which in former days one could recognise directly the children of steady-going, noble families, ‘sons of their fathers,’ fine young landowners, born and reared in our open, half-wild country parts — a hesitating gait, a voice with a lisp, a smile like a child’s the minute you looked at him . . . lastly, freshness, health, softness, softness, softness — there you have the whole of Sanin. And secondly, he was not stupid and had picked up a fair amount of knowledge. Fresh he had remained, for all his foreign tour; the disturbing emotions in which the greater part of the young people of that day were tempest-tossed were very little known to him.

Of late years, in response to the assiduous search for ‘new types,’ young men have begun to appear in our literature, determined at all hazards to be ‘fresh’ . . . as fresh as Flensburg oysters, when they reach Petersburg. . . . Sanin was not like them. Since we have had recourse already to simile, he rather recalled a young, leafy, freshly-grafted apple-tree in one of our fertile orchards — or better still, a well-groomed, sleek, sturdy-limbed, tender young ‘three-year-old’ in some old-fashioned seignorial stud stable, a young horse that they have hardly begun to break in to the traces. . . . Those who came across Sanin in later years, when life had knocked him about a good deal, and the sleekness and plumpness of youth had long vanished, saw in him a totally different man.

* * * * *

Next day Sanin was still in bed when Emil, in his best clothes, with a cane in his hand and much pomade on his head, burst into his room, announcing that Herr Klüber would be here directly with the carriage, that the weather promised to be exquisite, that they had everything ready by now, but that mamma was not going, as her head was bad again. He began to hurry Sanin, telling him that there was not a minute to lose. . . . And Herr Klüber did, in fact, find Sanin still at his toilet. He knocked at the door, came in, bowed with a bend from the waist, expressed his readiness to wait as long as might be desired, and sat down, his hat balanced elegantly on his knees. The handsome shop-manager had got himself up and perfumed himself to excess: his every action was accompanied by a powerful whiff of the most refined aroma. He arrived in a comfortable open carriage — one of the kind called landau — drawn by two tall and powerful but not well-shaped horses. A quarter of an hour later Sanin, Klüber, and Emil, in this same carriage, drew up triumphantly at the steps of the confectioner’s shop. Madame Roselli resolutely refused to join the party; Gemma wanted to stay with her mother; but she simply turned her out.

‘I don’t want any one,’ she declared; ‘I shall go to sleep. I would send Pantaleone with you too, only there would be no one to mind the shop.’

‘May we take Tartaglia?’ asked Emil.

‘Of course you may.’

Tartaglia immediately scrambled, with delighted struggles, on to the box and sat there, licking himself; it was obviously a thing he was accustomed to. Gemma put on a large straw hat with brown ribbons; the hat was bent down in front, so as to shade almost the whole of her face from the sun. The line of shadow stopped just at her lips; they wore a tender maiden flush, like the petals of a centifoil rose, and her teeth gleamed stealthily — innocently too, as when children smile. Gemma sat facing the horses, with Sanin; Klüber and Emil sat opposite. The pale face of Frau Lenore appeared at the window; Gemma waved her handkerchief to her, and the horses started.

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