Torrents of Spring, by Ivan Turgenev


He had not finished dressing, when a waiter announced the arrival of two gentlemen. One of them turned out to be Emil; the other, a good-looking and well-grown young man, with a handsome face, was Herr Karl Klüber, the betrothed of the lovely Gemma.

One may safely assume that at that time in all Frankfort, there was not in a single shop a manager as civil, as decorous, as dignified, and as affable as Herr Klüber. The irreproachable perfection of his get-up was on a level with the dignity of his deportment, with the elegance — a little affected and stiff, it is true, in the English style (he had spent two years in England)— but still fascinating, elegance of his manners! It was clear from the first glance that this handsome, rather severe, excellently brought-up and superbly washed young man was accustomed to obey his superior and to command his inferior, and that behind the counter of his shop he must infallibly inspire respect even in his customers! Of his supernatural honesty there could never be a particle of doubt: one had but to look at his stiffly starched collars! And his voice, it appeared, was just what one would expect; deep, and of a self-confident richness, but not too loud, with positively a certain caressing note in its timbre. Such a voice was peculiarly fitted to give orders to assistants under his control: ‘Show the crimson Lyons velvet!’ or, ‘Hand the lady a chair!’

Herr Klüber began with introducing himself; as he did so, he bowed with such loftiness, moved his legs with such an agreeable air, and drew his heels together with such polished courtesy that no one could fail to feel, ‘that man has both linen and moral principles of the first quality!’ The finish of his bare right hand —(the left, in a suede glove, held a hat shining like a looking-glass, with the right glove placed within it)— the finish of the right hand, proffered modestly but resolutely to Sanin, surpassed all belief; each finger-nail was a perfection in its own way! Then he proceeded to explain in the choicest German that he was anxious to express his respect and his indebtedness to the foreign gentleman who had performed so signal a service to his future kinsman, the brother of his betrothed; as he spoke, he waved his left hand with the hat in it in the direction of Emil, who seemed bashful and turning away to the window, put his finger in his mouth. Herr Klüber added that he should esteem himself happy should he be able in return to do anything for the foreign gentleman. Sanin, with some difficulty, replied, also in German, that he was delighted . . . that the service was not worth speaking of . . . and he begged his guests to sit down. Herr Klüber thanked him, and lifting his coat-tails, sat down on a chair; but he perched there so lightly and with such a transitory air that no one could fail to realise, ‘this man is sitting down from politeness, and will fly up again in an instant.’ And he did in fact fly up again quickly, and advancing with two discreet little dance-steps, he announced that to his regret he was unable to stay any longer, as he had to hasten to his shop — business before everything! but as the next day was Sunday, he had, with the consent of Frau Lenore and Fräulein Gemma, arranged a holiday excursion to Soden, to which he had the honour of inviting the foreign gentleman, and he cherished the hope that he would not refuse to grace the party with his presence. Sanin did not refuse so to grace it; and Herr Klüber repeating once more his complimentary sentiments, took leave, his pea-green trousers making a spot of cheerful colour, and his brand-new boots squeaking cheerfully as he moved.

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