A young girl of nineteen ran impetuously into the shop, her dark curls hanging in disorder on her bare shoulders, her bare arms stretched out in front of her. Seeing Sanin, she rushed up to him at once, seized him by the hand, and pulled him after her, saying in a breathless voice, ‘Quick, quick, here, save him!’ Not through disinclination to obey, but simply from excess of amazement, Sanin did not at once follow the girl. He stood, as it were, rooted to the spot; he had never in his life seen such a beautiful creature. She turned towards him, and with such despair in her voice, in her eyes, in the gesture of her clenched hand, which was lifted with a spasmodic movement to her pale cheek, she articulated, ‘Come, come!’ that he at once darted after her to the open door.
In the room, into which he ran behind the girl, on an old-fashioned horse-hair sofa, lay a boy of fourteen, white all over — white, with a yellowish tinge like wax or old marble — he was strikingly like the girl, obviously her brother. His eyes were closed, a patch of shadow fell from his thick black hair on a forehead like stone, and delicate, motionless eyebrows; between the blue lips could be seen clenched teeth. He seemed not to be breathing; one arm hung down to the floor, the other he had tossed above his head. The boy was dressed, and his clothes were closely buttoned; a tight cravat was twisted round his neck.
The girl rushed up to him with a wail of distress. ‘He is dead, he is dead!’ she cried; ‘he was sitting here just now, talking to me — and all of a sudden he fell down and became rigid. . . . My God! can nothing be done to help him? And mamma not here! Pantaleone, Pantaleone, the doctor!’ she went on suddenly in Italian. ‘Have you been for the doctor?’
‘Signora, I did not go, I sent Luise,’ said a hoarse voice at the door, and a little bandy-legged old man came hobbling into the room in a lavender frock coat with black buttons, a high white cravat, short nankeen trousers, and blue worsted stockings. His diminutive little face was positively lost in a mass of iron-grey hair. Standing up in all directions, and falling back in ragged tufts, it gave the old man’s figure a resemblance to a crested hen — a resemblance the more striking, that under the dark-grey mass nothing could be distinguished but a beak nose and round yellow eyes.
‘Luise will run fast, and I can’t run,’ the old man went on in Italian, dragging his flat gouty feet, shod in high slippers with knots of ribbon. ‘I’ve brought some water.’
In his withered, knotted fingers, he clutched a long bottle neck.
‘But meanwhile Emil will die!’ cried the girl, and holding out her hand to Sanin, ‘O, sir, O mein Herr! can’t you do something for him?’
‘He ought to be bled — it’s an apoplectic fit,’ observed the old man addressed as Pantaleone.
Though Sanin had not the slightest notion of medicine, he knew one thing for certain, that boys of fourteen do not have apoplectic fits.
‘It’s a swoon, not a fit,’ he said, turning to Pantaleone. ‘Have you got any brushes?’
The old man raised his little face. ‘Eh?’
‘Brushes, brushes,’ repeated Sanin in German and in French. ‘Brushes,’ he added, making as though he would brush his clothes.
The little old man understood him at last.
‘Ah, brushes! Spazzette! to be sure we have!’
‘Bring them here; we will take off his coat and try rubbing him.’
‘Good . . . Benone! And ought we not to sprinkle water on his head?’
‘No . . . later on; get the brushes now as quick as you can.’
Pantaleone put the bottle on the floor, ran out and returned at once with two brushes, one a hair-brush, and one a clothes-brush. A curly poodle followed him in, and vigorously wagging its tail, it looked up inquisitively at the old man, the girl, and even Sanin, as though it wanted to know what was the meaning of all this fuss.
Sanin quickly took the boy’s coat off, unbuttoned his collar, and pushed up his shirt-sleeves, and arming himself with a brush, he began brushing his chest and arms with all his might. Pantaleone as zealously brushed away with the other — the hair-brush — at his boots and trousers. The girl flung herself on her knees by the sofa, and, clutching her head in both hands, fastened her eyes, not an eyelash quivering, on her brother.
Sanin rubbed on, and kept stealing glances at her. Mercy! what a beautiful creature she was!
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01