Torrents of Spring, by Ivan Turgenev


If Gemma had announced that she had brought with her cholera or death itself, one can hardly imagine that Frau Lenore could have received the news with greater despair. She immediately sat down in a corner, with her face to the wall, and burst into floods of tears, positively wailed, for all the world like a Russian peasant woman on the grave of her husband or her son. For the first minute Gemma was so taken aback that she did not even go up to her mother, but stood still like a statue in the middle of the room; while Sanin was utterly stupefied, to the point of almost bursting into tears himself! For a whole hour that inconsolable wail went on — a whole hour! Pantaleone thought it better to shut the outer door of the shop, so that no stranger should come; luckily, it was still early. The old man himself did not know what to think, and in any case, did not approve of the haste with which Gemma and Sanin had acted; he could not bring himself to blame them, and was prepared to give them his support in case of need: he greatly disliked Klüber! Emil regarded himself as the medium of communication between his friend and his sister, and almost prided himself on its all having turned out so splendidly! He was positively unable to conceive why Frau Lenore was so upset, and in his heart he decided on the spot that women, even the best of them, suffer from a lack of reasoning power! Sanin fared worst of all. Frau Lenore rose to a howl and waved him off with her hands, directly he approached her; and it was in vain that he attempted once or twice to shout aloud, standing at a distance, ‘I ask you for your daughter’s hand!’ Frau Lenore was particularly angry with herself. ‘How could she have been so blind — have seen nothing? Had my Giovann’ Battista been alive,’ she persisted through her tears, ‘nothing of this sort would have happened!’ ‘Heavens, what’s it all about?’ thought Sanin; ‘why, it’s positively senseless!’ He did not dare to look at Gemma, nor could she pluck up courage to lift her eyes to him. She restricted herself to waiting patiently on her mother, who at first repelled even her. . . .

At last, by degrees, the storm abated. Frau Lenore gave over weeping, permitted Gemma to bring her out of the corner, where she sat huddled up, to put her into an arm-chair near the window, and to give her some orange-flower water to drink. She permitted Sanin — not to approach . . . oh, no! — but, at any rate, to remain in the room — she had kept clamouring for him to go away — and did not interrupt him when he spoke. Sanin immediately availed himself of the calm as it set in, and displayed an astounding eloquence. He could hardly have explained his intentions and emotions with more fire and persuasive force even to Gemma herself. Those emotions were of the sincerest, those intentions were of the purest, like Almaviva’s in the Barber of Seville. He did not conceal from Frau Lenore nor from himself the disadvantageous side of those intentions; but the disadvantages were only apparent! It is true he was a foreigner; they had not known him long, they knew nothing positive about himself or his means; but he was prepared to bring forward all the necessary evidence that he was a respectable person and not poor; he would refer them to the most unimpeachable testimony of his fellow-countrymen! He hoped Gemma would be happy with him, and that he would be able to make up to her for the separation from her own people! . . . The allusion to ‘separation’— the mere word ‘separation’— almost spoiled the whole business. . . . Frau Lenore began to tremble all over and move about uneasily. . . . Sanin hastened to observe that the separation would only be temporary, and that, in fact, possibly it would not take place at all!

Sanin’s eloquence was not thrown away. Frau Lenore began to glance at him, though still with bitterness and reproach, no longer with the same aversion and fury; then she suffered him to come near her, and even to sit down beside her (Gemma was sitting on the other side); then she fell to reproaching him — not in looks only, but in words, which already indicated a certain softening of heart; she fell to complaining, and her complaints became quieter and gentler; they were interspersed with questions addressed at one time to her daughter, and at another to Sanin; then she suffered him to take her hand and did not at once pull it away . . . then she wept again, but her tears were now quite of another kind. . . . Then she smiled mournfully, and lamented the absence of Giovanni Battista, but quite on different grounds from before. . . . An instant more and the two criminals, Sanin and Gemma, were on their knees at her feet, and she was laying her hands on their heads in turn; another instant and they were embracing and kissing her, and Emil, his face beaming rapturously, ran into the room and added himself to the group so warmly united.

Pantaleone peeped into the room, smiled and frowned at the same time, and going into the shop, opened the front door.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01