Her nose was rather large, but handsome, aquiline-shaped; her upper lip was shaded by a light down; but then the colour of her face, smooth, uniform, like ivory or very pale milky amber, the wavering shimmer of her hair, like that of the Judith of Allorio in the Palazzo-Pitti; and above all, her eyes, dark-grey, with a black ring round the pupils, splendid, triumphant eyes, even now, when terror and distress dimmed their lustre. . . . Sanin could not help recalling the marvellous country he had just come from. . . . But even in Italy he had never met anything like her! The girl drew slow, uneven breaths; she seemed between each breath to be waiting to see whether her brother would not begin to breathe.
Sanin went on rubbing him, but he did not only watch the girl. The original figure of Pantaleone drew his attention too. The old man was quite exhausted and panting; at every movement of the brush he hopped up and down and groaned noisily, while his immense tufts of hair, soaked with perspiration, flapped heavily from side to side, like the roots of some strong plant, torn up by the water.
‘You’d better, at least, take off his boots,’ Sanin was just saying to him.
The poodle, probably excited by the unusualness of all the proceedings, suddenly sank on to its front paws and began barking.
‘Tartaglia — canaglia!’ the old man hissed at it. But at that instant the girl’s face was transformed. Her eyebrows rose, her eyes grew wider, and shone with joy.
Sanin looked round . . . A flush had over-spread the lad’s face; his eyelids stirred . . . his nostrils twitched. He drew in a breath through his still clenched teeth, sighed. . . .
‘Emil!’ cried the girl . . . ‘Emilio mio!’
Slowly the big black eyes opened. They still had a dazed look, but already smiled faintly; the same faint smile hovered on his pale lips. Then he moved the arm that hung down, and laid it on his chest.
‘Emilio!’ repeated the girl, and she got up. The expression on her face was so tense and vivid, that it seemed that in an instant either she would burst into tears or break into laughter.
‘Emil! what is it? Emil!’ was heard outside, and a neatly-dressed lady with silvery grey hair and a dark face came with rapid steps into the room.
A middle-aged man followed her; the head of a maid-servant was visible over their shoulders.
The girl ran to meet them.
‘He is saved, mother, he is alive!’ she cried, impulsively embracing the lady who had just entered.
‘But what is it?’ she repeated. ‘I come back . . . and all of a sudden I meet the doctor and Luise . . . ’
The girl proceeded to explain what had happened, while the doctor went up to the invalid who was coming more and more to himself, and was still smiling: he seemed to be beginning to feel shy at the commotion he had caused.
‘You’ve been using friction with brushes, I see,’ said the doctor to Sanin and Pantaleone, ‘and you did very well. . . . A very good idea . . . and now let us see what further measures . . . ’
He felt the youth’s pulse. ‘H’m! show me your tongue!’
The lady bent anxiously over him. He smiled still more ingenuously, raised his eyes to her, and blushed a little.
It struck Sanin that he was no longer wanted; he went into the shop. But before he had time to touch the handle of the street-door, the girl was once more before him; she stopped him.
‘You are going,’ she began, looking warmly into his face; ‘I will not keep you, but you must be sure to come to see us this evening: we are so indebted to you — you, perhaps, saved my brother’s life, we want to thank you — mother wants to. You must tell us who you are, you must rejoice with us . . . ’
‘But I am leaving for Berlin today,’ Sanin faltered out.
‘You will have time though,’ the girl rejoined eagerly. ‘Come to us in an hour’s time to drink a cup of chocolate with us. You promise? I must go back to him! You will come?’
What could Sanin do?
‘I will come,’ he replied.
The beautiful girl pressed his hand, fluttered away, and he found himself in the street.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14