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White Nights - IX

White Nights - IX

4 mins 16.1K 4 mins 16.1K

SECOND NIGHT

“Well, so you have survived!” she said, pressing both my hands.

“I’ve been here for the last two hours; you don’t know what a state I have been in all day.”

“I know, I know. But to business. Do you know why I have come? Not to talk nonsense, as I did yesterday. I tell you what, we must behave more sensibly in future. I thought a great deal about it last night.”

“In what way — in what must we be more sensible? I am ready for my part; but, really, nothing more sensible has happened to me in my life than this, now.”

“Really? In the first place, I beg you not to squeeze my hands so; secondly, I must tell you that I spent a long time thinking about you and feeling doubtful to-day.”

“And how did it end?”

“How did it end? The upshot of it is that we must begin all over again, because the conclusion I reached today was that I don’t know you at all; that I behaved like a baby last night, like a little girl; and, of course, the fact of it is, that it’s my soft heart that is to blame — that is, I sang my own praises, as one always does in the end when one analyses one’s conduct. And therefore to correct my mistake, I’ve made up my mind to find out all about you minutely. But as I have no one from whom I can find out anything, you must tell me everything fully yourself. Well, what sort of man are you? Come, make haste — begin — tell me your whole history.”

“My history!” I cried in alarm. “My history! But who has told you I have a history? I have no history. ”

“Then how have you lived, if you have no history?” she interrupted, laughing.

“Absolutely without any history! I have lived, as they say, keeping myself to myself, that is, utterly alone — alone, entirely alone. Do you know what it means to be alone?”

“But how alone? Do you mean you never saw any one?”

“Oh no, I see people, of course; but still I am alone.”

“Why, do you never talk to any one?”

“Strictly speaking, with no one.”

“Who are you then? Explain yourself! Stay, I guess: most likely, like me you have a grandmother. She is blind and will never let me go anywhere, so that I have almost forgotten how to talk; and when I played some pranks two years ago, and she saw there was no holding me in, she called me up and pinned my dress to hers, and ever since we sit like that for days together; she knits a stocking, though she’s blind, and I sit beside her, sew or read aloud to her — it’s such a queer habit, here for two years I’ve been pinned to her. . . . ”

“Good Heavens! what misery! But no, I haven’t a grandmother like that.”

“Well, if you haven’t why do you sit at home? . . . ”

“Listen, do you want to know the sort of man I am?”

“Yes, yes!”

“In the strict sense of the word?”

“In the very strictest sense of the word.”

“Very well, I am a type!”

“Type, type! What sort of type?” cried the girl, laughing, as though she had not had a chance of laughing for a whole year. “Yes, it’s very amusing talking to you. Look, here’s a seat, let us sit down. No one is passing here, no one will hear us, and — begin your history. For it’s no good your telling me, I know you have a history; only you are concealing it. To begin with, what is a type?”

“A type? A type is an original, it’s an absurd person!” I said, infected by her childish laughter. “It’s a character. Listen; do you know what is meant by a dreamer?”

“A dreamer! Indeed I should think I do know. I am a dreamer myself. Sometimes, as I sit by grandmother, all sorts of things come into my head. Why, when one begins dreaming one lets one’s fancy run away with one — why, I marry a Chinese Prince! . . . Though sometimes it is a good thing to dream! But, goodness knows! Especially when one has something to think of apart from dreams,” added the girl, this time rather seriously.

“Excellent! If you have been married to a Chinese Emperor, you will quite understand me. Come, listen. . . . But one minute, I don’t know your name yet.”


TO BE CONTINUED...


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