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PAGE 5

One Autumn Night
by [?]

Ah! I was ready to think that all this was happening to me in a dream–in a disagreeable, an oppressive dream.

But, ugh! it was impossible for me to think that, for cold drops of rain were dripping down upon me, the woman was pressing close to me, her warm breath was fanning my face, and–despite a slight odor of vodka–it did me good. The wind howled and raged, the rain smote upon the skiff, the waves splashed, and both of us, embracing each other convulsively, nevertheless shivered with cold. All this was only too real, and I am certain that nobody ever dreamed such an oppressive and horrid dream as that reality.

But Natasha was talking all the time of something or other, talking kindly and sympathetically, as only women can talk. Beneath the influence of her voice and kindly words a little fire began to burn up within me, and something inside my heart thawed in consequence.

Then tears poured from my eyes like a hailstorm, washing away from my heart much that was evil, much that war, stupid, much sorrow and dirt which had fastened upon it before that night. Natasha comforted me.

“Come, come, that will do, little one! Don’t take on! That’ll do! God will give you another chance … you will right yourself and stand in your proper place again … and it will be all right…”

And she kept kissing me … many kisses did she give me … burning kisses … and all for nothing…

Those were the first kisses from a woman that had ever been bestowed upon me, and they were the best kisses too, for all the subsequent kisses cost me frightfully dear, and really gave me nothing at all in exchange.

“Come, don’t take on so, funny one! I’ll manage for you to-morrow if you cannot find a place.” Her quiet persuasive whispering sounded in my ears as if it came through a dream…

There we lay till dawn…

And when the dawn came, we crept from behind the skiff and went into the town… Then we took friendly leave of each other and never met again, although for half a year I searched in every hole and corner for that kind Natasha, with whom I spent the autumn night just described.

If she be already dead–and well for her if it were so–may she rest in peace! And if she be alive … still I say “Peace to her soul!” And may the consciousness of her fall never enter her soul … for that would be a superfluous and fruitless suffering if life is to be lived…