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Russalka
by [?]

Peter, or Petrushka, which was the name he was known by, was the carpenter’s mate; his hair was like light straw, and his eyes were mild and blue. He was good at his trade; a quiet and sober youth; thoughtful, too, for he knew how to read and had read several books when he was still a boy. A translation of “Monte Cristo” once fell into his hands, and this story had kindled his imagination and stirred in him the desire to travel, to see new countries and strange people. He had made up his mind to leave the village and to try his luck in one of the big towns, when, before he was eighteen, something happened to him which entirely changed the colour of his thoughts and the range of his desires. It was an ordinary experience enough: he fell in love. He fell in love with Tatiana, who worked in the starch factory. Tatiana’s eyes were grey, her complexion was white, her features small and delicate, and her hair a beautiful dark brown with gold lights and black shadows in it; her movements were quick and her glance keen; she was like a swallow.

It happened when the snows melted and the meadows were flooded; the first fine day in April. The larks were singing over the plains, which were beginning to show themselves once more under the melting snow; the sun shone on the large patches of water, and turned the flooded meadows in the valley into a fantastic vision. It was on a Sunday after church that this new thing happened. He had often seen Tatiana before: that day she was different and new to him. It was as if a bandage had been taken from his eyes, and at the same moment he realised that Tatiana was a new Tatiana. He also knew that the old world in which he had lived hitherto had crumbled to pieces; and that a new world, far brighter and more wonderful, had been created for him. As for Tatiana, she loved him at once. There was no delay, no hesitation, no misunderstandings, no doubt: and at the first not much speech; but first love came to them straight and swift, with the first sunshine of the spring, as it does to the birds.

All the spring and summer they kept company and walked out together in the evenings. When the snows entirely melted and the true spring came, it came with a rush; in a fortnight’s time all the trees except the ash were green, and the bees boomed round the thick clusters of pear-blossom and apple-blossom, which shone like snow against the bright azure. During that time Petrushka and Tatiana walked in the apple orchard in the evening and they talked to each other in the divinest of all languages, the language of first love, which is no language at all but a confused medley and murmur of broken phrases, whisperings, twitterings, pauses, and silences–a language so wonderful that it cannot be put down into speech or words, although Shakespeare and the very great poets translate the spirit of it into music, and the great musicians catch the echo of it in their song. Then a fortnight later, when the woods were carpeted and thick with lilies of the valley, Petrushka and Tatiana walked in the woods and picked the last white violets, and later again they sought the alleys of the landlord’s property, where the lilac bushes were a mass of blossom and fragrance, and there they listened to the nightingale, the bird of spring. Then came the summer, the fragrance of the beanfields, and the ripening of corn and the wonderful long twilights, and July, when the corn, ripe and tall and stiff, changed the plains into a vast rippling ocean of gold.

After the harvest, at the very beginning of autumn, they were to be married. There had been a slight difficulty about money. Tatiana’s father had insisted that Petrushka should produce a certain not very large sum; but the difficulty had been overcome and the money had been found. There were no more obstacles, everything was smooth and settled. Petrushka no longer thought of travels in foreign lands; he had forgotten the old dreams which “Monte Cristo” had once kindled in him.