Hamlet by Alexander Kuprin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – Hamlet – Contents

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The stage manager had already rushed forward to greet Kostromsky.

The lights in the theatre blazed high. The chaotic disharmony of the orchestra tuning their instruments suddenly died down. The noise of the crowd grew louder, and then, as it were, suddenly subsided a little.

Out broke the sounds of a loud triumphal march. Kostromsky went up to the curtain and looked through a little round hole made in it at about a man’s height. The theatre was crowded with people. He could only see distinctly the faces of those in the first three rows, but beyond, wherever his eye turned, to left, to right, above, below, there moved, in a sort of bluish haze, an immense number of many-coloured human blobs. Only the side boxes, with their white and gold arabesques and their crimson barriers, stood out against all this agitated obscurity. But as he looked through the little hole in the curtain, Kostromsky did not experience in his soul that feeling—once so familiar and always singularly fresh and powerful—of a joyous, instantaneous uplifting of his whole moral being. It was just a year since he had ceased to feel so, and he explained his indifference by thinking he had grown accustomed to the stage, and did not suspect that this was the beginning of paralysis of his tired and worn-out soul.

The manager rushed on to the stage behind him, all red and perspiring, with dishevelled hair.

“Devil! Idiocy! All’s gone to the devil! One might as well cut one’s throat,” he burst out in a voice of fury, running up to Kostromsky. “Here you, devils, let me come to the curtain! I must go out and tell the people at once that there will be no performance. There’s no Ophelia. Understand! There’s no Ophelia.”

“How do you mean there’s no Ophelia?” said the astonished Kostromsky, knitting his brows. “You’re joking, aren’t you, my friend?”

“There’s no joking in me,” snarled the manager. “Only just this moment, five minutes before she’s wanted, I receive this little billet-doux from Milevskaya. Just look, look, what this idiot writes! ‘I’m in bed with a feverish cold and can’t play my part.’ Well? Don’t you understand what it means? This is not a pound of raisins, old man, pardon the expression, it means we can’t produce the play.”

“Someone else must take her place,” Kostromsky flashed out. “What have her tricks to do with me?”

“Who can take her place, do you think? Bobrova is Gertrude, Markovitch and Smolenskaya have a holiday and they’ve gone off to the town with some officers. It would be ridiculous to make an old woman take the part of Ophelia. Don’t you think so? Or there’s someone else if you like, a young girl student. Shall we ask her?”

He pointed straight in front of him to a young girl who was just walking on to the stage; a girl in a modest coat and fur cap, with gentle pale face and large dark eyes.

The young girl, astonished at such unexpected attention, stood still.

“Who is she?” asked Kostromsky in a low voice, looking with curiosity at the girl’s face.

“Her name’s Yureva. She’s here as a student. She’s smitten with a passion for dramatic art, you see,” answered the manager, speaking loudly and without any embarrassment.

“Listen to me, Yureva. Have you ever read ‘Hamlet’?” asked Kostromsky, going nearer to the girl.

“Of course I have,” answered she in a low confused voice.

“Could you play Ophelia here this evening?”

“I know the part by heart, but I don’t know if I could play it.”

Kostromsky went close up to her and took her by the hand.

“You see … Milevskaya has refused to play, and the theatre’s full. Make up your mind, my dear! You can be the saving of us all!”

Yureva hesitated and was silent, though she would have liked to say much, very much, to the famous actor. It was he who, three years ago, by his marvellous acting, had unconsciously drawn her young heart, with an irresistible attraction, to the stage. She had never missed a performance in which he had taken part, and she had often wept at nights after seeing him act in “Cain,” in “The Criminal’s Home,” or in “Uriel da Costa.” She would have accounted it her greatest happiness, and one apparently never to be attained … not to speak to Kostromsky; no, of that she had never dared to dream, but only to see him nearer in ordinary surroundings.

She had never lost her admiration of him, and only an actor like Kostromsky, spoilt by fame and satiated by the attentions of women, could have failed to notice at rehearsals the two large dark eyes which followed him constantly with a frank and persistent adoration.

“Well, what is it? Can we take your silence for consent?” insisted Kostromsky, looking into her face with a searching, kindly glance, and putting into the somewhat nasal tones of his voice that irresistible tone of friendliness which he well knew no woman could withstand.

Yureva’s hand trembled in his, her eyelids drooped, and she answered submissively:

“Very well. I’ll go and dress at once.”

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. III . > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin -Hamlet – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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