The Elephant by Alexander Kuprin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – The Elephant – Contents

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One morning the little girl woke to feel a little stronger than usual. She had dreamed something, but she couldn’t remember exactly what she had dreamed, and she looked attentively into her mother’s eyes for a long time.

“What would you like?” asked mother.

But the little girl had suddenly remembered her dream, and she said in a whisper, as if it were a secret:

“Mother … could I have … an elephant? Only not one that’s painted in a picture…. Eh?”

“Of course you can, my child, of course.”

She went into the study and told papa that the little girl wanted an elephant. Papa put on his coat and hat directly, and went off somewhere. In half an hour he came back, bringing with him an expensive beautiful toy. It was a large grey elephant that could move its head and wave its tail; on its back was a red saddle, and on the saddle there was a golden vent with three little men sitting inside. But the little girl paid no attention to the toy; she only looked up at the walls and ceiling, and said languidly:

“No. That’s not at all what I meant. I wanted a real live elephant, and this one’s dead.”

“But only look at it, Nadya,” said mamma. “We’ll wind him up, and he’ll be exactly, exactly like a live one.”

The elephant was wound up with a key, and it then began to move its legs and walk slowly along the table, nodding its head and waving its tail. But the little girl wasn’t interested at all; she was even bored by it, though in order that her father shouldn’t feel hurt she whispered kindly:

“Thank you very very much, dear papa. I don’t think anyone has such an interesting toy as this…. Only … you remember … long ago, you promised to take me to a menagerie to see a real elephant … and you didn’t bring it here….”

“But listen, my dear child. Don’t you understand that that’s impossible. An elephant is very big; he’s as high as the ceiling, and we couldn’t get him into our rooms. And what’s more, where could I obtain one?”

“Papa, I don’t want such a big one…. You could bring me as little a one as you like, so long as it’s alive. As big as this … a baby elephant.”

“My dear child, I should be glad to do anything for you, but this is impossible. It’s just as if you suddenly said to me, ‘Papa, get me the sun out of the sky.’”

The little girl smiled sadly.

“How stupid you are, papa! As if I didn’t know it’s impossible to get the sun, it’s all on fire. And the moon, too, you can’t get. No, if only I had a little elephant … a real one.”

And she quietly closed her eyes and whispered:

“I’m tired…. Forgive me, papa….”

Papa clutched at his hair and ran away to his study, where for some time he marched up and down. Then he resolutely threw his unfinished cigarette on the floor—mamma was always grumbling at him about this—and called out to the maid:

“Olga! Bring me my hat and coat!”

His wife came out into the hall.

“Where are you going, Sasha?” asked she.

He breathed heavily as he buttoned up his coat.

“I don’t know myself, Mashenka, where I’m going. … Only I think that this evening I shall actually bring a live elephant here.

His wife looked anxiously at him.

“My dear, are you quite well?” said she. “Haven’t you got a headache? Perhaps you slept badly last night?”

“I didn’t sleep at all,” he answered angrily. “I see, you want to ask if I’m going out of my mind. Not just yet. Good-bye. You’ll see this evening.”

And he went off, loudly slamming the front door after him.

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. IV . > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – The Elephant – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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