The Picture by Alexander Kuprin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – The Picture – Contents

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After his famous race the prince went off to Moscow, and there continued to behave as he had done in Petersburg, only on a larger scale. At one time the whole town talked of nothing but his caprices. And it was there that something happened to him which caused all the folks at Pneestcheva to mock. A woman came into his life.

But I must tell you what sort of a woman she was. A queen of women! There are none like her in these days. Of a most marvellous beauty…. She had formerly been an actress, then she had married a merchant millionaire, and when he died—she didn’t want to marry anyone else—she said that she preferred to be free.

What specially attracted the prince to her was her carelessness. She didn’t wish to know anyone, neither rich nor illustrious people, and she seemed to think nothing of her own great wealth. As soon as Prince Andrey saw her he fell in love with her. He was used to having women run after him, and so he had very little respect for them. But in this case the lady paid him no special attention at all. She was gay and affable, she accepted his bouquets and his presents, but directly he spoke of his feelings she laughed at him. The prince was stung by this treatment. He nearly went out of his mind.

Once the prince went with Marya Gavrilovna—that was the lady’s name—to the Yar, to hear some gipsy singers. The party numbered fifteen. At that time the prince was surrounded and fawned upon by a whole crowd of hangers-on—his Belonogof company, as he called them—his own name was Belonogof. They were all seated at a table drinking wine, and the gipsies were singing and dancing. Suddenly, Marya Gavrilovna wanted to smoke. She took a packetoska—the sort of twisted straw cigarette they used to smoke in those days—and looked round for a light. The prince noticed this, and in a moment he pulled out a bank-note for a thousand roubles, lighted it at a candle and handed it to her. Everybody in the company exclaimed; the gipsies even stopped singing, and their eyes gleamed with greed. And then someone at a neighbouring table said, not very loudly, but with sufficient distinctness, “Fool!”

The prince jumped up as if he had been shot. At the other table sat a small sickly-looking man, who looked straight at the prince in the calmest manner possible. The prince went over to him at once.

“How dare you call me a fool? Who are you?”

The little man regarded him very coolly.

“I,” said he, “am the artist Rozanof. And I called you a fool because, with that money you burnt just to show off, you might have paid for the support of four sick people in the hospital for a whole year.”

Everybody sat and waited for what would happen. The unrestrained character of the prince was well known. Would he at once chastise the little man, or call him out to a duel, or simply order him to be whipped?

But, after a little silence, the prince suddenly turned to the artist with these unexpected words:

“You’re quite right, Mr. Rozanof. I did indeed act as a fool before this crowd. But now if you don’t at once give me your hand, and accept five thousand roubles for the Marinskaya Hospital, I shall be deeply offended.”

And Rozanof answered: “I’ll take the money, and I’ll give you my hand with equal pleasure.”

Then Marya Gavrilovna whispered to the prince, “Ask the artist to come and talk to us, and send away these friends of yours.”

The prince turned politely to Rozanof and begged him to join them, and then he turned to the officers and said, “Be off with you!”

< < < . V .
. VII . > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – The Picture – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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