The river of life by Alexander Kuprin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – The river of life – Contents

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The lamp was burning in the landlady’s room. Alychka sat Turkish fashion in the open window, watching the dark heavy mass of water, lit by electric lamps, wavering below, and the gentle motion of the scant dead green of the poplars along the quay. Two round spots of bright red were burning in her cheeks, and there was a moist and weary light in her eyes. In the cooling air the petulant sound of a valse graciously floated from far away on the other side of the river, where the lights of the café chantant were shining.

They were drinking tea with shop bought raspberry jam. Adka and Edka crumbled pieces of black bread into their saucers, and made a kind of porridge. They smeared their faces, foreheads, and noses with it. They blew bubbles in their saucers. Romka, returned with a black eye, was hastily taking noisy sups of tea from a saucer. Lieutenant Tchijhevich had unbuttoned his waistcoat, extruding his paper dickey, and half lay on the sofa, perfectly happy in this domestic idyll.

‘Thank God, all the rooms are taken,’ Anna Friedrichovna sighed dreamily.

‘You see, it’s all due to my lucky touch,’ said the lieutenant. ‘When I came back, everything began to look up.’

‘There, tell us another.’

‘No, really, my touch is amazingly lucky. By God, it is! In the regiment, when Captain Gorojhevsky took the bank, he always used to make me sit beside him. My God! how those men used to play! That same Gorojhevsky, when he was still a subaltern, at the time of the Turkish War, won twelve thousand. Our regiment came to Bukarest. Of course, the officers had pots of money—nothing to do with it—no women. They began cards. Suddenly, Gorojhevsky pounced on a sharp. You could see he was a crook by the cut of his lug. But he faked the cards so cleverly that you couldn’t possibly get hold of him….’

‘Wait a second. I’ll be back in a moment,’ interrupted the landlady. ‘I only want to give out a towel.’

She went out. The lieutenant stealthily came near to Alychka and bent close to her. Her beautiful profile, dark against the background of night, took on a subtle, tender outline of silver in the radiance of the electric lamps.

‘What are you thinking about, Alychka—perhaps I should say, whom?’ he asked in a sweet tremolo.

She turned away from him. But he quickly lifted the thick plait of her hair and kissed her beneath her hair on her warm thin neck, greedily smelling the perfume of her skin.

‘I’ll tell mother,’ whispered Alychka, without drawing away.

The door opened. It was Anna Friedrichovna returned. Immediately the lieutenant began to talk, unnaturally loud and free.

‘Really, it would be wonderful to be on a boat with your beloved or your dearest friend on a spring night like this…. Well, to continue, Anna, darling. So Gorojhevsky dropped a cool six thousand, if you’ll believe me! At last some one gave him a word of advice. He said: “Basta—I’m not having any more of this. You won’t mind if we put a nail through the pack to the table and tear off our cards?” The fellow wanted to get out of it. Gorojhevsky took out his revolver: “You’ll play, you dog, or I’ll blow a hole in your head!” There was nothing for it. The crook sat down, so flustered that he clean forgot there was a mirror behind him. Gorojhevsky could see every one of his cards. So Gorojhevsky not only got his own back, but raked in a clear eleven thousand into the bargain. He even had the nail mounted in gold, and he wears it as a charm on his watch chain.’

< < < . II .
. IV . > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Kuprin – The river of life – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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