Albert By Count Leo N. Tolstoy

Russian Literature – Children Books – Russian Poetry – Leo Tolstoy –  Albert – contents
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Chapter IV > > >

Chapter III

Something strange came over all the audience, and something strange was noticeable in the dead silence that succeeded Albert’s playing. It was as though each desired, and yet dared not, to acknowledge the meaning of it all.

What did it mean,—this brightly lighted, warm room, these brilliant women, the dawn just appearing at the windows, these hurrying pulses, and the pure impressions made by the fleeting tones of music? But no one ventured to acknowledge the meaning of it all; on the contrary, almost all, feeling incapable of throwing themselves completely under the influence of what the new impression concealed from them, rebelled against it.

“Well, now, he plays mighty well,” said the officer.

“Wonderfully,” replied Delesof, stealthily wiping his cheek with his sleeve.

“One thing sure, it’s time to be going, gentlemen,” said the gentleman who had been lying on the sofa, straightening himself up a little. “We’ll have to give him something, gentlemen. Let us make a collection.”

At this time, Albert was sitting alone in the next room, on the sofa. As he supported himself with his elbows on his bony knees, he smoothed his face with his dirty, sweaty hand, tossed back his hair, and smiled at his own happy thoughts.

A large collection was taken up, and Delesof was[159] chosen to present it. Aside from this, Delesof, who had been so keenly and unwontedly affected by the music, had conceived the thought of conferring some benefit upon this man.

It came into his head to take him home with him, to feed him, to establish him somewhere,—in other words, to lift him from his vile position.

“Well, are you tired?” asked Delesof, approaching him. Albert replied with a smile. “You have creative talent; you ought seriously to devote yourself to music, to play in public.”

“I should like to have something to drink,” exclaimed Albert, as though suddenly waking up.

Delesof brought him some wine, and the musician greedily drained two glasses.

“What splendid wine!” he exclaimed.

“What a lovely thing that Melancholie is!” said Delesof.

“Oh, yes, yes,” replied Albert with a smile. “But pardon me, I do not know with whom I have the honor to be talking; maybe you are a count or a prince. Couldn’t you let me have a little money?” He paused for a moment. “I have nothing—I am a poor man: I couldn’t pay it back to you.”

Delesof flushed, grew embarrassed, and hastened to hand the musician the money that had been collected for him.

“Very much obliged to you,” said Albert, seizing the money. “Now let us have some more music; I will play for you as much as you wish. Only let me have something to drink, something to drink,” he repeated, as he started to his feet.

Delesof gave him some more wine, and asked him to sit down by him.[160]

“Pardon me if I am frank with you,” said Delesof. “Your talent has interested me so much. It seems to me that you are in a wretched position.”

Albert glanced now at Delesof, now at the hostess, who just then came into the room.

“Permit me to help you,” continued Delesof. “If you need any thing, then I should be very glad if you would come and stay with me for a while. I live alone, and maybe I could be of some service to you.”

Albert smiled, and made no reply.

“Why don’t you thank him?” said the hostess. “It seems to me that this would be a capital thing for you.—Only I would not advise you,” she continued, turning to Delesof, and shaking her head warningly.

“Very much obliged to you,” said Albert, seizing Delesof’s hand with both his moist ones. “Only now let us have some music, please.”

But the rest of the guests were already making their preparations to depart; and as Albert did not address them, they came out into the ante-room.

Albert bade the hostess farewell; and having taken his worn hat with wide brim, and a last summer’s alma viva, which composed his only protection against the winter, he went with Delesof down the steps.

As soon as Delesof took his seat in his carriage with his new friend, and became conscious of that unpleasant odor of intoxication and filthiness exhaled by the musician, he began to repent of the step that he had taken, and to curse himself for his childish softness of heart and lack of reason. Moreover, all that Albert said was so foolish and in such bad taste, and he seemed so near a sudden state of beastly intoxication, that Delesof was disgusted. “What shall I do with him?” he asked himself.[161]

After they had been driving for a quarter of an hour, Albert relapsed into silence, took off his hat, and laid it on his knee, then threw himself into a corner of the carriage, and began to snore…. The wheels crunched monotonously over the frozen snow, the feeble light of dawn scarcely made its way through the frosty windows.

Delesof glanced at his companion. His long body, wrapped in his mantle, lay almost lifeless near him. It seemed to him that a long head with large black nose was swaying on his trunk; but on examining more closely he perceived that what he took to be nose and face was the man’s hair, and that his actual face was lower down.

He bent over, and studied the features of Albert’s face. Then the beauty of his brow and of his peacefully closed mouth once more charmed him. Under the influence of nervous excitement caused by the sleepless hours of the long night and the music, Delesof, as he looked at that face, was once more carried back to the blessed world of which he had caught a glimpse once before that night; again he remembered the happy and magnanimous time of his youth, and he ceased to repent of his rashness. At that moment he loved Albert truly and warmly, and firmly resolved to be a benefactor to him.[162]

< < < Chapter II
Chapter IV > > >

Russian Literature – Children Books – Russian Poetry – Leo Tolstoy –  Albert – contents

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