Albert By Count Leo N. Tolstoy

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

The next day was a holiday. Delesof, on waking, sat in his parlor, drinking his coffee and reading a book. Albert, who was in the next room, had not yet moved. Zakhár discreetly opened the door, and looked into the dining-room.

“Would you believe it, Dmitri Ivánovitch, there he lies asleep on the bare sofa. I would not send him away for any thing, God knows. He’s like a little child. Indeed, he’s an artist!”

At twelve o’clock, there was a sound of yawning and coughing on the other side of the door.

Zakhár again crept into the dining-room; and the bárin heard his wheedling voice, and Albert’s gentle, beseeching voice.

“Well, how is he?” asked Delesof, when Zakhár came out.

“He feels blue, Dmitri Ivánovitch. He doesn’t want to get dressed. He’s so cross. All he asks for is something to drink.”

“Now, if we are to get hold of him, we must strengthen his character,” said Delesof to himself. And, forbidding Zakhár to give him any wine, he again devoted himself to his book; in spite of himself, however, listening all the time for developments in the dining-room.

But there was no movement there, only occasionally were heard a heavy chest cough and spitting. Two[176] hours passed. Delesof, after dressing to go out, resolved to look in upon his guest. Albert was sitting motionless at the window, leaning his head on his hands.

He looked round. His face was sallow, morose, and not only melancholy but deeply unhappy. He tried to welcome his host with a smile, but his face assumed a still more woe-begone expression. It seemed as though he were on the point of tears.

With effort he stood up and bowed. “If I might have just a little glass of simple vodka,” he exclaimed with a supplicating expression. “I am so weak. If you please!”

“Coffee will be more strengthening, I would advise you.”

Albert’s face lost its childish expression; he gazed coldly, sadly, out of the window, and fell back into the chair.

“Wouldn’t you like some breakfast?”

“No, thank you, I haven’t any appetite.”

“If you want to play on the violin, you will not disturb me,” said Delesof, laying the instrument on the table. Albert looked at the violin with a contemptuous smile.

“No, I am too weak, I cannot play,” he said, and pushed the instrument from him.

After that, in reply to all Delesof’s propositions to go to walk, to go to the theatre in the evening, or any thing else, he only shook his head mournfully, and refused to speak.

Delesof went out, made a few calls, dined out, and before the theatre hour, he returned to his rooms to change his attire and find out how the musician was getting along.[177]

Albert was sitting in the dark ante-room, and, with his head resting on his hand, was gazing at the heated stove. He was neatly dressed, washed and combed; but his eyes were sad and vacant, and his whole form expressed even more weakness and debility than in the morning.

“Well, have you had dinner, Mr. Albert?” asked Delesof.

Albert nodded his head, and, after looking with a terrified expression at Delesof, dropped his eyes. It made Delesof feel uncomfortable.

“I have been talking to-day with a manager,” said he, also dropping his eyes. “He would be very glad to make terms with you, if you would like to accept an engagement.”

“I thank you, but I cannot play,” said Albert, almost in a whisper; and he went into his room, and closed the door as softly as possible. After a few minutes, lifting the latch as softly as possible, he came out of the room, bringing the violin. Casting a sharp, angry look at Delesof, he laid the instrument on the table, and again disappeared.

Delesof shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.

“What am I to do now? Wherein am I to blame?” he asked himself.

“Well, how is the musician?” was his first question when he returned home late that evening.

“Bad,” was Zakhár’s short and ringing reply. “He sighs all the time, and coughs, and says nothing at all, only he has asked for vodka four or five times, and once I gave him some. How can we avoid killing him this way, Dmitri Ivánovitch? That was the way the overseer”….

“Well, hasn’t he played on the fiddle?”[178]

“Didn’t even touch it. I took it to him, twice—Well, he took it up slowly, and carried it out,” said Zakhár with a smile. “Do you still bid me refuse him something to drink?”

“Don’t give him any thing to-day; we’ll see what’ll come of it. What is he doing now?”

“He has shut himself into the parlor.”

Delesof went into his library, took down a few French books, and the Testament in German. “Put these books to-morrow in his room; and look out, don’t let him get away,” said he to Zakhár.

The next morning Zakhár informed his bárin that the musician had not slept a wink all night. “He kept walking up and down his rooms, and going to the sideboard to try to open the cupboard and door; but every thing, in spite of his efforts, remained locked.”

Zakhár told how, while he was going to sleep, he heard Albert muttering to himself in the darkness and gesticulating.

Each day Albert grew more gloomy and taciturn. It seemed as though he were afraid of Delesof, and his face expressed painful terror whenever their eyes met. He did not touch either book or violin, and made no replies to the questions put to him.

On the third day after the musician came to stay with him, Delesof returned home late in the evening, tired and worried. He had been on the go all day, attending to his duties. Though they had seemed very simple and easy, yet, as is often the case, he had not made any progress at all, in spite of his strenuous endeavors. Afterwards he had stopped at the club, and lost at whist. He was out of spirits.

“Well, God be with him,” he replied to Zakhár,[179] who had been telling him of Albert’s pitiable state. “To-morrow I shall be really worried about him. Is he willing or not to stay with me, and follow my advice? No? Then it’s idle. I have done the best that I could.”

“That’s what comes of trying to be a benefactor to people,” said he to himself. “I am putting myself to inconvenience for him. I have taken this filthy creature into my rooms, which keeps me from receiving strangers in the morning; I work and trot; and yet he looks upon me as some enemy who, against his will, would keep him in pound. But the worst is, that he is not willing to take a step in his own behalf. That’s the way with them all.”

That word all referred to people in general, and especially to those with whom he had been associated in business that day. “But what is to be done for him now? What is he contemplating? Why is he melancholy? Is he melancholy on account of the debauch from which I rescued him? on account of the degradation in which he has been? the humiliation from which I saved him? Can it be that he has fallen so low that it is a burden for him to look on a pure life?…

“No, this was a childish action,” reasoned Delesof. “Why should I undertake to direct others, when it is as much as I can do to manage my own affairs?”

The impulse came over him to let him go immediately, but after a little deliberation he postponed it till the morning.

During the night Delesof was aroused by the noise of a falling table in the ante-room, and the sound of voices and stamping feet.

“Just wait a little, I will tell Dmitri Ivánovitch,”[180] said Zakhár’s voice; Albert’s voice replied passionately and incoherently.

Delesof leaped up, and went with a candle into the ante-room. Zakhár in his nightdress was standing against the door; Albert in cap and alma viva was trying to pull him away, and was screaming at him in a pathetic voice.

“You have no right to detain me; I have a passport; I have not stolen any thing from you. You must let me go. I will go to the police.”

“I beg of you, Dmitri Ivánovitch,” said Zakhár, turning to his bárin, and continuing to stand guard at the door. “He got up in the night, found the key in my overcoat-pocket, and he has drunk up the whole decanter of sweet vodka. Was that good? And now he wants to go. You didn’t give me orders, and so I could not let him out.”

Albert, seeing Delesof, began to pull still more violently on Zakhár. “No one has the right to detain me! He cannot do it,” he screamed, raising his voice more and more.

“Let him go, Zakhár,” said Delesof. “I do not wish to detain you, and I have no right to, but I advise you to stay till to-morrow,” he added, addressing Albert.

“No one has the right to detain me. I am going to the police,” screamed Albert more and more furiously, addressing only Zakhár, and not heeding Delesof. “Guard!” he suddenly shouted at the top of his voice.

“Now, what are you screaming like that for? You see you are free to go,” said Zakhár, opening the door.

Albert ceased screaming. “How did they dare? They were going to murder me! No!” he muttered[181] to himself as he put on his galoshes. Not offering to say good-by, and still muttering something unintelligible, he went out of the door. Zakhár accompanied him to the gate, and came back.

“Thank the Lord, Dmitri Ivánovitch! Any longer would have been a sin,” said he to his bárin. “And now we must count the silver.”

Delesof only shook his head, and made no reply. There came over him a lively recollection of the first two evenings which he and the musician had spent together; he remembered the last wretched days which Albert had spent there; and above all he remembered the sweet but absurd sentiment of wonder, of love, and of sympathy, which had been aroused in him by the very first sight of this strange man; and he began to pity him.

“What will become of him now?” he asked himself. “Without money, without warm clothing, alone at midnight!” He thought of sending Zakhár after him, but now it was too late.

“Is it cold out doors?” he asked.

“A healthy frost, Dmitri Ivánovitch,” replied the man. “I forgot to tell you that you will have to buy some more firewood to last till spring.”

“But what did you mean by saying that it would last?”[182]

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Chapter VII > > >

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

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