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Page:The Prose Tales of Alexander Poushkin (Bell, 1916).djvu/420

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. . . I was compelled to decline an unmerited title and confess to you that I was not a poet. Now let us speak about your business. I am ready to serve you, if it be in my power to do so. Are you a musician?"

"No, Eccelenza," replied the Italian; "I am a poor improvisatore."

"An improvisatore!" cried Charsky, feeling all the cruelty of his reception. "Why didn't you say sooner that you were an improvisatore?"

And Charsky grasped his hand with a feeling of sincere regret.

His friendly manner encouraged the Italian. He spoke haively of his plans. His exterior was not deceptive. He was in need of money, and he hoped somehow in Russia to improve his domestic circumstances. Charsky listened to him with attention.

"I hope," said he to the poor artist, "that you will have success; society here has never heard an improvisatore. Curiosity will be awakened. It is true that the Italian language is not in use among us; you will not be understood, but that will be no great misfortune; the chief thing is that you should be in the fashion."

"But if nobody among you understands Italian," said the improvisatore, becoming thoughtful, "who will come to hear me?"

"Have no fear about that—they will come: some out of curiosity, others to pass away the evening somehow or other, others to show that they understand Italian. I repeat, it is only necessary that you should be in the fashion, and you will be in the fashion—I give you my hand upon it."

Charsky dismissed the improvisatore very cordially, after having taken his address, and the same evening he set to work to do what he could for him.