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Page:The Prose Tales of Alexander Poushkin (Bell, 1916).djvu/421

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411


CHAPTER II.


THE next day, in the dark and dirty corridor of a tavern, Charsky discovered the number 35. He stopped at the door and knocked. It was opened by the Italian of the day before.

"Victory!" said Charsky to him: "your affairs are in a good way. The Princess Nā€”ā€”, offers you her salon; yesterday, at the rout, I succeeded in enlisting the half of St. Petersburg; get your tickets and announcements printed. If I cannot guarantee a triumph for you, I'll answer for it that you will at least be a gainer in pocket. . . ."

"And that is the chief thing," cried the Italian, manifesting his delight in a series of gestures that were characteristic of his southern origin. "I knew that you would help me. Corpo di Bacco! You are a poet like myself, and there is no denying that poets are excellent fellows! How can I show my gratitude to you? Stop. . . . Would you like to hear an improvisation?"

"An improvisation! . . . Can you then do without public, without music, and without sounds of applause?"

"And where could I find a better public? You are a poet: you understand me better than they, and your quiet approbation will be dearer to me than whole storms of applause. ... Sit down somewhere and give me a theme."

"Here is your theme, then," said Charsky to him: "the poet himself should choose the subject of his songs; the crowd has not the right to direct his inspirations."