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The Darling and Other Stories

The Darling
OLENKA, the daughter of the retired collegiate assessor, Plemyanniakov, was sitting in
her back porch, lost in thought. It was hot, the flies were persistent and teasing, and it was
pleasant to reflect that it would soon be evening. Dark rainclouds were gathering from the
east, and bringing from time to time a breath of moisture in the air.
Kukin, who was the manager of an open-air theatre called the Tivoli, and who lived in the
lodge, was standing in the middle of the garden looking at the sky.
"Again!" he observed despairingly. "It's going to rain again! Rain every day, as though to
spite me. I might as well hang myself! It's ruin! Fearful losses every day."
He flung up his hands, and went on, addressing Olenka:
"There! that's the life we lead, Olga Semyonovna. It's enough to make one cry. One
works and does one's utmost, one wears oneself out, getting no sleep at night, and racks
one's brain what to do for the best. And then what happens? To begin with, one's public is
ignorant, boorish. I give them the very best operetta, a dainty masque, first rate music-
hall artists. But do you suppose that's what they want! They don't understand anything of
that sort. They want a clown; what they ask for is vulgarity. And then look at the
weather! Almost every evening it rains. It started on the tenth of May, and it's kept it up
all May and June. It's simply awful! The public doesn't come, but I've to pay the rent just
the same, and pay the artists."
The next evening the clouds would gather again, and Kukin would say with an hysterical
laugh:
"Well, rain away, then! Flood the garden, drown me! Damn my luck in this world and the
next! Let the artists have me up! Send me to prison!--to Siberia!--the scaffold! Ha, ha,
ha!"
And next day the same thing.
Olenka listened to Kukin with silent gravity, and sometimes tears came into her eyes. In
the end his misfortunes touched her; she grew to love him. He was a small thin man, with
a yellow face, and curls combed forward on his forehead. He spoke in a thin tenor; as he
talked his mouth worked on one side, and there was always an expression of despair on
his face; yet he aroused a deep and genuine affection in her. She was always fond of
some one, and could not exist without loving. In earlier days she had loved her papa, who
now sat in a darkened room, breathing with difficulty; she had loved her aunt who used to
come every other year from Bryansk; and before that, when she was at school, she had
loved her French master. She was a gentle, soft-hearted, compassionate girl, with mild,
tender eyes and very good health. At the sight of her full rosy cheeks, her soft white neck
with a little dark mole on it, and the kind, naïve smile, which came into her face when she
 
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