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The Darling and Other Stories

Talent
AN artist called Yegor Savvitch, who was spending his summer holidays at the house of
an officer's widow, was sitting on his bed, given up to the depression of morning. It was
beginning to look like autumn out of doors. Heavy, clumsy clouds covered the sky in
thick layers; there was a cold, piercing wind, and with a plaintive wail the trees were all
bending on one side. He could see the yellow leaves whirling round in the air and on the
earth. Farewell, summer! This melancholy of nature is beautiful and poetical in its own
way, when it is looked at with the eyes of an artist, but Yegor Savvitch was in no humour
to see beauty. He was devoured by ennui and his only consolation was the thought that by
to-morrow he would not be there. The bed, the chairs, the tables, the floor, were all
heaped up with cushions, crumpled bed-clothes, boxes. The floor had not been swept, the
cotton curtains had been taken down from the windows. Next day he was moving, to
town.
His landlady, the widow, was out. She had gone off somewhere to hire horses and carts to
move next day to town. Profiting by the absence of her severe mamma, her daughter
Katya, aged twenty, had for a long time been sitting in the young man's room. Next day
the painter was going away, and she had a great deal to say to him. She kept talking,
talking, and yet she felt that she had not said a tenth of what she wanted to say. With her
eyes full of tears, she gazed at his shaggy head, gazed at it with rapture and sadness. And
Yegor Savvitch was shaggy to a hideous extent, so that he looked like a wild animal. His
hair hung down to his shoulder-blades, his beard grew from his neck, from his nostrils,
from his ears; his eyes were lost under his thick overhanging brows. It was all so thick, so
matted, that if a fly or a beetle had been caught in his hair, it would never have found its
way out of this enchanted thicket. Yegor Savvitch listened to Katya, yawning. He was
tired. When Katya began whimpering, he looked severely at her from his overhanging
eyebrows, frowned, and said in a heavy, deep bass:
"I cannot marry."
"Why not?" Katya asked softly.
"Because for a painter, and in fact any man who lives for art, marriage is out of the
question. An artist must be free."
"But in what way should I hinder you, Yegor Savvitch?"
"I am not speaking of myself, I am speaking in general. . . . Famous authors and painters
have never married."
"And you, too, will be famous--I understand that perfectly. But put yourself in my place.
I am afraid of my mother. She is stern and irritable. When she knows that you won't
marry me, and that it's all nothing . . . she'll begin to give it to me. Oh, how wretched I
am! And you haven't paid for your rooms, either! . . . ."
 
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