Orpheus in Mayfair and Other Short Stories HTML version

Peter, or Petrushka, which was the name he was known by, was the carpenter's
mate; his hair was like light straw, and his eyes were mild and blue. He was good
at his trade; a quiet and sober youth; thoughtful, too, for he knew how to read
and had read several books when he was still a boy. A translation of "Monte
Cristo" once fell into his hands, and this story had kindled his imagination and
stirred in him the desire to travel, to see new countries and strange people. He
had made up his mind to leave the village and to try his luck in one of the big
towns, when, before he was eighteen, something happened to him which entirely
changed the colour of his thoughts and the range of his desires. It was an
ordinary experience enough: he fell in love. He fell in love with Tatiana, who
worked in the starch factory. Tatiana's eyes were grey, her complexion was
white, her features small and delicate, and her hair a beautiful dark brown with
gold lights and black shadows in it; her movements were quick and her glance
keen; she was like a swallow.
It happened when the snows melted and the meadows were flooded; the first fine
day in April. The larks were singing over the plains, which were beginning to
show themselves once more under the melting snow; the sun shone on the large
patches of water, and turned the flooded meadows in the valley into a fantastic
vision. It was on a Sunday after church that this new thing happened. He had
often seen Tatiana before: that day she was different and new to him. It was as if
a bandage had been taken from his eyes, and at the same moment he realised
that Tatiana was a new Tatiana. He also knew that the old world in which he had
lived hitherto had crumbled to pieces; and that a new world, far brighter and more
wonderful, had been created for him. As for Tatiana, she loved him at once.
There was no delay, no hesitation, no misunderstandings, no doubt: and at the
first not much speech; but first love came to them straight and swift, with the first
sunshine of the spring, as it does to the birds.
All the spring and summer they kept company and walked out together in the
evenings. When the snows entirely melted and the true spring came, it came with
a rush; in a fortnight's time all the trees except the ash were green, and the bees
boomed round the thick clusters of pear- blossom and apple-blossom, which
shone like snow against the bright azure. During that time Petrushka and Tatiana
walked in the apple orchard in the evening and they talked to each other in the
divinest of all languages, the language of first love, which is no language at all
but a confused medley and murmur of broken phrases, whisperings, twitterings,
pauses, and silences--a language so wonderful that it cannot be put down into
speech or words, although Shakespeare and the very great poets translate the
spirit of it into music, and the great musicians catch the echo of it in their song.
Then a fortnight later, when the woods were carpeted and thick with lilies of the
valley, Petrushka and Tatiana walked in the woods and picked the last white
violets, and later again they sought the alleys of the landlord's property, where
the lilac bushes were a mass of blossom and fragrance, and there they listened
to the nightingale, the bird of spring. Then came the summer, the fragrance of the