Maksimov with Stashevsky, Alexei and Winkler was driven into this port by a cruel autumn storm. Young people lived in a crappy hotel, stuffed with sailors and prostitutes, spending time in cheap taverns. Stashevsky thundered Russian literature, argued with Alexei about the fate of Russia. We remembered the recently deceased Oscar. The old man taught them German at the gymnasium, but devoted music to leisure time and often said: “Wander around, be vagrants, write poetry, love women-shin…”
Once in a Greek coffee house Maksimov, already thoroughly having tasted the Santurin and oily “mastic”, suddenly said to the blonde beauty at the next table that she is beautiful, and put next to her glass: “Let’s change!” “You did not recognize me?” she asked. It was Khatija. Maximov met her a few years ago on vacation. She studied in the sixth grade of the gymnasium. He lied to her about steamboats, sailors and Alexandria – about everything he writes about now. Khatija was born in Bakhchisaray, but was Russian. Tatar name was her in childhood surrounding. After the gymnasium she lived in Paris, studied at the Sorbonne. Here she is visiting relatives and hopes that now they will often see each other. After several meetings Maksimov and Hatidzhe spent the evening in the company of his friends. There was music, poetry, “the anthem of four,” “
Very different moods were owned by Winkler. Everything seemed to him insignificant, than they lived, despising the ordinary. He even blackened his waiting for the completion of the painting.
Returning home, Maximov wrote Hatidzhe about his insatiable thirst for life, about what he now finds in all the taste and smell. A week later came the answer: “The same now with me.”
Correspondence continued and when he left for Moscow. I thought that the yearning for Khatija would become more acute and help to write: he suffered little to become a writer. In Moscow, the book moved to its end, he grew old already in a foreign city for a southerner. The newspaper theater critic Semyonov introduced him to his family, with his sister Natasha, a young actress, who madly liked Maximov’s stories about his wanderings, about southern cities, about the sea. The girl was beautiful, unexpected in her actions and self-willed. While walking on a steamer along the Moskva River, she asked for a volume of Wilde, which Maximov took with
him, flipped through and thrown overboard. A minute later she asked for forgiveness. He replied that there was no need for an apology, although the book contained not a letter from Khatija read yet.
Soon they went together to Arkhangelsk. In a letter to Khatija he wrote: “I am in a cold Arkhangelsk with a wonderful girl… I love you and her…”
At the height of the summer Maximov gathered in Sevastopol, where he moved, fleeing from anguish, Hatidzhe. Saying goodbye to Natasha, he said that she is Khatija, without whom he is lonely, and Natasha is dizzy, but they should not live together: she will take all his spiritual strengths. Instead of answering Natasha drew him to her.
In Simferopol Maximov was met by Winkler. He took him to Bakhchisarai, where Khatija was waiting. Maximov told her about Moscow, about Natasha. She promised not to remember everything she had learned.
In Sevastopol, something terrible happened. Winkler committed suicide. Recently, he drank a lot, scandalous because of the prostitute Nastya, like two drops similar to Khatija. A Moscow acquaintance, Seredinsky, invited Maximov and Khatidze to the dacha. From there, the whole company was supposed to move to Chetyr-Dag. But a telegram arrived: Natasha is waiting in Yalta. Maximov was going to meet her and promised to join the next day at Chetyr-Dag. Late night, she and Natasha were in place. Hatije shook hands with her, and when everyone was lying down on the floor, she covered her with her shawl. In the morning they talked privately for a long time. Maximov was in turmoil: to stay or leave with Natasha. But she is one of those whose love kills life, dimensionality. All this is insoluble. Come what may. Has helped Hatiji: you will have many falls and ups, but I’ll stay with you, we have one goal – creativity.
However, life, and love, and creativity – all crumbled began in the same autumn, the first world war. Maximov was at the front in the medical unit. New wanderings began. Among the dirt, blood, uncleanness and growing bitterness. A sensation of the death of European culture was born. Maksimov wrote to Khatidze and Natasha, he expected letters from them. I managed to meet with Alexei. He said that Stashevsky at the front and got Georgy. From Semenov came the news that Natasha had gone to the front, hoping to find Maximov. The case helped them to meet. She asked him to save himself: the writer should give joy to hundreds of people.
However, fate again swept them. Again, only death, suffering, enigmatic trenches and bitterness. New thoughts were born that there is nothing higher than love, the affinity of people.
Once in the infirmary on the wound, Maximov tried to write, but gave up: who needs it? Something died in him. A telegram came from Semyonov: Natasha died – typhus. Hardly having recovered, Maximov went to Moscow. Semyonov was not at home, but on the table lay an envelope in the name of Maximov. Now already dead, Natasha wrote to him about her love.
A week later Hatidzhe arrived at Tula, in the infirmary, where Maximov lay. But he was not there already. Not having recovered, he rushed to Minsk, to a place where Natasha had died in a dirty house. From there he was going to flee south to Hatidzha, so that she would teach him nothing to remember. She went to the Moscow train at the same time and thought: “Maximov will not die, he does not dare to die – life is just beginning.”