They met in summer, on one of the Volga steamers. He is a lieutenant, She is a lovely little, tanned woman. “… I’m completely drunk,” she laughed, “I was really crazy, three hours ago I did not even know you existed.” The lieutenant kissed her hand, and his heart was blissfully and terribly frozen…
The steamer approached the wharf, the lieutenant muttered imploringly: “Let’s get off…” And a minute later they came down, flew to the hotel in a dusty spill, passed into a big, but terribly stuffy room. And as soon as the footman shut the door behind him, both frenziedly gasped in the kiss, that for many years they remembered this moment: they had never experienced anything like this in their whole life.
And in the morning she left, she, a small, nameless woman, jokingly calling herself “a beautiful stranger,” “the princess Marya Morevna.” In the morning, despite the almost sleepless night, she was fresh, like at seventeen, somewhat embarrassed, still simple, gay, and – already sensible: “You must stay until the next steamer,” she said. I’ll give you my word of honor that I’m not at all what you could think of me… Never anything like what happened happened to me, and there will not be any more. Or rather, we both received something like a sunstroke… “And the lieutenant somehow easily agreed with her, drove to the dock and put on a ship and all kissed on the deck.
He returned easily and carefree to the hotel. But something has already changed. The room seemed somehow different. He was still full of it – and empty. And the lieutenant’s heart suddenly contracted with such tenderness that he hurried to light a cigarette and walked several times up and down the room. There was no strength to look at the unclean bed – and he closed it with a screen: “Well, that’s the end of this” road adventure “! he thought. “And forgive me, and forever, forever… After all, I can not for no reason come to this city, where her husband, her three-year-old girl, in general all her usual life!” And this thought struck him. He felt such pain and such unnecessaryness in his later life without her that he was seized with horror and despair.
“What’s wrong with me? It seems not the first time – and now… What’s so special about it? In fact,
it’s just some kind of sunstroke! And how can I spend without it a whole day in this wilderness? ” He still remembered it all, but now the main thing was this completely new and incomprehensible feeling that was not there, while they were together, which he could not imagine, starting a funny acquaintance. A feeling of which there was no one to say now. And how to live this endless day, with these memories, with this insoluble agony? …
It was necessary to be saved, something to occupy itself, somewhere to go. He went to the bazaar. But in the bazaar everything was so stupid, absurd, that he fled from there. He went into the cathedral, where they sang loudly, with the consciousness of a fulfilled duty, then for a long time circled through a small neglected kindergarten: “How can one live peacefully and be simple, carefree, indifferent?” – “How wildly, how absurdly ordinary, ordinary, when the heart is struck by this terrible “sunstroke”, too much love, too great happiness! “.
Returning to the hotel, the lieutenant went into the dining room, ordered dinner. Everything was fine, but he knew that without hesitation he would have died tomorrow, if it were possible to return her by some miracle, to tell her, to prove how painfully and enthusiastically she loves her… Why? He did not know why, but it was necessary for life.
What is to be done now, when is it impossible to get rid of this unexpected love? The Lieutenant got up and decidedly went to the post office with the telegram already ready, but the mail stopped in horror-he did not know his name or her name! And the city, hot, sunny, joyful, reminded Anapa so unbearably that the lieutenant, with his head down, staggered and stumbled, strode back.
He returned to the hotel completely broken. The room was already cleaned, deprived of the last traces of it – only one forgotten hairpin lay on the night table! He lay down on the bed, lying, throwing his hands behind his head and staring in front of him, then he clenched his teeth, closed his eyes, felt tears rolling down his cheeks, and finally fell asleep….
When the lieutenant woke up, the evening sun was already turning yellow behind the curtains, and yesterday and this morning remembered as if they were ten years ago. He got up, washed himself, drank tea and lemon for a long time, paid the bill, got into the cab and went to the pier.
When the steamer sailed, the summer night was already blue over the Volga. The lieutenant sat under a canopy on the deck, feeling old for ten years.