Once in the spring I was sitting in the Mariinsky Park and reading Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Sister Galya sat next to her and also read. Her summer hat with green ribbons lay on a bench. The wind moved the tapes, Galya was shortsighted, very trusting, and it was almost impossible to get her out of a good-natured state.
In the morning it rained, but now the clear sky of spring shone above us. Only lilac drops of rain flew from the lilac.
The girl with the bows in her hair stopped against us and started jumping over the string. She prevented me from reading. I shook the lilac. A small rain fell noisily on the girl and Galya. The girl showed me her tongue and ran away, and Galya shook off the drops of rain from the book and continued to read.
And at that moment
A tall midshipman with a tanned, calm face walked easily along the avenue. A black black broadsword hung on his lacquered belt. Black ribbons with bronze anchors fluttered from the quiet wind. He was all in black. Only bright gold stripes shaded his strict form.
In the land of Kiev, where we hardly saw sailors, it was an alien from the distant legendary world of winged ships, the frigate Pallada, from the world of all oceans, seas, all port cities, all winds and all enchantments associated with the picturesque work of seafarers. An ancient sword with a black hilt appeared in the Mariinsky Park from the pages of Stevenson.
Midshipman passed by, crunching on the sand. I got up and followed him. Galya for myopia did not notice my disappearance.
My whole dream of the sea was embodied in this man. I often imagined seas, foggy and golden from the evening calm, distant swimming, when the whole world is replaced, like a quick kaleidoscope, behind the windows of the porthole. My God, if anyone had guessed to give me at least a piece of petrified rust, repulsed from the old anchor! I would keep it as a jewel.
Midshipman looked around. On the black ribbon of his cap, I read the mysterious word: “Azimuth.” Later I learned
I followed him along the Elizavetinskaya street, then along the Institutskaya and Nikolayevskaya streets. Midshipman elegantly and carelessly saluted the infantry officers. I was ashamed before him for these baggy Kiev warriors.
Several times the midshipman looked around, and at the corner of Mehringovsky stopped and called me.
“Boy,” he asked mockingly, “why did you follow me in tow?”
I blushed and did not answer.
“Everything is clear: he dreams of being a sailor,” the midshipman guessed, speaking for some reason about me in the third person.
“I’m nearsighted,” I answered, in a low voice. Midshipman put a thin hand on my shoulder.
– Let’s get to Khreshchatyk.
We went alongside. I was afraid to look up and saw only the midshipman’s sturdy boots, polished to the incredible brilliance.
On Khreshchatyk, the midshipman came with me to the coffee Semadeni, ordered two servings of pistachio ice cream and two glasses of water. We were served ice cream on a small three-legged marble table. It was very cold and all was written in numbers: Semadeni gathered stockbrokers and counted on the tables their profits and losses.
We ate the ice cream in silence. Mardemarin took from his wallet a photograph of a magnificent corvette with a sailing rig and a wide pipe and handed it to me.
“Take it as a keepsake.” This is my ship. I went on it to Liverpool.
He shook my hand firmly and left. I sat for a little while, until sweaty neighbors began to look around at me in the canoe. Then I awkwardly left and ran to the Mariinsky Park. The bench was empty. Galya left. I guessed that the midshipman regretted me, and for the first time I learned that pity leaves a bitter sludge in my soul.
After this meeting, the desire to become a sailor tormented me for many years. I was eager for the sea. The first time I saw him in Novorossiysk, where he went for a few days with his father. But that was not enough.
For hours I sat on the satin, looked at the coasts of the oceans, sought out unknown seaside towns, capes, islands, estuaries.
I came up with a complex game. I compiled a long list of steamboats with sonorous names: “Polar Star”, “Walter Scott”, “Khingan”, “Sirius”. This list swelled every day. I was the owner of the largest fleet in the world.
Of course, I sat in my own steamer office, in the smoke of cigars, among the variegated posters and timetables. Wide windows came out, naturally, on the embankment. The yellow masts of the steamers were sticking out near the very windows, and the good-natured elms sounded outside the walls. The steamy smoke flew smoothly through the windows, mixing with the smell of rotten brine and new, cheerful matting.
I came up with a list of amazing flights for my ships. There was not the most forgotten corner of the earth, wherever they went. They visited even the island of Tristan da Cunho.
I took off the steamers from one flight and sent them to another. I followed the navigation of my ships and knew without a doubt where Admiral Istomin was today, and where the Flying Dutchman: Istomin loaded bananas in Singapore, and the Flying Dutchman unloaded the flour in the Faroe Islands.