May 08 , 2009

Annouchka: A Tale

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I was then five-and-twenty,—that was a sufficient indication that I had a past, said he, beginning. My own master for some little time, I resolved to travel,—not to complete my education, as they said at the time, but to see the world. I was young, light-hearted, in good health, free from every care, with a well-filled purse; I gave no thought to the future; I indulged every whim,—in fact, I lived like a flower that expands in the sun. The idea that man is but a plant, and that its flower can only live a short time, had not yet occurred to me. "Youth," says a Russian proverb, "lives upon gilded gingerbread, which it ingenuously takes for bread; then one day even bread fails." But of what use are these digressions? I travelled from place to place, with no definite plan, stopping where it suited me, moving at once when I felt the need of seeing new faces,—nothing more. The men alone interested me; I abhorred remarkable monuments, celebrated collections, andciceroni; the Galerie Verte of Dresden almost drove me mad. As to nature, it gave me some very keen impressions, but I did not care the least in the world for what is commonly called its beauties,—mountains, rocks, waterfalls, which strike me with astonishment; I did not care to have nature impose itself upon my admiration or trouble my mind. In return, I could not live without my fellow-creatures; their talk, their laughter, their movements, were for me objects of prime necessity. I felt superlatively well in the midst of a crowd; I followed gayly the surging of men, shouting when they shouted, and observing them attentively whilst they abandoned themselves to enthusiasm. Yes, the study of men was, indeed, my delight; and yet is study the word? I contemplated them, enjoying it with an intense curiosity.
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