A Russian Summer

by James Keogh


Princess Anoushka sent me a note, carried by the wretched Bogdan who smirked as he handed it to me in the garden. He gave me the impression he had read the contents, but that was not possible, it was sealed with wax. Still her servant seemed to be everywhere and no doubt even if he had not read the contents he knew the princess's intentions. It was I thought an odd thing to do, sending me a note which was in fact an invitation or perhaps better described as a command. It was anyway, how I found myself that evening at the Gabrelyanovs in the company of the Princess and her three hussars.

My heart lifted at the sight of Konstantin, but I told myself I should not swoon like a love sick schoolboy, so I did not immediately rush to engage him in conversation, nor to be at his side. He in turn eyed me with a sort of curiosity which I at once found intriguing and disconcerting. The Princess was in a joyous and exuberant mood, giving great praise to a poem which Radomir had written. She launched herself into a discourse about poetry which I had trouble understanding. It appeared to me she was concerned about the interpretation of the lines Radomir had written.

"If I were a poet," she explained, " I would choose to write about nymphs, I would praise their divine beauty and loving nature. Besides, are not such goddesses well disposed to men?"

"Yes, yes indeed," Radomir replied. "But my lines are also in praise of love."

She raised her arms and danced around the room.

"Ah yes, but what love had you in mind?" She reached out and tapped a finger on his forehead.

"She means," Konstantin said, "your poem is too much like Byron."

"Too much like Byron?" Radomir mopped his brow theatrically. "What praise!"

Konstantin laughed.

"I would describe young girls at night, by a river, on which the moonlight was reflected. There would be dancing and singing and much noise." The Princess threw her head back and let fall her long hair, waving it about and dancing around the room again.

"Your nymphs are wonderful," Vyacheslav praised, "my companion thinks more of satyrs; lovers of wine, music, and dancing... and women, of course!"

"Those satyrs were companions of Dionysus and you know he was raised a girl by Zeus to hide him from the wrath of Hera," Konstantin said.

He looked directly at me and his eyes seemed to penetrate right to my soul.

Princess Anoushka continued to embroider her description of nymphs on the banks of the river, wafted away in a cloudy fog like a dream that fades before you might grasp it.

We had all by this time drank a little, and I myself, not at all accustomed to anything more than a glass of wine, was rather askew. My befuddled brain was finding it difficult to discern a straight line of thought in the conversation. It was as if I had been magicked into a supernatural world where everything spoken had several different senses to its meaning.

Suddenly, Vyacheslav cried out, "She is in love!" and clapped his hands.

Then Radomir clamped an arm over Konstantin's shoulders, "And so is he!"

It was at this point Princess Anoushka declared she was suffering great fatigue and would have to retire. She left us alone in the room until Bogdan appeared to show us out.

I went home, playing in my mind those words, 'She is in love, and so is he... but with whom?'

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