Petersburg A Fateful Event

The ballroom pianist elegantly broke off his musical dance with a thunderous stab in the bass, while with his other hand he turned a page of music with an expert movement; but at that moment Nikolai Petrovich Tsukatov suddenly thrust his smoothly shaven chin out of his raging side-whiskers, swiftly rushing out in front of the couples over the highlights of the parquetry, impetuously drawing after him a helpless creature:

‘Pas-de-quatre, s’il vous plaĆ®t! …’

‘Come with me,’ said some kind of Madame Pompadour to Nikolai Apollonovich importunately, and Nikolai Apollonovich, who had not recognized Madame Pompadour, reluctantly gave her his hand; and, glancing with a barely visible smile at her red cavalier, with a peculiarly fierce movement of her upturned mask, Madame Pompadour stretched her hand forward and helplessly placed it on the domino’s hand; while with her other hand, with its quivering fan and covering of kid glove, Madame Pompadour gathered up her hem of azure mists, and from it, with a rustle, a silvery dancing shoe was thrust the merest way.

And off they went, off they went.

One, two, three – and the gesture of a foot beneath a backward-flexed waist.

‘Do you recognize me?’


‘Are you still looking for someone?’

One, two, three – and again a flexing, and again a little shoe was thrust forth.

‘I have a letter for you.’

And behind the first couple – the domino and the marquise – came harlequins, Spanish girls, young ladies as pale as mother-of-pearl, law students, hussars and helpless muslin creatures; fans, bare shoulders, silvery backs and scarves.

Suddenly one of the red domino’s hands seized hold of her slender, azure waist, and his other hand, taking her hand, felt a letter in it: at that same moment the dark green, black and cloth-covered arms of all the couples, and the red arms of the hussars seized all the slender waists of the heliotrope, gris-de-perle, rustling female partners, in order again, again and again to whirl in some turns of the waltz.

Flying out in front of them all, the grey-haired host bellowed at the couples:

‘A vos places!’

And after him flew a helpless adolescent.