Despair

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Authors: Vladimir Nabokov
of eloquent huskiness whereas in real life he had a self-satisfied baritone sinking to a didactic bass.
    I wrote to him again, this time enclosing a ten-mark note, and asking him to meet me on the first of October at five P.M . near the bronze equestrian statue at the end of the boulevard which starts left of the railway-station square, at Tarnitz. I did not remember either that bronze rider’s identity (some vulgar and mediocre
Herzog
, I believe), or the name of the boulevard, but one day, while driving through Saxony in the car of a business acquaintance, I got stranded for two hours at Tarnitz, my companion trying to perform some complicated telephoning; and as I have always possessed a memory of the camera type, I caught and fixed that street, that statue and other details—quite a small-size photo, really; though if I knew of a way of enlarging it, one might even discern the lettering of the shop signs, for that apparatus of mine is of admirable quality.
    My letter of “Sept. the 16th” is handwritten: I dashed it off at the post office, being so excited by receiving a reply to “mine of the 9th inst.,” that I had not the patience towait till I got to a typewriter. Also, there was yet no special reason to be shy of any of my several hands, for I knew that I should prove the recipient eventually. After posting the letter, I felt what probably a purple red-veined thick maple leaf feels, during its slow flutter from branch to brook.
    A few days before the first of October I happened to walk with my wife through the Tiergarten; there on a foot bridge we stopped, with our elbows upon the railing. Below, on the still surface of the water, we admired the exact replica (ignoring the model, of course) of the park’s autumn tapestry of many-hued foliage, the glassy blue of the sky, the dark outlines of the parapet and of our inclined faces. When a slow leaf fell, there would flutter up to meet it, out of the water’s shadowy depths, its unavoidable double. Their meeting was soundless. The leaf came twirling down, and twirling up there would rise towards it, eagerly, its exact, beautiful, lethal reflection. I could not tear my gaze away from those inevitable meetings. “Come on,” said Lydia and sighed. “Autumn, autumn,” she said after a while, “Autumn. Yes, it is autumn.” She already wore her leopard-spotted fur coat. I lagged behind and pierced fallen leaves with my cane.
    “How lovely it ought to be in Russia now,” she said (similar utterances came from her in early spring and on fine winter days: summer weather alone had no action at all upon her imagination).
    “… There is no bliss on earth.… There’s peace and freedom, though.… An enviable lot long have I yearned to know. Long have I, weary slave—”
    “Come on, weary slave. We are dining a little earlier.”
    “… been contemplating flight.… You’d probably find it dull, Lydia—without Berlin, without Ardalion’s vulgar rot?”
    “Why, no. I want awfully to go somewhere too.… Sunshine,sea waves. A nice cosy life. Can’t understand why you should criticize him so.”
    “… ’Tis time, my dear, ’tis time.… The heart demands repose.… Oh, no, I’m not criticizing him. By the way, what could we do with that monstrous portrait? It is an absolute eyesore. Day after day flits by …”
    “Look, Hermann, people on horseback. I’m sure she thinks she’s a beauty, that female. Oh, come on, walk. You are dragging along like a sulky child. Really, you know, I am very fond of him. I have long wanted to give him a lot of money for a trip to Italy.”
    “… An enviable lot … Long have I … Nowadays Italy would not help a bad painter. It may have been like that once, long ago. Long have I, weary slave …”
    “You seem quite asleep, Hermann. Do let us buck up, please.”
    Now, I want to be quite frank: I did not experience any special craving for a rest; but latterly such had become the standing topic between me and my

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