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The Old Man (25)

July 8, 2016

“Talk to him in French,” Tatyana Grigoryevna whispered to me. “M. Dubois is very pleased with him.”

The boy genuinely did speak readily and with a very pure French pronunciation.

“Are you preparing for the university?” I asked.

“No…” he replied, indecisively. “I don’t know yet. L’étranger décidera de ma vocation.”

“Are you planning to go abroad?”

“Of course,” Tatyana Grigoryevna answered for him. “His great-uncle made him a man of property a long time ago, and he can go abroad on his own income.”

“Where exactly do you want to go?”

Il n’y a que l’embarras du choix, madame,” replied Seryozha.

“It will be difficult for Mikhail Fyodorovich to part with you.”

“Of course; but he does value my freedom and would not want me so much as to feel constrained. However,” he added with a smile, glancing at Tatyana Grigoryevna, “I quite expect my great-uncle will enter military service after I leave for Rome.”

“What do you mean, military service?” I asked, stunned.

“Mikhail Fyodorovich sees nothing but Sevastopol, waking or sleeping,” said Tatyana Grigoryevna.

“Has that been the case for long?”

“Since the beginning of the war he’d been known to get quite pensive,” replied Seryozha. “He was on the fence. And now for some time he’s simply been going out of his mind. He talks about Sevastopol and learns Count Tolstoy’s articles by heart. Really, aunt, we ought to order him a militiaman’s uniform…”

Tatyana Grigoryevna started to laugh.

“What an idea,” she said.

“Good day,” came the voice of Mikhail Fyodorovich.

The old man had gone to seed. His face was a jaundiced yellow; his hair seemed to have grown even whiter; but his expression was the same as before.


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— Поговорите с ним по-французски, шепнула мне Татьяна Григорьевна. Mr Dubois им очень доволен.

Действительно, мальчик говорил бойко и чистейшим французским выговором.

— Вы готовитесь к университету? спросила я.

— Нет… отвечал он, нерешительно, я еще не знаю. L’Etranger décidera de ma vocation.

— Вы собираетесь за границу?

— Как же, отвечала за него Татьяна Григорьевна. — Дедушка уже давно устроил его состояние, и он на собственные доходы поедет за границу.

— Куда же, именно, вы хотите ехать?

— Il n’y a que l’embarras du choix, madame, отвечал Сережа.

— Михаилу Федоровичу будет трудно с вами расстаться.

— Конечно; но он сам дорожит моей свободой, и не захочет и стеснить. Впрочем, прибавил он с улыбкой, взглянув на Татьяну Григорьевну, — я того и гляжу, что дедушка поступит в военную службу, когда я уеду в Рим.

— Как в военную службу? спросила я, остолбенев.

— Михаил Федорович и спит и видит о Севастополе, сказала Татьяна Григорьевна.

— Давно ли это?

— С начала войны он уже начинал задумываться, отвечал Сережа, — колебался; а с некоторых пор просто с ума сходит; толкует о Севастополе, и заучивает наизусть статьи графа Толстого. Бабушка, право, закажемте милиционный мундир…

Татьяна Григорьевна рассмеялась.

— Вот что придумал, сказала она.

— Здравствуйте… раздался голос Михаила Федоровича.

Старик опустился. Его лицо покрылось болезненной желтизной; волосы, казалось, еще побелели; но выражение лица осталось прежнее.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 14, 2016 2:21 pm

    7/14/16: changed
    “Since the beginning of the war he’s been known to get quite pensive,” replied Seryozha. “He was on the fence. And for some time he’s simply been going out of his mind…”
    to
    “Since the beginning of the war he’d been known to get quite pensive,” replied Seryozha. “He was on the fence. And now for some time he’s simply been going out of his mind..”
    so that the chronological contrast is as clear in English as it is in Russian (а с некоторых пор…).

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