By Tovy Ksenokratov, the retired brigadier
The next morning, I was determined to get up early together with my people. But the fatigue that my nerves underwent from the long journey and new impressions, as well as such a sweet dream, in which I plunged into this house, forced me to lie in bed until five o'clock. My courteous host was already up and waiting for me in his study. “You have bewitched me,” I bowed to him. He informed me that his dearest wife did not want to let me go before giving me an audience. I readily agreed, and we went to the wing of the hostess. I praised her for getting up so early and not lying long in bed. She asked with surprise if the Moscow beauties did not allow the bird singing in their bedchambers in the early morning. I replied that our Moscow ladies usually slept until noon and longer, being tired after the balls and dinners they had attended the day before.
After this highly enjoyable conversation, the charming wife of our host invited me to admire her conservatory. Her husband did not accompany us, excusing himself with some business.
The conservatory was a true collection of rare plants from all over the world, occupying a vast territory, where it was quite possible to get lost, if I did not have such a delightful companion. While showing me her collection of plants, my cicerone did not notice a root and stumbled. I supported her in time, clasping her around the waist. Never had my hand touched a more flexible and delightful torso. My companion was in no hurry to slip out of my embrace, pretending that her foot was badly damaged and prevented her from moving on her own. Such a close contact pierced me with a shiver, which I was also observing in her. The reader will save me from a detailed retelling of what followed.
When we returned from our highly enlightening walk, the tea was ready. At the table, the hostess was confident and bold, not showing a slightest embarrassment. I felt like a traitor in relation to my friend and master of the house. I could not wait for the end of the tea party, so that I could set off on a further journey.
When I was getting into the carriage, my friend asked me to devote some time to him. He said he had something important to tell me. We stepped aside.
‘This is the first time I’m talking about a disaster that suddenly befell my family’, he began. ‘Several years ago I suddenly became aware that I was getting old. This manifested itself in the fact that I felt a certain weakness in my whole body, began to forget a lot and lose interest in life. I had completed a full course of medical examination. All organs and systems were in perfect order. The doctors were perplexed. It occurred to one medical luminary to check my wife as well. It turned out that she was suffering from a rare disease that occurs in one person in a million. This disease consists in the fact that every minute of intimacy with her takes a year of her partner's life. Upon learning this, my wife and I had a serious talk. My wife showed understanding for my position and agreed that we should live like a brother and sister. I am by nature somewhat cold and dispassionate, so this situation did not bother me at all. However, my wife is hot blooded and passionate, so it was harder for her. I was very tormented by the fact that she was suffering so much. But there was nothing to do. To chill out, I started inviting old friends of mine. Their presence in the house helps to brighten up my wife’s loneliness. I am absolutely sure that my wife is faithful to me, so I am completely calm about her relationships with other men. This is my position. I hope you will visit our place more than once,’ said my friend, looking away and biting his lips with excitement.
We said goodbye to each other. I was leaving with mixed feelings. I felt that I had grown twenty years older.