November 01, 2013

Night on Tsvetnoy Boulevard

Night on Tsvetnoy Boulevard

A hole in a pocket. What could be more insignificant? Exactly this kind of small hole, not noticed in time, turned out to be the start of an adventure. It was August of 1883 when I returned to Moscow after a five-month absence, and devoted myself to literary work. I wrote poems and other trifles for Alarm, Entertainment, and Fragments, articles on various questions, and wrote accounts of horse races for the Moscow papers. Among my acquaintances from the track were representatives of all ranks and positions. I had to meet people from the darkest professions, but always elegantly dressed and talented handicappers. I made an effort to maintain these relationships: thanks to them, I got interesting tips for the newspaper and sometimes found my way into secret gambling houses, where my presence was tolerated, and where I met many people who had been accepted into high society, and were even members of clubs, but in reality were card sharps, con artists, or sometimes gang leaders. I could write an entire book about this world. But I will limit myself to reminiscences about one stalwart racing fan, a blonde dandy with a full mustache who owned a prize-winning trotter.

The day that the problem with the hole occurred, the die-hard fan came up to me at the track. Should he enter his horse in the next event, did she have a chance? Near the exit, after the races, we accidentally met again, and he suggested, on account of the rain, to take me to my home in his carriage. I refused, saying that I was headed for Samotek and it wasn’t on his way, but he convinced me, and after letting the driver off, feverishly sped to Samotek, where I dropped in to see an old friend, the artist Pavlik Yakovlev. On the way, we chatted the whole time about horses. He considered me a great expert and therefore respected my opinion. I left Yakovlev’s around one in the morning and trudged off in my high boots down the muddy path in the median of Tsvetnoy Boulevard. By force of habit, in my right pocket, I grasped a small knife, a gift from my friend Andreyev-Burlak. This caution seemed unnecessary: there was not one living soul around:

A light autumn rain

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