The Nightingale of St. Petersburg

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Part I: The Voice. Chapters 1-2

Part I: The Voice

Chapter 1

   Ours is a world built to accommodate mainly those who are able to see. Without sight, we who are blind must learn to fight our way through life depending heavily upon other senses.

 Sounds surround us everywhere we go. Strangely enough, I have noticed that the seeing often do not pay attention to even half of the sounds that come across their daily path.  Those who can see do not know their full potentials of hearing, but we without sight have accentuated our hearing to it's very best and will pick up sounds the seeing person would not have bothered to hear. I believe this is where the very heart of my story lies: how I heard something the rest of the world didn't even notice.

   Just who am I exactly? My name is Alexander Feodorovich Stansky, and I have been blind from birth. I have never known what it is like to see, and in a way I feel this is good. I do not know what I am missing out on and so have less reason to complain.

   With no sight, I trained my hearing to its best, and soon it became apparent that I had an ear for music. Even with no musical background, I would amaze people by pointing out mistakes in music that no one else even noticed. When my father saw this, he saved all the money he could and sent me to study to be a musician. I was born in a small town outside the great city of St. Petersburg, capital of my country and home to his Imperial Highness, Nicolai Pavlovich. I moved to this city in order to study and with the death of my father I have remained here.

   A musician's life is a hard one; a blind musician's life is even more so. I make my living by making other people merry. Every night I play at the public ball house, where people come to dance and socialize. The pay is not large, and so if I happen to hear that music is needed somewhere else, at a private ball perhaps, or something similar, I try my best to get the job. The fact that I am blind is not much to my advantage, but I have learned to make my own way in life, no matter how humble it is. I live in a little room that I rent with Martha Ivanovna. She is old and frail and cannot work much, but this dear woman takes care of the household and keeps the room neat and clean while I earn the little money that keeps us going. Ours is a very simple life, but we are happy and that is all that matters

  I can still remember the night when I first heard that voice, a voice such as I have never heard before. It was the summer of the year 1826. I was on my way home, and I had made a wrong turn and was trying to find out where I was and how I could get back to the right path. Unfortunately, the street I had chanced upon was a quiet street with no one on it. I was walking forward, hoping to meet someone and ask for directions when I heard it, a beautiful feminine voice drifting from the sky. I could not pin point the exact location from where the voice was coming from, all I could determine that is was from somewhere above. I halted in my tracks and listened to the song. It was the sweetest song I had ever heard. I believe the angels in heaven were envious of that voice; one that was pure and clear and sang without a single mistake, never once getting out of tune or off key. The song turned out to be quite long and I stood transfixed the entire time. I could not have moved even if I had wanted too. At last it came to an end and the voice grew silent. I waited, hoping she would sing again, but nothing came and I returned to searching for someone who could point me in the right direction. At last I stumbled upon a man and he confirmed that I had made a wrong turn and offered to help me to find my way. I was very grateful and accepted the arm he had offered. He led me down the street and with a turn or two he brought me back to the road that would lead me home. I thanked him for his help and had already turned to go when on impulse, I reached out and finding his arm grasped.

"Good sir, that street that I was just on, did you ever hear a voice, a beautiful feminine voice, singing?"

There was a blank silence and I figured the man must have thought me crazy. I let go of his arm, thanked him again for his trouble and made my way home. I knew Martha Ivanovna would be very worried about me coming home later than usual, but at that moment I was preoccupied with only two questions. Where had that beautiful voice come from and who could possibly be the owner?

Chapter 2

    The next day I found it hard to play the familiar tunes at the ball; my mind was full of the melody the voice had sung.  I determined to try and find her again and when at last I left the public ball house, my only goal was to search out the street with the voice. Locating the correct street was not an easy task. By remembering the turns I had made the night before I was at last able to find it, but not without some difficulty. I walked down the street alert, listening. There it was! I stopped and cocked my head upward to hear the song better. How I wished I could see, then perhaps I would have been able to catch a glimpse of the owner.  I supposed I was near someone's house and the owner of the voice was inside. But why sing at this late hour? She sang softly, almost as though afraid of being heard, and with a gentleness I didn't know existed. The summer wind was soft and all around was a sense of peace and calm.

"Beauty has just been given a voice," I thought to myself. Just as the day before, once the song ended silence engulfed my surroundings and I made my way back home.

***

"Sasha, Sahinka, where have you been? Why have you come home so late? Did you get lost again?" Martha Ivanovna's worried questions greeted me at the door. I paused, thinking how best to answer her.

"I heard a voice," I said at last, "and I stopped to listen to it. It was the same voice that I heard yesterday. It was soft and gentle and came from somewhere above me. Oh, Martha Ivanovna, if you would have heard it, you would have been just as mesmerized as I was."

"Sashinka, what has gotten into you?" Martha Ivanovna sounded quite upset. "Cross yourself by the icon, eat supper and go to bed. I believe the imps have begun playing tricks on you and are causing you to hear things that aren't really there."

Her words brought an amused smile to my lips, but I hurried to do as she bid. Martha Ivanovna was a superstitious woman and I didn't want to argue with her, but I knew that I had not imagined the voice, I knew it was real. Had I eyes I would have found the owner. It was not my fault that blackness drew a veil between me and the voice. Since I did not know for certain where it was coming from I thought it would be extremely rude to call out, not to mention I might frighten the voice and she would never sing again. I decided that for the time being, my only option would be to go down that street every night and listen to her singing. Perhaps with time I would be able to discover the owner.

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