The Nightingale of St. Petersburg

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Chapter 5

Chapter 5

 The next day at the same hour the carriage once more came for me and I was taken to the same house. Once I had settled at the piano, and Margarita Vladimirovna had settled down in the sofa, we were left alone.

 “Now play for me the songs of my dreams,” she said and I was only too glad to comply. I played the first song, then the second and the third. When I finished playing I took a pause, silence surrounded me. I turned my head and listened. Soft, even paced breathing came from the side where Margarita Vladimirovna had been sitting and as I listened carefully, I assumed that she had fallen asleep. I quietly called her name, there was no answer. I wondered what I was to do next. I figured I would just sit there until someone came; after all, someone was bound to come. I reached for the keys of the piano and froze. There it was, the voice, that lovely voice, it was singing again.

 Maybe I was imagining things. I had been playing her songs and so perhaps she had come here to haunt me. I gave my head a good shake and listened once more. No, it was most certainly her voice, there was no mistaking it. It was coming from my left. The door through I had entered into this room was at my right, so the voice could not be coming from that part of the house. I got up as silently as possible and began walking in the direction of the voice. Outside it had seemed to come from everywhere, but now, I could distinctly make out that it was coming from my left, though it did seem to be quite above me. I felt in front of me, trying to keep from crashing into furniture and not succeeding. I knocked a couple of chairs over and while not breaking anything I did create some noise. I froze every time, afraid the old lady would wake up, but she didn’t and at last I made it to the wall. I followed the wall until at last I came upon the corner.  Turning I retraced my steps, listening carefully to the point where the voice could be heard the most and feeling the wall with my hands. There, my hands touched something that felt like a doorknob. I turned it this way and that and giving a little push opened the door. Once the door was opened, the voice became a little more distinct. I hesitated for a moment. What if someone were to come in and discover that I was gone, that might severely lower me in the good opinion of this household. At the same time, this might be my only chance to find out who the voice belong too. There was no way I was going back. I took a step forward, and then another, I suddenly stumbled over something, making me nearly fall over. Regaining my balance, I felt the ground with my foot and guessed I had tripped over a step; I must have reached a staircase of some sort. One step followed another as I climbed the staircase, holding onto the rail. With every step the voice got closer and closer. At last I reached the top and walked forward till my hands hit upon something that resembled a wall, feeling around, I found a knob and guessed I had come to another door. The voice was very clear now; I could hear every word that was being sung. My whole being filled with delight; at last I would find the one person I had wished to meet but never thought possible. In a few seconds I would discover the true identity of the nightingale. I took a deep breath and pushed the door open. The singing came to an abrupt halt. There was a bit of a noise, the sound one makes when one is turning half way around in a chair, and then I heard a voice call out to me in an angry tone.

 “Who are you and how dare you come here?”

 "Forgive me,” I gave a little bow, “I hadn’t meant to be rude and just barge in like this, but I had to come here. I followed the singing of a beautiful voice and it led me straight to you. You are the owner of it are you not?”

 “If I was what difference would it be to you?” Her voice remained strained and angry. “And what are you staring at anyway?” the voice grew more bitter with every passing second.

 I chuckled at this statement.

 “What are you laughing at?” She seemed to be getting almost desperate

 “I’m blind, ma’am. I’d have thought you could tell right away with me wearing these,” I lightly touched the dark shades that covered my eyes.

 "Oh,” the voice relaxed. “Why did you come up here?”

 “I came to find you?”

 “To find me?”

 “Yes, for so many nights I have stood and listened to you sing. You have a voice that angels would envy, why, even the nightingales are put to shame by it. And a true nightingale you seem to be, for I have noticed that as of today, you only sing at night.”

 There was a silence, and I sort of guessed that she expected me to go on. “I suppose you are wondering what I am doing your house. I was asked to play to an old woman the very songs that you sing at night.”

 “Ah, so you are the one who was playing my songs,” her voice grew sweet and a little amused. “I had been wondering who it was that gave them music. You are right, I do not usually sing during the day, but hearing you play downstairs, well, it just somehow got me singing.”

 “May I ask who I have the honor of addressing?”

 “Why do you wish to know?” She wasn’t very friendly it seemed.

 “It is just I have heard you sing for so long, and now that I have finally met you I should like to get to know you. You would not object to telling me who you are.”

 “I am no one of consequence.”

 I was puzzled by these words. “But you will not object to giving me your name?”

 There was a long pause until at last she spoke, “you called me a nightingale, and that is what my name will be.”

 “A nightingale?” I was more confused. “Is that what you are?”

 There was no reply.

 “But you speak with a human voice; does that not mean that you are human? Surely you cannot be a bird who knows how to speak.”

 “I am what I am, and I have no name other than the one you just gave me.”

 “But, how am I to imagine you? I can not see you and you refuse to give me a proper name, telling me instead to call you a bird.”

 "If you truly wish to know who I am and what I look like, then all you must do is allow my voice to describe me to you.”

 I had to admit, this was getting to be more of a mystery than it had started with. I was going to ask another question when I heard the clock chime and knew that I had to go downstairs before I was discovered to be gone.

 “I must go back someone finds out that I’m gone,” I hurriedly said and turned to go. There was no answer from her and I left the room with only silence following me. I made my way back down the stairs, through the door, which I closed softly, and back to the piano, all the while wondering if perhaps I had been dreaming.

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