Shtoss – Lermontov – 1841

This is a translation of Lermontov’s unfinished tale ‘Shtoss’. There’s a play on words here. Shtoss is provided (perhaps) as a name. But Shto-s also means what (this ‘s’ is an added feature common at the period) so when the stranger is asked for his name, the answer leaves the reader uncertain.

This is a fantastic tale in the Todorovian sense where the reader is left unsure of how to interpret the seemingly supernatural incidents of the text. The work was tragically interrupted by Lermontov’s death.

How do you think it would have ended?

Count V_______ was hosting a musical evening. The premier artists of the capital were paying with their art for the honour of the aristocratic invite. Numbered among the glittering throng of guests there were several of the literati and a number of scholars; two or three fashionable beauties; a number of young ladies and several old, and one guard officer. About ten lions of the old guard flaunted themselves around the doors of the second reception room and by the fireplace. Everything was much as it ever was. Neither truly boring, nor really enjoyable.

At the exact moment that the newly arrived singer came up to the piano and let loose her first notes… a young lady yawned, stood and went out into the next room, which was empty at the moment. She was wearing a black dress, seemingly fitted for court mourning. A glittering monogram shone on her shoulder, pinned to a light blue shawl. She was of average height, slim, unhurried and languid in all her movements. Her wondrous long black hair framed her face, which was young and attractive yet pale and upon which there was the mark of deeper thought.

‘Hello, Mr Lugin’, Minskaya said to someone. ‘I’m tired… tell me something!’ She sank down on a seat before the fire. The man she was addressing was sat opposite her and did not reply. There was only the two of them in the room and the cold silence of Lugin made clear that he did not number among her devotees.

‘I’m bored,’ Minskaya said and yawned again. ‘You see, I don’t stand on ceremony with you,’ she added.

‘I’m suffering from spleen!’ Lugin replied.

‘You’re wanting to go to Italy again, aren’t you?’ she asked after a moment or two of silence.

Lugin for his part didn’t hear the question. He continued crossing his legs and staring impatiently at the marble-white shoulders of his interlocutor.

‘Imagine how terrible it is for me! What could be worse for a man like me who has dedicated himself to art! It’s already been two weeks since everyone started looking yellow to me. And it’s only people. It would be better if it was just everything. Then there’d be some harmony in the colour palette more generally. It’d be like I was walking in some gallery of the Spanish school. But no! Everything else looks just like it did before. Only the faces have changed. Sometimes it even seems to me that people have lemons instead of heads.’

Minskaya smiled.

‘Call on a doctor,’ she said.

‘The doctors won’t help. It’s spleen!’

‘Fall in love!’ (the look which accompanied these words expressed something along of the lines of the following sentiment: ‘I’d like to torture him a little.’)

‘With whom?’

‘With me perhaps!’

‘No! Even flirting with me would bore you. And, well, I’ll tell you frankly, no woman could love me.’

‘And what about whatshername, the Italian countess, who followed you from Naples to Milan?’

‘Well, you see,’ Lugin replied thoughtfully, ‘I judge others by myself and I’m sure I’m not mistaken in doing so. I have happened to arouse certain signs of passion in some women but, as I very well know, I’m obliged for that to a certain art and the custom of touching certain strings of the human heart. So, I don’t take any joy in my ‘happiness’. I’ve asked myself – could I fall in love with someone ugly? It turns out I don’t think I could. I’m ugly and so it follows that no woman could love me. It’s clear. The artistic sense is more developed in women than in men. They are more obedient to their first impressions and for longer. If I managed to light the fire of what they call affection in some women, then it cost me an incredible amount of work and sacrifice and seen as I knew how false the feelings were that I’d inspired, and that I had myself to thank for them, I couldn’t forget myself in an all-consuming and instinctive love. My passion always has a little malice mixed in. It’s all very sad, but true!

‘What nonsense!’ Minskaya retorted, but glancing at him quickly from corner of her eye, she couldn’t help but agree with him.

Lugin’s appearance was in no way attractive. Despite the fact that a great deal of wit and fire shone out in the strange expression of his eyes, he had none of those requirements which make a man attractive in society. He was awkward and roughly built. He spoke sharply and abruptly. The thin straggling hair on his temples, the uneven colour of his face, and the signs of a constant and hidden illness, made him seem older that he really was. He had spent three years in Italy treating his hypochondria. Although he hadn’t been cured, he’d at least found a useful way of diverting himself. He’d become addicted to painting. A natural talent, which had been set aside for his service duties, had grown and developed widely and freely under the life-giving southern skies and before the wonderous memorials of the ancient teachers. He had returned a true artist but only some select friends had the right to enjoy the fruits of his admirable talent. All of his paintings breathed a sort of uncertain but grave feeling. His paintings bore the stamp of that bitter poetry, which our poor century has sometimes wrung from the hearts of her first prophets.

Lugin had returned to Petersburg two months ago. He was independent and had a few relatives and a few old friends among the elite circles of the capital, where he wanted to spend the winter. He was often to be found with Minskaya. Her beauty, her sharp mind, her original view of things couldn’t help but make an impression on any man with a mind and an imagination. But there was no love between them nor any in sight.

Their conversation came to a halt for a while and both, or so it seemed, were listening to the music. The current singer was singing a ballad by Schubert to the words of Goethe’s ‘The Erlkonig’. When she finished, Lugin stood.

‘Where are you going,’ asked Minskaya.

‘Goodbye.’

‘It’s still early.’

He sat down again.

‘Do you know,’ he said, with a confidential tone, ‘That I am starting to go mad?’

‘Really?’

‘No joke. I can tell you; you won’t laugh at me. Several days ago, I started to hear a voice. Day and night someone repeats in my ear… well, what do you think? It’s an address. Right now, I hear it. ‘On Carpenter’s Lane, by the Kokushkin bridge. A house in the name of Shtoss. Flat number 27.’ And so on the same, rushing along… It’s unbearable!’

He paled. But Minskaya didn’t notice.

‘You’ve never seen who’s speaking?’ she asked at random.

‘No. But the voice is ringing, it’s sharp, it’s high.’

‘When did it start?’

‘I confess, I probably couldn’t say… I don’t know… That’s actually really funny!’ He said, forcing a smile.

‘The blood is rushing to your head and ringing in your ears.’

‘No, no. Tell me, how do I make it stop?’

‘The best way,’ said Minskaya, having thought for a moment, ‘is to go to Kokushkin bridge, find the flat and you’ll probably find that some shoemaker or watchmaker lives in it. Then, to keep up appearances, order some work done and go home, go to sleep because… well, you’re really not well!’ she added, looking at the alarm on his face with concern.

‘You’re right,’ said Lugin gloomily, ‘I must certainly go.’

He stood, took his hat and left.

She looked after him with astonishment.

2

A grey November morning lay over Petersburg. Wet snow fell in large flakes, the houses appeared dirty and dark, the faces of those passing by looked green. The cabmen on the exchange shivered under the red hoods of their sleighs; The long, wet hair of their poor nags curled like a lamb’s wool. The fog gave far off objects a purplish-grey tinge. The stomp of bureaucrats’ boots was heard only rarely on the pavements. Sometimes, noise and laughter escaped from the underground drink shop, as a drunk young man was pushed out wearing a green frieze coat and oilcloth cap. Of course, such scenes were to be met with only in the more remote parts of the city like, for example,… by Kokyshkin bridge. A man crossed the bridge, he was of middling height, neither thin nor fat, not stringy but with wide shoulders and dressed in a coat. He was dressed, on the whole, with taste. It was sad to see his polished boots, soaked with snow and dirt. But he, it seemed, was completely unconcerned about it. With his hands sunk in his pockets, hanging his head, he walked with faltering steps, as if he feared to reach his destination or had none.  He stopped on the bridge, raised his head and looked around. It was Lugin. The traces of a soul tiredness were to be found on his wrinkled face. In his eyes there burned some hidden unease.

‘Where is Carpenter’s Lane?’ he enquired uncertainly of an unoccupied cabman, who was passing him at that moment, covered to the neck by the shaggy hood of his sleigh and whistling the Karaminskaya.

The cabman looked at him, struck the horse with the end of his whip and went by.

That seemed strange to him. Was there even such a place as Carpenter’s Lane? He left the bridge and turned with the same question to a boy who was running across the street.

‘Carpenter’s?’ asked the boy, ‘right, well, go straight along Little Meshchanskii and then turn right, the first lane then is Carpeneter’s.’

Lugin calmed. On reaching the corner, he turned to the right and saw a dirty little lane, on which there were no more than ten high houses. He knocked on the door of the first little shop and calling for the shopkeeper, asked, ‘Where’s Shtoss’ house?’

‘Shtoss? I don’t know, sir, there no such person here. Just here close by there’s the house of the merchant Blinnikov, and then farther along…’

‘Yes, I need Shtoss.’

‘Well, I don’t know Shtoss!’ said the shopkeeper, scratching the back of his head before adding, ‘No, I haven’t heard of him, sir.’

Lugin went to look himself at the inscriptions. Something told him that he’d recognise the house as soon as he saw it, even though he’d never seen it before. He’d reached almost the very end of the lane, and not a single inscription had caught his imagination, when suddenly he raised his eyes by chance to the house on the other side of the street and a tin board with no name at all hanging over one of the gates.

He ran up to the gate and however hard he looked, he couldn’t find anything even vaguely resembling the remains of a long-erased name. The board was completely new.

By the gate, the doorman, in an aged and fading caftan, bearing a grey beard which had not been shaved in a long time, without a cap and in a dirty belted coat, was sweeping aside the snow.

‘Oi, doorman!’ shouted Lugin.

The doorman muttered something between his teeth.

‘Whose house is this?’

‘It’s sold!’ the doorman answered rudely.

‘Well, whose was it?’

‘Whose? Kifeikin’s. A merchant.’

‘It couldn’t have been Shtoss, could it?’ cried Lugin involuntarily.

‘No, it was Kifeikin’s, and now it belongs to Shtoss,’ the doorman replied, not raising his head.

Lugin let his hands fall.

His heart beat as if foreseeing some misfortune. Should he continue his enquiries? Wouldn’t it be better to stop in time? Those who haven’t found themselves in such a situation, will hardly understand it: curiosity, they say, condemned the human race. It is still our chief, our first passion, so much so that every other passion can be said to arise from it. But there are some circumstances when the secrecy of the object gives our curiosity a more than usual power: obedient to it, like a stone thrown from the top of a mountain by a strong arm, we cannot stop ourselves, although we see the abyss that awaits us.

Lugin stood for a long time before the gates. Finally, he turned to the doorman with a question.

‘Does the new owner live here?’

‘No.’

‘Well, where then?’

‘The devil alone knows.’

‘Have you been the doorman for a long time?’

‘A long time.’

‘And are there tenants in this building?’

‘There are.’

‘Tell me, please,’ said Lugin after a period of silence, offering a coin to the doorman, ‘who lives in number twenty-seven?’

The doorman leaned his brush against the gate, took the coin and look closely at Lugin.

‘In number twenty-seven? Well, who should live there? God only knows how long it’s been empty.’.

‘Has no-one rented it?’

‘No-one rented it? They rented it.’

‘Well then, why did you say no-one’s living there?’

‘God knows they don’t live there. They take it for a year, yeah, but they don’t move in.’

‘Well, who rented it last?’

‘A colonel of the engineers or something.’

‘Why didn’t he live here?’

‘He moved in… and then, they say, they sent him to Vyatka, so he left the flat behind empty and so it remained.’

‘And before the colonel?’

‘Before him it was rented by some Baron, a German. That one didn’t move in. I heard he died.’

‘And before the Baron?’

‘A merchant rented it for some of his…hmm! Yes, something turned about, and the deposit got left…

‘Strange!’ thought Lugin.

‘And can I see the flat?’

The doorman looked at him closely once more.

‘Why wouldn’t you be allowed to? You can!’ he replied and went, stumbling, to get the keys.

He soon returned and led Lugin to the second floor by a wide but fairly dirty stairway. The key screeched in the rusted lock and the door opened. The smell of damp hit him in the face. They went in. The flat was made up of four rooms and a kitchen. The old dusty furniture, which had once been gilded, was placed tight up against walls covered in wallpaper on which red parrots and golden lyres were depicted against a green background. The tiles of the stove were cracked in some spots. There was a pine floor, painted under the parquet, which creaked suspiciously in various places.  On the walls, oval mirrors hung in rococo frames. The rooms had a sort of strange outdated appearance.

For some reason, Lugin liked them.

‘I’ll take the flat,’ he said. ‘Tell them to clean the windows and wipe down the furniture… Just look how many cobwebs! Yes, they need to be well drowned…’ At that moment he noticed a half-length portrait on the wall of the next room. It was of a man, about forty years old, dressed in Bukhara robe with straight features and large grey eyes. In his right hand, he held a golden snuffbox of unusual size. His fingers shone with a multitude of rings. It seemed as though the portrait had been painted by a faltering student’s brush – the clothing, hair, hand and rings – all of them were badly painted. But in the expression of the face, and particularly the lips, there breathed such terrible life that it was impossible to tear his eyes away. In the lines of the mouth there was an uncapturable quirk, which art could not have matched and had, of course, been traced unconsciously, giving to the face an expression which was mocking, sad, angry and affectionate by turn. Has it ever happened to you that on a frosted window or in the jagged shadow thrown by chance upon the wall by some object, you trace the profile of a human face, a profile that is sometimes indescribably beautiful and, at others, inconceivably repulsive? Try to get it down on paper! You won’t do it. Try to trace the silhouette that struck you so on the wall with a pencil – the enchantment will disappear. Our human hands will never produce those lines intentionally. The smallest deviation and the former impression dies never to return. In the face of the portrait, that inexplicable thing breathed forth, something possible only thanks to genius or chance.

‘It’s strange that I didn’t notice the portrait until the very minute that I said I’d take the flat,’ thought Lugin.

He sat on his chair, lowered his head into his hands and let his thoughts wander.

The doorman stood for a long time opposite him, waving the keys.

‘What’s going on, sir?’ he asked finally.

‘Ah!’

‘What’s this? If you’re taking it, then a deposit, please.’

They agreed terms on the price, Lugin handed over the deposit, sent an order to his current address that everything was to be moved, and sat himself down opposite the portrait until evening. By nine o’ clock all the most immediately necessary things had been brought from the hotel, where Lugin had been living up till then.

‘It’s nonsense to say that no-one was able to live here,’ thought Lugin. ‘My predecessors, it seems, were not fated to move in. That, of course, is strange. But I took my precautions. I moved straight away. Well? Nothing.’

Till twelve, he and his old valet Nikita put his things out and away…

It should be noted that he chose for his bedroom the room where the portrait was hung.

Before he lay himself down on the bed, he went up to the portrait with a candle, wishing to have another good look and read the name of the artist at the bottom written in red letters: Wednesday.

‘What day is it today?’ he asked Nikita.

‘Monday, sir…’

‘The day after tomorrow is Wednesday!’ said Lugin absently.

‘That right, sir.’

God knows why Lugin got angry with him then.

‘Get out!’ he cried, stamping his foot.

Old Nikita shook his head and left the room.

After that, Lugin lay on the bed and went to sleep.

On the morning of the next day, the rest of his things were brought round and several unfinished paintings.

3

Among his unfinished paintings, the greater part of which were small, there was one that in terms of size was quite significant; in the middle of the canvas, which was streaked with charcoal and chalk on a background of green-brown paint, there was a sketch of a woman’s head that would attract the attention of the knowledgeable. But, despite the charm of the drawing and the liveliness of the colours, there appeared something unpleasantly undefined in the expression of her eyes and smile. It was clear that Lugin had drawn her in different ways and had not ever quite been happy with the portrayal, because the same head appeared in the various corners of the canvas, smeared over with brown-red. It wasn’t a portrait. Maybe, like a young poet, inspired by an unmatched beauty, he was trying to bring his ideal into being on his canvas – an angel-woman. It’s an understandable quirk in those in their first youth, but rarer in a man who has experienced something of life. However, there are people, for whom the experience of the mind has no influence on the heart, and Lugin was one of those unhappy and poetic creatures. The sharpest knave, the most experienced coquette would not deceive him but every day he deceived himself with the naivety of a child. For some time, he had been pursued by a constant idea, torturing and unbearable, especially since his self-esteem suffered from it. He was far from being a handsome man, it’s true, but there was nothing repulsive in him and people who knew his mind, talent and goodness even found the expression of his face quite pleasing. But he was firmly convinced, that the extent of his ugliness excluded him from the very possibility of love, and he began to look on woman as his natural enemies, suspecting a hidden agenda behind their casual caresses and explaining rudely and forcefully the root of the most obvious of their favours. I will not venture to say to what extent he was correct, but the fact of the matter is that such a state of soul excuses a fairly fantastical love for an airy ideal, a love which is at the same time both the most innocent and the most harmful for a man of imagination.

On that second day, Tuesday, nothing special happened with Lugin. He sat at home until the evening came, even though he had needed to go somewhere.  An invincible lethargy had taken over all of his feelings. He wanted to draw – his brushes fell from his hands. He tried to read – his glance slipped over the lines and he read not at all what was there before him. He was hot and then cold. His head hurt. His ears rang. When twilight came, he didn’t order any candles and sat at the window which opened onto the courtyard. It was dark in the courtyard. Candles gleamed dimly in the windows of his poor neighbours. He sat for a long time. Suddenly, a barrel organ began to play in the courtyard. It played some old German waltz. Lugin listened, he listened and he started to became horrendously sad. He started to walk around the room. An unprecedented disquiet overpowered him. He wanted to cry, he wanted to laugh… He threw himself down on the bed and burst into tears. The whole of his past spread out before him. He remembered how often he had deceived, how often he had treated badly the very people that he loved, how wild joy had sometimes poured out from his heart, when he had seen the tears spilling over from eyes which were now shut forever, and with horror he saw and admitted to himself how unworthy he had been of a love that was instinctive and real. It hurt so, it was so much to bear!

After a moment, he calmed down, sat at his table, lit a candle, took a piece of paper and began to sketch something. Everything was quiet around him. The candle burned calmly and brightly. He drew the head of an old man and when he finished, he realised that the head seemed familiar somehow. He raised his eyes to the portrait hanging opposite him – the resemblance was striking. He shivered involuntarily and turned round. It seemed to him that the door, leading into the empty dining room, creaked. He couldn’t tear his eyes from the door.

‘Who’s there?’ he cried.

Behind the door he heard a noise as though slippers were hitting the floor: lime fell from the stove to the floor.

‘Who is it?’ he repeated weakly.

At that moment, the two halves of the door quietly, soundlessly began to open. A breath of cold air blew into the room. The door was opening. In the room beyond, it was as dark as a vault.

When the door had opened wide, a figure appeared in it in a striped robe and slippers. It was a grey-headed, hunched-over old man. He slowly came forward, bent over. His face, which was long and pale, was motionless. His lips were tightly pressed, dull, grey eyes, circled with red, stared ahead but fixed on nothing.

And then he sat at the table opposite Lugin, took two packs of cards from his breast pocket, placed one in front of Lugin and the other in front of himself and smiled.

‘What is it you need?’ said Lugin with the bravery of despair. His fists were clenching spasmodically and he was ready to throw a candlestick at his uninvited guest. He sighed beneath the robe. ‘This is unbearable!’ said Lugin, panting. His thoughts scattered.

The old man shifted in his seat. His whole figure changed with every minute: sometimes thinner, sometimes fatter, then almost completely disappeared. Finally, he took on his former guise.

‘Right,’ thought Lugin, ‘if this is a phantom, then I won’t give in to him.’

‘If it’s acceptable to you, I’ll deal Shtoss.’

Lugin took the pack of cards lying in front of him and answered in a laughing tone.

‘And so, we’re to play at cards? I warn you that I won’t be betting my soul on a card! (He thought to confound the phantom with this…) But if you want,’ he continued, I’ll put in this coin. I don’t think that they have them in your phantom bank.’

The old man was not at all embarrassed by the joke.

‘This is what I have in my bank!’ he replied, stretching out a hand.;

‘This?’ said Lugin, frightened and turning his eyes to the left. ‘What’s this?’

By his side, something white shimmered, something unclear and transparent. He turned back with contempt.

‘Deal!’ he said then, recovering, and taking the coin from his pocket, he placed it on the card. ‘Go for dark.’

The old man bowed, shuffled the cards, cut them and began to deal. Lugin played the seven of diamonds which was beaten by an ace. The old man held out his hand and took the gold.

‘Another go,’ said Lugin, frustrated.

He shook his head.

‘What does that mean?’

‘On Wednesday,’ said the old man,

‘Oh! On Wednesday!’ cried Lugin enraged. ‘I don’t think so! I don’t want it on Wednesday! Tomorrow or never! Do you hear me?’

The eyes of his old guest flashed piercingly, and he moved again uneasily.

‘Alright,’ he said finally, stood up, bowed and left, hunched-over. The door closed quietly behind him. In the next room, slippers once again shuffled across the floor… and little by little everything quieted. The blood beat in Lugin’s head like a hammer. A strange feeling worried and gnawed on his soul. He was frustrated, angry even, that he had lost!

‘However, I won’t give in to him!’ he said, trying to comfort himself – resettling himself. ‘On Wednesday! No matter what! How crazy I am! It’s alright, all alright! He won’t get one over on me… But how similar he was to that portrait!… Horribly, horribly similar! Oh! Now I understand!’

Having said these last words, he fell asleep in the chair. Next morning, he told no-one about what had happened, but sat the whole day at home and with feverish impatience awaited the evening.

‘However, I didn’t give his bank a good look!’ he thought, ‘It’s probably something unusual!’

When midnight came, he stood up from his chair, went into the next room, locked the door that led into the entrance hall with a key and returned to his place. He didn’t wait long. Again, a rustling was heard, the shuffle of slippers, the cough of the old man, and then his deathly figure appeared in the doorway. Behind him there was another being, but still so obscure that Lugin could not make out her form.

The old man sat, as he had the previous evening, he laid out two packs of cards on the table, cut one and prepared to deal, evidently expecting no resistance from Lugin. His eyes gleamed with an extraordinary confidence, as if they read the future. Lugin, completely enthralled by the magnetic influence of those grey eyes, would already have thrown two coins of higher value on the table, when suddenly he remembered.

‘Allow me,’ he said, covering his deck with his hand.

The old man sat unmoving.

‘What was it I wanted to say? Allow me… yes!’ Lugin grew confused.

Finally, making an effort, he slowly pronounced:

‘Right… I will play with you, I accept the challenge, I am not afraid, only there are conditions. I must know with whom I play? What’s your family name?’

The old man smiled.

‘I won’t play unless you tell me,’ Lugin said, meanwhile his trembling hand drew his next card from the deck.

‘What? [In Russian, this reads as ‘shto – s’] said the unknown, with a mocking smile.

‘Shtoss? That’s it?’ Lugin dropped his hands. He was frightened.

In that moment, next to him he sensed a breath – fresh and sweet-smelling – and heard a weak rustle, and an involuntary sigh, and felt a light inflaming touch. A strange, sweet and simultaneously painful alarm ran through his veins. He instantly turned his head and immediately fixed his eyes on the cards again. But that momentary glance had been enough to make him lose his soul. It was a marvellous, a divine vision. Leaning over his shoulder, there shone a female head. Her mouth begged, in her eyes there was an ineffable yearning… she was as sharply outlined against the dark walls of the room as the morning star is against the fogs of the East. Life has never produced anything so ethereal and unearthly, death has never taken from the world anything so full of flaming life. This was no earthly being – this was colour and light instead of form and body, warm breath instead of blood, thought instead of feeling. This was no empty and deceiving spirit… because in her unformed features, there was a stormy, ravenous passion, desire, sadness, love, fear, hope. She was one of those wondrous beauties, which our youthful imaginations draw, before whom in the fiery excitement of daydreams  we kneel and cry, and pray to and we take joy in God knows what – one of those divine creatures of our young souls, when they in the excess of power create for themselves a new world, better and fuller than the one to which they are chained.

In that moment, Lugin couldn’t have explained what happened to him but from that minute on he decided to play until he won. That aim became his whole purpose in life – he was even joyful about it.

The old man began to deal. Lugin’s card was beaten. The white hand reached out again and drew away the two coins.

‘Tomorrow,’ said Lugin.

The old man breathed out heavily, but nodded his head in sign of agreement and left as he had the evening before.

Every night for the next month this scene repeated itself: every night Lugin lost. But he wasn’t sad about the money, he was sure that finally one card would win and so he doubled the pot each night. He was losing heavily, but every night for just a minute he met with that look and smile… and he was ready to give everything on earth for it. He grew thin and horribly yellow. He spent whole days at home, locked in his room. He often didn’t eat. He awaited the evening, like a lover awaits an assignation, and each evening he was rewarded with a look that was ever more tender, a smile that was more welcoming. She – I don’t know what to call her – she, it appeared, took an anxious part in the game. It seemed that she was awaiting impatiently for the moment when she would be free of that insufferable old man. And each time, when Lugin’s card was beaten and he turned his sad gaze upon her, she looked at him with those passionate blue eyes which, it seemed, said ‘Be brave, don’t let your spirits fail. Wait, I will be yours. Whatever happens. I love you!’… And a cruel, silent sadness covered in shadows her changing features. And each evening, when they left, Lugin’s heart was painfully oppressed by despair and rage. He had already sold his things in order to support his participation in the game. He saw the moment approaching when he would have nothing left to bet. He needed to decide on something. He decided…

Published by SamHirst

This started off as a story blog to share the little fictions that I like to write but it's turned into something a bit more Goth! I'm Dr Sam Hirst and I research the Gothic, theology and romance and at the moment I'm doing free Gothic classes online! We also have readalongs, watchalongs and reading groups. And I post fun little Gothic bits when I have the chance. Find me on twitter @RomGothSam

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