Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices

THE MIRROR
(Idyll Zero)

by Raphael Levchin

Translated by M.Levchin and D.Levchin



The author assures the gracious reader that before writing the little piece which follows, he (the author) carefully studied the appropriate period and the methods at that time of the interaction of people with each other. So...


This happened at the ball at Countess V.N.T's, better known by her nickname "The Beautiful Veronica".
I was unlucky during a frenzied mazurka... in a word, the Countess stepped on my foot.
Naturally, I tried to act as though nothing had happened and continued to dance. But the latest beats were still sounding as I was called to the wall.
There, on a wide redwood bench, a tribunal was already sitting: my uncle, infuriatingly plucking at his silver beard; the aged prince; my nephew, who was about twelve years older than I was and always, as I recall, distinguished by his frankness; some captain in an embroidered coat from a strange shoulder; and the mistress of the ball herself, the Beautiful Veronica.
When I was a baby crawling on the floor, she was already beautiful and reigning over balls. Is it strange that, hardly had I arrived in the capital, stationed with the Emperor Guards, when I had recklessly and selflessly fallen in love with her?
Beside the Beautiful Veronica on the Venetian table stood her sculptured portrait in pink marble. The play of a patch of light on its translucent surface created the impression of skin breathing and alive. From a quick glance, one could think that this remarkable resemblance was a mirror's reflection.
"Sir," my uncle sternly uttered, "I am beginning to think that you are be blinded by your sad passion. You have taken a chance touch as a sign of attention and, breaking all the rules of decent propriety, not thought it necessary even to offer your pardon!"
Everything was mixed up in my poor head.
How could it be, that I, an insignificant youth and a provincial, would dare to presume... dare to make bold to presume... the Countess!.. Beautiful Veronica herself?!
And really indeed...
Her indignation...
Her determination to settle this hasty judgment...
Her flaming face... her eyes...
Is she really indignant about what she had said?..
Is she really indignant?..
"No!" With a steadiness of amazement to myself, I replied, "I don't want to offer apologies for what happened."
My uncle's face expressed my subsequent fate better than any words.
"Uncle!" said my nephew, who was twelve years older than me and always, as I recall, distinguished by his frankness. "You have gone to the limit with this."
"Yes!" added the captain.
I looked right into the eyes of the Beautiful Veronica and, as though from on high, pronounced, "But, my Lady, accept my sincere assurances, that I without thought would have given everything I had if only your distress were not felt so greatly!"
"And the palette! What about the palette?" exclaimed the beautiful Countess.
"Thousands of pardon. I had forgotten about the palette!"
I took the full bottle from the table and began. I put a bloodlike spot on the clean white breast of my uniform, and two yellow ones on the neck. Then I put a black one under the eyes, which must signify tears, and with a sudden thought, I added a new one, dabbing on whiskers and upper front locks.
Even my uncle could not hold back his admiration of this, not to mention of the rest tribunal.
"I grow bold to draw your attention to the irreproachable bearing," declared the captain after deep thought, wishing to put in a word, but not fully understanding what was going on.
And now I felt a hypnotic tingle in my fingertips!
I raised my hands and tried.
My uncle dissolved in the air without any sounds, as if he had never been.
I tried again, more confidently.
The old prince vanished without waking up.
After this I made my dear nephew disappear and, with special pleasure, the captain. Than, returning to the hall, I caused to disappear one after the other the whole crowd of guests, musicians, attendants with refreshing drinks, marble fauns and eroses in corners, ancestors in golden frames, candlesticks, carpets...
Finally in the deserted space there remained only I and she -- the Beautiful Veronica. I made her clothes disappear...
Marble...
And silence