Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hellish as They May Be God Loves a Trinity

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

On a frosty night in January two grizzled fellow "sea wolves" and I were whiling away the hours at our friend Alexei's dacha outside Moscow. Alexei regaled us with a story in which, as it turned out, we all had a part to play.

"I was never what you would call a Don Juan, and I never cheated on my wife," Alexei said. "Well, almost never. I was in Moscow once staying with friends on my way to Yalta for a vacation. My wife and son were already at the coast. At my friends' place I met a young woman -- a rare beauty. Her hair was jet black, and her almond-shaped eyes were the color of the southern summer sky. Her name was Diana.

"I offered to walk Diana home. As we made our way through the springtime streets we recited Shakespeare, Yesenin, Byron and Maikov. After that we met each evening. I was due to leave, but I couldn't tear myself away from Diana. When I finally mustered up the nerve to announce I was leaving, Diana invited me up to her apartment.

"I had never kissed a woman so passionately as I then kissed Diana. When the only barrier left between us was her flimsy brassiere, she suddenly freed herself from my embrace and sat down on the bed. 'We forgot this one,' she said, and began to recite Maikov's poem "Hell" in her deep, resonant voice. "That was it. My manly powers departed in an instant. I couldn't endure such shame. I dressed in a hurry and left without saying goodbye to Diana. That day I caught the first flight to the Crimea."

"Did she recite these lines?" my friend Nikolai asked: "A bird flew out noisily / From Hell beneath the earth ..." "How did you guess?" Alexei asked.

"Did you ever see her again?" Nikolai asked. "I never did. But I have never forgotten her."

"It would appear that I once saw your Diana, too," I said, to my friends' amazement. "Ten years ago or so, I was on the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. A husband and wife were in the next compartment -- a gray-haired American and his wife, a graceful brunette aged about 40. I was immediately drawn to her beautiful face. But when she passed by and raised her eyes, I was struck dumb. I had never seen such deep blue eyes in all my life.

"It was stuffy in the compartment, so I went out into the corridor. A low, female voice was audible from the next compartment, whose door was ajar. The woman was reciting a poem. The first line stuck in my memory: 'A bird flew out noisily / From Hell beneath the earth ...' Soon the man's voice joined in, repeating passionately, 'I love you, my darling!'"

Alexei laughed bitterly. "The American was lucky. He didn't know Russian, so he had no idea what she was saying to him. Otherwise ..."

Vladislav Schnitzer is a pensioner and journalist living in Moscow.