Fakir/Chapter Four: Holiday of Good Deeds
Holiday of Good Deeds
Several years have passed. Katya was the real “star” of the circus of Mr. Lurie.
Once, in one of the large cities, every day among the public in the first row, Katya began to notice a teenage boy, dressed in a suit, about the same age or slightly older, who enthusiastically clapped and did not remove his gaze from her.
A few days later, after another show, Mr. Lurie brought this boy and his father backstage to the room, where Katya took off her wings and was about to change clothes.
“Well, here she is — our ‘star’!” — He introduced Katya. — “And this is Count de Noiri and his son Alex. You made an indelible impression on Alex, Mademoiselle Kitty!”
… Katya looked with surprise at her admirer and on the director, who became so unnaturally kind with her.
Alex handed Katya a gift — a beautiful box with a bow, and then unexpectedly for his father and for Mr. Lurie pronounced:
“I want Mademoiselle Kitty to come to our house today and dine with us. And tomorrow — to spend with me all day: because tomorrow there is no show!”
He pronounced it in a tone, implying no possible objections.
“It’s not customary,” — Mr. Lurie tried, nevertheless, to object…
But, apparently, the boy’s father often yielded to the whims of his son. And now he took from his wallet a voluminous bundle of banknotes and with an odd smile extended the money to the director:
“But can we make an exception? Isn’t it?”
“Yes of course!” — Mr. Lurie said, realizing that at the whims of this “baby” he can very well profit.
“Can I wash myself and change clothes?” — Katya asked.
“No: I like it this way! You are so beautiful in this dress!” — Alex said. — “If you want, you’ll take a bath in our house before going to bed! Let’s go right now!”
Katya left on the table the unopened box, threw on her old plain-looking coat, which contrasted so sharply with the glittering and sparkling attire for performances, and went to the count’s crew.
… They drove up to the luxurious mansion.
The servants accepted their outer garments.
Katya has never seen such luxury!
“It’s like I came to the palace of a fairy tale about Cinderella!” — she thought.
… Then there was a huge hall with a large table on which there were only three covers.
Alex’s father did not sit down: he said he was not hungry and left the children only in the company of lackeys who silently poured juice and served food.
Katya looked with amazement at several forks and spoons near the plate, not daring to choose one of them.
Alex had broken an awkward silence:
“You can eat with a spoon, even with your hands! Here — there is no one to observe etiquette!”
Katya looked around in astonishment at the four servants, frozen in silent poses…
“Ah,” — Alex laughed. — “Go away: we ourselves will choose what to eat and drink!”
The footmen left with bows.
“Don’t you consider them humans?”
“Why? They are people… But these people do everything I want, my father pays them for this. And if I want — they will be driven out in the street. So don’t be embarrassed!”
“And I? Because I came here, also due to your father payment.”
"You’re another matter! I like you! We had to somehow convince your director to let you go!”
… After dinner, Katya got accustomed to the unusual situation in which she fell into.
But then the caretaker came in and strictly pronounced that today it’s too late and it’s time for everyone to sleep. The maid led Katya to the bathroom, trimmed with marble. Then, when Katya finished enjoying the warm bath with snow-white foam from a special fragrant soap solution, the maid gave her a robe and a nightgown — all in lace — and led her to a separate bedroom.
… The next morning after breakfast Alex led Katya to his room. Katya was surprised to see little figures of people and animals of wood or porcelain, “magic boxes” with different fancies and music, painted houses, boats with sails and even a railway with a locomotive, trailers, and rails.
“I have no toys, and I do not know how to play with them,” — Katya said, embarrassed.
“It’s easy, I’ll teach you!” — Alex replied confidently.
… They built the city for a while from the dices, laid the railway… But it got boring for Alex very soon. Then they went to the garden and let out into the pond ships with sails — so beautiful and like real sailboats.
This also very quickly bored the young earl.
But Katya still did not cease to be surprised that it’s possible to spend time like this…
“If you want, we’ll go shopping and I’ll buy you everything you want — a new coat, shoes, elegant dresses, all kinds of toys, anything you want… I want to make you feel good!”
“But your father will pay for this… Is it so? It turns out that it’s he, not you who does me pleasure, but, maybe, he does not want it to…”
“Well then…” — Alex thought for a moment. — “I remember: I have my own money! I was given such a birthday present, but I did not spend it! This may not be enough for all your desires, but this is my own money!
“Speak: what do you want?!”
“Yesterday it seemed to me that I was in a fairy-tale castle, and now I want to be a fairy who does good miracles! So — that in real life at least for a short time it becomes the same as in a fairy tale!
“Have you ever dreamed of being a magician?”
“But I dreamed!… When I was little, Tom — he is my friend the clown — he taught me how to make our day off good. We did a sort of celebration for ourselves. The main rule was to do something good for others! We went for a walk — and arranged little kind miracles.
“For example, in winter we fed frozen and hungry birds. Then at the market we bought food from the poorest old woman. And sometimes — we just walked along the street and gave smiles and kind words to people! Tom always knows how to joke so that where we passed, like flowers of joy blossomed out!
“And today you, too, can help me to do little miracles!”
“But I cannot joke…”
“Well, okay: I thought of something else!”
… They went to the city in a carriage accompanied by only one servant who was in charge of the safety of the young count.
Instead of outfits and gifts, Katya asked Alex to buy chocolates, sweets, soft and lush buns and pies, and put everything in large boxes.
Then, at the request of Katya, they went to the poor neighborhoods of that city.
“Formerly, I lived with my mother very poorly, we rarely had enough food. And it seemed to me a real holiday — to get a piece of soft bread or candy,” — she told Alex.
… Poor neighborhoods surprised Alex. He did not even imagine that there are people who live in such poverty!
And Katya — was so happy, treating the children with free treats! She felt like a wonder-worker who can do wonders!
Katya was surrounded by little and older children. They looked at her circus outfit.
The children began to ask:
“Tell us about the circus, please!”
… At first Katya tried to describe the performance in words. And around her more and more little listeners gathered…
Then she began to show everything she could herself. The audience gathered from many neighboring houses. The children and their parents approached. And just random passers-by stopped — and could not leave!
Katya invented her own show, as if she wanted to present the beauty of the whole circus action.
And she was enthusiastically applauded to the redness of their beating hands, by both children and adults who never were and would not be in the circus!
Alex and his servant also clapped.
… But after the performance, Katya had become sad.
“Thank you for this day, Alex! Now take me back to the circus!” — she asked.
Alex obediently agreed. For this day, there was a change also in him. If he ordered in the morning how to be entertained, then he tried more and more to give pleasure to Katya and help her. This brought him a new, never before experienced joy of caring for another, for others.
And he began to understand something new, which — from now on — could change his life…
“When I’ll grow up, I find you — and we’ll get married,” — he said seriously.
“It does not happen: you are a count, and I am a circus…
But, anyway, today, we had a good holiday of good deeds!”
* * *
In the evening, Katya was long in thoughtfulness, and then asked Tom:
“Tom, do you believe in God?”
“I guess I believe, Katya! All the circus people are those who to some extent believe in the Higher Powers that control destinies, and in all sorts of signs.
“We are all — here in the circus — so different from each other: different nationalities, different faiths… Most of us risk our lives, going out into the arena with predatory animals or — like you, climbing to a height, the fall from which is deadly. Or — riders, for whom a mistake can also cost lives… But even those who risk only disgrace, if the number does not work out — also usually perform some rituals: for everything to go well… Probably, man has the need to believe in help from above…”
“Do you have a prayer which you used to use?”
“No… It seems to me that any prayer is suitable. If God hears us, is it not the same to Him, what words we use to address Him?
“But He does hear us, and namely here!” — Tom pointed to the center of his chest. — “From here, from the depths, He hears us! From here — He teaches to forgive others.
“If there is in the chest the warmth of love, it seems to me that this is because God understands me and approves. If inside here is emptiness and sadness, it seems as though there is no Him with me at all…”
“Why are some people rich — and others are poor? Someone was born into a family of servants and forced to work hard all their life, doing hard work, — but someone like Alex was born by wealthy parents and is tormented by boredom, not knowing where to put money and time…
“Today we were in poor neighborhoods of this city. There — such poverty, dirt! And people, including children, live there…”
“Everyone, probably, can change something in one’s own life, so I suppose. Even children from these poor families can try to escape from that poor life, start learning… I met people who achieved everything they dreamed, though they were born in poor families.
“But after all, what else is to be seen, Katya: not in material wealth only — the happiness is!
“Sometimes happiness is in embracing a beloved and dear person, just as we are sitting together now, embracing, we can talk heart to heart, we understand each other. In some of those poor families, children can receive much more love than in families of aristocrats…
“Happiness cannot be purchased for money!
“And today you gave those people joy — and it’s great too! Perhaps, your treats and your performance — they brought more happiness to people than we give in our shows to the whole audience!”