How utterly foreign to the troubles of the night were those exciting St.Petersburg mornings when the fierce and tender, damp and dazzling Arctic spring bundled away broken ice down the seabright Neva! It made the roofs shine. It painted the slush in the streets a rich purplish-blue shade which I have never seen anywhere since. On those glorious days on allait se promener en equipage - the old-world expression current in our set. I can eaily refeel the exhilarating change from the thickly padded, knee-length polushubok, with the hot beaver collar, to the short navy-blue coat with its anchor-patterned brass buttons. ... Church bells are ringing, the first Brimstone flies up over the Palace Arch, in another month we shall return to the country; and as I look up I can see, strung on ropes from housefront to housefront high above the street, great, tensely smooth, semitransparent banners billowing, their three wide bands - pale red, pale blue, and merely pale - deprived by the sun and the flying cloud-shadows of any too blunt connexion with a national holiday, but undoutedly celebrating now, in the city of memory, the essence of that spring day, the swish of the mud, the beginning of mumps, the ruffled exotic bird with one bloodshot eye on Mademoiselle's hat.
Before leaving for Basle and Berlin, I happened to be walking along the lake in the cold, misty night. At one spot a lone light dimly diluted the darkness and transformed the mist into a visible drizzle. 'Il pleut toujours en Suisse' was one of those casual comments which, formerly, had made Mademoiselle weep. Below, a wide ripple, almost a wave, and something vaguely white attracted my eye. As I came quite close to the lapping water, I saw what it was - an aged swan, a large, uncouth, dod-like creature, making ridiculous efforts to hoist himself into a moored boat. He could not do it. The heavy, impotent flapping of his wings, their slippery sound against the rocking and plashing boat, the gluey glistening of the dark swell where it caught the light - all seemed for a moment laden with that strange significance which sometimes in dreams is attached to a finger pressed to mute lips and then pointed at something the dreamer has no time to distinguish before waking with a start. But although I soon forgot that dismal night, it was oddly enough, that night, that compound image - shudder and swan and swell - which first came to my mind when a couple of years later I learned that Mademoiselle had died.