Danielle Steel: Granny Dan

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Danielle Steel Granny Dan
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    Granny Dan
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    Старинная литература / на английском языке
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Granny Dan: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Chapter 1

Danina Petroskova was born in 18g5 in Moscow. Her father was an officer in the Litovsky Regiment, and she had four brothers. They were tall and handsome and wore uniforms, and brought her sweets when they came home to visit. The youngest of them was twelve years older than she was. And when they were at home, they sang and played with her, and made lots of noise. She loved being with them, passed from one pair of powerful shoulders to the other, as they ran with her, and let her pretend that they were her horses. It was obvious to Danina, as it was to everyone, that her brothers adored her.

What Danina remembered of her mother was that she had a lovely face and gentle ways, she wore a perfume that smelled of lilac, and she would sing Danina to sleep at night, after telling her long, wonderful stories about when she was a little girl herself. She used to laugh a lot, and Danina loved her. She died when Danina was five, of typhoid. And after that, everything changed in Danina's life.

Her father had absolutely no idea what to do about her. He wasn't equipped to take care of a child, particularly one so young, and a girl child. He and his sons were in the army, so he hired a woman to take care of her, a string of them, but after two years, he knew he simply couldn't do it anymore. He had to find another solution for Danina. And he found the perfect one, he thought. He went to St. Petersburg to make the arrangements. He was vastly impressed when he spoke to Madame Markova. She was a remarkable woman, and the ballet school and company she ran would provide not only a home for Danina but a useful life, and a future she could rely on. If it became clear to them eventually that Danina had real talent, she would have a life with them, for as long as she could dance. It was a grueling life, and one that would require great sacrifices of her, but his wife had loved the ballet, and he sensed deep in his soul that the child's mother would have been pleased with his solution. It would be costly for him to keep her there, but he felt the sacrifice he'd have to make was worth it, particularly if in time she became a great dancer, which he considered likely. She was an unusually graceful little girl.

Danina's father and two of her brothers took her to St. Petersburg in April, after she turned seven. There was still snow on the ground, and as she stood looking up at her new home, her entire body trembled. She was terrified and she didn't want them to leave her there. But there was nothing she could do to stop them, nothing she could say or do. She had already begged her father, while they were still in Moscow, not to send her away to live with the ballet. He had told her it was a great gift to her, an opportunity that would change her life, and she would be a great ballerina one day, and be happy she had gone there.

But on that fateful day, she could imagine none of it. All she could think of was not the life she was gaining, but the cherished one she had lost. She stood holding her own small suitcase, as an elderly woman opened the door. She led them down a dark hallway, and Danina could hear shouting in the distance, music, and voices, and something hard and terrifying tapping loudly on a floor. The sounds all around her were ominous and strange, the halls they passed through dark and cold, until at last they reached the office where Madame Markova was waiting for them. She was a woman with dark hair, which she wore in a severe bun, a deathly pale, unlined face, and electric blue eyes that seemed to look right through her. Danina wanted to cry the moment she saw her, but she didn't dare. She was too frightened.

“Good morning, Danina,” Madame Markova said sternly. “We have been expecting you,” she said, sounding to the child like the devil at the gates of hell. “You will have to work very hard if you wish to live with us,” Madame Markova warned her, as Danina nodded, with a huge lump in her throat. “Do you understand me?” She spoke very clearly, and Danina looked up at her with eyes filled with terror. “Let me look at you,” she said then. She came around the desk in a long black skirt, which she wore over a leotard, with a short black jacket. Her entire outfit was the same color as her hair. She looked at Danina's legs then, and pulled up her skirt to see them better, and seemed satisfied with what she saw there. She glanced at Danina's father, and nodded. “We will let you know how she is doing, Colonel. The ballet is not for everyone, as I have told you.”

“She's a good girl,” he said kindly, and both her brothers smiled proudly.

“You may leave us now,” Madame Markova said then, well aware that the child was about to panic. All three men kissed her, as tears streamed from Danina's eyes. And a moment later, they left her alone in the office with the woman who would now rule her life. There was a long silence in the room after they left, as neither teacher nor child spoke, and the only sound between them was Danina's stifled sobs.

“You do not believe me now, my child, but you will be happy here. One day this will be the only life you will want or know.” Danina looked at her with agonized suspicion, and then Madame Markova stood up, came around her desk, and held out a long, graceful hand. “Come, we will go to watch the others.” She had taken in children this young before. In fact, she preferred it. If they had a gift, it was the only way to truly train them properly, to make it their only life, their only world, the only thing they wanted. And there was something about this child that intrigued her, there was something luminous and wise about her eyes. She had a kind of magic and whimsy about her, and as they walked down the long, cold halls hand in hand, far above Danina's head the older woman smiled with pleasure.

They stopped in each class for a little while, beginning with those who were already performing. Madame Markova wanted her to see what she had to strive for, the excitement of the way they danced, the perfection of their style and discipline. From there, they moved on to the younger dancers, who were already very creditable performers and might well inspire her. And at last, they stopped at the class of students with whom Danina would study, exercise, and dance. Danina couldn't begin to imagine being able to dance with them, as she watched, then jumped in terror as Madame Markova rapped hard on the floor with the cane she carried for just that purpose.

The teacher signaled her class to stop, and Madame Markova introduced Danina and explained that she had come from Moscow to live at the school with the others. Now she would be the youngest student, and the most childlike. The others had a strict, disciplined quality that made them seem older than they were. The youngest student was a nine-year-old boy from the Ukraine, and Danina was only seven. There were several girls who were nearly ten, and one who was eleven. They had already been dancing for two years, and Danina would have to work hard to catch up with them, but as they smiled at her and introduced themselves, Danina began to smile shyly. It was like having many sisters, instead of only brothers, she thought suddenly. And when they took her to see her place in the dormitory after lunch, she felt like one of them when they showed her her bed. It was small and hard and narrow.

She went to sleep that night thinking of her father and her brothers. She couldn't help but cry, missing them, but the girl in the next bed, hearing her cry, came to comfort her, and soon there were several others sitting on her bed with her. They sat with her and told her stories, of ballets, and wonderful times they had shared, of dancing Coppelia and Swan Lake, and seeing the Czar and Czarina come to a performance. They made it all sound so exciting that Danina listened to them intently and forgot her miseries, until at last she fell asleep while they were still talking to her about how happy she would be there.

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