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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It was on her fifth day there that Alexei fell ill again, after a small bump he had gotten on his leg while leaving the dinner table, and he was confined to his bed for the next two days. Danina sat with him, telling him stories she remembered from her childhood with her father and brothers, and endless tales of the ballet, the rigorous discipline, and the other dancers. He listened to her for hours, until he fell asleep holding her hand, and she tiptoed slowly away to rejoin the others. She felt so sorry for him, and the cruel limitations his illness imposed on him. He was so unlike her own brothers, or the boys she had trained with at the ballet, who were all so powerful and so healthy.

Alexei was still weak but feeling better when she and Madame Markova left in mid-July, and boarded the Imperial train to return to St. Petersburg. It had been a wonderful vacation, and an unforgettable time in her life that she knew she would remember forever. She would never forget playing with the Imperial family like ordinary friends, and the beauty of the setting, and Alexei trying to teach her to swim, while explaining it to her from a deck chair.

“No, not like that, you silly girl … like this….” He demonstrated the strokes with his arms, while she tried to implement them, and then they both laughed hysterically when she failed and pretended to be drowning.

He wrote to her once at the ballet, a little note, telling her that he missed her. It was obvious that although he was only nine, he had a crush on her. His mother acknowledged it to a friend, with genteel amusement. Alexei was having his first affair with a ballet dancer, at nine, and she was a beauty. But better than that, they knew she was a lovely person. But two weeks after her idyllic stay in Livadia, the entire world was in turmoil, and the sad events in Sarajevo had finally catapulted them into war. And on August first, Germany declared war on Russia. No one thought it would last long, and optimistically assumed the hostilities would end at the Battle of Tannenberg at the end of August, but instead the situation worsened.

Despite the war, Danina danced in Giselle and Coppelia and La Bayadere again that year. Her skill was reaching its peak, and her development and understanding were all that Madame Markova had hoped they would be one day. There was never the slightest element of disappointment in her performance, it was everything it should have been, and more. What she brought to the stage was precisely what Madame Markova had sensed she might, years before. And she had the kind of single-minded dedication and purpose that was essential. Danina allowed for no distractions from what she did. She cared nothing about men, or the world outside the walls of the ballet. She lived and breathed and worked and existed only for dancing. She was the perfect dancer, unlike some of the others, whom Madame Markova viewed with disdain. Despite their impeccable training and whatever talent they had, too often they allowed themselves to be distracted or lured away by men and romance. But to Danina, the ballet was her lifeblood, the force that drove and fed her. It was the very essence of her soul. For Danina, there was nothing else. It was everything she cared about, and lived for. And as a result, her dancing was exquisite.

She gave her best performance that year on Christmas Eve. Her brothers and father were at the front, but the Czar and Czarina were there, and were overwhelmed by the beauty of her dancing. She joined them in their box briefly afterward and asked immediately after Alexei. She gave his mother one of the roses that had been given her, and sent it to him, and Madame Markova noticed that she looked more tired than usual when she returned backstage. It had been a long, exciting evening, and Danina wouldn't have admitted it, but she felt exhausted.

She got up at five the next day, as usual, although it was Christmas Day, and was in the studio warming up by five-thirty. There was no class until noon that day, but she could never bear the idea of missing an entire morning. She was always afraid she would lose some part of her skill, if she wasted half a day, or even let herself be pulled away from it for a minute. Even on Christmas.

Madame Markova saw Danina in the studio at seven, and after watching her for a little while, she thought her exercises looked strange. There was a stiffness that was uncharacteristic of her, an awkwardness as she practiced her arabesques, and then very slowly, as though in slow motion, she began to drift toward the floor. Her movements were so graceful that as she fell, it looked rehearsed and absolutely perfect. It was only when she lay there, without moving, for what seemed like an eternity, that Madame Markova and two of the other students suddenly realized that she was unconscious. They ran to her immediately, and attempted to revive her, and Madame Markova knelt beside her on the floor. Her hands were trembling as she touched Danina's face and back, and felt the dry, blazing heat of her body. And as Danina opened unseeing eyes, her mentor saw instantly that they were feverish and glazed, and she had been devoured, during the night, by some mysterious illness.

“My child, why did you dance today if you are ill … ?” Madame Markova was beside herself as she looked at her. They had all heard of the raging influenza running unchecked through Moscow, but thus far there had been no sign of it in St. Petersburg. “You shouldn't have done this,” Madame Markova scolded her gently, fearing the worst for her. But at first, Danina seemed almost not to hear her.

“I had to. … I had to….” Missing a moment, a single exercise or class or rehearsal was more than Danina could bear. “I must get up. … I must …” she said, and then began to babble. One of the young men who had danced with her for a decade lifted her easily, and at Madame Markova's direction carried her to her bed upstairs. She had finally left the large dormitory the year before, and was now sleeping in a room with only six beds in it. It was as spartan and spare and icy cold as the dormitory where she had lived for eleven years, but it was a little bit more private, and now the other dancers came rapidly to hover in the doorway and watch her. News of her collapse had already spread everywhere, in all the halls of the ballet.

“Is she all right … what happened … she is so pale, Madame … what will happen … we must call a doctor. …” Danina herself was too tired to explain, too dazed to even recognize anyone. All she could see in the distance was the tall, spare form of Madame Markova, whom she loved as a mother, standing anxiously at the foot of her bed. But she was too tired to listen to what she was saying.

Madame Markova ordered everyone from the room, for fear of contagion to them, and asked one of the other teachers to bring some tea for Danina. But when Madame Markova put the cup to Danina's lips, she could not even sip it. Danina was far too ill, and much too weak. And just sitting up, with Madame Markova's powerful arms supporting her, she nearly fainted. She had never felt so ill in her life, but it no longer mattered to her. By that afternoon, when the doctor came, she knew she was going to die, and she didn't mind it. Every inch of her body ached, her limbs felt as though they had been severed with axes. Each touch, each movement, each brush against the rough sheets on her bed made her feel as though her skin were on fire. And all she could think of as she lay there, hovering between delirium and pain, was that if she did not exercise soon, and return to classes and rehearsal, she would die.

The doctor who came confirmed Madame Markova's earlier fears, and did little to allay her terror for Danina. It was indeed influenza, and he admitted honestly to the mistress of the ballet that there was nothing he could do about it. People had been dying in Moscow by the hundreds. And Madame Markova cried as she listened. She tried to urge Danina to be strong, but Danina had begun to sense that she would not win the battle, which terrified her mentor even further.

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