Stanislav Dimitrievich Solovay saw a thimble of light in his mother’s eye when he told her that he was to be wed. He was noble by birth, and all meaning of the word. The ring was flawless. Every last glistening cut held a place in the heart of his dear mother, having been passed down mother to daughter for over nine generations. But alas, here without a daughter, she had only a son to pass her inheritance; perhaps in hope his bride would yield a new female heir to her tradition.
Stanislav kissed his mother on the check and they both blushed red as roses. He hugged her so close that their hearts heated each other, and with that heat he hardly felt the cold as he left her dacha into the winter air. He didn’t look back to see, but as he left, a tear fell down from his mother’s eye. Surely no tear has ever glistened as that tear did, for it reflected exactly the diamonds that vanished away in the hand of her beloved son.
He walked with a great haste to the castle of his beloved. Stanislav had known her since childhood, their fathers were old war friends, and it was always joked that they would be wed some day. Oh, Natasha Vladimirovna Filomelovna! She was the most beautiful, wise, and modest maiden in for at least nine kingdoms in every direction! Suitors lost fortunes on travel and gifts just to be stricken blind by her beauty, or scorched dumb by her iron words. He watched the lines of suitors that tried to buy her heart and each one he scorned more than the last. The latest, some miserable French slime named D’anthes was worse than all of them combined. He lorded around in his chief chamberlain uniform, which made his shoulders seem so broad and strong (though in truth they were frail as little dry twigs). His lips were always so flushed red it appeared as if he applied his own make-up and if ever the slightest breeze passed through his royal chamber he would grow pale and shiver for hours. He was the type of man who felt scorn for inspiration. He had no faith in love or freedom. He looked on life with ridicule. And in the whole of nature he did not wish to praise a single thing, except of course for dear sweet Natasha Filomelovna. Somehow around her he put on a guise, like some sort of demon I tell you! And Natasha would find his company pleasurable! She would laugh, take his hollowness as lost wisdom, and as if blinded by dim candlelight, found him pleasing to the eye.
The night before, Stanislav was so wrought with distress that at last the floodgates within his soul burst open from his heart and to his voice. He spoke to Natasha with the sincerity of an angel. She fell to her knees weeping, overcome by the weight of his confession. She looked at him and said she could not deny that she always knew he would be the best husband for her, and there was no one she would rather wed her heart mind and soul to. She said that he often appeared in her dreams, and no other man ever had.
He never felt his heart beat faster and all that night he did not sleep a wink because she was so heavy on his thoughts.
This evening there was to be a party at her residence and Stanislav hoped to arrive early enough for it to be just him and her. Her house of stone was massive. He was practically lost within the labyrinth to her chamber. In those dark tunnels he began to feel a certain deep fear. The shadows seemed to flap wings and he thought of his mother, alone, praying for a daughter. The tunnel seemed to grow narrower and narrower as he approached her door, but a beautiful purple light seemed to emanate from the cracks in the frame. He knocked three times. She opened it and it seemed the fear he felt just then was reflected in her eyes as she looked upon him there.
“What are you doing here?” she begged.
“I just... I just had to say something. Just had to see you.”
He walked in and somehow she seemed more beautiful than ever before. There were candles all around and on her jewelry table next to her looking glass there was an empty vase. He fell to his knee and looked in her eyes, burning hotter than any candle and he said,
“Natasha, my dove, I cannot stop thinking about you. Oh my little sweet! I have come to ask you something.”
“Oh Stanislav Dimitrievich, before you begin, I must tell you… Oh the shame! The despair! D’anthes has been speaking with my father for months! He has assured him that I love him with all my soul, and last night, as you and I poured our very hearts into each other, he made the final arrangements for my wedding to him!”
He was stricken as if to stone as the words came out. The ring in his pocket remained there as spoke again,
“How can this be? Is it already too late? I will steal you away! No man, especially him, can take you away now.”
“Please, I must keep my honor. My family is great and I will not tarnish my blood. I’m sorry Stanislav Dimitrievich, you will always be the true keeper of my heart.”
He stood up. No tears escaped the bondage of his eyes. She put her hands to face and tried to remain silent. He walked over to the table with the looking glass and just as her crying reached an apex, when he was sure she couldn’t hear, he dropped the ring in her empty vase.
Before he could leave, that slime D’anthes happened to barge in. He fell to a knee, said something in French, and presented a box. With a smile he opened it, and they saw it was empty. That’s right, empty! The slime probably gambled the thing away, or used it to seduce some poor peasant girl!
Stanislav left before the sickness overcame him and though he went to the party, he seemed to be frozen in thought and time. Faces blended and blurred and he lost all desire to eat, sleep, even smoke his pipe or drink cognac. He left early, and returned to his private study where he did not leave for ninety days. His food was brought to him and every day passed in a slow malaise of sorrow. He ignored all letters, summons and events.
But on the ninetieth day, grave news was brought to him. He was suddenly awakened from his daze when he heard that Natasha Vladimirovna Filomelovna had come down with a terrible illness and had fallen into a deep slumber. He dressed in a hurry and ran through the snow to see her again. Once at her house he talked to one of the servants who told him that after a month of their marriage D’anthes seemed to grow utterly bored with dear sweet Natasha, and for almost all hours of the day he was off hunting, or attending to courtly business. A week ago he had been gone for three days and Natasha grew pale as a ghost. She had a great unquenchable thirst for water and unable to satisfy it, fell asleep. Nothing seemed to stir her.
Stanislav went to her room and there she lay motionless. He held her looking glass up to her lips, and thank the saints! Her breath still caused it to fog! He tried talking to her, singing to her, shaking her, but, hopelessly, he left in a hurry in fear her worthless lover would show up.
He walked away into the snow. He followed no path or signs. He went further and further still into the blizzard. The cold began to engulf him, and beckon him into a gentle slumber. It would be only right, he thought, to join her in endless rest, or may I be the light to guide her home. But before he collapsed, he noticed the twinkling light of a warm fire. He went closer to find a shack, and in it, an old woman tended to the fire. He approached her and she spoke,
“Stanislav Dimitrievich Solovay, I have been awaiting you. Your love, they say is stagnating in a dreamless sleep, and worse than that, married to another! Ha! A sad lot indeed. But I will tell you what Stanislav Dimitrievich, I can teach you to wake her, and make it so that for all time you can be by her side and whisper sweet words and songs in her perfect, loving ear!”
“Be you witch or angel I will do anything you say! Please grandmother, tell me how to wake Natasha from this death.”
“Alright, it is done then. Go back to her chamber Stanislav Dimitrievich, and look in that vase you left your mother’s ring. In it you will find a rare flower, a flower I am sure you have never seen before, for no mortal has in over nine eons! Go to it and place the pedals over her eyes. As she opens them again you shall both be together evermore.”
With that, he began to run back. His footprints were gone but warmth again pulsed through him un-extinguished. Soon he was back at her castle. He ran through the dark tunnels, brushing away the shadows galling screams. He went into her chamber and sure enough a flower had sprung from that beloved ring. The petals were the deepest blue, like a thousand seas. The stem, riddled with thorns, was a glowing crimson, as if ablaze like the candles around. He tore it from its place and walked over to her, still frozen between life and death. He pulled each petal off, nine in total, and placed them over her eyes. Nothing happened and his heart almost filled again with that most painful dread, but she moved her arm! And her lips moved as if she about to speak.
But as she opened her eyes, and wiped the blue flowers off her eyes, Stanislav Solovay felt an odd grip on his very spine. It rippled throughout him and as he screamed in terror he was transformed into a little black nightingale. She never did get a chance to look upon him as a man one more time, but when she awoke, she saw the nightingale sitting next to her on the bed, singing such a sweet song. D’anthes marched in to see his prize awake and caged Stanislav Dimitrievich Solovay the nightingale before he could fly away.
He was kept in a cage and Natasha brought it wherever she went. In her deepest moments of sorrow it would sing to her and almost seem to cry with her. Within a few months D’anthes was killed in a duel, but still she was never without a friend, she felt. After long, her dear little nightingale had sung so long and lived within a cage so long, that he forgot how to fly. But she placed him in her heart so warmly; he didn’t need the use of wings anyway. And the two lived on together, until this very day!