Liatov, the great violinist, ran into an old friend one day in early spring.
“Feodore!” The two men greeted each other warmly.
“Wonderful news! I am to be wed, thanks to you!”
“Me? But how?”
“I could not forget the encore of your last concert.” He demonstrated by singing a few bars. “Anna heard me singing and started a conversation. One thing led to another, and now we are engaged.” Tears of happiness filled Feodore’s eyes.
Liatov didn’t have the heart to tell him the tune was unfamiliar. Furthermore, the sound of it was an affront to his musician’s ears. But men in the throes of love are prone to all sorts of madness, so Liatov simply smiled and gave his friend a huge bear hug.
Months later, Liatov entered the church and was led to the groom’s side. Everyone he knew was here. Surely this was the wedding of the season! Many minutes passed. Men peered at their pocket watches, the organist began improvising. The priest paced the floor.
Suddenly the door flew open and a disheveled Feodore ran to the altar, crying, “She’s jilted me!” He saw Liatov and lunged at him. “All because of your wretched music. She said that song was driving her mad!” It took three strong men to sedate him and pack him off to a nursing home for some rest and recovery.
By autumn, the scandal of the June wedding had almost died down. Liatov received no news of his friend. Then one afternoon, as he was traveling through the burnt-gold and crimson countryside, he saw an old man staggering by the side of the road. The ragged beggar turned his head and Liatov gasped.
“Is it really you?” With great care and gentle persuasion, he convinced Feodore to join him in the carriage.
The wild-eyed man began singing the hideous melody, like one obsessed. The sound spooked the horses who broke into a frenzied gallop. The poor driver was thrown from the box, but lived to tell the tale. The others – Liatov, Feodore and four magnificent, perfectly-matched bays – were never seen again.