Meanwhile Vassily Lukitch had not at first understood who this
lady was, and had learned from their conversation that it was no
other person than the mother who had left her husband, and whom
he had not seen, as he had entered the house after her departure.
He was in doubt whether to go in or not, or whether to
communicate with Alexey Alexandrovitch. Reflecting finally that
his duty was to get Seryozha up at the hour fixed, and that it
was therefore not his business to consider who was there, the
mother or anyone else, but simply to do his duty, he finished
dressing, went to the door and opened it.
But the embraces of the mother and child, the sound of their
voices, and what they were saying, made him change his mind.
He shook his head, and with a sigh he closed the door. "I'll
wait another ten minutes," he said to himself, clearing his
throat and wiping away tears.
Among the servants of the household there was intense excitement
all this time. All had heard that their mistress had come, and
that Kapitonitch had let her in, and that she was even now in the
nursery, and that their master always went in person to the
nursery at nine o'clock, and every one fully comprehended that it
was impossible for the husband and wife to meet, and that they
must prevent it. Korney, the valet, going down to the
hall porter's room, asked who had let her in, and how it was he
had done so, and ascertaining that Kapitonitch had admitted her
and shown her up, he gave the old man a talking-to. The
hall porter was doggedly silent, but when Korney told him he
ought to be sent away, Kapitonitch darted up to him, and waving
his hands in Korney's face, began:
"Oh yes, to be sure you'd not have let her in! After ten years'
service, and never a word but of kindness, and there you'd up and
say, 'Be off, go along, get away with you!' Oh yes, you're a
shrewd one at politics, I dare say! You don't need to be taught
how to swindle the master, and to filch fur coats!"
"Soldier!" said Korney contemptuously, and he turned to the nurse
who was coming in. "Here, what do you think, Marya Efimovna: he
let her in without a word to anyone," Korney said addressing
her. "Alexey Alexandrovitch will be down immediately--and go
into the nursery!"
"A pretty business, a pretty business!" said the nurse. "You,
Korney Vassilievitch, you'd best keep him some way or other, the
master, while I'll run and get her away somehow. A pretty
When the nurse went into the nursery, Seryozha was telling his
mother how he and Nadinka had had a fall in sledging downhill,
and had turned over three times. She was listening to the sound
of his voice, watching his face and the play of expression on it,
touching his hand, but she did not follow what he was saying.
She must go, she must leave him,--this was the only thing she was
thinking and feeling. She heard the steps of Vassily Lukitch
coming up to the door and coughing; she heard, too, the steps of
the nurse as she came near; but she sat like one turned to stone,
incapable of beginning to speak or to get up.
"Mistress, darling!" began the nurse, going up to Anna and
kissing her hands and shoulders. "God has brought joy indeed to
our boy on his birthday. You aren't changed one bit."
"Oh, nurse dear, I didn't know you were in the house," said Anna,
rousing herself for a moment.
"I'm not living here, I'm living with my daughter. I came for
the birthday, Anna Arkadyevna, darling!"
The nurse suddenly burst into tears, and began kissing her hand
Seryozha, with radiant eyes and smiles, holding his mother by one
hand and his nurse by the other, pattered on the rug with his fat
little bare feet. The tenderness shown by his beloved nurse to
his mother threw him into an ecstasy.
"Mother! She often comes to see me, and when she comes..." he
was beginning, but he stopped, noticing that the nurse was saying
something in a whisper to his mother, and that in his mother's
face there was a look of dread and something like shame, which
was so strangely unbecoming to her.
She went up to him.
"My sweet!" she said.
She could not say good-bye, but the expression on her face said
it, and he understood. "Darling, darling Kootik!" she used the
name by which she had called him when he was little, "you won't
forget me? You..." but she could not say more.
How often afterwards she thought of words she might have said.
But now she did not know how to say it, and could say nothing.
But Seryozha knew all she wanted to say to him. He understood
that she was unhappy and loved him. He understood even what the
nurse had whispered. He had caught the words "always at nine
o'clock," and he knew that this was said of his father, and that
his father and mother could not meet. That he understood, but
one thing he could not understand--why there should be a look of
dread and shame in her face?... She was not in fault, but she
was afraid of him and ashamed of something. He would have liked
to put a question that would have set at rest this doubt, but he
did not dare; he saw that she was miserable, and he felt for her.
Silently he pressed close to her and whispered, "Don't go yet.
He won't come just yet."
The mother held him away from her to see what he was thinking,
what to say to him, and in his frightened face she read not only
that he was speaking of his father, but, as it were, asking her
what he ought to think about his father.
"Seryozha, my darling," she said, "love him; he's better and
kinder than I am, and I have done him wrong. When you grow up
you will judge."
"There's no one better than you!..." he cried in despair through
his tears, and, clutching her by the shoulders, he began
squeezing her with all his force to him, his arms trembling with
"My sweet, my little one!" said Anna, and she cried as weakly and
childishly as he.
At that moment the door opened. Vassily Lukitch came in.
At the other door there was the sound of steps, and the nurse in
a scared whisper said, "He's coming," and gave Anna her hat.
Seryozha sank onto the bed and sobbed, hiding his face in his
hands. Anna removed his hands, once more kissed his wet face,
and with rapid steps went to the door. Alexey Alexandrovitch
walked in, meeting her. Seeing her, he stopped short and bowed
Although she had just said he was better and kinder than she, in
the rapid glance she flung at him, taking in his whole figure in
all its details, feelings of repulsion and hatred for him and
jealousy over her son took possession of her. With a swift
gesture she put down her veil, and, quickening her pace, almost
ran out of the room.
She had not time to undo, and so carried back with her, the
parcel of toys she had chosen the day before in a toy shop with
such love and sorrow.