going on, the door was opened and Agafya, Madame Krassotkin’s servant, a stout woman of forty, marked with smallpox, appeared in the doorway. She had come back from market and had a bag full of provisions in her hand. Holding up the bag of provisions in her left hand she stood still to watch the dog. Though Kolya had been so anxious for her return, he did not cut short the performance, and after keeping Perezvon dead for the usual time, at last he whistled to him. The dog jumped up and began bounding about in his joy at having done his duty.

“Only think, a dog!” Agafya observed sententiously.

“Why are you late, female?” asked Krassotkin sternly.

“Female, indeed! Go on with you, you brat.”


“Yes, a brat. What is it to you if I’m late; if I’m late, you may be sure I have good reason,” muttered Agafya, busying herself about the stove, without a trace of anger or displeasure in her voice. She seemed quite pleased, in fact, to enjoy a skirmish with her merry young master.

“Listen, you frivolous old woman,” Krassotkin began, getting up from the sofa, “can you swear by all you hold sacred in the world and something else besides, that you will watch vigilantly over the kids in my absence? I am going out.”

“And what am I going to swear for?” laughed Agafya. “I shall look after them without that.”

“No, you must swear on your eternal salvation. Else I shan’t go.”

“Well, don’t then. What does it matter to me? It’s cold out; stay at home.”

“Kids,” Kolya turned to the children, “this woman will stay with you till I come back or till your mother comes, for she ought to have been back long ago. She will give you some lunch, too. You’ll give them something, Agafya, won’t you?”

“That I can do.”

“Good-bye, chickens, I go with my heart at rest. And you, granny,” he added gravely, in an undertone, as he passed Agafya, “I hope you’ll spare their tender years and not tell them any of your old woman’s nonsense about Katerina. Ici, Perezvon!”

“Get along with you!” retorted Agafya, really angry this time. “Ridiculous boy! You want a whipping for saying such things, that’s what you want!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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