Chapter 27

After the lesson with the teacher of grammar came his father's lesson. While waiting for his father, Seriozha sat at the table playing with a penknife, and fell to musing. Among Seriozha's favorite occupations was searching for his mother during his walks. He did not believe in death generally, and in her death in particular, in spite of what Lidia Ivanovna had told him and his father had confirmed, and it was just because of that, and after he had been told she was dead, that he had begun looking for her when out for a walk. Every woman of full, graceful figure with dark hair was his mother. At the sight of such a woman such a feeling of tenderness stirred within him that his breath failed him, and tears came into his eyes. And he was on tiptoe with expectation that she would come up to him, would lift her veil. All her face would be visible, she would smile, she would hug him, he would sniff her fragrance, feel the softness of her arms, and cry with happiness, just as he had one evening lain on her lap while she tickled him, and he laughed and bit her white, ring-covered fingers. Later, when he accidentally learned from his old nurse that his mother was not dead, and his father and Lidia Ivanovna had explained to him that she was dead to him because she was wicked (which he could not possibly believe, because he loved her), he went on seeking her and expecting her in the same way. That day in the public gardens there had been a lady in a lilac veil, whom he had watched with a throbbing heart, believing it to be her as she came toward them along the path. The lady had not come up to them, but had disappeared somewhere. That day, more intensely than ever, Seriozha felt a rush of love for her, and now, waiting for his father, he forgot everything, and cut all round the edge of the table with his penknife, staring straight before him with sparkling eyes, and thinking of her.

`Here is your papa,' Vassilii Lukich diverted him.

Seriozha jumped up and went up to his father, and, kissing his hand, looked at him intently, trying to discover signs of his joy at receiving the Alexandre Nevsky.

`Did you have a good walk?' said Alexei Alexandrovich, sitting down in his easy chair, pulling the volume of the Old Testament to him and opening it. Although Alexei Alexandrovich had more than once told Seriozha that every Christian ought to know Scripture history thoroughly, he often referred to the Bible himself during the lesson, and Seriozha observed this.

`Yes, it was very good indeed, papa,' said Seriozha, sitting sideways on his chair and rocking it, which was forbidden. `I saw Nadinka' (Nadinka was a niece of Lidia Ivanovna's who was being brought up in her house). `She told me you'd been given a new star. Are you glad, papa?'

`First of all, don't rock your chair, please,' said Alexei Alexandrovich. `And secondly, it's not the reward that's precious, but the work itself. And I could have wished you had understood that. If you now are going to work, to study, in order to win a reward, then the work will seem hard to you; but when you work' (Alexei Alexandrovich, as he spoke, thought of how he had been sustained by a sense of duty through the wearisome labor of the morning, consisting of signing one hundred and eighty papers), `loving your work, you will find your reward for it.'

Seriozha's eyes hitherto shining with gaiety and tenderness, grew dull and dropped before his father's gaze. This was the same long-familiar tone his father always took with him, and Seriozha had learned by now to fall in with it. His father always talked to him - so Seriozha felt - as though he were addressing some boy of his own imagination, one of those boys who exist in books, utterly unlike himself. And Seriozha always tried, before his father, to pretend being this storybook boy.

`You understand that, I hope?' said his father.

`Yes, papa,' answered Seriozha, acting the part of the imaginary boy.

The lesson consisted of learning by heart several verses out of the Evangel and the repetition of the beginning of the Old Testament. The verses from the Evangel Seriozha knew fairly well, but at the moment when he was saying them he became so absorbed in watching the sharply protruding, bony knobbiness of his father's forehead, that he lost the thread, and he transposed the end of one verse and the beginning

  By PanEris using Melati.

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