Chapter 30

Meanwhile Vassilii Lukich 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 Alexei Alexandrovich. Reflecting finally that his duty was to get Seriozha 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 Kapitonich had let her in, and that she was even now in the nursery, and everyone knew that their master always went in person to the nursery at nine o'clock, and everyone fully comprehended that it was impossible for the husband and wife to meet, and that they must prevent it. Kornei, 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 Kapitonich had admitted her and shown her up, he gave the old man a talking-to. The hall porter was doggedly silent, but when Kornei told him he ought to be sent packing Kapitonich darted up to him, and, shaking his hands in Kornei'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 raccoon fur coats!'

`Soldier!' said Kornei contemptuously, and he turned to the nurse who was coming in. `Here, what do you think, Maria Efimovna: he let her in without a word to anyone,' Kornei said addressing her. `Alexei Alexandrovich will be down immediately - and will go into the nursery!'

`A pretty business, a pretty business!' said the nurse, `You, Kornei Vassilyevich - you'd best detain the master some way or other, while I'll run and get her away somehow. A pretty business!'

When the nurse went into the nursery, Seriozha was telling his mother how he and Nadinka had had a fall in tobogganing 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 Vassilii Lukich 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 speaking or rising.

`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 haven'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 fell to kissing her hand again.

Seriozha, with radiant eyes and smiles, holding his mother by one hand and his nurse by the other, pattered on the rug with his chubby 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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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