“Well … what am I to do now!” the officer cried, with vexation in his voice, and he took hold of the gate as though intending to go away. He stopped short again in uncertainty.

“You see,” he said all at once, “I am a kinsman of the count’s, and he has always been very kind to me. So do you see” (he looked with a merry and good-humoured smile at his cloak and boots) “I am in rags, and haven’t a farthing; so I had meant to ask the count …”

Mavra Kuzminishna did not let him finish.

“Would you wait just a minute, sir? Only one minute,” she said. And as soon as the officer let go of the gate, Mavra Kuzminishna turned, and with her rapid, elderly step hurried into the back court to her lodge.

While she was running to her room, the officer, with downcast head and a faint smile, was pacing up and down the yard, gazing at his tattered boots.

“What a pity I have missed uncle! What a nice old body! Where has she run off to? And how am I to find out the nearest way for me to overtake the regiment, which must be at Rogozhsky by now?” the young officer was musing meanwhile. Mavra Kuzminishna came round the corner with a frightened and, at the same time, resolute face, carrying in her hands a knotted check handkerchief. A few steps from him, she untied the handkerchief, took out of it a white twenty-five rouble note, and gave it hurriedly to the officer.

“Had his excellency been at home, to be sure, he would have done a kinsman’s part, but as it is … see, may be …” Mavra Kuzminishna was overcome with shyness and confusion. But the officer, with no haste nor reluctance, took the note, and thanked Mavra Kuzminishna. “If only the count had been at home,” murmured Mavra Kuzminishna, as it were apologetically. “Christ be with you, sir. God keep you safe,” she said, bowing and showing him out. The officer, smiling and shaking his head, as though laughing at himself, ran almost at a trot along the empty streets to overtake his regiment at Yauzsky bridge.

But for some time Mavra Kuzminishna remained standing with wet eyes before the closed gate, pensively shaking her head, and feeling a sudden rush of motherly tenderness and pity for the unknown boy- officer.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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