“There’s a great fire in Pryesnya,” she said breathlessly. “There’s a tremendous glow. I’m going to see it with Konstantin Ivanovitch.”
“Well, do, dear!”
The sight of her health, her freshness, and the childish horror in her eyes, reassured Laptev. He read for another half-hour and went to bed.
Next day Polina Nikolaevna sent to the warehouse two books she had borrowed from him, all his letters and his photographs; with them was a note consisting of one word—"basta."
Towards the end of October Nina Fyodorovna had unmistakable symptoms of a relapse. There was a change in her face, and she grew rapidly thinner. In spite of acute pain she still imagined that she was getting better, and got up and dressed every morning as though she were well, and then lay on her bed, fully dressed, for the rest of the day. And towards the end she became very talkative. She would lie on her back and talk in a low voice, speaking with an effort and breathing painfully. She died suddenly under the following circumstances.
It was a clear moonlight evening. In the street people were tobogganing in the fresh snow, and their clamour floated in at the window. Nina Fyodorovna was lying on her back in bed, and Sasha, who had no one to take turns with her now, was sitting beside her half asleep.
“I don’t remember his father’s name,” Nina Fyodorovna was saying softly, “but his name was Ivan Kotchevoy—a poor clerk. He was a sad drunkard, the Kingdom of Heaven be his! He used to come to us, and every month we used to give him a pound of sugar and two ounces of tea. And money, too, sometimes, of course. Yes. . . . And then, this is what happened. Our Kotchevoy began drinking heavily and died, consumed by vodka. He left a little son, a boy of seven. Poor little orphan! . . . We took him and hid him in the clerk’s quarters, and he lived there for a whole year, without father’s knowing. And when father did see him, he only waved his hand and said nothing. When Kostya, the little orphan, was nine years old—by that time I was engaged to be married—I took him round to all the day schools. I went from one to the other, and no one would take him. And he cried. . . . ‘What are you crying for, little silly?’ I said. I took him to Razgulyay to the second school, where—God bless them for it!—they took him, and the boy began going every day on foot from Pyatnitsky Street to Razgulyay Street and back again . . . . Alyosha paid for him. . . . By God’s grace the boy got on, was good at his lessons, and turned out well. . . . He’s a lawyer now in Moscow, a friend of Alyosha’s, and so good in science. Yes, we had compassion on a fellow-creature and took him into our house, and now I daresay, he remembers us in his prayers. . . Yes. . . .”
Nina Fyodorovna spoke more and more slowly with long pauses, then after a brief silence she suddenly raised herself and sat up.