“This is awful!” he said, and his shoulders quivered. “Nina, you must lie down,” he said affectionately. “Lie down, dear.”
She looked at him, but did not know him. They laid her down on her back.
When the priest and the doctor, Sergey Borisovitch, arrived, the servants crossed themselves devoutly and prayed for her.
“What a sad business!” said the doctor thoughtfully, coming out into the drawing-room. “Why, she was still young—not yet forty.”
They heard the loud sobbing of the little girls. Panaurov, with a pale face and moist eyes, went up to the doctor and said in a faint, weak voice:
“Do me a favour, my dear fellow. Send a telegram to Moscow. I’m not equal to it.”
The doctor fetched the ink and wrote the following telegram to his daughter:
“Madame Panaurov died at eight o’clock this evening. Tell your husband: a mortgaged house for sale in Dvoryansky Street, nine thousand cash. Auction on twelfth. Advise him not miss opportunity.”
Laptev lived in one of the turnings out of Little Dmitrovka. Besides the big house facing the street, he rented also a two-storey lodge in the yard at the back of his friend Kotchevoy, a lawyer’s assistant whom all the Laptevs called Kostya, because he had grown up under their eyes. Facing this lodge stood another, also of two storeys, inhabited by a French family consisting of a husband and wife and five daughters.
There was a frost of twenty degrees. The windows were frozen over. Waking up in the morning, Kostya, with an anxious face, took twenty drops of a medicine; then, taking two dumb-bells out of the bookcase, he did gymnastic exercises. He was tall and thin, with big reddish moustaches; but what was most noticeable in his appearance was the length of his legs.
Pyotr, a middle-aged peasant in a reefer jacket and cotton breeches tucked into his high boots, brought in the samovar and made the tea.
“It’s very nice weather now, Konstantin Ivanovitch,” he said.
“It is, but I tell you what, brother, it’s a pity we can’t get on, you and I, without such exclamations.”
Pyotr sighed from politeness.
“What are the little girls doing?” asked Kotchevoy.
“The priest has not come. Alexey Fyodorovitch is giving them their lesson himself.”
Kostya found a spot in the window that was not covered with frost, and began looking through a field-glass at the windows of the house where the French family lived.
“There’s no seeing,” he said.
Meanwhile Alexey Fyodorovitch was giving Sasha and Lida a scripture lesson below. For the last six weeks they had been living in Moscow, and were installed with their governess in the lower storey of the lodge. And three times a week a teacher from a school in the town, and a priest, came to give them lessons. Sasha was going through the New Testament and Lida was going through the Old. The time before Lida had been set the story up to Abraham to learn by heart.