“And so Adam and Eve had two sons,” said Laptev. “Very good. But what were they called? Try to remember them!”
Lida, still with the same severe face, gazed dumbly at the table. She moved her lips, but without speaking; and the elder girl, Sasha, looked into her face, frowning.
“You know it very well, only you mustn’t be nervous,” said Laptev. “Come, what were Adam’s sons called?”
“Abel and Canel,” Lida whispered.
“Cain and Abel,” Laptev corrected her.
A big tear rolled down Lida’s cheek and dropped on the book. Sasha looked down and turned red, and she, too, was on the point of tears. Laptev felt a lump in his throat, and was so sorry for them he could not speak. He got up from the table and lighted a cigarette. At that moment Kotchevoy came down the stairs with a paper in his hand. The little girls stood up, and without looking at him, made curtsies.
“For God’s sake, Kostya, give them their lessons,” said Laptev, turning to him. “I’m afraid I shall cry, too, and I have to go to the warehouse before dinner.”
Alexey Fyodorovitch went away. Kostya, with a very serious face, sat down to the table and drew the Scripture history towards him.
“Well,” he said; “where have you got to?”
“She knows about the Flood,” said Sasha.
“The Flood? All right. Let’s peg in at the Flood. Fire away about the Flood.” Kostya skimmed through a brief description of the Flood in the book, and said: “I must remark that there really never was a flood such as is described here. And there was no such person as Noah. Some thousands of years before the birth of Christ, there was an extraordinary inundation of the earth, and that’s not only mentioned in the Jewish Bible, but in the books of other ancient peoples: the Greeks, the Chaldeans, the Hindoos. But whatever the inundation may have been, it couldn’t have covered the whole earth. It may have flooded the plains, but the mountains must have remained. You can read this book, of course, but don’t put too much faith in it.”
Tears trickled down Lida’s face again. She turned away and suddenly burst into such loud sobs, that Kostya started and jumped up from his seat in great confusion.
“I want to go home,” she said, “to papa and to nurse.”
Sasha cried too. Kostya went upstairs to his own room, and spoke on the telephone to Yulia Sergeyevna.
“My dear soul,” he said, “the little girls are crying again; there’s no doing anything with them.”
Yulia Sergeyevna ran across from the big house in her indoor dress, with only a knitted shawl over her shoulders, and chilled through by the frost, began comforting the children.
“Do believe me, do believe me,” she said in an imploring voice, hugging first one and then the other. “Your papa’s coming to-day; he has sent a telegram. You’re grieving for mother, and I grieve too. My heart’s torn, but what can we do? We must bow to God’s will!”