“It’s just as I thought... I knew that I’d find you here,” he said with a derisive and condescending smile.
They left the nursery together. As he followed his wife through the door Sergey Modestovich said rather indifferently, in an incidental way, laying no stress on his words: “Don’t you think that it would be well for the little girl if she were sometimes without your company? Merely, you see, that the child should feel its own individuality,” he explained in answer to Serafima Aleksandrovna’s puzzled glance.
“She’s still so little,” said Serafima Aleksandrovna.
“In any case, this is but my humble opinion. I don’t insist. It’s your kingdom there.”
“I’ll think it over,” his wife answered, smiling, as he did, coldly but genially.
Then they began to talk of something else.
Nurse Fedosya, sitting in the kitchen that evening, was telling the silent housemaid Darya and the talkative old cook Agathya about the young lady of the house, and how the child loved to play priatki with her mother—“She hides her little face, and cries ’tiutiu’!”
“And the mistress herself is like a little one,” added Fedosya, smiling.
Agathya listened and shook her head ominously; while her face became grave and reproachful.
“That the mistress does it, well, that’s one thing; but that the young lady does it, that’s bad.”
“Why?” asked Fedosya with curiosity.
This expression of curiosity gave her face the look of a wooden, roughly-painted doll.
“Yes, that’s bad,” repeated Agathya with conviction. “Terribly bad!”
“Well?” said Fedosya, the ludicrous expression of curiosity on her face becoming more emphatic.
“She’ll hide, and hide, and hide away,” said Agathya, in a mysterious whisper, as she looked cautiously toward the door.
“What are you saying?” exclaimed Fedosya, frightened.
“It’s the truth I’m saying, remember my words,” Agathya went on with the same assurance and secrecy. “It’s the surest sign.”
The old woman had invented this sign, quite suddenly, herself; and she was evidently very proud of it.
Lelechka was asleep, and Serafima Aleksandrovna was sitting in her own room, thinking with joy and tenderness of Lelechka. Lelechka was in her thoughts, first a sweet, tiny girl, then a sweet, big girl, then again a delightful little girl; and so until the end she remained mamma’s little Lelechka.
Serafima Aleksandrovna did not even notice that Fedosya came up to her and paused before her. Fedosya had a worried, frightened look.
“Madam, madam,” she said quietly, in a trembling voice.
Serafima Aleksandrovna gave a start. Fedosya’s face made her anxious.
“What is it, Fedosya?” she asked with great concern. “Is there anything wrong with Lelechka?”