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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about Best Russian Short Stories.

VII

Lelechka was dressed, placed in a little coffin, and carried into the parlour.  Serafima Aicksandrovna was standing by the coffin and looking dully at her dead child.  Sergey Modestovich went to his wife and, consoling her with cold, empty words, tried to draw her away from the coffin.  Seranma Aleksandrovna smiled.

“Go away,” she said quietly.  “Lelechka is playing.  She’ll be up in a minute.”

“Sima, my dear, don’t agitate yourself,” said Sergey Modestovich in a whisper.  “You must resign yourself to your fate.”

“She’ll be up in a minute,” persisted Serafima Aleksandrovna, her eyes fixed on the dead little girl.

Sergey Modestovich looked round him cautiously:  he was afraid of the unseemly and of the ridiculous.

“Sima, don’t agitate yourself,” he repeated.  “This would be a miracle, and miracles do not happen in the nineteenth century.”

No sooner had he said these words than Sergey Modestovich felt their irrelevance to what had happened.  He was confused and annoyed.

He took his wife by the arm, and cautiously led her away from the coffin.  She did not oppose him.

Her face seemed tranquil and her eyes were dry.  She went into the nursery and began to walk round the room, looking into those places where Lelechka used to hide herself.  She walked all about the room, and bent now and then to look under the table or under the bed, and kept on repeating cheerfully:  “Where is my little one?  Where is my Lelechka?”

After she had walked round the room once she began to make her quest anew.  Fedosya, motionless, with dejected face, sat in a corner, and looked frightened at her mistress; then she suddenly burst out sobbing, and she wailed loudly: 

“She hid herself, and hid herself, our Lelechka, our angelic little soul!”

Serafima Aleksandrovna trembled, paused, cast a perplexed look at Fedosya, began to weep, and left the nursery quietly.

VIII

Sergey Modestovich hurried the funeral.  He saw that Serafima Aleksandrovna. was terribly shocked by her sudden misfortune, and as he feared for her reason he thought she would more readily be diverted and consoled when Lelechka was buried.

Next morning Serafima Aleksandrovna dressed with particular care—­for Lelechka.  When she entered the parlour there were several people between her and Lelechka.  The priest and deacon paced up and down the room; clouds of blue smoke drifted in the air, and there was a smell of incense.  There was an oppressive feeling of heaviness in Serafima Aleksandrovna’s head as she approached Lelechka.  Lelechka lay there still and pale, and smiled pathetically.  Serafima Aleksandrovna laid her cheek upon the edge of Lelechka’s coffin, and whispered:  “Tiu-tiu, little one!”

The little one did not reply.  Then there was some kind of stir and confusion around Serafima Aleksandrovna; strange, unnecessary faces bent over her, some one held her—­and Lelechka was carried away somewhere.

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