“And the glasses are whole,” continued Raissa. “I showed it to father, and he said, ‘Take it to the jeweler.’ What do you think? Will they give me money for it? Of what use is a telescope to us? If we could see in the glass how beautiful we are! but we have no looking-glass, unfortunately.”
And when she had said these words she suddenly laughed aloud. Her little sister could not have heard her, but probably she felt the shaking of her body: she had hold of Raissa’s hand, and raising her great eyes, she made up a frightened face and began to cry.
“She’s always like that,” said Raissa: “she doesn’t like to have people laugh.—Here, then, darling, I won’t,” she added, stooping down to the child and running, her fingers through its hair. “Do you see?”
The laughter died away from Raissa’s face, and her lips, with the corners prettily turned up, again became immovable: the child was quiet.
Raissa stood up: “Here, David, take care of the telescope: it’s too bad about the wood, and the goose, if it is too old.”
“We shall certainly get ten rubles for it,” said David, turning the telescope over. “I will buy it of you; and here are fifteen kopecks for the apothecary: is it enough?”
“I will borrow them of you,” whispered Raissa, taking the fifteen kopecks.
“Yes, indeed; with interest, perhaps? I have a pledge—a very heavy one. These English are a great people.”
“And yet people say we are going to war with them.”
“No,” answered David: “now we are threatening the French.”
“Well, you know best. Don’t forget. Good-bye!”
One more conversation which I heard at the hedge. Raissa seemed more than usually troubled. “Five kopecks for the very smallest head of cabbage!” she said, supporting her head on her hand. “Oh, how dear! and I have no money from my sewing!”
“Who owes you any?” asked David.
“The shopkeeper’s wife, who lives behind the city wall.”
“That fat woman who always wears a green sontag?”
“How fat she is!—too fat to breathe. She lights plenty of candles in church, but she won’t pay her debts.”
“Oh, she’ll pay them—but when? And then, David, I have other troubles. My father has begun to narrate his dreams; and you know what trouble he had with his tongue—how he tried to say one word and uttered another. About his food and things around the house we have got used to understanding him, but even ordinary people’s dreams can’t be understood; and you may judge what his are. He said, ’I am very glad. I was walking to-day with the white birds, and the Lord handed me a bouquet, and in the bouquet was Andruscha with a little knife.’—He always calls my little sister Andruscha.—’Now we shall both get well: we only need a little knife, and just one cut. That’s the way.’ And he pointed to his own throat. I didn’t understand him, but I said, ‘All right, father!’ but he grew angry and tried to explain what he meant. At last he burst into tears.”