“Seryozha! my darling boy!” she said, breathing hard and putting her arms round his plump little body. “Mother!” he said, wriggling about in her arms so as to touch her hands with different parts of him.
Smiling sleepily still with closed eyes, he flung fat little arms round her shoulders, rolled towards her, with the delicious sleepy warmth and fragrance that is only found in children, and began rubbing his face against her neck and shoulders.
“I know,” he said, opening his eyes; “it’s my birthday today. I knew you’d come. I’ll get up directly.”
And saying that he dropped asleep.
Anna looked at him hungrily; she saw how he had grown and changed in her absence. She knew, and did not know, the bare legs so long now, that were thrust out below the quilt, those short-cropped curls on his neck in which she had so often kissed him. She touched all this and could say nothing; tears choked her.
“What are you crying for, mother?” he said, waking completely up. “Mother, what are you crying for?” he cried in a tearful voice.
“I won’t cry...I’m crying for joy. It’s so long since I’ve seen you. I won’t, I won’t,” she said, gulping down her tears and turning away. “Come, it’s time for you to dress now,” she added, after a pause, and, never letting go his hands, she sat down by his bedside on the chair, where his clothes were put ready for him.
“How do you dress without me? How...” she tried to begin talking simply and cheerfully, but she could not, and again she turned away.
“I don’t have a cold bath, papa didn’t order it. And you’ve not seen Vassily Lukitch? He’ll come in soon. Why, you’re sitting on my clothes!”
And Seryozha went off into a peal of laughter. She looked at him and smiled.
“Mother, darling, sweet one!” he shouted, flinging himself on her again and hugging her. It was as though only now, on seeing her smile, he fully grasped what had happened.
“I don’t want that on,” he said, taking off her hat. And as it were, seeing her afresh without her hat, he fell to kissing her again.
“But what did you think about me? You didn’t think I was dead?”
“I never believed it.”
“You didn’t believe it, my sweet?”
“I knew, I knew!” he repeated his favorite phrase, and snatching the hand that was stroking his hair, he pressed the open palm to his mouth and kissed it.
Meanwhile Vassily Lukitch had not at first understood who this lady was, and had learned from their conversation that it was no other person than the mother who had left her husband, and whom he had not seen, as he had entered the house after her departure. He was in doubt whether to go in or not, or whether to communicate with Alexey Alexandrovitch. Reflecting finally that his duty was to get Seryozha up at the hour fixed, and that it was therefore not his business to consider who was there, the mother or anyone else, but simply to do his duty, he finished dressing, went to the door and opened it.