A Olenka followed him noiselessly.
В She would fall asleep still thinking of the same things, and tears would roll down her cheeks from her closed eyes.
С His mother left on a visit to her sister in Kharkov and never came back.
D How is a little fellow to do all that?
E I can go the rest of the way myself.
F He drank three glasses of tea, ate two large cracknels and half a buttered roll.
G "What a shame to have to wake him," she thought.
She now had her own opinions, and at supper discussed with Sasha's parents, saying how difficult the studies had become for the children at the school. But after all, she felt a classical education was better than a commercial course, because when you graduated from school then the road was open to you for any career at all. If you chose to, you could become a doctor, or, if you wanted to, you could become an engineer.
Sasha started at the school.
His mother left on a visit to her sister in Kharkov and never came back. As his father was away every day inspecting cattle and was sometimes gone for up to three whole days at a time, it seemed to Olenka that Sasha was completely abandoned, was treated as if he were quite superfluous, and must be dying of hunger. So she transferred him into her part of the house and fixed up a little room for him there.
Every morning Olenka would come into his room and find him sound asleep with his hand tucked under his cheek, so quiet that he seemed not to be breathing "What a shame to have to wake him," she thought.
"Sashenka," she said sorrowfully, "get up, darling. It's time to go to school."
He got up, dressed, said his prayers, then sat down to breakfast. He drank three glasses of tea, ate two large cracknels and
half a buttered roll. The sleep was not yet out of him, so he was a little cross.
"You don't know your fables1 as you should, Sashenka," said Olenka, looking at him as though he were departing on a long journey. "What a lot of trouble you are. You must try hard and learn, dear, and mind your teachers." "Oh, leave me alone, please," said Sasha.
Then he went down the street to the school, a little fellow wearing a large cap and carrying a satchel on his back.
Olenka followed him noiselessly.
"Sashenka," she called.
He looked round and she shoved a date or a caramel into his hand. When he reached the street of the school, he turned around, ashamed of being followed by a tall, stout woman and said, "You had better go home, aunt. I can go the rest of the way myself".
She stopped and stared at him until he had disappeared through the school entrance. Oh, how she loved him! Not one of her other ties had been so deep. Never before had she given herself so completely and so cheerfully as now. Her maternal instincts were all aroused. For this boy, who was not hers, for the dimples in his cheeks and for his big cap, she would have given her life and given it with tears of joy. Why? Ah, indeed, why? When she had seen Sasha off to school, she returned home quietly, content, peaceful and overflowing with love. Her face, which had grown younger in the last six months, smiled and beamed. People who met her were pleased as they looked at her.
"How are you, Olga Semyonovna, darling? How are you getting on, darling?"
"The school courses are very difficult nowadays," she told people at the market. "It's no joke. Yesterday the first class had a fable to learn by heart, a Latin translation, and a problem. How is a little fellow to do all that?"
And she spoke of the teacher and the lessons and the text¬books, repeating exactly what Sasha said about them. At three o'clock they had dinner. In the evening they did his homework together, both crying at how difficult it was. When she put him to bed, she stayed a long time making the sign of the cross over him, muttering a prayer. And when she lay in bed, she dreamed of the far-away, misty future when Sasha would finish his studies and become a doctor or an engineer, have a large house of his own, with horses and a carriage, marry and have children. She would fall asleep still thinking of the same things, and
tears would roll down her cheeks from her closed eyes. And the black cat would lie at her side
purring: "Mrr, mrr, mrr."