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Hide and Seek

Fiodor Sologub



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?"

"No, madam," said Fedosya, as she gesticulated with her hands to
reassure her mistress and to make her sit down. "Lelechka is asleep,
may God be with her! Only I'd like to say something—you see—Lelechka
is always hiding herself—that's not good."

Fedosya looked at her mistress with fixed eyes, which had grown round
from fright.

"Why not good?" asked Serafima Aleksandrovna, with vexation,
succumbing involuntarily to vague fears.

"I can't tell you how bad it is," said Fedosya, and her face expressed
the most decided confidence.

"Please speak in a sensible way," observed Serafima Aleksandrovna
dryly. "I understand nothing of what you are saying."

"You see, madam, it's a kind of omen," explained Fedosya abruptly, in
a shamefaced way.

"Nonsense!" said Serafima Aleksandrovna.

She did not wish to hear any further as to the sort of omen it was,
and what it foreboded. But, somehow, a sense of fear and of sadness
crept into her mood, and it was humiliating to feel that an absurd
tale should disturb her beloved fancies, and should agitate her so

"Of course I know that gentlefolk don't believe in omens, but it's a
bad omen, madam," Fedosya went on in a doleful voice, "the young lady
will hide, and hide..."

Suddenly she burst into tears, sobbing out loudly: "She'll hide, and
hide, and hide away, angelic little soul, in a damp grave," she
continued, as she wiped her tears with her apron and blew her nose.

"Who told you all this?" asked Serafima Aleksandrovna in an austere
low voice.

"Agathya says so, madam," answered Fedosya; "it's she that knows."

"Knows!" exclaimed Serafima Aleksandrovna in irritation, as though she
wished to protect herself somehow from this sudden anxiety. "What
nonsense! Please don't come to me with any such notions in the future.
Now you may go."

Fedosya, dejected, her feelings hurt, left her mistress.

"What nonsense! As though Lelechka could die!" thought Serafima
Aleksandrovna to herself, trying to conquer the feeling of coldness
and fear which took possession, of her at the thought of the possible
death of Lelechka. Serafima Aleksandrovna, upon reflection, attributed
these women's beliefs in omens to ignorance. She saw clearly that
there could be no possible connexion between a child's quite ordinary
diversion and the continuation of the child's life. She made a special
effort that evening to occupy her mind with other matters, but her
thoughts returned involuntarily to the fact that Lelechka loved to
hide herself.

When Lelechka was still quite small, and had learned to distinguish
between her mother and her nurse, she sometimes, sitting in her
nurse's arms, made a sudden roguish grimace, and hid her laughing face
in the nurse's shoulder. Then she would look out with a sly glance.

Of late, in those rare moments of the mistress' absence from the
nursery, Fedosya had again taught Lelechka to hide; and when
Lelechka's mother, on coming in, saw how lovely the child looked when
she was hiding, she herself began to play hide and seek with her tiny