"You should have told me before, Michael Ivanitch," answered Nicola snappishly as he hurled a bundle with all his might to the floor of the cart. "Good gracious! Why, when my head is going round like a whirlpool, there you come along with your dressing- case!" and he lifted his cap to wipe away the drops of perspiration from his sunburnt brow.
The courtyard was full of bareheaded peasants in kaftans or simple shirts, women clad in the national dress and wearing striped handkerchiefs, and barefooted little ones--the latter holding their mothers' hands or crowding round the entrance- steps. All were chattering among themselves as they stared at the carriage. One of the postillions, an old man dressed in a winter cap and cloak, took hold of the pole of the carriage and tried it carefully, while the other postillion (a young man in a white blouse with pink gussets on the sleeves and a black lamb's-wool cap which he kept cocking first on one side and then on the other as he arranged his flaxen hair) laid his overcoat upon the box, slung the reins over it, and cracked his thonged whip as he looked now at his boots and now at the other drivers where they stood greasing the wheels of the cart--one driver lifting up each wheel in turn and the other driver applying the grease. Tired post-horses of various hues stood lashing away flies with their tails near the gate--some stamping their great hairy legs, blinking their eyes, and dozing, some leaning wearily against their neighbours, and others cropping the leaves and stalks of dark-green fern which grew near the entrance-steps. Some of the dogs were lying panting in the sun, while others were slinking under the vehicles to lick the grease from the wheels. The air was filled with a sort of dusty mist, and the horizon was lilac- grey in colour, though no clouds were to be seen, A strong wind from the south was raising volumes of dust from the roads and fields, shaking the poplars and birch-trees in the garden, and whirling their yellow leaves away. I myself was sitting at a window and waiting impatiently for these various preparations to come to an end.
As we sat together by the drawing-room table, to pass the last few moments en famille, it never occurred to me that a sad moment was impending. On the contrary, the most trivial thoughts were filling my brain. Which driver was going to drive the carriage and which the cart? Which of us would sit with Papa, and which with Karl Ivanitch? Why must I be kept forever muffled up in a scarf and padded boots?
"Am I so delicate? Am I likely to be frozen?" I thought to myself. "I wish it would all come to an end, and we could take our seats and start."
"To whom shall I give the list of the children's linen?" asked Natalia Savishna of Mamma as she entered the room with a paper in her hand and her eyes red with weeping.
"Give it to Nicola, and then return to say good-bye to them," replied Mamma. The old woman seemed about to say something more, but suddenly stopped short, covered her face with her handkerchief, and left the room. Something seemed to prick at my heart when I saw that gesture of hers, but impatience to be off soon drowned all other feeling, and I continued to listen indifferently to Papa and Mamma as they talked together. They were discussing subjects which evidently interested neither of them. What must be bought for the house? What would Princess Sophia or Madame Julie say? Would the roads be good?--and so forth.
Foka entered, and in the same tone and with the same air as though he were announcing luncheon said, "The carriages are ready." I saw Mamma tremble and turn pale at the announcement, just as though it were something unexpected.
Next, Foka was ordered to shut all the doors of the room. This amused me highly. As though we needed to be concealed from some one! When every one else was seated, Foka took the last remaining chair. Scarcely, however, had he done so when the door creaked and every one looked that way. Natalia Savishna entered hastily, and, without raising her eyes, sat own on the same chair as Foka. I can see them before me now-Foka's bald head and wrinkled, set face, and, beside him, a bent, kind figure in a cap from beneath which a few grey hairs were straggling. The pair settled themselves together on the chair, but neither of them looked comfortable.