Everything in Lelechka’s nursery was bright, pretty, and cheerful. Lelechka’s sweet voice charmed her mother. Lelechka was a delightful child. There was no other such child, there never had been, and there never would be. Lelechka’s mother, Serafima Aleksandrovna, was sure of that. Lelechka’s eyes were dark and large, her cheeks were rosy, her lips were made for kisses and for laughter. But it was not these charms in Lelechka that gave her mother the keenest joy. Lelechka was her mother’s only child. That was why every movement of Lelechka’s bewitched her mother. It was great bliss to hold Lelechka on her knees and to fondle her; to feel the little girl in her arms–a thing as lively and as bright as a little bird.
To tell the truth, Serafima Aleksandrovna felt happy only in the nursery. She felt cold with her husband.
Perhaps it was because he himself loved the cold–he loved to drink cold water, and to breathe cold air. He was always fresh and cool, with a frigid smile, and wherever he passed cold currents seemed to move in the air.
The Nesletyevs, Sergey Modestovich and Serafima Aleksandrovna, had married without love or calculation, because it was the accepted thing. He was a young man of thirty-five, she a young woman of twenty-five; both were of the same circle and well brought up; he was expected to take a wife…