And so on that frosty, snowy, and windy day in November, Kolya Krassotkin was sitting at home. It was Sunday and there was no school. It had just struck eleven, and he particularly wanted to go out “on very urgent business,” but he was left alone in charge of the house, for it so happened that all its elder inmates were absent owing to a sudden and singular event. Madame Krassotkin had let two little rooms, separated from the rest of the house by a passage, to a doctor’s wife with her two small children. This lady was the same age as Anna Fyodorovna, and a great friend of hers. Her husband, the doctor, had taken his departure twelve months before, going first to Orenburg and then to Tashkend, and for the last six months she had not heard a word from him. Had it not been for her friendship with Madame Krassotkin, which was some consolation to the forsaken lady, she would certainly have completely dissolved away in tears. And now, to add to her misfortunes, Katerina, her only servant, was suddenly moved the evening before to announce, to her mistress’s amazement, that she proposed to bring a child into the world before morning. It seemed almost miraculous to every one that no one had noticed the probability of it before. The astounded doctor’s wife decided to move Katerina while there was still time to an establishment in the town kept by a midwife for such emergencies. As she set great store by her servant, she promptly carried out this plan and remained there looking after her. By the morning all Madame Krassotkin’s friendly sympathy and energy were called upon to render assistance and appeal to some one for help in the case.

So both the ladies were absent from home, the Krassotkin’s servant, Agafya, had gone out to the market, and Kolya was thus left for a time to protect and look after “the kids,” that is, the son and daughter of the doctor’s wife, who were left alone. Kolya was not afraid of taking care of the house, besides he had Perezvon, who had been told to lie flat, without moving, under the bench in the hall. Every time Kolya, walking to and fro through the rooms, came into the hall, the dog shook his head and gave two loud and insinuating taps on the floor with his tail, but alas! the whistle did not sound to release him. Kolya looked sternly at the luckless dog, who relapsed again into obedient rigidity. The one thing that troubled Koyla was “the kids.” He looked, of course, with the utmost scorn on Katerina’s unexpected adventure, but he was very fond of the bereaved “kiddies,” and had already taken them a picture book. Nastya, the elder, a girl of eight, could read, and Kostya, the boy, aged seven, was very fond of being read to by her. Krassotkin could, of course, have provided more diverting entertainment for them. He could have made them stand side by side and played soldiers with them, or send them hiding all over the house. He had done so more than once before and was not above doing it, so much so that a report once spread at school that Krassotkin played horses with the little lodgers at home, prancing with his head on one side like a trace-horse. But Krassotkin haughtily parried this thrust, pointing out that to play horses with boys of one’s own age, boys of thirteen, would certainly be disgraceful “at this date,” but that he did it for the sake of “the kids” because he liked them, and no one had a right to call him to account for his feelings. The two “kids” adored him.

But on this occasion he was in no mood for games. He had very important business of his own before him, something almost mysterious. Meanwhile time was passing and Agafya, with whom he could have left the children, would not come back from market. He had several times already crossed the passage, opened the door of the lodgers’ room and looked anxiously at the kids who were sitting over the book, as he had bidden them. Every time he opened the door they grinned at him, hoping he would come in and would do something delightful and amusing. But Kolya was bothered and did not go in.

At last it struck eleven and he made up his mind, once for all, that if that “damned” Agafya did not come back within ten minutes he should go out without waiting for her, making the kids “promise,” of course, to be brave when he was away, not to be naughty, not to cry from fright. With this idea he put on his wadded winter overcoat with its catskin fur collar, slung his satchel round his shoulder, and, regardless of his mother’s constantly reiterated entreaties that he would always put on galoshes in such cold weather, he looked at them contemptuously as he crossed the hall and went out with only his boots on. Perezvon, seeing him in his outdoor clothes, began tapping vigorously on the floor with his tail, nervously. Twitching all over, he even uttered a plaintive whine. But Kolya, seeing his dog’s passionate excitement, decided that it was a breach of discipline, kept him for another minute under the bench, and only when he had

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.