“Ah, you are bound to ask that! Look, it’s on wheels.” He rolled the toy along on the table. “And it can be fired off, too. It can be loaded with shot and fired off.”

“And it could kill any one?”

“It can kill any one; you’ve only got to aim at anybody.” and Krassotkin explained where the powder had to be put, where the shot should be rolled in, showed a tiny hole like a touch hole, and told them that it kicked when it was fired.

The children listened with intense interest. What particularly struck their imagination was that the cannon kicked.

“And have you got any powder?” Nastya inquired.


“Show us the powder, too,” she drawled with a smile of entreaty.

Krassotkin dived again into his satchel and pulled out a small flask containing a little real gunpowder. He had some shot, too, in a screw of paper. He even uncorked the flask and shook a little powder into the palm of his hand.

“One has to be careful there’s no fire about, or it would blow up and kill us all,” Krassotkin warned them sensationally.

The children gazed at the powder with an awe-stricken alarm that only intensified their enjoyment. But Kostya liked the shot better.

“And does the shot burn?” he inquired.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Give me a little shot,” he asked in an imploring voice.

“I’ll give you a little shot; here, take it, but don’t show it to your mother till I come back, or she’ll be sure to think it’s gunpowder, and will die of fright and give you a thrashing.”

“Mother never does whip us,” Nastya observed at once.

“I know, I only said it to finish the sentence. And don’t you ever deceive your mother except just this once, until I come back. And so, kiddies, can I go out? You won’t be frightened and cry when I’m gone?”

“We sha—all cry,” drawled Kostya, on the verge of tears already.

“We shall cry, we shall be sure to cry,” Nastya chimed in with timid haste.

“Oh, children, children, how fraught with peril are your years! There’s no help for it, chickens, I shall have to stay with you I don’t know how long. And time is passing, time is passing, oogh!”

“Tell Perezvon to pretend to be dead!” Kostya begged.

“There’s no help for it, we must have recourse to Perezvon. Ici, Perezvon.” And Kolya began giving orders to the dog, who performed all his tricks.

He was a rough-haired dog, of medium size, with a coat of a sort of lilac-grey colour. He was blind in his right eye, and his left ear was torn. He whined and jumped, stood and walked on his hind legs, lay on his back with his paws in the air, rigid as though he were dead. While this last performance was

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