The Lost Dog

Kolya leaned against the fence with an air of dignity, waiting for Alyosha to appear. Yes, he had long wanted to meet him. He had heard a great deal about him from the boys, but hitherto he had always maintained an appearance of disdainful indifference when he was mentioned, and he had even “criticised” what he heard about Alyosha. But secretly he had a great longing to make his acquaintance; there was something sympathetic and attractive in all he was told about Alyosha. So the present moment was important: to begin with, he had to show himself at his best, to show his independence. “Or, he’ll think of me as thirteen and take me for a boy, like the rest of them. And what are these boys to him? I shall ask him when I get to know him. It’s pity I am so short, though. Tuzikov is younger than I am, yet he is half a head taller. But I have a clever face. I am not good-looking. I know I’m hideous, but I have a clever face. I mustn’t talk too freely; if I fall into his arms all at once, he may think … Tfoo! how horrible if he should think …!”

Such were the thoughts that excited Kolya while he was doing his utmost to assume the most independent air. What distressed him most was his being so short; he did not mind so much his “hideous” face, as being so short. On the wall in a corner at home he had the year before made a pencil mark to show his height, and every two months since, he anxiously measured himself against it to see how much he had gained. But, alas! he grew very slowly, and this sometimes reduced him almost to despair. His face was in reality by no means “hideous”; on the contrary, it was rather attractive, with a fair, pale skin, freckled. His small, lively grey eyes had a fearless look, and often glowed with feeling. He had rather high cheekbones; small, very red, but very thick, lips; his nose was small and unmistakably turned up. “I’ve a regular pug nose, a regular pug nose,” Kolya used to mutter to himself when he looked in the looking-glass, and he always left it with indignation. “But perhaps I haven’t got a clever face?” he sometimes thought, doubtful even of that. But it must not be supposed that his mind was preoccupied with his face and his height. On the contrary, however bitter the moments before the looking-glass were to him, he quickly forgot them, and forgot them for a long time, “abandoning himself entirely to ideas and to real life,” as he formulated it to himself.

Alyosha came out quickly and hastened up to Kolya. Before he reached him, Kolya could see that he looked delighted. “Can he be so glad to see me?” Kolya wondered, feeling pleased. We may note here, in passing, that Alyosha’s appearance had undergone a complete change since we saw him last. He had abandoned his cassock and was wearing now a well-cut coat, a soft, round hat, and his hair had been cropped short. All this was very becoming to him, and he looked quite handsome. His charming face always had a good-humoured expression; but there was a gentleness and serenity in his good- humour. To Kolya’s surprise, Alyosha came out to him just as he was, without an overcoat. He had evidently come in haste. He held out his hand to Kolya at once.

“Here you are at last! How anxious we’ve been to see you!”

“There were reasons which you shall know directly. Anyway, I am glad to make your acquaintance. I’ve long been hoping for an opportunity, and have heard a great deal about you,” Kolya muttered, a little breathless.

“We should have met anyway. I’ve heard a great deal about you, too; but you’ve been a long time coming here.”

“Tell me, how are things going?”

“Ilusha is very ill. He is certainly dying.”

“How awful! You must admit that medicine is a fraud, Karamazov,” cried Kolya warmly.

“Ilusha has mentioned you often, very often, even in his sleep, in delirium, you know. One can see that you used to be very, very dear to him … before the incident … with the knife … Then there’s another reason. … Tell me, is that your dog?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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