minute. But, I say, I am keeping you here!” Kolya cried suddenly. “You’ve no overcoat on in this bitter cold. You see what an egoist I am. Oh, we are all egoists, Karamazov!”

“Don’t trouble; it is cold, but I don’t often catch cold. Let us go in though, and, by the way, what is your name? I know you are called Kolya, but what else?”

“Nikolay—Nikolay Ivanovitch Krassotkin, or, as they say in official documents ‘Krassotkin son.’ ” Kolya laughed for some reason, but added suddenly, “Of course I hate my name Nikolay.”

“Why so?”

“It’s so trivial, so ordinary.”

“You are thirteen?” asked Alyosha.

“No, fourteen—that is, I shall be fourteen very soon, in a fortnight. I’ll confess one weakness of mine, Karamazov, just to you, since it’s our first meeting, so that you may understand my character at once. I hate being asked my age, more than that…and in fact…there’s a libellous story going about me, that last week I played robbers with the preparatory boys. It’s a fact that I did play with them, but it’s a perfect libel to say I did it for my own amusement. I have reasons for believing that you’ve heard the story; but I wasn’t playing for my own amusement, it was for the sake of the children, because they couldn’t think of anything to do by themselves. But they’ve always got some silly tale. This is an awful town for gossip, I can tell you.”

“But what if you had been playing for your own amusement, what’s the harm?”

“Come, I say, for my own amusement! You don’t play horses, do you?”

“But you must look at it like this,” said Alyosha, smiling. “Grown-up people go to the theatre and there the adventures of all sorts of heroes are represented—sometimes there are robbers and battles, too—and isn’t that just the same thing, in a different form, of course? And young people’s games of soldiers or robbers in their play-time are also art in its first stage. You know, they spring from the growing artistic instincts of the young. And sometimes these games are much better than performances in the theatre, the only difference is that people go there to look at actors, while in these games the young people are the actors themselves. But that’s only natural.”

“You think so? Is that your idea?” Kolya looked at him intently. “Oh, you know, that’s rather an interesting view. When I go home, I’ll think it over. I’ll admit I thought I might learn something from you. I’ve come to learn of you, Karamazov,” Kolya concluded, in a voice full of spontaneous feeling.

“And I of you,” said Alyosha, smiling and pressing his hand.

Kolya was much pleased with Alyosha. What struck him most was that he treated him exactly like an equal and that he talked to him just as if he were “quite grown up.”

“I’ll show you something directly, Karamazov; it’s a theatrical performance, too,” he said, laughing nervously. “That’s why I’ve come.”

“Let us go first to the people of the house, on the left. All the boys leave their coats in there, because the room is small and hot.”

“Oh, I’m only coming in for a minute. I’ll keep on my overcoat. Perezvon will stay here in the passage and be dead. Ici, Perezvon, lie down and be dead! You see how he’s dead. I’ll go in first and explore, then I’ll whistle to him when I think fit, and you’ll see, he’ll dash in like mad. Only Smurov must not forget to open the door at the moment. I’ll arrange it all and you’ll see something.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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