By Ilusha's Bedside

The room inhabited by the family of the retired captain Snegiryo is already familiar to the reader. It was close and crowded at that moment with a number of visitors. Several boys were sitting with Ilusha and, though all of them like Smurov were prepared to deny that it was Alyosha who had brought them and reconciled them with Ilusha, it was really the fact. All the art he had used had been to take them, one by one, to Ilusha, without “sheepish sentimentality,” appearing to do so casually and without design. It was a great consolation to Ilusha in his suffering. He was greatly touched by seeing the almost tender affection and sympathy shown him by these boys, who had been his enemies. Krassotkin was the only one missing and his absence was a heavy load on Ilusha’s heart. Perhaps the bitterest of all his bitter memories was his stabbing Krassotkin, who had been his one friend and protector. Clever little Smurov, who was the first to make it up with Ilusha, thought it was so. But when Smurov hinted to Krassotkin that Alyosha wanted to come and see him about something, the latter cut him short, bidding Smurov tell “Karamazov” at once that he knew best what to do, that he wanted no one’s advice, and that, if he went to see Ilusha, he would choose his own time for he had “his own reasons.”

That was a fortnight before this Sunday. That was why Alyosha had not been to see him, as he had meant to. But though he waited, he sent Smurov to him twice again. Both times Krassotkin met him with a curt, impatient refusal, sending Alyosha a message not to bother him any more, that if he came himself, he, Krassotkin, would not go to Ilusha at all. Up to the very last day, Smurov did not know that Kolya meant to go to Ilusha that morning, and only the evening before, as he parted from Smurov, Kolya abruptly told him to wait at home for him next morning, for he would go with him to the Snegiryovs, but warned him on no account to say he was coming, as he wanted to drop in casually. Smurov obeyed. Smurov’s fancy that Kolya would bring back the lost dog was based on the words Kolya had dropped that “they must be asses not to find the dog, if it was alive.” When Smurov, waiting for an opportunity, timidly hinted at his guess about the dog, Krassotkin fled into a violent rage. “I’m not such an ass as to go hunting about the town for other people’s dogs when I’ve got a dog of my own! And how can you imagine a dog could be alive after swallowing a pin? Sheepish sentimentality, that’s what it is!”

For the last fortnight Ilusha had not left his little bed under the ikons in the corner. He had not been to school since the day he met Alyosha and bit his finger. He was taken ill the same day, though for a month afterwards he was sometimes able to get up and walk about the room and passage. But latterly he had become so weak that he could not move without help from his father. His father was terribly concerned about him. He even gave up drinking and was almost crazy with terror that his boy would die. And often, especially after leading him round the room on his arm and putting him back to bed, he would run to a dark corner in the passage and, leaning his head against the wall, he would break into paroxysms of violent weeping, stifling his sobs that they might not be heard by Ilusha.

Returning to the room, he would usually begin doing something to amuse and comfort his precious boy, he would tell him stories, funny anecdotes, or would mimic comic people he had happened to meet, even imitate the howls and cries of animals. But Ilusha could not bear to see his father fooling and playing the buffoon. Though the boy tried not to show how he disliked it, he saw with an aching heart that his father was an object of contempt, and he was continually haunted by the memory of the “wisp of tow” and that “terrible day.”

Nina, Ilusha’s gentle, crippled sister, did not like her father’s buffoonery either (Varvara had been gone for some time past to Petersburg to study at the University). But the half imbecile mother was greatly diverted and laughed heartily when her husband began capering about or performing something. It was the only way she could be amused, all the rest of the time she was grumbling and complaining that now every one had forgotten her, that no one treated her with respect, that she was slighted and so on. But during the last few days she had completely changed. She began looking constantly at Ilusha’s bed in the corner and seemed lost in thought. She was more silent, quieter, and, if she cried, she cried quietly so as not to be heard. The captain noticed the change in her with mournful perplexity. The boy’s visits at first only angered her, but later on their merry shouts and stories began to divert her, and at last she liked them so much that, if the boys had given up coming, she would have felt dreary without them.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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