A Trifle from Life
A well-fed, red-cheeked young man called Nikolay Ilyitch Belyaev, of thirty-two, who was an owner of house property in Petersburg, and a devotee of the race-course, went one evening to see Olga Ivanovna Irnin, with whom he was living, or, to use his own expression, was dragging out a long, wearisome romance. And, indeed, the first interesting and enthusiastic pages of this romance had long been perused; now the pages dragged on, and still dragged on, without presenting anything new or of interest.
Not finding Olga Ivanovna at home, my hero lay down on the lounge chair and proceeded to wait for her in the drawing-room.
Good-evening, Nikolay Ilyitch! he heard a childs voice. Mother will be here directly. She has gone with Sonia to the dressmakers.
Olga Ivanovnas son, Alyoshaa boy of eight who looked graceful and very well cared for, who was dressed like a picture, in a black velvet jacket and long black stockingswas lying on the sofa in the same room. He was lying on a satin cushion and, evidently imitating an acrobat he had lately seen at the circus, stuck up in the air first one leg and then the other. When his elegant legs were exhausted, he brought his arms into play or jumped up impulsively and went on all fours, trying to stand with his legs in the air. All this he was doing with the utmost gravity, gasping and groaning painfully as though he regretted that God had given him such a restless body.
Ah, good-evening, my boy, said Belyaev. Its you! I did not notice you. Is your mother well?
Alyosha, taking hold of the tip of his left toe with his right hand and falling into the most unnatural attitude, turned over, jumped up, and peeped at Belyaev from behind the big fluffy lampshade.
What shall I say? he said, shrugging his shoulders. In reality mothers never well. You see, she is a woman, and women, Nikolay Ilyitch, have always something the matter with them.
Belyaev, having nothing better to do, began watching Alyoshas face. He had never before during the whole of his intimacy with Olga Ivanovna paid any attention to the boy, and had completely ignored his existence; the boy had been before his eyes, but he had not cared to think why he was there and what part he was playing.
In the twilight of the evening, Alyoshas face, with his white forehead and black, unblinking eyes, unexpectedly reminded Belyaev of Olga Ivanovna as she had been during the first pages of their romance. And he felt disposed to be friendly to the boy.
Come here, insect, he said; let me have a closer look at you.
The boy jumped off the sofa and skipped up to Belyaev.
Well, began Nikolay Ilyitch, putting a hand on the boys thin shoulder. How are you getting on?
How shall I say! We used to get on a great deal better.
Its very simple. Sonia and I used only to learn music and reading, and now they give us French poetry to learn. Have you been shaved lately?
Yes, I see you have. Your beard is shorter. Let me touch it. Does that hurt?
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