The Brothers Karamazov
By Ilusha’s Bedside
THE room inhabited by the family of the retired captain Snegiryov 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 flew 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, thats 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 everyone 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 boys’ 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. When the children told some story or played a game, she laughed and clapped her hands. She called some of them to her and kissed them. She was particularly fond of Smurov.
As for the captain, the presence in his room of the children, who came to cheer up Ilusha, filled his heart from the first with ecstatic joy. He even hoped that Ilusha would now get over his depression and that that would hasten his recovery. In spite of his alarm about Ilusha, he had not, till lately, felt one minute’s doubt of his boy’s ultimate recovery.
He met his little visitors with homage, waited upon them hand and foot; he was ready to be their horse and even began letting them ride on his back, but Ilusha did not like the game and it was given up. He began buying little things for them, gingerbread and nuts, gave them tea and cut them sandwiches. It must be noted that all this time he had plenty of money. He had taken the two hundred roubles from Katerina Ivanovna just as Alyosha had predicted he would. And afterwards Katerina Ivanovna, learning more about their circumstances and Ilusha’s illness, visited them herself, made the acquaintance of the family, and succeeded in fascinating the half-imbecile mother. Since then she had been lavish in helping them, and the captain, terror-stricken at the thought that his boy might be dying, forgot his pride and humbly accepted her assistance.
All this time Doctor Herzenstube, who was called in by Katerina Ivanovna, came punctually every other day, but little was gained by his visits and he dosed the invalid mercilessly. But on that Sunday morning a new doctor was expected, who had come from Moscow, where he had a great reputation. Katerina Ivanovna had sent for him from Moscow at great expense, not expressly for Ilusha, but for another object of which more will be said in its place hereafter. But, as he had come, she had asked him to see Ilusha as well, and the captain had been told to expect him. He hadn’t the slightest idea that Kolya Krassotkin was coming, though he had long wished for a visit from the boy for whom Ilusha was fretting.
At the moment when Krassotkin opened the door and came into the room, the captain and all the boys were round Ilusha’s bed, looking at a tiny mastiff pup, which had only been born the day before, though the captain had bespoken it a week ago to comfort and amuse Ilusha, who was still fretting over the lost and probably dead Zhutchka. Ilusha, who had heard three days before that he was to be presented with a puppy, not an ordinary puppy, but a pedigree mastiff (a very important point, of course), tried from delicacy of feeling to pretend that he was pleased. But his father and the boys could not help seeing that the puppy only served to recall to his little heart the thought of the unhappy dog he had killed. The puppy lay beside him feebly moving and he, smiling sadly, stroked it with his thin, pale, wasted hand. Clearly he liked the puppy, but... it wasn’t Zhutchka; if he could have had Zhutchka and the puppy, too, then he would have been completely happy.
“Krassotkin!” cried one of the boys suddenly. He was the first to see him come in.
Krassotkin’s entrance made a general sensation; the boys moved away and stood on each side of the bed, so that he could get a full view of Ilusha. The captain ran eagerly to meet Kolya.
“Please come in... you are welcome!” he said hurriedly. “Ilusha, Mr. Krassotkin has come to see you!
But Krassotkin, shaking hands with him hurriedly, instantly showed his complete knowledge of the manners of good society. He turned first to the captain’s wife sitting in her armchair, who was very ill-humoured at the moment, and was grumbling that the boys stood between her and Ilusha’s bed and did not let her see the new puppy. With the greatest courtesy he made her a bow, scraping his foot, and turning to Nina, he made her, as the only other lady present, a similar bow. This polite behaviour made an extremely favourable impression on the deranged lady.
“There,.you can see at once he is a young man that has been well brought up,” she commented aloud, throwing up her hands; “But as for our other visitors they come in one on the top of another.”
“How do you mean, mamma, one on the top of another, how is that?” muttered the captain affectionately, though a little anxious on her account.
“That’s how they ride in. They get on each other’s shoulders in the passage and prance in like that on a respectable family. Strange sort of visitors!”
“But who’s come in like that, mamma?”
“Why, that boy came in riding on that one’s back and this one on that one’s.”
Kolya was already by Ilusha’s bedside. The sick boy turned visibly paler. He raised himself in the bed and looked intently at Kolya. Kolya had not seen his little friend for two months, and he was overwhelmed at the sight of him. He had never imagined that he would see such a wasted, yellow face, such enormous, feverishly glowing eyes and such thin little hands. He saw, with grieved surprise, Ilusha’s rapid, hard breathing and dry lips. He stepped close to him, held out his hand, and almost overwhelmed, he said:
“Well, old man... how are you?” But his voice failed him, he couldn’t achieve an appearance of ease; his face suddenly twitched and the corners of his mouth quivered. Ilusha smiled a pitiful little smile, still unable to utter a word. Something moved Kolya to raise his hand and pass it over Ilusha’s hair.
“Never mind!” he murmured softly to him to cheer him up, or perhaps not knowing why he said it. For a minute they were silent again.
“Hallo, so you’ve got a new puppy?” Kolya said suddenly, in a most callous voice.
“Ye-es,” answered Ilusha in a long whisper, gasping for breath.
“A black nose, that means he’ll be fierce, a good house-dog,” Kolya observed gravely and stolidly, as if the only thing he cared about was the puppy and its black nose. But in reality he still had to do his utmost to control his feelings not to burst out crying like a child, and do what he would he could not control it. “When it grows up, you’ll have to keep it on the chain, I’m sure.”
“He’ll be a huge dog!” cried one of the boys.
“Of course he will,” “a mastiff,” “large,” “like this,” “as big as a calf,” shouted several voices.
“As big as a calf, as a real calf,” chimed in the captain. “I got one like that on purpose, one of the fiercest breed, and his parents are huge and very fierce, they stand as high as this from the floor.... Sit down here, on Ilusha’s bed, or here on the bench. You are welcome, we’ve been hoping to see you a long time.... You were so kind as to come with Alexey Fyodorovitch?”
Krassotkin sat on the edge of the bed, at Ilusha’s feet. Though he had perhaps prepared a free-and-easy opening for the conversation on his way, now he completely lost the thread of it.
“No... I came with Perezvon. I’ve got a dog now, called Perezvon. A Slavonic name. He’s out there... if I whistle, he’ll run in. I’ve brought a dog, too,” he said, addressing Ilusha all at once. “Do you remember Zhutchka, old man?” he suddenly fired the question at him.
Ilusha’s little face quivered. He looked with an agonised expression at Kolya. Alyosha, standing at the door, frowned and signed to Kolya not to speak of Zhutchka, but he did not or would not notice.
“Where... is Zhutchka?” Ilusha asked in a broken voice.
“Oh well, my boy, your Zhutchka’s lost and done for!”
Ilusha did not speak, but he fixed an intent gaze once more on Kolya. Alyosha, catching Kolya’s eye, signed to him vigourously again, but he turned away his eyes pretending not to have noticed.
“It must have run away and died somewhere. It must have died after a meal like that,” Kolya pronounced pitilessly, though he seemed a little breathless. “But I’ve got a dog, Perezvon... A Slavonic name... I’ve brought him to show you.”
“I don’t want him!” said Ilusha suddenly.
“No, no, you really must see him... it will amuse you. I brought him on purpose.... He’s the same sort of shaggy dog.... You allow me to call in my dog, madam?” He suddenly addressed Madame Snegiryov, with inexplicable excitement in his manner.
“I don’t want him, I don’t want him!” cried Ilusha, with a mournful break in his voice. There was a reproachful light in his eyes.
“You’d better,” the captain started up from the chest by the wall on which he had just sat down, “you’d better... another time,” he muttered, but Kolya could not be restrained. He hurriedly shouted to Smurov, “Open the door,” and as soon as it was open, he blew his whistle. Perezvon dashed headlong into the room.
“Jump, Perezvon, beg! Beg!” shouted Kolya, jumping up, and the dog stood erect on its hind-legs by Ilusha’s bedside. What followed was a surprise to everyone: Ilusha started, lurched violently forward, bent over Perezvon and gazed at him, faint with suspense.
“It’s... Zhutchka!” he cried suddenly, in a voice breaking with joy and suffering.
“And who did you think it was?” Krassotkin shouted with all his might, in a ringing, happy voice, and bending down he seized the dog and lifted him up to Ilusha.
“Look, old man, you see, blind of one eye and the left ear is torn, just the marks you described to me. It was by that I found him. I found him directly. He did not belong to anyone!” he explained, to the captain, to his wife, to Alyosha and then again to Ilusha. “He used to live in the Fedotovs’ backyard. Though he made his home there, they did not feed him. He was a stray dog that had run away from the village... I found him.... You see, old man, he couldn’t have swallowed what you gave him. If he had, he must have died, he must have! So he must have spat it out, since he is alive. You did not see him do it. But the pin pricked his tongue, that is why he squealed. He ran away squealing and you thought he’d swallowed it. He might well squeal, because the skin of dogs’ mouths is so tender... tenderer than in men, much tenderer!” Kolya cried impetuously, his face glowing and radiant with delight. Ilusha could not speak. White as a sheet, he gazed open-mouthed at Kolya, with his great eyes almost starting out of his head. And if Krassotkin, who had no suspicion of it, had known what a disastrous and fatal effect such a moment might have on the sick child’s health, nothing would have induced him to play such a trick on him. But Alyosha was perhaps the only person in the room who realised it. As for the captain he behaved like a small child.
“Zhutchka! It’s Zhutchka!” he cried in a blissful voice, “Ilusha, this is Zhutchka, your Zhutchka! Mamma, this is Zhutchka!” He was almost weeping.
“And I never guessed!” cried Smurov regretfully. “Bravo, Krassotkin! I said he’d find the dog and here he’s found him.”
“Here he’s found him!” another boy repeated gleefully.
“Krassotkin’s a brick! cried a third voice.
“He’s a brick, he’s a brick!” cried the other boys, and they began clapping.
“Wait, wait,” Krassotkin did his utmost to shout above them all. “I’ll tell you how it happened, that’s the whole point. I found him, I took him home and hid him at once. I kept him locked up at home and did not show him to anyone till to-day. Only Smurov has known for the last fortnight, but I assured him this dog was called Perezvon and he did not guess. And meanwhile I taught the dog all sorts of tricks. You should only see all the things he can do! I trained him so as to bring you a well trained dog, in good condition, old man, so as to be able to say to you, ‘See, old man, what a fine dog your Zhutchka is now!’ Haven’t you a bit of meat? He’ll show you a trick that will make you die with laughing. A piece of meat, haven’t you got any?”
The captain ran across the passage to the landlady, where their cooking was done. Not to lose precious time, Kolya, in desperate haste, shouted to Perezvon, “Dead!” And the dog immediately turned round and lay on his back with its four paws in the air. The boys laughed, Ilusha looked on with the same suffering smile, but the person most delighted with the dog’s performance was “mamma.” She laughed at the dog and began snapping her fingers and calling it, “Perezvon, Perezvon!”
“Nothing will make him get up, nothing!” Kolya cried triumphantly, proud of his success. “He won’t move for all the shouting in the world, but if I call to him, he’ll jump up in a minute. Ici, Perezvon!” The dog leapt up and bounded about, whining with delight. The captain ran back with a piece of cooked beef.
“Is it hot?” Kolya inquired hurriedly, with a business-like air, taking the meat. “Dogs don’t like hot things. No, it’s all right. Look, everybody, look, Ilusha, look, old man; why aren’t you looking? He does not look at him, now I’ve brought him.”
The new trick consisted in making the dog stand motionless with his nose out and putting a tempting morsel of meat just on his nose. The luckless dog had to stand without moving, with the meat on his nose, as long as his master chose to keep him, without a movement, perhaps for half an hour. But he kept Perezvon only for a brief moment.
“Paid for!” cried Kolya, and the meat passed in a flash from the dog’s nose to his mouth. The audience, of course, expressed enthusiasm and surprise.
“Can you really have put off coming all this time simply to train the dog?” exclaimed Alyosha, with an involuntary note of reproach in his voice.
“Simply for that!” answered Kolya, with perfect simplicity. “I wanted to show him in all his glory.”
“Perezvon! Perezvon,” called Ilusha suddenly, snapping his thin fingers and beckoning to the dog.
“What is it? Let him jump up on the bed! Ici, Perezvon!” Kolya slapped the bed and Perezvon darted up by Ilusha. The boy threw both arms round his head and Perezvon instantly licked his cheek. Ilusha crept close to him, stretched himself out in bed and hid his face in the dog’s shaggy coat.
“Dear, dear!” kept exclaiming the captain. Kolya sat down again on the edge of the bed.
“Ilusha, I can show you another trick. I’ve brought you a little cannon. You remember, I told you about it before and you said how much you’d like to see it. Well, here, I’ve brought it to you.”
And Kolya hurriedly pulled out of his satchel the little bronze cannon. He hurried, because he was happy himself. Another time he would have waited till the sensation made by Perezvon had passed off, now he hurried on, regardless of all consideration. “You are all happy now,” he felt, “so here’s something to make you happier!” He was perfectly enchanted himself.
“I’ve been coveting this thing for a long while; it’s for you, old man, it’s for you. It belonged to Morozov, it was no use to him, he had it from his brother. I swopped a book from father’s book-case for it, A Kinsman of Mahomet, or Salutary Folly, a scandalous book published in Moscow a hundred years ago, before they had any censorship. And Morozov has a taste for such things. He was grateful to me, too....”
Kolya held the cannon in his hand so that all could see and admire it. Ilusha raised himself, and, with his right arm still round the dog, he gazed enchanted at the toy. The sensation was even greater when Kolya announced that he had gunpowder too, and that it could be fired off at once “if it won’t alarm the ladies.” “Mamma” immediately asked to look at the toy closer and her request was granted. She was much pleased with the little bronze cannon on wheels and began rolling it to and fro on her lap. She readily gave permission for the cannon to be fired, without any idea of what she had been asked. Kolya showed the powder and the shot. The captain, as a military man, undertook to load it, putting in a minute quantity of powder. He asked that the shot might be put off till another time. The cannon was put on the floor, aiming towards an empty part of the room, three grains of powder were thrust into the touchhole and a match was put to it. A magnificent explosion followed. Mamma was startled, but at once laughed with delight. The boys gazed in speechless triumph. But the captain, looking at Ilusha, was more enchanted than any of them. Kolya picked up the cannon and immediately presented it to Ilusha, together with the powder and the shot.
“I got it for you, for you! I’ve been keeping it for you a long time,” he repeated once more in his delight.
“Oh, give it to me! No, give me the cannon!” mamma began begging like a little child. Her face showed a piteous fear that she would not get it. Kolya was disconcerted. The captain fidgeted uneasily.
“Mamma, mamma,” he ran to her, “the cannon’s yours, of course, but let Ilusha have it, because it’s a present to him, but it’s just as good as yours. Ilusha will always let you play with it; it shall belong to both of you, both of you.”
“No, I don’t want it to belong to both of us; I want it to be mine altogether, not Ilusha’s,” persisted mamma, on the point of tears.
“Take it, mother, here, keep it!” Ilusha cried. “Krassotkin, may I give it to my mother?” he turned to Krassotkin with an imploring face, as though he were afraid he might be offended at his giving his present to someone else.
“Of course you may,” Krassotkin assented heartily, and, taking the cannon from Ilusha, he handed it himself to mamma with a polite bow. She was so touched that she cried.
“Ilusha, darling, he’s the one who loves his mammal” she said tenderly, and at once began wheeling the cannon to and fro on her lap again.
“Mamma, let me kiss your hand.” The captain darted up to her at once and did so.
“And I never saw such a charming fellow as this nice boy,” said the grateful lady, pointing to Krassotkin.
“And I’ll bring you as much powder as you like, Ilusha. We make the powder ourselves now. Borovikov found out how it’s made— twenty-four parts of saltpetre, ten of sulphur and six of birchwood charcoal. It’s all pounded together, mixed into a paste with water and rubbed through a tammy sieve-that’s how it’s done.”
“Smurov told me about your powder, only father says it’s not real gunpowder,” responded Ilusha.
“Not real?” Kolya flushed. “It burns. I don’t know, of course.”
“No, I didn’t mean that,” put in the captain with a guilty face. “I only said that real powder is not made like that, but that’s nothing, it can be made so.”
“I don’t know, you know best. We lighted some in a pomatum pot, it burned splendidly, it all burnt away leaving only a tiny ash. But that was only the paste, and if you rub it through... but of course you know best, I don’t know... And Bulkin’s father thrashed him on account of our powder, did you hear?” he turned to Ilusha.
“We had prepared a whole bottle of it and he used to keep it under his bed. His father saw it. He said it might explode, and thrashed him on the spot. He was going to make a complaint against me to the masters. He is not allowed to go about with me now, no one is allowed to go about with me now. Smurov is not allowed to either; I’ve got a bad name with everyone. They say I’m a ‘desperate character,’” Kolya smiled scornfully. “It all began from what happened on the railway.”
“Ah, we’ve heard of that exploit of yours, too,” cried the captain. “How could you lie still on the line? Is it possible you weren’t the least afraid, lying there under the train? Weren’t you frightened?”
The captain was abject in his flattery of Kolya.
“N — not particularly,” answered Kolya carelessly. “What’s blasted my reputation more than anything here was that cursed goose,” he said, turning again to Ilusha — but though he assumed an unconcerned air as he talked, he still could not control himself and was continually missing the note he tried to keep up.
“Ah! I heard about the goose!” Ilusha laughed, beaming all over. “They told me, but I didn’t understand. Did they really take you to the court?”
“The most stupid, trivial affair, they made a mountain of a mole-hill as they always do,” Kolya began carelessly. “I was walking through the market-place here one day, just when they’d driven in the geese. I stopped and looked at them. All at once a fellow, who is an errand-boy at Plotnikov’s now, looked at me and said, ‘What are you looking at the geese for?’ I looked at him; he was a stupid, moon-faced fellow of twenty. I am always on the side of the peasantry, you know. I like talking to the peasants.... We’ve dropped behind the peasants that’s an axiom. I believe you are laughing, Karamazov?”
“No, Heaven forbid, I am listening,” said Alyosha with a most good-natured air, and the sensitive Kolya was immediately reassured.”
“My theory, Karamazov, is clear and simple,” he hurried on again, looking pleased. “I believe in the people and am always glad to give them their due, but I am not for spoiling them, that is a sine qua non... But I was telling you about the goose. So I turned to the fool and answered, ‘I am wondering what the goose thinks about.’ He looked at me quite stupidly, ‘And what does the goose think about?’ he asked. ‘Do you see that cart full of oats?‘I said. ‘The oats are dropping out of the sack, and the goose has put its neck right under the wheel to gobble them up — do you see?’ ‘I see that quite well,’ he said. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if that cart were to move on a little, would it break the goose’s neck or not?’ ‘It’d be sure to break it,’ and he grinned all over his face, highly delighted. ‘Come on, then,’ said I, ‘let’s try.’ ‘Let’s,’ he said. And it did not take us long to arrange: he stood at the bridle without being noticed, and I stood on one side to direct the goose. And the owner wasn’t looking, he was talking to someone, so I had nothing to do, the goose thrust its head in after the oats of itself, under the cart, just under the wheel. I winked at the lad, he tugged at the bridle, and crack. The goose’s neck was broken in half. And, as luck would have it, all the peasants saw us at that moment and they kicked up a shindy at once. ‘You did that on purpose!’ ‘No, not on purpose.’ ‘Yes, you did, on purpose!’ Well, they shouted, ‘Take him to the justice of the peace!’ They took me, too. ‘You were there, too,’ they said, ‘you helped, you’re known all over the market!’ And, for some reason, I really am known all over the market,” Kolya added conceitedly. “We all went off to the justice’s, they brought the goose, too. The fellow was crying in a great funk, simply blubbering like a woman. And the farmer kept shouting that you could kill any number of geese like that. Well, of course, there were witnesses. The justice of the peace settled it in a minute, that the farmer was to be paid a rouble for the goose, and the fellow to have the goose. And he was warned not to play such pranks again. And the fellow kept blubbering like a woman. ‘It wasn’t me,’ he said, ‘it was he egged me on,’ and he pointed to me. I answered with the utmost composure that I hadn’t egged him on, that I simply stated the general proposition, had spoken hypothetically. The justice of the peace smiled and was vexed with himself once for having smiled. ‘I’ll complain to your masters of you, so that for the future you mayn’t waste your time on such general propositions, instead of sitting at your books and learning your lessons.’ He didn’t complain to the masters, that was a joke, but the matter noised abroad and came to the ears of the masters. Their ears are long, you know! The classical master, Kolbasnikov, was particularly shocked about it, but Dardanelov got me off again. But Kolbasnikov is savage with everyone now like a green ass. Did you know, Ilusha, he is just married, got a dowry of a thousand roubles, and his bride’s a regular fright of the first rank and the last degree. The third-class fellows wrote an epigram on it:
Astounding news has reached the class,
And so on, awfully funny, I’ll bring it to you later on. I say nothing against Dardanelov, he is a learned man, there’s no doubt about it. I respect men like that and it’s not because he stood up for me.”
“But you took him down about the founders of Troy!” Smurov put in suddenly, proud of Krassotkin at such a moment. He was particularly pleased with the story of the goose.
“Did you really take him down?” the captain inquired, in a flattering way. “On the question who founded Troy? We heard of it, Ilusha told me about it at the time.”
“He knows everything, father, he knows more than any of us!” put in Ilusha; “he only pretends to be like that, but really he is top in every subject...”
Ilusha looked at Kolya with infinite happiness.
“Oh, that’s all nonsense about Troy, a trivial matter. I consider this an unimportant question,” said Kolya with haughty humility. He had by now completely recovered his dignity, though he was still a little uneasy. He felt that he was greatly excited and that he had talked about the goose, for instance, with too little reserve, while Alyosha had looked serious and had not said a word all the time. And the vain boy began by degrees to have a rankling fear that Alyosha was silent because he despised him, and thought he was showing off before him. If he dared to think anything like that, Kolya would —
“I regard the question as quite a trivial one,” he rapped out again, proudly.
“And I know who founded Troy,” a boy, who had not spoken before, said suddenly, to the surprise of everyone. He was silent and seemed to be shy. He was a pretty boy of about eleven, called Kartashov. He was sitting near the door. Kolya looked at him with dignified amazement.
The fact was that the identity of the founders of Troy had become a secret for the whole school, a secret which could only be discovered by reading Smaragdov, and no one had Smaragdov but Kolya. One day, when Kolya’s back was turned, Kartashov hastily opened Smaragdov, which lay among Kolya’s books, and immediately lighted on the passage relating to the foundation of Troy. This was a good time ago, but he felt uneasy and could not bring himself to announce publicly that he too knew who had founded Troy, afraid of what might happen and of Krassotkin’s somehow putting him to shame over it. But now he couldn’t resist saying it. For weeks he had been longing to.
“Well, who did found it?” Kolya, turning to him with haughty superciliousness. He saw from his face that he really did know and at once made up his mind how to take it. There was so to speak, a discordant note in the general harmony.
“Troy was founded by Teucer, Dardanus, Ilius and Tros,” the boy rapped out at once, and in the same instant he blushed, blushed so, that it was painful to look at him. But the boys stared at him, stared at him for a whole minute, and then all the staring eyes turned at once and were fastened upon Kolya, who was still scanning the audacious boy with disdainful composure.
“In what sense did they found it?” he deigned to comment at last. “And what is meant by founding a city or a state? What do they do? Did they go and each lay a brick, do you suppose?”
There was laughter. The offending boy turned from pink to crimson. He was silent and on the point of tears. Kolya held him so for a minute.
“Before you talk of a historical event like the foundation of a nationality, you must first understand what you mean by it,” he admonished him in stern, incisive tones. “But I attach no consequence to these old wives’ tales and I don’t think much of universal history in general,” he added carelessly, addressing the company generally.
“Universal history?” the captain inquired, looking almost scared.
“Yes, universal history! It’s the study of the successive follies of mankind and nothing more. The only subjects I respect are mathematics and natural science,” said Kolya. He was showing off and he stole a glance at Alyosha; his was the only opinion he was afraid of there. But Alyosha was still silent and still serious as before. If Alyosha had said a word it would have stopped him, but Alyosha was silent and “it might be the silence of contempt,” and that finally irritated Kolya.
“The classical languages, too... they are simply madness, nothing more. You seem to disagree with me again, Karamazov?”
“I don’t agree,” said Alyosha, with a faint smile.
“The study of the classics, if you ask my opinion, is simply a police measure, that’s simply why it has been introduced into our schools.” By degrees Kolya began to get breathless again. “Latin and Greek were introduced because they are a bore and because they stupefy the intellect. It was dull before, so what could they do to make things duller? It was senseless enough before, so what could they do to make it more senseless? So they thought of Greek and Latin. That’s my opinion, I hope I shall never change it,” Kolya finished abruptly. His cheeks were flushed.
“That’s true,” assented Smurov suddenly, in a ringing tone of conviction. He had listened attentively.
“And yet he is first in Latin himself,” cried one of the group of boys suddenly.
“Yes, father, he says that and yet he is first in Latin,” echoed Ilusha.
“What of it?” Kolya thought fit to defend himself, though the praise was very sweet to him. “I am fagging away at Latin because I have to, because I promised my mother to pass my examination, and I think that whatever you do, it’s worth doing it well. But in my soul I have a profound contempt for the classics and all that fraud.... You don’t agree, Karamazov?”
“Why ‘fraud’?” Alyosha smiled again.
“Well, all the classical authors have been translated into all languages, so it was not for the sake of studying the classics they introduced Latin, but solely as a police measure, to stupefy the intelligence. So what can one call it but a fraud?”
“Why, who taught you all this?” cried Alyosha, surprised at last.
“In the first place I am capable of thinking for myself without being taught. Besides, what I said just now about the classics being translated our teacher Kolbasnikov has said to the whole of the third class.”
“The doctor has come!” cried Nina, who had been silent till then.
A carriage belonging to Madame Hohlakov drove up to the gate. The captain, who had been expecting the doctor all the morning, rushed headlong out to meet him. “Mamma” pulled herself together and assumed a dignified air. Alyosha went up to Ilusha and began setting his pillows straight. Nina, from her invalid chair, anxiously watched him putting the bed tidy. The boys hurriedly took leave. Some of them promised to come again in the evening. Kolya called Perezvon and the dog jumped off the bed.
“I won’t go away, I won’t go away,” Kolya said hastily to Ilusha. “I’ll wait in the passage and come back when the doctor’s gone, I’ll come back with Perezvon.”
But by now the doctor had entered, an important-looking person with long, dark whiskers and a shiny, shaven chin, wearing a bearskin coat. As he crossed the threshold he stopped, taken aback; he probably fancied he had come to the wrong place. “How is this? Where am I?” he muttered, not removing his coat nor his peaked sealskin cap. The crowd, the poverty of the room, the washing hanging on a line in the corner, puzzled him. The captain, bent double, was bowing low before him.
“It’s here, sir, here, sir,” he muttered cringingly; “it’s here, you’ve come right, you were coming to us...”
“Sne-gi-ryov?” the doctor said loudly and pompously. “Mr. Snegiryov — is that you?”
“That’s me, sir!”
The doctor looked round the room with a squeamish air once more and threw off his coat, displaying to all eyes the grand decoration at his neck. The captain caught the fur coat in the air, and the doctor took off his cap.
“Where is the patient?” he asked emphatically.