Book X - The Boys - Chapter III - The Schoolboy

But Kolya did not hear her. At last he could go out. As he went out at the gate he looked round him, shrugged up his shoulders, and saying “It is freezing,” went straight along the street and turned off to the right towards the market-place. When he reached the last house but one before the market-place he stopped at the gate, pulled a whistle out of his pocket, and whistled with all his might as though giving a signal. He had not to wait more than a minute before a rosy-cheeked boy of about eleven, wearing a warm, neat and even stylish coat, darted out to meet him. This was Smurov, a boy in the preparatory class (two classes below Kolya Krassotkin), son of a well-to-do official. Apparently he was forbidden by his parents to associate with Krassotkin, who was well known to be a desperately naughty boy, so Smurov was obviously slipping out on the sly. He was—if the reader has not forgotten—one of the group of boys who two months before had thrown stones at Ilusha. He was the one who told Alyosha Karamazov about Ilusha.

“I've been waiting for you for the last hour, Krassotkin,” said Smurov stolidly, and the boys strode towards the market-place.

“I am late,” answered Krassotkin. “I was detained by circumstances. You won't be thrashed for coming with me?”

“Come, I say, I'm never thrashed! And you've got Perezvon with you?”


“You're taking him, too?”


“Ah! if it were only Zhutchka!”

“That's impossible. Zhutchka's non-existent. Zhutchka is lost in the mists of obscurity.”

“Ah! couldn't we do this?” Smurov suddenly stood still. “You see Ilusha says that Zhutchka was a shaggy, grayish, smoky-looking dog like Perezvon. Couldn't you tell him this is Zhutchka, and he might believe you?”

“Boy, shun a lie, that's one thing; even with a good object—that's another. Above all, I hope you've not told them anything about my coming.”

“Heaven forbid! I know what I am about. But you won't comfort him with Perezvon,” said Smurov, with a sigh. “You know his father, the captain, ‘the wisp of tow,’ told us that he was going to bring him a real mastiff pup, with a black nose, to-day. He thinks that would comfort Ilusha; but I doubt it.”

“And how is Ilusha?”

“Ah, he is bad, very bad! I believe he's in consumption: he is quite conscious, but his breathing! His breathing's gone wrong. The other day he asked to have his boots on to be led round the room. He tried to walk, but he couldn't stand. ‘Ah, I told you before, father,’ he said, ‘that those boots were no good. I could never walk properly in them.’ He fancied it was his boots that made him stagger, but it was simply weakness, really. He won't live another week. Herzenstube is looking after him. Now they are rich again—they've got heaps of money.”

“They are rogues.”

“Who are rogues?”

“Doctors and the whole crew of quacks collectively, and also, of course, individually. I don't believe in medicine. It's a useless institution. I mean to go into all that. But what's that sentimentality you've got up there? The whole class seems to be there every day.”

“Not the whole class: it's only ten of our fellows who go to see him every day. There's nothing in that.”

“What I don't understand in all this is the part that Alexey Karamazov is taking in it. His brother's going to be tried to-morrow or next day for such a crime, and yet he has so much time to spend on sentimentality with boys.”

“There's no sentimentality about it. You are going yourself now to make it up with Ilusha.”

“Make it up with him? What an absurd expression! But I allow no one to analyze my actions.”

“And how pleased Ilusha will be to see you! He has no idea that you are coming. Why was it, why was it you wouldn't come all this time?” Smurov cried with sudden warmth.

“My dear boy, that's my business, not yours. I am going of myself because I choose to, but you've all been hauled there by Alexey Karamazov—there's a difference, you know. And how do you know? I may not be going to make it up at all. It's a stupid expression.”

“It's not Karamazov at all; it's not his doing. Our fellows began going there of themselves. Of course, they went with Karamazov at first. And there's been nothing of that sort—no silliness. First one went, and then another. His father was awfully pleased to see us. You know he will simply go out of his mind if Ilusha dies. He sees that Ilusha's dying. And he seems so glad we've made it up with Ilusha. Ilusha asked after you, that was all. He just asks and says no more. His father will go out of his mind or hang himself. He behaved like a madman before. You know he is a very decent man. We made a mistake then. It's all the fault of that murderer who beat him then.”

“Karamazov's a riddle to me all the same. I might have made his acquaintance long ago, but I like to have a proper pride in some cases. Besides, I have a theory about him which I must work out and verify.”

Kolya subsided into dignified silence. Smurov, too, was silent. Smurov, of course, worshiped Krassotkin and never dreamed of putting himself on a level with him. Now he was tremendously interested at Kolya's saying that he was “going of himself” to see Ilusha. He felt that there must be some mystery in Kolya's suddenly taking it into his head to go to him that day. They crossed the market-place, in which at that hour were many loaded wagons from the country and a great number of live fowls. The market women were selling rolls, cottons and threads, etc., in their booths. These Sunday markets were naïvely called “fairs” in the town, and there were many such fairs in the year.

Perezvon ran about in the wildest spirits, sniffing about first one side, then the other. When he met other dogs they zealously smelt each other over according to the rules of canine etiquette.

“I like to watch such realistic scenes, Smurov,” said Kolya suddenly. “Have you noticed how dogs sniff at one another when they meet? It seems to be a law of their nature.”

“Yes; it's a funny habit.”

“No, it's not funny; you are wrong there. There's nothing funny in nature, however funny it may seem to man with his prejudices. If dogs could reason and criticize us they'd be sure to find just as much that would be funny to them, if not far more, in the social relations of men, their masters—far more, indeed. I repeat that, because I am convinced that there is far more foolishness among us. That's Rakitin's idea—a remarkable idea. I am a Socialist, Smurov.”

“And what is a Socialist?” asked Smurov.

“That's when all are equal and all have property in common, there are no marriages, and every one has any religion and laws he likes best, and all the rest of it. You are not old enough to understand that yet. It's cold, though.”

“Yes, twelve degrees of frost. Father looked at the thermometer just now.”

“Have you noticed, Smurov, that in the middle of winter we don't feel so cold even when there are fifteen or eighteen degrees of frost as we do now, in the beginning of winter, when there is a sudden frost of twelve degrees, especially when there is not much snow. It's because people are not used to it. Everything is habit with men, everything even in their social and political relations. Habit is the great motive-power. What a funny-looking peasant!”

Kolya pointed to a tall peasant, with a good-natured countenance in a long sheepskin coat, who was standing by his wagon, clapping together his hands, in their shapeless leather gloves, to warm them. His long fair beard was all white with frost.

“That peasant's beard's frozen,” Kolya cried in a loud provocative voice as he passed him.

“Lots of people's beards are frozen,” the peasant replied, calmly and sententiously.

“Don't provoke him,” observed Smurov.

“It's all right; he won't be cross; he's a nice fellow. Good-by, Matvey.”


“Is your name Matvey?”

“Yes. Didn't you know?”

“No, I didn't. It was a guess.”

“You don't say so! You are a schoolboy, I suppose?”


“You get whipped, I expect?”

“Nothing to speak of—sometimes.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Well, yes, it does.”

“Ech, what a life!” The peasant heaved a sigh from the bottom of his heart.

“Good-by, Matvey.”

“Good-by. You are a nice chap, that you are.”

The boys went on.

“That was a nice peasant,” Kolya observed to Smurov. “I like talking to the peasants, and am always glad to do them justice.”

“Why did you tell a lie, pretending we are thrashed?” asked Smurov.

“I had to say that to please him.”

“How do you mean?”

“You know, Smurov, I don't like being asked the same thing twice. I like people to understand at the first word. Some things can't be explained. According to a peasant's notions, schoolboys are whipped, and must be whipped. What would a schoolboy be if he were not whipped? And if I were to tell him we are not, he'd be disappointed. But you don't understand that. One has to know how to talk to the peasants.”

“Only don't tease them, please, or you'll get into another scrape as you did about that goose.”

“So you're afraid?”

“Don't laugh, Kolya. Of course I'm afraid. My father would be awfully cross. I am strictly forbidden to go out with you.”

“Don't be uneasy, nothing will happen this time. Hallo, Natasha!” he shouted to a market woman in one of the booths.

“Call me Natasha! What next! My name is Marya,” the middle-aged market woman shouted at him.

“I am so glad it's Marya. Good-by!”

“Ah, you young rascal! A brat like you to carry on so!”

“I'm in a hurry. I can't stay now. You shall tell me next Sunday.” Kolya waved his hand at her, as though she had attacked him and not he her.

“I've nothing to tell you next Sunday. You set upon me, you impudent young monkey. I didn't say anything,” bawled Marya. “You want a whipping, that's what you want, you saucy jackanapes!”

There was a roar of laughter among the other market women round her. Suddenly a man in a violent rage darted out from the arcade of shops close by. He was a young man, not a native of the town, with dark, curly hair and a long, pale face, marked with smallpox. He wore a long blue coat and a peaked cap, and looked like a merchant's clerk. He was in a state of stupid excitement and brandished his fist at Kolya.

“I know you!” he cried angrily, “I know you!”

Kolya stared at him. He could not recall when he could have had a row with the man. But he had been in so many rows in the street that he could hardly remember them all.

“Do you?” he asked sarcastically.

“I know you! I know you!” the man repeated idiotically.

“So much the better for you. Well, it's time I was going. Good-by!”

“You are at your saucy pranks again?” cried the man. “You are at your saucy pranks again? I know, you are at it again!”

“It's not your business, brother, if I am at my saucy pranks again,” said Kolya, standing still and scanning him.

“Not my business?”

“No; it's not your business.”

“Whose then? Whose then? Whose then?”

“It's Trifon Nikititch's business, not yours.”

“What Trifon Nikititch?” asked the youth, staring with loutish amazement at Kolya, but still as angry as ever.

Kolya scanned him gravely.

“Have you been to the Church of the Ascension?” he suddenly asked him, with stern emphasis.

“What Church of Ascension? What for? No, I haven't,” said the young man, somewhat taken aback.

“Do you know Sabaneyev?” Kolya went on even more emphatically and even more severely.

“What Sabaneyev? No, I don't know him.”

“Well then you can go to the devil,” said Kolya, cutting short the conversation; and turning sharply to the right he strode quickly on his way as though he disdained further conversation with a dolt who did not even know Sabaneyev.

“Stop, heigh! What Sabaneyev?” the young man recovered from his momentary stupefaction and was as excited as before. “What did he say?” He turned to the market women with a silly stare.

The women laughed.

“You can never tell what he's after,” said one of them.

“What Sabaneyev is it he's talking about?” the young man repeated, still furious and brandishing his right arm.

“It must be a Sabaneyev who worked for the Kuzmitchovs, that's who it must be,” one of the women suggested.

The young man stared at her wildly.

“For the Kuzmitchovs?” repeated another woman. “But his name wasn't Trifon. His name's Kuzma, not Trifon; but the boy said Trifon Nikititch, so it can't be the same.”

“His name is not Trifon and not Sabaneyev, it's Tchizhov,” put in suddenly a third woman, who had hitherto been silent, listening gravely. “Alexey Ivanitch is his name. Tchizhov, Alexey Ivanitch.”

“Not a doubt about it, it's Tchizhov,” a fourth woman emphatically confirmed the statement.

The bewildered youth gazed from one to another.

“But what did he ask for, what did he ask for, good people?” he cried almost in desperation. “ ‘Do you know Sabaneyev?’ says he. And who the devil's to know who is Sabaneyev?”

“You're a senseless fellow. I tell you it's not Sabaneyev, but Tchizhov, Alexey Ivanitch Tchizhov, that's who it is!” one of the women shouted at him impressively.

“What Tchizhov? Who is he? Tell me, if you know.”

“That tall, sniveling fellow who used to sit in the market in the summer.”

“And what's your Tchizhov to do with me, good people, eh?”

“How can I tell what he's to do with you?” put in another. “You ought to know yourself what you want with him, if you make such a clamor about him. He spoke to you, he did not speak to us, you stupid. Don't you really know him?”

“Know whom?”


“The devil take Tchizhov and you with him. I'll give him a hiding, that I will. He was laughing at me!”

“Will give Tchizhov a hiding! More likely he will give you one. You are a fool, that's what you are!”

“Not Tchizhov, not Tchizhov, you spiteful, mischievous woman. I'll give the boy a hiding. Catch him, catch him, he was laughing at me!”

The woman guffawed. But Kolya was by now a long way off, marching along with a triumphant air. Smurov walked beside him, looking round at the shouting group far behind. He too was in high spirits, though he was still afraid of getting into some scrape in Kolya's company.

“What Sabaneyev did you mean?” he asked Kolya, foreseeing what his answer would be.

“How do I know? Now there'll be a hubbub among them all day. I like to stir up fools in every class of society. There's another blockhead, that peasant there. You know, they say‘there's no one stupider than a stupid Frenchman,’ but a stupid Russian shows it in his face just as much. Can't you see it all over his face that he is a fool, that peasant, eh?”

“Let him alone, Kolya. Let's go on.”

“Nothing could stop me, now I am once off. Hey, good morning, peasant!”

A sturdy-looking peasant, with a round, simple face and grizzled beard, who was walking by, raised his head and looked at the boy. He seemed not quite sober.

“Good morning, if you are not laughing at me,” he said deliberately in reply.

“And if I am?” laughed Kolya.

“Well, a joke's a joke. Laugh away. I don't mind. There's no harm in a joke.”

“I beg your pardon, brother, it was a joke.”

“Well, God forgive you!”

“Do you forgive me, too?”

“I quite forgive you. Go along.”

“I say, you seem a clever peasant.”

“Cleverer than you,” the peasant answered unexpectedly, with the same gravity.

“I doubt it,” said Kolya, somewhat taken aback.

“It's true, though.”

“Perhaps it is.”

“It is, brother.”

“Good-by, peasant!”


“There are all sorts of peasants,” Kolya observed to Smurov after a brief silence. “How could I tell I had hit on a clever one? I am always ready to recognize intelligence in the peasantry.”

In the distance the cathedral clock struck half-past eleven. The boys made haste and they walked as far as Captain Snegiryov's lodging, a considerable distance, quickly and almost in silence. Twenty paces from the house Kolya stopped and told Smurov to go on ahead and ask Karamazov to come out to him.

“One must sniff round a bit first,” he observed to Smurov.

“Why ask him to come out?” Smurov protested. “You go in; they will be awfully glad to see you. What's the sense of making friends in the frost out here?”

“I know why I want to see him out here in the frost,” Kolya cut him short in the despotic tone he was fond of adopting with “small boys,” and Smurov ran to do his bidding.