“Well, Kapitonitch?” said
Seryozha, coming back rosy and good-humored from
his walk the day before his birthday, and giving his
overcoat to the tall old hall porter, who smiled down
at the little person from the height of his long figure.
“Well, has the bandaged clerk been here today?
Did papa see him?”
“He saw him. The minute
the chief secretary came out, I announced him,”
said the hall porter with a good-humored wink.
“Here, I’ll take it off.”
“Seryozha!” said the tutor,
stopping in the doorway leading to the inner rooms.
“Take it off yourself.” But Seryozha,
though he heard his tutor’s feeble voice, did
not pay attention to it. He stood keeping hold
of the hall porter’s belt, and gazing into his
“Well, and did papa do what he wanted for him?”
The hall porter nodded his head affirmatively.
The clerk with his face tied up, who had already
been seven times to ask some favor of Alexey Alexandrovitch,
interested both Seryozha and the hall porter.
Seryozha had come upon him in the hall, and had heard
him plaintively beg the hall porter to announce him,
saying that he and his children had death staring
them in the face.
Since then Seryozha, having met him
a second time in the hall, took great interest in
“Well, was he very glad?” he asked.
“Glad? I should think so! Almost
dancing as he walked away.”
“And has anything been left?” asked Seryozha,
after a pause.
“Come, sir,” said the
hall-porter; then with a shake of his head he whispered,
“Something from the countess.”
Seryozha understood at once that what
the hall porter was speaking of was a present from
Countess Lidia Ivanovna for his birthday.
“What do you say? Where?”
“Korney took it to your papa. A fine plaything
it must be too!”
“How big? Like this?”
“Rather small, but a fine thing.”
“No, a thing. Run along,
run along, Vassily Lukitch is calling you,”
said the porter, hearing the tutor’s steps approaching,
and carefully taking away from his belt the little
hand in the glove half pulled off, he signed with
his head towards the tutor.
“Vassily Lukitch, in a tiny
minute!” answered Seryozha with that gay and
loving smile which always won over the conscientious
Seryozha was too happy, everything
was too delightful for him to be able to help sharing
with his friend the porter the family good fortune
of which he had heard during his walk in the public
gardens from Lidia Ivanovna’s niece. This
piece of good news seemed to him particularly important
from its coming at the same time with the gladness
of the bandaged clerk and his own gladness at toys
having come for him. It seemed to Seryozha that
this was a day on which everyone ought to be glad
“You know papa’s received
the Alexander Nevsky today?”
“To be sure I do! People
have been already to congratulate him.”
“And is he glad?”
“Glad at the Tsar’s gracious
favor! I should think so! It’s a
proof he’s deserved it,” said the porter
severely and seriously.
Seryozha fell to dreaming, gazing
up at the face of the porter, which he had thoroughly
studied in every detail, especially the chin that
hung down between the gray whiskers, never seen by
anyone but Seryozha, who saw him only from below.
“Well, and has your daughter
been to see you lately?”
The porter’s daughter was a ballet dancer.
“When is she to come on week-days?
They’ve their lessons to learn too. And
you’ve your lesson, sir; run along.”
On coming into the room, Seryozha,
instead of sitting down to his lessons, told his tutor
of his supposition that what had been brought him
must be a machine. “What do you think?”
But Vassily Lukitch was thinking of
nothing but the necessity of learning the grammar
lesson for the teacher, who was coming at two.
“No, do just tell me, Vassily
Lukitch,” he asked suddenly, when he was seated
at their work table with the book in his hands, “what
is greater than the Alexander Nevsky? You know
papa’s received the Alexander Nevsky?”
Vassily Lukitch replied that the Vladimir
was greater than the Alexander Nevsky.
“And higher still?”
“Well, highest of all is the Andrey Pervozvanny.”
“And higher than the Andrey?”
“I don’t know.”
“What, you don’t know?”
and Seryozha, leaning on his elbows, sank into deep
His meditations were of the most complex
and diverse character. He imagined his father’s
having suddenly been presented with both the Vladimir
and the Andrey today, and in consequence being much
better tempered at his lesson, and dreamed how, when
he was grown up, he would himself receive all the
orders, and what they might invent higher than the
Andrey. Directly any higher order were invented,
he would win it. They would make a higher one
still, and he would immediately win that too.
The time passed in such meditations,
and when the teacher came, the lesson about the adverbs
of place and time and manner of action was not ready,
and the teacher was not only displeased, but hurt.
This touched Seryozha. He felt he was not to
blame for not having learned the lesson; however much
he tried, he was utterly unable to do that.
As long as the teacher was explaining to him, he believed
him and seemed to comprehend, but as soon as he was
left alone, he was positively unable to recollect and
to understand that the short and familiar word “suddenly”
is an adverb of manner of action. Still he was
sorry that he had disappointed the teacher.
He chose a moment when the teacher
was looking in silence at the book.
“Mihail Ivanitch, when is your
birthday?” he asked all, of a sudden.
“You’d much better be
thinking about your work. Birthdays are of no
importance to a rational being. It’s a
day like any other on which one has to do one’s
Seryozha looked intently at the teacher,
at his scanty beard, at his spectacles, which had
slipped down below the ridge on his nose, and fell
into so deep a reverie that he heard nothing of what
the teacher was explaining to him. He knew that
the teacher did not think what he said; he felt it
from the tone in which it was said. “But
why have they all agreed to speak just in the same
manner always the dreariest and most useless stuff?
Why does he keep me off; why doesn’t he love
me?” he asked himself mournfully, and could
not think of an answer.