The washerwoman, Polashka, a fat girl, pitted with small-pox, and the one-eyed cow-girl, Akoulka, came one fine day to my mother with such stories against the “moussie,” that she, who did not at all like these kind of jokes, in her turn complained to my father, who, a man of hasty temperament, instantly sent for that rascal of a Frenchman. He was answered humbly that the “moussie” was giving me a lesson. My father ran to my room. Beaupre was sleeping on his bed the sleep of the just. As for me, I was absorbed in a deeply interesting occupation. A map had been procured for me from Moscow, which hung against the wall without ever being used, and which had been tempting me for a long time from the size and strength of its paper. I had at last resolved to make a kite of it, and, taking advantage of Beaupre’s slumbers, I had set to work.
My father came in just at the very moment when I was tying a tail to the Cape of Good Hope.
At the sight of my geographical studies he boxed my ears sharply, sprang forward to Beaupre’s bed, and, awaking him without any consideration, he began to assail him with reproaches. In his trouble and confusion Beaupre vainly strove to rise; the poor “outchitel” was dead drunk. My father pulled him up by the collar of his coat, kicked him out of the room, and dismissed him the same day, to the inexpressible joy of Saveliitch.
Thus was my education finished.
I lived like a stay-at-home son (nedoross’l), amusing myself by scaring the pigeons on the roofs, and playing leapfrog with the lads of the courtyard, till I was past the age of sixteen. But at this age my life underwent a great change.
One autumn day, my mother was making honey jam in her parlour, while, licking my lips, I was watching the operations, and occasionally tasting the boiling liquid. My father, seated by the window, had just opened the Court Almanack, which he received every year. He was very fond of this book; he never read it except with great attention, and it had the power of upsetting his temper very much. My mother, who knew all his whims and habits by heart, generally tried to keep the unlucky book hidden, so that sometimes whole months passed without the Court Almanack falling beneath his eye. On the other hand, when he did chance to find it, he never left it for hours together. He was now reading it, frequently shrugging his shoulders, and muttering, half aloud—
“General! He was sergeant in my company. Knight of the Orders of Russia! Was it so long ago that we—”
At last my father threw the Almanack away from him on the sofa, and remained deep in a brown study, which never betokened anything good.
“Avdotia Vassilieva," said he, sharply addressing my mother, “how old is Petrousha?"
“His seventeenth year has just begun,” replied my mother. “Petrousha was born the same year our Aunt Anastasia Garasimofna lost an eye, and that—”