Gregory’s son David, my cousin, was left on my father’s hands, and he lived with us. He was only a year older than I, but I gave way to him and obeyed him as if he had been a most important personage. He was a bright boy of a good deal of character, sturdy and broad-shouldered, with a square, freckled face, red hair, small gray eyes, thick lips, a short nose and short fingers, and of a strength far beyond his years. My aunt could not endure him, and my father was afraid of him, or perhaps had a consciousness of guilt before him. There had been a rumor that if my father had not told too much and left his brother in the lurch, David’s father would not have been sent to Siberia. We were both in the same class in the gymnasium, and we both made good progress—I somewhat better than David. My memory was stronger than his, but boys, as every one knows, do not appreciate that advantage: they are not proud of it; and in spite of it I always looked up to David.
My name, as you know, is Alexis. I was born on the seventh of March, and celebrate my birthday on the seventeenth. They gave me, according to the old custom, the name of one of those saints whose anniversary fell ten days after my birth. My godfather was a certain Anastasius Anistasiovitch Putschkow, or Nastasa Nastasaitch, as he was always called. He was a fearful liar and slanderer and cheat—a thoroughly bad man: he had been turned out of a government office, and had been brought before the court more than once; but my father needed him: they “worked” together. In appearance he was stout and bloated, with a face like a fox, a nose as sharp as a needle, little dark, glistening eyes, like a fox’s eyes, and he kept them always moving from side to side; and he moved his nose too, as if he were sniffing something in the air. He wore high-heeled shoes, and he powdered his hair every day, which was considered strange conduct in the provinces in those days. He assured people he could not do otherwise, as he was acquainted with so many generals and generals’ wives. And my birthday came, and Nastasa Nastasaitch appeared at our house and said, “I have never yet given you anything, but see what I have brought you to-day.” And he took from his pocket an old-fashioned silver watch, with a rose painted on the face, and a bronze chain.