With Grandmamma's permission, the Iwins' young tutor, Herr Frost, accompanied us into the little back garden, where he seated himself upon a bench, arranged his legs in a tasteful attitude, rested his brass-knobbed cane between them, lighted a cigar, and assumed the air of a man well-pleased with himself. He was a, German, but of a very different sort to our good Karl Ivanitch. In the first place, he spoke both Russian and French correctly, though with a hard accent Indeed, he enjoyed--especially among the ladies--the reputation of being a very accomplished fellow. In the second place, he wore a reddish moustache, a large gold pin set with a ruby, a black satin tie, and a very fashionable suit. Lastly, he was young, with a handsome, self-satisfied face and fine muscular legs. It was clear that he set the greatest store upon the latter, and thought them beyond compare, especially as regards the favour of the ladies. Consequently, whether sitting or standing, he always tried to exhibit them in the most favourable light. In short, he was a type of the young German- Russian whose main desire is to be thought perfectly gallant and gentlemanly.
In the little garden merriment reigned. In fact, the game of "robbers" never went better. Yet an incident occurred which came near to spoiling it. Seriosha was the robber, and in pouncing upon some travellers he fell down and knocked his leg so badly against a tree that I thought the leg must be broken. Consequently, though I was the gendarme and therefore bound to apprehend him, I only asked him anxiously, when I reached him, if he had hurt himself very much. Nevertheless this threw him into a passion, and made him exclaim with fists clenched and in a voice which showed by its faltering what pain he was enduring, "Why, whatever is the matter? Is this playing the game properly? You ought to arrest me. Why on earth don't you do so?" This he repeated several times, and then, seeing Woloda and the elder Iwin (who were taking the part of the travellers) jumping and running about the path, he suddenly threw himself upon them with a shout and loud laughter to effect their capture. I cannot express my wonder and delight at this valiant behaviour of my hero. In spite of the severe pain, he had not only refrained from crying, but had repressed the least symptom of suffering and kept his eye fixed upon the game! Shortly after this occurrence another boy, Ilinka Grap, joined our party. We went upstairs, and Seriosha gave me an opportunity of still further appreciating and taking delight in his manly bravery and fortitude. This was how it was.
Ilinka was the son of a poor foreigner who had been under certain obligations to my Grandpapa, and now thought it incumbent upon him to send his son to us as frequently as possible. Yet if he thought that the acquaintance would procure his son any advancement or pleasure, he was entirely mistaken, for not only were we anything but friendly to Ilinka, but it was seldom that we noticed him at all except to laugh at him. He was a boy of thirteen, tall and thin, with a pale, birdlike face, and a quiet, good-tempered expression. Though poorly dressed, he always had his head so thickly pomaded that we used to declare that on warm days it melted and ran down his neck. When I think of him now, it seems to me that he was a very quiet, obliging, and good- tempered boy, but at the time I thought him a creature so contemptible that he was not worth either attention or pity.
Upstairs we set ourselves to astonish each other with gymnastic tours de force. Ilinka watched us with a faint smile of admiration, but refused an invitation to attempt a similar feat, saying that he had no strength.
Seriosha was extremely captivating. His face and eyes glowed with laughter as he surprised us with tricks which we had never seen before. He jumped over three chairs put together, turned somersaults right across the room, and finally stood on his head on a pyramid of Tatistchev's dictionaries, moving his legs about with such comical rapidity that it was impossible not to help bursting with merriment.
After this last trick he pondered for a moment (blinking his eyes as usual), and then went up to Ilinka with a very serious face.
"Try and do that," he said. "It is not really difficult."
Ilinka, observing that the general attention was fixed upon him, blushed, and said in an almost inaudible voice that he could not do the feat.