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The Brothers Karamazov

3. A Meeting with the Schoolboys
"THANK goodness he did not ask me about Grushenka," thought Alyosha, as he
left his father's house and turned towards Madame Hohlakov's, "or I might have
had to tell him of my meeting with Grushenka yesterday."
Alyosha felt painfully that since yesterday both combatants had renewed their
energies, and that their hearts had grown hard again. "Father is spiteful and
angry, he's made some plan and will stick to it. And what of Dmitri? He too will be
harder than yesterday, he too must be spiteful and angry, and he too, no doubt,
has made some plan. Oh, I must succeed in finding him to-day, whatever
happens."
But Alyosha had not long to meditate. An incident occurred on the road, which,
though apparently of little consequence, made a great impression on him. just
after he had crossed the square and turned the corner coming out into
Mihailovsky Street, which is divided by a small ditch from the High Street (our
whole town is intersected by ditches), he saw a group of schoolboys between the
ages of nine and twelve, at the bridge. They were going home from school, some
with their bags on their shoulders, others with leather satchels slung across
them, some in short jackets, others in little overcoats. Some even had those high
boots with creases round the ankles, such as little boys spoilt by rich fathers love
to wear. The whole group was talking eagerly about something, apparently
holding a council. Alyosha had never from his Moscow days been able to pass
children without taking notice of them, and although he was particularly fond of
children of three or thereabout, he liked schoolboys of ten and eleven too. And
so, anxious as he was to-day, he wanted at once to turn aside to talk to them. He
looked into their excited rosy faces, and noticed at once that all the boys had
stones in their hands. Behind the ditch some thirty paces away, there was
another schoolboy standing by a fence. He too had a satchel at his side. He was
about ten years old, pale, delicate-looking and with sparkling black eyes. He kept
an attentive and anxious watch on the other six, obviously his schoolfellows with
whom he had just come out of school, but with whom he had evidently had a
feud.
Alyosha went up and, addressing a fair, curly-headed, rosy boy in a black jacket,
observed:
"When I used to wear a satchel like yours, I always used to carry it on my left
side, so as to have my right hand free, but you've got yours on your right side. So
it will be awkward for you to get at it."
Alyosha had no art or premeditation in beginning with this practical remark. But it
is the only way for a grown-up person to get at once into confidential relations
 
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