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Published by aravindpunna

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Published by: aravindpunna on Mar 31, 2013
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03/31/2013

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A Classical Student
BEFORE setting off for his examination in Greek, Vanya kissed all the holy images. His stomach felt as thoughit were upside down; there was a chill at his heart, while the heart itself throbbed and stood still with terror  before the unknown. What would he get that day? A three or a two? Six times he went to his mother for her  blessing, and, as he went out, asked his aunt to pray for him. On the way to school he gave a beggar twokopecks, in the hope that those two kopecks would atone for his ignorance, and that, please God, he would notget the numerals with those awful forties and eighties.He came back from the high school late, between four and five. He came in, and noiselessly lay down on his bed. His thin face was pale. There were dark rings round his red eyes."Well, how did you get on? How were you marked?" asked his mother, going to his bedside.Vanya blinked, twisted his mouth, and burst into tears. His mother turned pale, let her mouth fall open, andclasped her hands. The breeches she was mending dropped out of her hands."What are you crying for? You've failed, then?" she asked."I am plucked. . . . I got a two.""I knew it would be so! I had a presentiment of it," said his mother. "Merciful God! How is it you have not passed? What is the reason of it? What subject have you failed in?""In Greek. . . . Mother, I . . . They asked me the future of phero, and I . . . instead of saying oisomai saidopsomai. Then . . . then there isn't an accent, if the last syllable is long, and I . . . I got flustered. . . . I forgot thatthe alpha was long in it. . . . I went and put in the accent. Then Artaxerxov told me to give the list of the enclitic particles. . . . I did, and I accidentally mixed in a pronoun . . . and made a mistake . . . and so he gave me a two. .. . I am a miserable person. . . . I was working all night. . . I've been getting up at four o'clock all this week . . . .""No, it's not you but I who am miserable, you wretched boy! It's I that am miserable! You've worn me to athreadpaper, you Herod, you torment, you bane of my life! I pay for you, you good-for-nothing rubbish; I've bent my back toiling for you, I'm worried to death, and, I may say, I am unhappy, and what do you care? Howdo you work?""I . . . I do work. All night. . . . You've seen it yourself.""I prayed to God to take me, but He won't take me, a sinful woman. . . . You torment! Other people havechildren like everyone else, and I've one only and no sense, no comfort out of him. Beat you? I'd beat you, butwhere am I to find the strength? Mother of God, where am I to find the strength?"The mamma hid her face in the folds of her blouse and broke into sobs. Vanya wriggled with anguish and pressed his forehead against the wall. The aunt came in."So that's how it is. . . . Just what I expected," she said, at once guessing what was wrong, turning pale andclasping her hands. "I've been depressed all the morning. . . . There's trouble coming, I thought . . . and here it'scome. . . .""The villain, the torment!""Why are you swearing at him?" cried the aunt, nervously pulling her coffee-coloured kerchief off her head and

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