On a cold Sunday morning in November, Kolya Krasotkin is sitting at home. There’s only one other apartment in the house—two rooms across the hall from Anna Fyodorovna’s apartment, which she rents out to a doctor’s wife and her two children, Nastya and Kostya. Kolya has designated himself the children’s guardian, and when Agafya, the maid, and his mother are out, he guards the house with Perezvon. Kolya finds various games to play with the kids, whom he refers to as “squirts,” including “soldiers” and “horses.” On this particular day, he has ordered them to read. He checks in on them. Each time he opens the door, they smile brightly at him.
All of the children in the household are fatherless. Because Kolya has never known what it is to have a father (the official Krasotkin died before he was born), he creates himself in his idea of a paternal image. Kolya is very eager to establish his adolescent maturity, which is why he refers to the children diminutively. The children enjoy his attention because he is an older figure who indulges them, and their mother seems to be absent frequently.
Kolya is waiting for Agafya to return because he has to leave, but the maid is late. He goes into the children’s room and asks if they would be all right if they were left alone. When the children express grief, he says that he’ll cheer them up. He takes a little bronze cannon out of his bag and places it on the table. Nastya asks if he has any powder; he says he does. He takes out a small bottle and pours a little of its contents into his palm. He then asks the “squirts” if he can go. When they make as though they’ll cry, Kolya brings in Perezvon to perform tricks for their amusement. During the last trick, Agafya enters.
Despite Kolya’s insensitivity to his mother, he expresses great love and care for the children who are boarding in the house. He empathizes with their sense of abandonment, also feeling somewhat lost due to the death of his father. Looking after the children also gives him the adult responsibility that he craves to prove that he’s not a child himself anymore.
Agafya has just returned from the market. Kolya asks why she’s late, referring to her as “female sex.” She calls him a “pipsqueak.” He asks her to swear that she’ll look after the children. She says that she needn’t swear; she’ll simply do it. Kolya bids the “chicks” goodbye and leaves.
Kolya has developed a negative view of women, fostered by his culture, his historical era, and his own insecurities, which explains his poor treatment of both Agafya and his mother.