“We are all to blame for this scandalous scene,” he said hotly. “But I did not foresee it when I came, though I knew with whom I had to deal. This must be stopped at once! Believe me, your reverence, I had no precise knowledge of the details that have just come to light, I was unwilling to believe them, and I learn for the first time…. A father is jealous of his son’s relations with a woman of loose behavior and intrigues with the creature to get his son into prison! This is the company in which I have been forced to be present! I was deceived. I declare to you all that I was as much deceived as any one.”
“Dmitri Fyodorovitch,” yelled Fyodor Pavlovitch suddenly, in an unnatural voice, “if you were not my son I would challenge you this instant to a duel … with pistols, at three paces … across a handkerchief,” he ended, stamping with both feet.
With old liars who have been acting all their lives there are moments when they enter so completely into their part that they tremble or shed tears of emotion in earnest, although at that very moment, or a second later, they are able to whisper to themselves, “You know you are lying, you shameless old sinner! You’re acting now, in spite of your ‘holy’ wrath.”
Dmitri frowned painfully, and looked with unutterable contempt at his father.
“I thought … I thought,” he said, in a soft and, as it were, controlled voice, “that I was coming to my native place with the angel of my heart, my betrothed, to cherish his old age, and I find nothing but a depraved profligate, a despicable clown!”
“A duel!” yelled the old wretch again, breathless and spluttering [pg 076] at each syllable. “And you, Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miusov, let me tell you that there has never been in all your family a loftier, and more honest–you hear–more honest woman than this ‘creature,’ as you have dared to call her! And you, Dmitri Fyodorovitch, have abandoned your betrothed for that ‘creature,’ so you must yourself have thought that your betrothed couldn’t hold a candle to her. That’s the woman called a ‘creature’!”
“Shameful!” broke from Father Iosif.
“Shameful and disgraceful!” Kalganov, flushing crimson, cried in a boyish voice, trembling with emotion. He had been silent till that moment.
“Why is such a man alive?” Dmitri, beside himself with rage, growled in a hollow voice, hunching up his shoulders till he looked almost deformed. “Tell me, can he be allowed to go on defiling the earth?” He looked round at every one and pointed at the old man. He spoke evenly and deliberately.
“Listen, listen, monks, to the parricide!” cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, rushing up to Father Iosif. “That’s the answer to your ‘shameful!’ What is shameful? That ‘creature,’ that ‘woman of loose behavior’ is perhaps holier than you are yourselves, you monks who are seeking salvation! She fell perhaps in her youth, ruined by her environment. But she loved much, and Christ himself forgave the woman ‘who loved much.’ ”
“It was not for such love Christ forgave her,” broke impatiently from the gentle Father Iosif.
“Yes, it was for such, monks, it was! You save your souls here, eating cabbage, and think you are the righteous. You eat a gudgeon a day, and you think you bribe God with gudgeon.”
“This is unendurable!” was heard on all sides in the cell.
But this unseemly scene was cut short in a most unexpected way. Father Zossima rose suddenly from his seat. Almost distracted with anxiety for the elder and every one else, Alyosha succeeded, however, in supporting him by the arm. Father Zossima moved towards Dmitri and reaching him sank on his knees before him. Alyosha thought that he had fallen from weakness, but this was not so. The elder distinctly and deliberately bowed down at Dmitri’s feet till his forehead touched the floor. Alyosha was so astounded that he [pg 077] failed to assist him when he got up again. There was a faint smile on his lips.
“Good-by! Forgive me, all of you!” he said, bowing on all sides to his guests.
Dmitri stood for a few moments in amazement. Bowing down to him–what did it mean? Suddenly he cried aloud, “Oh, God!” hid his face in his hands, and rushed out of the room. All the guests flocked out after him, in their confusion not saying good-by, or bowing to their host. Only the monks went up to him again for a blessing.
“What did it mean, falling at his feet like that? Was it symbolic or what?” said Fyodor Pavlovitch, suddenly quieted and trying to reopen conversation without venturing to address anybody in particular. They were all passing out of the precincts of the hermitage at the moment.
“I can’t answer for a madhouse and for madmen,” Miusov answered at once ill-humoredly, “but I will spare myself your company, Fyodor Pavlovitch, and, trust me, for ever. Where’s that monk?”
“That monk,” that is, the monk who had invited them to dine with the Superior, did not keep them waiting. He met them as soon as they came down the steps from the elder’s cell, as though he had been waiting for them all the time.
“Reverend Father, kindly do me a favor. Convey my deepest respect to the Father Superior, apologize for me, personally, Miusov, to his reverence, telling him that I deeply regret that owing to unforeseen circumstances I am unable to have the honor of being present at his table, greatly as I should desire to do so,” Miusov said irritably to the monk.
“And that unforeseen circumstance, of course, is myself,” Fyodor Pavlovitch cut in immediately. “Do you hear, Father; this gentleman doesn’t want to remain in my company or else he’d come at once. And you shall go, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, pray go to the Father Superior and good appetite to you. I will decline, and not you. Home, home, I’ll eat at home, I don’t feel equal to it here, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, my amiable relative.”
“I am not your relative and never have been, you contemptible man!”
[pg 078] “I said it on purpose to madden you, because you always disclaim the relationship, though you really are a relation in spite of your shuffling. I’ll prove it by the church calendar. As for you, Ivan, stay if you like. I’ll send the horses for you later. Propriety requires you to go to the Father Superior, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, to apologize for the disturbance we’ve been making….”
“Is it true that you are going home? Aren’t you lying?”
“Pyotr Alexandrovitch! How could I dare after what’s happened! Forgive me, gentlemen, I was carried away! And upset besides! And, indeed, I am ashamed. Gentlemen, one man has the heart of Alexander of Macedon and another the heart of the little dog Fido. Mine is that of the little dog Fido. I am ashamed! After such an escapade how can I go to dinner, to gobble up the monastery’s sauces? I am ashamed, I can’t. You must excuse me!”
“The devil only knows, what if he deceives us?” thought Miusov, still hesitating, and watching the retreating buffoon with distrustful eyes. The latter turned round, and noticing that Miusov was watching him, waved him a kiss.
“Well, are you coming to the Superior?” Miusov asked Ivan abruptly.
“Why not? I was especially invited yesterday.”
“Unfortunately I feel myself compelled to go to this confounded dinner,” said Miusov with the same irritability, regardless of the fact that the monk was listening. “We ought, at least, to apologize for the disturbance, and explain that it was not our doing. What do you think?”
“Yes, we must explain that it wasn’t our doing. Besides, father won’t be there,” observed Ivan.
“Well, I should hope not! Confound this dinner!”
They all walked on, however. The monk listened in silence. On the road through the copse he made one observation however–that the Father Superior had been waiting a long time, and that they were more than half an hour late. He received no answer. Miusov looked with hatred at Ivan.
“Here he is, going to the dinner as though nothing had happened,” he thought. “A brazen face, and the conscience of a Karamazov!”
Chapter VII. A Young Man Bent On A Career
Alyosha helped Father Zossima to his bedroom and seated him on his bed. It was a little room furnished with the bare necessities. There was a narrow iron bedstead, with a strip of felt for a mattress. In the corner, under the ikons, was a reading-desk with a cross and the Gospel lying on it. The elder sank exhausted on the bed. His eyes glittered and he breathed hard. He looked intently at Alyosha, as though considering something.
“Go, my dear boy, go. Porfiry is enough for me. Make haste, you are needed there, go and wait at the Father Superior’s table.”
“Let me stay here,” Alyosha entreated.
“You are more needed there. There is no peace there. You will wait, and be of service. If evil spirits rise up, repeat a prayer. And remember, my son”–the elder liked to call him that–“this is not the place for you in the future. When it is God’s will to call me, leave the monastery. Go away for good.”
“What is it? This is not your place for the time. I bless you for great service in the world. Yours will be a long pilgrimage. And you will have to take a wife, too. You will have to bear all before you come back. There will be much to do. But I don’t doubt of you, and so I send you forth. Christ is with you. Do not abandon Him and He will not abandon you. You will see great sorrow, and in that sorrow you will be happy. This is my last message to you: in sorrow seek happiness. Work, work unceasingly. Remember my words, for although I shall talk with you again, not only my days but my hours are numbered.”
Alyosha’s face again betrayed strong emotion. The corners of his mouth quivered.
“What is it again?” Father Zossima asked, smiling gently. “The worldly may follow the dead with tears, but here we rejoice over the father who is departing. We rejoice and pray for him. Leave me, I must pray. Go, and make haste. Be near your brothers. And not near one only, but near both.”
[pg 080] Father Zossima raised his hand to bless him. Alyosha could make no protest, though he had a great longing to remain. He longed, moreover, to ask the significance of his bowing to Dmitri, the question was on the tip of his tongue, but he dared not ask it. He knew that the elder would have explained it unasked if he had thought fit. But evidently it was not his will. That action had made a terrible impression on Alyosha; he believed blindly in its mysterious significance. Mysterious, and perhaps awful.
As he hastened out of the hermitage precincts to reach the monastery in time to serve at the Father Superior’s dinner, he felt a sudden pang at his heart, and stopped short. He seemed to hear again Father Zossima’s words, foretelling his approaching end. What he had foretold so exactly must infallibly come to pass. Alyosha believed that implicitly. But how could he be left without him? How could he live without seeing and hearing him? Where should he go? He had told him not to weep, and to leave the monastery. Good God! It was long since Alyosha had known such anguish. He hurried through the copse that divided the monastery from the hermitage, and unable to bear the burden of his thoughts, he gazed at the ancient pines beside the path. He had not far to go–about five hundred paces. He expected to meet no one at that hour, but at the first turn of the path he noticed Rakitin. He was waiting for some one.
“Are you waiting for me?” asked Alyosha, overtaking him.
“Yes,” grinned Rakitin. “You are hurrying to the Father Superior, I know; he has a banquet. There’s not been such a banquet since the Superior entertained the Bishop and General Pahatov, do you remember? I shan’t be there, but you go and hand the sauces. Tell me one thing, Alexey, what does that vision mean? That’s what I want to ask you.”
“That bowing to your brother, Dmitri. And didn’t he tap the ground with his forehead, too!”
“You speak of Father Zossima?”
“Yes, of Father Zossima.”
“Tapped the ground?”
“Ah, an irreverent expression! Well, what of it? Anyway, what does that vision mean?”
[pg 081] “I don’t know what it means, Misha.”
“I knew he wouldn’t explain it to you! There’s nothing wonderful about it, of course, only the usual holy mummery. But there was an object in the performance. All the pious people in the town will talk about it and spread the story through the province, wondering what it meant. To my thinking the old man really has a keen nose; he sniffed a crime. Your house stinks of it.”
Rakitin evidently had something he was eager to speak of.
“It’ll be in your family, this crime. Between your brothers and your rich old father. So Father Zossima flopped down to be ready for what may turn up. If something happens later on, it’ll be: ‘Ah, the holy man foresaw it, prophesied it!’ though it’s a poor sort of prophecy, flopping like that. ‘Ah, but it was symbolic,’ they’ll say, ‘an allegory,’ and the devil knows what all! It’ll be remembered to his glory: ‘He predicted the crime and marked the criminal!’ That’s always the way with these crazy fanatics; they cross themselves at the tavern and throw stones at the temple. Like your elder, he takes a stick to a just man and falls at the feet of a murderer.”
“What crime? What murderer? What do you mean?”
Alyosha stopped dead. Rakitin stopped, too.
“What murderer? As though you didn’t know! I’ll bet you’ve thought of it before. That’s interesting, too, by the way. Listen, Alyosha, you always speak the truth, though you’re always between two stools. Have you thought of it or not? Answer.”
“I have,” answered Alyosha in a low voice. Even Rakitin was taken aback.
“What? Have you really?” he cried.
“I … I’ve not exactly thought it,” muttered Alyosha, “but directly you began speaking so strangely, I fancied I had thought of it myself.”
“You see? (And how well you expressed it!) Looking at your father and your brother Mitya to-day you thought of a crime. Then I’m not mistaken?”
“But wait, wait a minute,” Alyosha broke in uneasily. “What has led you to see all this? Why does it interest you? That’s the first question.”
[pg 082] “Two questions, disconnected, but natural. I’ll deal with them separately. What led me to see it? I shouldn’t have seen it, if I hadn’t suddenly understood your brother Dmitri, seen right into the very heart of him all at once. I caught the whole man from one trait. These very honest but passionate people have a line which mustn’t be crossed. If it were, he’d run at your father with a knife. But your father’s a drunken and abandoned old sinner, who can never draw the line–if they both let themselves go, they’ll both come to grief.”
“No, Misha, no. If that’s all, you’ve reassured me. It won’t come to that.”
“But why are you trembling? Let me tell you; he may be honest, our Mitya (he is stupid, but honest), but he’s–a sensualist. That’s the very definition and inner essence of him. It’s your father has handed him on his low sensuality. Do you know, I simply wonder at you, Alyosha, how you can have kept your purity. You’re a Karamazov too, you know! In your family sensuality is carried to a disease. But now, these three sensualists are watching one another, with their knives in their belts. The three of them are knocking their heads together, and you may be the fourth.”
“You are mistaken about that woman. Dmitri–despises her,” said Alyosha, with a sort of shudder.
“Grushenka? No, brother, he doesn’t despise her. Since he has openly abandoned his betrothed for her, he doesn’t despise her. There’s something here, my dear boy, that you don’t understand yet. A man will fall in love with some beauty, with a woman’s body, or even with a part of a woman’s body (a sensualist can understand that), and he’ll abandon his own children for her, sell his father and mother, and his country, Russia, too. If he’s honest, he’ll steal; if he’s humane, he’ll murder; if he’s faithful, he’ll deceive. Pushkin, the poet of women’s feet, sung of their feet in his verse. Others don’t sing their praises, but they can’t look at their feet without a thrill–and it’s not only their feet. Contempt’s no help here, brother, even if he did despise Grushenka. He does, but he can’t tear himself away.”
“I understand that,” Alyosha jerked out suddenly.
“Really? Well, I dare say you do understand, since you blurt it out at the first word,” said Rakitin, malignantly. “That escaped [pg 083] you unawares, and the confession’s the more precious. So it’s a familiar subject; you’ve thought about it already, about sensuality, I mean! Oh, you virgin soul! You’re a quiet one, Alyosha, you’re a saint, I know, but the devil only knows what you’ve thought about, and what you know already! You are pure, but you’ve been down into the depths…. I’ve been watching you a long time. You’re a Karamazov yourself; you’re a thorough Karamazov–no doubt birth and selection have something to answer for. You’re a sensualist from your father, a crazy saint from your mother. Why do you tremble? Is it true, then? Do you know, Grushenka has been begging me to bring you along. ‘I’ll pull off his cassock,’ she says. You can’t think how she keeps begging me to bring you. I wondered why she took such an interest in you. Do you know, she’s an extraordinary woman, too!”
“Thank her and say I’m not coming,” said Alyosha, with a strained smile. “Finish what you were saying, Misha. I’ll tell you my idea after.”
“There’s nothing to finish. It’s all clear. It’s the same old tune, brother. If even you are a sensualist at heart, what of your brother, Ivan? He’s a Karamazov, too. What is at the root of all you Karamazovs is that you’re all sensual, grasping and crazy! Your brother Ivan writes theological articles in joke, for some idiotic, unknown motive of his own, though he’s an atheist, and he admits it’s a fraud himself–that’s your brother Ivan. He’s trying to get Mitya’s betrothed for himself, and I fancy he’ll succeed, too. And what’s more, it’s with Mitya’s consent. For Mitya will surrender his betrothed to him to be rid of her, and escape to Grushenka. And he’s ready to do that in spite of all his nobility and disinterestedness. Observe that. Those are the most fatal people! Who the devil can make you out? He recognizes his vileness and goes on with it! Let me tell you, too, the old man, your father, is standing in Mitya’s way now. He has suddenly gone crazy over Grushenka. His mouth waters at the sight of her. It’s simply on her account he made that scene in the cell just now, simply because Miusov called her an ‘abandoned creature.’ He’s worse than a tom-cat in love. At first she was only employed by him in connectio