the brothers karamazov
Chapter I. Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov
Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch
Karamazov, a land owner well known in our district in his own day, and
still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which
happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper
place. For the present I will only say that this "landowner"--for so we
used to call him, although he hardly spent a day of his life on his own
estate--was a strange type, yet one pretty frequently to be met with, a
type abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one of
those senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after their
worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fyodor Pavlovitch,
for instance, began with next to nothing; his estate was of the smallest;
he ran to dine at other men's tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet
at his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard
cash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most senseless,
fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it was not
stupidity--the majority of these fantastical fellows are shrewd and
intelligent enough--but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form of
He was married twice, and had three sons, the eldest, Dmitri, by his first
wife, and two, Ivan and Alexey, by his second. Fyodor Pavlovitch's first
wife, Adelaida Ivanovna, belonged to a fairly rich and distinguished noble
family, also landowners in our district, the Miuesovs. How it came to pass
that an heiress, who was also a beauty, and moreover one of those
vigorous, intelligent girls, so common in this generation, but sometimes
also to be found in the last, could have married such a worthless, puny
weakling, as we all called him, I won't attempt to explain. I knew a young
lady of the last "romantic" generation who after some years of an
enigmatic passion for a gentleman, whom she might quite easily have
married at any moment, invented insuperable obstacles to their union, and
ended by throwing herself one stormy night into a rather deep and rapid
river from a high bank, almost a precipice, and so perished, entirely to
satisfy her own caprice, and to be like Shakespeare's Ophelia. Indeed, if
this precipice, a chosen and favorite spot of hers, had been less
picturesque, if there had been a prosaic flat bank in its place, most
likely the suicide would never have taken place.
This fact and probably there have been not a few similar instances in the last two or
three generations. Adelaida Ivanovna Miuesov's action was similarly, no
doubt, an echo of other people's ideas, and was due to the irritation
caused by lack of mental freedom. She wanted, perhaps, to show her
feminine independence, to override class distinctions and the despotism of
her family. And a pliable imagination persuaded her, we must suppose, for
a brief moment, that Fyodor Pavlovitch, in spite of his parasitic
position, was one of the bold and ironical spirits of that progressive
epoch, though he was, in fact, an ill-natured buffoon and nothing more.
What gave the marriage piquancy was that it was preceded by an elopement,
and this greatly captivated Adelaida Ivanovna's fancy. Fyodor Pavlovitch's
position at the time made him specially eager for any such enterprise, for
he was passionately anxious to make a career in one way or another. To
attach himself to a good family and obtain a dowry was an alluring
prospect. As for mutual love it did not exist apparently, either in the
bride or in him, in spite of Adelaida Ivanovna's beauty. This was,
perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, who
was always of a voluptuous temper, and ready to run after any petticoat on
the slightest encouragement. She seems to have been the only woman who
made no particular appeal to his senses.
Immediately after the elopement Adelaida Ivanovna discerned in a flash
that she had no feeling for her husband but contempt. The marriage
accordingly showed itself in its true colors with extraordinary rapidity.
Although the family accepted the event pretty quickly and apportioned the
runaway bride her dowry, the husband and wife began to lead a most
disorderly life, and there were everlasting scenes between them. It was
said that the young wife showed incomparably more generosity and dignity
than Fyodor Pavlovitch, who, as is now known, got hold of all her money up
to twenty-five thousand roubles as soon as she received it, so that those
thousands were lost to her for ever. The little village and the rather
fine town house which formed part of her dowry he did his utmost for a
long time to transfer to his name, by means of some deed of conveyance. He
would probably have succeeded, merely from her moral fatigue and desire to
get rid of him, and from the contempt and loathing he aroused by his
persistent and shameless importunity. But, fortunately, Adelaida
Ivanovna's family intervened and circumvented his greediness. It is known
for a fact that frequent fights took place between the husband and wife,
but rumor had it that Fyodor Pavlovitch did not beat his wife but was
beaten by her, for she was a hot-tempered, bold, dark-browed, impatient
woman, possessed of remarkable physical strength. Finally, she left the
house and ran away from Fyodor Pavlovitch with a destitute divinity
student, leaving Mitya, a child of three years old, in her husband's
hands. Immediately Fyodor Pavlovitch introduced a regular harem into the
house, and abandoned himself to orgies of drunkenness. In the intervals he
used to drive all over the province, complaining tearfully to each and all
of Adelaida Ivanovna's having left him, going into details too disgraceful
for a husband to mention in regard to his own married life. What seemed to
gratify him and flatter his self-love most was to play the ridiculous part
of the injured husband, and to parade his woes with embellishments.
"One would think that you'd got a promotion, Fyodor Pavlovitch, you seem
so pleased in spite of your sorrow," scoffers said to him. Many even added
that he was glad of a new comic part in which to play the buffoon, and
that it was simply to make it funnier that he pretended to be unaware of
his ludicrous position. But, who knows, it may have been simplicity. At
last he succeeded in getting on the track of his runaway wife. The poor
woman turned out to be in Petersburg, where she had gone with her divinity
student, and where she had thrown herself into a life of complete
emancipation. Fyodor Pavlovitch at once began bustling about, making
preparations to go to Petersburg, with what object he could not himself
have said. He would perhaps have really gone; but having determined to do
so he felt at once entitled to fortify himself for the journey by another
bout of reckless drinking. And just at that time his wife's family
received the news of her death in Petersburg. She had died quite suddenly
in a garret, according to one story, of typhus, or as another version had
it, of starvation. Fyodor Pavlovitch was drunk when he heard of his wife's
death, and the story is that he ran out into the street and began shouting
with joy, raising his hands to Heaven: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant
depart in peace," but others say he wept without restraint like a little
child, so much so that people were sorry for him, in spite of the
repulsion he inspired. It is quite possible that both versions were true,
that he rejoiced at his release, and at the same time wept for her who
released him. As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more
naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.
Chapter II. He Gets Rid Of His Eldest Son
You can easily imagine what a father such a man could be and how he would
bring up his children. His behavior as a father was exactly what might be
expected. He completely abandoned the child of his marriage with Adelaida
Ivanovna, not from malice, nor because of his matrimonial grievances, but
simply because he forgot him. While he was wearying every one with his
tears and complaints, and turning his house into a sink of debauchery, a
faithful servant of the family, Grigory, took the three-year-old Mitya
into his care. If he hadn't looked after him there would have been no one
even to change the baby's little shirt.
It happened moreover that the child's relations on his mother's side
forgot him too at first. His grandfather was no longer living, his widow,
Mitya's grandmother, had moved to Moscow, and was seriously ill, while his
daughters were married, so that Mitya remained for almost a whole year in
old Grigory's charge and lived with him in the servant's cottage. But if
his father had remembered him (he could not, indeed, have been altogether
unaware of his existence) he would have sent him back to the cottage, as
the child would only have been in the way of his debaucheries. But a
cousin of Mitya's mother, Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miuesov, happened to return
from Paris. He lived for many years afterwards abroad, but was at that
time quite a young man, and distinguished among the Miuesovs as a man of
enlightened ideas and of European culture, who had been in the capitals
and abroad. Towards the end of his life he became a Liberal of the type
common in the forties and fifties. In the course of his career he had come
into contact with many of the most Liberal men of his epoch, both in
Russia and abroad. He had known Proudhon and Bakunin personally, and in
his declining years was very fond of describing the three days of the
Paris Revolution of February 1848, hinting that he himself had almost
taken part in the fighting on the barricades. This was one of the most
grateful recollections of his youth. He had an independent property of
about a thousand souls, to reckon in the old style. His splendid estate
lay on the outskirts of our little town and bordered on the lands of our
famous monastery, with which Pyotr Alexandrovitch began an endless
lawsuit, almost as soon as he came into the estate, concerning the rights
of fishing in the river or wood-cutting in the forest, I don't know
exactly which. He regarded it as his duty as a citizen and a man of
culture to open an attack upon the "clericals." Hearing all about Adelaida
Ivanovna, whom he, of course, remembered, and in whom he had at one time
been interested, and learning of the existence of Mitya, he intervened, in
spite of all his youthful indignation and contempt for Fyodor Pavlovitch.
He made the latter's acquaintance for the first time, and told him
directly that he wished to undertake the child's education. He used long
afterwards to tell as a characteristic touch, that when he began to speak
of Mitya, Fyodor Pavlovitch looked for some time as though he did not
understand what child he was talking about, and even as though he was
surprised to hear that he had a little son in the house. The story may
have been exaggerated, yet it must have been something like the truth.
Fyodor Pavlovitch was all his life fond of acting, of suddenly playing an
unexpected part, sometimes without any motive for doing so, and even to
his own direct disadvantage, as, for instance, in the present case. This
habit, however, is characteristic of a very great number of people, some
of them very clever ones, not like Fyodor Pavlovitch. Pyotr Alexandrovitch
carried the business through vigorously, and was appointed, with Fyodor
Pavlovitch, joint guardian of the child, who had a small property, a house
and land, left him by his mother. Mitya did, in fact, pass into this
cousin's keeping, but as the latter had no family of his own, and after
securing the revenues of his estates was in haste to return at once to
Paris, he left the boy in charge of one of his cousins, a lady living in
Moscow. It came to pass that, settling permanently in Paris he, too,
forgot the child, especially when the Revolution of February broke out,
making an impression on his mind that he remembered all the rest of his
life. The Moscow lady died, and Mitya passed into the care of one of her
married daughters. I believe he changed his home a fourth time later on. I
won't enlarge upon that now, as I shall have much to tell later of Fyodor
Pavlovitch's firstborn, and must confine myself now to the most essential
facts about him, without which I could not begin my story.
In the first place, this Mitya, or rather Dmitri Fyodorovitch, was the
only one of Fyodor Pavlovitch's three sons who grew up in the belief that
he had property, and that he would be independent on coming of age. He
spent an irregular boyhood and youth. He did not finish his studies at the
gymnasium, he got into a military school, then went to the Caucasus, was
promoted, fought a duel, and was degraded to the ranks, earned promotion
again, led a wild life, and spent a good deal of money. He did not begin
to receive any income from Fyodor Pavlovitch until he came of age, and
until then got into debt. He saw and knew his father, Fyodor Pavlovitch,
for the first time on coming of age, when he visited our neighborhood on
purpose to settle with him about his property. He seems not to have liked
his father. He did not stay long with him, and made haste to get away,
having only succeeded in obtaining a sum of money, and entering into an
agreement for future payments from the estate, of the revenues and value
of which he was unable (a fact worthy of note), upon this occasion, to get
a statement from his father. Fyodor Pavlovitch remarked for the first time
then (this, too, should be noted) that Mitya had a vague and exaggerated
idea of his property. Fyodor Pavlovitch was very well satisfied with this,
as it fell in with his own designs. He gathered only that the young man
was frivolous, unruly, of violent passions, impatient, and dissipated, and
that if he could only obtain ready money he would be satisfied, although
only, of course, for a short time. So Fyodor Pavlovitch began to take
advantage of this fact, sending him from time to time small doles,
installments. In the end, when four years later, Mitya, losing patience,
came a second time to our little town to settle up once for all with his
father, it turned out to his amazement that he had nothing, that it was
difficult to get an account even, that he had received the whole value of
his property in sums of money from Fyodor Pavlovitch, and was perhaps even
in debt to him, that by various agreements into which he had, of his own
desire, entered at various previous dates, he had no right to expect
anything more, and so on, and so on. The young man was overwhelmed,
suspected deceit and cheating, and was almost beside himself. And, indeed,
this circumstance led to the catastrophe, the account of which forms the
subject of my first introductory story, or rather the external side of it.
But before I pass to that story I must say a little of Fyodor Pavlovitch's
other two sons, and of their origin.
Chapter III. The Second Marriage And The Second Family
Very shortly after getting his four-year-old Mitya off his hands Fyodor
Pavlovitch married a second time. His second marriage lasted eight years.
He took this second wife, Sofya Ivanovna, also a very young girl, from
another province, where he had gone upon some small piece of business in
company with a Jew. Though Fyodor Pavlovitch was a drunkard and a vicious
debauchee he never neglected investing his capital, and managed his
business affairs very successfully, though, no doubt, not over-
scrupulously. Sofya Ivanovna was the daughter of an obscure deacon, and
was left from childhood an orphan without relations. She grew up in the
house of a general's widow, a wealthy old lady of good position, who was
at once her benefactress and tormentor. I do not know the details, but I
have only heard that the orphan girl, a meek and gentle creature, was once
cut down from a halter in which she was hanging from a nail in the loft,
so terrible were her sufferings from the caprice and everlasting nagging
of this old woman, who was apparently not bad-hearted but had become an
insufferable tyrant through idleness.
Fyodor Pavlovitch made her an offer; inquiries were made about him and he
was refused. But again, as in his first marriage, he proposed an elopement
to the orphan girl. There is very little doubt that she would not on any
account have married him if she had known a little more about him in time.
But she lived in another province; besides, what could a little girl of
sixteen know about it, except that she would be better at the bottom of
the river than remaining with her benefactress. So the poor child
exchanged a benefactress for a benefactor. Fyodor Pavlovitch did not get a
penny this time, for the general's widow was furious. She gave them
nothing and cursed them both. But he had not reckoned on a dowry; what
allured him was the remarkable beauty of the innocent girl, above all her
innocent appearance, which had a peculiar attraction for a vicious
profligate, who had hitherto admired only the coarser types of feminine
"Those innocent eyes slit my soul up like a razor," he used to say
afterwards, with his loathsome snigger. In a man so depraved this might,
of course, mean no more than sensual attraction. As he had received no
dowry with his wife, and had, so to speak, taken her "from the halter," he
did not stand on ceremony with her. Making her feel that she had "wronged"
him, he took advantage of her phenomenal meekness and submissiveness to
trample on the elementary decencies of marriage. He gathered loose women
into his house, and carried on orgies of debauchery in his wife's
presence. To show what a pass things had come to, I may mention that
Grigory, the gloomy, stupid, obstinate, argumentative servant, who had
always hated his first mistress, Adelaida Ivanovna, took the side of his
new mistress. He championed her cause, abusing Fyodor Pavlovitch in a
manner little befitting a servant, and on one occasion broke up the revels
and drove all the disorderly women out of the house. In the end this
unhappy young woman, kept in terror from her childhood, fell into that
kind of nervous disease which is most frequently found in peasant women
who are said to be "possessed by devils." At times after terrible fits of
hysterics she even lost her reason. Yet she bore Fyodor Pavlovitch two
sons, Ivan and Alexey, the eldest in the first year of marriage and the
second three years later. When she died, little Alexey was in his fourth
year, and, strange as it seems, I know that he remembered his mother all
his life, like a dream, of course. At her death almost exactly the same
thing happened to the two little boys as to their elder brother, Mitya.
They were completely forgotten and abandoned by their father. They were
looked after by the same Grigory and lived in his cottage, where they were
found by the tyrannical old lady who had brought up their mother. She was
still alive, and had not, all those eight years, forgotten the insult done
her. All that time she was obtaining exact information as to her Sofya's
manner of life, and hearing of her illness and hideous surroundings she
declared aloud two or three times to her retainers:
"It serves her right. God has punished her for her ingratitude."
Exactly three months after Sofya Ivanovna's death the general's widow
suddenly appeared in our town, and went straight to Fyodor Pavlovitch's
house. She spent only half an hour in the town but she did a great deal.
It was evening. Fyodor Pavlovitch, whom she had not seen for those eight
years, came in to her drunk. The story is that instantly upon seeing him,
without any sort of explanation, she gave him two good, resounding slaps
on the face, seized him by a tuft of hair, and shook him three times up
and down. Then, without a word, she went straight to the cottage to the
two boys. Seeing, at the first glance, that they were unwashed and in
dirty linen, she promptly gave Grigory, too, a box on the ear, and
announcing that she would carry off both the children she wrapped them
just as they were in a rug, put them in the carriage, and drove off to her
own town. Grigory accepted the blow like a devoted slave, without a word,
and when he escorted the old lady to her carriage he made her a low bow
and pronounced impressively that, "God would repay her for the orphans."
"You are a blockhead all the same," the old lady shouted to him as she
Fyodor Pavlovitch, thinking it over, decided that it was a good thing, and
did not refuse the general's widow his formal consent to any proposition
in regard to his children's education. As for the slaps she had given him,
he drove all over the town telling the story.
It happened that the old lady died soon after this, but she left the boys
in her will a thousand roubles each "for their instruction, and so that
all be spent on them exclusively, with the condition that it be so
portioned out as to last till they are twenty-one, for it is more than
adequate provision for such children. If other people think fit to throw
away their money, let them." I have not read the will myself, but I heard
there was something queer of the sort, very whimsically expressed. The
principal heir, Yefim Petrovitch Polenov, the Marshal of Nobility of the
province, turned out, however, to be an honest man. Writing to Fyodor
Pavlovitch, and discerning at once that he could extract nothing from him
for his children's education (though the latter never directly refused but
only procrastinated as he always did in such cases, and was, indeed, at
times effusively sentimental), Yefim Petrovitch took a personal interest
in the orphans. He became especially fond of the younger, Alexey, who
lived for a long while as one of his family. I beg the reader to note this
from the beginning. And to Yefim Petrovitch, a man of a generosity and
humanity rarely to be met with, the young people were more indebted for
their education and bringing up than to any one. He kept the two thousand
roubles left to them by the general's widow intact, so that by the time
they came of age their portions had been doubled by the accumulation of
interest. He educated them both at his own expense, and certainly spent
far more than a thousand roubles upon each of them. I won't enter into a
detailed account of their boyhood and youth, but will only mention a few
of the most important events. Of the elder, Ivan, I will only say that he
grew into a somewhat morose and reserved, though far from timid boy. At
ten years old he had realized that they were living not in their own home
but on other people's charity, and that their father was a man of whom it
was disgraceful to speak. This boy began very early, almost in his infancy
(so they say at least), to show a brilliant and unusual aptitude for
learning. I don't know precisely why, but he left the family of Yefim
Petrovitch when he was hardly thirteen, entering a Moscow gymnasium, and
boarding with an experienced and celebrated teacher, an old friend of
Yefim Petrovitch. Ivan used to declare afterwards that this was all due to
the "ardor for good works" of Yefim Petrovitch, who was captivated by the
idea that the boy's genius should be trained by a teacher of genius. But
neither Yefim Petrovitch nor this teacher was living when the young man
finished at the gymnasium and entered the university. As Yefim Petrovitch
had made no provision for the payment of the tyrannical old lady's legacy,
which had grown from one thousand to two, it was delayed, owing to
formalities inevitable in Russia, and the young man was in great straits
for the first two years at the university, as he was forced to keep
himself all the time he was studying. It must be noted that he did not
even attempt to communicate with his father, perhaps from pride, from
contempt for him, or perhaps from his cool common sense, which told him
that from such a father he would get no real assistance. However that may
have been, the young man was by no means despondent and succeeded in
getting work, at first giving sixpenny lessons and afterwards getting
paragraphs on street incidents into the newspapers under the signature of
"Eye-Witness." These paragraphs, it was said, were so interesting and
piquant that they were soon taken. This alone showed the young man's
practical and intellectual superiority over the masses of needy and
unfortunate students of both sexes who hang about the offices of the
newspapers and journals, unable to think of anything better than
everlasting entreaties for copying and translations from the French.
Having once got into touch with the editors Ivan Fyodorovitch always kept
up his connection with them, and in his latter years at the university he
published brilliant reviews of books upon various special subjects, so
that he became well known in literary circles. But only in his last year
he suddenly succeeded in attracting the attention of a far wider circle of
readers, so that a great many people noticed and remembered him. It was
rather a curious incident. When he had just left the university and was
preparing to go abroad upon his two thousand roubles, Ivan Fyodorovitch
published in one of the more important journals a strange article, which
attracted general notice, on a subject of which he might have been
supposed to know nothing, as he was a student of natural science. The
article dealt with a subject which was being debated everywhere at the
time--the position of the ecclesiastical courts. After discussing several
opinions on the subject he went on to explain his own view. What was most
striking about the article was its tone, and its unexpected conclusion.
Many of the Church party regarded him unquestioningly as on their side.
And yet not only the secularists but even atheists joined them in their
applause. Finally some sagacious persons opined that the article was
nothing but an impudent satirical burlesque. I mention this incident
particularly because this article penetrated into the famous monastery in
our neighborhood, where the inmates, being particularly interested in the
question of the ecclesiastical courts, were completely bewildered by it.
Learning the author's name, they were interested in his being a native of
the town and the son of "that Fyodor Pavlovitch." And just then it was
that the author himself made his appearance among us.
Why Ivan Fyodorovitch had come amongst us I remember asking myself at the
time with a certain uneasiness. This fateful visit, which was the first
step leading to so many consequences, I never fully explained to myself.
It seemed strange on the face of it that a young man so learned, so proud,
and apparently so cautious, should suddenly visit such an infamous house
and a father who had ignored him all his life, hardly knew him, never
thought of him, and would not under any circumstances have given him
money, though he was always afraid that his sons Ivan and Alexey would
also come to ask him for it. And here the young man was staying in the
house of such a father, had been living with him for two months, and they
were on the best possible terms. This last fact was a special cause of
wonder to many others as well as to me. Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miuesov, of
whom we have spoken already, the cousin of Fyodor Pavlovitch's first wife,
happened to be in the neighborhood again on a visit to his estate. He had
come from Paris, which was his permanent home. I remember that he was more
surprised than any one when he made the acquaintance of the young man, who
interested him extremely, and with whom he sometimes argued and not
without an inner pang compared himself in acquirements.
"He is proud," he used to say, "he will never be in want of pence; he has
got money enough to go abroad now. What does he want here? Every one can
see that he hasn't come for money, for his father would never give him
any. He has no taste for drink and dissipation, and yet his father can't
do without him. They get on so well together!"
That was the truth; the young man had an unmistakable influence over his
father, who positively appeared to be behaving more decently and even
seemed at times ready to obey his son, though often extremely and even
It was only later that we learned that Ivan had come partly at the request
of, and in the interests of, his elder brother, Dmitri, whom he saw for
the first time on this very visit, though he had before leaving Moscow
been in correspondence with him about an important matter of more concern
to Dmitri than himself. What that business was the reader will learn fully
in due time. Yet even when I did know of this special circumstance I still
felt Ivan Fyodorovitch to be an enigmatic figure, and thought his visit
I may add that Ivan appeared at the time in the light of a mediator
between his father and his elder brother Dmitri, who was in open quarrel
with his father and even planning to bring an action against him.
The family, I repeat, was now united for the first time, and some of its
members met for the first time in their lives. The younger brother,
Alexey, had been a year already among us, having been the first of the
three to arrive. It is of that brother Alexey I find it most difficult to
speak in this introduction. Yet I must give some preliminary account of
him, if only to explain one queer fact, which is that I have to introduce
my hero to the reader wearing the cassock of a novice. Yes, he had been
for the last year in our monastery, and seemed willing to be cloistered
there for the rest of his life.
Chapter IV. The Third Son, Alyosha
He was only twenty, his brother Ivan was in his twenty-fourth year at the
time, while their elder brother Dmitri was twenty-seven. First of all, I
must explain that this young man, Alyosha, was not a fanatic, and, in my
opinion at least, was not even a mystic. I may as well give my full
opinion from the beginning. He was simply an early lover of humanity, and
that he adopted the monastic life was simply because at that time it
struck him, so to say, as the ideal escape for his soul struggling from
the darkness of worldly wickedness to the light of love. And the reason
this life struck him in this way was that he found in it at that time, as
he thought, an extraordinary being, our celebrated elder, Zossima, to whom
he became attached with all the warm first love of his ardent heart. But I
do not dispute that he was very strange even at that time, and had been so
indeed from his cradle. I have mentioned already, by the way, that though
he lost his mother in his fourth year he remembered her all his life--her
face, her caresses, "as though she stood living before me." Such memories
may persist, as every one knows, from an even earlier age, even from two
years old, but scarcely standing out through a whole lifetime like spots
of light out of darkness, like a corner torn out of a huge picture, which
has all faded and disappeared except that fragment. That is how it was
with him. He remembered one still summer evening, an open window, the
slanting rays of the setting sun (that he recalled most vividly of all);
in a corner of the room the holy image, before it a lighted lamp, and on
her knees before the image his mother, sobbing hysterically with cries and
moans, snatching him up in both arms, squeezing him close till it hurt,
and praying for him to the Mother of God, holding him out in both arms to
the image as though to put him under the Mother's protection ... and
suddenly a nurse runs in and snatches him from her in terror. That was the
picture! And Alyosha remembered his mother's face at that minute. He used
to say that it was frenzied but beautiful as he remembered. But he rarely
cared to speak of this memory to any one. In his childhood and youth he
was by no means expansive, and talked little indeed, but not from shyness
or a sullen unsociability; quite the contrary, from something different,
from a sort of inner preoccupation entirely personal and unconcerned with
other people, but so important to him that he seemed, as it were, to
forget others on account of it. But he was fond of people: he seemed
throughout his life to put implicit trust in people: yet no one ever
looked on him as a simpleton or naive person. There was something about
him which made one feel at once (and it was so all his life afterwards)
that he did not care to be a judge of others--that he would never take it
upon himself to criticize and would never condemn any one for anything. He
seemed, indeed, to accept everything without the least condemnation though
often grieving bitterly: and this was so much so that no one could
surprise or frighten him even in his earliest youth. Coming at twenty to
his father's house, which was a very sink of filthy debauchery, he, chaste
and pure as he was, simply withdrew in silence when to look on was
unbearable, but without the slightest sign of contempt or condemnation.
His father, who had once been in a dependent position, and so was
sensitive and ready to take offense, met him at first with distrust and
sullenness. "He does not say much," he used to say, "and thinks the more."
But soon, within a fortnight indeed, he took to embracing him and kissing
him terribly often, with drunken tears, with sottish sentimentality, yet
he evidently felt a real and deep affection for him, such as he had never
been capable of feeling for any one before.
Every one, indeed, loved this young man wherever he went, and it was so
from his earliest childhood. When he entered the household of his patron
and benefactor, Yefim Petrovitch Polenov, he gained the hearts of all the
family, so that they looked on him quite as their own child. Yet he
entered the house at such a tender age that he could not have acted from
design nor artfulness in winning affection. So that the gift of making
himself loved directly and unconsciously was inherent in him, in his very
nature, so to speak. It was the same at school, though he seemed to be
just one of those children who are distrusted, sometimes ridiculed, and
even disliked by their schoolfellows. He was dreamy, for instance, and
rather solitary. From his earliest childhood he was fond of creeping into
a corner to read, and yet he was a general favorite all the while he was
at school. He was rarely playful or merry, but any one could see at the
first glance that this was not from any sullenness. On the contrary he was
bright and good-tempered. He never tried to show off among his
schoolfellows. Perhaps because of this, he was never afraid of any one,
yet the boys immediately understood that he was not proud of his
fearlessness and seemed to be unaware that he was bold and courageous. He
never resented an insult. It would happen that an hour after the offense
he would address the offender or answer some question with as trustful and
candid an expression as though nothing had happened between them. And it
was not that he seemed to have forgotten or intentionally forgiven the
affront, but simply that he did not regard it as an affront, and this
completely conquered and captivated the boys. He had one characteristic
which made all his schoolfellows from the bottom class to the top want to
mock at him, not from malice but because it amused them. This
characteristic was a wild fanatical modesty and chastity. He could not
bear to hear certain words and certain conversations about women. There
are "certain" words and conversations unhappily impossible to eradicate in
schools. Boys pure in mind and heart, almost children, are fond of talking
in school among themselves, and even aloud, of things, pictures, and
images of which even soldiers would sometimes hesitate to speak. More than
that, much that soldiers have no knowledge or conception of is familiar to
quite young children of our intellectual and higher classes. There is no
moral depravity, no real corrupt inner cynicism in it, but there is the
appearance of it, and it is often looked upon among them as something
refined, subtle, daring, and worthy of imitation. Seeing that Alyosha
Karamazov put his fingers in his ears when they talked of "that," they
used sometimes to crowd round him, pull his hands away, and shout
nastiness into both ears, while he struggled, slipped to the floor, tried
to hide himself without uttering one word of abuse, enduring their insults
in silence. But at last they left him alone and gave up taunting him with
being a "regular girl," and what's more they looked upon it with
compassion as a weakness. He was always one of the best in the class but
was never first.
At the time of Yefim Petrovitch's death Alyosha had two more years to
complete at the provincial gymnasium. The inconsolable widow went almost
immediately after his death for a long visit to Italy with her whole
family, which consisted only of women and girls. Alyosha went to live in
the house of two distant relations of Yefim Petrovitch, ladies whom he had
never seen before. On what terms he lived with them he did not know
himself. It was very characteristic of him, indeed, that he never cared at
whose expense he was living. In that respect he was a striking contrast to
his elder brother Ivan, who struggled with poverty for his first two years
in the university, maintained himself by his own efforts, and had from
childhood been bitterly conscious of living at the expense of his
benefactor. But this strange trait in Alyosha's character must not, I
think, be criticized too severely, for at the slightest acquaintance with
him any one would have perceived that Alyosha was one of those youths,
almost of the type of religious enthusiast, who, if they were suddenly to
come into possession of a large fortune, would not hesitate to give it
away for the asking, either for good works or perhaps to a clever rogue.
In general he seemed scarcely to know the value of money, not, of course,
in a literal sense. When he was given pocket-money, which he never asked
for, he was either terribly careless of it so that it was gone in a
moment, or he kept it for weeks together, not knowing what to do with it.
In later years Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miuesov, a man very sensitive on the
score of money and bourgeois honesty, pronounced the following judgment,
after getting to know Alyosha:
"Here is perhaps the one man in the world whom you might leave alone
without a penny, in the center of an unknown town of a million
inhabitants, and he would not come to harm, he would not die of cold and
hunger, for he would be fed and sheltered at once; and if he were not, he
would find a shelter for himself, and it would cost him no effort or
humiliation. And to shelter him would be no burden, but, on the contrary,
would probably be looked on as a pleasure."
He did not finish his studies at the gymnasium. A year before the end of
the course he suddenly announced to the ladies that he was going to see
his father about a plan which had occurred to him. They were sorry and
unwilling to let him go. The journey was not an expensive one, and the
ladies would not let him pawn his watch, a parting present from his
benefactor's family. They provided him liberally with money and even
fitted him out with new clothes and linen. But he returned half the money
they gave him, saying that he intended to go third class. On his arrival
in the town he made no answer to his father's first inquiry why he had
come before completing his studies, and seemed, so they say, unusually
thoughtful. It soon became apparent that he was looking for his mother's
tomb. He practically acknowledged at the time that that was the only
object of his visit. But it can hardly have been the whole reason of it.
It is more probable that he himself did not understand and could not
explain what had suddenly arisen in his soul, and drawn him irresistibly
into a new, unknown, but inevitable path. Fyodor Pavlovitch could not show
him where his second wife was buried, for he had never visited her grave
since he had thrown earth upon her coffin, and in the course of years had
entirely forgotten where she was buried.
Fyodor Pavlovitch, by the way, had for some time previously not been
living in our town. Three or four years after his wife's death he had gone
to the south of Russia and finally turned up in Odessa, where he spent
several years. He made the acquaintance at first, in his own words, "of a
lot of low Jews, Jewesses, and Jewkins," and ended by being received by
"Jews high and low alike." It may be presumed that at this period he
developed a peculiar faculty for making and hoarding money. He finally
returned to our town only three years before Alyosha's arrival. His former
acquaintances found him looking terribly aged, although he was by no means
an old man. He behaved not exactly with more dignity but with more
effrontery. The former buffoon showed an insolent propensity for making
buffoons of others. His depravity with women was not simply what it used
to be, but even more revolting. In a short time he opened a great number
of new taverns in the district. It was evident that he had perhaps a
hundred thousand roubles or not much less. Many of the inhabitants of the
town and district were soon in his debt, and, of course, had given good
security. Of late, too, he looked somehow bloated and seemed more
irresponsible, more uneven, had sunk into a sort of incoherence, used to
begin one thing and go on with another, as though he were letting himself
go altogether. He was more and more frequently drunk. And, if it had not
been for the same servant Grigory, who by that time had aged considerably
too, and used to look after him sometimes almost like a tutor, Fyodor
Pavlovitch might have got into terrible scrapes. Alyosha's arrival seemed
to affect even his moral side, as though something had awakened in this
prematurely old man which had long been dead in his soul.
"Do you know," he used often to say, looking at Alyosha, "that you are
like her, 'the crazy woman' "--that was what he used to call his dead wife,
Alyosha's mother. Grigory it was who pointed out the "crazy woman's" grave
to Alyosha. He took him to our town cemetery and showed him in a remote
corner a cast-iron tombstone, cheap but decently kept, on which were
inscribed the name and age of the deceased and the date of her death, and
below a four-lined verse, such as are commonly used on old-fashioned
middle-class tombs. To Alyosha's amazement this tomb turned out to be
Grigory's doing. He had put it up on the poor "crazy woman's" grave at his
own expense, after Fyodor Pavlovitch, whom he had often pestered about the
grave, had gone to Odessa, abandoning the grave and all his memories.
Alyosha showed no particular emotion at the sight of his mother's grave.
He only listened to Grigory's minute and solemn account of the erection of
the tomb; he stood with bowed head and walked away without uttering a
word. It was perhaps a year before he visited the cemetery again. But this
little episode was not without an influence upon Fyodor Pavlovitch--and a
very original one. He suddenly took a thousand roubles to our monastery to
pay for requiems for the soul of his wife; but not for the second,
Alyosha's mother, the "crazy woman," but for the first, Adelaida Ivanovna,
who used to thrash him. In the evening of the same day he got drunk and
abused the monks to Alyosha. He himself was far from being religious; he
had probably never put a penny candle before the image of a saint. Strange
impulses of sudden feeling and sudden thought are common in such types.
I have mentioned already that he looked bloated. His countenance at this
time bore traces of something that testified unmistakably to the life he
had led. Besides the long fleshy bags under his little, always insolent,
suspicious, and ironical eyes; besides the multitude of deep wrinkles in
his little fat face, the Adam's apple hung below his sharp chin like a
great, fleshy goiter, which gave him a peculiar, repulsive, sensual
appearance; add to that a long rapacious mouth with full lips, between
which could be seen little stumps of black decayed teeth. He slobbered
every time he began to speak. He was fond indeed of making fun of his own
face, though, I believe, he was well satisfied with it. He used
particularly to point to his nose, which was not very large, but very
delicate and conspicuously aquiline. "A regular Roman nose," he used to
say, "with my goiter I've quite the countenance of an ancient Roman
patrician of the decadent period." He seemed proud of it.
Not long after visiting his mother's grave Alyosha suddenly announced that
he wanted to enter the monastery, and that the monks were willing to
receive him as a novice. He explained that this was his strong desire, and
that he was solemnly asking his consent as his father. The old man knew
that the elder Zossima, who was living in the monastery hermitage, had
made a special impression upon his "gentle boy."
"That is the most honest monk among them, of course," he observed, after
listening in thoughtful silence to Alyosha, and seeming scarcely surprised
at his request. "H'm!... So that's where you want to be, my gentle boy?"
He was half drunk, and suddenly he grinned his slow half-drunken grin,
which was not without a certain cunning and tipsy slyness. "H'm!... I had
a presentiment that you would end in something like this. Would you
believe it? You were making straight for it. Well, to be sure you have
your own two thousand. That's a dowry for you. And I'll never desert you,
my angel. And I'll pay what's wanted for you there, if they ask for it.
But, of course, if they don't ask, why should we worry them? What do you
say? You know, you spend money like a canary, two grains a week. H'm!...
Do you know that near one monastery there's a place outside the town where
every baby knows there are none but 'the monks' wives' living, as they are
called. Thirty women, I believe. I have been there myself. You know, it's
interesting in its own way, of course, as a variety. The worst of it is
it's awfully Russian. There are no French women there. Of course they
could get them fast enough, they have plenty of money. If they get to hear
of it they'll come along. Well, there's nothing of that sort here, no
'monks' wives,' and two hundred monks. They're honest. They keep the
fasts. I admit it.... H'm.... So you want to be a monk? And do you know
I'm sorry to lose you, Alyosha; would you believe it, I've really grown
fond of you? Well, it's a good opportunity. You'll pray for us sinners; we
have sinned too much here. I've always been thinking who would pray for
me, and whether there's any one in the world to do it. My dear boy, I'm
awfully stupid about that. You wouldn't believe it. Awfully. You see,
however stupid I am about it, I keep thinking, I keep thinking--from time
to time, of course, not all the while. It's impossible, I think, for the
devils to forget to drag me down to hell with their hooks when I die. Then
I wonder--hooks? Where would they get them? What of? Iron hooks? Where do
they forge them? Have they a foundry there of some sort? The monks in the
monastery probably believe that there's a ceiling in hell, for instance.
Now I'm ready to believe in hell, but without a ceiling. It makes it more
refined, more enlightened, more Lutheran that is. And, after all, what
does it matter whether it has a ceiling or hasn't? But, do you know,
there's a damnable question involved in it? If there's no ceiling there
can be no hooks, and if there are no hooks it all breaks down, which is
unlikely again, for then there would be none to drag me down to hell, and
if they don't drag me down what justice is there in the world? _Il
faudrait les inventer_, those hooks, on purpose for me alone, for, if you
only knew, Alyosha, what a blackguard I am."
"But there are no hooks there," said Alyosha, looking gently and seriously
at his father.
"Yes, yes, only the shadows of hooks, I know, I know. That's how a
Frenchman described hell: '_J'ai bu l'ombre d'un cocher qui avec l'ombre
d'une brosse frottait l'ombre d'une carrosse._' How do you know there are
no hooks, darling? When you've lived with the monks you'll sing a
different tune. But go and get at the truth there, and then come and tell
me. Anyway it's easier going to the other world if one knows what there is
there. Besides, it will be more seemly for you with the monks than here
with me, with a drunken old man and young harlots ... though you're like
an angel, nothing touches you. And I dare say nothing will touch you
there. That's why I let you go, because I hope for that. You've got all
your wits about you. You will burn and you will burn out; you will be
healed and come back again. And I will wait for you. I feel that you're
the only creature in the world who has not condemned me. My dear boy, I
feel it, you know. I can't help feeling it."
And he even began blubbering. He was sentimental. He was wicked and
Chapter V. Elders
Some of my readers may imagine that my young man was a sickly, ecstatic,
poorly developed creature, a pale, consumptive dreamer. On the contrary,
Alyosha was at this time a well-grown, red-cheeked, clear-eyed lad of
nineteen, radiant with health. He was very handsome, too, graceful,
moderately tall, with hair of a dark brown, with a regular, rather long,
oval-shaped face, and wide-set dark gray, shining eyes; he was very
thoughtful, and apparently very serene. I shall be told, perhaps, that red
cheeks are not incompatible with fanaticism and mysticism; but I fancy
that Alyosha was more of a realist than any one. Oh! no doubt, in the
monastery he fully believed in miracles, but, to my thinking, miracles are
never a stumbling-block to the realist. It is not miracles that dispose
realists to belief. The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will
always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if
he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather
disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he
admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognized by him. Faith does
not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith.
If the realist once believes, then he is bound by his very realism to
admit the miraculous also. The Apostle Thomas said that he would not
believe till he saw, but when he did see he said, "My Lord and my God!"
Was it the miracle forced him to believe? Most likely not, but he believed
solely because he desired to believe and possibly he fully believed in his
secret heart even when he said, "I do not believe till I see."
I shall be told, perhaps, that Alyosha was stupid, undeveloped, had not
finished his studies, and so on. That he did not finish his studies is
true, but to say that he was stupid or dull would be a great injustice.
I'll simply repeat what I have said above. He entered upon this path only
because, at that time, it alone struck his imagination and presented
itself to him as offering an ideal means of escape for his soul from
darkness to light. Add to that that he was to some extent a youth of our
last epoch--that is, honest in nature, desiring the truth, seeking for it
and believing in it, and seeking to serve it at once with all the strength
of his soul, seeking for immediate action, and ready to sacrifice
everything, life itself, for it. Though these young men unhappily fail to
understand that the sacrifice of life is, in many cases, the easiest of
all sacrifices, and that to sacrifice, for instance, five or six years of
their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply
tenfold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set
before them as their goal--such a sacrifice is utterly beyond the strength
of many of them. The path Alyosha chose was a path going in the opposite
direction, but he chose it with the same thirst for swift achievement. As
soon as he reflected seriously he was convinced of the existence of God
and immortality, and at once he instinctively said to himself: "I want to
live for immortality, and I will accept no compromise." In the same way,
if he had decided that God and immortality did not exist, he would at once
have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not merely the
labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the
question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of
Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up
heaven on earth. Alyosha would have found it strange and impossible to go
on living as before. It is written: "Give all that thou hast to the poor
and follow Me, if thou wouldst be perfect."
Alyosha said to himself: "I can't give two roubles instead of 'all,' and
only go to mass instead of 'following Him.' " Perhaps his memories of
childhood brought back our monastery, to which his mother may have taken
him to mass. Perhaps the slanting sunlight and the holy image to which his
poor "crazy" mother had held him up still acted upon his imagination.
Brooding on these things he may have come to us perhaps only to see
whether here he could sacrifice all or only "two roubles," and in the
monastery he met this elder. I must digress to explain what an "elder" is
in Russian monasteries, and I am sorry that I do not feel very competent
to do so. I will try, however, to give a superficial account of it in a
few words. Authorities on the subject assert that the institution of
"elders" is of recent date, not more than a hundred years old in our
monasteries, though in the orthodox East, especially in Sinai and Athos,
it has existed over a thousand years. It is maintained that it existed in
ancient times in Russia also, but through the calamities which overtook
Russia--the Tartars, civil war, the interruption of relations with the East
after the destruction of Constantinople--this institution fell into
oblivion. It was revived among us towards the end of last century by one
of the great "ascetics," as they called him, Paissy Velitchkovsky, and his
disciples. But to this day it exists in few monasteries only, and has
sometimes been almost persecuted as an innovation in Russia. It flourished
especially in the celebrated Kozelski Optin Monastery. When and how it was
introduced into our monastery I cannot say. There had already been three
such elders and Zossima was the last of them. But he was almost dying of
weakness and disease, and they had no one to take his place. The question
for our monastery was an important one, for it had not been distinguished
by anything in particular till then: they had neither relics of saints,
nor wonder-working ikons, nor glorious traditions, nor historical
exploits. It had flourished and been glorious all over Russia through its
elders, to see and hear whom pilgrims had flocked for thousands of miles
from all parts.
What was such an elder? An elder was one who took your soul, your will,
into his soul and his will. When you choose an elder, you renounce your
own will and yield it to him in complete submission, complete self-
abnegation. This novitiate, this terrible school of abnegation, is
undertaken voluntarily, in the hope of self-conquest, of self-mastery, in
order, after a life of obedience, to attain perfect freedom, that is, from
self; to escape the lot of those who have lived their whole life without
finding their true selves in themselves. This institution of elders is not
founded on theory, but was established in the East from the practice of a
thousand years. The obligations due to an elder are not the ordinary
"obedience" which has always existed in our Russian monasteries. The
obligation involves confession to the elder by all who have submitted
themselves to him, and to the indissoluble bond between him and them.
The story is told, for instance, that in the early days of Christianity
one such novice, failing to fulfill some command laid upon him by his
elder, left his monastery in Syria and went to Egypt. There, after great
exploits, he was found worthy at last to suffer torture and a martyr's
death for the faith. When the Church, regarding him as a saint, was
burying him, suddenly, at the deacon's exhortation, "Depart all ye
unbaptized," the coffin containing the martyr's body left its place and
was cast forth from the church, and this took place three times. And only
at last they learnt that this holy man had broken his vow of obedience and
left his elder, and, therefore, could not be forgiven without the elder's
absolution in spite of his great deeds. Only after this could the funeral
take place. This, of course, is only an old legend. But here is a recent
A monk was suddenly commanded by his elder to quit Athos, which he loved
as a sacred place and a haven of refuge, and to go first to Jerusalem to
do homage to the Holy Places and then to go to the north to Siberia:
"There is the place for thee and not here." The monk, overwhelmed with
sorrow, went to the OEcumenical Patriarch at Constantinople and besought
him to release him from his obedience. But the Patriarch replied that not
only was he unable to release him, but there was not and could not be on
earth a power which could release him except the elder who had himself
laid that duty upon him. In this way the elders are endowed in certain
cases with unbounded and inexplicable authority. That is why in many of
our monasteries the institution was at first resisted almost to
persecution. Meantime the elders immediately began to be highly esteemed
among the people. Masses of the ignorant people as well as men of
distinction flocked, for instance, to the elders of our monastery to
confess their doubts, their sins, and their sufferings, and ask for
counsel and admonition. Seeing this, the opponents of the elders declared
that the sacrament of confession was being arbitrarily and frivolously
degraded, though the continual opening of the heart to the elder by the
monk or the layman had nothing of the character of the sacrament. In the
end, however, the institution of elders has been retained and is becoming
established in Russian monasteries. It is true, perhaps, that this
instrument which had stood the test of a thousand years for the moral
regeneration of a man from slavery to freedom and to moral perfectibility
may be a two-edged weapon and it may lead some not to humility and
complete self-control but to the most Satanic pride, that is, to bondage
and not to freedom.
The elder Zossima was sixty-five. He came of a family of landowners, had
been in the army in early youth, and served in the Caucasus as an officer.
He had, no doubt, impressed Alyosha by some peculiar quality of his soul.
Alyosha lived in the cell of the elder, who was very fond of him and let
him wait upon him. It must be noted that Alyosha was bound by no
obligation and could go where he pleased and be absent for whole days.
Though he wore the monastic dress it was voluntarily, not to be different
from others. No doubt he liked to do so. Possibly his youthful imagination
was deeply stirred by the power and fame of his elder. It was said that so
many people had for years past come to confess their sins to Father
Zossima and to entreat him for words of advice and healing, that he had
acquired the keenest intuition and could tell from an unknown face what a
new-comer wanted, and what was the suffering on his conscience. He
sometimes astounded and almost alarmed his visitors by his knowledge of
their secrets before they had spoken a word.
Alyosha noticed that many, almost all, went in to the elder for the first
time with apprehension and uneasiness, but came out with bright and happy
faces. Alyosha was particularly struck by the fact that Father Zossima was
not at all stern. On the contrary, he was always almost gay. The monks
used to say that he was more drawn to those who were more sinful, and the
greater the sinner the more he loved him. There were, no doubt, up to the
end of his life, among the monks some who hated and envied him, but they
were few in number and they were silent, though among them were some of
great dignity in the monastery, one, for instance, of the older monks
distinguished for his strict keeping of fasts and vows of silence. But the
majority were on Father Zossima's side and very many of them loved him
with all their hearts, warmly and sincerely. Some were almost fanatically
devoted to him, and declared, though not quite aloud, that he was a saint,
that there could be no doubt of it, and, seeing that his end was near,
they anticipated miracles and great glory to the monastery in the
immediate future from his relics. Alyosha had unquestioning faith in the
miraculous power of the elder, just as he had unquestioning faith in the
story of the coffin that flew out of the church. He saw many who came with
sick children or relatives and besought the elder to lay hands on them and
to pray over them, return shortly after--some the next day--and, falling in
tears at the elder's feet, thank him for healing their sick.
Whether they had really been healed or were simply better in the natural
course of the disease was a question which did not exist for Alyosha, for
he fully believed in the spiritual power of his teacher and rejoiced in
his fame, in his glory, as though it were his own triumph. His heart
throbbed, and he beamed, as it were, all over when the elder came out to
the gates of the hermitage into the waiting crowd of pilgrims of the
humbler class who had flocked from all parts of Russia on purpose to see
the elder and obtain his blessing. They fell down before him, wept, kissed
his feet, kissed the earth on which he stood, and wailed, while the women
held up their children to him and brought him the sick "possessed with
devils." The elder spoke to them, read a brief prayer over them, blessed
them, and dismissed them. Of late he had become so weak through attacks of
illness that he was sometimes unable to leave his cell, and the pilgrims
waited for him to come out for several days. Alyosha did not wonder why
they loved him so, why they fell down before him and wept with emotion
merely at seeing his face. Oh! he understood that for the humble soul of
the Russian peasant, worn out by grief and toil, and still more by the
everlasting injustice and everlasting sin, his own and the world's, it was
the greatest need and comfort to find some one or something holy to fall
down before and worship.
"Among us there is sin, injustice, and temptation, but yet, somewhere on
earth there is some one holy and exalted. He has the truth; he knows the
truth; so it is not dead upon the earth; so it will come one day to us,
too, and rule over all the earth according to the promise."
Alyosha knew that this was just how the people felt and even reasoned. He
understood it, but that the elder Zossima was this saint and custodian of
God's truth--of that he had no more doubt than the weeping peasants and the
sick women who held out their children to the elder. The conviction that
after his death the elder would bring extraordinary glory to the monastery
was even stronger in Alyosha than in any one there, and, of late, a kind
of deep flame of inner ecstasy burnt more and more strongly in his heart.
He was not at all troubled at this elder's standing as a solitary example
"No matter. He is holy. He carries in his heart the secret of renewal for
all: that power which will, at last, establish truth on the earth, and all
men will be holy and love one another, and there will be no more rich nor
poor, no exalted nor humbled, but all will be as the children of God, and
the true Kingdom of Christ will come." That was the dream in Alyosha's
The arrival of his two brothers, whom he had not known till then, seemed
to make a great impression on Alyosha. He more quickly made friends with
his half-brother Dmitri (though he arrived later) than with his own
brother Ivan. He was extremely interested in his brother Ivan, but when
the latter had been two months in the town, though they had met fairly
often, they were still not intimate. Alyosha was naturally silent, and he
seemed to be expecting something, ashamed about something, while his
brother Ivan, though Alyosha noticed at first that he looked long and
curiously at him, seemed soon to have left off thinking of him. Alyosha
noticed it with some embarrassment. He ascribed his brother's indifference
at first to the disparity of their age and education. But he also wondered
whether the absence of curiosity and sympathy in Ivan might be due to some
other cause entirely unknown to him. He kept fancying that Ivan was
absorbed in something--something inward and important--that he was striving
towards some goal, perhaps very hard to attain, and that that was why he
had no thought for him. Alyosha wondered, too, whether there was not some
contempt on the part of the learned atheist for him--a foolish novice. He
knew for certain that his brother was an atheist. He could not take
offense at this contempt, if it existed; yet, with an uneasy embarrassment
which he did not himself understand, he waited for his brother to come
nearer to him. Dmitri used to speak of Ivan with the deepest respect and
with a peculiar earnestness. From him Alyosha learnt all the details of
the important affair which had of late formed such a close and remarkable
bond between the two elder brothers. Dmitri's enthusiastic references to
Ivan were the more striking in Alyosha's eyes since Dmitri was, compared
with Ivan, almost uneducated, and the two brothers were such a contrast in
personality and character that it would be difficult to find two men more
It was at this time that the meeting, or, rather gathering of the members
of this inharmonious family took place in the cell of the elder who had
such an extraordinary influence on Alyosha. The pretext for this gathering
was a false one. It was at this time that the discord between Dmitri and
his father seemed at its acutest stage and their relations had become
insufferably strained. Fyodor Pavlovitch seems to have been the first to
suggest, apparently in joke, that they should all meet in Father Zossima's
cell, and that, without appealing to his direct intervention, they might
more decently come to an understanding under the conciliating influence of
the elder's presence. Dmitri, who had never seen the elder, naturally
supposed that his father was trying to intimidate him, but, as he secretly
blamed himself for his outbursts of temper with his father on several
recent occasions, he accepted the challenge. It must be noted that he was
not, like Ivan, staying with his father, but living apart at the other end
of the town. It happened that Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miuesov, who was staying
in the district at the time, caught eagerly at the idea. A Liberal of the
forties and fifties, a freethinker and atheist, he may have been led on by
boredom or the hope of frivolous diversion. He was suddenly seized with
the desire to see the monastery and the holy man. As his lawsuit with the
monastery still dragged on, he made it the pretext for seeing the
Superior, in order to attempt to settle it amicably. A visitor coming with
such laudable intentions might be received with more attention and
consideration than if he came from simple curiosity. Influences from
within the monastery were brought to bear on the elder, who of late had
scarcely left his cell, and had been forced by illness to deny even his
ordinary visitors. In the end he consented to see them, and the day was
"Who has made me a judge over them?" was all he said, smilingly, to
Alyosha was much perturbed when he heard of the proposed visit. Of all the
wrangling, quarrelsome party, Dmitri was the only one who could regard the
interview seriously. All the others would come from frivolous motives,
perhaps insulting to the elder. Alyosha was well aware of that. Ivan and
Miuesov would come from curiosity, perhaps of the coarsest kind, while his
father might be contemplating some piece of buffoonery. Though he said
nothing, Alyosha thoroughly understood his father. The boy, I repeat, was
far from being so simple as every one thought him. He awaited the day with
a heavy heart. No doubt he was always pondering in his mind how the family
discord could be ended. But his chief anxiety concerned the elder. He
trembled for him, for his glory, and dreaded any affront to him,
especially the refined, courteous irony of Miuesov and the supercilious
half-utterances of the highly educated Ivan. He even wanted to venture on
warning the elder, telling him something about them, but, on second
thoughts, said nothing. He only sent word the day before, through a
friend, to his brother Dmitri, that he loved him and expected him to keep
his promise. Dmitri wondered, for he could not remember what he had
promised, but he answered by letter that he would do his utmost not to let
himself be provoked "by vileness," but that, although he had a deep
respect for the elder and for his brother Ivan, he was convinced that the
meeting was either a trap for him or an unworthy farce.
"Nevertheless I would rather bite out my tongue than be lacking in respect
to the sainted man whom you reverence so highly," he wrote in conclusion.
Alyosha was not greatly cheered by the letter.
Book II. An Unfortunate Gathering
Chapter I. They Arrive At The Monastery
It was a warm, bright day at the end of August. The interview with the
elder had been fixed for half-past eleven, immediately after late mass.
Our visitors did not take part in the service, but arrived just as it was
over. First an elegant open carriage, drawn by two valuable horses, drove
up with Miuesov and a distant relative of his, a young man of twenty,
called Pyotr Fomitch Kalganov. This young man was preparing to enter the
university. Miuesov, with whom he was staying for the time, was trying to
persuade him to go abroad to the university of Zurich or Jena. The young
man was still undecided. He was thoughtful and absent-minded. He was nice-
looking, strongly built, and rather tall. There was a strange fixity in
his gaze at times. Like all very absent-minded people he would sometimes
stare at a person without seeing him. He was silent and rather awkward,
but sometimes, when he was alone with any one, he became talkative and
effusive, and would laugh at anything or nothing. But his animation
vanished as quickly as it appeared. He was always well and even
elaborately dressed; he had already some independent fortune and
expectations of much more. He was a friend of Alyosha's.
In an ancient, jolting, but roomy, hired carriage, with a pair of old
pinkish-gray horses, a long way behind Miuesov's carriage, came Fyodor
Pavlovitch, with his son Ivan. Dmitri was late, though he had been
informed of the time the evening before. The visitors left their carriage
at the hotel, outside the precincts, and went to the gates of the
monastery on foot. Except Fyodor Pavlovitch, none of the party had ever
seen the monastery, and Miuesov had probably not even been to church for
thirty years. He looked about him with curiosity, together with assumed
ease. But, except the church and the domestic buildings, though these too
were ordinary enough, he found nothing of interest in the interior of the
monastery. The last of the worshippers were coming out of the church,
bareheaded and crossing themselves. Among the humbler people were a few of
higher rank--two or three ladies and a very old general. They were all
staying at the hotel. Our visitors were at once surrounded by beggars, but
none of them gave them anything, except young Kalganov, who took a ten-
copeck piece out of his purse, and, nervous and embarrassed--God knows
why!--hurriedly gave it to an old woman, saying: "Divide it equally." None
of his companions made any remark upon it, so that he had no reason to be
embarrassed; but, perceiving this, he was even more overcome.
It was strange that their arrival did not seem expected, and that they
were not received with special honor, though one of them had recently made
a donation of a thousand roubles, while another was a very wealthy and
highly cultured landowner, upon whom all in the monastery were in a sense
dependent, as a decision of the lawsuit might at any moment put their
fishing rights in his hands. Yet no official personage met them.
Miuesov looked absent-mindedly at the tombstones round the church, and was
on the point of saying that the dead buried here must have paid a pretty
penny for the right of lying in this "holy place," but refrained. His
liberal irony was rapidly changing almost into anger.
"Who the devil is there to ask in this imbecile place? We must find out,
for time is passing," he observed suddenly, as though speaking to himself.
All at once there came up a bald-headed, elderly man with ingratiating
little eyes, wearing a full, summer overcoat. Lifting his hat, he
introduced himself with a honeyed lisp as Maximov, a landowner of Tula. He
at once entered into our visitors' difficulty.
"Father Zossima lives in the hermitage, apart, four hundred paces from the
monastery, the other side of the copse."
"I know it's the other side of the copse," observed Fyodor Pavlovitch,
"but we don't remember the way. It is a long time since we've been here."
"This way, by this gate, and straight across the copse ... the copse. Come
with me, won't you? I'll show you. I have to go.... I am going myself.
This way, this way."
They came out of the gate and turned towards the copse. Maximov, a man of
sixty, ran rather than walked, turning sideways to stare at them all, with
an incredible degree of nervous curiosity. His eyes looked starting out of
"You see, we have come to the elder upon business of our own," observed
Miuesov severely. "That personage has granted us an audience, so to speak,
and so, though we thank you for showing us the way, we cannot ask you to
"I've been there. I've been already; _un chevalier parfait_," and Maximov
snapped his fingers in the air.
"Who is a _chevalier_?" asked Miuesov.
"The elder, the splendid elder, the elder! The honor and glory of the
monastery, Zossima. Such an elder!"
But his incoherent talk was cut short by a very pale, wan-looking monk of
medium height, wearing a monk's cap, who overtook them. Fyodor Pavlovitch
and Miuesov stopped.
The monk, with an extremely courteous, profound bow, announced:
"The Father Superior invites all of you gentlemen to dine with him after
your visit to the hermitage. At one o'clock, not later. And you also," he
added, addressing Maximov.
"That I certainly will, without fail," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, hugely
delighted at the invitation. "And, believe me, we've all given our word to
behave properly here.... And you, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, will you go, too?"
"Yes, of course. What have I come for but to study all the customs here?
The only obstacle to me is your company...."
"Yes, Dmitri Fyodorovitch is non-existent as yet."
"It would be a capital thing if he didn't turn up. Do you suppose I like
all this business, and in your company, too? So we will come to dinner.
Thank the Father Superior," he said to the monk.
"No, it is my duty now to conduct you to the elder," answered the monk.
"If so I'll go straight to the Father Superior--to the Father Superior,"
"The Father Superior is engaged just now. But as you please--" the monk
"Impertinent old man!" Miuesov observed aloud, while Maximov ran back to
"He's like von Sohn," Fyodor Pavlovitch said suddenly.
"Is that all you can think of?... In what way is he like von Sohn? Have
you ever seen von Sohn?"
"I've seen his portrait. It's not the features, but something indefinable.
He's a second von Sohn. I can always tell from the physiognomy."
"Ah, I dare say you are a connoisseur in that. But, look here, Fyodor
Pavlovitch, you said just now that we had given our word to behave
properly. Remember it. I advise you to control yourself. But, if you begin
to play the fool I don't intend to be associated with you here.... You see
what a man he is"--he turned to the monk--"I'm afraid to go among decent
people with him." A fine smile, not without a certain slyness, came on to
the pale, bloodless lips of the monk, but he made no reply, and was
evidently silent from a sense of his own dignity. Miuesov frowned more than
"Oh, devil take them all! An outer show elaborated through centuries, and
nothing but charlatanism and nonsense underneath," flashed through
"Here's the hermitage. We've arrived," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch. "The gates
And he repeatedly made the sign of the cross to the saints painted above
and on the sides of the gates.
"When you go to Rome you must do as the Romans do. Here in this hermitage
there are twenty-five saints being saved. They look at one another, and
eat cabbages. And not one woman goes in at this gate. That's what is
remarkable. And that really is so. But I did hear that the elder receives
ladies," he remarked suddenly to the monk.
"Women of the people are here too now, lying in the portico there waiting.
But for ladies of higher rank two rooms have been built adjoining the
portico, but outside the precincts--you can see the windows--and the elder
goes out to them by an inner passage when he is well enough. They are
always outside the precincts. There is a Harkov lady, Madame Hohlakov,
waiting there now with her sick daughter. Probably he has promised to come
out to her, though of late he has been so weak that he has hardly shown
himself even to the people."
"So then there are loopholes, after all, to creep out of the hermitage to
the ladies. Don't suppose, holy father, that I mean any harm. But do you
know that at Athos not only the visits of women are not allowed, but no
creature of the female sex--no hens, nor turkey-hens, nor cows."
"Fyodor Pavlovitch, I warn you I shall go back and leave you here. They'll
turn you out when I'm gone."
"But I'm not interfering with you, Pyotr Alexandrovitch. Look," he cried
suddenly, stepping within the precincts, "what a vale of roses they live
Though there were no roses now, there were numbers of rare and beautiful
autumn flowers growing wherever there was space for them, and evidently
tended by a skillful hand; there were flower-beds round the church, and
between the tombs; and the one-storied wooden house where the elder lived
was also surrounded with flowers.
"And was it like this in the time of the last elder, Varsonofy? He didn't
care for such elegance. They say he used to jump up and thrash even ladies
with a stick," observed Fyodor Pavlovitch, as he went up the steps.
"The elder Varsonofy did sometimes seem rather strange, but a great deal
that's told is foolishness. He never thrashed any one," answered the monk.
"Now, gentlemen, if you will wait a minute I will announce you."
"Fyodor Pavlovitch, for the last time, your compact, do you hear? Behave
properly or I will pay you out!" Miuesov had time to mutter again.
"I can't think why you are so agitated," Fyodor Pavlovitch observed
sarcastically. "Are you uneasy about your sins? They say he can tell by
one's eyes what one has come about. And what a lot you think of their
opinion! you, a Parisian, and so advanced. I'm surprised at you."
But Miuesov had no time to reply to this sarcasm. They were asked to come
in. He walked in, somewhat irritated.
"Now, I know myself, I am annoyed, I shall lose my temper and begin to
quarrel--and lower myself and my ideas," he reflected.
Chapter II. The Old Buffoon
They entered the room almost at the same moment that the elder came in
from his bedroom. There were already in the cell, awaiting the elder, two
monks of the hermitage, one the Father Librarian, and the other Father
Paissy, a very learned man, so they said, in delicate health, though not
old. There was also a tall young man, who looked about two and twenty,
standing in the corner throughout the interview. He had a broad, fresh
face, and clever, observant, narrow brown eyes, and was wearing ordinary
dress. He was a divinity student, living under the protection of the
monastery. His expression was one of unquestioning, but self-respecting,
reverence. Being in a subordinate and dependent position, and so not on an
equality with the guests, he did not greet them with a bow.
Father Zossima was accompanied by a novice, and by Alyosha. The two monks
rose and greeted him with a very deep bow, touching the ground with their
fingers; then kissed his hand. Blessing them, the elder replied with as
deep a reverence to them, and asked their blessing. The whole ceremony was
performed very seriously and with an appearance of feeling, not like an
everyday rite. But Miuesov fancied that it was all done with intentional
impressiveness. He stood in front of the other visitors. He ought--he had
reflected upon it the evening before--from simple politeness, since it was
the custom here, to have gone up to receive the elder's blessing, even if
he did not kiss his hand. But when he saw all this bowing and kissing on
the part of the monks he instantly changed his mind. With dignified
gravity he made a rather deep, conventional bow, and moved away to a
chair. Fyodor Pavlovitch did the same, mimicking Miuesov like an ape. Ivan
bowed with great dignity and courtesy, but he too kept his hands at his
sides, while Kalganov was so confused that he did not bow at all. The
elder let fall the hand raised to bless them, and bowing to them again,
asked them all to sit down. The blood rushed to Alyosha's cheeks. He was
ashamed. His forebodings were coming true.
Father Zossima sat down on a very old-fashioned mahogany sofa, covered
with leather, and made his visitors sit down in a row along the opposite
wall on four mahogany chairs, covered with shabby black leather. The monks
sat, one at the door and the other at the window. The divinity student,
the novice, and Alyosha remained standing. The cell was not very large and
had a faded look. It contained nothing but the most necessary furniture,
of coarse and poor quality. There were two pots of flowers in the window,
and a number of holy pictures in the corner. Before one huge ancient ikon
of the Virgin a lamp was burning. Near it were two other holy pictures in
shining settings, and, next them, carved cherubims, china eggs, a Catholic
cross of ivory, with a Mater Dolorosa embracing it, and several foreign
engravings from the great Italian artists of past centuries. Next to these
costly and artistic engravings were several of the roughest Russian prints
of saints and martyrs, such as are sold for a few farthings at all the
fairs. On the other walls were portraits of Russian bishops, past and
Miuesov took a cursory glance at all these "conventional" surroundings and
bent an intent look upon the elder. He had a high opinion of his own
insight, a weakness excusable in him as he was fifty, an age at which a
clever man of the world of established position can hardly help taking
himself rather seriously. At the first moment he did not like Zossima.
There was, indeed, something in the elder's face which many people besides
Miuesov might not have liked. He was a short, bent, little man, with very
weak legs, and though he was only sixty-five, he looked at least ten years
older. His face was very thin and covered with a network of fine wrinkles,
particularly numerous about his eyes, which were small, light-colored,
quick, and shining like two bright points. He had a sprinkling of gray
hair about his temples. His pointed beard was small and scanty, and his
lips, which smiled frequently, were as thin as two threads. His nose was
not long, but sharp, like a bird's beak.
"To all appearances a malicious soul, full of petty pride," thought
Miuesov. He felt altogether dissatisfied with his position.
A cheap little clock on the wall struck twelve hurriedly, and served to
begin the conversation.
"Precisely to our time," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, "but no sign of my son,
Dmitri. I apologize for him, sacred elder!" (Alyosha shuddered all over at
"sacred elder.") "I am always punctual myself, minute for minute,
remembering that punctuality is the courtesy of kings...."
"But you are not a king, anyway," Miuesov muttered, losing his self-
restraint at once.
"Yes; that's true. I'm not a king, and, would you believe it, Pyotr
Alexandrovitch, I was aware of that myself. But, there! I always say the
wrong thing. Your reverence," he cried, with sudden pathos, "you behold
before you a buffoon in earnest! I introduce myself as such. It's an old
habit, alas! And if I sometimes talk nonsense out of place it's with an
object, with the object of amusing people and making myself agreeable. One
must be agreeable, mustn't one? I was seven years ago in a little town
where I had business, and I made friends with some merchants there. We
went to the captain of police because we had to see him about something,
and to ask him to dine with us. He was a tall, fat, fair, sulky man, the
most dangerous type in such cases. It's their liver. I went straight up to
him, and with the ease of a man of the world, you know, 'Mr. Ispravnik,'
said I, 'be our Napravnik.' 'What do you mean by Napravnik?' said he. I
saw, at the first half-second, that it had missed fire. He stood there so
glum. 'I wanted to make a joke,' said I, 'for the general diversion, as
Mr. Napravnik is our well-known Russian orchestra conductor and what we
need for the harmony of our undertaking is some one of that sort.' And I
explained my comparison very reasonably, didn't I? 'Excuse me,' said he,
'I am an Ispravnik, and I do not allow puns to be made on my calling.' He
turned and walked away. I followed him, shouting, 'Yes, yes, you are an
Ispravnik, not a Napravnik.' 'No,' he said, 'since you called me a
Napravnik I am one.' And would you believe it, it ruined our business! And
I'm always like that, always like that. Always injuring myself with my
politeness. Once, many years ago, I said to an influential person: 'Your
wife is a ticklish lady,' in an honorable sense, of the moral qualities,
so to speak. But he asked me, 'Why, have you tickled her?' I thought I'd
be polite, so I couldn't help saying, 'Yes,' and he gave me a fine
tickling on the spot. Only that happened long ago, so I'm not ashamed to
tell the story. I'm always injuring myself like that."
"You're doing it now," muttered Miuesov, with disgust.
Father Zossima scrutinized them both in silence.
"Am I? Would you believe it, I was aware of that, too, Pyotr
Alexandrovitch, and let me tell you, indeed, I foresaw I should as soon as
I began to speak. And do you know I foresaw, too, that you'd be the first
to remark on it. The minute I see my joke isn't coming off, your
reverence, both my cheeks feel as though they were drawn down to the lower
jaw and there is almost a spasm in them. That's been so since I was young,
when I had to make jokes for my living in noblemen's families. I am an
inveterate buffoon, and have been from birth up, your reverence, it's as
though it were a craze in me. I dare say it's a devil within me. But only
a little one. A more serious one would have chosen another lodging. But
not your soul, Pyotr Alexandrovitch; you're not a lodging worth having
either. But I do believe--I believe in God, though I have had doubts of
late. But now I sit and await words of wisdom. I'm like the philosopher,
Diderot, your reverence. Did you ever hear, most Holy Father, how Diderot
went to see the Metropolitan Platon, in the time of the Empress Catherine?
He went in and said straight out, 'There is no God.' To which the great
bishop lifted up his finger and answered, 'The fool hath said in his heart
there is no God.' And he fell down at his feet on the spot. 'I believe,'
he cried, 'and will be christened.' And so he was. Princess Dashkov was
his godmother, and Potyomkin his godfather."
"Fyodor Pavlovitch, this is unbearable! You know you're telling lies and
that that stupid anecdote isn't true. Why are you playing the fool?" cried
Miuesov in a shaking voice.
"I suspected all my life that it wasn't true," Fyodor Pavlovitch cried
with conviction. "But I'll tell you the whole truth, gentlemen. Great
elder! Forgive me, the last thing about Diderot's christening I made up
just now. I never thought of it before. I made it up to add piquancy. I
play the fool, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, to make myself agreeable. Though I
really don't know myself, sometimes, what I do it for. And as for Diderot,
I heard as far as 'the fool hath said in his heart' twenty times from the
gentry about here when I was young. I heard your aunt, Pyotr
Alexandrovitch, tell the story. They all believe to this day that the
infidel Diderot came to dispute about God with the Metropolitan
Miuesov got up, forgetting himself in his impatience. He was furious, and
conscious of being ridiculous.
What was taking place in the cell was really incredible. For forty or
fifty years past, from the times of former elders, no visitors had entered
that cell without feelings of the profoundest veneration. Almost every one
admitted to the cell felt that a great favor was being shown him. Many
remained kneeling during the whole visit. Of those visitors, many had been
men of high rank and learning, some even freethinkers, attracted by
curiosity, but all without exception had shown the profoundest reverence
and delicacy, for here there was no question of money, but only, on the
one side love and kindness, and on the other penitence and eager desire to
decide some spiritual problem or crisis. So that such buffoonery amazed
and bewildered the spectators, or at least some of them. The monks, with
unchanged countenances, waited, with earnest attention, to hear what the
elder would say, but seemed on the point of standing up, like Miuesov.
Alyosha stood, with hanging head, on the verge of tears. What seemed to
him strangest of all was that his brother Ivan, on whom alone he had
rested his hopes, and who alone had such influence on his father that he
could have stopped him, sat now quite unmoved, with downcast eyes,
apparently waiting with interest to see how it would end, as though he had
nothing to do with it. Alyosha did not dare to look at Rakitin, the
divinity student, whom he knew almost intimately. He alone in the
monastery knew Rakitin's thoughts.
"Forgive me," began Miuesov, addressing Father Zossima, "for perhaps I seem
to be taking part in this shameful foolery. I made a mistake in believing
that even a man like Fyodor Pavlovitch would understand what was due on a
visit to so honored a personage. I did not suppose I should have to
apologize simply for having come with him...."
Pyotr Alexandrovitch could say no more, and was about to leave the room,
overwhelmed with confusion.
"Don't distress yourself, I beg." The elder got on to his feeble legs, and
taking Pyotr Alexandrovitch by both hands, made him sit down again. "I beg
you not to disturb yourself. I particularly beg you to be my guest." And
with a bow he went back and sat down again on his little sofa.
"Great elder, speak! Do I annoy you by my vivacity?" Fyodor Pavlovitch
cried suddenly, clutching the arms of his chair in both hands, as though
ready to leap up from it if the answer were unfavorable.
"I earnestly beg you, too, not to disturb yourself, and not to be uneasy,"
the elder said impressively. "Do not trouble. Make yourself quite at home.
And, above all, do not be so ashamed of yourself, for that is at the root
of it all."
"Quite at home? To be my natural self? Oh, that is much too much, but I
accept it with grateful joy. Do you know, blessed Father, you'd better not
invite me to be my natural self. Don't risk it.... I will not go so far as
that myself. I warn you for your own sake. Well, the rest is still plunged
in the mists of uncertainty, though there are people who'd be pleased to
describe me for you. I mean that for you, Pyotr Alexandrovitch. But as for
you, holy being, let me tell you, I am brimming over with ecstasy."
He got up, and throwing up his hands, declaimed, "Blessed be the womb that
bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck--the paps especially. When you
said just now, 'Don't be so ashamed of yourself, for that is at the root
of it all,' you pierced right through me by that remark, and read me to
the core. Indeed, I always feel when I meet people that I am lower than
all, and that they all take me for a buffoon. So I say, 'Let me really
play the buffoon. I am not afraid of your opinion, for you are every one
of you worse than I am.' That is why I am a buffoon. It is from shame,
great elder, from shame; it's simply over-sensitiveness that makes me
rowdy. If I had only been sure that every one would accept me as the
kindest and wisest of men, oh, Lord, what a good man I should have been
then! Teacher!" he fell suddenly on his knees, "what must I do to gain
It was difficult even now to decide whether he was joking or really moved.
Father Zossima, lifting his eyes, looked at him, and said with a smile:
"You have known for a long time what you must do. You have sense enough:
don't give way to drunkenness and incontinence of speech; don't give way
to sensual lust; and, above all, to the love of money. And close your
taverns. If you can't close all, at least two or three. And, above
"You mean about Diderot?"
"No, not about Diderot. Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies
to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot
distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect
for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and
in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to
passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all
from continual lying to other men and to himself. The man who lies to
himself can be more easily offended than any one. You know it is sometimes
very pleasant to take offense, isn't it? A man may know that nobody has
insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied
and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a
mountain out of a molehill--he knows that himself, yet he will be the first
to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great
pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness. But get up, sit
down, I beg you. All this, too, is deceitful posturing...."
"Blessed man! Give me your hand to kiss."
Fyodor Pavlovitch skipped up, and imprinted a rapid kiss on the elder's
thin hand. "It is, it is pleasant to take offense. You said that so well,
as I never heard it before. Yes, I have been all my life taking offense,
to please myself, taking offense on esthetic grounds, for it is not so
much pleasant as distinguished sometimes to be insulted--that you had
forgotten, great elder, it is distinguished! I shall make a note of that.
But I have been lying, lying positively my whole life long, every day and
hour of it. Of a truth, I am a lie, and the father of lies. Though I
believe I am not the father of lies. I am getting mixed in my texts. Say,
the son of lies, and that will be enough. Only ... my angel ... I may
sometimes talk about Diderot! Diderot will do no harm, though sometimes a
word will do harm. Great elder, by the way, I was forgetting, though I had
been meaning for the last two years to come here on purpose to ask and to
find out something. Only do tell Pyotr Alexandrovitch not to interrupt me.
Here is my question: Is it true, great Father, that the story is told
somewhere in the _Lives of the Saints_ of a holy saint martyred for his
faith who, when his head was cut off at last, stood up, picked up his
head, and, 'courteously kissing it,' walked a long way, carrying it in his
hands. Is that true or not, honored Father?"
"No, it is untrue," said the elder.
"There is nothing of the kind in all the lives of the saints. What saint
do you say the story is told of?" asked the Father Librarian.
"I do not know what saint. I do not know, and can't tell. I was deceived.
I was told the story. I had heard it, and do you know who told it? Pyotr
Alexandrovitch Miuesov here, who was so angry just now about Diderot. He it
was who told the story."
"I have never told it you, I never speak to you at all."
"It is true you did not tell me, but you told it when I was present. It
was three years ago. I mentioned it because by that ridiculous story you
shook my faith, Pyotr Alexandrovitch. You knew nothing of it, but I went
home with my faith shaken, and I have been getting more and more shaken
ever since. Yes, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, you were the cause of a great fall.
That was not a Diderot!"
Fyodor Pavlovitch got excited and pathetic, though it was perfectly clear
to every one by now that he was playing a part again. Yet Miuesov was stung
by his words.
"What nonsense, and it is all nonsense," he muttered. "I may really have
told it, some time or other ... but not to you. I was told it myself. I
heard it in Paris from a Frenchman. He told me it was read at our mass
from the _Lives of the Saints_ ... he was a very learned man who had made
a special study of Russian statistics and had lived a long time in
Russia.... I have not read the _Lives of the Saints_ myself, and I am not
going to read them ... all sorts of things are said at dinner--we were
"Yes, you were dining then, and so I lost my faith!" said Fyodor
Pavlovitch, mimicking him.
"What do I care for your faith?" Miuesov was on the point of shouting, but
he suddenly checked himself, and said with contempt, "You defile
everything you touch."
The elder suddenly rose from his seat. "Excuse me, gentlemen, for leaving
you a few minutes," he said, addressing all his guests. "I have visitors
awaiting me who arrived before you. But don't you tell lies all the same,"
he added, turning to Fyodor Pavlovitch with a good-humored face. He went
out of the cell. Alyosha and the novice flew to escort him down the steps.
Alyosha was breathless: he was glad to get away, but he was glad, too,
that the elder was good-humored and not offended. Father Zossima was going
towards the portico to bless the people waiting for him there. But Fyodor
Pavlovitch persisted in stopping him at the door of the cell.
"Blessed man!" he cried, with feeling. "Allow me to kiss your hand once
more. Yes, with you I could still talk, I could still get on. Do you think
I always lie and play the fool like this? Believe me, I have been acting
like this all the time on purpose to try you. I have been testing you all
the time to see whether I could get on with you. Is there room for my
humility beside your pride? I am ready to give you a testimonial that one
can get on with you! But now, I'll be quiet; I will keep quiet all the
time. I'll sit in a chair and hold my tongue. Now it is for you to speak,
Pyotr Alexandrovitch. You are the principal person left now--for ten
Chapter III. Peasant Women Who Have Faith
Near the wooden portico below, built on to the outer wall of the precinct,
there was a crowd of about twenty peasant women. They had been told that
the elder was at last coming out, and they had gathered together in
anticipation. Two ladies, Madame Hohlakov and her daughter, had also come
out into the portico to wait for the elder, but in a separate part of it
set aside for women of rank.
Madame Hohlakov was a wealthy lady, still young and attractive, and always
dressed with taste. She was rather pale, and had lively black eyes. She
was not more than thirty-three, and had been five years a widow. Her
daughter, a girl of fourteen, was partially paralyzed. The poor child had
not been able to walk for the last six months, and was wheeled about in a
long reclining chair. She had a charming little face, rather thin from
illness, but full of gayety. There was a gleam of mischief in her big dark
eyes with their long lashes. Her mother had been intending to take her
abroad ever since the spring, but they had been detained all the summer by
business connected with their estate. They had been staying a week in our
town, where they had come more for purposes of business than devotion, but
had visited Father Zossima once already, three days before. Though they
knew that the elder scarcely saw any one, they had now suddenly turned up
again, and urgently entreated "the happiness of looking once again on the
The mother was sitting on a chair by the side of her daughter's invalid
carriage, and two paces from her stood an old monk, not one of our
monastery, but a visitor from an obscure religious house in the far north.
He too sought the elder's blessing.
But Father Zossima, on entering the portico, went first straight to the
peasants who were crowded at the foot of the three steps that led up into
the portico. Father Zossima stood on the top step, put on his stole, and
began blessing the women who thronged about him. One crazy woman was led
up to him. As soon as she caught sight of the elder she began shrieking
and writhing as though in the pains of childbirth. Laying the stole on her
forehead, he read a short prayer over her, and she was at once soothed and
I do not know how it may be now, but in my childhood I often happened to
see and hear these "possessed" women in the villages and monasteries. They
used to be brought to mass; they would squeal and bark like a dog so that
they were heard all over the church. But when the sacrament was carried in
and they were led up to it, at once the "possession" ceased, and the sick
women were always soothed for a time. I was greatly impressed and amazed
at this as a child; but then I heard from country neighbors and from my
town teachers that the whole illness was simulated to avoid work, and that
it could always be cured by suitable severity; various anecdotes were told
to confirm this. But later on I learnt with astonishment from medical
specialists that there is no pretense about it, that it is a terrible
illness to which women are subject, specially prevalent among us in
Russia, and that it is due to the hard lot of the peasant women. It is a
disease, I was told, arising from exhausting toil too soon after hard,
abnormal and unassisted labor in childbirth, and from the hopeless misery,
from beatings, and so on, which some women were not able to endure like
others. The strange and instant healing of the frantic and struggling
woman as soon as she was led up to the holy sacrament, which had been
explained to me as due to malingering and the trickery of the "clericals,"
arose probably in the most natural manner. Both the women who supported
her and the invalid herself fully believed as a truth beyond question that
the evil spirit in possession of her could not hold out if the sick woman
were brought to the sacrament and made to bow down before it. And so, with
a nervous and psychically deranged woman, a sort of convulsion of the
whole organism always took place, and was bound to take place, at the
moment of bowing down to the sacrament, aroused by the expectation of the
miracle of healing and the implicit belief that it would come to pass; and
it did come to pass, though only for a moment. It was exactly the same now
as soon as the elder touched the sick woman with the stole.
Many of the women in the crowd were moved to tears of ecstasy by the
effect of the moment: some strove to kiss the hem of his garment, others
cried out in sing-song voices.
He blessed them all and talked with some of them. The "possessed" woman he
knew already. She came from a village only six versts from the monastery,
and had been brought to him before.
"But here is one from afar." He pointed to a woman by no means old but
very thin and wasted, with a face not merely sunburnt but almost blackened
by exposure. She was kneeling and gazing with a fixed stare at the elder;
there was something almost frenzied in her eyes.
"From afar off, Father, from afar off! From two hundred miles from here.
From afar off, Father, from afar off!" the woman began in a sing-song
voice as though she were chanting a dirge, swaying her head from side to
side with her cheek resting in her hand.
There is silent and long-suffering sorrow to be met with among the
peasantry. It withdraws into itself and is still. But there is a grief
that breaks out, and from that minute it bursts into tears and finds vent
in wailing. This is particularly common with women. But it is no lighter a
grief than the silent. Lamentations comfort only by lacerating the heart
still more. Such grief does not desire consolation. It feeds on the sense
of its hopelessness. Lamentations spring only from the constant craving to
reopen the wound.
"You are of the tradesman class?" said Father Zossima, looking curiously
"Townfolk we are, Father, townfolk. Yet we are peasants though we live in
the town. I have come to see you, O Father! We heard of you, Father, we
heard of you. I have buried my little son, and I have come on a
pilgrimage. I have been in three monasteries, but they told me, 'Go,
Nastasya, go to them'--that is to you. I have come; I was yesterday at the
service, and to-day I have come to you."
"What are you weeping for?"
"It's my little son I'm grieving for, Father. He was three years old--three
years all but three months. For my little boy, Father, I'm in anguish, for
my little boy. He was the last one left. We had four, my Nikita and I, and
now we've no children, our dear ones have all gone. I buried the first
three without grieving overmuch, and now I have buried the last I can't
forget him. He seems always standing before me. He never leaves me. He has
withered my heart. I look at his little clothes, his little shirt, his
little boots, and I wail. I lay out all that is left of him, all his
little things. I look at them and wail. I say to Nikita, my husband, 'Let
me go on a pilgrimage, master.' He is a driver. We're not poor people,
Father, not poor; he drives our own horse. It's all our own, the horse and
the carriage. And what good is it all to us now? My Nikita has begun
drinking while I am away. He's sure to. It used to be so before. As soon
as I turn my back he gives way to it. But now I don't think about him.
It's three months since I left home. I've forgotten him. I've forgotten
everything. I don't want to remember. And what would our life be now
together? I've done with him, I've done. I've done with them all. I don't
care to look upon my house and my goods. I don't care to see anything at
"Listen, mother," said the elder. "Once in olden times a holy saint saw in
the Temple a mother like you weeping for her little one, her only one,
whom God had taken. 'Knowest thou not,' said the saint to her, 'how bold
these little ones are before the throne of God? Verily there are none
bolder than they in the Kingdom of Heaven. "Thou didst give us life, O
Lord," they say, "and scarcely had we looked upon it when Thou didst take
it back again." And so boldly they ask and ask again that God gives them
at once the rank of angels. Therefore,' said the saint, 'thou, too, O
mother, rejoice and weep not, for thy little son is with the Lord in the
fellowship of the angels.' That's what the saint said to the weeping
mother of old. He was a great saint and he could not have spoken falsely.
Therefore you too, mother, know that your little one is surely before the
throne of God, is rejoicing and happy, and praying to God for you, and
therefore weep not, but rejoice."
The woman listened to him, looking down with her cheek in her hand. She
"My Nikita tried to comfort me with the same words as you. 'Foolish one,'
he said, 'why weep? Our son is no doubt singing with the angels before
God.' He says that to me, but he weeps himself. I see that he cries like
me. 'I know, Nikita,' said I. 'Where could he be if not with the Lord God?
Only, here with us now he is not as he used to sit beside us before.' And
if only I could look upon him one little time, if only I could peep at him
one little time, without going up to him, without speaking, if I could be
hidden in a corner and only see him for one little minute, hear him
playing in the yard, calling in his little voice, 'Mammy, where are you?'
If only I could hear him pattering with his little feet about the room
just once, only once; for so often, so often I remember how he used to run
to me and shout and laugh, if only I could hear his little feet I should
know him! But he's gone, Father, he's gone, and I shall never hear him
again. Here's his little sash, but him I shall never see or hear now."
She drew out of her bosom her boy's little embroidered sash, and as soon
as she looked at it she began shaking with sobs, hiding her eyes with her
fingers through which the tears flowed in a sudden stream.
"It is Rachel of old," said the elder, "weeping for her children, and will
not be comforted because they are not. Such is the lot set on earth for
you mothers. Be not comforted. Consolation is not what you need. Weep and
be not consoled, but weep. Only every time that you weep be sure to
remember that your little son is one of the angels of God, that he looks
down from there at you and sees you, and rejoices at your tears, and
points at them to the Lord God; and a long while yet will you keep that
great mother's grief. But it will turn in the end into quiet joy, and your
bitter tears will be only tears of tender sorrow that purifies the heart
and delivers it from sin. And I shall pray for the peace of your child's
soul. What was his name?"
"A sweet name. After Alexey, the man of God?"
"What a saint he was! I will remember him, mother, and your grief in my
prayers, and I will pray for your husband's health. It is a sin for you to
leave him. Your little one will see from heaven that you have forsaken his
father, and will weep over you. Why do you trouble his happiness? He is
living, for the soul lives for ever, and though he is not in the house he
is near you, unseen. How can he go into the house when you say that the
house is hateful to you? To whom is he to go if he find you not together,
his father and mother? He comes to you in dreams now, and you grieve. But
then he will send you gentle dreams. Go to your husband, mother; go this
"I will go, Father, at your word. I will go. You've gone straight to my
heart. My Nikita, my Nikita, you are waiting for me," the woman began in a
sing-song voice; but the elder had already turned away to a very old
woman, dressed like a dweller in the town, not like a pilgrim. Her eyes
showed that she had come with an object, and in order to say something.
She said she was the widow of a non-commissioned officer, and lived close
by in the town. Her son Vasenka was in the commissariat service, and had
gone to Irkutsk in Siberia. He had written twice from there, but now a
year had passed since he had written. She did inquire about him, but she
did not know the proper place to inquire.
"Only the other day Stepanida Ilyinishna--she's a rich merchant's wife--said
to me, 'You go, Prohorovna, and put your son's name down for prayer in the
church, and pray for the peace of his soul as though he were dead. His
soul will be troubled,' she said, 'and he will write you a letter.' And
Stepanida Ilyinishna told me it was a certain thing which had been many
times tried. Only I am in doubt.... Oh, you light of ours! is it true or
false, and would it be right?"
"Don't think of it. It's shameful to ask the question. How is it possible
to pray for the peace of a living soul? And his own mother too! It's a
great sin, akin to sorcery. Only for your ignorance it is forgiven you.
Better pray to the Queen of Heaven, our swift defense and help, for his
good health, and that she may forgive you for your error. And another
thing I will tell you, Prohorovna. Either he will soon come back to you,
your son, or he will be sure to send a letter. Go, and henceforward be in
peace. Your son is alive, I tell you."
"Dear Father, God reward you, our benefactor, who prays for all of us and
for our sins!"
But the elder had already noticed in the crowd two glowing eyes fixed upon
him. An exhausted, consumptive-looking, though young peasant woman was
gazing at him in silence. Her eyes besought him, but she seemed afraid to
"What is it, my child?"
"Absolve my soul, Father," she articulated softly, and slowly sank on her
knees and bowed down at his feet. "I have sinned, Father. I am afraid of
The elder sat down on the lower step. The woman crept closer to him, still
on her knees.
"I am a widow these three years," she began in a half-whisper, with a sort
of shudder. "I had a hard life with my husband. He was an old man. He used
to beat me cruelly. He lay ill; I thought looking at him, if he were to
get well, if he were to get up again, what then? And then the thought came
"Stay!" said the elder, and he put his ear close to her lips.
The woman went on in a low whisper, so that it was almost impossible to
catch anything. She had soon done.
"Three years ago?" asked the elder.
"Three years. At first I didn't think about it, but now I've begun to be
ill, and the thought never leaves me."
"Have you come from far?"
"Over three hundred miles away."
"Have you told it in confession?"
"I have confessed it. Twice I have confessed it."
"Have you been admitted to Communion?"
"Yes. I am afraid. I am afraid to die."
"Fear nothing and never be afraid; and don't fret. If only your penitence
fail not, God will forgive all. There is no sin, and there can be no sin
on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant!
Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God.
Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God? Think only of
repentance, continual repentance, but dismiss fear altogether. Believe
that God loves you as you cannot conceive; that He loves you with your
sin, in your sin. It has been said of old that over one repentant sinner
there is more joy in heaven than over ten righteous men. Go, and fear not.
Be not bitter against men. Be not angry if you are wronged. Forgive the
dead man in your heart what wrong he did you. Be reconciled with him in
truth. If you are penitent, you love. And if you love you are of God. All
things are atoned for, all things are saved by love. If I, a sinner, even
as you are, am tender with you and have pity on you, how much more will
God. Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world
by it, and expiate not only your own sins but the sins of others."
He signed her three times with the cross, took from his own neck a little
ikon and put it upon her. She bowed down to the earth without speaking.
He got up and looked cheerfully at a healthy peasant woman with a tiny
baby in her arms.
"From Vyshegorye, dear Father."
"Five miles you have dragged yourself with the baby. What do you want?"
"I've come to look at you. I have been to you before--or have you
forgotten? You've no great memory if you've forgotten me. They told us you
were ill. Thinks I, I'll go and see him for myself. Now I see you, and
you're not ill! You'll live another twenty years. God bless you! There are
plenty to pray for you; how should you be ill?"
"I thank you for all, daughter."
"By the way, I have a thing to ask, not a great one. Here are sixty
copecks. Give them, dear Father, to some one poorer than me. I thought as
I came along, better give through him. He'll know whom to give to."
"Thanks, my dear, thanks! You are a good woman. I love you. I will do so
certainly. Is that your little girl?"
"My little girl, Father, Lizaveta."
"May the Lord bless you both, you and your babe Lizaveta! You have
gladdened my heart, mother. Farewell, dear children, farewell, dear ones."
He blessed them all and bowed low to them.
Chapter IV. A Lady Of Little Faith
A visitor looking on the scene of his conversation with the peasants and
his blessing them shed silent tears and wiped them away with her
handkerchief. She was a sentimental society lady of genuinely good
disposition in many respects. When the elder went up to her at last she
met him enthusiastically.
"Ah, what I have been feeling, looking on at this touching scene!..." She
could not go on for emotion. "Oh, I understand the people's love for you.
I love the people myself. I want to love them. And who could help loving
them, our splendid Russian people, so simple in their greatness!"
"How is your daughter's health? You wanted to talk to me again?"
"Oh, I have been urgently begging for it, I have prayed for it! I was
ready to fall on my knees and kneel for three days at your windows until
you let me in. We have come, great healer, to express our ardent
gratitude. You have healed my Lise, healed her completely, merely by
praying over her last Thursday and laying your hands upon her. We have
hastened here to kiss those hands, to pour out our feelings and our
"What do you mean by healed? But she is still lying down in her chair."
"But her night fevers have entirely ceased ever since Thursday," said the
lady with nervous haste. "And that's not all. Her legs are stronger. This
morning she got up well; she had slept all night. Look at her rosy cheeks,
her bright eyes! She used to be always crying, but now she laughs and is
gay and happy. This morning she insisted on my letting her stand up, and
she stood up for a whole minute without any support. She wagers that in a
fortnight she'll be dancing a quadrille. I've called in Doctor
Herzenstube. He shrugged his shoulders and said, 'I am amazed; I can make
nothing of it.' And would you have us not come here to disturb you, not
fly here to thank you? Lise, thank him--thank him!"
Lise's pretty little laughing face became suddenly serious. She rose in
her chair as far as she could and, looking at the elder, clasped her hands
before him, but could not restrain herself and broke into laughter.
"It's at him," she said, pointing to Alyosha, with childish vexation at
herself for not being able to repress her mirth.
If any one had looked at Alyosha standing a step behind the elder, he
would have caught a quick flush crimsoning his cheeks in an instant. His
eyes shone and he looked down.
"She has a message for you, Alexey Fyodorovitch. How are you?" the mother
went on, holding out her exquisitely gloved hand to Alyosha.
The elder turned round and all at once looked attentively at Alyosha. The
latter went nearer to Lise and, smiling in a strangely awkward way, held
out his hand to her too. Lise assumed an important air.
"Katerina Ivanovna has sent you this through me." She handed him a little
note. "She particularly begs you to go and see her as soon as possible;
that you will not fail her, but will be sure to come."
"She asks me to go and see her? Me? What for?" Alyosha muttered in great
astonishment. His face at once looked anxious. "Oh, it's all to do with
Dmitri Fyodorovitch and--what has happened lately," the mother explained
hurriedly. "Katerina Ivanovna has made up her mind, but she must see you
about it.... Why, of course, I can't say. But she wants to see you at
once. And you will go to her, of course. It is a Christian duty."
"I have only seen her once," Alyosha protested with the same perplexity.
"Oh, she is such a lofty, incomparable creature! If only for her
suffering.... Think what she has gone through, what she is enduring now!
Think what awaits her! It's all terrible, terrible!"
"Very well, I will come," Alyosha decided, after rapidly scanning the
brief, enigmatic note, which consisted of an urgent entreaty that he would
come, without any sort of explanation.
"Oh, how sweet and generous that would be of you!" cried Lise with sudden
animation. "I told mamma you'd be sure not to go. I said you were saving
your soul. How splendid you are! I've always thought you were splendid.
How glad I am to tell you so!"
"Lise!" said her mother impressively, though she smiled after she had said
"You have quite forgotten us, Alexey Fyodorovitch," she said; "you never
come to see us. Yet Lise has told me twice that she is never happy except
Alyosha raised his downcast eyes and again flushed, and again smiled
without knowing why. But the elder was no longer watching him. He had
begun talking to a monk who, as mentioned before, had been awaiting his
entrance by Lise's chair. He was evidently a monk of the humblest, that is
of the peasant, class, of a narrow outlook, but a true believer, and, in
his own way, a stubborn one. He announced that he had come from the far
north, from Obdorsk, from Saint Sylvester, and was a member of a poor
monastery, consisting of only ten monks. The elder gave him his blessing
and invited him to come to his cell whenever he liked.
"How can you presume to do such deeds?" the monk asked suddenly, pointing
solemnly and significantly at Lise. He was referring to her "healing."
"It's too early, of course, to speak of that. Relief is not complete cure,
and may proceed from different causes. But if there has been any healing,
it is by no power but God's will. It's all from God. Visit me, Father," he
added to the monk. "It's not often I can see visitors. I am ill, and I
know that my days are numbered."
"Oh, no, no! God will not take you from us. You will live a long, long
time yet," cried the lady. "And in what way are you ill? You look so well,
so gay and happy."
"I am extraordinarily better to-day. But I know that it's only for a
moment. I understand my disease now thoroughly. If I seem so happy to you,
you could never say anything that would please me so much. For men are
made for happiness, and any one who is completely happy has a right to say
to himself, 'I am doing God's will on earth.' All the righteous, all the
saints, all the holy martyrs were happy."
"Oh, how you speak! What bold and lofty words!" cried the lady. "You seem
to pierce with your words. And yet--happiness, happiness--where is it? Who
can say of himself that he is happy? Oh, since you have been so good as to
let us see you once more to-day, let me tell you what I could not utter
last time, what I dared not say, all I am suffering and have been for so
long! I am suffering! Forgive me! I am suffering!"
And in a rush of fervent feeling she clasped her hands before him.
"From what specially?"
"I suffer ... from lack of faith."
"Lack of faith in God?"
"Oh, no, no! I dare not even think of that. But the future life--it is such
an enigma! And no one, no one can solve it. Listen! You are a healer, you
are deeply versed in the human soul, and of course I dare not expect you
to believe me entirely, but I assure you on my word of honor that I am not
speaking lightly now. The thought of the life beyond the grave distracts
me to anguish, to terror. And I don't know to whom to appeal, and have not
dared to all my life. And now I am so bold as to ask you. Oh, God! What
will you think of me now?"
She clasped her hands.
"Don't distress yourself about my opinion of you," said the elder. "I
quite believe in the sincerity of your suffering."
"Oh, how thankful I am to you! You see, I shut my eyes and ask myself if
every one has faith, where did it come from? And then they do say that it
all comes from terror at the menacing phenomena of nature, and that none
of it's real. And I say to myself, 'What if I've been believing all my
life, and when I come to die there's nothing but the burdocks growing on
my grave?' as I read in some author. It's awful! How--how can I get back my
faith? But I only believed when I was a little child, mechanically,
without thinking of anything. How, how is one to prove it? I have come now
to lay my soul before you and to ask you about it. If I let this chance
slip, no one all my life will answer me. How can I prove it? How can I
convince myself? Oh, how unhappy I am! I stand and look about me and see
that scarcely any one else cares; no one troubles his head about it, and
I'm the only one who can't stand it. It's deadly--deadly!"
"No doubt. But there's no proving it, though you can be convinced of it."
"By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbor actively
and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of
the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to
perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will
believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has
been tried. This is certain."
"In active love? There's another question--and such a question! You see, I
so love humanity that--would you believe it?--I often dream of forsaking all
that I have, leaving Lise, and becoming a sister of mercy. I close my eyes
and think and dream, and at that moment I feel full of strength to
overcome all obstacles. No wounds, no festering sores could at that moment
frighten me. I would bind them up and wash them with my own hands. I would
nurse the afflicted. I would be ready to kiss such wounds."
"It is much, and well that your mind is full of such dreams and not
others. Sometime, unawares, you may do a good deed in reality."
"Yes. But could I endure such a life for long?" the lady went on
fervently, almost frantically. "That's the chief question--that's my most
agonizing question. I shut my eyes and ask myself, 'Would you persevere
long on that path? And if the patient whose wounds you are washing did not
meet you with gratitude, but worried you with his whims, without valuing
or remarking your charitable services, began abusing you and rudely
commanding you, and complaining to the superior authorities of you (which
often happens when people are in great suffering)--what then? Would you
persevere in your love, or not?' And do you know, I came with horror to
the conclusion that, if anything could dissipate my love to humanity, it
would be ingratitude. In short, I am a hired servant, I expect my payment
at once--that is, praise, and the repayment of love with love. Otherwise I
am incapable of loving any one."
She was in a very paroxysm of self-castigation, and, concluding, she
looked with defiant resolution at the elder.
"It's just the same story as a doctor once told me," observed the elder.
"He was a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as
frankly as you, though in jest, in bitter jest. 'I love humanity,' he
said, 'but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the
less I love man in particular. In my dreams,' he said, 'I have often come
to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I
might actually have faced crucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary;
and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with any one for two
days together, as I know by experience. As soon as any one is near me, his
personality disturbs my self-complacency and restricts my freedom. In
twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he's too
long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing
his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But
it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more
ardent becomes my love for humanity.' "
"But what's to be done? What can one do in such a case? Must one despair?"
"No. It is enough that you are distressed at it. Do what you can, and it
will be reckoned unto you. Much is done already in you since you can so
deeply and sincerely know yourself. If you have been talking to me so
sincerely, simply to gain approbation for your frankness, as you did from
me just now, then of course you will not attain to anything in the
achievement of real love; it will all get no further than dreams, and your
whole life will slip away like a phantom. In that case you will naturally
cease to think of the future life too, and will of yourself grow calmer
after a fashion in the end."
"You have crushed me! Only now, as you speak, I understand that I was
really only seeking your approbation for my sincerity when I told you I
could not endure ingratitude. You have revealed me to myself. You have
seen through me and explained me to myself!"
"Are you speaking the truth? Well, now, after such a confession, I believe
that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness,
always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it.
Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness
to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every
hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself.
What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of
your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the
consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own
faint-heartedness in attaining love. Don't be frightened overmuch even at
your evil actions. I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for
love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.
Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in
the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does
not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as
though on the stage. But active love is labor and fortitude, and for some
people too, perhaps, a complete science. But I predict that just when you
see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther
from your goal instead of nearer to it--at that very moment I predict that
you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who
has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you. Forgive me for
not being able to stay longer with you. They are waiting for me. Good-by."
The lady was weeping.
"Lise, Lise! Bless her--bless her!" she cried, starting up suddenly.
"She does not deserve to be loved. I have seen her naughtiness all along,"
the elder said jestingly. "Why have you been laughing at Alexey?"
Lise had in fact been occupied in mocking at him all the time. She had
noticed before that Alyosha was shy and tried not to look at her, and she
found this extremely amusing. She waited intently to catch his eye.
Alyosha, unable to endure her persistent stare, was irresistibly and
suddenly drawn to glance at her, and at once she smiled triumphantly in
his face. Alyosha was even more disconcerted and vexed. At last he turned
away from her altogether and hid behind the elder's back. After a few
minutes, drawn by the same irresistible force, he turned again to see
whether he was being looked at or not, and found Lise almost hanging out
of her chair to peep sideways at him, eagerly waiting for him to look.
Catching his eye, she laughed so that the elder could not help saying,
"Why do you make fun of him like that, naughty girl?"
Lise suddenly and quite unexpectedly blushed. Her eyes flashed and her
face became quite serious. She began speaking quickly and nervously in a
warm and resentful voice:
"Why has he forgotten everything, then? He used to carry me about when I
was little. We used to play together. He used to come to teach me to read,
do you know. Two years ago, when he went away, he said that he would never
forget me, that we were friends for ever, for ever, for ever! And now he's
afraid of me all at once. Am I going to eat him? Why doesn't he want to
come near me? Why doesn't he talk? Why won't he come and see us? It's not
that you won't let him. We know that he goes everywhere. It's not good
manners for me to invite him. He ought to have thought of it first, if he
hasn't forgotten me. No, now he's saving his soul! Why have you put that
long gown on him? If he runs he'll fall."
And suddenly she hid her face in her hand and went off into irresistible,
prolonged, nervous, inaudible laughter. The elder listened to her with a
smile, and blessed her tenderly. As she kissed his hand she suddenly
pressed it to her eyes and began crying.
"Don't be angry with me. I'm silly and good for nothing ... and perhaps
Alyosha's right, quite right, in not wanting to come and see such a
"I will certainly send him," said the elder.
Chapter V. So Be It! So Be It!
The elder's absence from his cell had lasted for about twenty-five
minutes. It was more than half-past twelve, but Dmitri, on whose account
they had all met there, had still not appeared. But he seemed almost to be
forgotten, and when the elder entered the cell again, he found his guests
engaged in eager conversation. Ivan and the two monks took the leading
share in it. Miuesov, too, was trying to take a part, and apparently very
eagerly, in the conversation. But he was unsuccessful in this also. He was
evidently in the background, and his remarks were treated with neglect,
which increased his irritability. He had had intellectual encounters with
Ivan before and he could not endure a certain carelessness Ivan showed
"Hitherto at least I have stood in the front ranks of all that is
progressive in Europe, and here the new generation positively ignores us,"
Fyodor Pavlovitch, who had given his word to sit still and be quiet, had
actually been quiet for some time, but he watched his neighbor Miuesov with
an ironical little smile, obviously enjoying his discomfiture. He had been
waiting for some time to pay off old scores, and now he could not let the
opportunity slip. Bending over his shoulder he began teasing him again in
"Why didn't you go away just now, after the 'courteously kissing'? Why did
you consent to remain in such unseemly company? It was because you felt
insulted and aggrieved, and you remained to vindicate yourself by showing
off your intelligence. Now you won't go till you've displayed your
intellect to them."
"You again?... On the contrary, I'm just going."
"You'll be the last, the last of all to go!" Fyodor Pavlovitch delivered
him another thrust, almost at the moment of Father Zossima's return.
The discussion died down for a moment, but the elder, seating himself in
his former place, looked at them all as though cordially inviting them to
go on. Alyosha, who knew every expression of his face, saw that he was
fearfully exhausted and making a great effort. Of late he had been liable
to fainting fits from exhaustion. His face had the pallor that was common
before such attacks, and his lips were white. But he evidently did not
want to break up the party. He seemed to have some special object of his
own in keeping them. What object? Alyosha watched him intently.
"We are discussing this gentleman's most interesting article," said Father
Iosif, the librarian, addressing the elder, and indicating Ivan. "He
brings forward much that is new, but I think the argument cuts both ways.
It is an article written in answer to a book by an ecclesiastical
authority on the question of the ecclesiastical court, and the scope of
"I'm sorry I have not read your article, but I've heard of it," said the
elder, looking keenly and intently at Ivan.
"He takes up a most interesting position," continued the Father Librarian.
"As far as Church jurisdiction is concerned he is apparently quite opposed
to the separation of Church from State."
"That's interesting. But in what sense?" Father Zossima asked Ivan.
The latter, at last, answered him, not condescendingly, as Alyosha had
feared, but with modesty and reserve, with evident goodwill and apparently
without the slightest _arriere-pensee_.
"I start from the position that this confusion of elements, that is, of
the essential principles of Church and State, will, of course, go on for
ever, in spite of the fact that it is impossible for them to mingle, and
that the confusion of these elements cannot lead to any consistent or even
normal results, for there is falsity at the very foundation of it.
Compromise between the Church and State in such questions as, for
instance, jurisdiction, is, to my thinking, impossible in any real sense.
My clerical opponent maintains that the Church holds a precise and defined
position in the State. I maintain, on the contrary, that the Church ought
to include the whole State, and not simply to occupy a corner in it, and,
if this is, for some reason, impossible at present, then it ought, in
reality, to be set up as the direct and chief aim of the future
development of Christian society!"
"Perfectly true," Father Paissy, the silent and learned monk, assented
with fervor and decision.
"The purest Ultramontanism!" cried Miuesov impatiently, crossing and
recrossing his legs.
"Oh, well, we have no mountains," cried Father Iosif, and turning to the
elder he continued: "Observe the answer he makes to the following
'fundamental and essential' propositions of his opponent, who is, you must
note, an ecclesiastic. First, that 'no social organization can or ought to
arrogate to itself power to dispose of the civic and political rights of
its members.' Secondly, that 'criminal and civil jurisdiction ought not to
belong to the Church, and is inconsistent with its nature, both as a
divine institution and as an organization of men for religious objects,'
and, finally, in the third place, 'the Church is a kingdom not of this
"A most unworthy play upon words for an ecclesiastic!" Father Paissy could
not refrain from breaking in again. "I have read the book which you have
answered," he added, addressing Ivan, "and was astounded at the words 'the
Church is a kingdom not of this world.' If it is not of this world, then
it cannot exist on earth at all. In the Gospel, the words 'not of this
world' are not used in that sense. To play with such words is
indefensible. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to set up the Church upon earth.
The Kingdom of Heaven, of course, is not of this world, but in Heaven; but
it is only entered through the Church which has been founded and
established upon earth. And so a frivolous play upon words in such a
connection is unpardonable and improper. The Church is, in truth, a
kingdom and ordained to rule, and in the end must undoubtedly become the
kingdom ruling over all the earth. For that we have the divine promise."
He ceased speaking suddenly, as though checking himself. After listening
attentively and respectfully Ivan went on, addressing the elder with
perfect composure and as before with ready cordiality:
"The whole point of my article lies in the fact that during the first
three centuries Christianity only existed on earth in the Church and was
nothing but the Church. When the pagan Roman Empire desired to become
Christian, it inevitably happened that, by becoming Christian, it included
the Church but remained a pagan State in very many of its departments. In
reality this was bound to happen. But Rome as a State retained too much of
the pagan civilization and culture, as, for example, in the very objects
and fundamental principles of the State. The Christian Church entering
into the State could, of course, surrender no part of its fundamental
principles--the rock on which it stands--and could pursue no other aims than
those which have been ordained and revealed by God Himself, and among them
that of drawing the whole world, and therefore the ancient pagan State
itself, into the Church. In that way (that is, with a view to the future)
it is not the Church that should seek a definite position in the State,
like 'every social organization,' or as 'an organization of men for
religious purposes' (as my opponent calls the Church), but, on the
contrary, every earthly State should be, in the end, completely
transformed into the Church and should become nothing else but a Church,
rejecting every purpose incongruous with the aims of the Church. All this
will not degrade it in any way or take from its honor and glory as a great
State, nor from the glory of its rulers, but only turns it from a false,
still pagan, and mistaken path to the true and rightful path, which alone
leads to the eternal goal. This is why the author of the book _On the
Foundations of Church Jurisdiction_ would have judged correctly if, in
seeking and laying down those foundations, he had looked upon them as a
temporary compromise inevitable in our sinful and imperfect days. But as
soon as the author ventures to declare that the foundations which he
predicates now, part of which Father Iosif just enumerated, are the
permanent, essential, and eternal foundations, he is going directly
against the Church and its sacred and eternal vocation. That is the gist
of my article."
"That is, in brief," Father Paissy began again, laying stress on each
word, "according to certain theories only too clearly formulated in the
nineteenth century, the Church ought to be transformed into the State, as
though this would be an advance from a lower to a higher form, so as to
disappear into it, making way for science, for the spirit of the age, and
civilization. And if the Church resists and is unwilling, some corner will
be set apart for her in the State, and even that under control--and this
will be so everywhere in all modern European countries. But Russian hopes
and conceptions demand not that the Church should pass as from a lower
into a higher type into the State, but, on the contrary, that the State
should end by being worthy to become only the Church and nothing else. So
be it! So be it!"
"Well, I confess you've reassured me somewhat," Miuesov said smiling, again
crossing his legs. "So far as I understand, then, the realization of such
an ideal is infinitely remote, at the second coming of Christ. That's as
you please. It's a beautiful Utopian dream of the abolition of war,
diplomacy, banks, and so on--something after the fashion of socialism,
indeed. But I imagined that it was all meant seriously, and that the
Church might be _now_ going to try criminals, and sentence them to
beating, prison, and even death."
"But if there were none but the ecclesiastical court, the Church would not
even now sentence a criminal to prison or to death. Crime and the way of
regarding it would inevitably change, not all at once of course, but
fairly soon," Ivan replied calmly, without flinching.
"Are you serious?" Miuesov glanced keenly at him.
"If everything became the Church, the Church would exclude all the
criminal and disobedient, and would not cut off their heads," Ivan went
on. "I ask you, what would become of the excluded? He would be cut off
then not only from men, as now, but from Christ. By his crime he would
have transgressed not only against men but against the Church of Christ.
This is so even now, of course, strictly speaking, but it is not clearly
enunciated, and very, very often the criminal of to-day compromises with
his conscience: 'I steal,' he says, 'but I don't go against the Church.
I'm not an enemy of Christ.' That's what the criminal of to-day is
continually saying to himself, but when the Church takes the place of the
State it will be difficult for him, in opposition to the Church all over
the world, to say: 'All men are mistaken, all in error, all mankind are
the false Church. I, a thief and murderer, am the only true Christian
Church.' It will be very difficult to say this to himself; it requires a
rare combination of unusual circumstances. Now, on the other side, take
the Church's own view of crime: is it not bound to renounce the present
almost pagan attitude, and to change from a mechanical cutting off of its
tainted member for the preservation of society, as at present, into
completely and honestly adopting the idea of the regeneration of the man,
of his reformation and salvation?"
"What do you mean? I fail to understand again," Miuesov interrupted. "Some
sort of dream again. Something shapeless and even incomprehensible. What
is excommunication? What sort of exclusion? I suspect you are simply
amusing yourself, Ivan Fyodorovitch."
"Yes, but you know, in reality it is so now," said the elder suddenly, and
all turned to him at once. "If it were not for the Church of Christ there
would be nothing to restrain the criminal from evil-doing, no real
chastisement for it afterwards; none, that is, but the mechanical
punishment spoken of just now, which in the majority of cases only
embitters the heart; and not the real punishment, the only effectual one,
the only deterrent and softening one, which lies in the recognition of sin
"How is that, may one inquire?" asked Miuesov, with lively curiosity.
"Why," began the elder, "all these sentences to exile with hard labor, and
formerly with flogging also, reform no one, and what's more, deter hardly
a single criminal, and the number of crimes does not diminish but is
continually on the increase. You must admit that. Consequently the
security of society is not preserved, for, although the obnoxious member
is mechanically cut off and sent far away out of sight, another criminal
always comes to take his place at once, and often two of them. If anything
does preserve society, even in our time, and does regenerate and transform
the criminal, it is only the law of Christ speaking in his conscience. It
is only by recognizing his wrong-doing as a son of a Christian
society--that is, of the Church--that he recognizes his sin against
society--that is, against the Church. So that it is only against the
Church, and not against the State, that the criminal of to-day can
recognize that he has sinned. If society, as a Church, had jurisdiction,
then it would know when to bring back from exclusion and to reunite to
itself. Now the Church having no real jurisdiction, but only the power of
moral condemnation, withdraws of her own accord from punishing the
criminal actively. She does not excommunicate him but simply persists in
motherly exhortation of him. What is more, the Church even tries to
preserve all Christian communion with the criminal. She admits him to
church services, to the holy sacrament, gives him alms, and treats him
more as a captive than as a convict. And what would become of the
criminal, O Lord, if even the Christian society--that is, the Church--were
to reject him even as the civil law rejects him and cuts him off? What
would become of him if the Church punished him with her excommunication as
the direct consequence of the secular law? There could be no more terrible
despair, at least for a Russian criminal, for Russian criminals still have
faith. Though, who knows, perhaps then a fearful thing would happen,
perhaps the despairing heart of the criminal would lose its faith and then
what would become of him? But the Church, like a tender, loving mother,
holds aloof from active punishment herself, as the sinner is too severely
punished already by the civil law, and there must be at least some one to
have pity on him. The Church holds aloof, above all, because its judgment
is the only one that contains the truth, and therefore cannot practically
and morally be united to any other judgment even as a temporary
compromise. She can enter into no compact about that. The foreign
criminal, they say, rarely repents, for the very doctrines of to-day
confirm him in the idea that his crime is not a crime, but only a reaction
against an unjustly oppressive force. Society cuts him off completely by a
force that triumphs over him mechanically and (so at least they say of
themselves in Europe) accompanies this exclusion with hatred,
forgetfulness, and the most profound indifference as to the ultimate fate
of the erring brother. In this way, it all takes place without the
compassionate intervention of the Church, for in many cases there are no
churches there at all, for though ecclesiastics and splendid church
buildings remain, the churches themselves have long ago striven to pass
from Church into State and to disappear in it completely. So it seems at
least in Lutheran countries. As for Rome, it was proclaimed a State
instead of a Church a thousand years ago. And so the criminal is no longer
conscious of being a member of the Church and sinks into despair. If he
returns to society, often it is with such hatred that society itself
instinctively cuts him off. You can judge for yourself how it must end. In
many cases it would seem to be the same with us, but the difference is
that besides the established law courts we have the Church too, which
always keeps up relations with the criminal as a dear and still precious
son. And besides that, there is still preserved, though only in thought,
the judgment of the Church, which though no longer existing in practice is
still living as a dream for the future, and is, no doubt, instinctively
recognized by the criminal in his soul. What was said here just now is
true too, that is, that if the jurisdiction of the Church were introduced
in practice in its full force, that is, if the whole of the society were
changed into the Church, not only the judgment of the Church would have
influence on the reformation of the criminal such as it never has now, but
possibly also the crimes themselves would be incredibly diminished. And
there can be no doubt that the Church would look upon the criminal and the
crime of the future in many cases quite differently and would succeed in
restoring the excluded, in restraining those who plan evil, and in
regenerating the fallen. It is true," said Father Zossima, with a smile,
"the Christian society now is not ready and is only resting on some seven
righteous men, but as they are never lacking, it will continue still
unshaken in expectation of its complete transformation from a society
almost heathen in character into a single universal and all-powerful
Church. So be it, so be it! Even though at the end of the ages, for it is
ordained to come to pass! And there is no need to be troubled about times
and seasons, for the secret of the times and seasons is in the wisdom of
God, in His foresight, and His love. And what in human reckoning seems
still afar off, may by the Divine ordinance be close at hand, on the eve
of its appearance. And so be it, so be it!"
"So be it, so be it!" Father Paissy repeated austerely and reverently.
"Strange, extremely strange!" Miuesov pronounced, not so much with heat as
with latent indignation.
"What strikes you as so strange?" Father Iosif inquired cautiously.
"Why, it's beyond anything!" cried Miuesov, suddenly breaking out; "the
State is eliminated and the Church is raised to the position of the State.
It's not simply Ultramontanism, it's arch-Ultramontanism! It's beyond the
dreams of Pope Gregory the Seventh!"
"You are completely misunderstanding it," said Father Paissy sternly.
"Understand, the Church is not to be transformed into the State. That is
Rome and its dream. That is the third temptation of the devil. On the
contrary, the State is transformed into the Church, will ascend and become
a Church over the whole world--which is the complete opposite of
Ultramontanism and Rome, and your interpretation, and is only the glorious
destiny ordained for the Orthodox Church. This star will arise in the
Miuesov was significantly silent. His whole figure expressed extraordinary
personal dignity. A supercilious and condescending smile played on his
lips. Alyosha watched it all with a throbbing heart. The whole
conversation stirred him profoundly. He glanced casually at Rakitin, who
was standing immovable in his place by the door listening and watching
intently though with downcast eyes. But from the color in his cheeks
Alyosha guessed that Rakitin was probably no less excited, and he knew
what caused his excitement.
"Allow me to tell you one little anecdote, gentlemen," Miuesov said
impressively, with a peculiarly majestic air. "Some years ago, soon after
the _coup d'etat_ of December, I happened to be calling in Paris on an
extremely influential personage in the Government, and I met a very
interesting man in his house. This individual was not precisely a
detective but was a sort of superintendent of a whole regiment of
political detectives--a rather powerful position in its own way. I was
prompted by curiosity to seize the opportunity of conversation with him.
And as he had not come as a visitor but as a subordinate official bringing
a special report, and as he saw the reception given me by his chief, he
deigned to speak with some openness, to a certain extent only, of course.
He was rather courteous than open, as Frenchmen know how to be courteous,
especially to a foreigner. But I thoroughly understood him. The subject
was the socialist revolutionaries who were at that time persecuted. I will
quote only one most curious remark dropped by this person. 'We are not
particularly afraid,' said he, 'of all these socialists, anarchists,
infidels, and revolutionists; we keep watch on them and know all their
goings on. But there are a few peculiar men among them who believe in God
and are Christians, but at the same time are socialists. These are the
people we are most afraid of. They are dreadful people! The socialist who
is a Christian is more to be dreaded than a socialist who is an atheist.'
The words struck me at the time, and now they have suddenly come back to
me here, gentlemen."
"You apply them to us, and look upon us as socialists?" Father Paissy
asked directly, without beating about the bush.
But before Pyotr Alexandrovitch could think what to answer, the door
opened, and the guest so long expected, Dmitri Fyodorovitch, came in. They
had, in fact, given up expecting him, and his sudden appearance caused
some surprise for a moment.
Chapter VI. Why Is Such A Man Alive?
Dmitri Fyodorovitch, a young man of eight and twenty, of medium height and
agreeable countenance, looked older than his years. He was muscular, and
showed signs of considerable physical strength. Yet there was something
not healthy in his face. It was rather thin, his cheeks were hollow, and
there was an unhealthy sallowness in their color. His rather large,
prominent, dark eyes had an expression of firm determination, and yet
there was a vague look in them, too. Even when he was excited and talking
irritably, his eyes somehow did not follow his mood, but betrayed
something else, sometimes quite incongruous with what was passing. "It's
hard to tell what he's thinking," those who talked to him sometimes
declared. People who saw something pensive and sullen in his eyes were
startled by his sudden laugh, which bore witness to mirthful and light-
hearted thoughts at the very time when his eyes were so gloomy. A certain
strained look in his face was easy to understand at this moment. Every one
knew, or had heard of, the extremely restless and dissipated life which he
had been leading of late, as well as of the violent anger to which he had
been roused in his quarrels with his father. There were several stories
current in the town about it. It is true that he was irascible by nature,
"of an unstable and unbalanced mind," as our justice of the peace,
Katchalnikov, happily described him.
He was stylishly and irreproachably dressed in a carefully buttoned frock-
coat. He wore black gloves and carried a top-hat. Having only lately left
the army, he still had mustaches and no beard. His dark brown hair was
cropped short, and combed forward on his temples. He had the long,
determined stride of a military man. He stood still for a moment on the
threshold, and glancing at the whole party went straight up to the elder,
guessing him to be their host. He made him a low bow, and asked his
blessing. Father Zossima, rising in his chair, blessed him. Dmitri kissed
his hand respectfully, and with intense feeling, almost anger, he said:
"Be so generous as to forgive me for having kept you waiting so long, but
Smerdyakov, the valet sent me by my father, in reply to my inquiries, told
me twice over that the appointment was for one. Now I suddenly learn--"
"Don't disturb yourself," interposed the elder. "No matter. You are a
little late. It's of no consequence...."
"I'm extremely obliged to you, and expected no less from your goodness."
Saying this, Dmitri bowed once more. Then, turning suddenly towards his
father, made him, too, a similarly low and respectful bow. He had
evidently considered it beforehand, and made this bow in all seriousness,
thinking it his duty to show his respect and good intentions.
Although Fyodor Pavlovitch was taken unawares, he was equal to the
occasion. In response to Dmitri's bow he jumped up from his chair and made
his son a bow as low in return. His face was suddenly solemn and
impressive, which gave him a positively malignant look. Dmitri bowed
generally to all present, and without a word walked to the window with his
long, resolute stride, sat down on the only empty chair, near Father
Paissy, and, bending forward, prepared to listen to the conversation he
Dmitri's entrance had taken no more than two minutes, and the conversation
was resumed. But this time Miuesov thought it unnecessary to reply to
Father Paissy's persistent and almost irritable question.
"Allow me to withdraw from this discussion," he observed with a certain
well-bred nonchalance. "It's a subtle question, too. Here Ivan
Fyodorovitch is smiling at us. He must have something interesting to say
about that also. Ask him."
"Nothing special, except one little remark," Ivan replied at once.
"European Liberals in general, and even our liberal dilettanti, often mix
up the final results of socialism with those of Christianity. This wild
notion is, of course, a characteristic feature. But it's not only Liberals
and dilettanti who mix up socialism and Christianity, but, in many cases,
it appears, the police--the foreign police, of course--do the same. Your
Paris anecdote is rather to the point, Pyotr Alexandrovitch."
"I ask your permission to drop this subject altogether," Miuesov repeated.
"I will tell you instead, gentlemen, another interesting and rather
characteristic anecdote of Ivan Fyodorovitch himself. Only five days ago,
in a gathering here, principally of ladies, he solemnly declared in
argument that there was nothing in the whole world to make men love their
neighbors. That there was no law of nature that man should love mankind,
and that, if there had been any love on earth hitherto, it was not owing
to a natural law, but simply because men have believed in immortality.
Ivan Fyodorovitch added in parenthesis that the whole natural law lies in
that faith, and that if you were to destroy in mankind the belief in
immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of
the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be
immoral, everything would be lawful, even cannibalism. That's not all. He
ended by asserting that for every individual, like ourselves, who does not
believe in God or immortality, the moral law of nature must immediately be
changed into the exact contrary of the former religious law, and that
egoism, even to crime, must become not only lawful but even recognized as
the inevitable, the most rational, even honorable outcome of his position.
From this paradox, gentlemen, you can judge of the rest of our eccentric
and paradoxical friend Ivan Fyodorovitch's theories."
"Excuse me," Dmitri cried suddenly; "if I've heard aright, crime must not
only be permitted but even recognized as the inevitable and the most
rational outcome of his position for every infidel! Is that so or not?"
"Quite so," said Father Paissy.
"I'll remember it."
Having uttered these words Dmitri ceased speaking as suddenly as he had
begun. Every one looked at him with curiosity.
"Is that really your conviction as to the consequences of the
disappearance of the faith in immortality?" the elder asked Ivan suddenly.
"Yes. That was my contention. There is no virtue if there is no
"You are blessed in believing that, or else most unhappy."
"Why unhappy?" Ivan asked smiling.
"Because, in all probability you don't believe yourself in the immortality
of your soul, nor in what you have written yourself in your article on
"Perhaps you are right! ... But I wasn't altogether joking," Ivan suddenly
and strangely confessed, flushing quickly.
"You were not altogether joking. That's true. The question is still
fretting your heart, and not answered. But the martyr likes sometimes to
divert himself with his despair, as it were driven to it by despair
itself. Meanwhile, in your despair, you, too, divert yourself with
magazine articles, and discussions in society, though you don't believe
your own arguments, and with an aching heart mock at them inwardly....
That question you have not answered, and it is your great grief, for it
clamors for an answer."
"But can it be answered by me? Answered in the affirmative?" Ivan went on
asking strangely, still looking at the elder with the same inexplicable
"If it can't be decided in the affirmative, it will never be decided in
the negative. You know that that is the peculiarity of your heart, and all
its suffering is due to it. But thank the Creator who has given you a
lofty heart capable of such suffering; of thinking and seeking higher
things, for our dwelling is in the heavens. God grant that your heart will
attain the answer on earth, and may God bless your path."
The elder raised his hand and would have made the sign of the cross over
Ivan from where he stood. But the latter rose from his seat, went up to
him, received his blessing, and kissing his hand went back to his place in
silence. His face looked firm and earnest. This action and all the
preceding conversation, which was so surprising from Ivan, impressed every
one by its strangeness and a certain solemnity, so that all were silent
for a moment, and there was a look almost of apprehension in Alyosha's
face. But Miuesov suddenly shrugged his shoulders. And at the same moment
Fyodor Pavlovitch jumped up from his seat.
"Most pious and holy elder," he cried, pointing to Ivan, "that is my son,
flesh of my flesh, the dearest of my flesh! He is my most dutiful Karl
Moor, so to speak, while this son who has just come in, Dmitri, against
whom I am seeking justice from you, is the undutiful Franz Moor--they are
both out of Schiller's _Robbers_, and so I am the reigning Count von Moor!
Judge and save us! We need not only your prayers but your prophecies!"
"Speak without buffoonery, and don't begin by insulting the members of
your family," answered the elder, in a faint, exhausted voice. He was
obviously getting more and more fatigued, and his strength was failing.
"An unseemly farce which I foresaw when I came here!" cried Dmitri
indignantly. He too leapt up. "Forgive it, reverend Father," he added,
addressing the elder. "I am not a cultivated man, and I don't even know
how to address you properly, but you have been deceived and you have been
too good-natured in letting us meet here. All my father wants is a
scandal. Why he wants it only he can tell. He always has some motive. But
I believe I know why--"
"They all blame me, all of them!" cried Fyodor Pavlovitch in his turn.
"Pyotr Alexandrovitch here blames me too. You have been blaming me, Pyotr
Alexandrovitch, you have!" he turned suddenly to Miuesov, although the
latter was not dreaming of interrupting him. "They all accuse me of having
hidden the children's money in my boots, and cheated them, but isn't there
a court of law? There they will reckon out for you, Dmitri Fyodorovitch,
from your notes, your letters, and your agreements, how much money you
had, how much you have spent, and how much you have left. Why does Pyotr
Alexandrovitch refuse to pass judgment? Dmitri is not a stranger to him.
Because they are all against me, while Dmitri Fyodorovitch is in debt to
me, and not a little, but some thousands of which I have documentary
proof. The whole town is echoing with his debaucheries. And where he was
stationed before, he several times spent a thousand or two for the
seduction of some respectable girl; we know all about that, Dmitri
Fyodorovitch, in its most secret details. I'll prove it.... Would you
believe it, holy Father, he has captivated the heart of the most honorable
of young ladies of good family and fortune, daughter of a gallant colonel,
formerly his superior officer, who had received many honors and had the
Anna Order on his breast. He compromised the girl by his promise of
marriage, now she is an orphan and here; she is betrothed to him, yet
before her very eyes he is dancing attendance on a certain enchantress.
And although this enchantress has lived in, so to speak, civil marriage
with a respectable man, yet she is of an independent character, an
unapproachable fortress for everybody, just like a legal wife--for she is
virtuous, yes, holy Fathers, she is virtuous. Dmitri Fyodorovitch wants to
open this fortress with a golden key, and that's why he is insolent to me
now, trying to get money from me, though he has wasted thousands on this
enchantress already. He's continually borrowing money for the purpose.
From whom do you think? Shall I say, Mitya?"
"Be silent!" cried Dmitri, "wait till I'm gone. Don't dare in my presence
to asperse the good name of an honorable girl! That you should utter a
word about her is an outrage, and I won't permit it!"
He was breathless.
"Mitya! Mitya!" cried Fyodor Pavlovitch hysterically, squeezing out a
tear. "And is your father's blessing nothing to you? If I curse you, what
"Shameless hypocrite!" exclaimed Dmitri furiously.
"He says that to his father! his father! What would he be with others?
Gentlemen, only fancy; there's a poor but honorable man living here,
burdened with a numerous family, a captain who got into trouble and was
discharged from the army, but not publicly, not by court-martial, with no
slur on his honor. And three weeks ago, Dmitri seized him by the beard in
a tavern, dragged him out into the street and beat him publicly, and all
because he is an agent in a little business of mine."
"It's all a lie! Outwardly it's the truth, but inwardly a lie!" Dmitri was
trembling with rage. "Father, I don't justify my action. Yes, I confess it
publicly, I behaved like a brute to that captain, and I regret it now, and
I'm disgusted with myself for my brutal rage. But this captain, this agent
of yours, went to that lady whom you call an enchantress, and suggested to
her from you, that she should take I.O.U.'s of mine which were in your
possession, and should sue me for the money so as to get me into prison by
means of them, if I persisted in claiming an account from you of my
property. Now you reproach me for having a weakness for that lady when you
yourself incited her to captivate me! She told me so to my face.... She
told me the story and laughed at you.... You wanted to put me in prison
because you are jealous of me with her, because you'd begun to force your
attentions upon her; and I know all about that, too; she laughed at you
for that as well--you hear--she laughed at you as she described it. So here
you have this man, this father who reproaches his profligate son!
Gentlemen, forgive my anger, but I foresaw that this crafty old man would
only bring you together to create a scandal. I had come to forgive him if
he held out his hand; to forgive him, and ask forgiveness! But as he has
just this minute insulted not only me, but an honorable young lady, for
whom I feel such reverence that I dare not take her name in vain, I have
made up my mind to show up his game, though he is my father...."
He could not go on. His eyes were glittering and he breathed with
difficulty. But every one in the cell was stirred. All except Father
Zossima got up from their seats uneasily. The monks looked austere but
waited for guidance from the elder. He sat still, pale, not from
excitement but from the weakness of disease. An imploring smile lighted up
his face; from time to time he raised his hand, as though to check the
storm, and, of course, a gesture from him would have been enough to end
the scene; but he seemed to be waiting for something and watched them
intently as though trying to make out something which was not perfectly
clear to him. At last Miuesov felt completely humiliated and disgraced.
"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
"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 at each
syllable. "And you, Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miuesov, 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 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
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," Miuesov 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, Miuesov, 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," Miuesov 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
"I am not your relative and never have been, you contemptible man!"
"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
"The devil only knows, what if he deceives us?" thought Miuesov, still
hesitating, and watching the retreating buffoon with distrustful eyes. The
latter turned round, and noticing that Miuesov was watching him, waved him
"Well, are you coming to the Superior?" Miuesov asked Ivan abruptly.
"Why not? I was especially invited yesterday."
"Unfortunately I feel myself compelled to go to this confounded dinner,"
said Miuesov 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. Miuesov 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
"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
"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."
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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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 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 Miuesov called her an 'abandoned creature.' He's
worse than a tom-cat in love. At first she was only employed by him in
connection with his taverns and in some other shady business, but now he
has suddenly realized all she is and has gone wild about her. He keeps
pestering her with his offers, not honorable ones, of course. And they'll
come into collision, the precious father and son, on that path! But
Grushenka favors neither of them, she's still playing with them, and
teasing them both, considering which she can get most out of. For though
she could filch a lot of money from the papa he wouldn't marry her, and
maybe he'll turn stingy in the end, and keep his purse shut. That's where
Mitya's value comes in; he has no money, but he's ready to marry her. Yes,