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The Brothers Karamazov: Book III (Chapter VI-VIII)

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, February 07, 2008

Chapter 6

HE did in fact find his father still at table. Though there was
a dining-room in the house, the table was laid as usual in the drawing
room, which was the largest room, and furnished with old-fashioned
ostentation. The furniture was white and very old, upholstered in old,
red, silky material. In the spaces between the windows there were
mirrors in elaborate white and gilt frames, of old-fashioned
carving. On the walls, covered with white paper, which was torn in
many places, there hung two large portraits- one of some prince who
had been governor of the district thirty years before, and the other
of some bishop, also long since dead. In the corner opposite the
door there were several ikons, before which a lamp was lighted at
nightfall... not so much for devotional purposes as to light the room.
Fyodor Pavlovitch used to go to bed very late, at three or four
o'clock in the morning,and would wander about the room at night or sit
in an armchair, thinking. This had become a habit with him. He often
slept quite alone in the house, sending his servants to the lodge; but
usually Smerdyakov remained, sleeping on a bench in the hall.
When Alyosha came in, dinner was over, but coffee and preserves
had been served. Fyodor Pavlovitch liked sweet things with brandy
after dinner. Ivan was also at table, sipping coffee. The servants,
Grigory and Smerdyakov, were standing by. Both the gentlemen and the
servants seemed in singularly good spirits. Fyodor Pavlovitch was
roaring with laughter. Before he entered the room, Alyosha heard the
shrill laugh he knew so well, and could tell from the sound of it that
his father had only reached the good-humoured stage, and was far
from being completely drunk.
"Here he is! Here he is!" yelled Fyodor Pavlovitch, highly
delighted at seeing Alyosha. "Join us. Sit down. Coffee is a lenten
dish, but it's hot and good. I don't offer you brandy, you're
keeping the fast. But would you like some? No; I'd better give you
some of our famous liqueur. Smerdyakov, go to the cupboard, the second
shelf on the right. Here are the keys. Look sharp!"
Alyosha began refusing the liqueur.
"Never mind. If you won't have it, we will," said Fyodor
Pavlovitch, beaming. "But stay- have you dined?"
"Yes," answered Alyosha, who had in truth only eaten a piece of
bread and drunk a glass of kvass in the Father Superior's kitchen.
"Though I should be pleased to have some hot coffee."
"Bravo, my darling! He'll have some coffee. Does it want
warming? No, it's boiling. It's capital coffee: Smerdyakov's making.
My Smerdyakov's an artist at coffee and at fish patties, and at fish
soup, too. You must come one day and have some fish soup. Let me
know beforehand.... But, stay; didn't I tell you this morning to
come home with your mattress and pillow and all? Have you brought your
mattress? He he he!"
"No, I haven't," said Alyosha, smiling, too.
"Ah, but you were frightened, you were frightened this morning,
weren't you? There, my darling, I couldn't do anything to vex you.
Do you know, Ivan, I can't resist the way he looks one straight in the
face and laughs? It makes me laugh all over. I'm so fond of him.
Alyosha, let me give you my blessing- a father's blessing."
Alyosha rose, but Fyodor Pavlovitch had already changed his mind.
"No, no," he said. "I'll just make the sign of the cross over you,
for now. Sit still. Now we've a treat for you, in your own line,
too. It'll make you laugh. Balaam's ass has begun talking to us
here- and how he talks! How he talks!
Balaam's ass, it appeared, was the valet, Smerdyakov. He was a
young man of about four and twenty, remarkably unsociable and
taciturn. Not that he was shy or bashful. On the contrary, he was
conceited and seemed to despise everybody.
But we must pause to say a few words about him now. He was brought
up by Grigory and Marfa, but the boy grew up "with no sense of
gratitude," as Grigory expressed it; he was an unfriendly boy, and
seemed to look at the world mistrustfully. In his childhood he was
very fond of hanging cats, and burying them with great ceremony. He
used to dress up in a sheet as though it were a surplice, and sang,
and waved some object over the dead cat as though it were a censer.
All this he did on the sly, with the greatest secrecy. Grigory
caught him once at this diversion and gave him a sound beating. He
shrank into a corner and sulked there for a week. "He doesn't care for
you or me, the monster," Grigory used to say to Marfa, "and he doesn't
care for anyone. Are you a human being?" he said, addressing the boy
directly. "You're not a human being. You grew from the mildew in the
bath-house. That's what you are," Smerdyakov, it appeared
afterwards, could never forgive him those words. Grigory taught him to
read and write, and when he was twelve years old, began teaching him
the Scriptures. But this teaching came to nothing. At the second or
third lesson the boy suddenly grinned.
"What's that for?" asked Grigory, looking at him threateningly
from under his spectacles.
"Oh, nothing. God created light on the first day, and the sun,
moon, and stars on the fourth day. Where did the light come from on
the first day?"
Grigory was thunderstruck. The boy looked sarcastically at his
teacher. There was something positively condescending in his
expression. Grigory could not restrain himself. "I'll show you where!"
he cried, and gave the boy a violent slap on the cheek. The boy took
the slap without a word, but withdrew into his corner again for some
days. A week later he had his first attack of the disease to which
he was subject all the rest of his life- epilepsy. When Fyodor
Pavlovitch heard of it, his attitude to the boy seemed changed at
once. Till then he had taken no notice of him, though he never scolded
him, and always gave him a copeck when he met him. Sometimes, when
he was in good humour, he would send the boy something sweet from
his table. But as soon as he heard of his illness, he showed an active
interest in him, sent for a doctor, and tried remedies, but the
disease turned out to be incurable. The fits occurred, on an
average, once a month, but at various intervals. The fits varied
too, in violence: some were light and some were very severe. Fyodor
Pavlovitch strictly forbade Grigory to use corporal punishment to
the boy, and began allowing him to come upstairs to him. He forbade
him to be taught anything whatever for a time, too. One day when the
boy was about fifteen, Fyodor Pavlovitch noticed him lingering by
the bookcase, and reading the titles through the glass. Fyodor
Pavlovitch had a fair number of books- over a hundred- but no one ever
saw him reading. He at once gave Smerdyakov the key of the bookcase.
"Come, read. You shall be my librarian. You'll be better sitting
reading than hanging about the courtyard. Come, read this," and Fyodor
Pavlovitch gave him Evenings in a Cottage near Dikanka.
He read a little but didn't like it. He did not once smile, and
ended by frowning.
"Why? Isn't it funny?" asked Fyodor Pavlovitch. Smerdyakov did not
"Answer stupid!"
"It's all untrue," mumbled the boy, with a grin.
"Then go to the devil! You have the soul of a lackey. Stay, here's
Smaragdov's Universal History. That's all true. Read that."
But Smerdyakov did not get through ten pages of Smaragdov. He
thought it dull. So the bookcase was closed again.
Shortly afterwards Marfa and Grigory reported to Fyodor Pavlovitch
that Smerdyakov was gradually beginning to show an extraordinary
fastidiousness. He would sit before his soup, take up his spoon and
look into the soup, bend over it, examine it, take a spoonful and hold
it to the light.
"What is it? A beetle?" Grigory would ask.
"A fly, perhaps," observed Marfa.
The squeamish youth never answered, but he did the same with his
bread, his meat, and everything he ate. He would hold a piece on his
fork to the light, scrutinise it microscopically, and only after
long deliberation decide to put it in his mouth.
"Ach! What fine gentlemen's airs!" Grigory muttered, looking at
When Fyodor Pavlovitch heard of this development in Smerdyakov
he determined to make him his cook, and sent him to Moscow to be
trained. He spent some years there and came back remarkably changed in
appearance. He looked extraordinarily old for his age. His face had
grown wrinkled, yellow, and strangely emasculate. In character he
seemed almost exactly the same as before he went away. He was just
as unsociable, and showed not the slightest inclination for any
companionship. In Moscow, too, as we heard afterwards, he had always
been silent. Moscow itself had little interest for him; he saw very
little there, and took scarcely any notice of anything. He went once
to the theatre, but returned silent and displeased with it. On the
other hand, he came back to us from Moscow well dressed, in a clean
coat and clean linen. He brushed his clothes most scrupulously twice a
day invariably, and was very fond of cleaning his smart calf boots
with a special English polish, so that they shone like mirrors. He
turned out a first rate cook. Fyodor Pavlovitch paid him a salary,
almost the whole of which Smerdyakov spent on clothes, pomade,
perfumes, and such things. But he seemed to have as much contempt
for the female sex as for men; he was discreet, almost unapproachable,
with them. Fyodor Pavlovitch began to regard him rather differently.
His fits were becoming more frequent, and on the days he was ill Marfa
cooked, which did not suit Fyodor Pavlovitch at all.
"Why are your fits getting worse?" asked Fyodor Pavlovitch,
looking askance at his new cook. "Would you like to get married? Shall
I find you a wife?"
But Smerdyakov turned pale with anger, and made no reply. Fyodor
Pavlovitch left him with an impatient gesture. The great thing was
that he had absolute confidence in his honesty. It happened once, when
Fyodor Pavlovitch was drunk, that he dropped in the muddy courtyard
three hundred-rouble notes which he had only just received. He only
missed them next day, and was just hastening to search his pockets
when he saw the notes lying on the table. Where had they come from?
Smerdyakov had picked them up and brought them in the day before.
"Well, my lad, I've never met anyone like you," Fyodor
Pavlovitch said shortly, and gave him ten roubles. We may add that
he not only believed in his honesty, but had, for some reason, a
liking for him, although the young man looked as morosely at him as at
everyone and was always silent. He rarely spoke. If it had occurred to
anyone to wonder at the time what the young man was interested in, and
what was in his mind, it would have been impossible to tell by looking
at him. Yet he used sometimes to stop suddenly in the house, or even
in the yard or street, and would stand still for ten minutes, lost
in thought. A physiognomist studying his face would have said that
there was no thought in it, no reflection, but only a sort of
contemplation. There is a remarkable picture by the painter
Kramskoy, called "Contemplation." There is a forest in winter, and
on a roadway through the forest, in absolute solitude, stands a
peasant in a torn kaftan and bark shoes. He stands, as it were, lost
in thought. Yet he is not thinking; he is "contemplating." If anyone
touched him he would start and look at one as though awakening and
bewildered. It's true he would come to himself immediately; but if
he were asked what he had been thinking about, he would remember
nothing. Yet probably he has, hidden within himself, the impression
which had dominated him during the period of contemplation. Those
impressions are dear to him and no doubt he hoards them imperceptibly,
and even unconsciously. How and why, of course, he does not know
either. He may suddenly, after hoarding impressions for many years,
abandon everything and go off to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage for his
soul's salvation, or perhaps he will suddenly set fire to his native
village, and perhaps do both. There are a good many "contemplatives"
among the peasantry. Well, Smerdyakov was probably one of them, and he
probably was greedily hoarding up his impressions, hardly knowing why.
Chapter 7
The Controversy

BUT Balaam's ass had suddenly spoken. The subject was a strange
one. Grigory had gone in the morning to make purchases, and had
heard from the shopkeeper Lukyanov the story of a Russian soldier
which had appeared in the newspaper of that day. This soldier had been
taken prisoner in some remote part of Asia, and was threatened with an
immediate agonising death if he did not renounce Christianity and
follow Islam. He refused to deny his faith, and was tortured, flayed
alive, and died, praising and glorifying Christ. Grigory had related
the story at table. Fyodor Pavlovitch always liked, over the dessert
after dinner, to laugh and talk, if only with Grigory. This
afternoon he was in a particularly good-humoured and expansive mood.
Sipping his brandy and listening to the story, he observed that they
ought to make a saint of a soldier like that, and to take his skin
to some monastery. "That would make the people flock, and bring the
money in."
Grigory frowned, seeing that Fyodor Pavlovitch was by no means
touched, but, as usual, was beginning to scoff. At that moment
Smerdyakov, who was standing by the door, smiled. Smerdyakov often
waited at table towards the end of dinner, and since Ivan's arrival in
our town he had done so every day.
"What are you grinning at?" asked Fyodor Pavlovitch, catching
the smile instantly, and knowing that it referred to Grigory.
"Well, my opinion is," Smerdyakov began suddenly and
unexpectedly in a loud voice, "that if that laudable soldier's exploit
was so very great there would have been, to my thinking, no sin in
it if he had on such an emergency renounced, so to speak, the name
of Christ and his own christening, to save by that same his life,
for good deeds, by which, in the course of years to expiate his
"How could it not be a sin? You're talking nonsense. For that
you'll go straight to hell and be roasted there like mutton," put in
Fyodor Pavlovitch.
It was at this point that Alyosha came in, and Fyodor
Pavlovitch, as we have seen, was highly delighted at his appearance.
"We're on your subject, your subject," he chuckled gleefully,
making Alyosha sit down to listen.
"As for mutton, that's not so, and there'll be nothing there for
this, and there shouldn't be either, if it's according to justice,"
Smerdyakov maintained stoutly.
"How do you mean 'according to justice'?" Fyodor Pavlovitch
cried still more gaily, nudging Alyosha with his knee.
"He's a rascal, that's what he is!" burst from Grigory. He
looked Smerdyakov wrathfully in the face.
"As for being a rascal, wait a little, Grigory Vassilyevitch,"
answered Smerdyakov with perfect composure. "You'd better consider
yourself that, once I am taken prisoner by the enemies of the
Christian race, and they demand from me to curse the name of God and
to renounce my holy christening, I am fully entitled to act by my
own reason, since there would be no sin in it."
"But you've said that before. Don't waste words. Prove it,"
cried Fyodor Pavlovitch.
"Soup-maker!" muttered Grigory contemptuously.
"As for being a soup-maker, wait a bit, too, and consider for
yourself, Grigory Vassilyevitch, without abusing me. For as soon as
I say to those enemies, 'No, I'm not a Christian, and I curse my
true God,' then at once, by God's high judgment, I become
immediately and specially anathema accursed, and am cut off from the
Holy Church, exactly as though I were a heathen, so that at that
very instant, not only when I say it aloud, but when I think of saying
it, before a quarter of a second has passed, I am cut off. Is that
so or not, Grigory Vassilyevitch?"
He addressed Grigory with obvious satisfaction, though he was
really answering Fyodor Pavlovitch's questions, and was well aware
of it, and intentionally pretending that Grigory had asked the
"Ivan," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch suddenly, "stoop down for me to
whisper. He's got this all up for your benefit. He wants you to praise
him. Praise him."
Ivan listened with perfect seriousness to his father's excited
"Stay, Smerdyakov, be quiet a minute," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch
once more. "Ivan, your ear again."
Ivan bent down again with a perfectly grave face.
"I love you as I do Alyosha. Don't think I don't love you. Some
"Yes.- But you're rather drunk yourself," thought Ivan, looking
steadily at his father.
He was watching Smerdyakov with great curiosity.
"You're anathema accursed, as it is, Grigory suddenly burst out,
"and how dare you argue, you rascal, after that, if- "
"Don't scold him, Grigory, don't scold him," Fyodor Pavlovitch cut
him short.
"You should wait, Grigory Vassilyevitch, if only a short time, and
listen, for I haven't finished all I had to say. For at the very
moment I become accursed, at that same highest moment, I become
exactly like a heathen, and my christening is taken off me and becomes
of no avail. Isn't that so?"
"Make haste and finish, my boy," Fyodor Pavlovitch urged him,
sipping from his wineglass with relish.
"And if I've ceased to be a Christian, then I told no lie to the
enemy when they asked whether I was a Christian or not a Christian,
seeing I had already been relieved by God Himself of my Christianity
by reason of the thought alone, before I had time to utter a word to
the enemy. And if I have already been discharged, in what manner and
with what sort of justice can I be held responsible as a Christian
in the other world for having denied Christ, when, through the very
thought alone, before denying Him I had been relieved from my
christening? If I'm no longer a Christian, then I can't renounce
Christ, for I've nothing then to renounce. Who will hold an unclean
Tatar responsible, Grigory Vassilyevitch, even in heaven, for not
having been born a Christian? And who would punish him for that,
considering that you can't take two skins off one ox? For God Almighty
Himself, even if He did make the Tatar responsible, when he dies would
give him the smallest possible punishment, I imagine (since he must be
punished), judging that he is not to blame if he has come into the
world an unclean heathen, from heathen parents. The Lord God can't
surely take a Tatar and say he was a Christian? That would mean that
the Almighty would tell a real untruth. And can the Lord of Heaven and
earth tell a lie, even in one word?"
Grigory was thunderstruck and looked at the orator, his eyes
nearly starting out of his head. Though he did not clearly
understand what was said, he had caught something in this rigmarole,
and stood, looking like a man who has just hit his head against a
wall. Fyodor Pavlovitch emptied his glass and went off into his shrill
"Alyosha! Alyosha! What do you say to that! Ah, you casuist! He
must have been with the Jesuits, somewhere, Ivan. Oh, you stinking
Jesuit,who taught you? But you're talking nonsense, you casuist,
nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. Don't cry, Grigory, we'll reduce him
to smoke and ashes in a moment. Tell me this, O ass; you may be
right before your enemies, but you have renounced your faith all the
same in your own heart, and you say yourself that in that very hour
you became anathema accursed. And if once you're anathema they won't
pat you on the head for it in hell. What do you say to that, my fine
"There is no doubt that I have renounced it in my own heart, but
there no special sin in that. Or if there was sin, it was the most
"How's that the most ordinary?"
"You lie, accursed one!" hissed Grigory.
"Consider yourself, Grigory Vassilyevitch," Smerdyakov went on,
staid and unruffled, conscious of his triumph, but, as it were,
generous to the vanquished foe. "Consider yourself, Grigory
Vassilyevitch; it is said in the Scripture that if you have faith,
even as a mustard seed, and bid a mountain move into the sea, it
will move without the least delay at your bidding. Well, Grigory
Vassilyevitch, if I'm without faith and you have so great a faith that
you are continually swearing at me, you try yourself telling this
mountain, not to move into the sea for that's a long way off, but even
to our stinking little river which runs at the bottom of the garden.
You'll see for yourself that it won't budge, but will remain just
where it is however much you shout at it, and that shows, Grigory
Vassilyevitch, that you haven't faith in the proper manner, and only
abuse others about it. Again, taking into consideration that no one in
our day, not only you, but actually no one, from the highest person to
the lowest peasant, can shove mountains into the sea- except perhaps
some one man in the world, or, at most, two, and they most likely
are saving their souls in secret somewhere in the Egyptian desert,
so you wouldn't find them- if so it be, if all the rest have no faith,
will God curse all the rest? that is, the population of the whole
earth, except about two hermits in the desert, and in His well-known
mercy will He not forgive one of them? And so I'm persuaded that
though I may once have doubted I shall be forgiven if I shed tears
of repentance."
"Stay!" cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, in a transport of delight. "So
you do suppose there are two who can move mountains? Ivan, make a note
of it, write it down. There you have the Russian all over!"
"You're quite right in saying it's characteristic of the
people's faith," Ivan assented, with an approving smile.
"You agree. Then it must be so, if you agree. It's true, isn't
it Alyosha? That's the Russian faith all over, isn't it?"
"No, Smerdyakov has not the Russian faith at all," said Alyosha
firmly and gravely.
"I'm not talking about his faith. I mean those two in the
desert, only that idea. Surely that's Russian, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's purely Russian," said Alyosha smiling.
"Your words are worth a gold piece, O ass, and I'll give it to you
to-day. But as to the rest you talk nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.
Let me tell you, stupid, that we here are all of little faith, only
from carelessness, because we haven't time; things are too much for
us, and, in the second place, the Lord God has given us so little
time, only twenty-four hours in the day, so that one hasn't even
time to get sleep enough, much less to repent of one's sins. While you
have denied your faith to your enemies when you'd nothing else to
think about but to show your faith! So I consider, brother, that it
constitutes a sin."
"Constitute a sin it may, but consider yourself, Grigory
Vassilyevitch, that it only extenuates it, if it does constitute. If I
had believed then in very truth, as I ought to have believed, then
it really would have been sinful if I had not faced tortures for my
faith, and had gone over to the pagan Mohammedan faith. But, of
course, it wouldn't have come to torture then, because I should only
have had to say at that instant to the mountain, 'Move and crush the
tormentor,' and it would have moved and at the very instant have
crushed him like a black-beetle, and I should have walked away as
though nothing had happened, praising and glorifying God. But, suppose
at that very moment I had tried all that, and cried to that
mountain, 'Crush these tormentors,' and it hadn't crushed them, how
could I have helped doubting, pray, at such a time, and at such a
dread hour of mortal terror? And apart from that, I should know
already that I could not attain to the fullness of the Kingdom of
Heaven (for since the mountain had not moved at my word, they could
not think very much of my faith up aloft, and there could be no very
great reward awaiting me in the world to come). So why should I let
them flay the skin off me as well, and to no good purpose? For, even
though they had flayed my skin half off my back, even then the
mountain would not have moved at my word or at my cry. And at such a
moment not only doubt might come over one but one might lose one's
reason from fear, so that one would not be able to think at all.
And, therefore, how should I be particularly to blame if not seeing my
advantage or reward there or here, I should, at least, save my skin.
And so trusting fully in the grace of the Lord I should cherish the
hope that I might be altogether forgiven."
Chapter 8
Over the Brandy

THE controversy was over. But, strange to say, Fyodor
Pavlovitch, who had been so gay, suddenly began frowning. He frowned
and gulped brandy, and it was already a glass too much.
"Get along with you, Jesuits!" he cried to the servants. "Go away,
Smerdyakov. I'll send you the gold piece I promised you to-day, but be
off! Don't cry, Grigory. Go to Marfa. She'll comfort you and put you
to bed. The rascals won't let us sit in peace after dinner," he
snapped peevishly, as the servants promptly withdrew at his word.
"Smerdyakov always pokes himself in now, after dinner. It's you
he's so interested in. What have you done to fascinate him?" he
added to Ivan.
"Nothing whatever," answered Ivan. "He's pleased to have a high
opinion of me; he's a lackey and a mean soul. Raw material for
revolution, however, when the time comes."
"There will be others and better ones. But there will be some like
him as well. His kind will come first, and better ones after."
"And when will the time come?"
"The rocket will go off and fizzle out, perhaps. The peasants
are not very fond of listening to these soup-makers, so far."
"Ah, brother, but a Balaam's ass like that thinks and thinks,
and the devil knows where he gets to."
"He's storing up ideas," said Ivan, smiling.
"You see, I know he can't bear me, nor anyone else, even you,
though you fancy that he has a high opinion of you. Worse still with
Alyosha, he despises Alyosha. But he doesn't steal, that's one
thing, and he's not a gossip, he holds his tongue, and doesn't wash
our dirty linen in public. He makes capital fish pasties too. But,
damn him, is he worth talking about so much?"
"Of course he isn't."
"And as for the ideas he may be hatching, the Russian peasant,
generally speaking, needs thrashing. That I've always maintained.
Our peasants are swindlers, and don't deserve to be pitied, and it's a
good thing they're still flogged sometimes. Russia is rich in birches.
If they destroyed the forests, it would be the ruin of Russia. I stand
up for the clever people. We've left off thrashing the peasants, we've
grown so clever, but they go on thrashing themselves. And a good thing
too. 'For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you
again,' or how does it go? Anyhow, it will be measured. But Russia's
all swinishness. My dear, if you only knew how I hate Russia....
That is, not Russia, but all this vice! But maybe I mean Russia.
Tout cela c'est de la cochonnerie....* Do you know what I like? I like

* All this is filthiness.

"You've had another glass. That's enough."
"Wait a bit. I'll have one more, and then another, and then I'll
stop. No, stay, you interrupted me. At Mokroe I was talking to an
old man, and he told me: 'There's nothing we like so much as
sentencing girls to be thrashed, and we always give the lads the job
of thrashing them. And the girl he has thrashed to-day, the young
man will ask in marriage to-morrow. So it quite suits the girls, too,'
he said. There's a set of de Sades for you! But it's clever, anyway.
Shall we go over and have a look at it, eh? Alyosha, are you blushing?
Don't be bashful, child. I'm sorry I didn't stay to dinner at the
Superior's and tell the monks about the girls at Mokroe. Alyosha,
don't be angry that I offended your Superior this morning. I lost my
temper. If there is a God, if He exists, then, of course, I'm to
blame, and I shall have to answer for it. But if there isn't a God
at all, what do they deserve, your fathers? It's not enough to cut
their heads off, for they keep back progress. Would you believe it,
Ivan, that that lacerates my sentiments? No, you don't believe it as I
see from your eyes. You believe what people say, that I'm nothing
but a buffoon. Alyosha, do you believe that I'm nothing but a
"No, I don't believe it."
"And I believe you don't, and that you speak the truth. You look
sincere and you speak sincerely. But not Ivan. Ivan's supercilious....
I'd make an end of your monks, though, all the same. I'd take all that
mystic stuff and suppress it, once for all, all over Russia, so as
to bring all the fools to reason. And the gold and the silver that
would flow into the mint!"
"But why suppress it?" asked Ivan.
"That Truth may prevail. That's why."
"Well, if Truth were to prevail, you know, you'd be the first to
be robbed and suppressed."
"Ah! I dare say you're right. Ah, I'm an ass!" burst out Fyodor
Pavlovitch, striking himself lightly on the forehead. "Well, your
monastery may stand then, Alyosha, if that's how it is. And we
clever people will sit snug and enjoy our brandy. You know, Ivan, it
must have been so ordained by the Almighty Himself. Ivan, speak, is
there a God or not? Stay, speak the truth, speak seriously. Why are
you laughing again?"
"I'm laughing that you should have made a clever remark just now
about Smerdyakov's belief in the existence of two saints who could
move mountains."
"Why, am I like him now, then?"
"Very much."
"Well, that shows I'm a Russian, too, and I have a Russian
characteristic. And you may be caught in the same way, though you
are a philosopher. Shall I catch you? What do you bet that I'll
catch you to-morrow? Speak, all the same, is there a God, or not?
Only, be serious. I want you to be serious now."
"No, there is no God."
"Alyosha, is there a God?"
"There is."
"Ivan, and is there immortality of some sort, just a little,
just a tiny bit?"
"There is no immortality either."
"None at all?"
"None at all."
"There's absolute nothingness then. Perhaps there is just
something? Anything is better than nothing!"
"Alyosha, is there immortality?"
"God and immortality?"
"God and immortality. In God is immortality."
"H'm! It's more likely Ivan's right. Good Lord! to think what
faith, what force of all kinds, man has lavished for nothing, on
that dream, and for how many thousand years. Who is it laughing at
man? Ivan For the last time, once for all, is there a God or not? I
ask for the last time!"
"And for the last time there is not."
"Who is laughing at mankind, Ivan?"
"It must be the devil," said Ivan, smiling.
"And the devil? Does he exist?"
"No, there's no devil either."
"It's a pity. Damn it all, what wouldn't I do to the man who first
invented God! Hanging on a bitter aspen tree would be too good for,
"There would have been no civilisation if they hadn't invented
"Wouldn't there have been? Without God?"
"No. And there would have been no brandy either. But I must take
your brandy away from you, anyway."
"Stop, stop, stop, dear boy, one more little glass. I've hurt
Alyosha's feelings. You're not angry with me, Alyosha? My dear
little Alexey!"
"No, I am not angry. I know your thoughts. Your heart is better
than your head."
"My heart better than my head, is it? Oh Lord! And that from
you. Ivan, do you love Alyosha?"
"You must love him" (Fyodor Pavlovitch was by this time very
drunk). "Listen, Alyosha, I was rude to your elder this morning. But I
was excited. But there's wit in that elder, don't you think, Ivan?"
"Very likely."
"There is, there is. Il y a du Piron la-dedans.* He's a Jesuit,
a Russian one, that is. As he's an honourable person there's a
hidden indignation boiling within him at having to pretend and
affect holiness."

* There's something of Piron inside of him.

"But, of course, he believes in God."
"Not a bit of it. Didn't you know? Why, he tells everyone so,
himself. That is, not everyone, but all the clever people who come
to him. He said straight out to Governor Schultz not long ago: 'Credo,
but I don't know in what.'"
"He really did. But I respect him. There's something of
Mephistopheles about him, or rather of 'The hero of our time'...
Arbenin, or what's his name?... You see, he's a sensualist. He's
such a sensualist that I should be afraid for my daughter or my wife
if she went to confess to him. You know, when he begins telling
stories... The year before last he invited us to tea, tea with liqueur
(the ladies send him liqueur), and began telling us about old times
till we nearly split our sides.... Especially how he once cured a
paralysed woman. 'If my legs were not bad I know a dance I could dance
you,' he said. What do you say to that? 'I've plenty of tricks in my
time,' said he. He did Demidov, the merchant, out of sixty thousand."
"What, he stole it?"
"He brought him the money as a man he could trust, saying, 'Take
care of it for me, friend, there'll be a police search at my place
to-morrow.' And he kept it. 'You have given it to the Church,' he
declared. I said to him: 'You're a scoundrel,' I said. 'No,' said
he, 'I'm not a scoundrel, but I'm broadminded.' But that wasn't he,
that was someone else. I've muddled him with someone else... without
noticing it. Come, another glass and that's enough. Take away the
bottle, Ivan. I've been telling lies. Why didn't you stop me, Ivan,
and tell me I was lying?"
"I knew you'd stop of yourself."
"That's a lie. You did it from spite, from simple spite against
me. You despise me. You have come to me and despised me in my own
"Well, I'm going away. You've had too much brandy."
"I've begged you for Christ's sake to go to Tchermashnya for a day
or two, and you don't go."
"I'll go to-morrow if you're so set upon it."
"You won't go. You want to keep an eye on me. That's what you
want, spiteful fellow. That's why you won't go."
The old man persisted. He had reached that state of drunkenness
when the drunkard who has till then been inoffensive tries to pick a
quarrel and to assert himself.
"Why are you looking at me? Why do you look like that? Your eyes
look at me and say, 'You ugly drunkard!' Your eyes are mistrustful.
They're contemptuous.... You've come here with some design. Alyosha,
here, looks at me and his eyes shine. Alyosha doesn't despise me.
Alexey, you mustn't love Ivan."
"Don't be ill-tempered with my brother. Leave off attacking
him," Alyosha said emphatically.
"Oh, all right. Ugh, my head aches. Take away the brandy, Ivan.
It's the third time I've told you."
He mused, and suddenly a slow, cunning grin spread over his face.
"Don't be angry with a feeble old man, Ivan. I know you don't love
me, but don't be angry all the same. You've nothing to love me for.
You go to Tchermashnya. I'll come to you myself and bring you a
present. I'll show you a little wench there. I've had my eye on her
a long time. She's still running about bare-foot. Don't be afraid of
bare-footed wenches- don't despise them- they're pearls!"
And he kissed his hand with a smack.
"To my thinking," he revived at once, seeming to grow sober the
instant he touched on his favourite topic. "To my thinking... Ah,
you boys! You children, little sucking-pigs, to my thinking... I never
thought a woman ugly in my life- that's been my rule! Can you
understand that? How could you understand it? You've milk in your
veins, not blood. You're not out of your shells yet. My rule has
been that you can always find something devilishly interesting in
every woman that you wouldn't find in any other. Only, one must know
how to find it, that's the point! That's a talent! To my mind there
are no ugly women. The very fact that she is a woman is half the
battle... but how could you understand that? Even in vieilles
filles, even in them you may discover something that makes you
simply wonder that men have been such fools as to let them grow old
without noticing them. Bare-footed girls or unattractive ones, you
must take by surprise. Didn't you know that? You must astound them
till they're fascinated, upset, ashamed that such a gentleman should
fall in love with such a little slut. It's a jolly good thing that
there always are and will be masters and slaves in the world, so there
always will be a little maid-of-all-work and her master, and you know,
that's all that's needed for happiness. Stay... listen, Alyosha, I
always used to surprise your mother, but in a different way. I paid no
attention to her at all, but all at once, when the minute came, I'd be
all devotion to her, crawl on my knees, kiss her feet, and I always,
always- I remember it as though it were to-day- reduced her to that
tinkling, quiet, nervous, queer little laugh. It was peculiar to
her. I knew her attacks always used to begin like that. The next day
she would begin shrieking hysterically, and this little laugh was
not a sign of delight, though it made a very good counterfeit.
That's the great thing, to know how to take everyone. Once
Belyavsky- he was a handsome fellow, and rich- used to like to come
here and hang about her- suddenly gave me a slap in the face in her
presence. And she- such a mild sheep- why, I thought she would have
knocked me down for that blow. How she set on me! 'You're beaten,
beaten now,' she said, 'You've taken a blow from him. You have been
trying to sell me to him,' she said... 'And how dared he strike you in
my presence! Don't dare come near me again, never, never! Run at once,
challenge him to a duel!'... I took her to the monastery then to bring
her to her senses. The holy Fathers prayed her back to reason. But I
swear, by God, Alyosha, I never insulted the poor crazy girl! Only
once, perhaps, in the first year; then she was very fond of praying.
She used to keep the feasts of Our Lady particularly and used to
turn me out of her room then. I'll knock that mysticism out of her,
thought I! 'Here,' said I, 'you see your holy image. Here it is.
Here I take it down. You believe it's miraculous, but here, I'll
spit on it directly and nothing will happen to me for it!'... When she
saw it, good Lord! I thought she would kill me. But she only jumped
up, wrung her hands, then suddenly hid her face in them, began
trembling all over and fell on the floor... fell all of a heap.
Alyosha, Alyosha, what's the matter?"
The old man jumped up in alarm. From the time he had begun
speaking about his mother, a change had gradually come over
Alyosha's face. He flushed crimson, his eyes glowed, his lips
quivered. The old sot had gone spluttering on, noticing nothing,
till the moment when something very strange happened to Alyosha.
Precisely what he was describing in the crazy woman was suddenly
repeated with Alyosha. He jumped up from his seat exactly as his
mother was said to have done, wrung his hands, hid his face in them,
and fell back in his chair, shaking all over in an hysterical paroxysm
of sudden violent, silent weeping. His extraordinary resemblance to
his mother particularly impressed the old man.
"Ivan, Ivan! Water, quickly! It's like her, exactly as she used to
be then, his mother. Spurt some water on him from your mouth, that's
what I used to do to her. He's upset about his mother, his mother," he
muttered to Ivan.
"But she was my mother, too, I believe, his mother. Was she
not?" said Ivan, with uncontrolled anger and contempt. The old man
shrank before his flashing eyes. But something very strange had
happened, though only for a second; it seemed really to have escaped
the old man's mind that Alyosha's mother actually was the mother of
Ivan too.
"Your mother?" he muttered, not understanding. "What do you
mean? What mother are you talking about? Was she?... Why, damn it!
of course she was yours too! Damn it! My mind has never been so
darkened before. Excuse me, why, I was thinking Ivan... He he he!"
He stopped. A broad, drunken, half senseless grin overspread his face.
At that moment a fearful noise, and clamour was heard in the hall,
there were violent shouts, the door was flung open, and Dmitri burst
into the room. The old man rushed to Ivan in terror.
"He'll kill me! He'll kill me! Don't let him get at me!" he
screamed, clinging to the skirt of Ivan's coat.

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