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The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, February 07, 2008

Book I
The History of a Family

Chapter 1
Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov

ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner 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 it.

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 Miusovs. 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 favourite 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 is a fact, and probably there have been not a few similar instances in the last two or three generations. Adelaida Ivanovna Miusov'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.

Immediatley 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 colours 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 forever. 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 rumour 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 2
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 behaviour 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 everyone 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 Miusov, 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 Miusovs 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 neighbourhood 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, a short time. So Fyodor Pavlovitch began to take advantage
of this fact, sending him from time to time small doles,
instalments. 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 3
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 beauty.
"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 orphans."
"You are a blockhead all the same," the old lady shouted to him as she
drove away.
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 anyone.
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 realised 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 "ardour 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 neighbourhood, where the inmates,
being particularly interested in 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 Miusov,
of whom we have spoken already, the cousin of Fyodor Pavlovitch's
first wife, happened to be in the neighbourhood 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 anyone when he made the
acquaintance of the young man, who interested him extremely, and
with whom he sometimes argued and not without 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?
Everyone 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 spitefully perverse.
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 rather mysterious.
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 4
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
extrordinary 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 everyone 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 anyone.
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 criticise and would never condemn anyone 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 offence,
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 anyone before.
Everyone, 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 favourite all the while he was at
school. He was rarely playful or merry, but anyone 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 anyone,
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
offence 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 she
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,
criticised too severely, for at the slightest acquaintance with him
anyone 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 Miusov, 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 centre 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
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 as 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 goitre, 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 goitre 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 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 anyone 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 black-guard I am."

* It would be neccessary to invent them.

"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 vu 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."

* I've seen the shadow of a coachman rubbing the shadow of a coach
with the shadow of a brush.

And he even began blubbering. He was sentimental. He was wicked
and sentimental.
Chapter 5

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 grey,
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 anyone. 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 unrecognised
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 labour 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 fulfil 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 unbaptised," 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 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 someone or something holy to fall down before and worship.
"Among us there is sin, injustice, and temptation, but yet,
somewhere on earth there is someone 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 anyone 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 before
"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 heart.
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 offence 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 unlike.
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 Miusov, 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 fixed.
"Who has made me a judge over them?" was all he said, smilingly,
to Alyosha.
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 Miusov 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 everyone 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 Miusov 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
"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.


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