The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter 2

Lyagavy

SO he must drive at full speed, and he had not the money for horses. He had forty copecks, and that was all, all that was left after so many years of prosperity! But he had at home an old silver watch which had long ceased to go. He snatched it up and carried it to a Jewish watch maker who had a shop in the market-place. The Jew gave him six roubles for it.

“And I didn’t expect that cried Mitya, ecstatically. (He was still in a state of ecstasy.) He seized his six roubles and ran home. At home he borrowed three roubles from the people of the house, who loved him so much that they were pleased to give it him, though it was all they had. Mitya in his excitement told them on the spot that his fate would be decided that day, and he described, in desperate haste, the whole scheme he had put before Samsonov, the latter’s decision, his own hopes for the future, and so on. These people had been told many of their lodger’s secrets before, and so looked upon him as a gentleman who was not at all proud, and almost one of themselves. Having thus collected nine roubles Mitya sent for posting-horses to take him to the Volovya station. This was how the fact came to be remembered and established that “at midday, on the day before the event, Mitya had not a farthing, and that he had sold his watch to get money and had borrowed three roubles from his landlord, all in the presence of witnesses.”

I note this fact, later on it will be apparent why I do so.

Though he was radiant with the joyful anticipation that he would at last solve all his difficulties, yet, as he drew near Volovya station, he trembled at the thought of what Grushenka might be doing in his absence. What if she made up her mind to-day to go to Fyodor Pavlovitch? This was why he had gone off without telling her and why he left orders with his landlady not to let out where he had gone, if anyone came to inquire for him.

“I must, I must get back to-night,” he repeated, as he was jolted along in the cart, “and I dare say I shall have to bring this Lyagavy back here . . . to draw up the deed.” So mused Mitya, with a throbbing heart, but alas! his dreams were not fated to be carried out.

To begin with, he was late, taking a short cut from Volovya station which turned out to be eighteen versts instead of twelve. Secondly, he did not find the priest at home at Ilyinskoe; he had gone off to a neighbouring village. While Mitya, setting off there with the same exhausted horses, was looking for him, it was almost dark.

The priest, a shy and amiable looking little man, informed him at once that though Lyagavy had been staying with him at first, he was now at Suhoy Possyolok, that he was staying the night in the forester’s cottage, as he was buying timber there too. At Mitya’s urgent request that he would take him to Lyagavy at once, and by so doing “save him, so to speak,” the priest agreed, after some demur, to conduct him to Suhoy Possyolok; his curiosity was obviously aroused. But, unluckily, he advised their going on foot, as it would not be “much over” a verst. Mitya, of course, agreed, and marched off with his yard-long strides, so that the poor priest almost ran after him. He was a very cautious man, though not old.

Mitya at once began talking to him, too, of his plans, nervously and excitedly asking advice in regard to Lyagavy, and talking all the way. The priest listened attentively, but gave little advice. He turned off Mitya’s questions with: “I don’t know. Ah, I can’t say. How can I tell?” and so on. When Mitya began to speak of his quarrel with his father over his inheritance, the priest was positively alarmed, as he was in some way dependent on Fyodor Pavlovitch. He inquired, however, with surprise, why he called the peasant-trader Gorstkin, Lyagavy, and obligingly explained to Mitya that, though the man’s name really was Lyagavy, he was never called so, as he would be grievously offended at the name, and that he must be sure to call him Gorstkin, “or you’ll do nothing with him; he won’t even listen to you,” said the priest in conclusion.

Mitya was somewhat surprised for a moment, and explained that that was what Samsonov had called him. On hearing this fact, the priest dropped the subject, though he would have done well to put into words his doubt whether, if Samsonov had sent him to that peasant, calling him Lyagavy, there was not something wrong about it and he was turning him into ridicule. But Mitya had no time to pause over such trifles. He hurried, striding along, and only when he reached Suhoy Possyolok did he realise that they had come not one verst, nor one and a half, but at least three. This annoyed him, but he controlled himself.

They went into the hut. The forester lived in one half of the hut, and Gorstkin was lodging in the other, the better room the other side of the passage. They went into that room and lighted a tallow candle. The hut was extremely overheated. On the table there was a samovar that had gone out, a tray with cups, an empty rum bottle, a bottle of vodka partly full, and some half-eaten crusts of wheaten bread. The visitor himself lay stretched at full length on the bench, with his coat crushed up under his head for a pillow, snoring heavily. Mitya stood in perplexity.

“Of course, I must wake him. My business is too important. I’ve come in such haste. I’m in a hurry to get back to-day,” he said in great agitation. But the priest and the forester stood in silence, not giving their opinion. Mitya went up and began trying to wake him himself; he tried vigorously, but the sleeper did not wake.

“He’s drunk,” Mitya decided. “Good Lord! What am I to do? What am I to do?” And, terribly impatient, he began pulling him by the arms, by the legs, shaking his head, lifting him up and making him sit on the bench. Yet, after prolonged exertions, he could only succeed in getting the drunken man to utter absurd grunts, and violent, but inarticulate oaths.

“No, you’d better wait a little,” the priest pronounced at last, “for he’s obviously not in a fit state.”

“He’s been drinking the whole day,” the forester chimed in.

“Good heavens!” cried Mitya. “If only you knew how important it is to me and how desperate I am!”

“No, you’d better wait till morning,” the priest repeated.

“Till morning? Mercy! that’s impossible!” And in his despair he was on the point of attacking the sleeping man again, but stopped short at once, realising the uselessness of his efforts. The priest said nothing, the sleepy forester looked gloomy.

“What terrible tragedies real life contrives for people,” said Mitya, in complete despair. The perspiration was streaming down his face. The priest seized the moment to put before him, very reasonably, that, even if he succeeded in wakening the man, he would still be drunk and incapable of conversation. “And your business is important,” he said, “so you’d certainly better put it off till morning.” With a gesture of despair Mitya agreed.

“Father, I will stay here with a light, and seize the favourable moment. As soon as he wakes I’ll begin. I’ll pay you for the light,” he said to the forester, “for the night’s lodging, too; you’ll remember Dmitri Karamazov. Only Father, I don’t know what we’re to do with you. Where will you sleep?”

“No, I’m going home. I’ll take his horse and get home,” he said, indicating the forester. “And now I’ll say good-bye. I wish you all success.”

So it was settled. The priest rode off on the forester’s horse, delighted to escape, though he shook his head uneasily, wondering whether he ought not next day to inform his benefactor Fyodor Pavlovitch of this curious incident, “or he may in an unlucky hour hear of it, be angry, and withdraw his favour.”

The forester, scratching himself, went back to his room without a word, and Mitya sat on the bench to “catch the favourable moment,” as he expressed it. Profound dejection clung about his soul like a heavy mist. A profound, intense dejection! He sat thinking, but could reach no conclusion. The candle burnt dimly, a cricket chirped; it became insufferably close in the overheated room. He suddenly pictured the garden, the path behind the garden, the door of his father’s house mysteriously opening and Grushenka running in. He leapt up from the bench.

“It’s a tragedy!” he said, grinding his teeth. Mechanically he went up to the sleeping man and looked in his face. He was a lean, middle-aged peasant, with a very long face, flaxen curls, and a long, thin, reddish beard, wearing a blue cotton shirt and a black waistcoat, from the pocket of which peeped the chain of a silver watch. Mitya looked at his face with intense hatred, and for some unknown reason his curly hair particularly irritated him.

What was insufferably humiliating was that, after leaving things of such importance and making such sacrifices, he, Mitya, utterly worn out, should with business of such urgency be standing over this dolt on whom his whole fate depended, while he snored as though there were nothing the matter, as though he’d dropped from another planet.

“Oh, the irony of fate!” cried Mitya, and, quite losing his head, he fell again to rousing the tipsy peasant. He roused him with a sort of ferocity, pulled at him, pushed him, even beat him; but after five minutes of vain exertions, he returned to his bench in helpless despair, and sat down.

“Stupid! Stupid!” cried Mitya. “And how dishonourable it all is!” something made him add. His head began to ache horribly. “Should he fling it up and go away altogether?” he wondered. “No, wait till to-morrow now. I’ll stay on purpose. What else did I come for? Besides, I’ve no means of going. How am I to get away from here now? Oh, the idiocy of it” But his head ached more and more. He sat without moving, and unconsciously dozed off and fell asleep as he sat. He seemed to have slept for two hours or more. He was waked up by his head aching so unbearably that he could have screamed. There was a hammering in his temples, and the top of his head ached. It was a long time before he could wake up fully and understand what had happened to him.

At last he realised that the room was full of charcoal fumes from the stove, and that he might die of suffocation. And the drunken peasant still lay snoring. The candle guttered and was about to go out. Mitya cried out, and ran staggering across the passage into the forester’s room. The forester waked up at once, but hearing that the other room was full of fumes, to Mitya’s surprise and annoyance, accepted the fact with strange unconcern, though he did go to see to it.

“But he’s dead, he’s dead! and . . . what am I to do then?” cried Mitya frantically.

They threw open the doors, opened a window and the chimney. Mitya brought a pail of water from the passage. First he wetted his own head, then, finding a rag of some sort, dipped it into the water, and put it on Lyagavy’s head. The forester still treated the matter contemptuously, and when he opened the window said grumpily:

“It’ll be all right, now.”

He went back to sleep, leaving Mitya a lighted lantern. Mitya fussed about the drunken peasant for half an hour, wetting his head, and gravely resolved not to sleep all night. But he was so worn out that when he sat down for a moment to take breath, he closed his eyes, unconsciously stretched himself full length on the bench and slept like the dead.

It was dreadfully late when he waked. It was somewhere about nine o’clock. The sun was shining brightly in the two little windows of the hut. The curly-headed peasant was sitting on the bench and had his coat on. He had another samovar and another bottle in front of him. Yesterday’s bottle had already been finished, and the new one was more than half empty. Mitya jumped up and saw at once that the cursed peasant was drunk again, hopelessly and incurably. He stared at him for a moment with wide opened eyes. The peasant was silently and slyly watching him, with insulting composure, and even a sort of contemptuous condescension, so Mitya fancied. He rushed up to him.

“Excuse me, you see . . . I . . . you’ve most likely heard from the forester here in the hut. I’m Lieutenant Dmitri Karamazov, the son of the old Karamazov whose copse you are buying.”

“That’s a lie!” said the peasant, calmly and confidently.

“A lie? You know Fyodor Pavlovitch?”

“I don’t know any of your Fyodor Pavlovitches,” said the peasant, speaking thickly.

“You’re bargaining with him for the copse, for the copse. Do wake up, and collect yourself. Father Pavel of Ilyinskoe brought me here. You wrote to Samsonov, and he has sent me to you,” Mitya gasped breathlessly.

“You’re lying!” Lyagavy blurted out again. Mitya’s legs went cold.

“For mercy’s sake! It isn’t a joke! You’re drunk, perhaps. Yet you can speak and understand . . . or else . . . I understand nothing!”

“You’re a painter!”

“For mercy’s sake! I’m Karamazov, Dmitri Karamazov. I have an offer to make you, an advantageous offer . . . very advantageous offer, concerning the copse!”

The peasant stroked his beard importantly.

“No, you’ve contracted for the job and turned out a scamp. You’re a scoundrel!”

“I assure you you’re mistaken,” cried Mitya, wringing his hands in despair. The peasant still stroked his beard, and suddenly screwed up his eyes cunningly.

“No, you show me this: you tell me the law that allows roguery. D’you hear? You’re a scoundrel! Do you understand that?”

Mitya stepped back gloomily, and suddenly “something seemed to hit him on the head,” as he said afterwards. In an instant a light seemed to dawn in his mind, “a light was kindled and I grasped it all.” He stood, stupefied, wondering how he, after all a man of intelligence, could have yielded to such folly, have been led into such an adventure, and have kept it up for almost twenty-four hours, fussing round this Lyagavy, wetting his head.

“Why, the man’s drunk, dead drunk, and he’ll go on drinking now for a week; what’s the use of waiting here? And what if Samsonov sent me here on purpose? What if she —? Oh God, what have I done?”

The peasant sat watching him and grinning. Another time Mitya might have killed the fool in a fury, but now he felt as weak as a child. He went quietly to the bench, took up his overcoat, put it on without a word, and went out of the hut. He did not find the forester in the next room; there was no one there. He took fifty copecks in small change out of his pocket and put them on the table for his night’s lodging, the candle, and the trouble he had given. Coming out of the hut he saw nothing but forest all round. He walked at hazard, not knowing which way to turn out of the hut, to the right or to the left. Hurrying there the evening before with the priest, he had not noticed the road. He had no revengeful feeling for anybody, even for Samsonov, in his heart. He strode along a narrow forest path, aimless, dazed, without heeding where he was going. A child could have knocked him down, so weak was he in body and soul. He got out of the forest somehow, however, and a vista of fields, bare after the harvest, stretched as far as the eye could see.

“What despair! What death all round!” he repeated, striding on and on.

He was saved by meeting an old merchant who was being driven across country in a hired trap. When he overtook him, Mitya asked the way and it turned out that the old merchant, too, was going to Volovya. After some discussion Mitya got into the trap. Three hours later they arrived. At Volovya, Mitya at once ordered posting-horses to drive to the town, and suddenly realised that he was appallingly hungry. While the horses were being harnessed, an omelette was prepared for him. He ate it all in an instant, ate a huge hunk of bread, ate a sausage, and swallowed three glasses of vodka. After eating, his spirits and his heart grew lighter. He flew towards the town, urged on the driver, and suddenly made a new and “unalterable” plan to procure that “accursed money” before evening. “And to think, only to think that a man’s life should be ruined for the sake of that paltry three thousand!” he cried, contemptuously. “I’ll settle it to-day.” And if it had not been for the thought of Grushenka and of what might have happened to her, which never left him, he would perhaps have become quite cheerful again. . . . But the thought of her was stabbing him to the heart every moment, like a sharp knife.

At last they arrived, and Mitya at once ran to Grushenka.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dostoyevsky/d72b/chapter47.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:49