The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter 4

The Second Ordeal

“YOU don’t know how you encourage us, Dmitri Fyodorovitch, by your readiness to answer,” said Nikolay Parfenovitch, with an animated air, and obvious satisfaction beaming in his very prominent, short-sighted, light grey eyes, from which he had removed his spectacles a moment before. “And you have made a very just remark about the mutual confidence, without which it is sometimes positively impossible to get on in cases of such importance, if the suspected party really hopes and desires to defend himself and is in a position to do so. We on our side, will do everything in our power, and you can see for yourself how we are conducting the case. You approve, Ippolit Kirillovitch?” He turned to the prosecutor.

“Oh, undoubtedly,” replied the prosecutor. His tone was somewhat cold, compared with Nikolay Parfenovitch’s impulsiveness.

I will note once for all that Nikolay Parfenovitch, who had but lately arrived among us, had from the first felt marked respect for Ippolit Kirillovitch, our prosecutor, and had become almost his bosom friend. He was almost the only person who put implicit faith in Ippolit Kirillovitch’s extraordinary talents as a psychologist and orator and in the justice of his grievance. He had heard of him in Petersburg. On the other hand, young Nikolay Parfenovitch was the only person in the whole world whom our “unappreciated” prosecutor genuinely liked. On their way to Mokroe they had time to come to an understanding about the present case. And now as they sat at the table, the sharp-witted junior caught and interpreted every indication on his senior colleague’s face — half a word, a glance, or a wink.

“Gentlemen, only let me tell my own story and don’t interrupt me with trivial questions and I’ll tell you everything in a moment,” said Mitya excitedly.

“Excellent! Thank you. But before we proceed to listen to your communication, will you allow me to inquire as to another little fact of great interest to us? I mean the ten roubles you borrowed yesterday at about five o’clock on the security of your pistols, from your friend, Pyotr Ilyitch Perhotin.”

“I pledged them, gentlemen. I pledged them for ten roubles. What more? That’s all about it. As soon as I got back to town I pledged them.”

“You got back to town? Then you had been out of town?”

“Yes, I went a journey of forty versts into the country. Didn’t you know?”

The prosecutor and Nikolay Parfenovitch exchanged glances.

“Well, how would it be if you began your story with a systematic description of all you did yesterday, from the morning onwards? Allow us, for instance, to inquire why you were absent from the town, and just when you left and when you came back — all those facts.”

“You should have asked me like that from the beginning,” cried Mitya, laughing aloud, “and, if you like, we won’t begin from yesterday, but from the morning of the day before; then you’ll understand how, why, and where I went. I went the day before yesterday, gentlemen, to a merchant of the town, called Samsonov, to borrow three thousand roubles from him on safe security. It was a pressing matter, gentlemen, it was a sudden necessity.”

“Allow me to interrupt you,” the prosecutor put in politely. “Why were you in such pressing need for just that sum, three thousand?”

“Oh, gentlemen, you needn’t go into details, how, when and why, and why just so much money, and not so much, and all that rigmarole. Why, it’ll run to three volumes, and then you’ll want an epilogue!” Mitya said all this with the good-natured but impatient familiarity of a man who is anxious to tell the whole truth and is full of the best intentions.

“Gentlemen!” — he corrected himself hurriedly — “don’t be vexed with me for my restiveness, I beg you again. Believe me once more, I feel the greatest respect for you and understand the true position of affairs. Don’t think I’m drunk. I’m quite sober now. And, besides, being drunk would be no hindrance. It’s with me, you know, like the saying: ‘When he is sober, he is a fool; when he is drunk, he is a wise man.’ Ha ha! But I see, gentlemen, it’s not the proper thing to make jokes to you, till we’ve had our explanation, I mean. And I’ve my own dignity to keep up, too. I quite understand the difference for the moment. I am, after all, in the position of a criminal, and so, far from being on equal terms with you. And it’s your business to watch me. I can’t expect you to pat me on the head for what I did to Grigory, for one can’t break old men’s heads with impunity. I suppose you’ll put me away for him for six months, or a year perhaps, in a house of correction. I don’t know what the punishment is — but it will be without loss of the rights of my rank, without loss of my rank, won’t it? So you see, gentlemen, I understand the distinction between us. . . . But you must see that you could puzzle God Himself with such questions. ‘How did you step? Where did you step? When did you step? And on what did you step?’ I shall get mixed up, if you go on like this, and you will put it all down against me. And what will that lead to? To nothing! And even if it’s nonsense I’m talking now, let me finish, and you, gentlemen, being men of honour and refinement, will forgive me! I’ll finish by asking you, gentlemen, to drop that conventional method of questioning. I mean, beginning from some miserable trifle, how I got up, what I had for breakfast, how I spat, and where I spat, and so distracting the attention of the criminal, suddenly stun him with an overwhelming question, ‘Whom did you murder? Whom did you rob?’ Ha-ha! That’s your regulation method, that’s where all your cunning comes in. You can put peasants off their guard like that, but not me. I know the tricks. I’ve been in the service, too. Ha ha ha! You’re not angry, gentlemen? You forgive my impertinence?” he cried, looking at them with a good-nature that was almost surprising. “It’s only Mitya Karamazov, you know, so you can overlook it. It would be inexcusable in a sensible man; but you can forgive it in Mitya. Ha ha!”

Nikolay Parfenovitch listened, and laughed too. Though the prosecutor did not laugh, he kept his eyes fixed keenly on Mitya, as though anxious not to miss the least syllable, the slightest movement, the smallest twitch of any feature of his face.

“That’s how we have treated you from the beginning,” said Nikolay Parfenovitch, still laughing. “We haven’t tried to put you out by asking how you got up in the morning and what you had for breakfast. We began, indeed, with questions of the greatest importance.”

“I understand. I saw it and appreciated it, and I appreciate still more your present kindness to me, an unprecedented kindness, worthy of your noble hearts. We three here are gentlemen and let everything be on the footing of mutual confidence between educated, well-bred people, who have the common bond of noble birth and honour. In any case, allow me to look upon you as my best friends at this moment of my life, at this moment when my honour is assailed. That’s no offence to you, gentlemen, is it?”

On the contrary. You’ve expressed all that so well, Dmitri Fyodorovitch,” Nikolay Parfenovitch answered with dignified approbation.

“And enough of those trivial questions, gentlemen, all those tricky questions! cried Mitya enthusiastically. “Or there’s simply no knowing where we shall get to! Is there?”

“I will follow your sensible advice entirely,” the prosecutor interposed, addressing Mitya. “I don’t withdraw my question, however. It is now vitally important for us to know exactly why you needed that sum, I mean precisely three thousand.”

“Why I needed it? . . . Oh, for one thing and another. . . . Well, it was to pay a debt.”

“A debt to whom?”

“That I absolutely refuse to answer, gentlemen. Not because I couldn’t, or because I shouldn’t dare, or because it would be damaging, for it’s all a paltry matter and absolutely trifling, but — I won’t, because it’s a matter of principle: that’s my private life, and I won’t allow any intrusion into my private life. That’s my principle. Your question has no bearing on the case, and whatever has nothing to do with the case is my private affair. I wanted to pay a debt. I wanted to pay a debt of honour but to whom I won’t say.”

“Allow me to make a note of that,” said the prosecutor.

“By all means. Write down that I won’t say, that I won’t. Write that I should think it dishonourable to say. Ech! you can write it; you’ve nothing else to do with your time.”

“Allow me to caution you, sir, and to remind you once more, if you are unaware of it,” the prosecutor began, with a peculiar and stern impressiveness, “that you have a perfect right not to answer the questions put to you now, and we on our side have no right to extort an answer from you, if you decline to give it for one reason or another. That is entirely a matter for your personal decision. But it is our duty, on the other hand, in such cases as the present, to explain and set before you the degree of injury you will be doing yourself by refusing to give this or that piece of evidence. After which I will beg you to continue.”

“Gentlemen, I’m not angry . . . I . . . “Mitya muttered in a rather disconcerted tone. “Well, gentlemen, you see, that Samsonov to whom I went then . . . ”

We will, of course, not reproduce his account of what is known to the reader already. Mitya was impatiently anxious not to omit the slightest detail. At the same time he was in a hurry to get it over. But as he gave his evidence it was written down, and therefore they had continually to pull him up. Mitya disliked this, but submitted; got angry, though still good-humouredly. He did, it is true, exclaim, from time to time, “Gentlemen, that’s enough to make an angel out of patience!” Or, “Gentlemen, it’s no good your irritating me.”

But even though he exclaimed he still preserved for a time his genially expansive mood. So he told them how Samsonov had made a fool of him two days before. (He had completely realised by now that he had been fooled.) The sale of his watch for six roubles to obtain money for the journey was something new to the lawyers. They were at once greatly interested, and even, to Mitya’s intense indignation, thought it necessary to write the fact down as a secondary confirmation of the circumstance that he had hardly a farthing in his pocket at the time. Little by little Mitya began to grow surly. Then, after describing his journey to see Lyagavy, the night spent in the stifling hut, and so on, he came to his return to the town. Here he began, without being particularly urged, to give a minute account of the agonies of jealousy he endured on Grushenka’s account.

He was heard with silent attention. They inquired particularly into the circumstance of his having a place of ambush in Marya Kondratyevna’s house at the back of Fyodor Pavlovitch’s garden to keep watch on Grushenka, and of Smerdyakov’s bringing him information. They laid particular stress on this, and noted it down. Of his jealousy he spoke warmly and at length, and though inwardly ashamed at exposing his most intimate feelings to “public ignominy,” so to speak, he evidently overcame his shame in order to tell the truth. The frigid severity with which the investigating lawyer, and still more the prosecutor, stared intently at him as he told his story, disconcerted him at last considerably.

“That boy, Nikolay Parfenovitch, to whom I was talking nonsense about women only a few days ago, and that sickly prosecutor are not worth my telling this to,” he reflected mournfully. “It’s ignominious. ‘Be patient, humble, hold thy peace.’” He wound up his reflections with that line. But he pulled himself together to go on again. When he came to telling of his visit to Madame Hohlakov, he regained his spirits and even wished to tell a little anecdote of that lady which had nothing to do with the case. But the investigating lawyer stopped him, and civilly suggested that he should pass on to “more essential matters.” At last, when he described his despair and told them how, when he left Madame Hohlakov’s, he thought that he’d “get three thousand if he had to murder someone to do it,” they stopped him again and noted down that he had “meant to murder someone.” Mitya let them write it without protest. At last he reached the point in his story when he learned that Grushenka had deceived him and had returned from Samsonov’s as soon as he left her there, though she had said that she would stay there till midnight.

“If I didn’t kill Fenya then, gentlemen, it was only because I hadn’t time,” broke from him suddenly at that point in his story. That, too, was carefully written down. Mitya waited gloomily, and was beginning to tell how he ran into his father’s garden when the investigating lawyer suddenly stopped him, and opening the big portfolio that lay on the sofa beside him he brought out the brass pestle.

“Do you recognise this object?” he asked, showing it to Mitya.

“Oh, yes,” he laughed gloomily. “Of course, I recognise it. Let me have a look at it. . . . Damn it, never mind!”

“You have forgotten to mention it,” observed the investigating lawyer.

“Hang it all, I shouldn’t have concealed it from you. Do you suppose I could have managed without it? It simply escaped my memory.”

“Be so good as to tell us precisely how you came to arm yourself with it.”

“Certainly I will be so good, gentlemen.”

And Mitya described how he took the pestle and ran.

“But what object had you in view in arming yourself with such a weapon?”

“What object? No object. I just picked it up and ran off.”

“What for, if you had no object?”

Mitya’s wrath flared up. He looked intently at “the boy” and smiled gloomily and malignantly. He was feeling more and more ashamed at having told “such people” the story of his jealousy so sincerely and spontaneously.

“Bother the pestle!” broke from him suddenly.

“But still-”

“Oh, to keep off dogs . . . Oh, because it was dark. . . . In case anything turned up.”

“But have you ever on previous occasions taken a weapon with you when you went out, since you’re afraid of the dark?”

“Ugh! damn it all, gentlemen! There’s positively no talking to you!” cried Mitya, exasperated beyond endurance, and turning to the secretary, crimson with anger, he said quickly, with a note of fury in his voice:

“Write down at once . . . at once . . . ‘that I snatched up the pestle to go and kill my father . . . Fyodor Pavlovitch . . . by hitting him on the head with it!’ Well, now are you satisfied, gentlemen? Are your minds relieved?” he said, glaring defiantly at the lawyers.

“We quite understand that you made that statement just now through exasperation with us and the questions we put to you, which you consider trivial, though they are, in fact, essential,” the prosecutor remarked drily in reply.

“Well, upon my word, gentlemen! Yes, I took the pestle. . . . What does one pick things up for at such moments? I don’t know what for. I snatched it up and ran — that’s all. For to me, gentlemen, passons, or I declare I won’t tell you any more.”

He sat with his elbows on the table and his head in his hand. He sat sideways to them and gazed at the wall, struggling against a feeling of nausea. He had, in fact, an awful inclination to get up and declare that he wouldn’t say another word, “not if you hang me for it.”

“You see, gentlemen,” he said at last, with difficulty controlling himself, “you see. I listen to you and am haunted by a dream. . . . It’s a dream I have sometimes, you know. . . . I often dream it — it’s always the same . . . that someone is hunting me, someone I’m awfully afraid of . . . that he’s hunting me in the dark, in the night . . . tracking me, and I hide somewhere from him, behind a door or cupboard, hide in a degrading way, and the worst of it is, he always knows where I am, but he pretends not to know where I am on purpose, to prolong my agony, to enjoy my terror. . . . That’s just what you’re doing now. It’s just like that!”

“Is that the sort of thing you dream about?” inquired the prosecutor.

“Yes, it is. Don’t you want to write it down?” said Mitya, with a distorted smile.

“No; no need to write it down. But still you do have curious dreams.”

“It’s not a question of dreams now, gentlemen — this is realism, this is real life! I’m a wolf and you’re the hunters. Well, hunt him down!”

“You are wrong to make such comparisons.” began Nikolay Parfenovitch, with extraordinary softness.

“No, I’m not wrong, at all!” Mitya flared up again, though his outburst of wrath had obviously relieved his heart. He grew more good humoured at every word. “You may not trust a criminal or a man on trial tortured by your questions, but an honourable man, the honourable impulses of the heart (I say that boldly!) — no! That you must believe you have no right indeed . . . but —

Be silent, heart,

Be patient, humble, hold thy peace.

Well, shall I go on?” he broke off gloomily.

“If you’ll be so kind,” answered Nikolay Parfenovitch.

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