The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter 6

The Prosecutor Catches Mitya

SOMETHING utterly unexpected and amazing to Mitya followed. He could never, even a minute before, have conceived that anyone could behave like that to him, Mitya Karamazov. What was worst of all, there was something humiliating in it, and on their side something “supercilious and scornful.” It was nothing to take off his coat, but he was asked to undress further, or rather not asked but “commanded,” he quite understood that. From pride and contempt he submitted without a word. Several peasants accompanied the lawyers and remained on the same side of the curtain. “To be ready if force is required,” thought Mitya, “and perhaps for some other reason, too.”

“Well, must I take off my shirt, too?” he asked sharply, but Nikolay Parfenovitch did not answer. He was busily engaged with the prosecutor in examining the coat, the trousers, the waistcoat and the cap; and it was evident that they were both much interested in the scrutiny. “They make no bones about it,” thought Mitya, “they don’t keep up the most elementary politeness.”

“I ask you for the second time — need I take off my shirt or not?” he said, still more sharply and irritably.

“Don’t trouble yourself. We will tell you what to do,” Nikolay Parfenovitch said, and his voice was positively peremptory, or so it seemed to Mitya.

Meantime a consultation was going on in undertones between the lawyers. There turned out to be on the coat, especially on the left side at the back, a huge patch of blood, dry, and still stiff. There were bloodstains on the trousers, too. Nikolay Parfenovitch, moreover, in the presence of the peasant witnesses, passed his fingers along the collar, the cuffs, and all the seams of the coat and trousers, obviously looking for something — money, of course. He didn’t even hide from Mitya his suspicion that he was capable of sewing money up in his clothes.

“He treats me not as an officer but as a thief,” Mitya muttered to himself. They communicated their ideas to one another with amazing frankness. The secretary, for instance, who was also behind the curtain, fussing about and listening, called Nikolay Parfenovitch’s attention to the cap, which they were also fingering.

“You remember Gridyenko, the copying clerk,” observed the secretary. “Last summer he received the wages of the whole office, and pretended to have lost the money when he was drunk. And where was it found? Why, in just such pipings in his cap. The hundred-rouble notes were screwed up in little rolls and sewed in the piping.”

Both the lawyers remembered Gridyenko’s case perfectly, and so laid aside Mitya’s cap, and decided that all his clothes must be more thoroughly examined later.

“Excuse me,” cried Nikolay Parfenovitch, suddenly, noticing that the right cuff of Mitya’s shirt was turned in, and covered with blood, “excuse me, what’s that, blood?”

“Yes,” Mitya jerked out.

“That is, what blood? . . . and why is the cuff turned in?”

Mitya told him how he had got the sleeve stained with blood looking after Grigory, and had turned it inside when he was washing his hands at Perhotin’s.

“You must take off your shirt, too. That’s very important as material evidence.”

Mitya flushed red and flew into a rage.

“What, am I to stay naked?” he shouted.

“Don’t disturb yourself. We will arrange something. And meanwhile take off your socks.”

“You’re not joking? Is that really necessary?”

Mitya’s eyes flashed.

“We are in no mood for joking,” answered Nikolay Parfenovitch sternly.

“Well, if I must-” muttered Mitya, and sitting down on the bed, he took off his socks. He felt unbearably awkward. All were clothed, while he was naked, and strange to say, when he was undressed he felt somehow guilty in their presence, and was almost ready to believe himself that he was inferior to them, and that now they had a perfect right to despise him.

“When all are undressed, one is somehow not ashamed, but when one’s the only one undressed and everybody is looking, it’s degrading,” he kept repeating to himself, again and again. “It’s like a dream; I’ve sometimes dreamed of being in such degrading positions.” It was a misery to him to take off his socks. They were very dirty, and so were his underclothes, and now everyone could see it. And what was worse, he disliked his feet. All his life he had thought both his big toes hideous. He particularly loathed the coarse, flat, crooked nail on the right one, and now they would all see it. Feeling intolerably ashamed made him, at once and intentionally, rougher. He pulled off his shirt, himself.

“Would you like to look anywhere else if you’re not ashamed to?”

“No, there’s no need to, at present.”

“Well, am I to stay naked like this?” he added savagely.

“Yes, that can’t be helped for the time. . . . Kindly sit down here for a while. You can wrap yourself in a quilt from the bed, and I . . . I’ll see to all this.”

All the things were shown to the witnesses. The report of the search was drawn up, and at last Nikolay Parfenovitch went out, and the clothes were carried out after him. Ippolit Kirillovitch went out, too. Mitya was left alone with the peasants, who stood in silence, never taking their eyes off him. Mitya wrapped himself up in the quilt. He felt cold. His bare feet stuck out, and he couldn’t pull the quilt over so as to cover them. Nikolay Parfenovitch seemed to be gone a long time, “an insufferable time.”

“He thinks of me as a puppy,” thought Mitya, gnashing his teeth. “That rotten prosecutor has gone, too, contemptuous no doubt, it disgusts him to see me naked!”

Mitya imagined, however, that his clothes would be examined and returned to him. But what was his indignation when Nikolay Parfenovitch came back with quite different clothes, brought in behind him by a peasant.

“Here are clothes for you,” he observed airily, seeming well satisfied with the success of his mission. “Mr. Kalganov has kindly provided these for this unusual emergency, as well as a clean shirt. Luckily he had them all in his trunk. You can keep your own socks and underclothes.”

Mitya flew into a passion.

“I won’t have other people’s clothes!” he shouted menacingly, “give me my own!”

“It’s impossible!”

“Give me my own. Damn Kalganov and his clothes, too!”

It was a long time before they could persuade him. But they succeeded somehow in quieting him down. They impressed upon him that his clothes, being stained with blood, must be “included with the other material evidence,” and that they “had not even the right to let him have them now . . . taking into consideration the possible outcome of the case.” Mitya at last understood this. He subsided into gloomy silence and hurriedly dressed himself. He merely observed, as he put them on, that the clothes were much better than his old ones, and that he disliked “gaining by the change.” The coat was, besides, “ridiculously tight. Am I to be dressed up like a fool . . . for your amusement?”

They urged upon him again that he was exaggerating, that Kalganov was only a little taller, so that only the trousers might be a little too long. But the coat turned out to be really tight in the shoulders.

“Damn it all! I can hardly button it,” Mitya grumbled. “Be so good as to tell Mr. Kalganov from me that I didn’t ask for his clothes, and it’s not my doing that they’ve dressed me up like a clown.”

“He understands that, and is sorry . . . I mean, not sorry to lend you his clothes, but sorry about all this business,” mumbled Nikolay Parfenovitch.

“Confound his sorrow! Well, where now? Am I to go on sitting here?”

He was asked to go back to the “other room.” Mitya went in, scowling with anger, and trying to avoid looking at anyone. Dressed in another man’s clothes he felt himself disgraced, even in the eyes of the peasants, and of Trifon Borissovitch, whose face appeared, for some reason, in the doorway, and vanished immediately. “He’s come to look at me dressed up,” thought Mitya. He sat down on the same chair as before. He had an absurd nightmarish feeling, as though he were out of his mind.

“Well, what now? Are you going to flog me? That’s all that’s left for you,” he said, clenching his teeth and addressing the prosecutor. He would not turn to Nikolay Parfenovitch, as though he disdained to speak to him.

“He looked too closely at my socks, and turned them inside out on purpose to show everyone how dirty they were — the scoundrel!”

“Well, now we must proceed to the examination of witnesses,” observed Nikolay Parfenovitch, as though in reply to Mitya’s question.

“Yes,” said the prosecutor thoughtfully, as though reflecting on something.

“We’ve done what we could in your interest, Dmitri Fyodorovitch,” Nikolay Parfenovitch went on, “but having received from you such an uncompromising refusal to explain to us the source from which you obtained the money found upon you, we are, at the present moment-”

“What is the stone in your ring?” Mitya interrupted suddenly, as though awakening from a reverie. He pointed to one of the three large rings adorning Nikolay Parfenovitch’s right hand.

“Ring?” repeated Nikolay Parfenovitch with surprise.

“Yes, that one . . . on your middle finger, with the little veins in it, what stone is that?” Mitya persisted, like a peevish child.

“That’s a smoky topaz,” said Nikolay Parfenovitch, smiling. “Would you like to look at it? I’ll take it off . . . ”

“No, don’t take it off,” cried Mitya furiously, suddenly waking up, and angry with himself. “Don’t take it off . . . there’s no need. . . . Damn it! . . . Gentlemen, you’ve sullied my heart! Can you suppose that I would conceal it from you, if I had really killed my father, that I would shuffle, lie, and hide myself? No, that’s not like Dmitri Karamazov, that he couldn’t do, and if I were guilty, I swear I shouldn’t have waited for your coming, or for the sunrise as I meant at first, but should have killed myself before this, without waiting for the dawn! I know that about myself now. I couldn’t have learnt so much in twenty years as I’ve found out in this accursed night! . . . And should I have been like this on this night, and at this moment, sitting with you, could I have talked like this, could I have moved like this, could I have looked at you and at the world like this, if I had really been the murderer of my father, when the very thought of having accidentally killed Grigory gave me no peace all night — not from fear — oh, not simply from fear of your punishment! The disgrace of it! And you expect me to be open with such scoffers as you, who see nothing and believe in nothing, blind moles and scoffers, and to tell you another nasty thing I’ve done, another disgrace, even if that would save me from your accusation! No, better Siberia! The man who opened the door to my father and went in at that door, he killed him, he robbed him. Who was he? I’m racking my brains and can’t think who. But I can tell you it was not Dmitri Karamazov, and that’s all I can tell you, and that’s enough, enough, leave me alone. . . . Exile me, punish me, but don’t bother me any more. I’ll say no more. Call your witnesses!”

Mitya uttered his sudden monologue as though he were determined to be absolutely silent for the future. The prosecutor watched him the whole time and only when he had ceased speaking, observed, as though it were the most ordinary thing, with the most frigid and composed air:

“Oh, about the open door of which you spoke just now, we may as well inform you, by the way, now, of a very interesting piece of evidence of the greatest importance both to you and to us, that has been given us by Grigory, the old man you wounded. On his recovery, he clearly and emphatically stated, in reply to our questions, that when, on coming out to the steps, and hearing a noise in the garden, he made up his mind to go into it through the little gate which stood open, before he noticed you running, as you have told us already, in the dark from the open window where you saw your father, he, Grigory, glanced to the left, and, while noticing the open window, observed at the same time, much nearer to him, the door, standing wide open — that door which you have stated to have been shut the whole time you were in the garden. I will not conceal from you that Grigory himself confidently affirms and bears witness that you must have run from that door, though, of course, he did not see you do so with his own eyes, since he only noticed you first some distance away in the garden, running towards the fence.”

Mitya had leapt up from his chair half-way through this speech.

“Nonsense!” he yelled, in a sudden frenzy, “it’s a barefaced lie. He couldn’t have seen the door open because it was shut. He’s lying!”

“I consider it my duty to repeat that he is firm in his statement. He does not waver. He adheres to it. We’ve cross-examined him several times.”

“Precisely. I have cross-examined him several times,” Nikolay Parfenovitch confirmed warmly.

“It’s false, false! It’s either an attempt to slander me, or the hallucination of a madman,” Mitya still shouted. “He’s simply raving, from loss of blood, from the wound. He must have fancied it when he came to. . . . He’s raving.”

“Yes, but he noticed the open door, not when he came to after his injuries, but before that, as soon as he went into the garden from the lodge.”

“But it’s false, it’s false! It can’t be so! He’s slandering me from spite. . . . He couldn’t have seen it . . . I didn’t come from the door,” gasped Mitya.

The prosecutor turned to Nikolay Parfenovitch and said to him impressively:

“Confront him with it.”

“Do you recognise this object?”

Nikolay Parfenovitch laid upon the table a large and thick official envelope, on which three seals still remained intact. The envelope was empty, and slit open at one end. Mitya stared at it with open eyes.

“It . . . it must be that envelope of my father’s, the envelope that contained the three thousand roubles . . . and if there’s inscribed on it, allow me, ‘For my little chicken’ . . . yes — three thousand!” he shouted, “do you see, three thousand, do you see?”

“Of course, we see. But we didn’t find the money in it. It was empty, and lying on the floor by the bed, behind the screen.”

For some seconds Mitya stood as though thunderstruck.

“Gentlemen, it’s Smerdyakov!” he shouted suddenly, at the top of his voice. “It’s he who’s murdered him! He’s robbed him! No one else knew where the old man hid the envelope. It’s Smerdyakov, that’s clear, now!”

“But you, too, knew of the envelope and that it was under the pillow.”

“I never knew it. I’ve never seen it. This is the first time I’ve looked at it. I’d only heard of it from Smerdyakov. . . . He was the only one who knew where the old man kept it hidden, I didn’t know . . . ” Mitya was completely breathless.

“But you told us yourself that the envelope was under your deceased father’s pillow. You especially stated that it was under the pillow, so you must have known it.”

“We’ve got it written down,” confirmed Nikolay Parfenovitch.

“Nonsense! It’s absurd! I’d no idea it was under the pillow. And perhaps it wasn’t under the pillow at all. . . . It was just a chance guess that it was under the pillow. What does Smerdyakov say? Have you asked him where it was? What does Smerdyakov say? That’s the chief point. . . . And I went out of my way to tell lies against myself. . . . I told you without thinking that it was under the pillow, and now you — Oh, you know how one says the wrong thing, without meaning it. No one knew but Smerdyakov, only Smerdyakov, and no one else. . . . He didn’t even tell me where it was! But it’s his doing, his doing; there’s no doubt about it, he murdered him, that’s as clear as daylight now,” Mitya exclaimed more and more frantically, repeating himself incoherently, and growing more and more exasperated and excited. “You must understand that, and arrest him at once. . . . He must have killed him while I was running away and while Grigory was unconscious, that’s clear now. . . . He gave the signal and father opened to him . . . for no one but he knew the signal, and without the signal father would never have opened the door. . . . ”

“But you’re again forgetting the circumstance,” the prosecutor observed, still speaking with the same restraint, though with a note of triumph, “that there was no need to give the signal if the door already stood open when you were there, while you were in the garden . . . ”

“The door, the door,” muttered Mitya, and he stared speechless at the prosecutor. He sank back helpless in his chair. All were silent.

“Yes, the door! . . . It’s a nightmare! God is against me!” he exclaimed, staring before him in complete stupefaction.

“Come, you see,” the prosecutor went on with dignity, “and you can judge for yourself, Dmitri Fyodorovitch. On the one hand, we have the evidence of the open door from which you ran out, a fact which overwhelms you and us. On the other side, your incomprehensible, persistent, and, so to speak, obdurate silence with regard to the source from which you obtained the money which was so suddenly seen in your hands, when only three hours earlier, on your own showing, you pledged your pistols for the sake of ten roubles! In view of all these facts, judge for yourself. What are we to believe, and what can we depend upon? And don’t accuse us of being ‘frigid, cynical, scoffing people,’ who are incapable of believing in the generous impulses of your heart. . . . Try to enter into our position . . . ”

Mitya was indescribably agitated. He turned pale.

“Very well!” he exclaimed suddenly, “I will tell you my secret. I’ll tell you where I got the money! . . . I’ll reveal my shame, that I may not have to blame myself or you hereafter.”

“And believe me, Dmitri Fyodorovitch,” put in Nikolay Parfenovitch, in a voice of almost pathetic delight, “that every sincere and complete confession on your part at this moment may, later on, have an immense influence in your favour, and may, indeed, moreover-”

But the prosecutor gave him a slight shove under the table, and he checked himself in time. Mitya, it is true, had not heard him.

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