The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter 8

The Evidences of the Witnesses. The Babe

THE examination of the witnesses began. But we will not continue our story in such detail as before. And so we will not dwell on how Nikolay Parfenovitch impressed on every witness called that he must give his evidence in accordance with truth and conscience, and that he would afterwards have to repeat his evidence on oath, how every witness was called upon to sign the protocol of his evidence, and so on. We will only note that the point principally insisted upon in the examination was the question of the three thousand roubles; that is, was the sum spent here, at Mokroe, by Mitya on the first occasion, a month before, three thousand or fifteen hundred? And again had he spent three thousand or fifteen hundred yesterday? Alas, all the evidence given by everyone turned out to be against Mitya. There was not one in his favour, and some witnesses introduced new, almost crushing facts, in contradiction of his, Mitya’s, story.

The first witness examined was Trifon Borissovitch. He was not in the least abashed as he stood before the lawyers. He had, on the contrary, an air of stern and severe indignation with the accused, which gave him an appearance of truthfulness and personal dignity. He spoke little, and with reserve, waited to be questioned, answered precisely and deliberately. Firmly and unhesitatingly he bore witness that the sum spent a month before could not have been less than three thousand, that all the peasants about here would testify that they had heard the sum of three thousand mentioned by Dmitri Fyodorovitch himself. “What a lot of money he flung away on the Gypsy girls alone! He wasted a thousand, I daresay, on them alone.”

“I don’t believe I gave them five hundred,” was Mitya’s gloomy comment on this. “It’s a pity I didn’t count the money at the time, but I was drunk . . . ”

Mitya was sitting sideways with his back to the curtains. He listened gloomily, with a melancholy and exhausted air, as though he would say:

“Oh, say what you like. It makes no difference now.”

“More than a thousand went on them, Dmitri Fyodorovitch,” retorted Trifon Borissovitch firmly. “You flung it about at random and they picked it up. They were a rascally, thievish lot, horse-stealers, they’ve been driven away from here, or maybe they’d bear witness themselves how much they got from you. I saw the sum in your hands, myself — count it I didn’t, you didn’t let me, that’s true enough — but by the look of it I should say it was far more than fifteen hundred . . . fifteen hundred, indeed! We’ve seen money too. We can judge of amounts . . . ”

As for the sum spent yesterday he asserted that Dmitri Fyodorovitch had told him, as soon as he arrived, that he had brought three thousand with him.

“Come now, is that so, Trifon Borissovitch?” replied Mitya. “Surely I didn’t declare so positively that I’d brought three thousand?”

“You did say so, Dmitri Fyodorovitch. You said it before Andrey. Andrey himself is still here. Send for him. And in the hall, when you were treating the chorus, you shouted straight out that you would leave your sixth thousand here — that is, with what you spent before, we must understand. Stepan and Semyon heard it, and Pyotr Fomitch Kalganov, too, was standing beside you at the time. Maybe he’d remember it . . . ”

The evidence as to the “sixth” thousand made an extraordinary impression on the two lawyers. They were delighted with this new mode of reckoning; three and three made six, three thousand then and three now made six, that was clear.

They questioned all the peasants suggested by Trifon Borissovitch, Stepan and Semyon, the driver Andrey, and Kalganov. The peasants and the driver unhesitatingly confirmed Trifon Borissovitch’s evidence. They noted down, with particular care, Andrey’s account of the conversation he had had with Mitya on the road: “‘Where,’ says he, ‘am I, Dmitri Fyodorovitch, going, to heaven or to hell, and shall I be forgiven in the next world or not?’” The psychological Ippolit Kirillovitch heard this with a subtle smile, and ended by recommending that these remarks as to where Dmitri Fyodorovitch would go should be “included in the case.”

Kalganov, when called, came in reluctantly, frowning and ill-humoured, and he spoke to the lawyers as though he had never met them before in his life, though they were acquaintances whom he had been meeting every day for a long time past. He began by saying that “he knew nothing about it and didn’t want to.” But it appeared that he had heard of the” sixth” thousand, and he admitted that he had been standing close by at the moment. As far as he could see he “didn’t know” how much money Mitya had in his hands. He affirmed that the Poles had cheated at cards. In reply to reiterated questions he stated that, after the Poles had been turned out, Mitya’s position with Agrafena Alexandrovna had certainly improved, and that she had said that she loved him. He spoke of Agrafena Alexandrovna with reserve and respect, as though she had been a lady of the best society, and did not once allow himself to call her Grushenka. In spite of the young man’s obvious repugnance at giving evidence, Ippolit Kirillovitch examined him at great length, and only from him learnt all the details of what made up Mitya’s “romance,” so to say, on that night. Mitya did not once pull Kalganov up. At last they let the young man go, and he left the room with unconcealed indignation.

The Poles, too, were examined. Though they had gone to bed in their room, they had not slept all night, and on the arrival of the police officers they hastily dressed and got ready, realising that they would certainly be sent for. They gave their evidence with dignity, though not without some uneasiness. The little Pole turned out to be a retired official of the twelfth class, who had served in Siberia as a veterinary surgeon. His name was Mussyalovitch. Pan Vrubelvsky turned out to be an uncertificated dentist. Although Nikolay Parfenovitch asked them questions on entering the room they both addressed their answers to Mihail Makarovitch, who was standing on one side, taking him in their ignorance for the most important person and in command, and addressed him at every word as “Pan Colonel.” Only after several reproofs from Mihail Makarovitch himself, they grasped that they had to address their answers to Nikolay Parfenovitch only. It turned out that they could speak Russian quite correctly except for their accent in some words. Of his relations with Grushenka, past and present, Pan Mussyalovitch spoke proudly and warmly, so that Mitya was roused at once and declared that he would not allow the “scoundrel” to speak like that in his presence! Pan Mussyalovitch at once called attention to the word “scoundrel,” and begged that it should be put down in the protocol. Mitya fumed with rage.

“He’s a scoundrel! A scoundrel! You can put that down. And put down, too, that, in spite of the protocol I still declare that he’s a scoundrel!” he cried.

Though Nikolay Parfenovitch did insert this in the protocol, he showed the most praiseworthy tact and management. After sternly reprimanding Mitya, he cut short all further inquiry into the romantic aspect of the case, and hastened to pass to what was essential. One piece of evidence given by the Poles roused special interest in the lawyers: that was how, in that very room, Mitya had tried to buy off Pan Mussyalovitch, and had offered him three thousand roubles to resign his claims, seven hundred roubles down, and the remaining two thousand three hundred “to be paid next day in the town.” He had sworn at the time that he had not the whole sum with him at Mokroe, but that his money was in the town. Mitya observed hotly that he had not said that he would be sure to pay him the remainder next day in the town. But Pan Vrublevsky confirmed the statement, and Mitya, after thinking for a moment admitted, frowning, that it must have been as the Poles stated, that he had been excited at the time, and might indeed have said so.

The prosecutor positively pounced on this piece of evidence. It seemed to establish for the prosecution (and they did, in fact, base this deduction on it) that half, or a part of, the three thousand that had come into Mitya’s hands might really have been left somewhere hidden in the town, or even, perhaps, somewhere here, in Mokroe. This would explain the circumstance, so baffling for the prosecution, that only eight hundred roubles were to be found in Mitya’s hands. This circumstance had been the one piece of evidence which, insignificant as it was, had hitherto told, to some extent, in Mitya’s favour. Now this one piece of evidence in his favour had broken down. In answer to the prosecutor’s inquiry, where he would have got the remaining two thousand three hundred roubles, since he himself had denied having more than fifteen hundred, Mitya confidently replied that he had meant to offer the “little chap,” not money, but a formal deed of conveyance of his rights to the village of Tchermashnya, those rights which he had already offered to Samsonov and Madame Hohlakov. The prosecutor positively smiled at the “innocence of this subterfuge.”

“And you imagine he would have accepted such a deed as a substitute for two thousand three hundred roubles in cash?”

“He certainly would have accepted it,” Mitya declared warmly. “Why, look here, he might have grabbed not two thousand, but four or six, for it. He would have put his lawyers, Poles and Jews, on to the job, and might have got, not three thousand, but the whole property out of the old man.”

The evidence of Pan Mussyalovitch was, of course, entered in the protocol in the fullest detail. Then they let the Poles go. The incident of the cheating at cards was hardly touched upon. Nikolay Parfenovitch was too well pleased with them, as it was, and did not want to worry them with trifles, moreover, it was nothing but a foolish, drunken quarrel over cards. There had been drinking and disorder enough, that night. . . . So the two hundred roubles remained in the pockets of the Poles.

Then old Maximov was summoned. He came in timidly, approached with little steps, looking very dishevelled and depressed. He had, all this time, taken refuge below with Grushenka, sitting dumbly beside her, and “now and then he’d begin blubbering over her and wiping his eyes with a blue check handkerchief,” as Mihail Makarovitch described afterwards. So that she herself began trying to pacify and comfort him. The old man at once confessed that he had done wrong, that he had borrowed “ten roubles in my poverty,” from Dmitri Fyodorovitch, and that he was ready to pay it back. To Nikolay Parfenovitch’s direct question, had he noticed how much money Dmitri Fyodorovitch held in his hand, as he must have been able to see the sum better than anyone when he took the note from him, Maximov, in the most positive manner, declared that there was twenty thousand.

“Have you ever seen so much as twenty thousand before, then?” inquired Nikolay Parfenovitch, with a smile.

“To be sure I have, not twenty, but seven, when my wife mortgaged my little property. She’d only let me look at it from a distance, boasting of it to me. It was a very thick bundle, all rainbow-coloured notes. And Dmitri Fyodorovitch’s were all rainbow-coloured . . . ”

He was not kept long. At last it was Grushenka’s turn. Nikolay Parfenovitch was obviously apprehensive of the effect her appearance might have on Mitya, and he muttered a few words of admonition to him, but Mitya bowed his head in silence, giving him to understand “that he would not make a scene.” Mihail Makarovitch himself led Grushenka in. She entered with a stern and gloomy face, that looked almost composed, and sat down quietly on the chair offered her by Nikolay Parfenovitch. She was very pale, she seemed to be cold, and wrapped herself closely in her magnificent black shawl. She was suffering from a slight feverish chill — the first symptom of the long illness which followed that night. Her grave air, her direct earnest look and quiet manner made a very favourable impression on everyone. Nikolay Parfenovitch was even a little bit “fascinated.” He admitted himself, when talking about it afterwards, that only then had he seen “how handsome the woman was,” for, though he had seen her several times he had always looked upon her as something of a “provincial hetaira.” “She has the manners of the best society,” he said enthusiastically, gossiping about her in a circle of ladies. But this was received with positive indignation by the ladies, who immediately called him a “naughty man,” to his great satisfaction.

As she entered the room, Grushenka only glanced for an instant at Mitya, who looked at her uneasily. But her face reassured him at once. After the first inevitable inquiries and warnings, Nikolay Parfenovitch asked her, hesitating a little, but preserving the most courteous manner, on what terms she was with the retired lieutenant, Dmitri Fyodorovitch Karamazov. To this Grushenka firmly and quietly replied:

“He was an acquaintance. He came to see me as an acquaintance during the last month.” To further inquisitive questions she answered plainly and with complete frankness, that, though “at times” she had thought him attractive, she had not loved him, but had won his heart as well as his old father’s “in my nasty spite,” that she had seen that Mitya was very jealous of Fyodor Pavlovitch and everyone else; but that had only amused her. She had never meant to go to Fyodor Pavlovitch, she had simply been laughing at him. “I had no thoughts for either of them all this last month. I was expecting another man who had wronged me. But I think,” she said in conclusion, “that there’s no need for you to inquire about that, nor for me to answer you, for that’s my own affair.”

Nikolay Parfenovitch immediately acted upon this hint. He again dismissed the “romantic” aspect of the case and passed to the serious one, that is, to the question of most importance, concerning the three thousand roubles. Grushenka confirmed the statement that three thousand roubles had certainly been spent on the first carousal at Mokroe, and, though she had not counted the money herself, she had heard that it was three thousand from Dmitri Fyodorovitch’s own lips.

“Did he tell you that alone, or before someone else, or did you only hear him speak of it to others in your presence?” the prosecutor inquired immediately.

To which Grushenka replied that she had heard him say so before other people, and had heard him say so when they were alone.

“Did he say it to you alone once, or several times?” inquired the prosecutor, and learned that he had told Grushenka so several times.

Ippolit Kirillovitch was very well satisfied with this piece of evidence. Further examination elicited that Grushenka knew, too, where that money had come from, and that Dmitri Fyodorovitch had got it from Katerina Ivanovna.

“And did you never, once, hear that the money spent a month ago was not three thousand, but less, and that Dmitri Fyodorovitch had saved half that sum for his own use?”

“No, I never heard that,” answered Grushenka.

It was explained further that Mitya had, on the contrary, often told her that he hadn’t a farthing.

“He was always expecting to get some from his father,” said Grushenka in conclusion.

“Did he never say before you . . . casually, or in a moment of irritation,” Nikolay Parfenovitch put in suddenly, “that he intended to make an attempt on his father’s life?”

“Ach, he did say so,” sighed Grushenka.

“Once or several times?”

“He mentioned it several times, always in anger.”

“And did you believe he would do it?”

“No, I never believed it,” she answered firmly. “I had faith in his noble heart.”

“Gentlemen, allow me,” cried Mitya suddenly, “allow me to say one word to Agrafena Alexandrovna, in your presence.”

“You can speak,” Nikolay Parfenovitch assented.

“Agrafena Alexandrovna!” Mitya got up from his chair, “have faith in God and in me. I am not guilty of my father’s murder!”

Having uttered these words Mitya sat down again on his chair. Grushenka stood up and crossed herself devoutly before the ikon.

“Thanks be to Thee, O Lord,” she said, in a voice thrilled with emotion, and still standing, she turned to Nikolay Parfenovitch and added:

“As he has spoken now, believe it! I know him. He’ll say anything as a joke or from obstinacy, but he’ll never deceive you against his conscience. He’s telling the whole truth, you may believe it.”

“Thanks, Agrafena Alexandrovna, you’ve given me fresh courage,” Mitya responded in a quivering voice.

As to the money spent the previous day, she declared that she did not know what sum it was, but had heard him tell several people that he had three thousand with him. And to the question where he got the money, she said that he had told her that he had “stolen” it from Katerina Ivanovna, and that she had replied to that that he hadn’t stolen it, and that he must pay the money back next day. On the prosecutor’s asking her emphatically whether the money he said he had stolen from Katerina Ivanovna was what he had spent yesterday, or what he had squandered here a month ago, she declared that he meant the money spent a month ago, and that that was how she understood him.

Grushenka was at last released, and Nikolay Parfenovitch informed her impulsively that she might at once return to the town and that if he could be of any assistance to her, with horses for example, or if she would care for an escort, he . . . would be —

“I thank you sincerely,” said Grushenka, bowing to him, “I’m going with this old gentleman; I am driving him back to town with me, and meanwhile, if you’ll allow me, I’ll wait below to hear what you decide about Dmitri Fyodorovitch.”

She went out. Mitya was calm, and even looked more cheerful, but only for a moment. He felt more and more oppressed by a strange physical weakness. His eyes were closing with fatigue. The examination of the witnesses was, at last, over. They procceded to a revision of the protocol. Mitya got up, moved from his chair to the corner by the curtain, lay down on a large chest covered with a rug, and instantly fell asleep.

He had a strange dream, utterly out of keeping with the place and the time.

He was driving somewhere in the steppes, where he had been stationed long ago, and a peasant was driving him in a cart with a pair of horses, through snow and sleet. He was cold, it was early in November, and the snow was falling in big wet flakes, melting as soon as it touched the earth. And the peasant drove him smartly, he had a fair, long beard. He was not an old man, somewhere about fifty, and he had on a grey peasant’s smock. Not far off was a village, he could see the black huts, and half the huts were burnt down, there were only the charred beams sticking up. And as they drove in, there were peasant women drawn up along the road, a lot of women, a whole row, all thin and wan, with their faces a sort of brownish colour, especially one at the edge, a tall, bony woman, who looked forty, but might have been only twenty, with a long thin face. And in her arms was a little baby crying. And her breasts seemed so dried up that there was not a drop of milk in them. And the child cried and cried, and held out its little bare arms, with its little fists blue from cold.

“Why are they crying? Why are they crying?” Mitya asked, as they dashed gaily by.

“It’s the babe,” answered the driver, “the babe weeping.”

And Mitya was struck by his saying, in his peasant way, “the babe,” and he liked the peasant’s calling it a “babe.” There seemed more pity in it.

“But why is it weeping?” Mitya persisted stupidly, “why are its little arms bare? Why don’t they wrap it up?”

“The babe’s cold, its little clothes are frozen and don’t warm it.”

“But why is it? Why?” foolish Mitya still persisted.

“Why, they’re poor people, burnt out. They’ve no bread. They’re begging because they’ve been burnt out.”

“No, no,” Mitya, as it were, still did not understand. “Tell me why it is those poor mothers stand there? Why are people poor? Why is the babe poor? Why is the steppe barren? Why don’t they hug each other and kiss? Why don’t they sing songs of joy? Why are they so dark from black misery? Why don’t they feed the babe?”

And he felt that, though his questions were unreasonable and senseless, yet he wanted to ask just that, and he had to ask it just in that way. And he felt that a passion of pity, such as he had never known before, was rising in his heart, that he wanted to cry, that he wanted to do something for them all, so that the babe should weep no more, so that the dark-faced, dried-up mother should not weep, that no one should shed tears again from that moment, and he wanted to do it at once, at once, regardless of all obstacles, with all the recklessness of the Karamazovs.

“And I’m coming with you. I won’t leave you now for the rest of my life, I’m coming with you”, he heard close beside him Grushenka’s tender voice, thrilling with emotion. And his heart glowed, and he struggled forward towards the light, and he longed to live, to live, to go on and on, towards the new, beckoning light, and to hasten, hasten, now, at once! “What! Where?” he exclaimed opening his eyes, and sitting up on the chest, as though he had revived from a swoon, smiling brightly. Nikolay Parfenovitch was standing over him, suggesting that he should hear the protocol read aloud and sign it. Mitya guessed that he had been asleep an hour or more, but he did not hear Nikolay Parfenovitch. He was suddenly struck by the fact that there was a pillow under his head, which hadn’t been there when he had leant back, exhausted, on the chest.

“Who put that pillow under my head? Who was so kind?” he cried, with a sort of ecstatic gratitude, and tears in his voice, as though some great kindness had been shown him.

He never found out who this kind man was; perhaps one of the peasant witnesses, or Nikolay Parfenovitch’s little secretary, had compassionately thought to put a pillow under his head; but his whole soul was quivering with tears. He went to the table and said that he would sign whatever they liked.

“I’ve had a good dream, gentlemen,” he said in a strange voice, with a new light, as of joy, in his face.

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