The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter 2

For a Moment the Lie Becomes Truth

HE hurried to the hospital where Mitya was lying now. The day after his fate was determined, Mitya had fallen ill with nervous fever, and was sent to the prison division of the town hospital. But at the request of several persons (Alyosha, Madame Hohlakov, Lise, etc.), Doctor Varvinsky had put Mitya not with other prisoners, but in a separate little room, the one where Smerdyakov had been. It is true that there was a sentinel at the other end of the corridor, and there was a grating over the window, so that Varvinsky could be at ease about the indulgence he had shown, which was not quite legal, indeed; but he was a kind-hearted and compassionate young man. He knew how hard it would be for a man like Mitya to pass at once so suddenly into the society of robbers and murderers, and that he must get used to it by degrees. The visits of relations and friends were informally sanctioned by the doctor and overseer, and even by the police captain. But only Alyosha and Grushenka had visited Mitya. Rakitin had tried to force his way in twice, but Mitya persistently begged Varvinsky not to admit him.

Alyosha found him sitting on his bed in a hospital dressing gown, rather feverish, with a towel, soaked in vinegar and water, on his head. He looked at Alyosha as he came in with an undefined expression, but there was a shade of something like dread discernible in it. He had become terribly preoccupied since the trial; sometimes he would be silent for half an hour together, and seemed to be pondering something heavily and painfully, oblivious of everything about him. If he roused himself from his brooding and began to talk, he always spoke with a kind of abruptness and never of what he really wanted to say. He looked sometimes with a face of suffering at his brother. He seemed to be more at ease with Grushenka than with Alyosha. It is true, he scarcely spoke to her at all, but as soon as she came in, his whole face lighted up with joy.

Alyosha sat down beside him on the bed in silence. This time Mitya was waiting for Alyosha in suspense, but he did not dare ask him a question. He felt it almost unthinkable that Katya would consent to come, and at the same time he felt that if she did not come, something inconceivable would happen. Alyosha understood his feelings.

“Trifon Borissovitch,” Mitya began nervously, “has pulled his whole inn to pieces, I am told. He’s taken up the flooring, pulled apart the planks, split up all the gallery, I am told. He is seeking treasure all the time — the fifteen hundred roubles which the prosecutor said I’d hidden there. He began playing these tricks, they say, as soon as he got home. Serve him right, the swindler! The guard here told me yesterday; he comes from there.”

“Listen,” began Alyosha. “She will come, but I don’t know when. Perhaps to-day, perhaps in a few days, that I can’t tell. But she will come, she will, that’s certain.”

Mitya started, would have said something, but was silent. The news had a tremendous effect on him. It was evident that he would have liked terribly to know what had been said, but he was again afraid to ask. Something cruel and contemptuous from Katya would have cut him like a knife at that moment.

“This was what she said among other things; that I must be sure to set your conscience at rest about escaping. If Ivan is not well by then she will see to it all herself.”

“You’ve spoken of that already,” Mitya observed musingly.

“And you have repeated it to Grusha,” observed Alyosha.

“Yes,” Mitya admitted. “She won’t come this morning.” He looked timidly at his brother. “She won’t come till the evening. When I told her yesterday that Katya was taking measures, she was silent, but she set her mouth. She only whispered, ‘Let her!’ She understood that it was important. I did not dare to try her further. She understands now, I think, that Katya no longer cares for me, but loves Ivan.”

“Does she?” broke from Alyosha.

“Perhaps she does not. Only she is not coming this morning,” Mitya hastened to explain again; “I asked her to do something for me. You know, Ivan is superior to all of us. He ought to live, not us. He will recover.”

“Would you believe it, though Katya is alarmed about him, she scarcely doubts of his recovery,” said Alyosha.

“That means that she is convinced he will die. It’s because she is frightened she’s so sure he will get well.”

“Ivan has a strong constitution, and I, too, believe there’s every hope that he will get well,” Alyosha observed anxiously.

“Yes, he will get well. But she is convinced that he will die. She has a great deal of sorrow to bear . . . ” A silence followed. A grave anxiety was fretting Mitya.

“Alyosha, I love Grusha terribly,” he said suddenly in a shaking voice, full of tears.

“They won’t let her go out there to you,” Alyosha put in at once.

“And there is something else I wanted tell you,” Mitya went on, with a sudden ring in his voice. “If they beat me on the way or out there, I won’t submit to it. I shall kill someone, and shall be shot for it. And this will be going on for twenty years! They speak to me rudely as it is. I’ve been lying here all night, passing judgment on myself. I am not ready! I am not able to resign myself. I wanted to sing a ‘hymn’; but if a guard speaks rudely to me, I have not the strength to bear it. For Grusha I would bear anything . . . anything except blows. . . . But she won’t be allowed to come there.”

Alyosha smiled gently.

“Listen, brother, once for all,” he said. “This is what I think about it. And you know that I would not tell you a lie. Listen: you are not ready, and such a cross is not for you. What’s more, you don’t need such a martyr’s cross when you are not ready for it. If you had murdered our father, it would grieve me that you should reject your punishment. But you are innocent, and such a cross is too much for you. You wanted to make yourself another man by suffering. I say, only remember that other man always, all your life and wherever you go; and that will be enough for you. Your refusal of that great cross will only serve to make you feel all your life even greater duty, and that constant feeling will do more to make you a new man, perhaps, than if you went there. For there you would not endure it and would repine, and perhaps at last would say: ‘I am quits.’ The lawyer was right about that. Such heavy burdens are not for all men. For some they are impossible. These are my thoughts about it, if you want them so much. If other men would have to answer for your escape, officers or soldiers, then I would not have ‘allowed’ you,” smiled Alyosha. “But they declare — the superintendent of that etape31 told Ivan himself — that if it’s well managed there will be no great inquiry, and that they can get off easily. Of course, bribing is dishonest even in such a case, but I can’t undertake to judge about it, because if Ivan and Katya commissioned me to act for you, I know I should go and give bribes. I must tell you the truth. And so I can’t judge of your own action. But let me assure you that I shall never condemn you. And it would be a strange thing if I could judge you in this. Now I think I’ve gone into everything.”

31 Stockade.

“But I do condemn myself!” cried Mitya. “I shall escape, that was settled apart from you; could Mitya Karamazov do anything but run away? But I shall condemn myself, and I will pray for my sin for ever. That’s how the Jesuits talk, isn’t it? Just as we are doing?”

“Yes.” Alyosha smiled gently.

“I love you for always telling the whole truth and never hiding anything,” cried Mitya, with a joyful laugh. “So I’ve caught my Alyosha being Jesuitical. I must kiss you for that. Now listen to the rest; I’ll open the other side of my heart to you. This is what I planned and decided. If I run away, even with money and a passport, and even to America, I should be cheered up by the thought that I am not running away for pleasure, not for happiness, but to another exile as bad, perhaps, as Siberia. It is as bad, Alyosha, it is! I hate that America, damn it, already. Even though Grusha will be with me. Just look at her; is she an American? She is Russian, Russian to the marrow of her bones; she will be homesick for the mother country, and I shall see every hour that she is suffering for my sake, that she has taken up that cross for me. And what harm has she done? And how shall I, too, put up with the rabble out there, though they may be better than I, every one of them? I hate that America already! And though they may be wonderful at machinery, every one of them, damn them, they are not of my soul. I love Russia, Alyosha, I love the Russian God, though I am a scoundrel myself. I shall choke there!” he exclaimed, his eyes suddenly flashing. His voice was trembling with tears. “So this is what I’ve decided, Alyosha, listen,” he began again, mastering his emotion. “As soon as I arrive there with Grusha, we will set to work at once on the land, in solitude, somewhere very remote, with wild bears. There must be some remote parts even there. I am told there are still Redskins there, somewhere, on the edge of the horizon. So to the country of the Last of the Mohicans, and there we’ll tackle the grammar at once, Grusha and I. Work and grammar — that’s how we’ll spend three years. And by that time we shall speak English like any Englishman. And as soon as we’ve learnt it — good-bye to America! We’ll run here to Russia as American citizens. Don’t be uneasy — we would not come to this little town. We’d hide somewhere, a long way off, in the north or in the south. I shall be changed by that time, and she will, too, in America. The doctors shall make me some sort of wart on my face — what’s the use of their being so mechanical! — or else I’ll put out one eye, let my beard grow a yard, and I shall turn grey, fretting for Russia. I dare say they won’t recognise us. And if they do, let them send us to Siberia — I don’t care. It will show it’s our fate. We’ll work on the land here, too, somewhere in the wilds, and I’ll make up as an American all my life. But we shall die on our own soil. That’s my plan, and it shan’t be altered. Do you approve?”

“Yes,” said Alyosha, not wanting to contradict him. Mitya paused for a minute and said suddenly:

“And how they worked it up at the trial! Didn’t they work it up!”

“If they had not, you would have been convicted just the same,” said Alyosha, with a sigh.

“Yes, people are sick of me here! God bless them, but it’s hard,” Mitya moaned miserably. Again there was silence for a minute.

“Alyosha, put me out of my misery at once!” he exclaimed suddenly. “Tell me, is she coming now, or not? Tell me? What did she say? How did she say it?”

“She said she would come, but I don’t know whether she will come to-day. It’s hard for her, you know,” Alyosha looked timidly at his brother.

“I should think it is hard for her! Alyosha, it will drive me out of my mind. Grusha keeps looking at me. She understands. My God, calm my heart: what is it I want? I want Katya! Do I understand what I want? It’s the headstrong, evil Karamazov spirit! No, I am not fit for suffering. I am a scoundrel, that’s all one can say.”

“Here she is!” cried Alyosha.

At that instant Katya appeared in the doorway. For a moment she stood still, gazing at Mitya with a dazed expression. He leapt pulsively to his feet, and a scared look came into his face. He turned pale, but a timid, pleading smile appeared on his lips at once, and with an irresistible impulse he held out both hands to Katya. Seeing it, she flew impetuously to him. She seized him by the hands, and almost by force made him sit down on the bed. She sat down beside him, and still keeping his hands pressed them violently. Several times they both strove to speak, but stopped short and again gazed speechless with a strange smile, their eyes fastened on one another. So passed two minutes.

“Have you forgiven me?” Mitya faltered at last, and at the same moment turning to Alyosha, his face working with joy, he cried, “Do you hear what I am asking, do you hear?”

“That’s what I loved you for, that you are generous at heart!” broke from Katya. “My forgiveness is no good to you, nor yours to me; whether you forgive me or not, you will always be a sore place in my heart, and I in yours — so it must be. . . . ” She stopped to take breath. “What have I come for?” she began again with nervous haste: “to embrace your feet, to press your hands like this, till it hurts — you remember how in Moscow I used to squeeze them — to tell you again that you are my god, my joy, to tell you that I love you madly,” she moaned in anguish, and suddenly pressed his hand greedily to her lips. Tears streamed from her eyes. Alyosha stood speechless and confounded; he had never expected what he was seeing.

“Love is over, Mitya!” Katya began again, “But the past is painfully dear to me. Know that you will always be so. But now let what might have been come true for one minute,” she faltered, with a drawn smile, looking into his face joyfully again. “You love another woman, and I love another man, and yet I shall love you for ever, and you will love me; do you know that? Do you hear? Love me, love me all your life!” she cried, with a quiver almost of menace in her voice.

“I shall love you, and . . . do you know, Katya,” Mitya began, drawing a deep breath at each word, “do you know, five days ago, that same evening, I loved you. . . . When you fell down and were carried out . . . All my life! So it will be, so it will always be-”

So they murmured to one another frantic words, almost meaningless, perhaps not even true, but at that moment it was all true, and they both believed what they said implicitly.

“Katya,” cried Mitya suddenly, “do you believe I murdered him? I know you don’t believe it now, but then . . . when you gave evidence. . . . Surely, surely you did not believe it!”

“I did not believe it even then. I’ve never believed it. I hated you, and for a moment I persuaded myself. While I was giving evidence I persuaded myself and believed it, but when I’d finished speaking I left off believing it at once. Don’t doubt that! I have forgotten that I came here to punish myself,” she said, with a new expression in her voice, quite unlike the loving tones of a moment before.

“Woman, yours is a heavy burden,” broke, as it were, involuntarily from Mitya.

“Let me go,” she whispered. “I’ll come again. It’s more than I can bear now.”

She was getting up from her place, but suddenly uttered a loud scream and staggered back. Grushenka walked suddenly and noiselessly into the room. No one had expected her. Katya moved swiftly to the door, but when she reached Grushenka, she stopped suddenly, turned as white as chalk and moaned softly, almost in a whisper:

“Forgive me!”

Grushenka stared at her and, pausing for an instant, in a vindictive, venomous voice, answered:

“We are full of hatred, my girl, you and I! We are both full of hatred! As though we could forgive one another! Save him, and I’ll worship you all my life.”

“You won’t forgive her!” cried Mitya, with frantic reproach.

“Don’t be anxious, I’ll save him for you!” Katya whispered rapidly, and she ran out of the room.

“And you could refuse to forgive her when she begged your forgiveness herself?’ Mitya exclaimed bitterly again.

“Mitya, don’t dare to blame her; you have no right to!” Alyosha cried hotly.

“Her proud lips spoke, not her heart,” Grushenka brought out in a tone of disgust. “If she saves you I’ll forgive her everything-”

She stopped speaking, as though suppressing something. She could not yet recover herself. She had come in, as appeared afterwards, accidentally, with no suspicion of what she would meet.

“Alyosha, run after her!” Mitya cried to his brother; “tell her . . . I don’t know . . . don’t let her go away like this!”

“I’ll come to you again at nightfall,” said Alyosha, and he ran after Katya. He overtook her outside the hospital grounds. She walking fast, but as soon as Alyosha caught her up she said quickly:

“No, before that woman I can’t punish myself! I asked her forgiveness because I wanted to punish myself to the bitter end. She would not forgive me. . . . I like her for that!” she added, in an unnatural voice, and her eyes flashed with fierce resentment.

“My brother did not expect this in the least,” muttered Alyosha. “He was sure she would not come-”

“No doubt. Let us leave that,” she snapped. “Listen: I can’t go with you to the funeral now. I’ve sent them flowers. I think they still have money. If necessary, tell them I’ll never abandon them. . . . Now leave me, leave me, please. You are late as it is — the bells are ringing for the service. . . . Leave me, please!”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dostoyevsky/d72b/chapter95.html

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