The First Ordeal
AND so Mitya sat looking wildly at the people round him, not understanding what was said to him. Suddenly he got up, flung up his hands, and shouted aloud:
“I’m not guilty! I’m not guilty of that blood! I’m not guilty of my father’s blood. . . . I meant to kill him. But I’m not guilty. Not I.”
But he had hardly said this, before Grushenka rushed from behind the curtain and flung herself at the police captain’s feet.
“It was my fault! Mine! My wickedness!” she cried, in a heart-rending voice, bathed in tears, stretching out her clasped hands towards them. “He did it through me. I tortured him and drove him to it. I tortured that poor old man that’s dead, too, in my wickedness, and brought him to this! It’s my fault, mine first, mine most, my fault!”
“Yes, it’s your fault! You’re the chief criminal! You fury! You harlot! You’re the most to blame!” shouted the police captain, threatening her with his hand. But he was quickly and resolutely suppressed. The prosecutor positively seized hold of him.
“This is absolutely irregular, Mihail Makarovitch!” he cried. “You are positively hindering the inquiry. . . . You’re ruining the case.” he almost gasped.
“Follow the regular course! Follow the regular course!” cried Nikolay Parfenovitch, fearfully excited too, “otherwise it’s absolutely impossible! . . . ”
“Judge us together!” Grushenka cried frantically, still kneeling. “Punish us together. I will go with him now, if it’s to death!”
“Grusha, my life, my blood, my holy one!” Mitya fell on his knees beside her and held her tight in his arms. “Don’t believe her,” he cried, “she’s not guilty of anything, of any blood, of anything!”
He remembered afterwards that he was forcibly dragged away from her by several men, and that she was led out, and that when he recovered himself he was sitting at the table. Beside him and behind him stood the men with metal plates. Facing him on the other side of the table sat Nikolay Parfenovitch, the investigating lawyer. He kept persuading him to drink a little water out of a glass that stood on the table.
“That will refresh you, that will calm you. Be calm, don’t be frightened,” he added, extremely politely. Mitya (he remembered it afterwards) became suddenly intensely interested in his big rings, one with an amethyst, and another with a transparent bright yellow stone, of great brilliance. And long afterwards he remembered with wonder how those rings had riveted his attention through all those terrible hours of interrogation, so that he was utterly unable to tear himself away from them and dismiss them, as things that had nothing to do with his position. On Mitya’s left side, in the place where Maximov had been sitting at the beginning of the evening, the prosecutor was now seated, and on Mitya’s right hand, where Grushenka had been, was a rosy-cheeked young man in a sort of shabby hunting-jacket, with ink and paper before him. This was the secretary of the investigating lawyer, who had brought him with him. The police captain was now standing by the window at the other end of the room, beside Kalganov, who was sitting there.
“Drink some water,” said the investigating lawyer softly, for the tenth time.
“I have drunk it, gentlemen, I have . . . but come gentlemen, crush me, punish me, decide my fate!” cried Mitya, staring with terribly fixed wide-open eyes at the investigating lawyer.
“So you positively declare that you are not guilty of the death of your father, Fyodor Pavlovitch?” asked the investigating lawyer, softly but insistently.
“I am not guilty. I am guilty of the blood of another old man, but not of my father’s. And I weep for it! I killed, I killed the old man and knocked him down. . . . But it’s hard to have to answer for that murder with another, a terrible murder of which I am not guilty. . . . It’s a terrible accusation, gentlemen, a knockdown blow. But who has killed my father, who has killed him? Who can have killed him if I didn’t? It’s marvellous, extraordinary, impossible.”
“Yes, who can have killed him?” the investigating lawyer was beginning, but Ippolit Kirillovitch, the prosecutor, glancing at him, addressed Mitya.
“You need not worry yourself about the old servant, Grigory Vasilyevitch. He is alive, he has recovered, and in spite of the terrible blows inflicted, according to his own and your evidence, by you, there seems no doubt that he will live, so the doctor says, at least.”
“Alive? He’s alive?” cried Mitya, flinging up his hands. His face beamed. “Lord, I thank Thee for the miracle Thou has wrought for me, a sinner and evildoer. That’s an answer to my prayer. I’ve been praying all night.” And he crossed himself three times. He was almost breathless.
“So from this Grigory we have received such important evidence concerning you, that-” The prosecutor would have continued, but Mitya suddenly jumped up from his chair.
“One minute, gentlemen, for God’s sake, one minute; I will run to her-”
“Excuse me, at this moment it’s quite impossible,” Nikolay Parfenovitch almost shrieked. He, too, leapt to his feet. Mitya was seized by the men with the metal plates, but he sat down of his own accord. . . .
“Gentlemen, what a pity! I wanted to see her for one minute only; I wanted to tell her that it has been washed away, it has gone, that blood that was weighing on my heart all night, and that I am not a murderer now! Gentlemen, she is my betrothed!” he said ecstatically and reverently, looking round at them all. “Oh, thank you, gentlemen! Oh, in one minute you have given me new life, new heart! . . . That old man used to carry me in his arms, gentlemen. He used to wash me in the tub when I was a baby three years old, abandoned by everyone, he was like a father to me! . . . ”
“And so you-” the investigating lawyer began.
“Allow me, gentlemen, allow me one minute more,” interposed Mitya, putting his elbows on the table and covering his face with his hands. “Let me have a moment to think, let me breathe, gentlemen. All this is horribly upsetting, horribly. A man is not a drum, gentlemen!”
“Drink a little more water,” murmured Nikolay Parfenovitch. Mitya took his hands from his face and laughed. His eyes were confident. He seemed completely transformed in a moment. His whole bearing was changed; he was once more the equal of these men, with all of whom he was acquainted, as though they had all met the day before, when nothing had happened, at some social gathering. We may note in passing that, on his first arrival, Mitya had been made very welcome at the police captain’s, but later, during the last month especially, Mitya had hardly called at all, and when the police captain met him, in the street, for instance, Mitya noticed that he frowned and only bowed out of politeness. His acquaintance with the prosecutor was less intimate, though he sometimes paid his wife, a nervous and fanciful lady, visits of politeness, without quite knowing why, and she always received him graciously and had, for some reason, taken an interest in him up to the last. He had not had time to get to know the investigating lawyer, though he had met him and talked to him twice, each time about the fair sex.
“You’re a most skilful lawyer, I see, Nikolay Parfenovitch,” cried Mitya, laughing gaily, “but I can help you now. Oh, gentlemen, I feel like a new man, and don’t be offended at my addressing you so simply and directly. I’m rather drunk, too, I’ll tell you that frankly. I believe I’ve had the honour and pleasure of meeting you, Nikolay Parfenovitch, at my kinsman Miusov’s. Gentlemen, gentlemen, I don’t pretend to be on equal terms with you. I understand, of course, in what character I am sitting before you. Oh, of course, there’s a horrible suspicion . . . hanging over me . . . if Grigory has given evidence. . . . A horrible suspicion! It’s awful, awful, I understand that! But to business, gentlemen, I am ready, and we will make an end of it in one moment; for, listen, listen, gentlemen! Since I know I’m innocent, we can put an end to it in a minute. Can’t we? Can’t we?”
Mitya spoke much and quickly, nervously and effusively, as though he positively took his listeners to be his best friends.
“So, for the present, we will write that you absolutely deny the charge brought against you,” said Nikolay Parfenovitch, impressively, and bending down to the secretary he dictated to him in an undertone what to write.
“Write it down? You want to write that down? Well, write it; I consent, I give my full consent, gentlemen, only . . . do you see? . . . Stay, stay, write this. Of disorderly conduct I am guilty, of violence on a poor old man I am guilty. And there is something else at the bottom of my heart, of which I am guilty, too but that you need not write down” (he turned suddenly to the secretary); “that’s my personal life, gentlemen, that doesn’t concern you, the bottom of my heart, that’s to say. . . . But of the murder of my old father I’m not guilty. That’s a wild idea. It’s quite a wild idea! . . . I will prove you that and you’ll be convinced directly. . . . You will laugh, gentlemen. You’ll laugh yourselves at your suspicion! . . . ”
“Be calm, Dmitri Fyodorovitch,” said the investigating lawyer evidently trying to allay Mitya’s excitement by his own composure. “Before we go on with our inquiry, I should like, if you will consent to answer, to hear you confirm the statement that you disliked your father, Fyodor Pavlovitch, that you were involved in continual disputes with him. Here at least, a quarter of an hour ago, you exclaimed that you wanted to kill him: ‘I didn’t kill him,’ you said,‘but I wanted to kill him.’”
“Did I exclaim that? Ach, that may be so, gentlemen! Yes, unhappily, I did want to kill him . . . many times I wanted to . . . unhappily, unhappily!”
“You wanted to. Would you consent to explain what motives precisely led you to such a sentiment of hatred for your parent?”
“What is there to explain, gentlemen?” Mitya shrugged his shoulders sullenly, looking down. “I have never concealed my feelings. All the town knows about it — everyone knows in the tavern. Only lately I declared them in Father Zossima’s cell. And the very same day, in the evening I beat my father. I nearly killed him, and I swore I’d come again and kill him, before witnesses. . . . Oh, a thousand witnesses! I’ve been shouting it aloud for the last month, anyone can tell you that! . . . The fact stares you in the face, it speaks for itself, it cries aloud, but feelings, gentlemen, feelings are another matter. You see, gentlemen” — Mitya frowned — “it seemed to me that about feelings you’ve no right to question me. I know that you are bound by your office, I quite understand that, but that’s my affair, my private, intimate affair, yet . . . since I haven’t concealed my feelings in the past . . . in the tavern, for instance, I’ve talked to everyone, so . . . so I won’t make a secret of it now. You see, I understand, gentlemen, that there are terrible facts against me in this business. I told everyone that I’d kill him, and now, all of a sudden, he’s been killed. So it must have been me! Ha ha! I can make allowances for you, gentlemen, I can quite make allowances. I’m struck all of a heap myself, for who can have murdered him, if not I? That’s what it comes to, isn’t it? If not I, who can it be, who? Gentlemen, I want to know, I insist on knowing!” he exclaimed suddenly. “Where was he murdered? How was he murdered? How, and with what? Tell me,” he asked quickly, looking at the two lawyers.
“We found him in his study, lying on his back on the floor, with his head battered in,” said the prosecutor.
“That’s horrible!” Mitya shuddered and, putting his elbows on the table, hid his face in his right hand.
“We will continue,” interposed Nikolay Parfenovitch. “So what was it that impelled you to this sentiment of hatred? You have asserted in public, I believe, that it was based upon jealousy?”
“Well, yes, jealousy. not only jealousy.”
“Disputes about money?”
“Yes, about money, too.”
“There was a dispute about three thousand roubles, I think, which you claimed as part of your inheritance?”
“Three thousand! More, more,” cried Mitya hotly; “more than six thousand, more than ten, perhaps. I told everyone so, shouted it at them. But I made up my mind to let it go at three thousand. I was desperately in need of that three thousand . . . so the bundle of notes for three thousand that I knew he kept under his pillow, ready for Grushenka, I considered as simply stolen from me. Yes, gentlemen, I looked upon it as mine, as my own property . . . ”
The prosecutor looked significantly at the investigating lawyer, and had time to wink at him on the sly.
“We will return to that subject later,” said the lawyer promptly. “You will allow us to note that point and write it down; that you looked upon that money as your own property?”
“Write it down, by all means. I know that’s another fact that tells against me, but I’m not afraid of facts and I tell them against myself. Do you hear? Do you know, gentlemen, you take me for a different sort of man from what I am,” he added, suddenly gloomy and dejected. “You have to deal with a man of honour, a man of the highest honour; above all don’t lose sight of it — a man who’s done a lot of nasty things, but has always been, and still is, honourable at bottom, in his inner being. I don’t know how to express it. That’s just what’s made me wretched all my life, that I yearned to be honourable, that I was, so to say, a martyr to a sense of honour, seeking for it with a lantern, with the lantern of Diogenes, and yet all my life I’ve been doing filthy things like all of us, gentlemen . . . that is like me alone. That was a mistake, like me alone, me alone! . . . Gentlemen, my head aches . . . ” His brows contracted with pain. “You see, gentlemen, I couldn’t bear the look of him, there was something in him ignoble, impudent, trampling on everything sacred, something sneering and irreverent, loathsome, loathsome. But now that he’s dead, I feel differently.”
“How do you mean?”
“I don’t feel differently, but I wish I hadn’t hated him so.”
“You feel penitent?”
“No, not penitent, don’t write that. I’m not much good myself; I’m not very beautiful, so I had no right to consider him repulsive. That’s what I mean. Write that down, if you like.”
Saying this Mitya became very mournful. He had grown more and more gloomy as the inquiry continued.
At that moment another unexpected scene followed. Though Grushenka had been removed, she had not been taken far away, only into the room next but one from the blue room, in which the examination was proceeding. It was a little room with one window, next beyond the large room in which they had danced and feasted so lavishly. She was sitting there with no one by her but Maximov, who was terribly depressed, terribly scared, and clung to her side, as though for security. At their door stood one of the peasants with a metal plate on his breast. Grushenka was crying, and suddenly her grief was too much for her, she jumped up, flung up her arms and, with a loud wail of sorrow, rushed out of the room to him, to her Mitya, and so unexpectedly that they had not time to stop her. Mitya, hearing her cry, trembled, jumped up, and with a yell rushed impetuously to meet her, not knowing what he was doing. But they were not allowed to come together, though they saw one another. He was seized by the arms. He struggled, and tried to tear himself away. It took three or four men to hold him. She was seized too, and he saw her stretching out her arms to him, crying aloud as they carried her away. When the scene was over, he came to himself again, sitting in the same place as before, opposite the investigating lawyer, and crying out to them:
“What do you want with her? Why do you torment her? She’s done nothing, nothing!
The lawyers tried to soothe him. About ten minutes passed like this. At last Mihail Makarovitch, who had been absent, came hurriedly into the room, and said in a loud and excited voice to the prosecutor:
“She’s been removed, she’s downstairs. Will you allow me to say one word to this unhappy man, gentlemen? In your presence, gentlemen, in your presence.”
“By all means, Mihail Makarovitch,” answered the investigating lawyer. “In the present case we have nothing against it.”
“Listen, Dmitri Fyodorovitch, my dear fellow,” began the police captain, and there was a look of warm, almost fatherly, feeling for the luckless prisoner on his excited face. “I took your Agrafena Alexandrovna downstairs myself, and confided her to the care of the landlord’s daughters, and that old fellow Maximov is with her all the time. And I soothed her, do you hear? I soothed and calmed her. I impressed on her that you have to clear yourself, so she mustn’t hinder you, must not depress you, or you may lose your head and say the wrong thing in your evidence. In fact, I talked to her and she understood. She’s a sensible girl, my boy, a good-hearted girl, she would have kissed my old hands, begging help for you. She sent me herself, to tell you not to worry about her. And I must go, my dear fellow, I must go and tell her that you are calm and comforted about her. And so you must be calm, do you understand? I was unfair to her; she is a Christian soul, gentlemen, yes, I tell you, she’s a gentle soul, and not to blame for anything. So what am I to tell her, Dmitri Fyodorovitch? Will you sit quiet or not?”
The good-natured police captain said a great deal that was irregular, but Grushenka’s suffering, a fellow creature’s suffering, touched his good-natured heart, and tears stood in his eyes. Mitya jumped up and rushed towards him.
“Forgive me, gentlemen, oh, allow me, allow me!” he cried. “You’ve the heart of an angel, an angel, Mihail Makarovitch, I thank you for her. I will, I will be calm, cheerful, in fact. Tell her, in the kindness of your heart, that I am cheerful, quite cheerful, that I shall be laughing in a minute, knowing that she has a guardian angel like you. I shall have done with all this directly, and as soon as I’m free, I’ll be with her, she’ll see, let her wait. Gentlemen,” he said, turning to the two lawyers, now I’ll open my whole soul to you; I’ll pour out everything. We’ll finish this off directly, finish it off gaily. We shall laugh at it in the end, shan’t we? But gentlemen, that woman is the queen of my heart. Oh, let me tell you that. That one thing I’ll tell you now. . . . I see I’m with honourable men. She is my light, she is my holy one, and if only you knew! Did you hear her cry, ‘I’ll go to death with you’? And what have I, a penniless beggar, done for her? Why such love for me? How can a clumsy, ugly brute like me, with my ugly face, deserve such love, that she is ready to go to exile with me? And how she fell down at your feet for my sake, just now! . . . and yet she’s proud and has done nothing! How can I help adoring her, how can I help crying out and rushing to her as I did just now? Gentlemen, forgive me! But now, now I am comforted.”
And he sank back in his chair and, covering his face with his hands, burst into tears. But they were happy tears. He recovered himself instantly. The old police captain seemed much pleased, and the lawyers also. They felt that the examination was passing into a new phase. When the police captain went out, Mitya was positively gay.
“Now, gentlemen, I am at your disposal, entirely at your disposal. And if it were not for all these trivial details, we should understand one another in a minute. I’m at those details again. I’m at your disposal, gentlemen, but I declare that we must have mutual confidence, you in me and I in you, or there’ll be no end to it. I speak in your interests. To business, gentlemen, to business, and don’t rummage in my soul; don’t tease me with trifles, but only ask me about facts and what matters, and I will satisfy you at once. And damn the details!”
So spoke Mitya. The interrogation began again.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07