IT was quite late (days are short in November) when Alyosha rang at the prison gate. It was beginning to get dusk. But Alyosha knew that he would be admitted without difficulty. Things were managed in our little town, as everywhere else. At first, of course, on the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry, relations and a few other persons could only obtain interviews with Mitya by going through certain inevitable formalities. But later, though the formalities were not relaxed, exceptions were made for some, at least, of Mitya’s visitors. So much so, that sometimes the interviews with the prisoner in the room set aside for the purpose were practically tete-a-tete.
These exceptions, however, were few in number; only Grushenka, Alyosha and Rakitin were treated like this. But the captain of the police, Mihail Mihailovitch, was very favourably disposed to Grushenka. His abuse of her at Mokroe weighed on the old man’s conscience, and when he learned the whole story, he completely changed his view of her. And strange to say, though he was firmly persuaded of his guilt, yet after Mitya was once in prison, the old man came to take a more and more lenient view of him. “He was a man of good heart, perhaps,” he thought, “who had come to grief from drinking and dissipation.” His first horror had been succeeded by pity. As for Alyosha, the police captain was very fond of him and had known him for a long time. Rakitin, who had of late taken to coming very often to see the prisoner, was one of the most intimate acquaintances of the “police captain’s young ladies,” as he called them, and was always hanging about their house. He gave lessons in the house of the prison superintendent, too, who, though scrupulous in the performance of his duties, was a kindhearted old man. Alyosha, again, had an intimate acquaintance of long standing with the superintendent, who was fond of talking to him, generally on sacred subjects. He respected Ivan Fyodorovitch, and stood in awe of his opinion, though he was a great philosopher himself; “self-taught,” of course. But Alyosha had an irresistible attraction for him. During the last year the old man had taken to studying the Apocryphal Gospels, and constantly talked over his impressions with his young friend. He used to come and see him in the monastery and discussed for hours together with him and with the monks. So even if Alyosha were late at the prison, he had only to go to the superintendent and everything was made easy. Besides, everyone in the prison, down to the humblest warder, had grown used to Alyosha. The sentry, of course, did not trouble him so long as the authorities were satisfied.
When Mitya was summoned from his cell, he always went downstairs, to the place set aside for interviews. As Alyosha entered the room he came upon Rakitin, who was just taking leave of Mitya. They were both talking loudly. Mitya was laughing heartily as he saw him out, while Rakitin seemed grumbling. Rakitin did not like meeting Alyosha, especially of late. He scarcely spoke to him, and bowed to him stiffly. Seeing Alyosha enter now, he frowned and looked away, as though he were entirely absorbed in buttoning his big, warm, fur-trimmed overcoat. Then he began looking at once for his umbrella.
“I must mind not to forget my belongings,” he muttered, simply to say something.
“Mind you don’t forget other people’s belongings,” said Mitya, as a joke, and laughed at once at his own wit. Rakitin fired up instantly.
“You’d better give that advice to your own family, who’ve always been a slave-driving lot, and not to Rakitin,” he cried, suddenly trembling with anger.
“What’s the matter? I was joking,” cried Mitya. “Damn it all! They are all like that.” He turned to Alyosha, nodding towards Rakitin’s hurriedly retreating figure. “He was sitting here, laughing and cheerful, and all at once he boils up like that. He didn’t even nod to you. Have you broken with him completely? Why are you so late? I’ve not been simply waiting, but thirsting for you the whole morning. But never mind. We’ll make up for it now.”
“Why does he come here so often? Surely you are not such great friends?” asked Alyosha. He, too, nodded at the door through which Rakitin had disappeared.
“Great friends with Rakitin? No, not as much as that. Is it likely — a pig like that? He considers I am . . . a blackguard. They can’t understand a joke either, that’s the worst of such people. They never understand a joke, and their souls are dry, dry and flat; they remind me of prison walls when I was first brought here. But he is a clever fellow, very clever. Well, Alexey, it’s all over with me now.”
He sat down on the bench and made Alyosha sit down beside him.
“Yes, the trial’s to-morrow. Are you so hopeless, brother?” Alyosha said, with an apprehensive feeling.
“What are you talking about?” said Mitya, looking at him rather uncertainly. “Oh, you mean the trial! Damn it all! Till now we’ve been talking of things that don’t matter, about this trial, but I haven’t said a word to you about the chief thing. Yes, the trial is to-morrow; but it wasn’t the trial I meant, when I said it was all over with me. Why do you look at me so critically?”
“What do you mean, Mitya?”
“Ideas, ideas, that’s all! Ethics! What is ethics?”
“Ethics?” asked Alyosha, wondering.
“Yes; is it a science?”
“Yes, there is such a science . . . but . . . I confess I can’t explain to you what sort of science it is.”
“Rakitin knows. Rakitin knows a lot, damn him! He’s not going to be a monk. He means to go to Petersburg. There he’ll go in for criticism of an elevating tendency. Who knows, he may be of use and make his own career, too. Ough! they are first-rate, these people, at making a career! Damn ethics, I am done for, Alexey, I am, you man of God! I love you more than anyone. It makes my heart yearn to look at you. Who was Karl Bernard?”
“Karl Bernard?” Alyosha was surprised again.
“No, not Karl. Stay, I made a mistake. Claude Bernard. What was he? Chemist or what?”
“He must be a savant,” answered Alyosha; “but I confess I can’t tell you much about him, either. I’ve heard of him as a savant, but what sort I don’t know.”
“Well, damn him, then! I don’t know either,” swore Mitya. “A scoundrel of some sort, most likely. They are all scoundrels. And Rakitin will make his way. Rakitin will get on anywhere; he is another Bernard. Ugh, these Bernards! They are all over the place.”
“But what is the matter?” Alyosha asked insistently.
“He wants to write an article about me, about my case, and so begin his literary career. That’s what he comes for; he said so himself. He wants to prove some theory. He wants to say ‘he couldn’t help murdering his father, he was corrupted by his environment,’ and so on. He explained it all to me. He is going to put in a tinge of Socialism, he says. But there, damn the fellow, he can put in a tinge if he likes, I don’t care. He can’t bear Ivan, he hates him. He’s not fond of you, either. But I don’t turn him out, for he is a clever fellow. Awfully conceited, though. I said to him just now,’ The Karamazovs are not blackguards, but philosophers; for all true Russians are philosophers, and though you’ve studied, you are not a philosopher — you are a low fellow.’ He laughed, so maliciously. And I said to him, ‘De ideabus non est disputandum.’18 Isn’t that rather good? I can set up for being a classic, you see!” Mitya laughed suddenly.
18 There’s no disputing ideas.
“Why is it all over with you? You said so just now,” Alyosha interposed.
“Why is it all over with me? H’m! . . . The fact of it is . . . if you take it as a whole, I am sorry to lose God — that’s why it is.”
“What do you mean by ‘sorry to lose God’?”
“Imagine: inside, in the nerves, in the head — that is, these nerves are there in the brain . . . (damn them!) there are sort of little tails, the little tails of those nerves, and as soon as they begin quivering . . . that is, you see, I look at something with my eyes and then they begin quivering, those little tails . . . and when they quiver, then an image appears . . . it doesn’t appear at once, but an instant, a second, passes . . . and then something like a moment appears; that is, not a moment — devil take the moment! — but an image; that is, an object, or an action, damn it! That’s why I see and then think, because of those tails, not at all because I’ve got a soul, and that I am some sort of image and likeness. All that is nonsense! Rakitin explained it all to me yesterday, brother, and it simply bowled me over. It’s magnificent, Alyosha, this science! A new man’s arising — that I understand. . . . And yet I am sorry to lose God!”
“Well, that’s a good thing, anyway,” said Alyosha.
“That I am sorry to lose God? It’s chemistry, brother, chemistry! There’s no help for it, your reverence, you must make way for chemistry. And Rakitin does dislike God. Ough! doesn’t he dislike Him! That’s the sore point with all of them. But they conceal it. They tell lies. They pretend. ‘Will you preach this in your reviews?’ I asked him. ‘Oh, well, if I did it openly, they won’t let it through, ‘he said. He laughed. ‘But what will become of men then?’ I asked him, ‘without God and immortal life? All things are lawful then, they can do what they like?’ ‘Didn’t you know?’ he said laughing, ‘a clever man can do what he likes,’ he said. ‘A clever man knows his way about, but you’ve put your foot in it, committing a murder, and now you are rotting in prison.’ He says that to my face! A regular pig! I used to kick such people out, but now I listen to them. He talks a lot of sense, too. Writes well. He began reading me an article last week. I copied out three lines of it. Wait a minute. Here it is.”
Mitya hurriedly pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and read:
“‘In order to determine this question, it is above all essential to put one’s personality in contradiction to one’s reality.’ Do you understand that?”
“No, I don’t,” said Alyosha. He looked at Mitya and listened to him with curiosity.
“I don’t understand either. It’s dark and obscure, but intellectual. ‘Everyone writes like that now,’ he says, ‘it’s the effect of their environment.’ They are afraid of the environment. He writes poetry, too, the rascal. He’s written in honour of Madame Hohlakov’s foot. Ha ha ha!”
“I’ve heard about it,” said Alyosha.
“Have you? And have you heard the poem?”
“I’ve got it. Here it is. I’ll read it to you. You don’t know — I haven’t told you — there’s quite a story about it. He’s a rascal! Three weeks ago he began to tease me. ‘You’ve got yourself into a mess, like a fool, for the sake of three thousand, but I’m going to collar a hundred and fifty thousand. I am going to marry a widow and buy a house in Petersburg.’ And he told me he was courting Madame Hohlakov. She hadn’t much brains in her youth, and now at forty she has lost what she had. ‘But she’s awfully sentimental,’ he says; ‘that’s how I shall get hold of her. When I marry her, I shall take her to Petersburg and there I shall start a newspaper.’ And his mouth was simply watering, the beast, not for the widow, but for the hundred and fifty thousand. And he made me believe it. He came to see me every day. ‘She is coming round,’ he declared. He was beaming with delight. And then, all of a sudden, he was turned out of the house. Perhotin’s carrying everything before him, bravo! I could kiss the silly old noodle for turning him out of the house. And he had written this doggerel. ‘It’s the first time I’ve soiled my hands with writing poetry,’ he said. ‘It’s to win her heart, so it’s in a good cause. When I get hold of the silly woman’s fortune, I can be of great social utility.’ They have this social justification for every nasty thing they do! ‘Anyway it’s better than your Pushkin’s poetry,’ he said, ‘for I’ve managed to advocate enlightenment even in that.’ I understand what he means about Pushkin, I quite see that, if he really was a man of talent and only wrote about women’s feet. But wasn’t Rakitin stuck up about his doggerel! The vanity of these fellows! ‘On the convalescence of the swollen foot of the object of my affections’ — he thought of that for a title. He’s a waggish fellow.
A captivating little foot,
Though swollen and red and tender!
The doctors come and plasters put,
But still they cannot mend her.
Yet, ’tis not for her foot I dread —
A theme for Pushkin’s muse more fit —
It’s not her foot, it is her head:
I tremble for her loss of wit!
For as her foot swells, strange to say,
Her intellect is on the wane —
Oh, for some remedy I pray
That may restore both foot and brain!
He is a pig, a regular pig, but he’s very arch, the rascal! And he really has put in a progressive idea. And wasn’t he angry when she kicked him out! He was gnashing his teeth!”
“He’s taken his revenge already,” said Alyosha. “He’s written a paragraph about Madame Hohlakov.”
And Alyosha told him briefly about the paragraph in Gossip.
“That’s his doing, that’s his doing!” Mitya assented, frowning. “That’s him! These paragraphs . . . I know . . . the insulting things that have been written about Grushenka, for instance. . . . And about Katya, too. . . . H’m!
He walked across the room with a harassed air.
“Brother, I cannot stay long,” Alyosha said, after a pause. “To-morrow will be a great and awful day for you, the judgment of God will be accomplished . . . I am amazed at you, you walk about here, talking of I don’t know what . . . ”
“No, don’t be amazed at me,” Mitya broke in warmly. “Am I to talk of that stinking dog? Of the murderer? We’ve talked enough of him. I don’t want to say more of the stinking son of Stinking Lizaveta! God will kill him, you will see. Hush!”
He went up to Alyosha excitedly and kissed him. His eyes glowed.
“Rakitin wouldn’t understand it,” he began in a sort of exaltation; “but you, you’ll understand it all. That’s why I was thirsting for you. You see, there’s so much I’ve been wanting to tell you for ever so long, here, within these peeling walls, but I haven’t said a word about what matters most; the moment never seems to have come. Now I can wait no longer. I must pour out my heart to you. Brother, these last two months I’ve found in myself a new man. A new man has risen up in me. He was hidden in me, but would never have come to the surface, if it hadn’t been for this blow from heaven. I am afraid! And what do I care if I spend twenty years in the mines, breaking ore with a hammer? I am not a bit afraid of that — it’s something else I am afraid of now: that that new man may leave me. Even there, in the mines, underground, I may find a human heart in another convict and murderer by my side, and I may make friends with him, for even there one may live and love and suffer. One may thaw and revive a frozen heart in that convict, one may wait upon him for years, and at last bring up from the dark depths a lofty soul, a feeling, suffering creature; one may bring forth an angel, create a hero! There are so many of them, hundreds of them, and we are all to blame for them. Why was it I dreamed of that ‘babe’ at such a moment? ‘Why is the babe so poor?’ That was a sign to me at that moment. It’s for the babe I’m going. Because we are all responsible for all. For all the ‘babes,’ for there are big children as well as little children All are ‘babes.’ I go for all, because someone must go for all. I didn’t kill father, but I’ve got to go. I accept it. It’s all come to me here, here, within these peeling walls. There are numbers of them there, hundreds of them underground, with hammers in their hands. Oh, yes, we shall be in chains and there will be no freedom, but then, in our great sorrow, we shall rise again to joy, without which man cannot live nor God exist, for God gives joy: it’s His privilege — a grand one. Ah, man should be dissolved in prayer! What should I be underground there without God? Rakitin’s laughing! If they drive God from the earth, we shall shelter Him underground. One cannot exist in prison without God; it’s even more impossible than out of prison. And then we men underground will sing from the bowels of the earth a glorious hymn to God, with Whom is joy. Hail to God and His joy! I love Him!”
Mitya was almost gasping for breath as he uttered his wild speech. He turned pale, his lips quivered, and tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Yes, life is full, there is life even underground,” he began again. “You wouldn’t believe, Alexey, how I want to live now, what a thirst for existence and consciousness has sprung up in me within these peeling walls. Rakitin doesn’t understand that; all he cares about is building a house and letting flats. But I’ve been longing for you. And what is suffering? I am not afraid of it, even if it were beyond reckoning. I am not afraid of it now. I was afraid of it before. Do you know, perhaps I won’t answer at the trial at all. . . . And I seem to have such strength in me now, that I think I could stand anything, any suffering, only to be able to say and to repeat to myself every moment, ‘I exist.’ In thousands of agonies — I exist. I’m tormented on the rack — but I exist! Though I sit alone on a pillar — I exist! I see the sun, and if I don’t see the sun, I know it’s there. And there’s a whole life in that, in knowing that the sun is there. Alyosha, my angel, all these philosophies are the death of me. Damn them! Brother Ivan-”
“What of brother Ivan?” interrupted Alyosha, but Mitya did not hear.
“You see, I never had any of these doubts before, but it was all hidden away in me. It was perhaps just because ideas I did not understand were surging up in me, that I used to drink and fight and rage. It was to stifle them in myself, to still them, to smother them. Ivan is not Rakitin, there is an idea in him. Ivan is a sphinx and is silent; he is always silent. It’s God that’s worrying me. That’s the only thing that’s worrying me. What if He doesn’t exist? What if Rakitin’s right — that it’s an idea made up by men? Then if He doesn’t exist, man is the chief of the earth, of the universe. Magnificent! Only how is he going to be good without God? That’s the question. I always come back to that. For whom is man going to love then? To whom will he be thankful? To whom will he sing the hymn? Rakitin laughs. Rakitin says that one can love humanity without God. Well, only a snivelling idiot can maintain that. I can’t understand it. Life’s easy for Rakitin. ‘You’d better think about the extension of civic rights, or even of keeping down the price of meat. You will show your love for humanity more simply and directly by that, than by philosophy.’ I answered him, ‘Well, but you, without a God, are more likely to raise the price of meat, if it suits you, and make a rouble on every copeck.’ He lost his temper. But after all, what is goodness? Answer me that, Alexey. Goodness is one thing with me and another with a Chinaman, so it’s a relative thing. Or isn’t it? Is it not relative? A treacherous question! You won’t laugh if I tell you it’s kept me awake two nights. I only wonder now how people can live and think nothing about it. Vanity! Ivan has no God. He has an idea. It’s beyond me. But he is silent. I believe he is a Freemason. I asked him, but he is silent. I wanted to drink from the springs of his soul — he was silent. But once he did drop a word.”
“What did he say?” Alyosha took it up quickly.
“I said to him, ‘Then everything is lawful, if it is so?’ He frowned. ‘Fyodor Pavlovitch, our papa,’ he said, ‘was a pig, but his ideas were right enough.’ That was what he dropped. That was all he said. That was going one better than Rakitin.”
“Yes,” Alyosha assented bitterly. “When was he with you?”
“Of that later; now I must speak of something else. I have said nothing about Ivan to you before. I put it off to the last. When my business here is over and the verdict has been given, then I’ll tell you something. I’ll tell you everything. We’ve something tremendous on hand. . . . And you shall be my judge in it. But don’t begin about that now; be silent. You talk of to-morrow, of the trial; but, would you believe it, I know nothing about it.”
“Have you talked to the counsel?”
“What’s the use of the counsel? I told him all about it. He’s a soft, city-bred rogue — a Bernard! But he doesn’t believe me — not a bit of it. Only imagine, he believes I did it. I see it. ‘In that case,’ I asked him, ‘why have you come to defend me?’ Hang them all! They’ve got a doctor down, too, want to prove I’m mad. I won’t have that! Katerina Ivanovna wants to do her ‘duty’ to the end, whatever the strain!” Mitya smiled bitterly. “The cat! Hard-hearted creature! She knows that I said of her at Mokroe that she was a woman of ‘great wrath.’ They repeated it. Yes, the facts against me have grown numerous as the sands of the sea. Grigory sticks to his point. Grigory’s honest, but a fool. Many people are honest because they are fools: that’s Rakitin’s idea. Grigory’s my enemy. And there are some people who are better as foes than friends. I mean Katerina Ivanovna. I am afraid, oh, I am afraid she will tell how she bowed to the ground after that four thousand. She’ll pay it back to the last farthing. I don’t want her sacrifice; they’ll put me to shame at the trial. I wonder how I can stand it. Go to her, Alyosha, ask her not to speak of that in the court, can’t you? But damn it all, it doesn’t matter! I shall get through somehow. I don’t pity her. It’s her own doing. She deserves what she gets. I shall have my own story to tell, Alexey.” He smiled bitterly again. “Only . . . only Grusha, Grusha! Good Lord! Why should she have such suffering to bear?” he exclaimed suddenly, with tears. “Grusha’s killing me; the thought of her’s killing me, killing me. She was with me just now . . . ”
“She told me she was very much grieved by you to-day.”
“I know. Confound my temper! It was jealousy. I was sorry, I kissed her as she was going. I didn’t ask her forgiveness.”
“Why didn’t you?” exclaimed Alyosha.
Suddenly Mitya laughed almost mirthfully.
“God preserve you, my dear boy, from ever asking forgiveness for a fault from a woman you love. From one you love especially, however greatly you may have been in fault. For a woman — devil only knows what to make of a woman! I know something about them, anyway. But try acknowledging you are in fault to a woman. Say, ‘I am sorry, forgive me,’ and a shower of reproaches will follow! Nothing will make her forgive you simply and directly, she’ll humble you to the dust, bring forward things that have never happened, recall everything, forget nothing, add something of her own, and only then forgive you. And even the best, the best of them do it. She’ll scrape up all the scrapings and load them on your head. They are ready to flay you alive, I tell you, every one of them, all these angels without whom we cannot live! I tell you plainly and openly, dear boy, every decent man ought to be under some woman’s thumb. That’s my conviction — not conviction, but feeling. A man ought to be magnanimous, and it’s no disgrace to a man! No disgrace to a hero, not even a Caesar! But don’t ever beg her pardon all the same for anything. Remember that rule given you by your brother Mitya, who’s come to ruin through women. No, I’d better make it up to Grusha somehow, without begging pardon. I worship her, Alexey, worship her. Only she doesn’t see it. No, she still thinks I don’t love her enough. And she tortures me, tortures me with her love. The past was nothing! In the past it was only those infernal curves of hers that tortured me, but now I’ve taken all her soul into my soul and through her I’ve become a man myself. Will they marry us? If they don’t, I shall die of jealousy. I imagine something every day. . . . What did she say to you about me?”
Alyosha repeated all Grushenka had said to him that day. Mitya listened, made him repeat things, and seemed pleased.
“Then she is not angry at my being jealous?” he exclaimed. “She is a regular woman! ‘I’ve a fierce heart myself!’ Ah, I love such fierce hearts, though I can’t bear anyone’s being jealous of me. I can’t endure it. We shall fight. But I shall love her, I shall love her infinitely. Will they marry us? Do they let convicts marry? That’s the question. And without her I can’t exist . . . ”
Mitya walked frowning across the room. It was almost dark. He suddenly seemed terribly worried.
“So there’s a secret, she says, a secret? We have got up a plot against her, and Katya is mixed up in it, she thinks. No, my good Grushenka, that’s not it. You are very wide of the mark, in your foolish feminine way. Alyosha, darling, well, here goes! I’ll tell you our secret!”
He looked round, went close up quickly to Alyosha, who was standing before him, and whispered to him with an air of mystery, though in reality no one could hear them: the old warder was dozing in the corner, and not a word could reach the ears of the soldiers on guard.
“I will tell you all our secret,” Mitya whispered hurriedly. “I meant to tell you later, for how could I decide on anything without you? You are everything to me. Though I say that Ivan is superior to us, you are my angel. It’s your decision will decide it. Perhaps it’s you that is superior and not Ivan. You see, it’s a question of conscience, question of the higher conscience — the secret is so important that I can’t settle it myself, and I’ve put it off till I could speak to you. But anyway it’s too early to decide now, for we must wait for the verdict. As soon as the verdict is given, you shall decide my fate. Don’t decide it now. I’ll tell you now. You listen, but don’t decide. Stand and keep quiet. I won’t tell you everything. I’ll only tell you the idea, without details, and you keep quiet. Not a question, not a movement. You agree? But, goodness, what shall I do with your eyes? I’m afraid your eyes will tell me your decision, even if you don’t speak. Oo! I’m afraid! Alyosha, listen! Ivan suggests my escaping. I won’t tell you the details: it’s all been thought out: it can all be arranged. Hush, don’t decide. I should go to America with Grusha. You know I can’t live without Grusha! What if they won’t let her follow me to Siberia? Do they let convicts get married? Ivan thinks not. And without Grusha what should I do there underground with a hammer? I should only smash my skull with the hammer! But, on the other hand, my conscience? I should have run away from suffering. A sign has come, I reject the sign. I have a way of salvation and I turn my back on it. Ivan says that in America, ‘with the goodwill,’ I can be of more use than underground. But what becomes of our hymn from underground? What’s America? America is vanity again! And there’s a lot of swindling in America, too, I expect. I should have run away from crucifixion! I tell you, you know, Alexey, because you are the only person who can understand this. There’s no one else. It’s folly, madness to others, all I’ve told you of the hymn. They’ll say I’m out of my mind or a fool. I am not out of my mind and I am not a fool. Ivan understands about the hymn, too. He understands, only he doesn’t answer — he doesn’t speak. He doesn’t believe in the hymn. Don’t speak, don’t speak. I see how you look! You have already decided. Don’t decide, spare me! I can’t live without Grusha. Wait till after the trial!”
Mitya ended beside himself. He held Alyosha with both hands on his shoulders, and his yearning, feverish eyes were fixed on his brother’s.
“They don’t let convicts marry, do they?” he repeated for the third time in a supplicating voice.
Alyosha listened with extreme surprise and was deeply moved.
“Tell me one thing,” he said. “Is Ivan very keen on it, and whose idea was it?”
“His, his, and he is very keen on it. He didn’t come to see me at first, then he suddenly came a week ago and he began about it straight away. He is awfully keen on it. He doesn’t ask me, but orders me to escape. He doesn’t doubt of my obeying him, though I showed him all my heart as I have to you, and told him about the hymn, too. He told me he’d arrange it; he’s found out about everything. But of that later. He’s simply set on it. It’s all a matter of money: he’ll pay ten thousand for escape and give me twenty thousand for America. And he says we can arrange a magnificent escape for ten thousand.”
“And he told you on no account to tell me?” Alyosha asked again.
“To tell no one, and especially not you; on no account to tell you. He is afraid, no doubt, that you’ll stand before me as my conscience. Don’t tell him I told you. Don’t tell him, for anything.”
“You are right,” Alyosha pronounced; “it’s impossible to decide anything before the trial is over. After the trial you’ll decide of yourself. Then you’ll find that new man in yourself and he will decide.”
“A new man, or a Bernard who’ll decide a la Bernard, for I believe I’m a contemptible Bernard myself,” said Mitya, with a bitter grin.
“But, brother, have you no hope then of being acquitted?”
Mitya shrugged his shoulders nervously and shook his head.
“Alyosha, darling, it’s time you were going,” he said, with a sudden haste. “There’s the superintendent shouting in the yard. He’ll be here directly. We are late; it’s irregular. Embrace me quickly. Kiss me! Sign me with the cross, darling, for the cross I have to bear to-morrow.”
They embraced and kissed.
“Ivan,” said Mitya suddenly, “suggests my escaping; but, of course, he believes I did it.”
A mournful smile came on to his lips.
“Have you asked him whether he believes it?” asked Alyosha.
“No, I haven’t. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I hadn’t the courage. But I saw it from his eyes. Well, good-bye!”
Once more they kissed hurriedly, and Alyosha was just going out, when Mitya suddenly called him back.
“Stand facing me! That’s right!” And again he seized Alyosha, putting both hands on his shoulders. His face became suddenly quite pale, so that it was dreadfully apparent, even through the gathering darkness. His lips twitched, his eyes fastened upon Alyosha.
“Alyosha, tell me the whole truth, as you would before God. Do you believe I did it? Do you, do you in yourself, believe it? The whole truth, don’t lie!” he cried desperately.
Everything seemed heaving before Alyosha, and he felt something like a stab at his heart.
“Hush! What do you mean?” he faltered helplessly.
“The whole truth, the whole, don’t lie!” repeated Mitya.
“I’ve never for one instant believed that you were the murderer!” broke in a shaking voice from Alyosha’s breast, and he raised his right hand in the air, as though calling God to witness his words.
Mitya’s whole face was lighted up with bliss.
“Thank you!” he articulated slowly, as though letting a sigh escape him after fainting. “Now you have given me new life. Would you believe it, till this moment I’ve been afraid to ask you, you, even you. Well, go! You’ve given me strength for to-morrow. God bless you! Come, go along! Love Ivan!” was Mitya’s last word.
Alyosha went out in tears. Such distrustfulness in Mitya, such lack of confidence even to him, to Alyosha — all this suddenly opened before Alyosha an unsuspected depth of hopeless grief and despair in the soul of his unhappy brother. Intense, infinite compassion overwhelmed him instantly. There was a poignant ache in his torn heart. “Love Ivan” — he suddenly recalled Mitya’s words. And he was going to Ivan. He badly wanted to see Ivan all day. He was as much worried about Ivan as about Mitya, and more than ever now.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07