MADAME HOHLAKOV was again the first to meet Alyosha. She was flustered; something important had happened. Katerina Ivanovna's hysterics had ended in _ainting fit, and then "a terrible, awful weakness had followed, she lay wit_er eyes turned up and was delirious. Now she was in a fever. They had sen_or Herzenstube; they had sent for the aunts. The aunts were already here, bu_erzenstube had not yet come. They were all sitting in her room, waiting. Sh_as unconscious now, and what if it turned to brain fever!"
Madame Hohlakov looked gravely alarmed. "This is serious, serious," she adde_t every word, as though nothing that had happened to her before had bee_erious. Alyosha listened with distress, and was beginning to describe hi_dventures, but she interrupted him at the first words. She had not time t_isten. She begged him to sit with Lise and wait for her there.
"Lise," she whispered almost in his ear, "Lise has greatly surprised me jus_ow, dear Alexey Fyodorovitch. She touched me, too, and so my heart forgive_er everything. Only fancy, as soon as you had gone, she began to be trul_emorseful for having laughed at you to-day and yesterday, though she was no_aughing at you, but only joking. But she was seriously sorry for it, almos_eady to cry, so that I was quite surprised. She has never been really sorr_or laughing at me, but has only made a joke of it. And you know she i_aughing at me every minute. But this time she was in earnest She thinks _reat deal of your opinion, Alexey Fyodorovitch, and don't take offence or b_ounded by her if you can help it. I am never hard upon her, for she's such _lever little thing. Would you believe it? She said just now that you were _riend of her childhood, 'the greatest friend of her childhood'- just think o_hat- 'greatest friend'- and what about me? She has very strong feelings an_emories, and, what's more, she uses these phrases, most unexpected words, which come out all of a sudden when you least expect them. She spoke latel_bout a pine-tree, for instance: there used to be a pine-tree standing in ou_arden in her early childhood. Very likely it's standing there still; s_here's no need to speak in the past tense. Pine-trees are not like people, Alexey Fyodorovitch, they don't change quickly. 'Mamma,' she said, 'I remembe_his pine tree as in a dream,' only she said something so original about i_hat I can't repeat it. Besides, I've forgotten it. Well, good-bye! I am s_orried I feel I shall go out of my mind. Ah! Alexey Fyodorovitch, I've bee_ut of my mind twice in my life. Go to Lise, cheer her up, as you always ca_o charmingly. Lise," she cried, going to her door, "here I've brought yo_lexey Fyodorovitch, whom you insulted so. He is not at all angry, I assur_ou; on the contrary, he is surprised that you could suppose so."
"Merci, maman. Come in, Alexey Fyodorovitch."
Alyosha went in. Lise looked rather embarrassed, and at once flushed crimson.
She was evidently ashamed of something, and, as people always do in suc_ases, she began immediately talking of other things, as though they were o_bsorbing interest to her at the moment.
"Mamma has just told me all about the two hundred roubles, Alexe_yodorovitch, and your taking them to that poor officer… and she told me al_he awful story of how he had been insulted… and you know, although mamm_uddles things… she always rushes from one thing to another… I cried when _eard. Well, did you give him the money and how is that poor man getting on?"
"The fact is I didn't give it to him, and it's a long story," answere_lyosha, as though he, too, could think of nothing but his regret at havin_ailed, yet Lise saw perfectly well that he, too, looked away, and that he, too, was trying to talk of other things.
Alyosha sat down to the table and began to tell his story, but at the firs_ords he lost his embarrassment and gained the whole of Lise's attention a_ell. He spoke with deep feeling, under the influence of the strong impressio_e had just received, and he succeeded in telling his story well an_ircumstantially. In old days in Moscow he had been fond of coming to Lise an_escribing to her what had just happened to him, what he had read, or what h_emembered of his childhood. Sometimes they had made day-dreams and wove_hole romances together- generally cheerful and amusing ones. Now they bot_elt suddenly transported to the old days in Moscow, two years before. Lis_as extremely touched by his story. Alyosha described Ilusha with war_eeling. When he finished describing how the luckless man trampled on th_oney, Lise could not help clasping her hands and crying out:
"So you didn't give him the money! So you let him run away! Oh, dear, yo_ught to have run after him!"
"No, Lise; it's better I didn't run after him," said Alyosha, getting up fro_is chair and walking thoughtfully across the room.
"How so? How is it better? Now they are without food and their case i_opeless."
"Not hopeless, for the two hundred roubles will still come to them. He'll tak_he money to-morrow. To-morrow he will be sure to take it," said Alyosha, pacing up and down, pondering. "You see, Lise," he went on, stopping suddenl_efore her, "I made one blunder, but that, even that, is all for the best."
"What blunder, and why is it for the best?"
"I'll tell you. He is a man of weak and timorous character; he has suffered s_uch and is very good-natured. I keep wondering why he took offence s_uddenly, for I assure you, up to the last minute, he did not know that he wa_oing to trample on the notes. And I think now that there was a great deal t_ffend him… and it could not have been otherwise in his position… . To begi_ith, he was sore at having been so glad of the money in my presence and no_aving concealed it from me. If he had been pleased, but not so much; if h_ad not shown it; if he had begun affecting scruples and difficulties, a_ther people do when they take money, he might still endure- to take it. Bu_e was too genuinely delighted, and that was mortifying. Ah, Lise, he is _ood and truthful man- that's the worst of the whole business. All the whil_e talked, his voice was so weak, so broken, he talked so fast, so fast, h_ept laughing such a laugh, or perhaps he was crying- yes, I am sure he wa_rying, he was so delighted- and he talked about his daughters- and about th_ituation he could get in another town… . And when he had poured out hi_eart, he felt ashamed at having shown me his inmost soul like that. So h_egan to hate me at once. He is one of those awfully sensitive poor people.
What had made him feel most ashamed was that he had given in too soon an_ccepted me as a friend, you see. At first he almost flew at me and tried t_ntimidate me, but as soon as he saw the money he had begun embracing me; h_ept touching me with his hands. This must have been how he came to feel i_ll so humiliating, and then I made that blunder, a very important one. _uddenly said to him that if he had not money enough to move to another town, we would give it to him, and, indeed, I myself would give him as much as h_anted out of my own money. That struck him all at once. Why, he thought, di_ put myself forward to help him? You know, Lise, it's awfully hard for a ma_ho has been injured, when other people look at him as though they were hi_enefactors… . I've heard that; Father Zossima told me so. I don't know how t_ut it, but I have often seen it myself. And I feel like that myself, too. An_he worst of it was that though he did not know, to the very last minute, tha_e would trample on the notes, he had a kind of presentiment of it, I am sur_f that. That's just what made him so ecstatic, that he had that presentiment… . And though it's so dreadful, it's all for the best. In fact, I believ_othing better could have happened."
"Why, why could nothing better have happened?" cried Lise, looking with grea_urprise at Alyosha.
"Because if he had taken the money, in an hour after getting home, he would b_rying with mortification, that's just what would have happened. And mos_ikely he would have come to me early to-morrow, and perhaps have flung th_otes at me and trampled upon them as he did just now. But now he has gon_ome awfully proud and triumphant, though he knows he has 'ruined himself.' S_ow nothing could be easier than to make him accept the two hundred roubles b_o-morrow, for he has already vindicated his honour, tossed away the money, and trampled it under foot… . He couldn't know when he did it that I shoul_ring it to him again to-morrow, and yet he is in terrible need of that money.
Though he is proud of himself now, yet even to-day he'll be thinking what _elp he has lost. He will think of it more than ever at night, will dream o_t, and by to-morrow morning he may be ready to run to me to ask forgiveness.
It's just then that I'll appear. 'Here, you are a proud man,' I shall say:
'you have shown it; but now take the money and forgive us!' And then he wil_ake it!
Alyosha was carried away with joy as he uttered his last words, "And then h_ill take it!" Lise clapped her hands.
"Ah, that's true! I understand that perfectly now. Ah, Alyosha, how do yo_now all this? So young and yet he knows what's in the heart… . I should neve_ave worked it out."
"The great thing now is to persuade him that he is on an equal footing wit_s, in spite of his taking money from us," Alyosha went on in his excitement,
"and not only on an equal, but even on a higher footing."
"'On a higher footing' is charming, Alexey Fyodorovitch; but go on, go on!"
"You mean there isn't such an expression as 'on a higher footing'; but tha_oesn't matter because- "
"Oh, no, of course it doesn't matter. Forgive me, Alyosha, dear… . You know, _carcely respected you till now- that is I respected you but on an equa_ooting; but now I shall begin to respect you on a higher footing. Don't b_ngry, dear, at my joking," she put in at once, with strong feeling. "I a_bsurd and small, but you, you! Listen, Alexey Fyodorovitch. Isn't there i_ll our analysis- I mean your analysis… no, better call it ours- aren't w_howing contempt for him, for that poor man- in analysing his soul like this, as it were, from above, eh? In deciding so certainly that he will take th_oney?"
"No, Lise, it's not contempt," Alyosha answered, as though he had prepare_imself for the question. "I was thinking of that on the way here. How can i_e contempt when we are all like him, when we are all just the same as he is?
For you know we are just the same, no better. If we are better, we should hav_een just the same in his place… . I don't know about you, Lise, but _onsider that I have a sordid soul in many ways, and his soul is not sordid; on the contrary, full of fine feeling… . No, Lise, I have no contempt for him.
Do you know, Lise, my elder told me once to care for most people exactly a_ne would for children, and for some of them as one would for the sick i_ospitals."
"Ah, Alexey Fyodorovitch. dear, let us care for people as we would for th_ick!"
"Let us, Lise; I am ready. Though I am not altogether ready in myself. I a_ometimes very impatient and at other times I don't see things. It's differen_ith you."
"Ah, I don't believe it! Alexey Fyodorovitch, how happy I am!"
"I am so glad you say so, Lise."
"Alexey Fyodorovitch, you are wonderfully good, but you are sometimes sort o_ormal… . And yet you are not a bit formal really. Go to the door, open i_ently, and see whether mamma is listening," said Lise, in a nervous, hurrie_hisper.
Alyosha went, opened the door, and reported that no one was listening.
"Come here, Alexey Fyodorovitch," Lise went on, flushing redder and redder.
"Give me your hand- that's right. I have to make a great confession. I didn'_rite to you yesterday in joke, but in earnest," and she hid her eyes with he_and. It was evident that she was greatly ashamed of the confession.
Suddenly she snatched his hand and impulsively kissed it three times.
"Ah, Lise, what a good thing!" cried Alyosha joyfully. "You know, I wa_erfectly sure you were in earnest."
"Sure? Upon my word! She put aside his hand, but did not leave go of it, blushing hotly, and laughing a little happy laugh. "I kiss his hand and h_ays, 'What a good thing!'"
But her reproach was undeserved. Alyosha, too, was greatly overcome.
"I should like to please you always, Lise, but don't know how to do it." h_uttered, blushing too.
"Alyosha, dear, you are cold and rude. Do you see? He has chosen me as hi_ife and is quite settled about it. He is sure I was in earnest. What a thin_o say! Why, that's impertinence- that's what it is."
"Why, was it wrong of me to feel sure?" Alyosha asked, laughing suddenly.
"Ah, Alyosha, on the contrary, it was delightfully right," cried Lise, lookin_enderly and happily at him.
Alyosha stood still, holding her hand in his. Suddenly he stooped down an_issed her on her lips.
"Oh, what are you doing?" cried Lise. Alyosha was terribly abashed.
"Oh, forgive me if I shouldn't… . Perhaps I'm awfully stupid… . You said I wa_old, so I kissed you… . But I see it was stupid."
Lise laughed, and hid her face in her hands. "And in that dress!" sh_jaculated in the midst of her mirth. But she suddenly ceased laughing an_ecame serious, almost stern.
"Alyosha, we must put off kissing. We are not ready for that yet, and we shal_ave a long time to wait," she ended suddenly. "Tell me rather why you who ar_o clever, so intellectual, so observant, choose a little idiot, an invali_ike me? Ah, Alyosha, I am awfully happy, for I don't deserve you a bit."
"You do, Lise. I shall be leaving the monastery altogether in a few days. If _o into the world, I must marry. I know that. He told me to marry, too. Who_ould I marry better than you- and who would have me except you? I have bee_hinking it over. In the first place, you've known me from a child and you'v_ great many qualities I haven't. You are more light-hearted than I am; abov_ll, you are more innocent than I am. I have been brought into contact wit_any, many things already… . Ah, you don't know, but I, too, am a Karamazov.
What does it matter if you do laugh and make jokes, and at me, too? Go o_aughing. I am so glad you do. You laugh like a little child, but you thin_ike a martyr."
"Like a martyr? How?"
"Yes, Lise, your question just now: whether we weren't showing contempt fo_hat poor man by dissecting his soul- that was the question of a sufferer… .
You see, I don't know how to express it, but anyone who thinks of suc_uestions is capable of suffering. Sitting in your invalid chair you must hav_hought over many things already."
"Alyosha, give me your hand. Why are you taking it away?" murmured Lise in _ailing voice, weak with happiness. "Listen, Alyosha. What will you wear whe_ou come out of the monastery? What sort of suit? Don't laugh, don't be angry, it's very, very important to me."
"I haven't thought about the suit, Lise; But I'll wear whatever you like."
"I should like you to have a dark blue velvet coat, a white pique waistcoat, and a soft grey felt hat… . Tell me, did you believe that I didn't care fo_ou when I said I didn't mean what I wrote?"
"No, I didn't believe it."
"Oh, you insupportable person, you are incorrigible."
"You see, I knew that you seemed to care for me, but I pretended to believ_hat you didn't care for me to make it easier for you."
"That makes it worse! Worse and better than all! Alyosha, I am awfully fond o_ou. Just before you came this morning, I tried my fortune. I decided I woul_sk you for my letter, and if you brought it out calmly and gave it to me (a_ight have been expected from you) it would mean that you did not love me a_ll, that you felt nothing, and were simply a stupid boy, good for nothing, and that I am ruined. But you left the letter at home and that cheered me. Yo_eft it behind on purpose, so as not to give it back, because you knew I woul_sk for it? That was it, wasn't it?"
"Ah, Lise, it was not so a bit. The letter is with me now, and it was thi_orning, in this pocket. Here it is."
Alyosha pulled the letter out laughing, and showed it her at a distance.
"But I am not going to give it to you. Look at it from here."
"Why, then you told a lie? You, a monk, told a lie!"
"I told a lie if you like," Alyosha laughed, too. "I told a lie so as not t_ive you back the letter. It's very precious to me," he added suddenly, wit_trong feeling, and again he flushed. "It always will be, and I won't give i_p to anyone!"
Lise looked at him joyfully. "Alyosha," she murmured again, "look at the door.
Isn't mamma listening?"
"Very well, Lise, I'll look; but wouldn't it be better not to look? Wh_uspect your mother of such meanness?"
"What meanness? As for her spying on her daughter, it's her right, it's no_eanness!" cried Lise, firing up. "You may be sure, Alexey Fyodorovitch, tha_hen I am a mother, if I have a daughter like myself I shall certainly spy o_er!"
"Really, Lise? That's not right."
"Oh, my goodness! What has meanness to do with it? If she were listening t_ome ordinary worldly conversation, it would be meanness, but when her ow_aughter is shut up with a young man… Listen, Alyosha, do you know I shall sp_pon you as soon as we are married, and let me tell you I shall open all you_etters and read them, so you may as well be prepared."
"Yes, of course, if so- " muttered Alyosha, "only it's not right."
"Ah, how contemptuous! Alyosha, dear, we won't quarrel the very first day. I'_etter tell you the whole truth. Of course, it's very wrong to spy on people, and, of course, I am not right and you are, only I shall spy on you all th_ame."
"Do, then; you won't find out anything," laughed Alyosha.
"And Alyosha, will you give in to me? We must decide that too."
"I shall be delighted to, Lise, and certain to, only not in the most importan_hings. Even if you don't agree with me, I shall do my duty in the mos_mportant things."
"That's right; but let me tell you I am ready to give in to you not only i_he most important matters, but in everything. And I am ready to vow to do s_ow- in everything, and for all my life!" cried Lise fervently, "and I'll d_t gladly, gladly! What's more, I'll swear never to spy on you, never once, never to read one of your letters. For you are right and I am not. And thoug_ shall be awfully tempted to spy, I know that I won't do it since yo_onsider it dishonourable. You are my conscience now… . Listen, Alexe_yodorovitch, why have you been so sad lately- both yesterday and to-day? _now you have a lot of anxiety and trouble, but I see you have some specia_rief besides, some secret one, perhaps?"
"Yes, Lise, I have a secret one, too," answered Alyosha mournfully. "I see yo_ove me, since you guessed that."
"What grief? What about? Can you tell me?" asked Lise with timid entreaty.
"I'll tell you later, Lise- afterwards," said Alyosha, confused. "Now yo_ouldn't understand it perhaps- and perhaps I couldn't explain it."
"I know your brothers and your father are worrying you, too."
"Yes, my brothers too," murmured Alyosha, pondering.
"I don't like your brother Ivan, Alyosha," said Lise suddenly.
He noticed this remark with some surprise, but did not answer it.
"My brothers are destroying themselves," he went on, "my father, too. And the_re destroying others with them. It's 'the primitive force of the Karamazovs,'
as father Paissy said the other day, a crude, unbridled, earthly force. Doe_he spirit of God move above that force? Even that I don't know. I only kno_hat I, too, am a Karamazov… . Me a monk, a monk! Am I a monk, Lise? You sai_ust now that I was."
"Yes, I did."
"And perhaps I don't even believe in God."
"You don't believe? What is the matter?" said Lise quietly and gently. Bu_lyosha did not answer. There was something too mysterious, too subjective i_hese last words of his, perhaps obscure to himself, but yet torturing him.
"And now on the top of it all, my friend, the best man in the world is going, is leaving the earth! If you knew, Lise, how bound up in soul I am with him!
And then I shall be left alone… . I shall come to you, Lise… . For the futur_e will be together."
"Yes, together, together! Henceforward we shall be always together, all ou_ives! Listen, kiss me, I allow you."
Alyosha kissed her.
"Come, now go. Christ be with you!" and she made the sign of the cross ove_im. "Make haste back to him while he is alive. I see I've kept you cruelly.
I'll pray to-day for him and you. Alyosha, we shall be happy! Shall we b_appy, shall we?"
"I believe we shall, Lise."
Alyosha thought it better not to go in to Madame Hohlakov and was going out o_he house without saying good-bye to her. But no sooner had he opened the doo_han he found Madame Hohlakov standing before him. From the first word Alyosh_uessed that she had been waiting on purpose to meet him.
"Alexey Fyodorovitch, this is awful. This is all childish nonsense an_idiculous. I trust you won't dream- It's foolishness, nothing bu_oolishness!" she said, attacking him at once.
"Only don't tell her that," said Alyosha, "or she will be upset, and that'_ad for her now."
"Sensible advice from a sensible young man. Am I to understand that you onl_greed with her from compassion for her invalid state, because you didn't wan_o irritate her by contradiction?"
"Oh no, not at all. I was quite serious in what I said," Alyosha declare_toutly.
"To be serious about it is impossible, unthinkable, and in the first place _hall never be at home to you again, and I shall take her away, you may b_ure of that."
"But why?" asked Alyosha. "It's all so far off. We may have to wait anothe_ear and a half."
"Ah, Alexey Fyodorovitch, that's true, of course, and you'll have time t_uarrel and separate a thousand times in a year and a half. But I am s_nhappy! Though it's such nonsense, it's a great blow to me. I feel lik_amusov in the last scene of Sorrow from Wit. You are Tchatsky and she i_ofya, and, only fancy, I've run down to meet you on the stairs, and in th_lay the fatal scene takes place on the staircase. I heard it all; I almos_ropped. So this is the explanation of her dreadful night and her hysterics o_ate! It means love to the daughter but death to the mother. I might as wel_e in my grave at once. And a more serious matter still, what is this lette_he has written? Show it me at once, at once!"
"No, there's no need. Tell me, how is Katerina Ivanovna now? I must know."
"She still lies in delirium; she has not regained consciousness. Her aunts ar_ere; but they do nothing but sigh and give themselves airs. Herzenstube came, and he was so alarmed that I didn't know what to do for him. I nearly sent fo_ doctor to look after him. He was driven home in my carriage. And on the to_f it all, you and this letter! It's true nothing can happen for a year and _alf. In the name of all that's holy, in the name of your dying elder, show m_hat letter, Alexey Fyodorovitch. I'm her mother. Hold it in your hand, if yo_ike, and I will read it so."
"No, I won't show it to you. Even if she sanctioned it, I wouldn't. I a_oming to-morrow, and if you like, we can talk over many things, but now good- bye!"