IT was a warm, bright day the end of August. The interview with the elder ha_een fixed for half-past eleven, immediately after late mass. Our visitors di_ot take part in the service, but arrived just as it was over. First a_legant open carriage, drawn by two valuable horses, drove up with Miusov an_ distant relative of his, a young man of twenty, called Pyotr Fomitc_alganov. This young man was preparing to enter the university. Miusov wit_hom he was staying for the time, was trying to persuade him to go abroad t_he university of Zurich or Jena. The young man was still undecided. He wa_houghtful and absent-minded. He was nice-looking, strongly built, and rathe_all. There was a strange fixity in his gaze at times. Like all very absent- minded people he would sometimes stare at a person without seeing him. He wa_ilent and rather awkward, but sometimes, when he was alone with anyone, h_ecame talkative and effusive, and would laugh at anything or nothing. But hi_nimation vanished as quickly as it appeared. He was always well and eve_laborately dressed; he had already some independent fortune and expectation_f much more. He was a friend of Alyosha's.
In an ancient, jolting, but roomy, hired carriage, with a pair of old pinkish- grey horses, a long way behind Miusov's carriage, came Fyodor Pavlovitch, wit_is son Ivan. Dmitri was late, though he had been informed of the time th_vening before. The visitors left their carriage at the hotel, outside th_recincts, and went to the gates of the monastery on foot. Except Fyodo_avlovitch, more of the party had ever seen the monastery, and Miusov ha_robably not even been to church for thirty years. He looked about him wit_uriosity, together with assumed ease. But, except the church and the domesti_uildings, though these too were ordinary enough, he found nothing of interes_n the interior of the monastery. The last of the worshippers were coming ou_f the church bareheaded and crossing themselves. Among the humbler peopl_ere a few of higher rank- two or three ladies and a very old general. The_ere all staying at the hotel. Our visitors were at once surrounded b_eggars, but none of them gave them anything, except young Kalganov, who too_ ten-copeck piece out of his purse, and, nervous and embarrassed- God know_hy!- hurriedly gave it to an old woman, saying: "Divide it equally." None o_is companions made any remark upon it, so that he had no reason to b_mbarrassed; but, perceiving this, he was even more overcome.
It was strange that their arrival did not seem expected, and that they wer_ot received with special honour, though one of them had recently made _onation of a thousand roubles, while another was a very wealthy and highl_ultured landowner, upon whom all in the monastery were in a sense dependent, as a decision of the lawsuit might at any moment put their fishing rights i_is hands. Yet no official personage met them.
Miusov looked absent-mindedly at the tombstones round the church, and was o_he point of saying that the dead buried here must have paid a pretty penn_or the right of lying in this "holy place," but refrained. His liberal iron_as rapidly changing almost into anger.
"Who the devil is there to ask in this imbecile place? We must find out, fo_ime is passing," he observed suddenly, as though speaking to himself.
All at once there came up a bald-headed, elderly man with ingratiating littl_yes, wearing a full, summer overcoat. Lifting his hat, he introduced himsel_ith a honeyed lisp as Maximov, a landowner of Tula. He at once entered int_ur visitors' difficulty.
"Father Zossima lives in the hermitage, apart, four hundred paces from th_onastery, the other side of the copse."
"I know it's the other side of the copse," observed Fyodor Pavlovitch, "but w_on't remember the way. It is a long time since we've been here."
"This way, by this gate, and straight across the copse… the copse. Come wit_e, won't you? I'll show you. I have to go… . I am going myself. This way, this way."
They came out of the gate and turned towards the copse. Maximov, a man o_ixty, ran rather than walked, turning sideways to stare at them all, with a_ncredible degree of nervous curiosity. His eyes looked starting out of hi_ead.
"You see, we have come to the elder upon business of our own," observed Miuso_everely. "That personage has granted us an audience, so to speak, and so, though we thank you for showing us the way, we cannot ask you to accompan_s."
"I've been there. I've been already; un chevalier parfait," and Maximo_napped his fingers in the air.
"Who is a chevalier?" asked Miusov.
"The elder, the splendid elder, the elder! The honour and glory of th_onastery, Zossima. Such an elder!"
But his incoherent talk was cut short by a very pale, wan-looking monk o_edium height wearing a monk's cap, who overtook them. Fyodor Pavlovitch an_iusov stopped.
The monk, with an extremely courteous, profound bow, announced:
"The Father Superior invites all of you gentlemen to dine with him after you_isit to the hermitage. At one o'clock, not later. And you also," he added, addressing Maximov.
"That I certainly will, without fail," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, hugel_elighted at the invitation. "And, believe me, we've all given our word t_ehave properly here… . And you, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, will you go, too?"
"Yes, of course. What have I come for but to study all the customs here? Th_nly obstacle to me is your company… ."
"Yes, Dmitri Fyodorovitch is non-existent as yet."
"It would be a capital thing if he didn't turn up. Do you suppose I like al_his business, and in your company, too? So we will come to dinner. Thank th_ather Superior," he said to the monk.
"No, it is my duty now to conduct you to the elder," answered the monk.
"If so I'll go straight to the Father Superior- to the Father Superior,"
"The Father Superior is engaged just now. But as you please- " the mon_esitated.
"Impertinent old man!" Miusov observed aloud, while Maximov ran back to th_onastery.
"He's like von Sohn," Fyodor Pavlovitch said suddenly.
"Is that all you can think of?… In what way is he like von Sohn? Have you eve_een von Sohn?"
"I've seen his portrait. It's not the features, but something indefinable.
He's a second von Sohn. I can always tell from the physiognomy."
"Ah, I dare say you are a connoisseur in that. But, look here, Fyodo_avlovitch, you said just now that we had given our word to behave properly.
Remember it. I advise you to control yourself. But, if you begin to play th_ool I don't intend to be associated with you here… You see what a man he is"- he turned to the monk- "I'm afraid to go among decent people with him." A fin_mile, not without a certain slyness, came on to the pale, bloodless lips o_he monk, but he made no reply, and was evidently silent from a sense of hi_wn dignity. Miusov frowned more than ever.
"Oh, devil take them all! An outer show elaborated through centuries, an_othing but charlatanism and nonsense underneath," flashed through Miusov'_ind.
"Here's the hermitage. We've arrived," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch. "The gates ar_hut."
And he repeatedly made the sign of the cross to the saints painted above an_n the sides of the gates.
"When you go to Rome you must do as the Romans do. Here in this hermitag_here are twenty-five saints being saved. They look at one another, and ea_abbages. And not one woman goes in at this gate. That's what is remarkable.
And that really is so. But I did hear that the elder receives ladies," h_emarked suddenly to the monk.
"Women of the people are here too now, lying in the portico there waiting. Bu_or ladies of higher rank two rooms have been built adjoining the portico, bu_utside the precincts you can see the windows- and the elder goes out to the_y an inner passage when he is well enough. They are always outside th_recincts. There is a Harkov lady, Madame Hohlakov, waiting there now with he_ick daughter. Probably he has promised to come out to her, though of late h_as been so weak that he has hardly shown himself even to the people."
"So then there are loopholes, after all, to creep out of the hermitage to th_adies. Don't suppose, holy father, that I mean any harm. But do you know tha_t Athos not only the visits of women are not allowed, but no creature of th_emale sex- no hens, nor turkey hens, nor cows."
"Fyodor Pavlovitch, I warn you I shall go back and leave you here. They'l_urn you out when I'm gone."
"But I'm not interfering with you, Pyotr Alexandrovitch. Look," he crie_uddenly, stepping within the precincts, "what a vale of roses they live in!"
Though there were no roses now, there were numbers of rare and beautifu_utumn flowers growing wherever there was space for them, and evidently tende_y a skilful hand; there were flower-beds round the church, and between th_ombs; and the one-storied wooden house where the elder lived was als_urrounded with flowers.
"And was it like this in the time of the last elder, Varsonofy? He didn't car_or such elegance. They say he used to jump up and thrash even ladies with _tick," observed Fyodor Pavlovitch, as he went up the steps.
"The elder Varsonofy did sometimes seem rather strange, but a great dea_hat's told is foolishness. He never thrashed anyone," answered the monk.
"Now, gentlemen, if you will wait a minute I will announce you."
"Fyodor Pavlovitch, for the last time, your compact, do you hear? Behav_roperly or I will pay you out!" Miusov had time to mutter again.
"I can't think why you are so agitated," Fyodor Pavlovitch observe_arcastically. "Are you uneasy about your sins? They say he can tell by one'_yes what one has come about. And what a lot you think of their opinion! you, a Parisian, and so advanced. I'm surprised at you."
But Miusov had no time to reply to this sarcasm. They were asked to come in.
He walked in, somewhat irritated.
"Now, I know myself, I am annoyed, I shall lose my temper and begin t_uarrel- and lower myself and my ideas," he reflected.