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Chapter 2 Dangerous Witnesses

  • I DO NOT know whether the witnesses for the defence and for the prosecutio_ere separated into groups by the President, and whether it was arranged t_all them in a certain order. But no doubt it was so. I only know that th_itnesses for the prosecution were called first. I repeat I don't intend t_escribe all the questions step by step. Besides, my account would be to som_xtent superfluous, because in the speeches for the prosecution and for th_efence the whole course of the evidence was brought together and set in _trong and significant light, and I took down parts of those two remarkabl_peeches in full, and will quote them in due course, together with on_xtraordinary and quite unexpected episode, which occurred before the fina_peeches, and undoubtedly influenced the sinister and fatal outcome of th_rial.
  • I will only observe that from the first moments of the trial one peculia_haracteristic of the case was conspicuous and observed by all, that is, th_verwhelming strength of the prosecution as compared with the arguments th_efence had to rely upon. Everyone realised it from the first moment that th_acts began to group themselves round a single point, and the whole horribl_nd bloody crime was gradually revealed. Everyone, perhaps, felt from th_irst that the case was beyond dispute, that there was no doubt about it, tha_here could be really no discussion, and that the defence was only a matter o_orm, and that the prisoner was guilty, obviously and conclusively guilty. _magine that even the ladies, who were so impatiently longing for th_cquittal of the interesting prisoner, were at the same time, withou_xception, convinced of his guilt. What's more, I believe they would have bee_ortified if his guilt had not been so firmly established, as that would hav_essened the effect of the closing scene of the criminal's acquittal. That h_ould be acquitted, all the ladies, strange to say, were firmly persuaded u_o the very last moment. "He is guilty, but he will be acquitted, from motive_f humanity, in accordance with the new ideas, the new sentiments that ha_ome into fashion," and so on, and so on. And that was why they had crowde_nto the court so impatiently. The men were more interested in the contes_etween the prosecutor and the famous Fetyukovitch. All were wondering an_sking themselves what could even a talent like Fetyukovitch's make of such _esperate case; and so they followed his achievements, step by step, wit_oncentrated attention.
  • But Fetyukovitch remained an enigma to all up to the very end, up to hi_peech. Persons of experience suspected that he had some design, that he wa_orking towards some object, but it was almost impossible to guess what i_as. His confidence and self-reliance were unmistakable, however. Everyon_oticed with pleasure, moreover, that he, after so short a stay, not more tha_hree days, perhaps, among us, had so wonderfully succeeded in mastering th_ase and "had studied it to a nicety." People described with relish, afterwards, how cleverly he had "taken down" all the witnesses for th_rosecution, and as far as possible perplexed them and, what's more, ha_spersed their reputation and so depreciated the value of their evidence. Bu_t was supposed that he did this rather by way of sport, so to speak, fo_rofessional glory, to show nothing had been omitted of the accepted methods, for all were convinced that he could do no real good by such disparagement o_he witnesses, and probably was more aware of this than anyone, having som_dea of his own in the background, some concealed weapon of defence, which h_ould suddenly reveal when the time came. But meanwhile, conscious of hi_trength, he seemed to be diverting himself.
  • So, for instance, when Grigory, Fyodor Pavlovitch's old servant, who had give_he most damning piece of evidence about the open door, was examined, th_ounsel for the defence positively fastened upon him when his turn came t_uestion him. It must be noted that Grigory entered the trial with a compose_nd almost stately air, not the least disconcerted by the majesty of the cour_r the vast audience listening to him. He gave evidence with as muc_onfidence as though he had been talking with his Marfa, only perhaps mor_espectfully. It was impossible to make him contradict himself. The prosecuto_uestioned him first in detail about the family life of the Karamazovs. Th_amily picture stood out in lurid colours. It was plain to ear and eye tha_he witness was guileless and impartial. In spite of his profound reverenc_or the memory of his deceased master, he yet bore witness that he had bee_njust to Mitya and "hadn't brought up his children as he should. He'd hav_een devoured by lice when he was little, if it hadn't been for me," he added, describing Mitya's early childhood. "It wasn't fair either of the father t_rong his son over his mother's property, which was by right his."
  • In reply to the prosecutor's question what grounds he had for asserting tha_yodor Pavlovitch had wronged his son in their money relations, Grigory, t_he surprise of everyone, had no proof at all to bring forward, but he stil_ersisted that the arrangement with the son was "unfair," and that he ought
  • "to have paid him several thousand roubles more." I must note, by the way, that the prosecutor asked this question (whether Fyodor Pavlovitch had reall_ept back part of Mitya's inheritance) with marked persistence of all th_itnesses who could be asked it, not excepting Alyosha and Ivan, but h_btained no exact information from anyone; all alleged that it was so, bu_ere unable to bring forward any distinct proof. Grigory's description of th_cene at the dinner-table, when Dmitri had burst in and beaten his father, threatening to come back to kill him, made a sinister impression on the court, especially as the old servant's composure in telling it, his parsimony o_ords, and peculiar phraseology were as effective as eloquence. He observe_hat he was not angry with Mitya for having knocked him down and struck him o_he face; he had forgiven him long ago, he said. Of the deceased Smerdyakov h_bserved, crossing himself, that he was a lad of ability, but stupid an_fflicted, and, worse still, an infidel, and that it was Fyodor Pavlovitch an_is elder son who had taught him to be so. But he defended Smerdyakov'_onesty almost with warmth, and related how Smerdyakov had once found th_aster's money in the yard, and, instead of concealing it, had taken it to hi_aster, who had rewarded him with a "gold piece" for it, and trusted hi_mplicitly from that time forward. He maintained obstinately that the doo_nto the garden had been open. But he was asked so many questions that I can'_ecall them all.
  • At last the counsel for the defence began to cross-examine him, and the firs_uestion he asked was about the envelope in which Fyodor Pavlovitch wa_upposed to have put three thousand roubles for "a certain person." "Have yo_ver seen it, you, who were for so many years in close attendance on you_aster?" Grigory answered that he had not seen it and had never heard of th_oney from anyone "till everybody was talking about it." This question abou_he envelope Fetyukovitch put to everyone who could conceivably have known o_t, as persistently as the prosecutor asked his question about Dmitri'_nheritance, and got the same answer from all, that no one had seen th_nvelope, though many had heard of it. From the beginning everyone notice_etyukovitch's persistence on this subject.
  • "Now, with your permission I'll ask you a question," Fetyukovitch said, suddenly and unexpectedly. "Of what was that balsam, or, rather, decoction, made, which, as we learn from the preliminary inquiry, you used on tha_vening to rub your lumbago, in the hope of curing it?"
  • Grigory looked blankly at the questioner, and after a brief silence muttered,
  • "There was saffron in it."
  • "Nothing but saffron? Don't you remember any other ingredient?"
  • "There was milfoil in it, too."
  • "And pepper perhaps?" Fetyukovitch queried.
  • "Yes, there was pepper, too."
  • "Etcetera. And all dissolved in vodka?"
  • "In spirit."
  • There was a faint sound of laughter in the court.
  • "You see, in spirit. After rubbing your back, I believe, you drank what wa_eft in the bottle with a certain pious prayer, only known to your wife?"
  • "I did."
  • "Did you drink much? Roughly speaking, a wine-glass or two?"
  • "It might have been a tumbler-full."
  • "A tumbler-full, even. Perhaps a tumbler and a half?"
  • Grigory did not answer. He seemed to see what was meant.
  • "A glass and a half of neat spirit- is not at all bad, don't you think? Yo_ight see the gates of heaven open, not only the door into the garden?"
  • Grigory remained silent. There was another laugh in the court. The Presiden_ade a movement.
  • "Do you know for a fact," Fetyukovitch persisted, "whether you were awake o_ot when you saw the open door?"
  • "I was on my legs."
  • "That's not a proof that you were awake." (There was again laughter in th_ourt.) "Could you have answered at that moment, if anyone had asked you _uestion- for instance, what year it is?"
  • "I don't know."
  • "And what year is it, Anno Domini, do you know?"
  • Grigory stood with a perplexed face, looking straight at his tormentor.
  • Strange to say, it appeared he really did not know what year it was.
  • "But perhaps you can tell me how many fingers you have on your hands?"
  • "I am a servant," Grigory said suddenly, in a loud and distinct voice. "If m_etters think fit to make game of me, it is my duty to suffer it."
  • Fetyukovitch was a little taken aback, and the President intervened, remindin_im that he must ask more relevant questions. Fetyukovitch bowed with dignit_nd said that he had no more questions to ask of the witness. The public an_he jury, of course, were left with a grain of doubt in their minds as to th_vidence of a man who might, while undergoing a certain cure, have seen "th_ates of heaven," and who did not even know what year he was living in. Bu_efore Grigory left the box another episode occurred. The President, turnin_o the prisoner, asked him whether he had any comment to make on the evidenc_f the last witness.
  • "Except about the door, all he has said is true," cried Mitya, in a lou_oice. "For combing the lice off me, I thank him; for forgiving my blows, _hank him. The old man has been honest all his life and as faithful to m_ather as seven hundred poodles."
  • "Prisoner, be careful in your language," the President admonished him.
  • "I am not a poodle," Grigory muttered.
  • "All right, it's I am a poodle myself," cried Mitya. "If it's an insult, _ake it to myself and I beg his pardon. I was a beast and cruel to him. I wa_ruel to Aesop too."
  • "What Aesop?" the President asked sternly again.
  • "Oh, Pierrot… my father, Fyodor Pavlovitch."
  • The President again and again warned Mitya impressively and very sternly to b_ore careful in his language.
  • "You are injuring yourself in the opinion of your judges."
  • The counsel for the defence was equally clever in dealing with the evidence o_akitin. I may remark that Rakitin was one of the leading witnesses and one t_hom the prosecutor attached great significance. It appeared that he kne_verything; his knowledge was amazing, he had been everywhere, see_verything, talked to everybody, knew every detail of the biography of Fyodo_avlovitch and all the Karamazovs. Of the envelope, it is true, he had onl_eard from Mitya himself. But he described minutely Mitya's exploits in th_etropolis, all his compromising doings and sayings, and told the story o_aptain Snegiryov's "wisp of tow." But even Rakitin could say nothing positiv_bout Mitya's inheritance, and confined himself to contemptuous generalities.
  • "Who could tell which of them was to blame, and which was in debt to th_ther, with their crazy Karamazov way of muddling things so that no one coul_ake head or tail of it?" He attributed the tragic crime to the habits tha_ad become ingrained by ages of serfdom and the distressed condition o_ussia, due to the lack of appropriate institutions. He was, in fact, allowe_ome latitude of speech. This was the first occasion on which Rakitin showe_hat he could do, and attracted notice. The prosecutor knew that the witnes_as preparing a magazine article on the case, and afterwards in his speech, a_e shall see later, quoted some ideas from the article, showing that he ha_een it already. The picture drawn by the witness was a gloomy and siniste_ne, and greatly strengthened the case for the prosecution. Altogether, Rakatin's discourse fascinated the public by its independence and th_xtraordinary nobility of its ideas. There were even two or three outbreaks o_pplause when he spoke of serfdom and the distressed condition of Russia.
  • But Rakitin, in his youthful ardour, made a slight blunder, of which th_ounsel for the defence at once adroitly took advantage. Answering certai_uestions about Grushenka and carried away by the loftiness of his ow_entiments and his success, of which he was, of course, conscious, he went s_ar as to speak somewhat contemptuously of Agrafena Alexandrovna as "the kep_istress of Samsonov." He would have given a good deal to take back his word_fterwards, for Fetyukovitch caught him out over it at once. And it was al_ecause Rakitin had not reckoned on the lawyer having been able to become s_ntimately acquainted with every detail in so short a time.
  • "Allow me to ask," began the counsel for the defence, with the most affabl_nd even respectful smile, "you are, of course, the same Mr. Rakitin whos_amphlet, The Life of the Deceased Elder, Father Zossima, published by th_iocesan authorities, full of profound and religious reflections and precede_y an excellent and devout dedication to the bishop, I have just read wit_uch pleasure?"
  • "I did not write it for publication… it was published afterwards," muttere_akitin, for some reason fearfully disconcerted and almost ashamed.
  • "Oh, that's excellent! A thinker like you can, and indeed ought to, take th_idest view of every social question. Your most instructive pamphlet has bee_idely circulated through the patronage of the bishop, and has been o_ppreciable service… . But this is the chief thing I should like to learn fro_ou. You stated just now that you were very intimately acquainted with Madam_vyetlov." (It must be noted that Grushenka's surname was Svyetlov. I heard i_or the first time that day, during the case.)
  • "I cannot answer for all my acquaintances… . I am a young man… and who can b_esponsible for everyone he meets?" cried Rakitin, flushing all over.
  • "I understand, I quite understand," cried Fetyukovitch; as though he, too, were embarrassed and in haste to excuse himself. "You, like any other, migh_ell be interested in an acquaintance with a young and beautiful woman wh_ould readily entertain the elite of the youth of the neighbourhood, but… _nly wanted to know… It has come to my knowledge, that Madame Svyetlov wa_articularly anxious a couple of months ago to make the acquaintance of th_ounger Karamazov, Alexey Fyodorovitch, and promised you twenty-five roubles, if you would bring him to her in his monastic dress. And that actually too_lace on the evening of the day on which the terrible crime, which is th_ubject of the present investigation, was committed. You brought Alexe_aramazov to Madame Svyetlov, and did you receive the twenty-five roubles fro_adame Svyetlov as a reward, that's what I wanted to hear from you?"
  • "It was a joke… . I don't, see of what interest that can be to you… . I too_t for a joke… meaning to give it back later… "
  • "Then you did take- but you have not given it back yet… or have you?"
  • "That's of no consequence," muttered Rakitin, "I refuse to answer suc_uestions… . Of course, I shall give it back."
  • The President intervened, but Fetyukovitch declared he had no more question_o ask of the witness. Mr. Rakitin left the witness-box not absolutely withou_ stain upon his character. The effect left by the lofty idealism of hi_peech was somewhat marred, and Fetyukovitch's expression, as he watched hi_alk away, seemed to suggest to the public "this is a specimen of the lofty- minded persons who accuse him." I remember that this incident, too, did no_ass off without an outbreak from Mitya. Enraged by the tone in which Rakiti_ad referred to Grushenka, he suddenly shouted "Bernard!" When, afte_akitin's cross-examination, the President asked the prisoner if he ha_nything to say, Mitya cried loudly:
  • "Since I've been arrested, he has borrowed money from me! He is a contemptibl_ernard and opportunist, and he doesn't believe in God; he took the bisho_n!"
  • Mitya of course, was pulled up again for the intemperance of his language, bu_akitin was done for. Captain Snegiryov's evidence was a failure, too, bu_rom quite a different reason. He appeared in ragged and dirty clothes, mudd_oots, and in spite of the vigilance and expert observation of the polic_fficers, he turned out to be hopelessly drunk. On being asked about Mitya'_ttack upon him, he refused to answer.
  • "God bless him. Ilusha told me not to. God will make it up to me yonder."
  • "Who told you not to tell? Of whom are you talking?"
  • "Ilusha, my little son. 'Father, father, how he insulted you!' He said that a_he stone. Now he is dying… "
  • The captain suddenly began sobbing, and plumped down on His knees before th_resident. He was hurriedly led away amidst the laughter of the public. Th_ffect prepared by the prosecutor did not come off at all.
  • Fetyukovitch went on making the most of every opportunity, and amazed peopl_ore and more by his minute knowledge of the case. Thus, for example, Trifo_orissovitch made a great impression, of course, very prejudicial to Mitya. H_alculated almost on his fingers that on his first visit to Mokroe, Mitya mus_ave spent three thousand roubles, "or very little less. Just think what h_quandered on those gypsy girls alone! And as for our lousy peasants, i_asn't a case of flinging half a rouble in the street, he made them present_f twenty-five roubles each, at least, he didn't give them less. And what _ot of money was simply stolen from him! And if anyone did steal, he did no_eave a receipt. How could one catch the thief when he was flinging his mone_way all the time? Our peasants are robbers, you know; they have no care fo_heir souls. And the way he went on with the girls, our village girls! They'r_ompletely set up since then, I tell you, they used to be poor." He recalled, in fact, every item of expense and added it all up. So the theory that onl_ifteen hundred had been spent and the rest had been put aside in a little ba_eemed inconceivable.
  • "I saw three thousand as clear as a penny in his hands, I saw it with my ow_yes; I should think I ought to know how to reckon money," cried Trifo_orissovitch, doing his best to satisfy "his betters."
  • When Fetyukovitch had to cross-examine him, he scarcely tried to refute hi_vidence, but began asking him about an incident at the first carousal a_okroe, a month before the arrest, when Timofey and another peasant calle_kim had picked up on the floor in the passage a hundred roubles dropped b_itya when he was drunk, and had given them to Trifon Borissovitch an_eceived a rouble each from him for doing so. "Well," asked the lawyer," di_ou give that hundred roubles back to Mr. Karamazov?" Trifon Borissovitc_huffled in vain… . He was obliged, after the peasants had been examined, t_dmit the finding of the hundred roubles, only adding that he had religiousl_eturned it all to Dmitri Fyodorovitch "in perfect honesty, and it's onl_ecause his honour was in liquor at the time, he wouldn't remember it." But, as he had denied the incident of the hundred roubles till the peasants ha_een called to prove it, his evidence as to returning the money to Mitya wa_aturally regarded with great suspicion. So one of the most dangerou_itnesses brought forward by the prosecution was again discredited.
  • The same thing happened with the Poles. They took up an attitude of pride an_ndependence; they vociferated loudly that they had both been in the servic_f the Crown, and that "Pan Mitya" had offered them three thousand "to bu_heir honour," and that they had seen a large sum of money in his hands. Pa_ussyalovitch introduced a terrible number of Polish words into his sentences, and seeing that this only increased his consequence in the eyes of th_resident and the prosecutor, grew more and more pompous, and ended by talkin_n Polish altogether. But Fetyukovitch caught them, too, in his snares. Trifo_orissovitch, recalled, was forced, in spite of his evasions, to admit tha_an Vrublevsky had substituted another pack of cards for the one he ha_rovided, and that Pan Mussyalovitch had cheated during the game. Kalgono_onfirmed this, and both the Poles left the witness-box with damage_eputations, amidst laughter from the public.
  • Then exactly the same thing happened with almost all the most dangerou_itnesses. Fetyukovitch succeeded in casting a slur on all of them, an_ismissing them with a certain derision. The lawyers and experts were lost i_dmiration, and were only at a loss to understand what good purpose could b_erved by it, for all, I repeat, felt that the case for the prosecution coul_ot be refuted, but was growing more and more tragically overwhelming. Bu_rom the confidence of the "great magician" they saw that he was serene, an_hey waited, feeling that "such a man" had not come from Petersburg fo_othing, and that he was not a man to return unsuccessful.