Chapter 3 The Second Marriage and the Second Family
VERY shortly after getting his four-year-old Mitya off his hands Fyodo_avlovitch married a second time. His second marriage lasted eight years. H_ook this second wife, Sofya Ivanovna, also a very young girl, from anothe_rovince, where he had gone upon some small piece of business in company wit_ Jew. Though Fyodor Pavlovitch was a drunkard and a vicious debauchee h_ever neglected investing his capital, and managed his business affairs ver_uccessfully, though, no doubt, not over-scrupulously. Sofya Ivanovna was th_aughter of an obscure deacon, and was left from childhood an orphan withou_elations. She grew up in the house of a general's widow, a wealthy old lad_f good position, who was at once her benefactress and tormentor. I do no_now the details, but I have only heard that the orphan girl, a meek an_entle creature, was once cut down from a halter in which she was hanging fro_ nail in the loft, so terrible were her sufferings from the caprice an_verlasting nagging of this old woman, who was apparently not bad-hearted bu_ad become an insufferable tyrant through idleness.
Fyodor Pavlovitch made her an offer; inquiries were made about him and he wa_efused. But again, as in his first marriage, he proposed an elopement to th_rphan girl. There is very little doubt that she would not on any account hav_arried him if she had known a little more about him in time. But she lived i_nother province; besides, what could a little girl of sixteen know about it,
except that she would be better at the bottom of the river than remaining wit_er benefactress. So the poor child exchanged a benefactress for a benefactor.
Fyodor Pavlovitch did not get a penny this time, for the general's widow wa_urious. She gave them nothing and cursed them both. But he had not reckone_n a dowry; what allured him was the remarkable beauty of the innocent girl,
above all her innocent appearance, which had a peculiar attraction for _icious profligate, who had hitherto admired only the coarser types o_eminine beauty.
"Those innocent eyes slit my soul up like a razor," he used to say afterwards,
with his loathsome snigger. In a man so depraved this might, of course, mea_o more than sensual attraction. As he had received no dowry with his wife,
and had, so to speak, taken her "from the halter," he did not stand o_eremony with her. Making her feel that she had "wronged" him, he too_dvantage of her phenomenal meekness and submissiveness to trample on th_lementary decencies of marriage. He gathered loose women into his house, an_arried on orgies of debauchery in his wife's presence. To show what a pas_hings had come to, I may mention that Grigory, the gloomy, stupid, obstinate,
argumentative servant, who had always hated his first mistress, Adelaid_vanovna, took the side of his new mistress. He championed her cause, abusin_yodor Pavlovitch in a manner little befitting a servant, and on one occasio_roke up the revels and drove all the disorderly women out of the house. I_he end this unhappy young woman, kept in terror from her childhood, fell int_hat kind of nervous disease which is most frequently found in peasant wome_ho are said to be "possessed by devils." At times after terrible fits o_ysterics she even lost her reason. Yet she bore Fyodor Pavlovitch two sons,
Ivan and Alexey, the eldest in the first year of marriage and the second thre_ears later. When she died, little Alexey was in his fourth year, and, strang_s it seems, I know that he remembered his mother all his life, like a dream,
of course. At her death almost exactly the same thing happened to the tw_ittle boys as to their elder brother, Mitya. They were completely forgotte_nd abandoned by their father. They were looked after by the same Grigory an_ived in his cottage, where they were found by the tyrannical old lady who ha_rought up their mother. She was still alive, and had not, all those eigh_ears, forgotten the insult done her. All that time she was obtaining exac_nformation as to her Sofya's manner of life, and hearing of her illness an_ideous surroundings she declared aloud two or three times to her retainers:
"It serves her right. God has punished her for her ingratitude."
Exactly three months after Sofya Ivanovna's death the general's widow suddenl_ppeared in our town, and went straight to Fyodor Pavlovitch's house. Sh_pent only half an hour in the town but she did a great deal. It was evening.
Fyodor Pavlovitch, whom she had not seen for those eight years, came in to he_runk. The story is that instantly upon seeing him, without any sort o_xplanation, she gave him two good, resounding slaps on the face, seized hi_y a tuft of hair, and shook him three times up and down. Then, without _ord, she went straight to the cottage to the two boys. Seeing, at the firs_lance, that they were unwashed and in dirty linen, she promptly gave Grigory,
too, a box on the ear, and announcing that she would carry off both th_hildren she wrapped them just as they were in a rug, put them in th_arriage, and drove off to her own town. Grigory accepted the blow like _evoted slave, without a word, and when he escorted the old lady to he_arriage he made her a low bow and pronounced impressively that, "God woul_epay her for orphans." "You are a blockhead all the same," the old lad_houted to him as she drove away.
Fyodor Pavlovitch, thinking it over, decided that it was a good thing, and di_ot refuse the general's widow his formal consent to any proposition in regar_o his children's education. As for the slaps she had given him, he drove al_ver the town telling the story.
It happened that the old lady died soon after this, but she left the boys i_er will a thousand roubles each "for their instruction, and so that all b_pent on them exclusively, with the condition that it be so portioned out a_o last till they are twenty-one, for it is more than adequate provision fo_uch children. If other people think fit to throw away their money, let them."
I have not read the will myself, but I heard there was something queer of th_ort, very whimsically expressed. The principal heir, Yefim Petrovitc_olenov, the Marshal of Nobility of the province, turned out, however, to b_n honest man. Writing to Fyodor Pavlovitch, and discerning at once that h_ould extract nothing from him for his children's education (though the latte_ever directly refused but only procrastinated as he always did in such cases,
and was, indeed, at times effusively sentimental), Yefim Petrovitch took _ersonal interest in the orphans. He became especially fond of the younger,
Alexey, who lived for a long while as one of his family. I beg the reader t_ote this from the beginning. And to Yefim Petrovitch, a man of a generosit_nd humanity rarely to be met with, the young people were more indebted fo_heir education and bringing up than to anyone. He kept the two thousan_oubles left to them by the general's widow intact, so that by the time the_ame of age their portions had been doubled by the accumulation of interest.
He educated them both at his own expense, and certainly spent far more than _housand roubles upon each of them. I won't enter into a detailed account o_heir boyhood and youth, but will only mention a few of the most importan_vents. Of the elder, Ivan, I will only say that he grew into a somewha_orose and reserved, though far from timid boy. At ten years old he ha_ealised that they were living not in their own home but on other people'_harity, and that their father was a man of whom it was disgraceful to speak.
This boy began very early, almost in his infancy (so they say at least), t_how a brilliant and unusual aptitude for learning. I don't know precisel_hy, but he left the family of Yefim Petrovitch when he was hardly thirteen,
entering a Moscow gymnasium and boarding with an experienced and celebrate_eacher, an old friend of Yefim Petrovitch. Ivan used to declare afterward_hat this was all due to the "ardour for good works" of Yefim Petrovitch, wh_as captivated by the idea that the boy's genius should be trained by _eacher of genius. But neither Yefim Petrovitch nor this teacher was livin_hen the young man finished at the gymnasium and entered the university. A_efim Petrovitch had made no provision for the payment of the tyrannical ol_ady's legacy, which had grown from one thousand to two, it was delayed, owin_o formalities inevitable in Russia, and the young man was in great strait_or the first two years at the university, as he was forced to keep himsel_ll the time he was studying. It must be noted that he did not even attempt t_ommunicate with his father, perhaps from pride, from contempt for him, o_erhaps from his cool common sense, which told him that from such a father h_ould get no real assistance. However that may have been, the young man was b_o means despondent and succeeded in getting work, at first giving sixpenn_essons and afterwards getting paragraphs on street incidents into th_ewspapers under the signature of "Eye-Witness." These paragraphs, it wa_aid, were so interesting and piquant that they were soon taken. This alon_howed the young man's practical and intellectual superiority over the masse_f needy and unfortunate students of both sexes who hang about the offices o_he newspapers and journals, unable to think of anything better tha_verlasting entreaties for copying and translations from the French. Havin_nce got into touch with the editors Ivan Fyodorovitch always kept up hi_onnection with them, and in his latter years at the university he publishe_rilliant reviews of books upon various special subjects, so that he becam_ell known in literary circles. But only in his last year he suddenl_ucceeded in attracting the attention of a far wider circle of readers, s_hat a great many people noticed and remembered him. It was rather a curiou_ncident. When he had just left the university and was preparing to go abroa_pon his two thousand roubles, Ivan Fyodorovitch published in one of the mor_mportant journals a strange article, which attracted general notice, on _ubject of which he might have been supposed to know nothing, as he was _tudent of natural science. The article dealt with a subject which was bein_ebated everywhere at the time- the position of the ecclesiastical courts.
After discussing several opinions on the subject he went on to explain his ow_iew. What was most striking about the article was its tone, and it_nexpected conclusion. Many of the Church party regarded him unquestioningl_s on their side. And yet not only the secularists but even atheists joine_hem in their applause. Finally some sagacious persons opined that the articl_as nothing but an impudent satirical burlesque. I mention this inciden_articularly because this article penetrated into the famous monastery in ou_eighbourhood, where the inmates, being particularly interested in question o_he ecclesiastical courts, were completely bewildered by it. Learning th_uthor's name, they were interested in his being a native of the town and th_on of "that Fyodor Pavlovitch." And just then it was that the author himsel_ade his appearance among us.
Why Ivan Fyodorovitch had come amongst us I remember asking myself at the tim_ith a certain uneasiness. This fateful visit, which was the first ste_eading to so many consequences, I never fully explained to myself. It seeme_trange on the face of it that a young man so learned, so proud, an_pparently so cautious, should suddenly visit such an infamous house and _ather who had ignored him all his life, hardly knew him, never thought o_im, and would not under any circumstances have given him money, though he wa_lways afraid that his sons Ivan and Alexey would also come to ask him for it.
And here the young man was staying in the house of such a father, had bee_iving with him for two months, and they were on the best possible terms. Thi_ast fact was a special cause of wonder to many others as well as to me. Pyot_lexandrovitch Miusov, of whom we have spoken already, the cousin of Fyodo_avlovitch's first wife, happened to be in the neighbourhood again on a visi_o his estate. He had come from Paris, which was his permanent home. _emember that he was more surprised than anyone when he made the acquaintanc_f the young man, who interested him extremely, and with whom he sometime_rgued and not without inner pang compared himself in acquirements.
"He is proud," he used to say, "he will never be in want of pence; he has go_oney enough to go abroad now. What does he want here? Everyone can see tha_e hasn't come for money, for his father would never give him any. He has n_aste for drink and dissipation, and yet his father can't do without him. The_et on so well together!"
That was the truth; the young man had an unmistakable influence over hi_ather, who positively appeared to be behaving more decently and even seeme_t times ready to obey his son, though often extremely and even spitefull_erverse.
It was only later that we learned that Ivan had come partly at the request of,
and in the interests of, his elder brother, Dmitri, whom he saw for the firs_ime on this very visit, though he had before leaving Moscow been i_orrespondence with him about an important matter of more concern to Dmitr_han himself. What that business was the reader will learn fully in due time.
Yet even when I did know of this special circumstance I still felt Iva_yodorovitch to be an enigmatic figure, and thought his visit rathe_ysterious.
I may add that Ivan appeared at the time in the light of a mediator betwee_is father and his elder brother Dmitri, who was in open quarrel with hi_ather and even planning to bring an action against him.
The family, I repeat, was now united for the first time, and some of it_embers met for the first time in their lives. The younger brother, Alexey,
had been a year already among us, having been the first of the three t_rrive. It is of that brother Alexey I find it most difficult to speak in thi_ntroduction. Yet I must give some preliminary account of him, if only t_xplain one queer fact, which is that I have to introduce my hero to th_eader wearing the cassock of a novice. Yes, he had been for the last year i_ur monastery, and seemed willing to be cloistered there for the rest of hi_ife.