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Chapter 4 A Lady of Little Faith

  • A visitor looking on the scene of his conversation with the peasants and hi_lessing them shed silent tears and wiped them away with her handkerchief. Sh_as a sentimental society lady of genuinely good disposition in many respects.
  • When the elder went up to her at last she met him enthusiastically.
  • "Ah, what I have been feeling, looking on at this touching scene!… "She coul_ot go on for emotion. "Oh, I understand the people's love for you. I love th_eople myself. I want to love them. And who could help loving them, ou_plendid Russian people, so simple in their greatness!"
  • "How is your daughter's health? You wanted to talk to me again?"
  • "Oh, I have been urgently begging for it, I have prayed for it! I was ready t_all on my knees and kneel for three days at your windows until you let me in.
  • We have come, great healer, to express our ardent gratitude. You have heale_y Lise, healed her completely, merely by praying over her last Thursday an_aying your hands upon her. We have hastened here to kiss those hands, to pou_ut our feelings and our homage."
  • "What do you mean by healed? But she is still lying down in her chair."
  • "But her night fevers have entirely ceased ever since Thursday," said the lad_ith nervous haste. "And that's not all. Her legs are stronger. This mournin_he got up well; she had slept all night. Look at her rosy cheeks, her brigh_yes! She used to be always crying, but now she laughs and is gay and happy.
  • This morning she insisted on my letting her stand up, and she stood up for _hole minute without any support. She wagers that in a fortnight she'll b_ancing a quadrille. I've called in Doctor Herzenstube. He shrugged hi_houlders and said, 'I am amazed; I can make nothing of it.' And would yo_ave us not come here to disturb you, not fly here to thank you? Lise, than_im- thank him!"
  • Lise's pretty little laughing face became suddenly serious. She rose in he_hair as far as she could and, looking at the elder, clasped her hands befor_im, but could not restrain herself and broke into laughter.
  • "It's at him," she said, pointing to Alyosha, with childish vexation a_erself for not being able to repress her mirth.
  • If anyone had looked at Alyosha standing a step behind the elder, he woul_ave caught a quick flush crimsoning his cheeks in an instant. His eyes shon_nd he looked down.
  • "She has a message for you, Alexey Fyodorovitch. How are you?" the mother wen_n, holding out her exquisitely gloved hand to Alyosha.
  • The elder turned round and all at once looked attentively at Alyosha. Th_atter went nearer to Lise and, smiling in a strangely awkward way, held ou_is hand to her too. Lise assumed an important air.
  • "Katerina Ivanovna has sent you this through me." She handed him a littl_ote. "She particularly begs you to go and see her as soon as possible; tha_ou will not fail her, but will be sure to come."
  • "She asks me to go and see her? Me? What for?" Alyosha muttered in grea_stonishment. His face at once looked anxious.
  • "Oh, it's all to do with Dmitri Fyodorovitch and- what has happened lately,"
  • the mother explained hurriedly. "Katerina Ivanovna has made up her mind, bu_he must see you about it… . Why, of course, I can't say. But she wants to se_ou at once. And you will go to her, of course. It is a Christian duty."
  • "I have only seen her once," Alyosha protested with the same perplexity.
  • "Oh, she is such a lofty, incomparable creature If only for her suffering… .
  • Think what she has gone through, what she is enduring now Think what await_er! It's all terrible, terrible!
  • "Very well, I will come," Alyosha decided, after rapidly scanning the brief, enigmatic note, which consisted of an urgent entreaty that he would come, without any sort of explanation.
  • "Oh, how sweet and generous that would be of you" cried Lise with sudde_nimation. "I told mamma you'd be sure not to go. I said you were saving you_oul. How splendid you are I've always thought you were splendid. How glad _m to tell you so!"
  • "Lise!" said her mother impressively, though she smiled after she had said it.
  • "You have quite forgotten us, Alexey Fyodorovitch," she said; "you never com_o see us. Yet Lise has told me twice that she is never happy except wit_ou."
  • Alyosha raised his downcast eyes and again flushed, and again smiled withou_nowing why. But the elder was no longer watching him. He had begun talking t_ monk who, as mentioned before, had been awaiting his entrance by Lise'_hair. He was evidently a monk of the humblest, that is of the peasant, class, of a narrow outlook, but a true believer, and, in his own way, a stubborn one.
  • He announced that he had come from the far north, from Obdorsk, from Sain_ylvester, and was a member of a poor monastery, consisting of only ten monks.
  • The elder gave him his blessing and invited him to come to his cell wheneve_e liked.
  • "How can you presume to do such deeds?" the monk asked suddenly, pointin_olemnly and significantly at Lise. He was referring to her "healing."
  • "It's too early, of course, to speak of that. Relief is not complete cure, an_ay proceed from different causes. But if there has been any healing, it is b_o power but God's will. It's all from God. Visit me, Father," he added to th_onk. "It's not often I can see visitors. I am ill, and I know that my day_re numbered."
  • "Oh, no, no! God will not take you from us. You will live a long, long tim_et," cried the lady. "And in what way are you ill? You look so well, so ga_nd happy."
  • "I am extraordinarily better to-day. But I know that it's only for a moment. _nderstand my disease now thoroughly. If I seem so happy to you, you coul_ever say anything that would please me so much. For men are made fo_appiness, and anyone who is completely happy has a right to say to himself,
  • 'I am doing God's will on earth.' All the righteous, all the saints, all th_oly martyrs were happy."
  • "Oh, how you speak! What bold and lofty words" cried the lady. "You seem t_ierce with your words. And yet- happiness, happiness- where is it? Who ca_ay of himself that he is happy? Oh, since you have been so good as to let u_ee you once more to-day, let me tell you what I could not utter last time, what I dared not say, all I am suffering and have been for so long! I a_uffering! Forgive me! I am suffering!"
  • And in a rush of fervent feeling she clasped her hands before him.
  • "From what specially?"
  • "I suffer… from lack of faith."
  • "Lack of faith in God?"
  • "Oh, no, no! I dare not even think of that. But the future life- it is such a_nigma And no one, no one can solve it. Listen! You are a healer, you ar_eeply versed in the human soul, and of course I dare not expect you t_elieve me entirely, but I assure you on my word of honour that I am no_peaking lightly now. The thought of the life beyond the grave distracts me t_nguish, to terror. And I don't know to whom to appeal, and have not dared t_ll my life. And now I am so bold as to ask you. Oh, God! What will you thin_f me now?"
  • She clasped her hands.
  • "Don't distress yourself about my opinion of you," said the elder. "I quit_elieve in the sincerity of your suffering."
  • "Oh, how thankful I am to you! You see, I shut my eyes and ask myself i_veryone has faith, where did it come from? And then they do say that it al_omes from terror at the menacing phenomena of nature, and that none of it'_eal. And I say to myself, 'What if I've been believing all my life, and whe_ come to die there's nothing but the burdocks growing on my grave?' as I rea_n some author. It's awful! How- how can I get back my faith? But I onl_elieved when I was a little child, mechanically, without thinking o_nything. How, how is one to prove it? have come now to lay my soul before yo_nd to ask you about it. If I let this chance slip, no one all my life wil_nswer me. How can I prove it? How can I convince myself? Oh, how unhappy _m! I stand and look about me and see that scarcely anyone else cares; no on_roubles his head about it, and I'm the only one who can't stand it. It'_eadly- deadly!"
  • "No doubt. But there's no proving it, though you can be convinced of it."
  • "By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbour actively an_ndefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of th_eality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfec_elf-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbour, then you will believ_ithout doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried.
  • This is certain."
  • "In active love? There's another question and such a question! You see, I s_ove humanity that- would you believe it?- I often dream of forsaking all tha_ have, leaving Lise, and becoming a sister of mercy. I close my eyes an_hink and dream, and at that moment I feel full of strength to overcome al_bstacles. No wounds, no festering sores could at that moment frighten me. _ould bind them up and wash them with my own hands. I would nurse th_fflicted. I would be ready to kiss such wounds."
  • "It is much, and well that your mind is full of such dreams and not others.
  • Some time, unawares, you may do a good deed in reality."
  • "Yes. But could I endure such a life for long?" the lady went on fervently, almost frantically. "That's the chief question- that's my most agonisin_uestion. I shut my eyes and ask myself, 'Would you persevere long on tha_ath? And if the patient whose wounds you are washing did not meet you wit_ratitude, but worried you with his whims, without valuing or remarking you_haritable services, began abusing you and rudely commanding you, an_omplaining to the superior authorities of you (which often happens whe_eople are in great suffering)- what then? Would you persevere in your love, or not?' And do you know, I came with horror to the conclusion that, i_nything could dissipate my love to humanity, it would be ingratitude. I_hort, I am a hired servant, I expect my payment at once- that is, praise, an_he repayment of love with love. Otherwise I am incapable of loving anyone.'"
  • She was in a very paroxysm of self-castigation, and, concluding, she looke_ith defiant resolution at the elder.
  • "It's just the same story as a doctor once told me," observed the elder. "H_as a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as frankly a_ou, though in jest, in bitter jest. 'I love humanity,' he said, 'but I wonde_t myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man i_articular. In my dreams,' he said, 'I have often come to making enthusiasti_chemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have face_rucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary; and yet I am incapable o_iving in the same room with anyone for two days together, as I know b_xperience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs my self- complacency and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate th_est of men: one because he's too long over his dinner; another because he ha_ cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the momen_hey come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest me_ndividually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity.'
  • "But what's to be done? What can one do in such a case? Must one despair?"
  • "No. It is enough that you are distressed at it. Do what you can, and it wil_e reckoned unto you. Much is done already in you since you can so deeply an_incerely know yourself. If you have been talking to me so sincerely, simpl_o gain approbation for your frankness, as you did from me just now, then, o_ourse, you will not attain to anything in the achievement of real love; i_ill all get no further than dreams, and your whole life will slip away like _hantom. In that case you will naturally cease to think of the future lif_oo, and will of yourself grow calmer after a fashion in the end."
  • "You have crushed me! Only now, as you speak, I understand that I was reall_nly seeking your approbation for my sincerity when I told you I could no_ndure ingratitude. You have revealed me to myself. You have seen through m_nd explained me to myself
  • "Are you speaking the truth? Well, now, after such a confession, I believ_hat you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, alway_emember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself.
  • Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute.
  • Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you ba_ithin you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it i_ourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sor_f falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attainin_ove. Don't be frightened overmuch even at your evil actions. I am sorry I ca_ay nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadfu_hing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediat_ction, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give thei_ives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all lookin_n and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labour an_ortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science. But I predic_hat just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you ar_etting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it- at that very moment _redict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of th_ord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you. Forgive m_or not being able to stay longer with you. They are waiting for me. Good- bye."
  • The lady was weeping.
  • "Lise, Lise! Bless her- bless her!" she cried, starting up suddenly.
  • "She does not deserve to be loved. I have seen her naughtiness all along," th_lder said jestingly. "Why have you been laughing at Alexey?"
  • Lise had in fact been occupied in mocking at him all the time. She had notice_efore that Alyosha was shy and tried not to look at her, and she found thi_xtremely amusing. She waited intently to catch his eye. Alyosha, unable t_ndure her persistent stare, was irresistibly and suddenly drawn to glance a_er, and at once she smiled triumphantly in his face. Alyosha was even mor_isconcerted and vexed. At last he turned away from her altogether and hi_ehind the elder's back. After a few minutes, drawn by the same irresistibl_orce, he turned again to see whether he was being looked at or not, and foun_ise almost hanging out of her chair to peep sideways at him, eagerly waitin_or him to look. Catching his eye, she laughed so that the elder could no_elp saying, "Why do you make fun of him like that, naughty girl?"
  • Lise suddenly and quite unexpectedly blushed. Her eyes flashed and her fac_ecame quite serious. She began speaking quickly and nervously in a warm an_esentful voice:
  • "Why has he forgotten everything, then? He used to carry me about when I wa_ittle. We used to play together. He used to come to teach me to read, do yo_now. Two years ago, when he went away, he said that he would never forget me, that we were friends for ever, for ever, for ever! And now he's afraid of m_ll at once. Am I going to eat him? Why doesn't he want to come near me? Wh_oesn't he talk? Why won't he come and see us? It's not that you won't le_im. We know that he goes everywhere. It's not good manners for me to invit_im. He ought to have thought of it first, if he hasn't forgotten me. No, no_e's saving his soul! Why have you put that long gown on him? If he runs he'l_all."
  • And suddenly she hid her face in her hand and went off into irresistible, prolonged, nervous, inaudible laughter. The elder listened to her with _mile, and blessed her tenderly. As she kissed his hand she suddenly presse_t to her eyes and began crying.
  • "Don't be angry with me. I'm silly and good for nothing… and perhaps Alyosha'_ight, quite right, in not wanting to come and see such a ridiculous girl."
  • "I will certainly send him," said the elder.