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Chapter 4 The Third Son, Alyosha

  • HE was only twenty, his brother Ivan was in his twenty-fourth year at th_ime, while their elder brother Dmitri was twenty-seven. First of all, I mus_xplain that this young man, Alyosha, was not a fanatic, and, in my opinion a_east, was not even a mystic. I may as well give my full opinion from th_eginning. He was simply an early lover of humanity, and that he adopted th_onastic life was simply because at that time it struck him, so to say, as th_deal escape for his soul struggling from the darkness of worldly wickednes_o the light of love. And the reason this life struck him in this way was tha_e found in it at that time, as he thought an extrordinary being, ou_elebrated elder, Zossima, to whom he became attached with all the warm firs_ove of his ardent heart. But I do not dispute that he was very strange eve_t that time, and had been so indeed from his cradle. I have mentione_lready, by the way, that though he lost his mother in his fourth year h_emembered her all his life her face, her caresses, "as though she stoo_iving before me." Such memories may persist, as everyone knows, from an eve_arlier age, even from two years old, but scarcely standing out through _hole lifetime like spots of light out of darkness, like a corner torn out o_ huge picture, which has all faded and disappeared except that fragment. Tha_s how it was with him. He remembered one still summer evening, an ope_indow, the slanting rays of the setting sun (that he recalled most vividly o_ll); in a corner of the room the holy image, before it a lighted lamp, and o_er knees before the image his mother, sobbing hysterically with cries an_oans, snatching him up in both arms, squeezing him close till it hurt, an_raying for him to the Mother of God, holding him out in both arms to th_mage as though to put him under the Mother's protection… and suddenly a nurs_uns in and snatches him from her in terror. That was the picture! And Alyosh_emembered his mother's face at that minute. He used to say that it wa_renzied but beautiful as he remembered. But he rarely cared to speak of thi_emory to anyone. In his childhood and youth he was by no means expansive, an_alked little indeed, but not from shyness or a sullen unsociability; quit_he contrary, from something different, from a sort of inner preoccupatio_ntirely personal and unconcerned with other people, but so important to hi_hat he seemed, as it were, to forget others on account of it. But he was fon_f people: he seemed throughout his life to put implicit trust in people: ye_o one ever looked on him as a simpleton or naive person. There was somethin_bout him which made one feel at once (and it was so all his life afterwards)
  • that he did not care to be a judge of others that he would never take it upo_imself to criticise and would never condemn anyone for anything. He seemed,
  • indeed, to accept everything without the least condemnation though ofte_rieving bitterly: and this was so much so that no one could surprise o_righten him even in his earliest youth. Coming at twenty to his father'_ouse, which was a very sink of filthy debauchery, he, chaste and pure as h_as, simply withdrew in silence when to look on was unbearable, but withou_he slightest sign of contempt or condemnation. His father, who had once bee_n a dependent position, and so was sensitive and ready to take offence, me_im at first with distrust and sullenness. "He does not say much," he used t_ay, "and thinks the more." But soon, within a fortnight indeed, he took t_mbracing him and kissing him terribly often, with drunken tears, with sottis_entimentality, yet he evidently felt a real and deep affection for him, suc_s he had never been capable of feeling for anyone before.
  • Everyone, indeed, loved this young man wherever he went, and it was so fro_is earliest childhood. When he entered the household of his patron an_enefactor, Yefim Petrovitch Polenov, he gained the hearts of all the family,
  • so that they looked on him quite as their own child. Yet he entered the hous_t such a tender age that he could not have acted from design nor artfulnes_n winning affection. So that the gift of making himself loved directly an_nconsciously was inherent in him, in his very nature, so to speak. It was th_ame at school, though he seemed to be just one of those children who ar_istrusted, sometimes ridiculed, and even disliked by their schoolfellows. H_as dreamy, for instance, and rather solitary. From his earliest childhood h_as fond of creeping into a corner to read, and yet he was a general favourit_ll the while he was at school. He was rarely playful or merry, but anyon_ould see at the first glance that this was not from any sullenness. On th_ontrary he was bright and good-tempered. He never tried to show off among hi_choolfellows. Perhaps because of this, he was never afraid of anyone, yet th_oys immediately understood that he was not proud of his fearlessness an_eemed to be unaware that he was bold and courageous. He never resented a_nsult. It would happen that an hour after the offence he would address th_ffender or answer some question with as trustful and candid an expression a_hough nothing had happened between them. And it was not that he seemed t_ave forgotten or intentionally forgiven the affront, but simply that he di_ot regard it as an affront, and this completely conquered and captivated th_oys. He had one characteristic which made all his schoolfellows from th_ottom class to the top want to mock at him, not from malice but because i_mused them. This characteristic was a wild fanatical modesty and chastity. H_ould not bear to hear certain words and certain conversations about women.
  • There are "certain" words and conversations unhappily impossible to eradicat_n schools. Boys pure in mind and heart, almost children, are fond of talkin_n school among themselves, and even aloud, of things, pictures, and images o_hich even soldiers would sometimes hesitate to speak. More than that, muc_hat soldiers have no knowledge or conception of is familiar to quite youn_hildren of our intellectual and higher classes. There is no moral depravity,
  • no real corrupt inner cynicism in it, but there is the appearance of it, an_t is often looked upon among them as something refined, subtle, daring, an_orthy of imitation. Seeing that Alyosha Karamazov put his fingers in his ear_hen they talked of "that," they used sometimes to crowd round him, pull hi_ands away, and shout nastiness into both ears, while he struggled, slipped t_he floor, tried to hide himself without uttering one word of abuse, endurin_heir insults in silence. But at last they left him alone and gave up tauntin_im with being a "regular girl," and what's more they looked upon it wit_ompassion as a weakness. He was always one of the best in the class but wa_ever first.
  • At the time of Yefim Petrovitch's death Alyosha had two more years to complet_t the provincial gymnasium. The inconsolable widow went almost immediatel_fter his death for a long visit to Italy with her whole family, whic_onsisted only of women and girls. Alyosha went to live in the house of tw_istant relations of Yefim Petrovitch, ladies whom he had never seen before.
  • On what terms she lived with them he did not know himself. It was ver_haracteristic of him, indeed, that he never cared at whose expense he wa_iving. In that respect he was a striking contrast to his elder brother Ivan,
  • who struggled with poverty for his first two years in the university,
  • maintained himself by his own efforts, and had from childhood been bitterl_onscious of living at the expense of his benefactor. But this strange trai_n Alyosha's character must not, I think, criticised too severely, for at th_lightest acquaintance with him anyone would have perceived that Alyosha wa_ne of those youths, almost of the type of religious enthusiast, who, if the_ere suddenly to come into possession of a large fortune, would not hesitat_o give it away for the asking, either for good works or perhaps to a cleve_ogue. In general he seemed scarcely to know the value of money, not, o_ourse, in a literal sense. When he was given pocket-money, which he neve_sked for, he was either terribly careless of it so that it was gone in _oment, or he kept it for weeks together, not knowing what to do with it.
  • In later years Pyotr Alexandrovitch Miusov, a man very sensitive on the scor_f money and bourgeois honesty, pronounced the following judgment, afte_etting to know Alyosha:
  • "Here is perhaps the one man in the world whom you might leave alone without _enny, in the centre of an unknown town of a million inhabitants, and he woul_ot come to harm, he would not die of cold and hunger, for he would be fed an_heltered at once; and if he were not, he would find a shelter for himself,
  • and it would cost him no effort or humiliation. And to shelter him would be n_urden, but, on the contrary, would probably be looked on as a pleasure."
  • He did not finish his studies at the gymnasium. A year before the end of th_ourse he suddenly announced to the ladies that he was going to see his fathe_bout a plan which had occurred to him. They were sorry and unwilling to le_im go. The journey was not an expensive one, and the ladies would not let hi_awn his watch, a parting present from his benefactor's family. They provide_im liberally with money and even fitted him out with new clothes and linen.
  • But he returned half the money they gave him, saying that he intended to g_hird class. On his arrival in the town he made no answer to his father'_irst inquiry why he had come before completing his studies, and seemed, s_hey say, unusually thoughtful. It soon became apparent that he was lookin_or his mother's tomb. He practically acknowledged at the time that that wa_he only object of his visit. But it can hardly have been the whole reason o_t. It is more probable that he himself did not understand and could no_xplain what had suddenly arisen in his soul, and drawn him irresistibly int_ new, unknown, but inevitable path. Fyodor Pavlovitch could not show hi_here his second wife was buried, for he had never visited her grave since h_ad thrown earth upon her coffin, and in the course of years had entirel_orgotten where she was buried.
  • Fyodor Pavlovitch, by the way, had for some time previously not been living i_ur town. Three or four years after his wife's death he had gone to the sout_f Russia and finally turned up in Odessa, where he spent several years. H_ade the acquaintance at first, in his own words, "of a lot of low Jews,
  • Jewesses, and Jewkins," and ended by being received by "Jews high and lo_like." It may be presumed that at this period he developed a peculiar facult_or making and hoarding money. He finally returned to our town only thre_ears before Alyosha's arrival. His former acquaintances found him lookin_erribly aged, although he was by no means an old man. He behaved not exactl_ith more dignity but with more effrontery. The former buffoon showed a_nsolent propensity for making buffoons of others. His depravity with wome_as not as it used to be, but even more revolting. In a short time he opened _reat number of new taverns in the district. It was evident that he ha_erhaps a hundred thousand roubles or not much less. Many of the inhabitant_f the town and district were soon in his debt, and, of course, had given goo_ecurity. Of late, too, he looked somehow bloated and seemed mor_rresponsible, more uneven, had sunk into a sort of incoherence, used to begi_ne thing and go on with another, as though he were letting himself g_ltogether. He was more and more frequently drunk. And, if it had not been fo_he same servant Grigory, who by that time had aged considerably too, and use_o look after him sometimes almost like a tutor, Fyodor Pavlovitch might hav_ot into terrible scrapes. Alyosha's arrival seemed to affect even his mora_ide, as though something had awakened in this prematurely old man which ha_ong been dead in his soul.
  • "Do you know," he used often to say, looking at Alyosha, "that you are lik_er, 'the crazy woman'"- that was what he used to call his dead wife,
  • Alyosha's mother. Grigory it was who pointed out the "crazy woman's" grave t_lyosha. He took him to our town cemetery and showed him in a remote corner _ast-iron tombstone, cheap but decently kept, on which were inscribed the nam_nd age of the deceased and the date of her death, and below a four-line_erse, such as are commonly used on old-fashioned middle-class tombs. T_lyosha's amazement this tomb turned out to be Grigory's doing. He had put i_p on the poor "crazy woman's" grave at his own expense, after Fyodo_avlovitch, whom he had often pestered about the grave, had gone to Odessa,
  • abandoning the grave and all his memories. Alyosha showed no particula_motion at the sight of his mother's grave. He only listened to Grigory'_inute and solemn account of the erection of the tomb; he stood with bowe_ead and walked away without uttering a word. It was perhaps a year before h_isited the cemetery again. But this little episode was not without a_nfluence upon Fyodor Pavlovitch- and a very original one. He suddenly took _housand roubles to our monastery to pay for requiems for the soul of hi_ife; but not for the second, Alyosha's mother, the "crazy woman," but for th_irst, Adelaida Ivanovna, who used to thrash him. In the evening of the sam_ay he got drunk and abused the monks to Alyosha. He himself was far fro_eing religious; he had probably never put a penny candle before the image o_ saint. Strange impulses of sudden feeling and sudden thought are common i_uch types.
  • I have mentioned already that he looked bloated. His countenance at this tim_ore traces of something that testified unmistakably to the life he had led.
  • Besides the long fleshy bags under his little, always insolent, suspicious,
  • and ironical eyes; besides the multitude of deep wrinkles in his little fa_ace, the Adam's apple hung below his sharp chin like a great, fleshy goitre,
  • which gave him a peculiar, repulsive, sensual appearance; add to that a lon_apacious mouth with full lips, between which could be seen little stumps o_lack decayed teeth. He slobbered every time he began to speak. He was fon_ndeed of making fun of his own face, though, I believe, he was well satisfie_ith it. He used particularly to point to his nose, which was not very large,
  • but very delicate and conspicuously aquiline. "A regular Roman nose," he use_o say, "with my goitre I've quite the countenance of an ancient Roma_atrician of the decadent period." He seemed proud of it.
  • Not long after visiting his mother's grave Alyosha suddenly announced that h_anted to enter the monastery, and that the monks were willing to receive hi_s a novice. He explained that this was his strong desire, and that he wa_olemnly asking his consent as his father. The old man knew that the elde_ossima, who was living in the monastery hermitage, had made a specia_mpression upon his "gentle boy."
  • "That is the most honest monk among them, of course," he observed, afte_istening in thoughtful silence to Alyosha, and seeming scarcely surprised a_is request. "H'm!… So that's where you want to be, my gentle boy?"
  • He was half drunk, and suddenly he grinned his slow half-drunken grin, whic_as not without a certain cunning and tipsy slyness. "H'm!… I had _resentiment that you would end in something like this. Would you believe it?
  • You were making straight for it. Well, to be sure you have your own tw_housand. That's a dowry for you. And I'll never desert you, my angel. An_'ll pay what's wanted for you there, if they ask for it. But, of course, i_hey don't ask, why should we worry them? What do you say? You know, you spen_oney like a canary, two grains a week. H'm!… Do you know that near on_onastery there's a place outside the town where every baby knows there ar_one but 'the monks' wives' living, as they are called. Thirty women, _elieve. I have been there myself. You know, it's interesting in its way, o_ourse, as a variety. The worst of it is it's awfully Russian. There are n_rench women there. Of course, they could get them fast enough, they hav_lenty of money. If they get to hear of it they'll come along. Well, there'_othing of that sort here, no 'monks' wives,' and two hundred monks. They'r_onest. They keep the fasts. I admit it… . H'm… . So you want to be a monk?
  • And do you know I'm sorry to lose you, Alyosha; would you believe it, I'v_eally grown fond of you? Well, it's a good opportunity. You'll pray for u_inners; we have sinned too much here. I've always been thinking who woul_ray for me, and whether there's anyone in the world to do it. My dear boy,
  • I'm awfully stupid about that. You wouldn't believe it. Awfully. You see,
  • however stupid I am about it, I keep thinking, I keep thinking- from time t_ime, of course, not all the while. It's impossible, I think, for the devil_o forget to drag me down to hell with their hooks when I die. Then I wonder-
  • hooks? Where would they get them? What of? Iron hooks? Where do they forg_hem? Have they a foundry there of some sort? The monks in the monaster_robably believe that there's a ceiling in hell, for instance. Now I'm read_o believe in hell, but without a ceiling. It makes it more refined, mor_nlightened, more Lutheran that is. And, after all, what does it matte_hether it has a ceiling or hasn't? But, do you know, there's a damnabl_uestion involved in it? If there's no ceiling there can be no hooks, and i_here are no hooks it all breaks down, which is unlikely again, for then ther_ould be none to drag me down to hell, and if they don't drag me down wha_ustice is there in the world? Il faudrait le_nventer,[[1]](footnotes.xml#footnote_1) those hooks, on purpose for me alone,
  • for, if you only knew, Alyosha, what a black-guard I am." "But there are n_ooks there," said Alyosha, looking gently and seriously at his father. "Yes,
  • yes, only the shadows of hooks. I know, I know. That's how a Frenchma_escribed hell: 'J'ai vu l'ombre d'un cocher qui avec l'ombre d'une bross_rottait l'ombre d'une carrosse.'[[2]](footnotes.xml#footnote_2) How do yo_now there are no hooks, darling? When you've lived with the monks you'll sin_ different tune. But go and get at the truth there, and then come and tel_e. Anyway it's easier going to the other world if one knows what there i_here. Besides, it will be more seemly for you with the monks than here wit_e, with a drunken old man and young harlots… though you're like an angel,
  • nothing touches you. And I dare say nothing will touch you there. That's why _et you go, because I hope for that. You've got all your wits about you. Yo_ill burn and you will burn out; you will be healed and come back again. And _ill wait for you. I feel that you're the only creature in the world who ha_ot condemned me. My dear boy, I feel it, you know. I can't help feeling it."
  • And he even began blubbering. He was sentimental. He was wicked an_entimental.