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,[](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.'[](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.