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Chapter 6 A Laceration in the Cottage

  • HE certainly was really grieved in a way he had seldom been before. He ha_ushed in like a fool, and meddled in what? In a love-affair. "But what do _now about it? What can I tell about such things?" he repeated to himself fo_he hundredth time, flushing crimson. "Oh, being ashamed would be nothing; shame is only the punishment I deserve. The trouble is I shall certainly hav_aused more unhappiness… . And Father Zossima sent me to reconcile and brin_hem together. Is this the way to bring them together?" Then he suddenl_emembered how he had tried to join their hands, and he felt fearfully ashame_gain. "Though I acted quite sincerely, I must be more sensible in th_uture," he concluded suddenly, and did not even smile at his conclusion.
  • Katerina Ivanovna's commission took him to Lake Street, and his brother Dmitr_ived close by, in a turning out of Lake Street. Alyosha decided to go to hi_n any case before going to the captain, though he had a presentiment that h_ould not find his brother. He suspected that he would intentionally keep ou_f his way now, but he must find him anyhow. Time was passing: the thought o_is dying elder had not left Alyosha for one minute from the time he set of_rom the monastery.
  • There was one point which interested him particularly about Katerin_vanovna's commission; when she had mentioned the captain's son, the littl_choolboy who had run beside his father crying, the idea had at once struc_lyosha that this must be the schoolboy who had bitten his finger when he, Alyosha, asked him what he had done to hurt him. Now Alyosha felt practicall_ertain of this, though he could not have said why. Thinking of anothe_ubject was a relief, and he resolved to think no more about the "mischief" h_ad done, and not to torture himself with remorse, but to do what he had t_o, let come what would. At that thought he was completely comforted. Turnin_o the street where Dmitri lodged, he felt hungry, and taking out of hi_ocket the roll he had brought from his father's, he ate it. It made him fee_tronger.
  • Dmitri was not at home. The people of the house, an old cabinet-maker, hi_on, and his old wife, looked with positive suspicion at Alyosha. "He hasn'_lept here for the last three nights. Maybe he has gone away," the old ma_aid in answer to Alyosha's persistent inquiries. Alyosha saw that he wa_nswering in accordance with instructions. When he asked whether he were no_t Grushenka's or in hiding at Foma's (Alyosha spoke so freely on purpose), all three looked at him in alarm. "They are fond of him, they are doing thei_est for him," thought Alyosha. "That's good."
  • At last he found the house in Lake Street. It was a decrepit little house, sunk on one side, with three windows looking into the street, and with a mudd_ard, in the middle of which stood a solitary cow. He crossed the yard an_ound the door opening into the passage. On the left of the passage lived th_ld woman of the house with her old daughter. Both seemed to be deaf. I_nswer to his repeated inquiry for the captain, one of them at last understoo_hat he was asking for their lodgers, and pointed to a door across th_assage. The captain's lodging turned out to be a simple cottage room. Alyosh_ad his hand on the iron latch to open the door, when he was struck by th_trange hush within. Yet he knew from Katerina Ivanovna's words that the ma_ad a family. "Either they are all asleep or perhaps they have heard me comin_nd are waiting for me to open the door. I'd better knock first," and h_nocked. An answer came, but not at once, after an interval of perhaps te_econds.
  • "Who's there?" shouted someone in a loud and very angry voice.
  • Then Alyosha opened the door and crossed the threshold. He found himself in _egular peasant's room. Though it was large, it was cumbered up with domesti_elongings of all sorts, and there were several people in it. On the left wa_ large Russian stove. From the stove to the window on the left was a strin_unning across the room, and on it there were rags hanging. There was _edstead against the wall on each side, right and left, covered with knitte_uilts. On the one on the left was a pyramid of four print-covered pillows, each smaller than the one beneath. On the other there was only one very smal_illow. The opposite corner was screened off by a curtain or a sheet hung on _tring. Behind this curtain could be seen a bed made up on a bench and _hair. The rough square table of plain wood had been moved into the middl_indow. The three windows, which consisted each of four tiny greenish mildew_anes, gave little light, and were close shut, so that the room was not ver_ight and rather stuffy. On the table was a frying pan with the remains o_ome fried eggs, a half-eaten piece of bread, and a small bottle with a fe_rops of vodka.
  • A woman of genteel appearance, wearing a cotton gown, was sitting on a chai_y the bed on the left. Her face was thin and yellow, and her sunken cheek_etrayed at the first glance that she was ill. But what struck Alyosha mos_as the expression in the poor woman's eyes- a look of surprised inquiry an_et of haughty pride. And while he was talking to her husband, her big brow_yes moved from one speaker to the other with the same haughty and questionin_xpression. Beside her at the window stood a young girl, rather plain, wit_canty reddish hair, poorly but very neatly dressed. She looked disdainfull_t Alyosha as he came in. Beside the other bed was sitting another femal_igure. She was a very sad sight, a young girl of about twenty, but hunchbac_nd crippled "with withered legs," as Alyosha was told afterwards. He_rutches stood in the corner close by. The strikingly beautiful and gentl_yes of this poor girl looked with mild serenity at Alyosha. A man of forty- five was sitting at the table, finishing the fried eggs. He was spare, small, and weakly built. He had reddish hair and a scanty light-coloured beard, ver_uch like a wisp of tow (this comparison and the phrase "a wisp of tow"
  • flashed at once into Alyosha's mind for some reason, he remembered i_fterwards). It was obviously this gentleman who had shouted to him, as ther_as no other man in the room. But when Alyosha went in, he leapt up from th_ench on which he was sitting, and, hastily wiping his mouth with a ragge_apkin, darted up to Alyosha.
  • "It's a monk come to beg for the monastery. A nice place to come to!" the gir_tanding in the left corner said aloud. The man spun round instantly toward_er and answered her in an excited and breaking voice:
  • "No, Varvara, you are wrong. Allow me to ask," he turned again to Alyosha,
  • "what has brought you to our retreat?"
  • Alyosha looked attentively at him. It was the first time he had seen him.
  • There was something angular, flurried and irritable about him. Though he ha_bviously just been drinking, he was not drunk. There was extraordinar_mpudence in his expression, and yet, strange to say, at the same time ther_as fear. He looked like a man who had long been kept in subjection and ha_ubmitted to it, and now had suddenly turned and was trying to assert himself.
  • Or, better still, like a man who wants dreadfully to hit you but is horribl_fraid you will hit him. In his words and in the intonation of his shril_oice there was a sort of crazy humour, at times spiteful and at time_ringing, and continually shifting from one tone to another. The questio_bout "our retreat" he had asked, as it were, quivering all over, rolling hi_yes, and skipping up so close to Alyosha that he instinctively drew back _tep. He was dressed in a very shabby dark cotton coat, patched and spotted.
  • He wore checked trousers of an extremely light colour, long out of fashion, and of very thin material. They were so crumpled and so short that he looke_s though he had grown out of them like a boy.
  • "I am Alexey Karamazov," Alyosha began in reply.
  • "I quite understand that, sir," the gentleman snapped out at once to assur_im that he knew who he was already. "I am Captain Snegiryov, sir, but I a_till desirous to know precisely what has led you- "
  • "Oh, I've come for nothing special. I wanted to have a word with you- if onl_ou allow me."
  • "In that case, here is a chair, sir; kindly be seated. That's what they use_o say in the old comedies, 'kindly be seated,'" and with a rapid gesture h_eized an empty chair (it was a rough wooden chair, not upholstered) and se_t for him almost in the middle of the room; then, taking another simila_hair for himself, he sat down facing Alyosha, so close to him that thei_nees almost touched.
  • "Nikolay Ilyitch Snegiryov, sir, formerly a captain in the Russian infantry, put to shame for his vices, but still a captain. Though I might not be one no_or the way I talk; for the last half of my life I've learnt to say 'sir.'
  • It's a word you use when you've come down in the world."
  • "That's very true," smiled Alyosha. "But is it used involuntarily or o_urpose?"
  • "As God's above, it's involuntary, and I usen't to use it! I didn't use th_ord 'sir' all my life, but as soon as I sank into low water I began to say
  • 'sir.' It's the work of a higher power. I see you are interested i_ontemporary questions, but how can I have excited your curiosity, living as _o in surroundings impossible for the exercise of hospitality?"
  • "I've come- about that business."
  • "About what business?" the captain interrupted impatiently.
  • "About your meeting with my brother Dmitri Fyodorovitch," Alyosha blurted ou_wkwardly.
  • "What meeting, sir? You don't mean that meeting? About my 'wisp of tow,'
  • then?" He moved closer so that his knees positively knocked against Alyosha.
  • His lips were strangely compressed like a thread.
  • "What wisp of tow?" muttered Alyosha.
  • "He is come to complain of me, father!" cried a voice familiar to Alyosha- th_oice of the schoolboy- from behind the curtain. "I bit his finger just now."
  • The curtain was pulled, and Alyosha saw his assailant lying on a little be_ade up on the bench and the chair in the corner under the ikons. The boy la_overed by his coat and an old wadded quilt. He was evidently unwell, and, judging by his glittering eyes, he was in a fever. He looked at Alyosh_ithout fear, as though he felt he was at home and could not be touched.
  • "What! Did he bite your finger?" The captain jumped up from his chair. "Was i_our finger he bit?"
  • "Yes. He was throwing stones with other schoolboys. There were six of the_gainst him alone. I went up to him, and he threw a stone at me and the_nother at my head. I asked him what I had done to him. And then he rushed a_e and bit my finger badly, I don't know why."
  • "I'll thrash him, sir, at once- this minute!" The captain jumped up from hi_eat.
  • "But I am not complaining at all, I am simply telling you… . I don't want hi_o be thrashed. Besides, he seems to be ill."
  • "And do you suppose I'd thrash him? That I'd take my Ilusha and thrash hi_efore you for your satisfaction? Would you like it done at once, sir?" sai_he captain, suddenly turning to Alyosha, as though he were going to attac_im. "I am sorry about your finger, sir; but instead of thrashing Ilusha, would you like me to chop off my four fingers with this knife here before you_yes to satisfy your just wrath? I should think four fingers would be enoug_o satisfy your thirst for vengeance. You won't ask for the fifth one too?" H_topped short with a catch in his throat. Every feature in his face wa_witching and working; he looked extremely defiant. He was in a sort o_renzy.
  • "I think I understand it all now," said Alyosha gently and sorrowfully, stil_eeping his seat. "So your boy is a good boy, he loves his father, and h_ttacked me as the brother of your assailant… . Now I understand it," h_epeated thoughtfully. "But my brother Dmitri Fyodorovitch regrets his action, I know that, and if only it is possible for him to come to you, or bette_till, to meet you in that same place, he will ask your forgiveness befor_veryone- if you wish it."
  • "After pulling out my beard, you mean, he will ask my forgiveness? And h_hinks that will be a satisfactory finish, doesn't he?"
  • "Oh, no! On the contrary, he will do anything you like and in any way yo_ike."
  • "So if I were to ask his highness to go down on his knees before me in tha_ery tavern- 'The Metropolis' it's called- or in the marketplace, he would d_t?"
  • "Yes, he would even go down on his knees."
  • "You've pierced me to the heart, sir. Touched me to tears and pierced me t_he heart! I am only too sensible of your brother's generosity. Allow me t_ntroduce my family, my two daughters and my son- my litter. If I die, wh_ill care for them, and while I live who but they will care for a wretch lik_e? That's a great thing the Lord has ordained for every man of my sort, sir.
  • For there must be someone able to love even a man like me."
  • "Ah, that's perfectly true!" exclaimed Alyosha.
  • "Oh, do leave off playing the fool! Some idiot comes in, and you put us t_hame!" cried the girl by the window, suddenly turning to her father with _isdainful and contemptuous air.
  • "Wait a little, Varvara!" cried her father, speaking peremptorily but lookin_t them quite approvingly. "That's her character," he said, addressing Alyosh_gain.
  • "And in all nature there was naught
  • That could find favour in his eyes- or rather in the feminine- that could fin_avour in her eyes- . But now let me present you to my wife, Arina Petrovna.
  • She is crippled, she is forty-three; she can move, but very little. She is o_umble origin. Arina Petrovna, compose your countenance. This is Alexe_yodorovitch Karamazov. Get up, Alexey Fyodorovitch." He took him by the han_nd with unexpected force pulled him up. "You must stand up to be introduce_o a lady. It's not the Karamazov, mamma, who… h'm… etcetera, but his brother, radiant with modest virtues. Come, Arina Petrovna, come, mamma, first you_and to be kissed."
  • And he kissed his wife's hand respectfully and even tenderly. The girl at th_indow turned her back indignantly on the scene; an expression o_xtraordinary cordiality came over the haughtily inquiring face of the woman.
  • "Good morning! Sit down, Mr. Tchernomazov," she said.
  • "Karamazov, mamma, Karamazov. We are of humble origin," he whispered again.
  • "Well, Karamazov, or whatever it is, but I always think of Tchermomazov… . Si_own. Why has he pulled you up? He calls me crippled, but I am not, only m_egs are swollen like barrels, and I am shrivelled up myself. Once I used t_e so fat, but now it's as though I had swallowed a needle."
  • "We are of humble origin," the captain muttered again.
  • "Oh, father, father!" the hunchback girl, who had till then been silent on he_hair, said suddenly, and she hid her eyes in her handkerchief.
  • "Buffoon!" blurted out the girl at the window.
  • "Have you heard our news?" said the mother, pointing at her daughters. "It'_ike clouds coming over; the clouds pass and we have music again. When we wer_ith the army, we used to have many such guests. I don't mean to make an_omparisons; everyone to their taste. The deacon's wife used to come then an_ay, 'Alexandr Alexandrovitch is a man of the noblest heart, but Nastasy_etrovna,' she would say, 'is of the brood of hell.' 'Well,' I said, 'that's _atter of taste; but you are a little spitfire.' 'And you want keeping in you_lace;' says she. 'You black sword,' said I, 'who asked you to teach me?' 'Bu_y breath,' says she, 'is clean, and yours is unclean.' 'You ask all th_fficers whether my breath is unclean.' And ever since then I had it in m_ind. Not long ago I was sitting here as I am now, when I saw that ver_eneral come in who came here for Easter, and I asked him: 'Your Excellency,'
  • said I, 'can a lady's breath be unpleasant?' 'Yes,' he answered; 'you ought t_pen a window-pane or open the door, for the air is not fresh here.' And the_ll go on like that! And what is my breath to them? The dead smell wors_till!. 'I won't spoil the air,' said I, 'I'll order some slippers and g_way.' My darlings, don't blame your own mother! Nikolay Ilyitch, how is it _an't please you? There's only Ilusha who comes home from school and loves me.
  • Yesterday he brought me an apple. Forgive your own mother- forgive a poo_onely creature! Why has my breath become unpleasant to you?"
  • And the poor mad woman broke into sobs, and tears streamed down her cheeks.
  • The captain rushed up to her.
  • "Mamma, mamma, my dear, give over! You are not lonely. Everyone loves you, everyone adores you." He began kissing both her hands again and tenderl_troking her face; taking the dinner-napkin, he began wiping away her tears.
  • Alyosha fancied that he too had tears in his eyes. "There, you see, you hear?"
  • he turned with a sort of fury to Alyosha, pointing to the poor imbecile.
  • "I see and hear," muttered Alyosha.
  • "Father, father, how can you- with him! Let him alone!" cried the boy, sittin_p in his bed and gazing at his father with glowing eyes.
  • "Do give over fooling, showing off your silly antics which never lead t_nything! shouted Varvara, stamping her foot with passion.
  • "Your anger is quite just this time, Varvara, and I'll make haste to satisf_ou. Come, put on your cap, Alexey Fyodorovitch, and I'll put on mine. We wil_o out. I have a word to say to you in earnest, but not within these walls.
  • This girl sitting here is my daughter Nina; I forgot to introduce her to you.
  • She is a heavenly angel incarnate… who has flown down to us mortals,… if yo_an understand."
  • "There he is shaking all over, as though he is in convulsions!" Varvara wen_n indignantly.
  • "And she there stamping her foot at me and calling me a fool just now, she i_ heavenly angel incarnate too, and she has good reason to call me so. Com_long, Alexey Fyodorovitch, we must make an end."
  • And, snatching Alyosha's hand, he drew him out of the room into the street.