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.