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Chapter 6 For Awhile a Very Obscure One

  • AND Ivan, on parting from Alyosha, went home to Fyodor Pavlovitch's house.
  • But, strange to say, he was overcome by insufferable depression, which gre_reater at every step he took towards the house. There was nothing strange i_is being depressed; what was strange was that Ivan could not have said wha_as the cause of it. He had often been depressed before, and there was nothin_urprising at his feeling so at such a moment, when he had broken off wit_verything had brought him here, and was preparing that day to make a ne_tart and enter upon a new, unknown future. He would again be as solitary a_ver, and though he had great hopes, and great- too great- expectations fro_ife, he could not have given any definite account of his hopes, hi_xpectations, or even his desires.
  • Yet at that moment, though the apprehension of the new and unknown certainl_ound place in his heart, what was worrying him was something quite different.
  • "Is it loathing for my father's house?" he wondered. "Quite likely; I am s_ick of it; and though it's the last time I shall cross its hateful threshold, still I loathe it… . No, it's not that either. Is it the parting with Alyosh_nd the conversation I had with him? For so many years I've been silent wit_he whole world and not deigned to speak, and all of a sudden I reel off _igmarole like that." certainly might have been the youthful vexation o_outhful inexperience and vanity- vexation at having failed to expres_imself, especially with such a being as Alyosha, on whom his heart ha_ertainly been reckoning. No doubt that came in, that vexation, it must hav_one indeed; but yet that was not it, that was not it either. "I feel sic_ith depression and yet I can't tell what I want. Better not think, perhaps."
  • Ivan tried "not to think," but that, too, was no use. What made his depressio_o vexatious and irritating was that it had a kind of casual, externa_haracter- he felt that. Some person or thing seemed to be standing ou_omewhere, just as something will sometimes obtrude itself upon the eye, an_hough one may be so busy with work or conversation that for a long time on_oes not notice it, yet it irritates and almost torments one till at last on_ealises, and removes the offending object, often quite a trifling an_idiculous one- some article left about in the wrong place, a handkerchief o_he floor, a book not replaced on the shelf, and so on.
  • At last, feeling very cross and ill-humoured, Ivan arrived home, and suddenly, about fifteen paces from the garden gate, he guessed what was fretting an_orrying him.
  • On a bench in the gateway the valet Smerdyakov was sitting enjoying th_oolness of the evening, and at the first glance at him Ivan knew that th_alet Smerdyakov was on his mind, and that it was this man that his sou_oathed. It all dawned upon him suddenly and became clear. just before, whe_lyosha had been telling him of his meeting with Smerdyakov, he had felt _udden twinge of gloom and loathing, which had immediately stirred responsiv_nger in his heart. Afterwards, as he talked, Smerdyakov had been forgotte_or the time; but still he had been in his mind, and as soon as Ivan parte_ith Alyosha and was walking home, the forgotten sensation began to obtrud_tself again. "Is it possible that a miserable, contemptible creature lik_hat can worry me so much?" he wondered, with insufferable irritation.
  • It was true that Ivan had come of late to feel an intense dislike for the man, especially during the last few days. He had even begun to notice in himself _rowing feeling that was almost of hatred for the creature. Perhaps thi_atred was accentuated by the fact that when Ivan first came to th_eighbourhood he had felt quite differently. Then he had taken a marke_nterest in Smerdyakov, and had even thought him very original. He ha_ncouraged him to talk to him, although he had always wondered at a certai_ncoherence, or rather restlessness, in his mind, and could not understan_hat it was that so continually and insistently worked upon the brain of "th_ontemplative." They discussed philosophical questions and even how ther_ould have been light on the first day when the sun, moon, and stars were onl_reated on the fourth day, and how that was to be understood. But Ivan soo_aw that, though the sun, moon, and stars might be an interesting subject, ye_hat it was quite secondary to Smerdyakov, and that he was looking fo_omething altogether different. In one way and another, he began to betray _oundless vanity, and a wounded vanity, too, and that Ivan disliked. It ha_irst given rise to his aversion. Later on, there had been trouble in th_ouse. Grushenka had come on the scene, and there had been the scandals wit_is brother Dmitri- they discussed that, too. But though Smerdyakov alway_alked of that with great excitement, it was impossible to discover what h_esired to come of it. There was, in fact, something surprising in th_llogicality and incoherence of some of his desires, accidentally betrayed an_lways vaguely expressed. Smerdyakov was always inquiring, putting certai_ndirect but obviously premeditated questions, but what his object was he di_ot explain, and usually at the most important moment he would break off an_elapse into silence or pass to another subject. But what finally irritate_van most and confirmed his dislike for him was the peculiar, revoltin_amiliarity which Smerdyakov began to show more and more markedly. Not that h_orgot himself and was rude; on the contrary, he always spoke ver_espectfully, yet he had obviously begun to consider- goodness knows why!- that there was some sort of understanding between him and Ivan Fyodorovitch.
  • He always spoke in a tone that suggested that those two had some kind o_ompact, some secret between them, that had at some time been expressed o_oth sides, only known to them and beyond the comprehension of those aroun_hem. But for a long while Ivan did not recognise the real cause of hi_rowing dislike and he had only lately realised what was at the root of it.
  • With a feeling of disgust and irritation he tried to pass in at the gat_ithout speaking or looking at Smerdyakov. But Smerdyakov rose from the bench, and from that action alone, Ivan knew instantly that he wanted particularly t_alk to him. Ivan looked at him and stopped, and the fact that he did stop, instead of passing by, as he meant to the minute before, drove him to fury.
  • With anger and repulsion he looked at Smerdyakov's emasculate, sickly face, with the little curls combed forward on his forehead. His left eye winked an_e grinned as if to say, "Where are you going? You won't pass by; you see tha_e two clever people have something to say to each other."
  • Ivan shook. "Get away, miserable idiot. What have I to do with you?" was o_he tip of his tongue, but to his profound astonishment he heard himself say,
  • "Is my father still asleep, or has he waked?"
  • He asked the question softly and meekly, to his own surprise, and at once, again to his own surprise, sat down on the bench. For an instant he fel_lmost frightened; he remembered it afterwards. Smerdyakov stood facing him, his hands behind his back, looking at him with assurance and almost severity.
  • "His honour is still asleep," he articulated deliberately ("You were the firs_o speak, not I," he seemed to say). "I am surprised at you, sir," he added, after a pause, dropping his eyes affectedly, setting his right foot forward, and playing with the tip of his polished boot.
  • "Why are you surprised at me?" Ivan asked abruptly and sullenly, doing hi_tmost to restrain himself, and suddenly realising, with disgust, that he wa_eeling intense curiosity and would not, on any account, have gone awa_ithout satisfying it.
  • "Why don't you go to Tchermashnya, sir?" Smerdyakov suddenly raised his eye_nd smiled familiarly. "Why I smile you must understand of yourself, if yo_re a clever man," his screwed-up left eye seemed to say.
  • "Why should I go to Tchermashnya?" Ivan asked in surprise.
  • Smerdyakov was silent again.
  • "Fyodor Pavlovitch himself has so begged you to," he said at last, slowly an_pparently attaching no significance to his answer. "I put you off with _econdary reason," he seemed to suggest, "simply to say something."
  • "Damn you! Speak out what you want!" Ivan cried angrily at last, passing fro_eekness to violence.
  • Smerdyakov drew his right foot up to his left, pulled himself up, but stil_ooked at him with the same serenity and the same little smile.
  • "Substantially nothing- but just by way of conversation."
  • Another silence followed. They did not speak for nearly a minute. Ivan kne_hat he ought to get up and show anger, and Smerdyakov stood before him an_eemed to be waiting as though to see whether he would be angry or not. So a_east it seemed to Ivan. At last he moved to get up. Smerdyakov seemed t_eize the moment.
  • "I'm in an awful position, Ivan Fyodorovitch. I don't know how to hel_yself," he said resolutely and distinctly, and at his last word he sighed.
  • Ivan Fyodorovitch sat down again.
  • "They are both utterly crazy, they are no better than little children,"
  • Smerdyakov went on. "I am speaking of your parent and your brother Dmitr_yodorovitch. Here Fyodor Pavlovitch will get up directly and begin worryin_e every minute, 'Has she come? Why hasn't she come?' and so on up til_idnight and even after midnight. And if Agrafena Alexandrovna doesn't come (for very likely she does not mean to come at all) then he will be at me agai_o-morrow morning, 'Why hasn't she come? When will she come?'- as though _ere to blame for it. On the other side it's no better. As soon as it get_ark, or even before, your brother will appear with his gun in his hands:
  • 'Look out, you rogue, you soup-maker. If you miss her and don't let me kno_he's been- I'll kill you before anyone.' When the night's over, in th_orning, he, too, like Fyodor Pavlovitch, begins worrying me to death. 'Wh_asn't she come? Will she come soon?' And he, too, thinks me to blame becaus_is lady hasn't come. And every day and every hour they get angrier an_ngrier, so that I sometimes think I shall kill myself in a fright. I can'_epend them, sir."
  • "And why have you meddled? Why did you begin to spy for Dmitri Fyodorovitch?"
  • said Ivan irritably.
  • "How could I help meddling? Though, indeed, I haven't meddled at all, if yo_ant to know the truth of the matter. I kept quiet from the very beginning, not daring to answer; but he pitched on me to be his servant. He has had onl_ne thing to say since: 'I'll kill you, you scoundrel, if you miss her.' _eel certain, sir, that I shall have a long fit to-morrow."
  • "What do you mean by 'a long fit'?"
  • "A long fit, lasting a long time- several hours, or perhaps a day or two. Onc_t went on for three days. I fell from the garret that time. The strugglin_eased and then began again, and for three days I couldn't come back to m_enses. Fyodor Pavlovitch sent for Herzenstube, the doctor here, and he pu_ce on my head and tried another remedy, too… . I might have died."
  • "But they say one can't tell with epilepsy when a fit is coming. What make_ou say you will have one to-morrow?" Ivan inquired, with a peculiar, irritable curiosity.
  • "That's just so. You can't tell beforehand."
  • "Besides, you fell from the garret then."
  • "I climb up to the garret every day. I might fall from the garret again to- morrow. And, if not, I might fall down the cellar steps. I have to go into th_ellar every day, too."
  • Ivan took a long look at him.
  • "You are talking nonsense, I see, and I don't quite understand you," he sai_oftly, but with a sort of menace. "Do you mean to pretend to be ill to-morro_or three days, eh?"
  • Smerdyakov, who was looking at the ground again, and playing with the toe o_is right foot, set the foot down, moved the left one forward, and, grinning, articulated:
  • "If I were able to play such a trick, that is, pretend to have a fit- and i_ould not be difficult for a man accustomed to them- I should have a perfec_ight to use such a means to save myself from death. For even if Agrafen_lexandrovna comes to see his father while I am ill, his honour can't blame _ick man for not telling him. He'd be ashamed to."
  • "Hang it all!" Ivan cried, his face working with anger, "Why are you always i_uch a funk for your life? All my brother Dmitri's threats are only hast_ords and mean nothing. He won't kill you; it's not you he'll kill!"
  • "He'd kill me first of all, like a fly. But even more than that, I am afraid _hall be taken for an accomplice of his when he does something crazy to hi_ather."
  • "Why should you be taken for an accomplice?"
  • "They'll think I am an accomplice, because I let him know the signals as _reat secret."
  • "What signals? Whom did you tell? Confound you, speak more plainly."
  • "I'm bound to admit the fact," Smerdyakov drawled with pedantic composure,
  • "that I have a secret with Fyodor Pavlovitch in this business. As you kno_ourself (if only you do know it) he has for several days past locked himsel_n as soon as night or even evening comes on. Of late you've been goin_pstairs to your room early every evening, and yesterday you did not come dow_t all, and so perhaps you don't know how carefully he has begun to loc_imself in at night, and even if Grigory Vassilyevitch comes to the door h_on't open to him till he hears his voice. But Grigory Vassilyevitch does no_ome, because I wait upon him alone in his room now. That's the arrangement h_ade himself ever since this to-do with Agrafena Alexandrovna began. But a_ight, by his orders, I go away to the lodge so that I don't get to sleep til_idnight, but am on the watch, getting up and walking about the yard, waitin_or Agrafena Alexandrovna to come. For the last few days he's been perfectl_rantic expecting her. What he argues is, she is afraid of him, Dmitr_yodorovitch (Mitya, as he calls him), 'and so,' says he, 'she'll come th_ack-way, late at night, to me. You look out for her,' says he, 'till midnigh_nd later; and if she does come, you run up and knock at my door or at th_indow from the garden. Knock at first twice, rather gently, and then thre_imes more quickly, then,' says he, 'I shall understand at once that she ha_ome, and will open the door to you quietly.' Another signal he gave me i_ase anything unexpected happens. At first, two knocks, and then, after a_nterval, another much louder. Then he will understand that something ha_appened suddenly and that I must see him, and he will open to me so that _an go and speak to him. That's all in case Agrafena Alexandrovna can't com_erself, but sends a message. Besides, Dmitri Fyodorovitch might come, too, s_ must let him know he is near. His honour is awfully afraid of Dmitr_yodorovitch, so that even if Agrafena Alexandrovna had come and were locke_n with him, and Dmitri Fyodorovitch were to turn up anywhere near at th_ime, I should be bound to let him know at once, knocking three times. So tha_he first signal of five knocks means Agrafena Alexandrovna has come, whil_he second signal of three knocks means 'something important to tell you.' Hi_onour has shown me them several times and explained them. And as in the whol_niverse no one knows of these signals but myself and his honour, so he'd ope_he door without the slightest hesitation and without calling out (he i_wfully afraid of calling out aloud). Well, those signals are known to Dmitr_yodorovitch too, now."
  • "How are they known? Did you tell him? How dared you tell him?"
  • "It was through fright I did it. How could I dare to keep it back from him?
  • Dmitri Fyodorovitch kept persisting every day, 'You are deceiving me, you ar_iding something from me! I'll break both your legs for you.' So I told hi_hose secret signals that he might see my slavish devotion, and might b_atisfied that I was not deceiving him, but was telling him all I could."
  • "If you think that he'll make use of those signals and try to get in, don'_et him in."
  • "But if I should be laid up with a fit, how can I prevent him coming in then, even if I dared prevent him, knowing how desperate he is?"
  • "Hang it! How can you be so sure you are going to have a fit, confound you?
  • Are you laughing at me?"
  • "How could I dare laugh at you? I am in no laughing humour with this fear o_e. I feel I am going to have a fit. I have a presentiment. Fright alone wil_ring it on."
  • "Confound it! If you are laid up, Grigory will be on the watch. Let Grigor_now beforehand; he will be sure not to let him in."
  • "I should never dare to tell Grigory Vassilyevitch about the signals withou_rders from my master. And as for Grigory Vassilyevitch hearing him and no_dmitting him, he has been ill ever since yesterday, and Marfa Ignatyevn_ntends to give him medicine to-morrow. They've just arranged it. It's a ver_trange remedy of hers. Marfa Ignatyevna knows of a preparation and alway_eeps it. It's a strong thing made from some herb. She has the secret of it, and she always gives it to Grigory Vassilyevitch three times a year when hi_umbago's so bad he is almost paralysed by it. Then she takes a towel, wets i_ith the stuff, and rubs his whole back for half an hour till it's quite re_nd swollen, and what's left in the bottle she gives him to drink with _pecial prayer; but not quite all, for on such occasions she leaves some fo_erself, and drinks it herself. And as they never take strong drink, I assur_ou they both drop asleep at once and sleep sound a very long time. And whe_rigory Vassilyevitch wakes up he is perfectly well after it, but Marf_gnatyevna always has a headache from it. So, if Marfa Ignatyevna carries ou_er intention to-morrow, they won't hear anything and hinder Dmitr_yodorovitch. They'll be asleep."
  • "What a rigmarole! And it all seems to happen at once, as though it wer_lanned. You'll have a fit and they'll both be unconscious," cried Ivan. "Bu_ren't you trying to arrange it so?" broke from him suddenly, and he frowne_hreateningly.
  • "How could I?… And why should I, when it all depends on Dmitri Fyodorovitc_nd his plans?… If he means to do anything, he'll do it; but if not, I shan'_e thrusting him upon his father."
  • "And why should he go to father, especially on the sly, if, as you sa_ourself, Agrafena Alexandrovna won't come at all?" Ivan went on, turnin_hite with anger. "You say that yourself, and all the while I've been here, I've felt sure it was all the old man's fancy, and the creature won't come t_im. Why should Dmitri break in on him if she doesn't come? Speak, I want t_now what you are thinking!"
  • "You know yourself why he'll come. What's the use of what I think? His honou_ill come simply because he is in a rage or suspicious on account of m_llness perhaps, and he'll dash in, as he did yesterday through impatience t_earch the rooms, to see whether she hasn't escaped him on the sly. He i_erfectly well aware, too, that Fyodor Pavlovitch has a big envelope wit_hree thousand roubles in it, tied up with ribbon and sealed with three seals.
  • On it is written in his own hand 'To my angel Grushenka, if she will come,' t_hich he added three days later, 'for my little chicken.' There's no knowin_hat that might do."
  • "Nonsense!" cried Ivan, almost beside himself. "Dmitri won't come to stea_oney and kill my father to do it. He might have killed him yesterday o_ccount of Grushenka, like the frantic, savage fool he is, but he won'_teal."
  • "He is in very great need of money now- the greatest need, Ivan Fyodorovitch.
  • You don't know in what need he is," Smerdyakov explained, with perfec_omposure and remarkable distinctness. "He looks on that three thousand as hi_wn, too. He said so to me himself. 'My father still owes me just thre_housand,' he said. And besides that, consider, Ivan Fyodorovitch, there i_omething else perfectly true. It's as good as certain, so to say, tha_grafena Alexandrovna will force him, if only she cares to, to marry her- th_aster himself, I mean, Fyodor Pavlovitch- if only she cares to, and of cours_he may care to. All I've said is that she won't come, but maybe she's lookin_or more than that- I mean to be mistress here. I know myself that Samsonov, her merchant, was laughing with her about it, telling her quite openly that i_ould not be at all a stupid thing to do. And she's got plenty of sense. Sh_ouldn't marry a beggar like Dmitri Fyodorovitch. So, taking that int_onsideration, Ivan Fyodorovitch, reflect that then neither Dmitr_yodorovitch nor yourself and your brother, Alexey Fyodorovitch, would hav_nything after the master's death, not a rouble, for Agrafena Alexandrovn_ould marry him simply to get hold of the whole, all the money there is. Bu_f your father were to die now, there'd be some forty thousand for sure, eve_or Dmitri Fyodorovitch whom he hates so, for he's made no will… . Dmitr_yodorovitch knows all that very well."
  • A sort of shudder passed over Ivan's face. He suddenly flushed.
  • "Then why on earth," he suddenly interrupted Smerdyakov, "do you advise me t_o to Tchermashnya? What did you mean by that? If I go away, you see what wil_appen here." Ivan drew his breath with difficulty.
  • "Precisely so," said Smerdyakov, softly and reasonably, watching Iva_ntently, however.
  • "What do you mean by 'precisely so'?" Ivan questioned him, with a menacin_ight in his eyes, restraining himself with difficulty.
  • "I spoke because I felt sorry for you. If I were in your place I should simpl_hrow it all up… rather than stay on in such a position," answered Smerdyakov, with the most candid air looking at Ivan's flashing eyes. They were bot_ilent.
  • "You seem to be a perfect idiot, and what's more… an awful scoundrel, too."
  • Ivan rose suddenly from the bench. He was about to pass straight through th_ate, but he stopped short and turned to Smerdyakov. Something strang_ollowed. Ivan, in a sudden paroxysm, bit his lip, clenched his fists, and, i_nother minute, would have flung himself on Smerdyakov. The latter, anyway, noticed it at the same moment, started, and shrank back. But the moment passe_ithout mischief to Smerdyakov, and Ivan turned in silence, as it seemed i_erplexity, to the gate.
  • "I am going away to Moscow to-morrow, if you care to know- early to-morro_orning. That's all!" he suddenly said aloud angrily, and wondered himsel_fterwards what need there was to say this then to Smerdyakov.
  • "That's the best thing you can do," he responded, as though he had expected t_ear it; "except that you can always be telegraphed for from Moscow, i_nything should happen here."
  • Ivan stopped again, and again turned quickly to Smerdyakov. But a change ha_assed over him, too. All his familiarity and carelessnes had completel_isappeared. His face expressed attention and expectation, intent but timi_nd cringing.
  • "Haven't you something more to say- something to add?" could be read in th_ntent gaze he fixed on Ivan.
  • "And couldn't I be sent for from Tchermashnya, too- in case anythin_appened?" Ivan shouted suddenly, for some unknown reason raising his voice.
  • "From Tchermashnya, too… you could be sent for," Smerdyakov muttered, almos_n a whisper, looking disconcerted, but gazing intently into Ivan's eyes.
  • "Only Moscow is farther and Tchermashnya is nearer. Is it to save my spendin_oney on the fare, or to save my going so far out of my way, that you insis_n Tchermashnya?"
  • "Precisely so… " muttered Smerdyakov, with a breaking voice. He looked at Iva_ith a revolting smile, and again made ready to draw back. But to hi_stonishment Ivan broke into a laugh, and went through the gate stil_aughing. Anyone who had seen his face at that moment would have known that h_as not laughing from lightness of heart, and he could not have explaine_imself what he was feeling at that instant. He moved and walked as though i_ nervous frenzy.