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Chapter 6 Smerdyakov

  • HE did in fact find his father still at table. Though there was a dining-roo_n the house, the table was laid as usual in the drawing room, which was th_argest room, and furnished with old-fashioned ostentation. The furniture wa_hite and very old, upholstered in old, red, silky material. In the space_etween the windows there were mirrors in elaborate white and gilt frames, o_ld-fashioned carving. On the walls, covered with white paper, which was tor_n many places, there hung two large portraits- one of some prince who ha_een governor of the district thirty years before, and the other of som_ishop, also long since dead. In the corner opposite the door there wer_everal ikons, before which a lamp was lighted at nightfall… not so much fo_evotional purposes as to light the room. Fyodor Pavlovitch used to go to be_ery late, at three or four o'clock in the morning,and would wander about th_oom at night or sit in an armchair, thinking. This had become a habit wit_im. He often slept quite alone in the house, sending his servants to th_odge; but usually Smerdyakov remained, sleeping on a bench in the hall.
  • When Alyosha came in, dinner was over, but coffee and preserves had bee_erved. Fyodor Pavlovitch liked sweet things with brandy after dinner. Iva_as also at table, sipping coffee. The servants, Grigory and Smerdyakov, wer_tanding by. Both the gentlemen and the servants seemed in singularly goo_pirits. Fyodor Pavlovitch was roaring with laughter. Before he entered th_oom, Alyosha heard the shrill laugh he knew so well, and could tell from th_ound of it that his father had only reached the good-humoured stage, and wa_ar from being completely drunk.
  • "Here he is! Here he is!" yelled Fyodor Pavlovitch, highly delighted at seein_lyosha. "Join us. Sit down. Coffee is a lenten dish, but it's hot and good. _on't offer you brandy, you're keeping the fast. But would you like some? No;
  • I'd better give you some of our famous liqueur. Smerdyakov, go to th_upboard, the second shelf on the right. Here are the keys. Look sharp!"
  • Alyosha began refusing the liqueur.
  • "Never mind. If you won't have it, we will," said Fyodor Pavlovitch, beaming.
  • "But stay- have you dined?"
  • "Yes," answered Alyosha, who had in truth only eaten a piece of bread an_runk a glass of kvass in the Father Superior's kitchen. "Though I should b_leased to have some hot coffee."
  • "Bravo, my darling! He'll have some coffee. Does it want warming? No, it'_oiling. It's capital coffee: Smerdyakov's making. My Smerdyakov's an artis_t coffee and at fish patties, and at fish soup, too. You must come one da_nd have some fish soup. Let me know beforehand… . But, stay; didn't I tel_ou this morning to come home with your mattress and pillow and all? Have yo_rought your mattress? He he he!"
  • "No, I haven't," said Alyosha, smiling, too.
  • "Ah, but you were frightened, you were frightened this morning, weren't you?
  • There, my darling, I couldn't do anything to vex you. Do you know, Ivan, _an't resist the way he looks one straight in the face and laughs? It makes m_augh all over. I'm so fond of him. Alyosha, let me give you my blessing- _ather's blessing."
  • Alyosha rose, but Fyodor Pavlovitch had already changed his mind.
  • "No, no," he said. "I'll just make the sign of the cross over you, for now.
  • Sit still. Now we've a treat for you, in your own line, too. It'll make yo_augh. Balaam's ass has begun talking to us here- and how he talks! How h_alks!
  • Balaam's ass, it appeared, was the valet, Smerdyakov. He was a young man o_bout four and twenty, remarkably unsociable and taciturn. Not that he was sh_r bashful. On the contrary, he was conceited and seemed to despise everybody.
  • But we must pause to say a few words about him now. He was brought up b_rigory and Marfa, but the boy grew up "with no sense of gratitude," a_rigory expressed it; he was an unfriendly boy, and seemed to look at th_orld mistrustfully. In his childhood he was very fond of hanging cats, an_urying them with great ceremony. He used to dress up in a sheet as though i_ere a surplice, and sang, and waved some object over the dead cat as thoug_t were a censer. All this he did on the sly, with the greatest secrecy.
  • Grigory caught him once at this diversion and gave him a sound beating. H_hrank into a corner and sulked there for a week. "He doesn't care for you o_e, the monster," Grigory used to say to Marfa, "and he doesn't care fo_nyone. Are you a human being?" he said, addressing the boy directly. "You'r_ot a human being. You grew from the mildew in the bath-house. That's what yo_re," Smerdyakov, it appeared afterwards, could never forgive him those words.
  • Grigory taught him to read and write, and when he was twelve years old, bega_eaching him the Scriptures. But this teaching came to nothing. At the secon_r third lesson the boy suddenly grinned.
  • "What's that for?" asked Grigory, looking at him threateningly from under hi_pectacles.
  • "Oh, nothing. God created light on the first day, and the sun, moon, and star_n the fourth day. Where did the light come from on the first day?"
  • Grigory was thunderstruck. The boy looked sarcastically at his teacher. Ther_as something positively condescending in his expression. Grigory could no_estrain himself. "I'll show you where!" he cried, and gave the boy a violen_lap on the cheek. The boy took the slap without a word, but withdrew into hi_orner again for some days. A week later he had his first attack of th_isease to which he was subject all the rest of his life- epilepsy. Whe_yodor Pavlovitch heard of it, his attitude to the boy seemed changed at once.
  • Till then he had taken no notice of him, though he never scolded him, an_lways gave him a copeck when he met him. Sometimes, when he was in goo_umour, he would send the boy something sweet from his table. But as soon a_e heard of his illness, he showed an active interest in him, sent for _octor, and tried remedies, but the disease turned out to be incurable. Th_its occurred, on an average, once a month, but at various intervals. The fit_aried too, in violence: some were light and some were very severe. Fyodo_avlovitch strictly forbade Grigory to use corporal punishment to the boy, an_egan allowing him to come upstairs to him. He forbade him to be taugh_nything whatever for a time, too. One day when the boy was about fifteen,
  • Fyodor Pavlovitch noticed him lingering by the bookcase, and reading th_itles through the glass. Fyodor Pavlovitch had a fair number of books- over _undred- but no one ever saw him reading. He at once gave Smerdyakov the ke_f the bookcase. "Come, read. You shall be my librarian. You'll be bette_itting reading than hanging about the courtyard. Come, read this," and Fyodo_avlovitch gave him Evenings in a Cottage near Dikanka.
  • He read a little but didn't like it. He did not once smile, and ended b_rowning.
  • "Why? Isn't it funny?" asked Fyodor Pavlovitch. Smerdyakov did not speak.
  • "Answer stupid!"
  • "It's all untrue," mumbled the boy, with a grin.
  • "Then go to the devil! You have the soul of a lackey. Stay, here's Smaragdov'_niversal History. That's all true. Read that."
  • But Smerdyakov did not get through ten pages of Smaragdov. He thought it dull.
  • So the bookcase was closed again.
  • Shortly afterwards Marfa and Grigory reported to Fyodor Pavlovitch tha_merdyakov was gradually beginning to show an extraordinary fastidiousness. H_ould sit before his soup, take up his spoon and look into the soup, bend ove_t, examine it, take a spoonful and hold it to the light.
  • "What is it? A beetle?" Grigory would ask.
  • "A fly, perhaps," observed Marfa.
  • The squeamish youth never answered, but he did the same with his bread, hi_eat, and everything he ate. He would hold a piece on his fork to the light,
  • scrutinise it microscopically, and only after long deliberation decide to pu_t in his mouth.
  • "Ach! What fine gentlemen's airs!" Grigory muttered, looking at him.
  • When Fyodor Pavlovitch heard of this development in Smerdyakov he determine_o make him his cook, and sent him to Moscow to be trained. He spent som_ears there and came back remarkably changed in appearance. He looke_xtraordinarily old for his age. His face had grown wrinkled, yellow, an_trangely emasculate. In character he seemed almost exactly the same as befor_e went away. He was just as unsociable, and showed not the slightes_nclination for any companionship. In Moscow, too, as we heard afterwards, h_ad always been silent. Moscow itself had little interest for him; he saw ver_ittle there, and took scarcely any notice of anything. He went once to th_heatre, but returned silent and displeased with it. On the other hand, h_ame back to us from Moscow well dressed, in a clean coat and clean linen. H_rushed his clothes most scrupulously twice a day invariably, and was ver_ond of cleaning his smart calf boots with a special English polish, so tha_hey shone like mirrors. He turned out a first rate cook. Fyodor Pavlovitc_aid him a salary, almost the whole of which Smerdyakov spent on clothes,
  • pomade, perfumes, and such things. But he seemed to have as much contempt fo_he female sex as for men; he was discreet, almost unapproachable, with them.
  • Fyodor Pavlovitch began to regard him rather differently. His fits wer_ecoming more frequent, and on the days he was ill Marfa cooked, which did no_uit Fyodor Pavlovitch at all.
  • "Why are your fits getting worse?" asked Fyodor Pavlovitch, looking askance a_is new cook. "Would you like to get married? Shall I find you a wife?"
  • But Smerdyakov turned pale with anger, and made no reply. Fyodor Pavlovitc_eft him with an impatient gesture. The great thing was that he had absolut_onfidence in his honesty. It happened once, when Fyodor Pavlovitch was drunk,
  • that he dropped in the muddy courtyard three hundred-rouble notes which he ha_nly just received. He only missed them next day, and was just hastening t_earch his pockets when he saw the notes lying on the table. Where had the_ome from? Smerdyakov had picked them up and brought them in the day before.
  • "Well, my lad, I've never met anyone like you," Fyodor Pavlovitch sai_hortly, and gave him ten roubles. We may add that he not only believed in hi_onesty, but had, for some reason, a liking for him, although the young ma_ooked as morosely at him as at everyone and was always silent. He rarel_poke. If it had occurred to anyone to wonder at the time what the young ma_as interested in, and what was in his mind, it would have been impossible t_ell by looking at him. Yet he used sometimes to stop suddenly in the house,
  • or even in the yard or street, and would stand still for ten minutes, lost i_hought. A physiognomist studying his face would have said that there was n_hought in it, no reflection, but only a sort of contemplation. There is _emarkable picture by the painter Kramskoy, called "Contemplation." There is _orest in winter, and on a roadway through the forest, in absolute solitude,
  • stands a peasant in a torn kaftan and bark shoes. He stands, as it were, los_n thought. Yet he is not thinking; he is "contemplating." If anyone touche_im he would start and look at one as though awakening and bewildered. It'_rue he would come to himself immediately; but if he were asked what he ha_een thinking about, he would remember nothing. Yet probably he has, hidde_ithin himself, the impression which had dominated him during the period o_ontemplation. Those impressions are dear to him and no doubt he hoards the_mperceptibly, and even unconsciously. How and why, of course, he does no_now either. He may suddenly, after hoarding impressions for many years,
  • abandon everything and go off to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage for his soul'_alvation, or perhaps he will suddenly set fire to his native village, an_erhaps do both. There are a good many "contemplatives" among the peasantry.
  • Well, Smerdyakov was probably one of them, and he probably was greedil_oarding up his impressions, hardly knowing why.