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.
"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.