BUT Balaam's ass had suddenly spoken. The subject was a strange one. Grigor_ad gone in the morning to make purchases, and had heard from the shopkeepe_ukyanov the story of a Russian soldier which had appeared in the newspaper o_hat day. This soldier had been taken prisoner in some remote part of Asia, and was threatened with an immediate agonising death if he did not renounc_hristianity and follow Islam. He refused to deny his faith, and was tortured, flayed alive, and died, praising and glorifying Christ. Grigory had relate_he story at table. Fyodor Pavlovitch always liked, over the dessert afte_inner, to laugh and talk, if only with Grigory. This afternoon he was in _articularly good-humoured and expansive mood. Sipping his brandy an_istening to the story, he observed that they ought to make a saint of _oldier like that, and to take his skin to some monastery. "That would mak_he people flock, and bring the money in."
Grigory frowned, seeing that Fyodor Pavlovitch was by no means touched, but, as usual, was beginning to scoff. At that moment Smerdyakov, who was standin_y the door, smiled. Smerdyakov often waited at table towards the end o_inner, and since Ivan's arrival in our town he had done so every day.
"What are you grinning at?" asked Fyodor Pavlovitch, catching the smil_nstantly, and knowing that it referred to Grigory.
"Well, my opinion is," Smerdyakov began suddenly and unexpectedly in a lou_oice, "that if that laudable soldier's exploit was so very great there woul_ave been, to my thinking, no sin in it if he had on such an emergenc_enounced, so to speak, the name of Christ and his own christening, to save b_hat same his life, for good deeds, by which, in the course of years t_xpiate his cowardice."
"How could it not be a sin? You're talking nonsense. For that you'll g_traight to hell and be roasted there like mutton," put in Fyodor Pavlovitch.
It was at this point that Alyosha came in, and Fyodor Pavlovitch, as we hav_een, was highly delighted at his appearance.
"We're on your subject, your subject," he chuckled gleefully, making Alyosh_it down to listen.
"As for mutton, that's not so, and there'll be nothing there for this, an_here shouldn't be either, if it's according to justice," Smerdyako_aintained stoutly.
"How do you mean 'according to justice'?" Fyodor Pavlovitch cried still mor_aily, nudging Alyosha with his knee.
"He's a rascal, that's what he is!" burst from Grigory. He looked Smerdyako_rathfully in the face.
"As for being a rascal, wait a little, Grigory Vassilyevitch," answere_merdyakov with perfect composure. "You'd better consider yourself that, onc_ am taken prisoner by the enemies of the Christian race, and they demand fro_e to curse the name of God and to renounce my holy christening, I am full_ntitled to act by my own reason, since there would be no sin in it."
"But you've said that before. Don't waste words. Prove it," cried Fyodo_avlovitch.
"Soup-maker!" muttered Grigory contemptuously.
"As for being a soup-maker, wait a bit, too, and consider for yourself, Grigory Vassilyevitch, without abusing me. For as soon as I say to thos_nemies, 'No, I'm not a Christian, and I curse my true God,' then at once, b_od's high judgment, I become immediately and specially anathema accursed, an_m cut off from the Holy Church, exactly as though I were a heathen, so tha_t that very instant, not only when I say it aloud, but when I think of sayin_t, before a quarter of a second has passed, I am cut off. Is that so or not, Grigory Vassilyevitch?"
He addressed Grigory with obvious satisfaction, though he was really answerin_yodor Pavlovitch's questions, and was well aware of it, and intentionall_retending that Grigory had asked the questions.
"Ivan," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch suddenly, "stoop down for me to whisper. He'_ot this all up for your benefit. He wants you to praise him. Praise him."
Ivan listened with perfect seriousness to his father's excited whisper.
"Stay, Smerdyakov, be quiet a minute," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch once more.
"Ivan, your ear again."
Ivan bent down again with a perfectly grave face.
"I love you as I do Alyosha. Don't think I don't love you. Some brandy?"
"Yes.- But you're rather drunk yourself," thought Ivan, looking steadily a_is father.
He was watching Smerdyakov with great curiosity.
"You're anathema accursed, as it is, Grigory suddenly burst out, "and how dar_ou argue, you rascal, after that, if- "
"You should wait, Grigory Vassilyevitch, if only a short time, and listen, fo_ haven't finished all I had to say. For at the very moment I become accursed, at that same highest moment, I become exactly like a heathen, and m_hristening is taken off me and becomes of no avail. Isn't that so?"
"Make haste and finish, my boy," Fyodor Pavlovitch urged him, sipping from hi_ineglass with relish.
"And if I've ceased to be a Christian, then I told no lie to the enemy whe_hey asked whether I was a Christian or not a Christian, seeing I had alread_een relieved by God Himself of my Christianity by reason of the though_lone, before I had time to utter a word to the enemy. And if I have alread_een discharged, in what manner and with what sort of justice can I be hel_esponsible as a Christian in the other world for having denied Christ, when, through the very thought alone, before denying Him I had been relieved from m_hristening? If I'm no longer a Christian, then I can't renounce Christ, fo_'ve nothing then to renounce. Who will hold an unclean Tatar responsible, Grigory Vassilyevitch, even in heaven, for not having been born a Christian?
And who would punish him for that, considering that you can't take two skin_ff one ox? For God Almighty Himself, even if He did make the Tata_esponsible, when he dies would give him the smallest possible punishment, _magine (since he must be punished), judging that he is not to blame if he ha_ome into the world an unclean heathen, from heathen parents. The Lord Go_an't surely take a Tatar and say he was a Christian? That would mean that th_lmighty would tell a real untruth. And can the Lord of Heaven and earth tel_ lie, even in one word?"
Grigory was thunderstruck and looked at the orator, his eyes nearly startin_ut of his head. Though he did not clearly understand what was said, he ha_aught something in this rigmarole, and stood, looking like a man who has jus_it his head against a wall. Fyodor Pavlovitch emptied his glass and went of_nto his shrill laugh.
"Alyosha! Alyosha! What do you say to that! Ah, you casuist! He must have bee_ith the Jesuits, somewhere, Ivan. Oh, you stinking Jesuit,who taught you? Bu_ou're talking nonsense, you casuist, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. Don't cry, Grigory, we'll reduce him to smoke and ashes in a moment. Tell me this, O ass; you may be right before your enemies, but you have renounced your faith al_he same in your own heart, and you say yourself that in that very hour yo_ecame anathema accursed. And if once you're anathema they won't pat you o_he head for it in hell. What do you say to that, my fine Jesuit?"
"There is no doubt that I have renounced it in my own heart, but there n_pecial sin in that. Or if there was sin, it was the most ordinary."
"How's that the most ordinary?"
"You lie, accursed one!" hissed Grigory.
"Consider yourself, Grigory Vassilyevitch," Smerdyakov went on, staid an_nruffled, conscious of his triumph, but, as it were, generous to th_anquished foe. "Consider yourself, Grigory Vassilyevitch; it is said in th_cripture that if you have faith, even as a mustard seed, and bid a mountai_ove into the sea, it will move without the least delay at your bidding. Well, Grigory Vassilyevitch, if I'm without faith and you have so great a faith tha_ou are continually swearing at me, you try yourself telling this mountain, not to move into the sea for that's a long way off, but even to our stinkin_ittle river which runs at the bottom of the garden. You'll see for yoursel_hat it won't budge, but will remain just where it is however much you shou_t it, and that shows, Grigory Vassilyevitch, that you haven't faith in th_roper manner, and only abuse others about it. Again, taking int_onsideration that no one in our day, not only you, but actually no one, fro_he highest person to the lowest peasant, can shove mountains into the sea- except perhaps some one man in the world, or, at most, two, and they mos_ikely are saving their souls in secret somewhere in the Egyptian desert, s_ou wouldn't find them- if so it be, if all the rest have no faith, will Go_urse all the rest? that is, the population of the whole earth, except abou_wo hermits in the desert, and in His well-known mercy will He not forgive on_f them? And so I'm persuaded that though I may once have doubted I shall b_orgiven if I shed tears of repentance."
"Stay!" cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, in a transport of delight. "So you do suppos_here are two who can move mountains? Ivan, make a note of it, write it down.
There you have the Russian all over!"
"You're quite right in saying it's characteristic of the people's faith," Iva_ssented, with an approving smile.
"You agree. Then it must be so, if you agree. It's true, isn't it Alyosha?
That's the Russian faith all over, isn't it?"
"No, Smerdyakov has not the Russian faith at all," said Alyosha firmly an_ravely.
"I'm not talking about his faith. I mean those two in the desert, only tha_dea. Surely that's Russian, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's purely Russian," said Alyosha smiling.
"Your words are worth a gold piece, O ass, and I'll give it to you to-day. Bu_s to the rest you talk nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. Let me tell you, stupid, that we here are all of little faith, only from carelessness, because w_aven't time; things are too much for us, and, in the second place, the Lor_od has given us so little time, only twenty-four hours in the day, so tha_ne hasn't even time to get sleep enough, much less to repent of one's sins.
While you have denied your faith to your enemies when you'd nothing else t_hink about but to show your faith! So I consider, brother, that i_onstitutes a sin."
"Constitute a sin it may, but consider yourself, Grigory Vassilyevitch, tha_t only extenuates it, if it does constitute. If I had believed then in ver_ruth, as I ought to have believed, then it really would have been sinful if _ad not faced tortures for my faith, and had gone over to the pagan Mohammeda_aith. But, of course, it wouldn't have come to torture then, because I shoul_nly have had to say at that instant to the mountain, 'Move and crush th_ormentor,' and it would have moved and at the very instant have crushed hi_ike a black-beetle, and I should have walked away as though nothing ha_appened, praising and glorifying God. But, suppose at that very moment I ha_ried all that, and cried to that mountain, 'Crush these tormentors,' and i_adn't crushed them, how could I have helped doubting, pray, at such a time, and at such a dread hour of mortal terror? And apart from that, I should kno_lready that I could not attain to the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven (fo_ince the mountain had not moved at my word, they could not think very much o_y faith up aloft, and there could be no very great reward awaiting me in th_orld to come). So why should I let them flay the skin off me as well, and t_o good purpose? For, even though they had flayed my skin half off my back, even then the mountain would not have moved at my word or at my cry. And a_uch a moment not only doubt might come over one but one might lose one'_eason from fear, so that one would not be able to think at all. And, therefore, how should I be particularly to blame if not seeing my advantage o_eward there or here, I should, at least, save my skin. And so trusting full_n the grace of the Lord I should cherish the hope that I might be altogethe_orgiven."