Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 8 The Scandalous Scene

  • MIUSOV, as a man of breeding and delicacy, could not but feel some inwar_ualms, when he reached the Father Superior's with Ivan: he felt ashamed o_aving lost his temper. He felt that he ought to have disdained tha_espicable wretch, Fyodor Pavlovitch, too much to have been upset by him i_ather Zossima's cell, and so to have forgotten himself. "The monks were no_o blame, in any case," he reflected, on the steps. "And if they're decen_eople here (and the Father Superior, I understand, is a nobleman) why not b_riendly and courteous with them? I won't argue, I'll fall in with everything, I'll win them by politeness, and… and… show them that I've nothing to do wit_hat Aesop, that buffoon, that Pierrot, and have merely been taken in ove_his affair, just as they have."
  • He determined to drop his litigation with the monastery, and relinquish hi_laims to the wood-cutting and fishery rights at once. He was the more read_o do this because the rights had become much less valuable, and he had indee_he vaguest idea where the wood and river in question were.
  • These excellent intentions were strengthened when he entered the Fathe_uperior's dining-room, though, strictly speaking, it was not a dining-room, for the Father Superior had only two rooms altogether; they were, however, much larger and more comfortable than Father Zossima's. But there was no grea_uxury about the furnishing of these rooms either. The furniture was o_ahogany, covered with leather, in the old-fashioned style of 1820 the floo_as not even stained, but everything was shining with cleanliness, and ther_ere many choice flowers in the windows; the most sumptuous thing in the roo_t the moment was, of course, the beautifully decorated table. The cloth wa_lean, the service shone; there were three kinds of well-baked bread, tw_ottles of wine, two of excellent mead, and a large glass jug of kvas- bot_he latter made in the monastery, and famous in the neighbourhood. There wa_o vodka. Rakitin related afterwards that there were five dishes: fish-sou_ade of sterlets, served with little fish patties; then boiled fish served i_ special way; then salmon cutlets, ice pudding and compote, and finally, blanc-mange. Rakitin found out about all these good things, for he could no_esist peeping into the kitchen, where he already had a footing. He had _ooting everywhere, and got information about everything. He was of an uneas_nd envious temper. He was well aware of his own considerable abilities, an_ervously exaggerated them in his self-conceit. He knew he would play _rominent part of some sort, but Alyosha, who was attached to him, wa_istressed to see that his friend Rakitin was dishonourable, and quit_nconscious of being so himself, considering, on the contrary, that because h_ould not steal money left on the table he was a man of the highest integrity.
  • Neither Alyosha nor anyone else could have influenced him in that.
  • Rakitin, of course, was a person of too little consequence to be invited t_he dinner, to which Father Iosif, Father Paissy, and one other monk were th_nly inmates of the monastery invited. They were already waiting when Miusov, Kalganov, and Ivan arrived. The other guest, Maximov, stood a little aside, waiting also. The Father Superior stepped into the middle of the room t_eceive his guests. He was a tall, thin, but still vigorous old man, wit_lack hair streaked with grey, and a long, grave, ascetic face. He bowed t_is guests in silence. But this time they approached to receive his blessing.
  • Miusov even tried to kiss his hand, but the Father Superior drew it back i_ime to avoid the salute. But Ivan and Kalganov went through the ceremony i_he most simple-hearted and complete manner, kissing his hand as peasants do.
  • "We must apologise most humbly, your reverence," began Miusov, simperin_ffably, and speaking in a dignified and respectful tone. "Pardon us fo_aving come alone without the gentleman you invited, Fyodor Pavlovitch. H_elt obliged to decline the honour of your hospitality, and not withou_eason. In the reverend Father Zossima's cell he was carried away by th_nhappy dissension with his son, and let fall words which were quite out o_eeping… in fact, quite unseemly… as"- he glanced at the monks- "you_everence is, no doubt, already aware. And therefore, recognising that he ha_een to blame, he felt sincere regret and shame, and begged me, and his so_van Fyodorovitch, to convey to you his apologies and regrets. In brief, h_opes and desires to make amends later. He asks your blessing, and begs you t_orget what has taken place."
  • As he uttered the last word of his tirade, Miusov completely recovered hi_elf-complacency, and all traces of his former irritation disappeared. H_ully and sincerely loved humanity again.
  • The Father Superior listened to him with dignity, and, with a slight bend o_he head, replied:
  • "I sincerely deplore his absence. Perhaps at our table he might have learnt t_ike us, and we him. Pray be seated, gentlemen."
  • He stood before the holy image, and began to say grace, aloud. All bent thei_eads reverently, and Maximov clasped his hands before him, with peculia_ervour.
  • It was at this moment that Fyodor Pavlovitch played his last prank. It must b_oted that he really had meant to go home, and really had felt th_mpossibility of going to dine with the Father Superior as though nothing ha_appened, after his disgraceful behaviour in the elder's cell. Not that he wa_o very much ashamed of himself- quite the contrary perhaps. But still he fel_t would be unseemly to go to dinner. Yet his creaking carriage had hardl_een brought to the steps of the hotel, and he had hardly got into it, when h_uddenly stopped short. He remembered his own words at the elder's: "I alway_eel when I meet people that I am lower than all, and that they all take m_or a buffoon; so I say let me play the buffoon, for you are, every one o_ou, stupider and lower than I." He longed to revenge himself on everyone fo_is own unseemliness. He suddenly recalled how he had once in the past bee_sked, "Why do you hate so and so, so much?" And he had answered them, wit_is shameless impudence, "I'll tell you. He has done me no harm. But I playe_im a dirty trick, and ever since I have hated him."
  • Remembering that now, he smiled quietly and malignantly, hesitating for _oment. His eyes gleamed, and his lips positively quivered.
  • "Well, since I have begun, I may as well go on," he decided. His predominan_ensation at that moment might be expressed in the following words, "Well, there is no rehabilitating myself now. So let me shame them for all I a_orth. I will show them I don't care what they think- that's all!"
  • He told the coachman to wait, while with rapid steps he returned to th_onastery and straight to the Father Superior's. He had no clear idea what h_ould do, but he knew that he could not control himself, and that a touc_ight drive him to the utmost limits of obscenity, but only to obscenity, t_othing criminal, nothing for which he could be legally punished. In the las_esort, he could always restrain himself, and had marvelled indeed at himself, on that score, sometimes. He appeared in the Father Superior's dining-room, a_he moment when the prayer was over, and all were moving to the table.
  • Standing in the doorway, he scanned the company, and laughing his prolonged, impudent, malicious chuckle, looked them all boldly in the face. "They though_ had gone, and here I am again," he cried to the whole room.
  • For one moment everyone stared at him without a word; and at once everyon_elt that something revolting, grotesque, positively scandalous, was about t_appen. Miusov passed immediately from the most benevolent frame of mind t_he most savage. All the feelings that had subsided and died down in his hear_evived instantly.
  • "No! this I cannot endure!" he cried. "I absolutely cannot! and… I certainl_annot!"
  • The blood rushed to his head. He positively stammered; but he was beyon_hinking of style, and he seized his hat.
  • "What is it he cannot?" cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, "that he absolutely canno_nd certainly cannot? Your reverence, am I to come in or not? Will you receiv_e as your guest?"
  • "You are welcome with all my heart," answered the Superior. "Gentlemen!" h_dded, "I venture to beg you most earnestly to lay aside your dissensions, an_o be united in love and family harmony- with prayer to the Lord at our humbl_able."
  • "No, no, it is impossible!" cried Miusov, beside himself.
  • "Well, if it is impossible for Pyotr Alexandrovitch, it is impossible for me, and I won't stop. That is why I came. I will keep with Pyotr Alexandrovitc_verywhere now. If you will go away, Pyotr Alexandrovitch, I will go away too, if you remain, I will remain. You stung him by what you said about famil_armony, Father Superior, he does not admit he is my relation. That's right, isn't it, von Sohn? Here's von Sohn. How are you, von Sohn?"
  • "Do you mean me?" muttered Maximov, puzzled.
  • "Of course I mean you," cried Fyodor Pavlovitch. "Who else? The Fathe_uperior could not be von Sohn."
  • "But I am not von Sohn either. I am Maximov."
  • "No, you are von Sohn. Your reverence, do you know who von Sohn was? It was _amous murder case. He was killed in a house of harlotry- I believe that i_hat such places are called among you- he was killed and robbed, and in spit_f his venerable age, he was nailed up in a box and sent from Petersburg t_oscow in the luggage van, and while they were nailing him up, the harlot_ang songs and played the harp, that is to say, the piano. So this is tha_ery von Solin. He has risen from the dead, hasn't he, von Sohn?"
  • "What is happening? What's this?" voices were heard in the group of monks.
  • "Let us go," cried Miusov, addressing Kalganov.
  • "No, excuse me," Fyodor Pavlovitch broke in shrilly, taking another step int_he room. "Allow me to finish. There in the cell you blamed me for behavin_isrespectfully just because I spoke of eating gudgeon, Pyotr Alexandrovitch.
  • Miusov, my relation, prefers to have plus de noblesse que de sincerite in hi_ords, but I prefer in mine plus de sincerite que de noblesse, and- damn th_oblesse! That's right, isn't it, von Sohn? Allow me, Father Superior, thoug_ am a buffoon and play the buffoon, yet I am the soul of honour, and I wan_o speak my mind. Yes, I am the soul of honour, while in Pyotr Alexandrovitc_here is wounded vanity and nothing else. I came here perhaps to have a loo_nd speak my mind. My son, Alexey, is here, being saved. I am his father; _are for his welfare, and it is my duty to care. While I've been playing th_ool, I have been listening and having a look on the sly; and now I want t_ive you the last act of the performance. You know how things are with us? A_ thing falls, so it lies. As a thing once has fallen, so it must lie fo_ver. Not a bit of it! I want to get up again. Holy Father, I am indignan_ith you. Confession is a great sacrament, before which I am ready to bow dow_everently; but there in the cell, they all kneel down and confess aloud. Ca_t be right to confess aloud? It was ordained by the holy Fathers to confes_n secret: then only your confession will be a mystery, and so it was of old.
  • But how can I explain to him before everyone that I did this and that… well, you understand what- sometimes it would not be proper to talk about it- so i_s really a scandal! No, Fathers, one might be carried along with you to th_lagellants, I dare say… . at the first opportunity I shall write to th_ynod, and I shall take my son, Alexey, home."
  • We must note here that Fyodor Pavlovitch knew where to look for the weak spot.
  • There had been at one time malicious rumours which had even reached th_rchbishop (not only regarding our monastery, but in others where th_nstitution of elders existed) that too much respect was paid to the elders, even to the detriment of the authority of the Superior, that the elders abuse_he sacrament of confession and so on and so on- absurd charges which had die_way of themselves everywhere. But the spirit of folly, which had caught u_yodor Pavlovitch and was bearing him on the current of his own nerves int_ower and lower depths of ignominy, prompted him with this old slander. Fyodo_avlovitch did not understand a word of it, and he could not even put i_ensibly, for on this occasion no one had been kneeling and confessing alou_n the elder's cell, so that he could not have seen anything of the kind. H_as only speaking from confused memory of old slanders. But as soon as he ha_ttered his foolish tirade, he felt he had been talking absurd nonsense, an_t once longed to prove to his audience, and above all to himself, that he ha_ot been talking nonsense. And, though he knew perfectly well that with eac_ord he would be adding more and more absurdity, he could not restrai_imself, and plunged forward blindly.
  • "How disgraceful!" cried Pyotr Alexandrovitch.
  • "Pardon me!" said the Father Superior. "It was said of old, 'Many have begu_o speak against me and have uttered evil sayings about me. And hearing it _ave said to myself: it is the correction of the Lord and He has sent it t_eal my vain soul.' And so we humbly thank you, honoured guest!" and he mad_yodor Pavlovitch a low bow.
  • "Tut- tut- tut- sanctimoniousness and stock phrases! Old phrases and ol_estures. The old lies and formal prostrations. We know all about them. A kis_n the lips and a dagger in the heart, as in Schiller's Robbers. I don't lik_alsehood, Fathers, I want the truth. But the truth is not to be found i_ating gudgeon and that I proclaim aloud! Father monks, why do you fast? Wh_o you expect reward in heaven for that? Why, for reward like that I will com_nd fast too! No, saintly monk, you try being virtuous in the world, do goo_o society, without shutting yourself up in a monastery at other people'_xpense, and without expecting a reward up aloft for it- you'll find that _it harder. I can talk sense, too, Father Superior. What have they got here?"
  • He went up to the table. "Old port wine, mead brewed by the Eliseyev Brothers.
  • Fie, fie, fathers! That is something beyond gudgeon. Look at the bottles th_athers have brought out, he he he! And who has provided it all? The Russia_easant, the labourer, brings here the farthing earned by his horny hand, wringing it from his family and the tax-gatherer! You bleed the people, yo_now, holy Fathers."
  • "This is too disgraceful!" said Father Iosif.
  • Father Paissy kept obstinately silent. Miusov rushed from the room, an_algonov after him.
  • "Well, Father, I will follow Pyotr Alexandrovitch! I am not coming to see yo_gain. You may beg me on your knees, I shan't come. I sent you a thousan_oubles, so you have begun to keep your eye on me. He he he! No, I'll say n_ore. I am taking my revenge for my youth, for all the humiliation I endured."
  • He thumped the table with his fist in a paroxysm of simulated feeling. "Thi_onastery has played a great part in my life! It has cost me many bitte_ears. You used to set my wife, the crazy one, against me. You cursed me wit_ell and book, you spread stories about me all over the place. Enough, fathers! This is the age of Liberalism, the age of steamers and railways.
  • Neither a thousand, nor a hundred roubles, no, nor a hundred farthings wil_ou get out of me!"
  • It must be noted again that our monastery never had played any great part i_is life, and he never had shed a bitter tear owing to it. But he was s_arried away by his simulated emotion, that he was for one moment almos_elieving it himself. He was so touched he was almost weeping. But at tha_ery instant, he felt that it was time to draw back.
  • The Father Superior bowed his head at his malicious lie, and again spok_mpressively:
  • "It is written again, 'Bear circumspectly and gladly dishonour that comet_pon thee by no act of thine own, be not confounded and hate not him who hat_ishonoured thee.' And so will we."
  • "Tut, tut, tut! Bethinking thyself and the rest of the rigmarole. Bethin_ourselves Fathers, I will go. But I will take my son, Alexey, away from her_or ever, on my parental authority. Ivan Fyodorovitch, my most dutiful son, permit me to order you to follow me. Von Sohn, what have you to stay for? Com_nd see me now in the town. It is fun there. It is only one short verst; instead of lenten oil, I will give you sucking-pig and kasha. We will hav_inner with some brandy and liqueur to it… . I've cloudberry wine. Hey, vo_ohn, don't lose your chance." He went out, shouting and gesticulating.
  • It was at that moment Rakitin saw him and pointed him out to Alyosha.
  • "Alexey!" his father shouted, from far off, catching sight of him. "You com_ome to me to-day, for good, and bring your pillow and mattress, and leave n_race behind."
  • Alyosha stood rooted to the spot, watching the scene in silence. Meanwhile, Fyodor Pavlovitch had got into the carriage, and Ivan was about to follow hi_n grim silence without even turning to say good-bye to Alyosha. But at thi_oint another almost incredible scene of grotesque buffoonery gave th_inishing touch to the episode. Maximov suddenly appeared by the side of th_arriage. He ran up, panting, afraid of being too late. Rakitin and Alyosh_aw him running. He was in such a hurry that in his impatience he put his foo_n the step on which Ivan's left foot was still resting, and clutching th_arriage he kept trying to jump in. "I am going with you! " he kept shouting, laughing a thin mirthful laugh with a look of reckless glee in his face. "Tak_e, too."
  • "There!" cried Fyodor Pavlovitch, delighted. "Did I not say he was von Sohn.
  • It is von Sohn himself, risen from the dead. Why, how did you tear yoursel_way? What did you von Sohn there? And how could you get away from the dinner?
  • You must be a brazen-faced fellow! I am that myself, but I am surprised a_ou, brother! Jump in, jump in! Let him pass, Ivan. It will be fun. He can li_omewhere at our feet. Will you lie at our feet, von Sohn? Or perch on the bo_ith the coachman. Skip on to the box, von Sohn!"
  • But Ivan, who had by now taken his seat, without a word gave Maximov a violen_unch in the breast and sent him flying. It was quite by chance he did no_all.
  • "Drive on!" Ivan shouted angrily to the coachman.
  • "Why, what are you doing, what are you about? Why did you do that?" Fyodo_avlovitch protested.
  • But the carriage had already driven away. Ivan made no reply.
  • "Well, you are a fellow," Fyodor Pavlovitch said again.
  • After a pause of two minutes, looking askance at his son, "Why, it was you go_p all this monastery business. You urged it, you approved of it. Why are yo_ngry now?"
  • "You've talked rot enough. You might rest a bit now," Ivan snapped sullenly.
  • Fyodor Pavlovitch was silent again for two minutes.
  • "A drop of brandy would be nice now," he observed sententiously, but Ivan mad_o response.
  • "You shall have some, too, when we get home."
  • Ivan was still silent.
  • Fyodor Pavlovitch waited another two minutes.
  • "But I shall take Alyosha away from the monastery, though you will dislike i_o much, most honoured Karl von Moor."
  • Ivan shrugged his shoulders contemptuously, and turning away stared at th_oad. And they did not speak again all the way home.