Insulted and Injured
WE had not far to go, to the Torgovoy Bridge. For the first minute
we were silent. I kept wondering how he would begin.
I fancied that he would try me, sound me, probe me. But he spoke without any
beating about the bush, and went straight to the point.
"I am very uneasy about one circumstance, Ivan Petrovitch," he began, "about
which I want to speak to you first of all, and to ask your advice. I made up my
mind some time ago to forgo what I have won from my lawsuit and to give up the
disputed ten thousand to Ichmenyev. How am I to do this?"
"It cannot be that you really don't know how to act," was the thought that
flashed through my mind. "Aren't you making fun of me?"
"I don't know, prince," I answered as simply as I could; "in something else,
that is, anything concerning Natalya Nikolaevna, I am ready to give you any
information likely to be of use to you or to us, but in this matter you must
know better than I do."
"No, no, I don't know so well, of course not. You know them, and perhaps
Natalya Nikolaevna may have given you her views on the subject more than once,
and they would be my guiding principle. You can be a great help to me. It's an
extremely difficult matter. I am prepared to make a conces- sion. I'm even
determined to make a concession, however other matters may end. You understand?
But how, and in what form, to make that concession? That's the question. The old
man's proud and obstinate. Very likely he'll insult me for my good-nature, and
throw the money in my face."
"But excuse me. How do you look upon that money? As your own or as his?"
"I won the lawsuit, so the money's mine."
"But in your conscience?"
"Of course I regard it as mine," he answered, somewhat piqued at my
unceremoniousness. "But I believe you don't know all the facts of the case. I
don't accuse the old man of intentional duplicity, and I will confess I've never
accused him. It was his own choice to take it as an insult. He was to blame for
carelessness, for not looking more sharply after busi- ness entrusted to him.
And by our agreement he was bound to be responsible for some of his mistakes.
But, do you know, even that's not really the point. What was really at the
bottom of it was our quarrelling, our mutual recriminations at the time, in
fact, wounded vanity on both sides. I might not have taken any notice of that
paltry ten thousand, but you know, of course, how the whole case began and what
it arose from. I'm ready to admit that I was suspicious and perhaps unjust (that
is, unjust at the time), but I wasn't aware of it, and in my vexation and
resentment of his rudeness I was unwilling to let the chance slip, and began the
lawsuit. You may perhaps think all that not very generous on my part. I don't
defend myself; only I may observe that anger, or, still more, wounded pride is
not the same as lack of generosity, but is a natural human thing, and I confess,
I repeat again, that I did not know Ichmenyev at all, and quite believed in
those rumours about Alyosha and his daughter, and so was able to believe that
the money had been intentionally stolen. . . . But putting that aside, the real
question is, what am I to do now? I might refuse the money, but if at the same
time I say that I still consider my claim was a just one, it comes to my giving
him the money, and, add to that the delicate position in regard to Natalya
Nikolaevna, he'll certainly fling the money in my face. . . ."
"There, you see, you say yourself he'll fling it in your face so you do
consider him an honest man, and that's why you can be perfectly certain that he
did not steal your money. And if so, why shouldn't you go to him and tell him
straight out that you consider your claim as unjustified. That would be
honourable, and Ichmenyev would not perhaps find it difficult then to accept his
"Hm! His money . . . that's just the question; what sort of position do you
put me into? Go to him and tell him I con- sider my claim illegal. 'Why did you
make it then, if you considered it illegal?' that's what every one would say to
my face. And I've not deserved it, for my claim was legal. I have never said and
never written that he stole the money, but I am still convinced of his
carelessness, his negligence, and incapacity in managing business. That money is
undoubtedly mine, and therefore it would be mortifying to make a false charge
against myself, and finally, I repeat, the old man brought the ignominy of it
upon himself, and you want to force me to beg his pardon for that ignominy -
"It seems to me that if two men wanted to be reconciled, then . . ."
"You think it's easy?
"No, sometimes it's very far from easy, especially . . ."
"Especially if there are other circumstances connected with it. Yes, there I
agree with you, prince. The position of Natalya Nikolaevna and of your son ought
to be settled by you in all those points that depend upon you, and settled so as
to be fully satisfactory to the Ichmenyevs. Only then can you be quite sincere
with Ichmenyev about the lawsuit too. Now, while nothing has been settled, you
have only one course open to you: to acknowledge the injustice of your claim,
and to acknow- ledge it openly, and if necessary even publicly, that's my
I tell you so frankly because you asked me my opinion yourself.
And probably you do not wish me to be insincere with you.
And this gives me the courage to ask you why you are troubling your head
about returning this money to Ichmenyev? If you consider that you were just in
your claim, why return it? For- give my being so inquisitive, but this has such
an intimate bearing upon other circumstances."
"And what do you think?" he asked suddenly, as though he had not heard my
question. "Are you so sure that old Ichmenyev would refuse the ten thousand if
it were handed to him without any of these evasions and . . . and . . . and
"Of course he would refuse it."
I flushed crimson and positively trembled with indignation.
This impudently sceptical question affected me as though he had spat into my
face. My resentment was increased by something else: the coarse, aristocratic
manner in which, without answering my question, and apparently without noticing
it, he interrupted it with another, probably to give me to understand that I had
gone too far and had been too familiar in venturing to ask him such a question.
I detested, I loathed that aristocratic manoeuvre and had done my utmost in the
past to get Alyosha out of it.
"Hm! You are too impulsive, and things are not done in real life as you
imagine," the prince observed calmly, at my exclamation. "But I think that
Natalya Nikolaevna might do something to decide the question; you tell her that
she might give some advice."
"Not a bit of it," I answered roughly. "You did not deign to listen to what I
was saying to you just now, but interrupted me. Natalya Nikolaevna will
understand that if you return the money without frankness and without all those
blandishments, as you call them, it amounts to your paying the father for the
loss of his daughter, and her for the loss of Alyosha - in other words your
giving them money compensation . . ."
"Hm! . . . so that's how you understand me, my excellent Ivan Petrovitch,"
the prince laughed. Why did he laugh?
"And meanwhile," he went on, "there are so many, many things we have to talk
over together. But now there's no time.
I only beg you to understand one thing: Natalya Nikolaevna and her whole
future are involved in the matter, and all this depends to some extent on what
we decide. You are indis- pensable, you'll see for yourself. So if you are still
devoted to Natalya Nikolaevna, you can't refuse to go frankly into things with
me, however little sympathy you may feel for me. But here we are . . . a