The Brothers Karamazov
The Confession of a Passionate Heart — “Heels Up”
“NOW,” said Alyosha, “I understand the first half.”
“You understand the first half. That half is a drama, and it was played out there. The second half is a tragedy, and it is being acted here.”
“And I understand nothing of that second half so far,” said Alyosha.
“And I? Do you suppose I understand it?”
“Stop, Dmitri. There’s one important question. Tell me, you were betrothed, betrothed still?”
“We weren’t betrothed at once, not for three months after that adventure. The next day I told myself that the incident was closed, concluded, that there would be no sequel. It seemed to me caddish to make her an offer. On her side she gave no sign of life for the six weeks that she remained in the town; except, indeed, for one action. The day after her visit the maid-servant slipped round with an envelope addressed to me. I tore it open; it contained the change out of the banknote. Only four thousand five hundred roubles was needed, but there was a discount of about two hundred on changing it. She only sent me about two hundred and sixty. I don’t remember exactly, but not a note, not a word of explanation. I searched the packet for a pencil mark n-nothing! Well, I spent the rest of the money on such an orgy that the new major was obliged to reprimand me.
“Well, the lieutenant-colonel produced the battalion money, to the astonishment of everyone, for nobody believed that he had the money untouched. He’d no sooner paid it than he fell ill, took to his bed, and, three weeks later, softening of the brain set in, and he died five days afterwards. He was buried with military honours, for he had not had time to receive his discharge. Ten days after his funeral, Katerina Ivanovna, with her aunt and sister, went to Moscow. And, behold, on the very day they went away (I hadn’t seen them, didn’t see them off or take leave) I received a tiny note, a sheet of thin blue paper, and on it only one line in pencil: ‘I will write to you. Wait. K.’ And that was all.
“I’ll explain the rest now, in two words. In Moscow their fortunes changed with the swiftness of lightning and the unexpectedness of an Arabian fairy-tale. That general’s widow, their nearest relation, suddenly lost the two nieces who were her heiresses and next-of-kin — both died in the same week of small-pox. The old lady, prostrated with grief, welcomed Katya as a daughter, as her one hope, clutched at her, altered her will in Katya’s favour. But that concerned the future. Meanwhile she gave her, for present use, eighty thousand roubles, as a marriage portion, to do what she liked with. She was an hysterical woman. I saw something of her in Moscow, later.
“Well, suddenly I received by post four thousand five hundred roubles. I was speechless with surprise, as you may suppose. Three days later came the promised letter. I have it with me now. You must read it. She offers to be my wife, offers herself to me. ‘I love you madly, she says, ‘even if you don’t love me, never mind. Be my husband. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hamper you in any way. I will be your chattel. I will be the carpet under your feet. I want to love you for ever. I want to save you from yourself.’ Alyosha, I am not worthy to repeat those lines in my vulgar words and in my vulgar tone, my everlastingly vulgar tone, that I can never cure myself of. That letter stabs me even now. Do you think I don’t mind — that I don’t mind still? I wrote her an answer at once, as it was impossible for me to go to Moscow. I wrote to her with tears. One thing I shall be ashamed of for ever. I referred to her being rich and having a dowry while I was only a stuck-up beggar! I mentioned money! I ought to have borne it in silence, but it slipped from my pen. Then I wrote at once to Ivan, and told him all I could about it in a letter of six pages, and sent him to her. Why do you look like that? Why are you staring at me? Yes, Ivan fell in love with her; he’s in love with her still. I know that. I did a stupid thing, in the world’s opinion; but perhaps that one stupid thing may be the saving of us all now. Oo! Don’t you see what a lot she thinks of Ivan, how she respects him? When she compares us, do you suppose she can love a man like me, especially after all that has happened here?”
“But I’m convinced that she does love a man like you, and not a man like him.”
“She loves her own virtue, not me.” The words broke involuntarily, and almost malignantly, from Dmitri. He laughed, but a minute later his eyes gleamed, he flushed crimson and struck the table violently with his fist.
“I swear, Alyosha,” he cried, with intense and genuine anger at himself; “You may not believe me, but as God is Holy, and as Christ is God, I swear that though I smiled at her lofty sentiments just now, I know that I am a million times baser in soul than she, and that these lofty sentiments of hers are as sincere as a heavenly angel’s. That’s the tragedy of it — that I know that for certain. What if anyone does show off a bit? Don’t I do it myself? And yet I’m sincere, I’m sincere. As for Ivan, I can understand how he must be cursing nature now with his intellect, too! To see the preference given — to whom, to what? To a monster who, though he is betrothed and all eyes are fixed on him, can’t restrain his debaucheries — and before the very eyes of his betrothed! And a man like me is preferred, while he is rejected. And why? Because a girl wants to sacrifice her life and destiny out of gratitude. It’s ridiculous! I’ve never said a word of this to Ivan, and Ivan of course has never dropped a hint of the sort to me. But destiny will be accomplished, and the best man will hold his ground while the undeserving one will vanish into his back-alley for ever — his filthy back-alley, his beloved back-alley, where he is at home and where he will sink in filth and stench at his own free will and with enjoyment. I’ve been talking foolishly. I’ve no words left. I used them at random, but it will be as I have said. I shall drown in the back-alley, and she will marry Ivan.”
“Stop, Dmitri,” Alyosha interrupted again with great anxiety. “There’s one thing you haven’t made clear yet: you are still betrothed all the same, aren’t you? How can you break off the engagement if she, your betrothed, doesn’t want to?”
“Yes, formally and solemnly betrothed. It was all done on my arrival in Moscow, with great ceremony, with ikons, all in fine style. The general’s wife blessed us, and — would you believe it?— congratulated Katya. You’ve made a good choice,’ she said, ‘I see right through him.’ And — would you believe it? — she didn’t like Ivan, and hardly greeted him. I had a lot of talk with Katya in Moscow. I told her about myself — sincerely, honourably. She listened to everything.
There was sweet confusion,
Though there were proud words, too. She wrung out of me a mighty promise to reform. I gave my promise, and here — ”
“Why, I called to you and brought you out here to-day, this very day — remember it — to send you — this very day again — to Katerina Ivanovna, and — ”
“To tell her that I shall never come to see her again. Say, ‘He sends you his compliments.’”
“But is that possible?”
“That’s just the reason I’m sending you, in my place, because it’s impossible. And, how could I tell her myself?”
“And where are you going?”
“To the back-alley.”
“To Grushenka, then!” Alyosha exclaimed mournfully, clasping his hands. “Can Rakitin really have told the truth? I thought that you had just visited her, and that was all.”
“Can a betrothed man pay such visits? Is such a thing possible and with such a betrothed, and before the eyes of all the world? Confound it, I have some honour! As soon as I began visiting Grushenka, I ceased to be betrothed, and to be an honest man. I understand that. Why do you look at me? You see, I went in the first place to beat her. I had heard, and I know for a fact now, that that captain, father’s agent, had given Grushenka an I.O.U. of mine for her to sue me for payment, so as to put an end to me. They wanted to scare me. I went to beat her. I had had a glimpse of her before. She doesn’t strike one at first sight. I knew about her old merchant, who’s lying ill now, paralysed; but he’s leaving her a decent little sum. I knew, too, that she was fond of money, that she hoarded it, and lent it at a wicked rate of interest, that she’s a merciless cheat and swindler. I went to beat her, and I stayed. The storm broke — it struck me down like the plague. I’m plague-stricken still, and I know that everything is over, that there will never be anything more for me. The cycle of the ages is accomplished. That’s my position. And though I’m a beggar, as fate would have it, I had three thousand just then in my pocket. I drove with Grushenka to Mokroe, a place twenty-five versts from here. I got Gypsies there and champagne and made all the peasants there drunk on it, and all the women and girls. I sent the thousands flying. In three days’ time I was stripped bare, but a hero. Do you suppose the hero had gained his end? Not a sign of it from her. I tell you that rogue, Grushenka, has a supple curve all over her body. You can see it in her little foot, even in her little toe. I saw it, and kissed it, but that was all, I swear! ‘I’ll marry you if you like,’ she said, ‘you’re a beggar, you know. Say that you won’t beat me, and will let me do anything I choose, and perhaps I will marry you.’ She laughed, and she’s laughing still!”
Dmitri leapt up with a sort of fury. He seemed all at once as though he were drunk. His eyes became suddenly bloodshot.
“And do you really mean to marry her?”
“At once, if she will. And if she won’t, I shall stay all the same. I’ll be the porter at her gate. Alyosha!” he cried. He stopped short before him, and taking him by the shoulders began shaking him violently. “Do you know, you innocent boy, that this is all delirium, senseless delirium, for there’s a tragedy here. Let me tell you, Alexey, that I may be a low man, with low and degraded passions, but a thief and a pickpocket Dmitri Karamazov never can be. Well, then; let me tell you that I am a thief and a pickpocket. That very morning, just before I went to beat Grushenka, Katerina Ivanovna sent for me, and in strict secrecy (why I don’t know, I suppose she had some reason) asked me to go to the chief town of the province and to post three thousand roubles to Agafya Ivanovna in Moscow, so that nothing should be known of it in the town here. So I had that three thousand roubles in my pocket when I went to see Grushenka, and it was that money we spent at Mokroe. Afterwards I pretended I had been to the town, but did not show her the post office receipt. I said I had sent the money and would bring the receipt, and so far I haven’t brought it. I’ve forgotten it. Now what do you think you’re going to her to-day to say? ‘He sends his compliments,’ and she’ll ask you, ‘What about the money?’ You might still have said to her, ‘He’s a degraded sensualist, and a low creature, with uncontrolled passions. He didn’t send your money then, but wasted it, because, like a low brute, he couldn’t control himself.’ But still you might have added, ‘He isn’t a thief though. Here is your three thousand; he sends it back. Send it yourself to Agafya Ivanovna. But he told me to say “he sends his compliments.” But, as it is, she will ask, ‘But where is the money?’”
“Mitya, you are unhappy, yes! But not as unhappy as you think. Don’t worry yourself to death with despair.”
“What, do you suppose I’d shoot myself because I can’t get three thousand to pay back? That’s just it. I shan’t shoot myself. I haven’t the strength now. Afterwards, perhaps. But now I’m going to Grushenka. I don’t care what happens.”
“And what then?”
“I’ll be her husband if she deigns to have me, and when lovers come, I’ll go into the next room. I’ll clean her friends’ goloshes, blow up their samovar, run their errands.”
“Katerina Ivanovna will understand it all,” Alyosha said solemnly. “She’ll understand how great this trouble is and will forgive. She has a lofty mind, and no one could be more unhappy than you. She’ll see that for herself.”
“She won’t forgive everything,” said Dmitri, with a grin. “There’s something in it, brother, that no woman could forgive. Do you know what would be the best thing to do?”
“Pay back the three thousand.”
“Where can we get it from? I say, I have two thousand. Ivan will give you another thousand — that makes three. Take it and pay it back.”
“And when would you get it, your three thousand? You’re not of age, besides, and you must — you absolutely must — take my farewell to her to-day, with the money or without it, for I can’t drag on any longer, things have come to such a pass. To-morrow is too late. I shall send you to father.”
“Yes, to father first. Ask him for three thousand.”
“But, Mitya, he won’t give it.”
“As though he would! I know he won’t. Do you know the meaning of despair, Alexey?”
“Listen. Legally he owes me nothing. I’ve had it all from him, I know that. But morally he owes me something, doesn’t he? You know he started with twenty-eight thousand of my mother’s money and made a hundred thousand with it. Let him give me back only three out of the twenty-eight thousand, and he’ll draw my soul out of hell, and it will atone for many of his sins. For that three thousand — I give you my solemn word — I’ll make an end of everything, and he shall hear nothing more of me. For the last time I give him the chance to be a father. Tell him God Himself sends him this chance.”
“Mitya, he won’t give it for anything.”
“I know he won’t. I know it perfectly well. Now, especially. That’s not all. I know something more. Now, only a few days ago, perhaps only yesterday he found out for the first time in earnest (underline in earnest) that Grushenka is really perhaps not joking, and really means to marry me. He knows her nature; he knows the cat. And do you suppose he’s going to give me money to help to bring that about when he’s crazy about her himself? And that’s not all, either. I can tell you more than that. I know that for the last five days he has had three thousand drawn out of the bank, changed into notes of a hundred roubles. packed into a large envelope, sealed with five seals, and tied across with red tape. You see how well I know all about it! On the envelope is written: ‘To my angel, Grushenka, when she will come to me.’ He scrawled it himself in silence and in secret, and no one knows that the money’s there except the valet, Smerdyakov, whom he trusts like himself. So now he has been expecting Grushenka for the last three or four days; he hopes she’ll come for the money. He has sent her word of it, and she has sent him word that perhaps she’ll come. And if she does go to the old man, can I marry her after that? You understand now why I’m here in secret and what I’m on the watch for.”
“Yes, for her. Foma has a room in the house of these sluts here. Foma comes from our parts; he was a soldier in our regiment. He does jobs for them. He’s watchman at night and goes grouse-shooting in the day-time; and that’s how he lives. I’ve established myself in his room. Neither he nor the women of the house know the secret— that is, that I am on the watch here.”
“No one but Smerdyakov knows, then?”
“No one else. He will let me know if she goes to the old man.”
“It was he told you about the money, then?”
“Yes. It’s a dead secret. Even Ivan doesn’t know about the money, or anything. The old man is sending Ivan to Tchermashnya on a two or three days’ journey. A purchaser has turned up for the copse: he’ll give eight thousand for the timber. So the old man keeps asking Ivan to help him by going to arrange it. It will take him two or three days. That’s what the old man wants, so that Grushenka can come while he’s away.”
“Then he’s expecting Grushenka to-day?”
“No, she won’t come to-day; there are signs, She’s certain not to come,” cried Mitya suddenly. “Smerdyakov thinks so, too. Father’s drinking now. He’s sitting at table with Ivan. Go to him, Alyosha, and ask for the three thousand.”
“Mitya, dear, what’s the matter with you?” cried Alyosha, jumping up from his place, and looking keenly at his brother’s frenzied face. For one moment the thought struck him that Dmitri was mad.
“What is it? I’m not insane,” said Dmitri, looking intently and earnestly at him. “No fear. I am sending you to father, and I know what I’m saying. I believe in miracles.”
“In a miracle of Divine Providence. God knows my heart. He sees my despair. He sees the whole picture. Surely He won’t let something awful happen. Alyosha, I believe in miracles. Go!”
“I am going. Tell me, will you wait for me here?”
“Yes. I know it will take some time. You can’t go at him point blank. He’s drunk now. I’ll wait three hours — four, five, six, seven. Only remember you must go to Katerina Ivanovna to-day, if it has to be at midnight, with the money or without the money, and say, ‘He sends his compliments to you.’ I want you to say that verse to her: ‘He sends his compliments to you.’”
“Mitya! And what if Grushenka comes to-day — if not to-day, or the next day?”
“Grushenka? I shall see her. I shall rush out and prevent it.”
“And if — ?”
“If there’s an if, it will be murder. I couldn’t endure it.”
“Who will be murdered?”
“The old man. I shan’t kill her.”
“Brother, what are you saying?”
“Oh, I don’t know.... I don’t know. Perhaps I shan’t kill, and perhaps I shall. I’m afraid that he will suddenly become so loathsome to me with his face at that moment. I hate his ugly throat, his nose, his eyes, his shameless snigger. I feel a physical repulsion. That’s what I’m afraid of. That’s what may be too much for me.”
“I’ll go, Mitya. I believe that God will order things for the best, that nothing awful may happen.”
“And I will sit and wait for the miracle. And if it doesn’t come to pass — ”
Alyosha went thoughtfully towards his father’s house.