“It’s Always Worth While Speaking to a Clever Man”

AND in the same nervous frenzy, too, he spoke. Meeting Fyodor Pavlovitch in the drawing-room directly he went in, he shouted to him, waving his hands, “I am going upstairs to my room, not in to you. Good-bye!” and passed by, trying not even to look at his father. Very possibly the old man was too hateful to him at that moment; but such an unceremonious display of hostility was a surprise even to Fyodor Pavlovitch. And the old man evidently wanted to tell him something at once and had come to meet him in the drawing-room on purpose. Receiving this amiable greeting, he stood still in silence and with an ironical air watched his son going upstairs, till he passed out of sight.

“What’s the matter with him?” he promptly asked Smerdyakov, who had followed Ivan.

“Angry about something. Who can tell?” the valet muttered evasively.

“Confound him! Let him be angry then. Bring in the samovar, and get along with you. Look sharp! No news?”

Then followed a series of questions such as Smerdyakov had just complained of to Ivan, all relating to his expected visitor, and these questions we will omit. Half an hour later the house was locked, and the crazy old man was wandering along through the rooms in excited expectation of hearing every minute the five knocks agreed upon. Now and then he peered out into the darkness, seeing nothing.

It was very late, but Ivan was still awake and reflecting. He sat up late that night, till two o’clock. But we will not give an account of his thoughts, and this is not the place to look into that soul – its turn will come. And even if one tried, it would be very hard to give an account of them, for there were no thoughts in his brain, but something very vague, and, above all, intense excitement. He felt himself that he had lost his bearings. He was fretted, too, by all sorts of strange and almost surprising desires; for instance, after midnight he suddenly had an intense irresistible inclination to go down, open the door, go to the lodge and beat Smerdyakov. But if he had been asked why, he could not have given any exact reason, except perhaps that he loathed the valet as one who had insulted him more gravely than anyone in the world. On the other hand, he was more than once that night overcome by a sort of inexplicable humiliating terror, which he felt positively paralysed his physical powers. His head ached and he was giddy. A feeling of hatred was rankling in his heart, as though he meant to avenge himself on someone. He even hated Alyosha, recalling the conversation he had just had with him. At moments he hated himself intensely. Of Katerina Ivanovna he almost forgot to think, and wondered greatly at this afterwards, especially as he remembered perfectly that when he had protested so valiantly to Katerina Ivanovna that he would go away next day to Moscow, something had whispered in his heart, “That’s nonsense, you are not going, and it won’t be so easy to tear yourself away as you are boasting now.”

Remembering that night long afterwards, Ivan recalled with peculiar repulsion how he had suddenly got up from the sofa and had stealthily, as though he were afraid of being watched, opened the door, gone out on the staircase and listened to Fyodor Pavlovitch stirring down below, had listened a long while – some five minutes- with a sort of strange curiosity, holding his breath while his heart throbbed. And why he had done all this, why he was listening, he could not have said. That “action” all his life afterwards he called “infamous,” and at the bottom of his heart, he thought of it as the basest action of his life. For Fyodor Pavlovitch himself he felt no hatred at that moment, but was simply intensely curious to know how he was walking down there below and what he must be doing now. He wondered and imagined how he must be peeping out of the dark windows and stopping in the middle of the room, listening, listening – for someone to knock. Ivan went out on the stairs twice to listen like this.

About two o’clock when everything was quiet, and even Fyodor Pavlovitch had gone to bed, Ivan had got into bed, firmly resolved to fall asleep at once, as he felt fearfully exhausted. And he did fall asleep at once, and slept soundly without dreams, but waked early, at seven o’clock, when it was broad daylight. Opening his eyes, he was surprised to feel himself extraordinarily vigorous. He jumped up at once and dressed quickly; then dragged out his trunk and began packing immediately. His linen had come back from the laundress the previous morning. Ivan positively smiled at the thought that everything was helping his sudden departure. And his departure certainly was sudden. Though Ivan had said the day before (to Katerina Ivanovna, Alyosha, and Smerdyakov) that he was leaving next day, yet he remembered that he had no thought of departure when he went to bed, or, at least, had not dreamed that his first act in the morning would be to pack his trunk. At last his trunk and bag were ready. It was about nine o’clock when Marfa Ignatyevna came in with her usual inquiry, “Where will your honour take your tea, in your own room or downstairs?” He looked almost cheerful, but there was about him, about his words and gestures, something hurried and scattered. Greeting his father affably, and even inquiring specially after his health, though he did not wait to hear his answer to the end, he announced that he was starting off in an hour to return to Moscow for good, and begged him to send for the horses. His father heard this announcement with no sign of surprise, and forgot in an unmannerly way to show regret at losing him. Instead of doing so, he flew into a great flutter at the recollection of some important business of his own.

“What a fellow you are! Not to tell me yesterday! Never mind; we’ll manage it all the same. Do me a great service, my dear boy. Go to Tchermashnya on the way. It’s only to turn to the left from the station at Volovya, only another twelve versts and you come to Tchermashnya.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s eighty versts to the railway and the train starts for Moscow at seven o’clock to-night. I can only just catch it.”

“You’ll catch it to-morrow or the day after, but to-day turn off to Tchermashnya. It won’t put you out much to humour your father! If I hadn’t had something to keep me here, I would have run over myself long ago, for I’ve some business there in a hurry. But here I… it’s not the time for me to go now…. You see, I’ve two pieces of copse land there. The Maslovs, an old merchant and his son, will give eight thousand for the timber. But last year I just missed a purchaser who would have given twelve. There’s no getting anyone about here to buy it. The Maslovs have it all their own way. One has to take what they’ll give, for no one here dare bid against them. The priest at Ilyinskoe wrote to me last Thursday that a merchant called Gorstkin, a man I know, had turned up. What makes him valuable is that he is not from these parts, so he is not afraid of the Maslovs. He says he will give me eleven thousand for the copse. Do you hear? But he’ll only be here, the priest writes, for a week altogether, so you must go at once and make a bargain with him.”

“Well, you write to the priest; he’ll make the bargain.”

“He can’t do it. He has no eye for business. He is a perfect treasure, I’d give him twenty thousand to take care of for me without a receipt; but he has no eye for business, he is a perfect child, a crow could deceive him. And yet he is a learned man, would you believe it? This Gorstkin looks like a peasant, he wears a blue kaftan, but he is a regular rogue. That’s the common complaint. He is a liar. Sometimes he tells such lies that you wonder why he is doing it. He told me the year before last that his wife was dead and that he had married another, and would you believe it, there was not a word of truth in it? His wife has never died at all, she is alive to this day and gives him a beating twice a week. So what you have to find out is whether he is lying or speaking the truth when he says he wants to buy it and would give eleven thousand.”

“I shall be no use in such a business. I have no eye either.”

“Stay, wait a bit! You will be of use, for I will tell you the signs by which you can judge about Gorstkin. I’ve done business with him a long time. You see, you must watch his beard; he has a nasty, thin, red beard. If his beard shakes when he talks and he gets cross, it’s all right, he is saying what he means, he wants to do business. But if he strokes his beard with his left hand and grins – he is trying to cheat you. Don’t watch his eyes, you won’t find out anything from his eyes, he is a deep one, a rogue but watch his beard! I’ll give you a note and you show it to him. He’s called Gorstkin, though his real name is Lyagavy;10 but don’t call him so, he will be offended. If you come to an understanding with him, and see it’s all right, write here at once. You need only write: ‘He’s not lying.’ Stand out for eleven thousand; one thousand you can knock off, but not more. just think! there’s a difference between eight thousand and eleven thousand. It’s as good as picking up three thousand; it’s not so easy to find a purchaser, and I’m in desperate need of money. Only let me know it’s serious, and I’ll run over and fix it up. I’ll snatch the time somehow. But what’s the good of my galloping over, if it’s all a notion of the priest’s? Come, will you go?”

10 i.e. setter dog.

“Oh, I can’t spare the time. You must excuse me.”

“Come, you might oblige your father. I shan’t forget it. You’ve no heart, any of you that’s what it is! What’s a day or two to you? Where are you going now – to Venice? Your Venice will keep another two days. I would have sent Alyosha, but what use is Alyosha in a thing like that? I send you just because you are a clever fellow. Do you suppose I don’t see that? You know nothing about timber, but you’ve got an eye. All that is wanted is to see whether the man is in earnest. I tell you, watch his beard – if his beard shakes you know he is in earnest.”

“You force me to go to that damned Tchermashnya yourself, then?” cried Ivan, with a malignant smile.

Fyodor Pavlovitch did not catch, or would not catch, the malignancy, but he caught the smile.

“Then you’ll go, you’ll go? I’ll scribble the note for you at once.”

“I don’t know whether I shall go. I don’t know. I’ll decide on the way.”

“Nonsense! Decide at once. My dear fellow, decide! If you settle the matter, write me a line; give it to the priest and he’ll send it on to me at once. And I won’t delay you more than that. You can go to Venice. The priest will give you horses back to Volovya station.”

The old man was quite delighted. He wrote the note, and sent for the horses. A light lunch was brought in, with brandy. When Fyodor Pavlovitch was pleased, he usually became expansive, but to-day he seemed to restrain himself. Of Dmitri, for instance, he did not say a word. He was quite unmoved by the parting, and seemed, in fact, at a loss for something to say. Ivan noticed this particularly. “He must be bored with me,” he thought. Only when accompanying his son out on to the steps, the old man began to fuss about. He would have kissed him, but Ivan made haste to hold out his hand, obviously avoiding the kiss. His father saw it at once, and instantly pulled himself up.

“Well, good luck to you, good luck to you!” he repeated from the steps. “You’ll come again some time or other? Mind you do come. I shall always be glad to see you. Well, Christ be with you!”

Ivan got into the carriage.

“Good-bye, Ivan! Don’t be too hard on me!” the father called for the last time.

The whole household came out to take leave – Smerdyakov, Marfa and Grigory. Ivan gave them ten roubles each. When he had seated himself in the carriage, Smerdyakov jumped up to arrange the rug.

“You see… I am going to Tchermashnya,” broke suddenly from Ivan. Again, as the day before, the words seemed to drop of themselves, and he laughed, too, a peculiar, nervous laugh. He remembered it long after.

“It’s a true saying then, that ‘it’s always worth while speaking to a clever man,’” answered Smerdyakov firmly, looking significantly at Ivan.

The carriage rolled away. Nothing was clear in Ivan’s soul, but he looked eagerly around him at the fields, at the hills, at the trees, at a flock of geese flying high overhead in the bright sky. And all of a sudden he felt very happy. He tried to talk to the driver, and he felt intensely interested in an answer the peasant made him; but a minute later he realised that he was not catching anything, and that he had not really even taken in the peasant’s answer. He was silent, and it was pleasant even so. The air was pure and cool, sky bright. The images of Alyosha and Katerina Ivanovna floated into his mind. But he softly smiled, blew softly on the friendly phantoms, and they flew away. “There’s plenty of time for them,” he thought. They reached the station quickly, changed horses, and galloped to Volovya “Why is it worth while speaking to a clever man? What did he mean by that?” The thought seemed suddenly to clutch at his breathing. “And why did I tell him I was going to Tchermashnya?” They reached Volovya station. Ivan got out of the carriage, and the drivers stood round him bargaining over the journey of twelve versts to Tchermashnya. He told them to harness the horses. He went into the station house, looked round, glanced at the overseer’s wife, and suddenly went back to the entrance.

“I won’t go to Tchermashnya. Am I too late to reach the railway by seven, brothers?”

“We shall just do it. Shall we get the carriage out?”

“At once. Will any one of you be going to the town to-morrow?”

“To be sure. Mitri here will.”

“Can you do me a service, Mitri? Go to my father’s, to Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, and tell him I haven’t gone to Tchermashnya. Can you?”

“Of course I can. I’ve known Fyodor Pavlovitch a long time.”

“And here’s something for you, for I dare say he won’t give you anything,” said Ivan, laughing gaily.

“You may depend on it he won’t.” Mitri laughed too. “Thank you, sir. I’ll be sure to do it.”

At seven o’clock Ivan got into the train and set off to Moscow. “Away with the past. I’ve done with the old world for ever, and may I have no news, no echo, from it. To a new life, new places, and no looking back!” But instead of delight his soul was filled with such gloom, and his heart ached with such anguish, as he had never known in his life before. He was thinking all the night. The train flew on, and only at daybreak, when he was approaching Moscow, he suddenly roused himself from his meditation.

“I am a scoundrel,” he whispered to himself.

Fyodor Pavlovitch remained well satisfied at having seen his son off. For two hours afterwards he felt almost happy, and sat drinking brandy. But suddenly something happened which was very annoying and unpleasant for everyone in the house, and completely upset Fyodor Pavlovitch’s equanimity at once. Smerdyakov went to the cellar for something and fell down from the top of the steps. Fortunately, Marfa Ignatyevna was in the yard and heard him in time. She did not see the fall, but heard his scream – the strange, peculiar scream, long familiar to her – the scream of the epileptic falling in a fit. They could not tell whether the fit had come on him at the moment he was decending the steps, so that he must have fallen unconscious, or whether it was the fall and the shock that had caused the fit in Smerdyakov, who was known to be liable to them. They found him at the bottom of the cellar steps, writhing in convulsions and foaming at the mouth. It was thought at first that he must have broken something- an arm or a leg – and hurt himself, but “God had preserved him,” as Marfa Ignatyevna expressed it – nothing of the kind had happened. But it was difficult to get him out of the cellar. They asked the neighbours to help and managed it somehow. Fyodor Pavlovitch himself was present at the whole ceremony. He helped, evidently alarmed and upset. The sick man did not regain consciousness; the convulsions ceased for a time, but then began again, and everyone concluded that the same thing would happen, as had happened a year before, when he accidently fell from the garret. They remembered that ice been put on his head then. There was still ice in the cellar, and Marfa Ignatyevna had some brought up. In the evening, Fyodor Pavlovitch sent for Doctor Herzenstube, who arrived at once. He was a most estimable old man, and the most careful and conscientious doctor in the province. After careful examination, he concluded that the fit was a very violent one and might have serious consequences; that meanwhile he, Herzenstube, did not fully understand it, but that by to-morrow morning, if the present remedies were unavailing, he would venture to try something else. The invalid was taken to the lodge, to a room next to Grigory’s and Marfa Ignatyevna’s.

Then Fyodor Pavlovitch had one misfortune after another to put up with that day. Marfa Ignatyevna cooked the dinner, and the soup, compared with Smerdyakov’s, was “no better than dish-water,” and the fowl was so dried up that it was impossible to masticate it. To her master’s bitter, though deserved, reproaches, Marfa Ignatyevna replied that the fowl was a very old one to begin with, and that she had never been trained as a cook. In the evening there was another trouble in store for Fyodor Pavlovitch; he was informed that Grigory, who had not been well for the last three days, was completely laid up by his lumbago. Fyodor Pavlovitch finished his tea as early as possible and locked himself up alone in the house. He was in terrible excitement and suspense. That evening he reckoned on Grushenka’s coming almost as a certainty. He had received from Smerdyakov that morning an assurance “that she had promised to come without fail.” The incorrigible old man’s heart throbbed with excitement; he paced up and down his empty rooms listening. He had to be on the alert. Dmitri might be on the watch for her somewhere, and when she knocked on the window (Smerdyakov had informed him two days before that he had told her where and how to knock) the door must be opened at once. She must not be a second in the passage, for fear which God forbid! – that she should be frightened and run away. Fyodor Pavlovitch had much to think of, but never had his heart been steeped in such voluptuous hopes. This time he could say almost certainly that she would come!

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