Very early, at nine o'clock in the morning, five days after the trial, Alyosha went to Katerina Ivanovna's to talk over a matter of great importance to both of them, and to give her a message. She sat and talked to him in the very room in which she had once received Grushenka. In the next room Ivan Fyodorovitch lay unconscious in a high fever. Katerina Ivanovna had immediately after the scene at the trial ordered the sick and unconscious man to be carried to her house, disregarding the inevitable gossip and general disapproval of the public. One of the two relations who lived with her had departed to Moscow immediately after the scene in court, the other remained. But if both had gone away, Katerina Ivanovna would have adhered to her resolution, and would have gone on nursing the sick man and sitting by him day and night. Varvinsky and Herzenstube were attending him. The famous doctor had gone back to Moscow, refusing to give an opinion as to the probable end of the illness. Though the doctors encouraged Katerina Ivanovna and Alyosha, it was evident that they could not yet give them positive hopes of recovery.
Alyosha came to see his sick brother twice a day. But this time he had specially urgent business, and he foresaw how difficult it would be to approach the subject, yet he was in great haste. He had another engagement that could not be put off for that same morning, and there was need of haste.
They had been talking for a quarter of an hour. Katerina Ivanovna was pale and terribly fatigued, yet at the same time in a state of hysterical excitement. She had a presentiment of the reason why Alyosha had come to her.
“Don't worry about his decision,” she said, with confident emphasis to Alyosha. “One way or another he is bound to come to it. He must escape. That unhappy man, that hero of honor and principle—not he, not Dmitri Fyodorovitch, but the man lying the other side of that door, who has sacrificed himself for his brother,” Katya added, with flashing eyes—“told me the whole plan of escape long ago. You know he has already entered into negotiations.... I've told you something already.... You see, it will probably come off at the third étape from here, when the party of prisoners is being taken to Siberia. Oh, it's a long way off yet. Ivan Fyodorovitch has already visited the superintendent of the third étape. But we don't know yet who will be in charge of the party, and it's impossible to find that out so long beforehand. To-morrow perhaps I will show you in detail the whole plan which Ivan Fyodorovitch left me on the eve of the trial in case of need.... That was when—do you remember?—you found us quarreling. He had just gone down-stairs, but seeing you I made him come back; do you remember? Do you know what we were quarreling about then?”
“No, I don't,” said Alyosha.
“Of course he did not tell you. It was about that plan of escape. He had told me the main idea three days before, and we began quarreling about it at once and quarreled for three days. We quarreled because, when he told me that if Dmitri Fyodorovitch were convicted he would escape abroad with that creature, I felt furious at once—I can't tell you why, I don't know myself why.... Oh, of course, I was furious then about that creature, and that she, too, should go abroad with Dmitri!” Katerina Ivanovna exclaimed suddenly, her lips quivering with anger. “As soon as Ivan Fyodorovitch saw that I was furious about that woman, he instantly imagined I was jealous of Dmitri and that I still loved Dmitri. That is how our first quarrel began. I would not give an explanation, I could not ask forgiveness. I could not bear to think that such a man could suspect me of still loving that ... and when I myself had told him long before that I did not love Dmitri, that I loved no one but him! It was only resentment against that creature that made me angry with him. Three days later, on the evening you came, he brought me a sealed envelope, which I was to open at once, if anything happened to him. Oh, he foresaw his illness! He told me [pg 857] that the envelope contained the details of the escape, and that if he died or was taken dangerously ill, I was to save Mitya alone. Then he left me money, nearly ten thousand—those notes to which the prosecutor referred in his speech, having learnt from some one that he had sent them to be changed. I was tremendously impressed to find that Ivan Fyodorovitch had not given up his idea of saving his brother, and was confiding this plan of escape to me, though he was still jealous of me and still convinced that I loved Mitya. Oh, that was a sacrifice! No, you cannot understand the greatness of such self-sacrifice, Alexey Fyodorovitch. I wanted to fall at his feet in reverence, but I thought at once that he would take it only for my joy at the thought of Mitya's being saved (and he certainly would have imagined that!), and I was so exasperated at the mere possibility of such an unjust thought on his part that I lost my temper again, and instead of kissing his feet, flew into a fury again! Oh, I am unhappy! It's my character, my awful, unhappy character! Oh, you will see, I shall end by driving him, too, to abandon me for another with whom he can get on better, like Dmitri. But ... no, I could not bear it, I should kill myself. And when you came in then, and when I called to you and told him to come back, I was so enraged by the look of contempt and hatred he turned on me that—do you remember?—I cried out to you that it was he, he alone who had persuaded me that his brother Dmitri was a murderer! I said that malicious thing on purpose to wound him again. He had never, never persuaded me that his brother was a murderer. On the contrary, it was I who persuaded him! Oh, my vile temper was the cause of everything! I paved the way to that hideous scene at the trial. He wanted to show me that he was an honorable man, and that, even if I loved his brother, he would not ruin him for revenge or jealousy. So he came to the court ... I am the cause of it all, I alone am to blame!”
Katya never had made such confessions to Alyosha before, and he felt that she was now at that stage of unbearable suffering when even the proudest heart painfully crushes its pride and falls vanquished by grief. Oh, Alyosha knew another terrible reason of her present misery, though she had carefully concealed it from him during those days since the trial; but it would have been for some reason too painful to him if she had been brought so low as to speak [pg 858] to him now about that. She was suffering for her “treachery” at the trial, and Alyosha felt that her conscience was impelling her to confess it to him, to him, Alyosha, with tears and cries and hysterical writhings on the floor. But he dreaded that moment and longed to spare her. It made the commission on which he had come even more difficult. He spoke of Mitya again.
“It's all right, it's all right, don't be anxious about him!” she began again, sharply and stubbornly. “All that is only momentary, I know him, I know his heart only too well. You may be sure he will consent to escape. It's not as though it would be immediately; he will have time to make up his mind to it. Ivan Fyodorovitch will be well by that time and will manage it all himself, so that I shall have nothing to do with it. Don't be anxious; he will consent to run away. He has agreed already: do you suppose he would give up that creature? And they won't let her go to him, so he is bound to escape. It's you he's most afraid of, he is afraid you won't approve of his escape on moral grounds. But you must generously allow it, if your sanction is so necessary,” Katya added viciously. She paused and smiled.
“He talks about some hymn,” she went on again, “some cross he has to bear, some duty; I remember Ivan Fyodorovitch told me a great deal about it, and if you knew how he talked!” Katya cried suddenly, with feeling she could not repress, “if you knew how he loved that wretched man at the moment he told me, and how he hated him, perhaps, at the same moment. And I heard his story and his tears with sneering disdain. Brute! Yes, I am a brute. I am responsible for his fever. But that man in prison is incapable of suffering,” Katya concluded irritably. “Can such a man suffer? Men like him never suffer!”
There was a note of hatred and contemptuous repulsion in her words. And yet it was she who had betrayed him. “Perhaps because she feels how she's wronged him she hates him at moments,” Alyosha thought to himself. He hoped that it was only “at moments.” In Katya's last words he detected a challenging note, but he did not take it up.
“I sent for you this morning to make you promise to persuade him yourself. Or do you, too, consider that to escape would be dishonorable, [pg 859] cowardly, or something ... unchristian, perhaps?” Katya added, even more defiantly.
“Oh, no. I'll tell him everything,” muttered Alyosha. “He asks you to come and see him to-day,” he blurted out suddenly, looking her steadily in the face. She started, and drew back a little from him on the sofa.
“Me? Can that be?” she faltered, turning pale.
“It can and ought to be!” Alyosha began emphatically, growing more animated. “He needs you particularly just now. I would not have opened the subject and worried you, if it were not necessary. He is ill, he is beside himself, he keeps asking for you. It is not to be reconciled with you that he wants you, but only that you would go and show yourself at his door. So much has happened to him since that day. He realizes that he has injured you beyond all reckoning. He does not ask your forgiveness—‘It's impossible to forgive me,’ he says himself—but only that you would show yourself in his doorway.”
“It's so sudden....” faltered Katya. “I've had a presentiment all these days that you would come with that message. I knew he would ask me to come. It's impossible!”
“Let it be impossible, but do it. Only think, he realizes for the first time how he has wounded you, the first time in his life; he had never grasped it before so fully. He said, ‘If she refuses to come I shall be unhappy all my life.’ Do you hear? though he is condemned to penal servitude for twenty years, he is still planning to be happy—is not that piteous? Think—you must visit him; though he is ruined, he is innocent,” broke like a challenge from Alyosha. “His hands are clean, there is no blood on them! For the sake of his infinite sufferings in the future visit him now. Go, greet him on his way into the darkness—stand at his door, that is all.... You ought to do it, you ought to!” Alyosha concluded, laying immense stress on the word “ought.”
“I ought to ... but I cannot....” Katya moaned. “He will look at me.... I can't.”
“Your eyes ought to meet. How will you live all your life, if you don't make up your mind to do it now?”
“Better suffer all my life.”
“You ought to go, you ought to go,” Alyosha repeated with merciless emphasis.
“But why to-day, why at once?... I can't leave our patient—”
“You can for a moment. It will only be a moment. If you don't come, he will be in delirium by to-night. I would not tell you a lie; have pity on him!”
“Have pity on me!” Katya said, with bitter reproach, and she burst into tears.
“Then you will come,” said Alyosha firmly, seeing her tears. “I'll go and tell him you will come directly.”
“No, don't tell him so on any account,” cried Katya in alarm. “I will come, but don't tell him beforehand, for perhaps I may go, but not go in.... I don't know yet—”
Her voice failed her. She gasped for breath. Alyosha got up to go.
“And what if I meet any one?” she said suddenly, in a low voice, turning white again.
“That's just why you must go now, to avoid meeting any one. There will be no one there, I can tell you that for certain. We will expect you,” he concluded emphatically, and went out of the room.