On the way to Ivan he had to pass the house where Katerina Ivanovna was living. There was light in the windows. He suddenly stopped and resolved to go in. He had not seen Katerina Ivanovna for more than a week. But now it struck him that Ivan might be with her, especially on the eve of the terrible day. Ringing, and mounting the staircase, which was dimly lighted by a Chinese lantern, he saw a man coming down, and as they met, he recognized him as his brother. So he was just coming from Katerina Ivanovna.
“Ah, it's only you,” said Ivan dryly. “Well, good-by! You are going to her?”
“I don't advise you to; she's upset and you'll upset her more.”
A door was instantly flung open above, and a voice cried suddenly:
“No, no! Alexey Fyodorovitch, have you come from him?”
“Yes, I have been with him.”
“Has he sent me any message? Come up, Alyosha, and you, Ivan Fyodorovitch, you must come back, you must. Do you hear?”
There was such a peremptory note in Katya's voice that Ivan, after a moment's hesitation, made up his mind to go back with Alyosha.
“She was listening,” he murmured angrily to himself, but Alyosha heard it.
“Excuse my keeping my greatcoat on,” said Ivan, going into the [pg 676] drawing-room. “I won't sit down. I won't stay more than a minute.”
“Sit down, Alexey Fyodorovitch,” said Katerina Ivanovna, though she remained standing. She had changed very little during this time, but there was an ominous gleam in her dark eyes. Alyosha remembered afterwards that she had struck him as particularly handsome at that moment.
“What did he ask you to tell me?”
“Only one thing,” said Alyosha, looking her straight in the face, “that you would spare yourself and say nothing at the trial of what” (he was a little confused) “... passed between you ... at the time of your first acquaintance ... in that town.”
“Ah! that I bowed down to the ground for that money!” She broke into a bitter laugh. “Why, is he afraid for me or for himself? He asks me to spare—whom? Him or myself? Tell me, Alexey Fyodorovitch!”
Alyosha watched her intently, trying to understand her.
“Both yourself and him,” he answered softly.
“I am glad to hear it,” she snapped out maliciously, and she suddenly blushed.
“You don't know me yet, Alexey Fyodorovitch,” she said menacingly. “And I don't know myself yet. Perhaps you'll want to trample me under foot after my examination to-morrow.”
“You will give your evidence honorably,” said Alyosha; “that's all that's wanted.”
“Women are often dishonorable,” she snarled. “Only an hour ago I was thinking I felt afraid to touch that monster ... as though he were a reptile ... but no, he is still a human being to me! But did he do it? Is he the murderer?” she cried, all of a sudden, hysterically, turning quickly to Ivan. Alyosha saw at once that she had asked Ivan that question before, perhaps only a moment before he came in, and not for the first time, but for the hundredth, and that they had ended by quarreling.
“I've been to see Smerdyakov.... It was you, you who persuaded me that he murdered his father. It's only you I believed!” she continued, still addressing Ivan. He gave her a sort of strained smile. Alyosha started at her tone. He had not suspected such familiar intimacy between them.
“Well, that's enough, anyway,” Ivan cut short the conversation. “I am going. I'll come to-morrow.” And turning at once, he walked out of the room and went straight downstairs.
With an imperious gesture, Katerina Ivanovna seized Alyosha by both hands.
“Follow him! Overtake him! Don't leave him alone for a minute!” she said, in a hurried whisper. “He's mad! Don't you know that he's mad? He is in a fever, nervous fever. The doctor told me so. Go, run after him....”
Alyosha jumped up and ran after Ivan, who was not fifty paces ahead of him.
“What do you want?” He turned quickly on Alyosha, seeing that he was running after him. “She told you to catch me up, because I'm mad. I know it all by heart,” he added irritably.
“She is mistaken, of course; but she is right that you are ill,” said Alyosha. “I was looking at your face just now. You look very ill, Ivan.”
Ivan walked on without stopping. Alyosha followed him.
“And do you know, Alexey Fyodorovitch, how people do go out of their mind?” Ivan asked in a voice suddenly quiet, without a trace of irritation, with a note of the simplest curiosity.
“No, I don't. I suppose there are all kinds of insanity.”
“And can one observe that one's going mad oneself?”
“I imagine one can't see oneself clearly in such circumstances,” Alyosha answered with surprise.
Ivan paused for half a minute.
“If you want to talk to me, please change the subject,” he said suddenly.
“Oh, while I think of it, I have a letter for you,” said Alyosha timidly, and he took Lise's note from his pocket and held it out to Ivan. They were just under a lamp-post. Ivan recognized the handwriting at once.
“Ah, from that little demon!” he laughed maliciously, and, without opening the envelope, he tore it into bits and threw it in the air. The bits were scattered by the wind.
“She's not sixteen yet, I believe, and already offering herself,” he said contemptuously, striding along the street again.
“How do you mean, offering herself?” exclaimed Alyosha.
“As wanton women offer themselves, to be sure.”
“How can you, Ivan, how can you?” Alyosha cried warmly, in a grieved voice. “She is a child; you are insulting a child! She is ill; she is very ill, too. She is on the verge of insanity, too, perhaps.... I had hoped to hear something from you ... that would save her.”
“You'll hear nothing from me. If she is a child I am not her nurse. Be quiet, Alexey. Don't go on about her. I am not even thinking about it.”
They were silent again for a moment.
“She will be praying all night now to the Mother of God to show her how to act to-morrow at the trial,” he said sharply and angrily again.
“You ... you mean Katerina Ivanovna?”
“Yes. Whether she's to save Mitya or ruin him. She'll pray for light from above. She can't make up her mind for herself, you see. She has not had time to decide yet. She takes me for her nurse, too. She wants me to sing lullabies to her.”
“Katerina Ivanovna loves you, brother,” said Alyosha sadly.
“Perhaps; but I am not very keen on her.”
“She is suffering. Why do you ... sometimes say things to her that give her hope?” Alyosha went on, with timid reproach. “I know that you've given her hope. Forgive me for speaking to you like this,” he added.
“I can't behave to her as I ought—break off altogether and tell her so straight out,” said Ivan, irritably. “I must wait till sentence is passed on the murderer. If I break off with her now, she will avenge herself on me by ruining that scoundrel to-morrow at the trial, for she hates him and knows she hates him. It's all a lie—lie upon lie! As long as I don't break off with her, she goes on hoping, and she won't ruin that monster, knowing how I want to get him out of trouble. If only that damned verdict would come!”
The words “murderer” and “monster” echoed painfully in Alyosha's heart.
“But how can she ruin Mitya?” he asked, pondering on Ivan's words. “What evidence can she give that would ruin Mitya?”
“You don't know that yet. She's got a document in her hands, in Mitya's own writing, that proves conclusively that he did murder Fyodor Pavlovitch.”
“That's impossible!” cried Alyosha.
“Why is it impossible? I've read it myself.”
“There can't be such a document!” Alyosha repeated warmly. “There can't be, because he's not the murderer. It's not he murdered father, not he!”
Ivan suddenly stopped.
“Who is the murderer then, according to you?” he asked, with apparent coldness. There was even a supercilious note in his voice.
“You know who,” Alyosha pronounced in a low, penetrating voice.
“Who? You mean the myth about that crazy idiot, the epileptic, Smerdyakov?”
Alyosha suddenly felt himself trembling all over.
“You know who,” broke helplessly from him. He could scarcely breathe.
“Who? Who?” Ivan cried almost fiercely. All his restraint suddenly vanished.
“I only know one thing,” Alyosha went on, still almost in a whisper, “it wasn't you killed father.”
“ ‘Not you’! What do you mean by ‘not you’?” Ivan was thunderstruck.
“It was not you killed father, not you!” Alyosha repeated firmly.
The silence lasted for half a minute.
“I know I didn't. Are you raving?” said Ivan, with a pale, distorted smile. His eyes were riveted on Alyosha. They were standing again under a lamp-post.
“No, Ivan. You've told yourself several times that you are the murderer.”
“When did I say so? I was in Moscow.... When have I said so?” Ivan faltered helplessly.
“You've said so to yourself many times, when you've been alone during these two dreadful months,” Alyosha went on softly and distinctly as before. Yet he was speaking now, as it were, not of himself, not of his own will, but obeying some irresistible command. “You have accused yourself and have confessed to yourself that you are the murderer and no one else. But you didn't do it: you are mistaken: you are not the murderer. Do you hear? It was not you! God has sent me to tell you so.”
They were both silent. The silence lasted a whole long minute. They were both standing still, gazing into each other's eyes. They were both pale. Suddenly Ivan began trembling all over, and clutched Alyosha's shoulder.
“You've been in my room!” he whispered hoarsely. “You've been there at night, when he came.... Confess ... have you seen him, have you seen him?”
“Whom do you mean—Mitya?” Alyosha asked, bewildered.
“Not him, damn the monster!” Ivan shouted, in a frenzy. “Do you know that he visits me? How did you find out? Speak!”
“Who is he! I don't know whom you are talking about,” Alyosha faltered, beginning to be alarmed.
“Yes, you do know ... or how could you—? It's impossible that you don't know.”
Suddenly he seemed to check himself. He stood still and seemed to reflect. A strange grin contorted his lips.
“Brother,” Alyosha began again, in a shaking voice, “I have said this to you, because you'll believe my word, I know that. I tell you once and for all, it's not you. You hear, once for all! God has put it into my heart to say this to you, even though it may make you hate me from this hour.”
But by now Ivan had apparently regained his self-control.
“Alexey Fyodorovitch,” he said, with a cold smile, “I can't endure prophets and epileptics—messengers from God especially—and you know that only too well. I break off all relations with you from this moment and probably for ever. I beg you to leave me at this turning. It's the way to your lodgings, too. You'd better be particularly careful not to come to me to-day! Do you hear?”
He turned and walked on with a firm step, not looking back.
“Brother,” Alyosha called after him, “if anything happens to you to-day, turn to me before any one!”
But Ivan made no reply. Alyosha stood under the lamp-post at the cross roads, till Ivan had vanished into the darkness. Then he turned and walked slowly homewards. Both Alyosha and Ivan were living in lodgings; neither of them was willing to live in Fyodor Pavlovitch's empty house. Alyosha had a furnished room in the house of some working people. Ivan lived some distance from him. He had taken a roomy and fairly comfortable lodge attached [pg 681] to a fine house that belonged to a well-to-do lady, the widow of an official. But his only attendant was a deaf and rheumatic old crone who went to bed at six o'clock every evening and got up at six in the morning. Ivan had become remarkably indifferent to his comforts of late, and very fond of being alone. He did everything for himself in the one room he lived in, and rarely entered any of the other rooms in his abode.
He reached the gate of the house and had his hand on the bell, when he suddenly stopped. He felt that he was trembling all over with anger. Suddenly he let go of the bell, turned back with a curse, and walked with rapid steps in the opposite direction. He walked a mile and a half to a tiny, slanting, wooden house, almost a hut, where Marya Kondratyevna, the neighbor who used to come to Fyodor Pavlovitch's kitchen for soup and to whom Smerdyakov had once sung his songs and played on the guitar, was now lodging. She had sold their little house, and was now living here with her mother. Smerdyakov, who was ill—almost dying—had been with them ever since Fyodor Pavlovitch's death. It was to him Ivan was going now, drawn by a sudden and irresistible prompting.