Alyosha went towards the cathedral square to the widow Morozov's house to see Grushenka, who had sent Fenya to him early in the morning with an urgent message begging him to come. Questioning Fenya, Alyosha learned that her mistress had been particularly distressed since the previous day. During the two months that had passed since Mitya's arrest, Alyosha had called frequently at the widow Morozov's house, both from his own inclination and to take messages for Mitya. Three days after Mitya's arrest, Grushenka was taken very ill and was ill for nearly five weeks. For one whole week she was unconscious. She was very much changed—thinner and a little sallow, though she had for the past fortnight been well enough to go out. But to Alyosha her face was even more attractive than before, and he liked to meet her eyes when he went in to her. A look of firmness and intelligent purpose had developed in her face. There were signs of a spiritual transformation in her, and a steadfast, fine and humble determination that nothing could shake could be discerned in her. There was a small vertical line between her brows which gave her charming face a look of concentrated thought, almost austere at the first glance. There was scarcely a trace of her former frivolity.
It seemed strange to Alyosha, too, that in spite of the calamity that had overtaken the poor girl, betrothed to a man who had been arrested for a terrible crime, almost at the instant of their betrothal, in spite of her illness and the almost inevitable sentence hanging over Mitya, Grushenka had not yet lost her youthful cheerfulness. There was a soft light in the once proud eyes, though at times they gleamed with the old vindictive fire when she was visited by one [pg 635] disturbing thought stronger than ever in her heart. The object of that uneasiness was the same as ever—Katerina Ivanovna, of whom Grushenka had even raved when she lay in delirium. Alyosha knew that she was fearfully jealous of her. Yet Katerina Ivanovna had not once visited Mitya in his prison, though she might have done it whenever she liked. All this made a difficult problem for Alyosha, for he was the only person to whom Grushenka opened her heart and from whom she was continually asking advice. Sometimes he was unable to say anything.
Full of anxiety he entered her lodging. She was at home. She had returned from seeing Mitya half an hour before, and from the rapid movement with which she leapt up from her chair to meet him he saw that she had been expecting him with great impatience. A pack of cards dealt for a game of “fools” lay on the table. A bed had been made up on the leather sofa on the other side and Maximov lay, half-reclining, on it. He wore a dressing-gown and a cotton nightcap, and was evidently ill and weak, though he was smiling blissfully. When the homeless old man returned with Grushenka from Mokroe two months before, he had simply stayed on and was still staying with her. He arrived with her in rain and sleet, sat down on the sofa, drenched and scared, and gazed mutely at her with a timid, appealing smile. Grushenka, who was in terrible grief and in the first stage of fever, almost forgot his existence in all she had to do the first half-hour after her arrival. Suddenly she chanced to look at him intently: he laughed a pitiful, helpless little laugh. She called Fenya and told her to give him something to eat. All that day he sat in the same place, almost without stirring. When it got dark and the shutters were closed, Fenya asked her mistress:
“Is the gentleman going to stay the night, mistress?”
“Yes; make him a bed on the sofa,” answered Grushenka.
Questioning him more in detail, Grushenka learned from him that he had literally nowhere to go, and that “Mr. Kalganov, my benefactor, told me straight that he wouldn't receive me again and gave me five roubles.”
“Well, God bless you, you'd better stay, then,” Grushenka decided in her grief, smiling compassionately at him. Her smile wrung the old man's heart and his lips twitched with grateful tears. And so the destitute wanderer had stayed with her ever since. He [pg 636] did not leave the house even when she was ill. Fenya and her grandmother, the cook, did not turn him out, but went on serving him meals and making up his bed on the sofa. Grushenka had grown used to him, and coming back from seeing Mitya (whom she had begun to visit in prison before she was really well) she would sit down and begin talking to “Maximushka” about trifling matters, to keep her from thinking of her sorrow. The old man turned out to be a good story-teller on occasions, so that at last he became necessary to her. Grushenka saw scarcely any one else beside Alyosha, who did not come every day and never stayed long. Her old merchant lay seriously ill at this time, “at his last gasp” as they said in the town, and he did, in fact, die a week after Mitya's trial. Three weeks before his death, feeling the end approaching, he made his sons, their wives and children, come upstairs to him at last and bade them not leave him again. From that moment he gave strict orders to his servants not to admit Grushenka and to tell her if she came, “The master wishes you long life and happiness and tells you to forget him.” But Grushenka sent almost every day to inquire after him.
“You've come at last!” she cried, flinging down the cards and joyfully greeting Alyosha, “and Maximushka's been scaring me that perhaps you wouldn't come. Ah, how I need you! Sit down to the table. What will you have—coffee?”
“Yes, please,” said Alyosha, sitting down at the table. “I am very hungry.”
“That's right. Fenya, Fenya, coffee,” cried Grushenka. “It's been made a long time ready for you. And bring some little pies, and mind they are hot. Do you know, we've had a storm over those pies to-day. I took them to the prison for him, and would you believe it, he threw them back to me: he would not eat them. He flung one of them on the floor and stamped on it. So I said to him: ‘I shall leave them with the warder; if you don't eat them before evening, it will be that your venomous spite is enough for you!’ With that I went away. We quarreled again, would you believe it? Whenever I go we quarrel.”
Grushenka said all this in one breath in her agitation. Maximov, feeling nervous, at once smiled and looked on the floor.
“What did you quarrel about this time?” asked Alyosha.
“I didn't expect it in the least. Only fancy, he is jealous of the Pole. ‘Why are you keeping him?’ he said. ‘So you've begun keeping him.’ He is jealous, jealous of me all the time, jealous eating and sleeping! He even took it into his head to be jealous of Kuzma last week.”
“But he knew about the Pole before?”
“Yes, but there it is. He has known about him from the very beginning, but to-day he suddenly got up and began scolding about him. I am ashamed to repeat what he said. Silly fellow! Rakitin went in as I came out. Perhaps Rakitin is egging him on. What do you think?” she added carelessly.
“He loves you, that's what it is: he loves you so much. And now he is particularly worried.”
“I should think he might be, with the trial to-morrow. And I went to him to say something about to-morrow, for I dread to think what's going to happen then. You say that he is worried, but how worried I am! And he talks about the Pole! He's too silly! He is not jealous of Maximushka yet, anyway.”
“My wife was dreadfully jealous over me, too,” Maximov put in his word.
“Jealous of you?” Grushenka laughed in spite of herself. “Of whom could she have been jealous?”
“Of the servant girls.”
“Hold your tongue, Maximushka, I am in no laughing mood now; I feel angry. Don't ogle the pies. I shan't give you any; they are not good for you, and I won't give you any vodka either. I have to look after him, too, just as though I kept an almshouse,” she laughed.
“I don't deserve your kindness. I am a worthless creature,” said Maximov, with tears in his voice. “You would do better to spend your kindness on people of more use than me.”
“Ech, every one is of use, Maximushka, and how can we tell who's of most use? If only that Pole didn't exist, Alyosha. He's taken it into his head to fall ill, too, to-day. I've been to see him also. And I shall send him some pies, too, on purpose. I hadn't sent him any, but Mitya accused me of it, so now I shall send some! Ah, here's Fenya with a letter! Yes, it's from the Poles—begging again!”
Pan Mussyalovitch had indeed sent an extremely long and characteristically eloquent letter in which he begged her to lend him three roubles. In the letter was enclosed a receipt for the sum, with a promise to repay it within three months, signed by Pan Vrublevsky as well. Grushenka had received many such letters, accompanied by such receipts, from her former lover during the fortnight of her convalescence. But she knew that the two Poles had been to ask after her health during her illness. The first letter Grushenka got from them was a long one, written on large notepaper and with a big family crest on the seal. It was so obscure and rhetorical that Grushenka put it down before she had read half, unable to make head or tail of it. She could not attend to letters then. The first letter was followed next day by another in which Pan Mussyalovitch begged her for a loan of two thousand roubles for a very short period. Grushenka left that letter, too, unanswered. A whole series of letters had followed—one every day—all as pompous and rhetorical, but the loan asked for, gradually diminishing, dropped to a hundred roubles, then to twenty-five, to ten, and finally Grushenka received a letter in which both the Poles begged her for only one rouble and included a receipt signed by both.
Then Grushenka suddenly felt sorry for them, and at dusk she went round herself to their lodging. She found the two Poles in great poverty, almost destitution, without food or fuel, without cigarettes, in debt to their landlady. The two hundred roubles they had carried off from Mitya at Mokroe had soon disappeared. But Grushenka was surprised at their meeting her with arrogant dignity and self-assertion, with the greatest punctilio and pompous speeches. Grushenka simply laughed, and gave her former admirer ten roubles. Then, laughing, she told Mitya of it and he was not in the least jealous. But ever since, the Poles had attached themselves to Grushenka and bombarded her daily with requests for money and she had always sent them small sums. And now that day Mitya had taken it into his head to be fearfully jealous.
“Like a fool, I went round to him just for a minute, on the way to see Mitya, for he is ill, too, my Pole,” Grushenka began again with nervous haste. “I was laughing, telling Mitya about it. ‘Fancy,’ I said, ‘my Pole had the happy thought to sing his old songs to me to the guitar. He thought I would be touched and marry him!’ [pg 639] Mitya leapt up swearing.... So, there, I'll send them the pies! Fenya, is it that little girl they've sent? Here, give her three roubles and pack a dozen pies up in a paper and tell her to take them. And you, Alyosha, be sure to tell Mitya that I did send them the pies.”
“I wouldn't tell him for anything,” said Alyosha, smiling.
“Ech! You think he is unhappy about it. Why, he's jealous on purpose. He doesn't care,” said Grushenka bitterly.
“On purpose?” queried Alyosha.
“I tell you you are silly, Alyosha. You know nothing about it, with all your cleverness. I am not offended that he is jealous of a girl like me. I would be offended if he were not jealous. I am like that. I am not offended at jealousy. I have a fierce heart, too. I can be jealous myself. Only what offends me is that he doesn't love me at all. I tell you he is jealous now on purpose. Am I blind? Don't I see? He began talking to me just now of that woman, of Katerina, saying she was this and that, how she had ordered a doctor from Moscow for him, to try and save him; how she had ordered the best counsel, the most learned one, too. So he loves her, if he'll praise her to my face, more shame to him! He's treated me badly himself, so he attacked me, to make out I am in fault first and to throw it all on me. ‘You were with your Pole before me, so I can't be blamed for Katerina,’ that's what it amounts to. He wants to throw the whole blame on me. He attacked me on purpose, on purpose, I tell you, but I'll—”
Grushenka could not finish saying what she would do. She hid her eyes in her handkerchief and sobbed violently.
“He doesn't love Katerina Ivanovna,” said Alyosha firmly.
“Well, whether he loves her or not, I'll soon find out for myself,” said Grushenka, with a menacing note in her voice, taking the handkerchief from her eyes. Her face was distorted. Alyosha saw sorrowfully that from being mild and serene, it had become sullen and spiteful.
“Enough of this foolishness,” she said suddenly; “it's not for that I sent for you. Alyosha, darling, to-morrow—what will happen to-morrow? That's what worries me! And it's only me it worries! I look at every one and no one is thinking of it. No one cares about it. Are you thinking about it even? To-morrow he'll be tried, you know. Tell me, how will he be tried? You know it's the valet, the [pg 640] valet killed him! Good heavens! Can they condemn him in place of the valet and will no one stand up for him? They haven't troubled the valet at all, have they?”
“He's been severely cross-examined,” observed Alyosha thoughtfully; “but every one came to the conclusion it was not he. Now he is lying very ill. He has been ill ever since that attack. Really ill,” added Alyosha.
“Oh, dear! couldn't you go to that counsel yourself and tell him the whole thing by yourself? He's been brought from Petersburg for three thousand roubles, they say.”
“We gave these three thousand together—Ivan, Katerina Ivanovna and I—but she paid two thousand for the doctor from Moscow herself. The counsel Fetyukovitch would have charged more, but the case has become known all over Russia; it's talked of in all the papers and journals. Fetyukovitch agreed to come more for the glory of the thing, because the case has become so notorious. I saw him yesterday.”
“Well? Did you talk to him?” Grushenka put in eagerly.
“He listened and said nothing. He told me that he had already formed his opinion. But he promised to give my words consideration.”
“Consideration! Ah, they are swindlers! They'll ruin him. And why did she send for the doctor?”
“As an expert. They want to prove that Mitya's mad and committed the murder when he didn't know what he was doing”; Alyosha smiled gently; “but Mitya won't agree to that.”
“Yes; but that would be the truth if he had killed him!” cried Grushenka. “He was mad then, perfectly mad, and that was my fault, wretch that I am! But, of course, he didn't do it, he didn't do it! And they are all against him, the whole town. Even Fenya's evidence went to prove he had done it. And the people at the shop, and that official, and at the tavern, too, before, people had heard him say so! They are all, all against him, all crying out against him.”
“Yes, there's a fearful accumulation of evidence,” Alyosha observed grimly.
“And Grigory—Grigory Vassilyevitch—sticks to his story that the door was open, persists that he saw it—there's no shaking him. I went and talked to him myself. He's rude about it, too.”
“Yes, that's perhaps the strongest evidence against him,” said Alyosha.
“And as for Mitya's being mad, he certainly seems like it now,” Grushenka began with a peculiarly anxious and mysterious air. “Do you know, Alyosha, I've been wanting to talk to you about it for a long time. I go to him every day and simply wonder at him. Tell me, now, what do you suppose he's always talking about? He talks and talks and I can make nothing of it. I fancied he was talking of something intellectual that I couldn't understand in my foolishness. Only he suddenly began talking to me about a babe—that is, about some child. ‘Why is the babe poor?’ he said. ‘It's for that babe I am going to Siberia now. I am not a murderer, but I must go to Siberia!’ What that meant, what babe, I couldn't tell for the life of me. Only I cried when he said it, because he said it so nicely. He cried himself, and I cried, too. He suddenly kissed me and made the sign of the cross over me. What did it mean, Alyosha, tell me? What is this babe?”
“It must be Rakitin, who's been going to see him lately,” smiled Alyosha, “though ... that's not Rakitin's doing. I didn't see Mitya yesterday. I'll see him to-day.”
“No, it's not Rakitin; it's his brother Ivan Fyodorovitch upsetting him. It's his going to see him, that's what it is,” Grushenka began, and suddenly broke off. Alyosha gazed at her in amazement.
“Ivan's going? Has he been to see him? Mitya told me himself that Ivan hasn't been once.”
“There ... there! What a girl I am! Blurring things out!” exclaimed Grushenka, confused and suddenly blushing. “Stay, Alyosha, hush! Since I've said so much I'll tell the whole truth—he's been to see him twice, the first directly he arrived. He galloped here from Moscow at once, of course, before I was taken ill; and the second time was a week ago. He told Mitya not to tell you about it, under any circumstances; and not to tell any one, in fact. He came secretly.”
Alyosha sat plunged in thought, considering something. The news evidently impressed him.
“Ivan doesn't talk to me of Mitya's case,” he said slowly. “He's said very little to me these last two months. And whenever I go to see him, he seems vexed at my coming, so I've not been to him [pg 642] for the last three weeks. H'm!... if he was there a week ago ... there certainly has been a change in Mitya this week.”
“There has been a change,” Grushenka assented quickly. “They have a secret, they have a secret! Mitya told me himself there was a secret, and such a secret that Mitya can't rest. Before then, he was cheerful—and, indeed, he is cheerful now—but when he shakes his head like that, you know, and strides about the room and keeps pulling at the hair on his right temple with his right hand, I know there is something on his mind worrying him.... I know! He was cheerful before, though, indeed, he is cheerful to-day.”
“But you said he was worried.”
“Yes, he is worried and yet cheerful. He keeps on being irritable for a minute and then cheerful and then irritable again. And you know, Alyosha, I am constantly wondering at him—with this awful thing hanging over him, he sometimes laughs at such trifles as though he were a baby himself.”
“And did he really tell you not to tell me about Ivan? Did he say, ‘Don't tell him’?”
“Yes, he told me, ‘Don't tell him.’ It's you that Mitya's most afraid of. Because it's a secret: he said himself it was a secret. Alyosha, darling, go to him and find out what their secret is and come and tell me,” Grushenka besought him with sudden eagerness. “Set my mind at rest that I may know the worst that's in store for me. That's why I sent for you.”
“You think it's something to do with you? If it were, he wouldn't have told you there was a secret.”
“I don't know. Perhaps he wants to tell me, but doesn't dare to. He warns me. There is a secret, he tells me, but he won't tell me what it is.”
“What do you think yourself?”
“What do I think? It's the end for me, that's what I think. They all three have been plotting my end, for Katerina's in it. It's all Katerina, it all comes from her. She is this and that, and that means that I am not. He tells me that beforehand—warns me. He is planning to throw me over, that's the whole secret. They've planned it together, the three of them—Mitya, Katerina, and Ivan Fyodorovitch. Alyosha, I've been wanting to ask you a long time. A week ago he suddenly told me that Ivan was in love with Katerina, [pg 643] because he often goes to see her. Did he tell me the truth or not? Tell me, on your conscience, tell me the worst.”
“I won't tell you a lie. Ivan is not in love with Katerina Ivanovna, I think.”
“Oh, that's what I thought! He is lying to me, shameless deceiver, that's what it is! And he was jealous of me just now, so as to put the blame on me afterwards. He is stupid, he can't disguise what he is doing; he is so open, you know.... But I'll give it to him, I'll give it to him! ‘You believe I did it,’ he said. He said that to me, to me. He reproached me with that! God forgive him! You wait, I'll make it hot for Katerina at the trial! I'll just say a word then ... I'll tell everything then!”
And again she cried bitterly.
“This I can tell you for certain, Grushenka,” Alyosha said, getting up. “First, that he loves you, loves you more than any one in the world, and you only, believe me. I know. I do know. The second thing is that I don't want to worm his secret out of him, but if he'll tell me of himself to-day, I shall tell him straight out that I have promised to tell you. Then I'll come to you to-day, and tell you. Only ... I fancy ... Katerina Ivanovna has nothing to do with it, and that the secret is about something else. That's certain. It isn't likely it's about Katerina Ivanovna, it seems to me. Good-by for now.”
Alyosha shook hands with her. Grushenka was still crying. He saw that she put little faith in his consolation, but she was better for having had her sorrow out, for having spoken of it. He was sorry to leave her in such a state of mind, but he was in haste. He had a great many things to do still.