The Brothers Karamazov
7. And in the Open Air
"THE air is fresh, but in my apartment it is not so in any sense of the word. Let us
walk slowly, sir. I should be glad of your kind interest."
"I too have something important to say to you," observed Alyosha, "only I don't
know how to begin."
"To be sure you must have business with me. You would never have looked in
upon me without some object. Unless you come simply to complain of the boy,
and that's hardly likely. And, by the way, about the boy: I could not explain to you
in there, but here I will describe that scene to you. My tow was thicker a week
ago -- I mean my beard. That's the nickname they give to my beard, the
schoolboys most of all. Well, your brother Dmitri Fyodorovitch was pulling me by
my beard, I'd done nothing, he was in a towering rage and happened to come
upon me. He dragged me out of the tavern into the market place; at that moment
the boys were coming out of school, and with them Ilusha. As soon as he saw
me in such a state he rushed up to me. 'Father,' he cried, 'father!' He caught hold
of me, hugged me, tried to pull me away, crying to my assailant, 'Let go, let go,
it's my father, forgive him!' -- yes, he actually cried 'forgive him.' He clutched at
that hand, that very hand, in his little hands and kissed it.... I remember his little
face at that moment, I haven't forgotten it and I never shall!"
"I swear," cried Alyosha, "that my brother will express his most deep and sincere
regret, even if he has to go down on his knees in that same market-place.... I'll
make him or he is no brother of mine!
"Aha, then it's only a suggestion! And it does not come from him but simply from
the generosity of your own warm heart. You should have said so. No, in that case
allow me to tell you of your brother's highly chivalrous soldierly generosity, for he
did give expression to it at the time. He left off dragging me by my beard and
released me: 'You are an officer,' he said, 'and I am an officer, if you can find a
decent man to be your second send me your challenge. I will give satisfaction,
though you are a scoundrel.' That's what he said. A chivalrous spirit indeed! I
retired with Ilusha, and that scene is a family record imprinted forever on Ilusha's
soul. No, it's not for us to claim the privileges of noblemen. Judge for yourself.
You've just been in our mansion, what did you see there? Three ladies, one a
cripple and weak-minded, another a cripple and hunchback and the third not
crippled but far too clever. She is a student, dying to get back to Petersburg, to
work for the emancipation of the Russian woman on the banks of the Neva. I
won't speak of Ilusha, he is only nine. I am alone in the world, and if I die, what
will become of all of them? I simply ask you that. And if I challenge him and he
kills me on the spot, what then? What will become of them? And worse still, if he
doesn't kill me but only cripples me: I couldn't work, but I should still be a mouth