The Brothers Karamazov HTML version

3. The Second Marriage and the Second Family
VERY shortly after getting his four-year-old Mitya off his hands Fyodor Pavlovitch
married a second time. His second marriage lasted eight years. He took this
second wife, Sofya Ivanovna, also a very young girl, from another province,
where he had gone upon some small piece of business in company with a Jew.
Though Fyodor Pavlovitch was a drunkard and a vicious debauchee he never
neglected investing his capital, and managed his business affairs very
successfully, though, no doubt, not over-scrupulously. Sofya Ivanovna was the
daughter of an obscure deacon, and was left from childhood an orphan without
relations. She grew up in the house of a general's widow, a wealthy old lady of
good position, who was at once her benefactress and tormentor. I do not know
the details, but I have only heard that the orphan girl, a meek and gentle
creature, was once cut down from a halter in which she was hanging from a nail
in the loft, so terrible were her sufferings from the caprice and everlasting
nagging of this old woman, who was apparently not bad-hearted but had become
an insufferable tyrant through idleness.
Fyodor Pavlovitch made her an offer; inquiries were made about him and he was
refused. But again, as in his first marriage, he proposed an elopement to the
orphan girl. There is very little doubt that she would not on any account have
married him if she had known a little more about him in time. But she lived in
another province; besides, what could a little girl of sixteen know about it, except
that she would be better at the bottom of the river than remaining with her
benefactress. So the poor child exchanged a benefactress for a benefactor.
Fyodor Pavlovitch did not get a penny this time, for the general's widow was
furious. She gave them nothing and cursed them both. But he had not reckoned
on a dowry; what allured him was the remarkable beauty of the innocent girl,
above all her innocent appearance, which had a peculiar attraction for a vicious
profligate, who had hitherto admired only the coarser types of feminine beauty.
"Those innocent eyes slit my soul up like a razor," he used to say afterwards,
with his loathsome snigger. In a man so depraved this might, of course, mean no
more than sensual attraction. As he had received no dowry with his wife, and
had, so to speak, taken her "from the halter," he did not stand on ceremony with
her. Making her feel that she had "wronged" him, he took advantage of her
phenomenal meekness and submissiveness to trample on the elementary
decencies of marriage. He gathered loose women into his house, and carried on
orgies of debauchery in his wife's presence. To show what a pass things had
come to, I may mention that Grigory, the gloomy, stupid, obstinate,
argumentative servant, who had always hated his first mistress, Adelaida
Ivanovna, took the side of his new mistress. He championed her cause, abusing
Fyodor Pavlovitch in a manner little befitting a servant, and on one occasion