The Brothers Karamazov HTML version

2. Lizaveta
THERE was one circumstance which struck Grigory particularly, and confirmed a
very unpleasant and revolting suspicion. This Lizaveta was a dwarfish creature,
"not five foot within a wee bit," as many of the pious old women said pathetically
about her, after her death. Her broad, healthy, red face had a look of blank idiocy
and the fixed stare in her eyes was unpleasant, in spite of their meek expression.
She wandered about, summer and winter alike, barefooted, wearing nothing but
a hempen smock. Her coarse, almost black hair curled like lamb's wool, and
formed a sort of huge cap on her head. It was always crusted with mud, and had
leaves; bits of stick, and shavings clinging to it, as she always slept on the
ground and in the dirt. Her father, a homeless, sickly drunkard, called Ilya, had
lost everything and lived many years as a workman with some well-to-do
tradespeople. Her mother had long been dead. Spiteful and diseased, Ilya used
to beat Lizaveta inhumanly whenever she returned to him. But she rarely did so,
for everyone in the town was ready to look after her as being an idiot, and so
specially dear to God. Ilya's employers, and many others in the town, especially
of the tradespeople, tried to clothe her better, and always rigged her out with high
boots and sheepskin coat for the winter. But, although she allowed them to dress
her up without resisting, she usually went away, preferably to the cathedral
porch, and taking off all that had been given her -- kerchief, sheepskin, skirt or
boots -- she left them there and walked away barefoot in her smock as before. It
happened on one occasion that a new governor of the province, making a tour of
inspection in our town, saw Lizaveta, and was wounded in his tenderest
susceptibilities. And though he was told she was an idiot, he pronounced that for
a young woman of twenty to wander about in nothing but a smock was a breach
of the proprieties, and must not occur again. But the governor went his way, and
Lizaveta was left as she was. At last her father died, which made her even more
acceptable in the eyes of the religious persons of the town, as an orphan. In fact,
everyone seemed to like her; even the boys did not tease her, and the boys of
our town, especially the schoolboys, are a mischievous set. She would walk into
strange houses, and no one drove her away. Everyone was kind to her and gave
her something. If she were given a copper, she would take it, and at once drop it
in the alms-jug of the church or prison. If she were given a roll or bun in the
market, she would hand it to the first child she met. Sometimes she would stop
one of the richest ladies in the town and give it to her, and the lady would be
pleased to take it. She herself never tasted anything but black bread and water. If
she went into an expensive shop, where there were costly goods or money lying
about, no one kept watch on her, for they knew that if she saw thousands of
roubles overlooked by them, she would not have touched a farthing. She
scarcely ever went to church. She slept either in the church porch or climbed
over a hurdle (there are many hurdles instead of fences to this day in our town)
into a kitchen garden. She used at least once a week to turn up "at home," that is
at the house of her father's former employers, and in the winter went there every