The Karamazov Brothers Chapter 4 — In the Dark

Where was he running? “Where could she be except at Fyodor Pavlovitch’s? She must have run straight to him from Samsonov’s, that was clear now. The whole intrigue, the whole deceit was evident.”… It all rushed whirling through his mind. He did not run to Marya Kondratyevna’s. “There was no need to go there… not the slightest need… he must raise no alarm… they would run and tell directly… Marya Kondratyevna was clearly in the plot, Smerdyakov too, he too, all had been bought over!”

He formed another plan of action: he ran a long way round Fyodor Pavlovitch’s house, crossing the lane, running down Dmitrovsky Street, then over the little bridge, and so came straight to the deserted alley at the back, which was empty and uninhabited, with, on one side the hurdle fence of a neighbor’s kitchen-garden, on the other the strong high fence, that ran all round Fyodor Pavlovitch’s garden. Here he chose a spot, apparently the very place, where according to the tradition, he knew Lizaveta had once climbed over it; “If she could climb over it,” the thought, God knows why, occurred to him, “surely I can.” He did in fact jump up, and instantly contrived to catch hold of the top of the fence. Then he vigorously pulled himself up and sat astride on it. Close by, in the garden stood the bath-house, but from the fence he could see the lighted windows of the house too.

“Yes, the old man’s bedroom is lighted up. She’s there!” and he leapt from the fence into the garden. Though he knew Grigory was ill and very likely Smerdyakov, too, and that there was no one to hear him, he instinctively hid himself, stood still, and began to listen. But there was dead silence on all sides and, as though of design, complete stillness, not the slightest breath of wind.

“And naught but the whispering silence,” the line for some reason rose to his mind. “If only no one heard me jump over the fence! I think not.” Standing still for a minute, he walked softly over the grass in the garden, avoiding the trees and shrubs. He walked slowly, creeping stealthily at every step, listening to his own footsteps. It took him five minutes to reach the lighted window. He remembered that just under the window there were several thick and high bushes of elder and whitebeam. The door from the house into the garden on the left-hand side, was shut; he had carefully looked on purpose to see, in passing. At last he reached the bushes and hid behind them. He held his breath. “I must wait now,” he thought, “to reassure them, in case they heard my footsteps and are listening… if only I don’t cough or sneeze.”

He waited two minutes. His heart was beating violently, and, at moments, he could scarcely breathe. “No, this throbbing at my heart won’t stop,” he thought. “I can’t wait any longer.” He was standing behind a bush in the shadow. The light of the window fell on the front part of the bush.

“How red the whitebeam berries are!” he murmured, not knowing why. Softly and noiselessly, step by step, he approached the window, and raised himself on tiptoe. All Fyodor Pavlovitch’s bedroom lay open before him. It was not a large room, and was divided in two parts by a red screen, “Chinese,” as Fyodor Pavlovitch used to call it. The word “Chinese” flashed into Mitya’s mind, “and behind the screen, is Grushenka,” thought Mitya. He began watching Fyodor Pavlovitch, who was wearing his new striped-silk dressing-gown, which Mitya had never seen, and a silk cord with tassels round the waist. A clean, dandified shirt of fine linen with gold studs peeped out under the collar of the dressing-gown. On his head Fyodor Pavlovitch had the same red bandage which Alyosha had seen.

“He has got himself up,” thought Mitya.

His father was standing near the window, apparently lost in thought. Suddenly he jerked up his head, listened a moment, and hearing nothing went up to the table, poured out half a glass of brandy from a decanter and drank it off. Then he uttered a deep sigh, again stood still a moment, walked carelessly up to the looking-glass on the wall, with his right hand raised the red bandage on his forehead a little, and began examining his bruises and scars, which had not yet disappeared.

“He’s alone,” thought Mitya, “in all probability he’s alone.”

Fyodor Pavlovitch moved away from the looking-glass, turned suddenly to the window and looked out. Mitya instantly slipped away into the shadow.

“She may be there behind the screen. Perhaps she’s asleep by now,” he thought, with a pang at his heart. Fyodor Pavlovitch moved away from the window. “He’s looking for her out of the window, so she’s not there. Why should he stare out into the dark? He’s wild with impatience.”… Mitya slipped back at once, and fell to gazing in at the window again. The old man was sitting down at the table, apparently disappointed. At last he put his elbow on the table, and laid his right cheek against his hand. Mitya watched him eagerly.

“He’s alone, he’s alone!” he repeated again. “If she were here, his face would be different.”

Strange to say, a queer, irrational vexation rose up in his heart that she was not here. “It’s not that she’s not here,” he explained to himself, immediately, “but that I can’t tell for certain whether she is or not.” Mitya remembered afterwards that his mind was at that moment exceptionally clear, that he took in everything to the slightest detail, and missed no point. But a feeling of misery, the misery of uncertainty and indecision, was growing in his heart with every instant. “Is she here or not?” The angry doubt filled his heart, and suddenly, making up his mind, he put out his hand and softly knocked on the window frame. He knocked the signal the old man had agreed upon with Smerdyakov, twice slowly and then three times more quickly, the signal that meant”Grushenka is here!”

The old man started, jerked up his head, and, jumping up quickly, ran to the window. Mitya slipped away into the shadow. Fyodor Pavlovitch opened the window and thrust his whole head out.

“Grushenka, is it you? Is it you?” he said, in a sort of trembling half-whisper. “Where are you, my angel, where are you?” He was fearfully agitated and breathless.

“He’s alone.” Mitya decided.

“Where are you?” cried the old man again; and he thrust his head out farther, thrust it out to the shoulders, gazing in all directions, right and left. “Come here, I’ve a little present for you. Come, I’ll show you…”

“He means the three thousand,” thought Mitya.

“But where are you? Are you at the door? I’ll open it directly.”

And the old man almost climbed out of the window, peering out to the right, where there was a door into the garden, trying to see into the darkness. In another second he would certainly have run out to open the door without waiting for Grushenka’s answer.

Mitya looked at him from the side without stirring. The old man’s profile that he loathed so, his pendent Adam’s apple, his hooked nose, his lips that smiled in greedy expectation, were all brightly lighted up by the slanting lamplight falling on the left from the room. A horrible fury of hatred suddenly surged up in Mitya’s heart; “There he was, his rival, the man who had tormented him, had ruined his life!” It was a rush of that sudden, furious, revengeful anger of which he had spoken, as though foreseeing it, to Alyosha, four days ago in the arbor, when, in answer to Alyosha’s question, “How can you say you’ll kill our father?” “I don’t know, I don’t know,” he had said then. “Perhaps I shall not kill him, perhaps I shall. I’m afraid he’ll suddenly be so loathsome to me at that moment. I hate his double chin, his nose, his eyes, his shameless grin. I feel a personal repulsion. That’s what I’m afraid of, that’s what may be too much for me.”… This personal repulsion was growing unendurable. Mitya was beside himself, he suddenly pulled the brass pestle out of his pocket.

“God was watching over me then,” Mitya himself said afterwards. At that very moment Grigory waked up on his bed of sickness. Earlier in the evening he had undergone the treatment which Smerdyakov had described to Ivan. He had rubbed himself all over with vodka mixed with a secret, very strong decoction, had drunk what was left of the mixture while his wife repeated a “certain prayer” over him, after which he had gone to bed. Marfa Ignatyevna had tasted the stuff, too, and, being unused to strong drink, slept like the dead beside her husband.

But Grigory waked up in the night, quite suddenly, and, after a moment’s reflection, though he immediately felt a sharp pain in his back, he sat up in bed. Then he deliberated again, got up and dressed hurriedly. Perhaps his conscience was uneasy at the thought of sleeping while the house was unguarded “in such perilous times.” Smerdyakov, exhausted by his fit, lay motionless in the next room. Marfa Ignatyevna did not stir. “The stuff’s been too much for the woman,” Grigory thought, glancing at her, and groaning, he went out on the steps. No doubt he only intended to look out from the steps, for he was hardly able to walk, the pain in his back and his right leg was intolerable. But he suddenly remembered that he had not locked the little gate into the garden that evening. He was the most punctual and precise of men, a man who adhered to an unchangeable routine, and habits that lasted for years. Limping and writhing with pain he went down the steps and towards the garden. Yes, the gate stood wide open. Mechanically he stepped into the garden. Perhaps he fancied something, perhaps caught some sound, and, glancing to the left he saw his master’s window open. No one was looking out of it then.

“What’s it open for? It’s not summer now,” thought Grigory, and suddenly, at that very instant he caught a glimpse of something extraordinary before him in the garden. Forty paces in front of him a man seemed to be running in the dark, a sort of shadow was moving very fast.

“Good Lord!” cried Grigory beside himself, and forgetting the pain in his back, he hurried to intercept the running figure. He took a short cut, evidently he knew the garden better; the flying figure went towards the bath-house, ran behind it and rushed to the garden fence. Grigory followed, not losing sight of him, and ran, forgetting everything. He reached the fence at the very moment the man was climbing over it. Grigory cried out, beside himself, pounced on him, and clutched his leg in his two hands.

Yes, his foreboding had not deceived him. He recognized him, it was he, the “monster,” the “parricide.”

“Parricide!” the old man shouted so that the whole neighborhood could hear, but he had not time to shout more, he fell at once, as though struck by lightning.

Mitya jumped back into the garden and bent over the fallen man. In Mitya’s hands was a brass pestle, and he flung it mechanically in the grass. The pestle fell two paces from Grigory, not in the grass but on the path, in a most conspicuous place. For some seconds he examined the prostrate figure before him. The old man’s head was covered with blood. Mitya put out his hand and began feeling it. He remembered afterwards clearly, that he had been awfully anxious to make sure whether he had broken the old man’s skull, or simply stunned him with the pestle. But the blood was flowing horribly; and in a moment Mitya’s fingers were drenched with the hot stream. He remembered taking out of his pocket the clean white handkerchief with which he had provided himself for his visit to Madame Hohlakov, and putting it to the old man’s head, senselessly trying to wipe the blood from his face and temples. But the handkerchief was instantly soaked with blood.

“Good heavens! what am I doing it for?” thought Mitya, suddenly pulling himself together. “If I have broken his skull, how can I find out now? And what difference does it make now?” he added, hopelessly. “If I’ve killed him, I’ve killed him… You’ve come to grief, old man, so there you must lie!” he said aloud. And suddenly turning to the fence, he vaulted over it into the lane and fell to running — the handkerchief soaked with blood he held, crushed up in his right fist, and as he ran he thrust it into the back pocket of his coat. He ran headlong, and the few passers-by who met him in the dark, in the streets, remembered afterwards that they had met a man running that night. He flew back again to the widow Morozov’s house.

Immediately after he had left it that evening, Fenya had rushed to the chief porter, Nazar Ivanovitch, and besought him, for Christ’s sake, “not to let the captain in again to-day or to-morrow.” Nazar Ivanovitch promised, but went upstairs to his mistress who had suddenly sent for him, and meeting his nephew, a boy of twenty, who had recently come from the country, on the way up told him to take his place, but forgot to mention “the captain.” Mitya, running up to the gate, knocked. The lad instantly recognized him, for Mitya had more than once tipped him. Opening the gate at once, he let him in, and hastened to inform him with a good-humored smile that “Agrafena Alexandrovna is not at home now, you know.”

“Where is she then, Prohor?” asked Mitya, stopping short.

“She set off this evening, some two hours ago, with Timofey, to Mokroe.”

“What for?” cried Mitya.

“That I can’t say. To see some officer. Some one invited her and horses were sent to fetch her.”

Mitya left him, and ran like a madman to Fenya.