The Brothers Karamazov

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Chapter1

1 Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the thi rd son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our distri ct in his own day , and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirt een years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place. For the present I will only say tha t this ?lando wner? ? for so we used to call him, al thoug h he hardly spent a day of his life on his own estate ? was a strange type, ye t one pretty frequently to be met with, a type abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one of those sensel ess persons who are very well capable of looking after their worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fyodor Pavlovitch, for instance, began with next to nothing; hi s estate was o f the smallest; he ran to dine at other men?s tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet at his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard cash. At the same time, he wa s all hi s life one of the most senseless, fan tasti cal fello ws in the whole district. I repeat, it was not stupidity ? the majority of these fantastical 4 of 1631 The Brothers Karamazov fellows are shrewd and intelligent enough ? but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form of it. He was married twice, and had three sons, the eldest, Dmitri, by his first wife, and two, Ivan and Alexey, by his second. Fyodor Pavlovitch?s first wife, Adelaida Ivanovna, belonged to a fairly rich and distinguished noble family, also landow ners in our district, the Miusovs. How it came to pass that an heiress, who was also a beauty, and moreover o ne of those vigorous intelligent girls, so common in this generation, but sometimes al so to be found in the last, could have married such a worthless, puny weakling, as we all ca lled him, I won?t attempt to explain. I knew a yo ung lady of the last ?romantic? generation who after some years of an enigmatic passi on for a gentleman, whom she might quite easily have married at a ny moment, invented insuperable obstacles to their union, and ended by throwin g herself one stormy night into a rather deep and rapid river from a high bank, almost a precipice, and so peri shed, entirely to satisfy her own caprice, and to be li ke Shakespeare?s Opheli a. Indeed, if thi s preci pice, a chosen and favourite spot of hers, had been less picturesque, if there had been a prosaic flat bank in its place, most likely the suicide would ne ver have taken place. This is a fact, and probably there have been 5 of 1631 The Brothers Karamazov not a few similar instances in the last two or three generations. Adelaida Ivanovna Miusov?s action w as similarly, no doubt, an echo of other people?s ideas, and was due to the irritation caused by lack of mental freedom. She wanted, perhaps, to show her feminine independence, to overrid e class distinctions and the despotism of her family. And a pliable imagination persuaded her, we must suppose, for a brief moment, th at Fyodor Pavlovitch, in spite of his parasitic p osition, was one of the bold and ironical spiri ts of tha t pro gressi ve epoch, though he was, in fact, an ill-natured buffoon and nothing more. What gave the marriage piquancy was that it was preceded by an elopement, and this greatly captivate d Adelaida Ivanovna?s fancy. Fyod or Pavlovitch?s posi tion at the ti me made hi m specially eager for any such enterprise, for he was passionately anxious to ma ke a career in one way or another. To attach himself to a good family and obtain a dowry was an alluring pr ospect. As for mutual love it did not exist apparently, eit her in the bride or in him, in spite of Adelaida I vanovna?s be auty. Thi s w as, perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, who was always of a voluptuous temper, and ready to run after any petticoa t on the slightest encourag ement. She seems to 6 of 1631 The Brothers Karamazov have been the only woman who mad e no particul ar appeal to his senses. Immediatley after the elopement Adelaida Ivanovna discerned in a flash that she had no feeling for her husband but contempt. The marriage accordingly showed itself in its true colours with extraor dinary rapidity. Although the family accepted the event pre tty quickly and apportioned the runaway bride her dowry, the husband and wife began to lead a most disorderly life, and there were everlasting scenes betw een them. It was said that the you ng wife showed incomparably more generosity and di gnity than Fyodor Pavlovitch, who, as is now k nown, got hold of all her money up to twenty five thousand roubles as soon a s she receiv ed it, so that thos e thousands were lo st to her forever. The little village and the rather fine town house which formed part of her do wry he did his utmost for a long time to transfer to his name, by means of some deed of conveyance. He w ould probably have succeeded, merely from her moral fatigue and desire to get ri d of him, and from the contemp t and lo athi ng he aroused by his persistent and shameless importuni ty. But, fortunately, Adelaida Ivanovna?s family intervened and circumvented his greediness. It is known for a fact that frequent fights took place between the husband and wife, but rumour had 7 of 1631 The Brothers Karamazov it that Fyodor Pavlovitch did not beat his wife but was beaten by her, for she was a hot-tempered, bold, dark- browed, impatient woman, possessed of remarkable physical strength. Finally, sh e left the house and ran away from Fyodor Pavlovitch with a destitute divinity student, leaving Mitya, a child of three years old, in her husband?s hands. Immediately Fyodor Pavlovitch introduced a regular harem into the house, and abandoned himself to orgies of drunkenness. In the intervals he used to drive all over the province, complaining te arfully to each and all of Adelaida Ivanovna?s havi ng left him, going into details too disgraceful for a husband to mention in regard t o his own married life. What seemed to gratify him and flatter his self-love most was to play the ridiculous part of the injured husband, and to parade his woes with embellishments. ?One would think that y ou?d got a p romotion, Fyodor Pavlovitch, you seem so pleased in spite of your sorrow,? scoffers said to him. Ma ny even added that he was glad of a new comic part in which to play the buffoon, and that i t was si mply to make it funnier that he pretended to be unaware of his ludicrous position. B ut, who k nows, it may have been simplicity. At last he succeeded in getting on the track of his runaway wife. The poor woman turned out to be in Petersburg, where she had gone with her 8 of 1631 The Brothers Karamazov divinity student, and where she had thrown herself into a life of comp lete emancipation. Fyod or Pavlovitch at once began bustling about, making preparations to go to Petersburg, with what object he could not hi mself have said. He would perhaps have really gone; bu t having determined to do so he felt at once entitled to fortify himself for the journey by another bout of reckless drinking. And just at that ti me his wife?s family received the news of her death in Petersburg. She had died quite suddenly in a garret, according to one story, of typhus, or as another version had it, of starvation. Fyodor Pavlovitch was drunk w hen he heard of his wife ?s death, and the story is that he ran out into th e street and began shouting with joy, raising his hands to He aven: ?Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace ,? but others say he wept without restraint like a little child, so much so that people were sorry f or him, in spite of the repulsion he inspired. It is quite possible that both v ersions were true, that he rejoiced at his release, and at the sa me time wept for her who released him. As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and si mple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too. 9 of 1631 The Brothers Karamazov
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