“Yes, he does; but then he abuses every one. But why you’ve given him up I haven’t heard from him either. I meet him very seldom now, indeed. We are not friends.”

“Well, then, I’ll tell you all about it. There’s no help for it, I’ll confess, for there is one point in which I was perhaps to blame. Only a little, little point, so little that perhaps it doesn’t count. You see, my dear boy”—Madame Hohlakov suddenly looked arch and a charming, thought enigmatic, smile played about her lips—“You see, I suspect…You must forgive me, Alyosha. I am like a mother to you.…No, no; quite the contrary. I speak to you now, as though you were my father—mother’s quite out of place. Well, it’s as though I were confessing to Father Zossima, that’s just it. I called you a monk just now. Well, that poor young man, your friend Rakitin (Mercy on us! I can’t be angry with him. I feel cross, but now very), that frivolous young man, would you believe it, seems to have taken it into his head to fall in love with me. I only noticed it later. At first—a month ago—he only began to come oftener to see me. almost every day; though, of course, we were acquainted before. I knew nothing about it…and suddenly it dawned upon me, and I began to notice things with surprise. You know, two months ago, that modest, charming, excellent young man, Pyotr Ilyitch Perhotin, who’s in the service here, began to be a regular visitor at the house. You met him here ever so many times yourself. And he is an excellent, earnest young man, isn’t he? He comes once every three days, not every day (though I should be glad to see him every day), and always so well dressed. Altogether, I love young people, Alyosha, talented, modest, like you, and he has almost the mind of a statesman, he talks so charmingly, and I shall certainly, certainly try and get promotion for him. He is a future diplomat. On that day he almost saved me from death by coming in the night. And your friend Rakitin comes in such boots, and always stretches them out on the carpet.…He began hinting at his feeling, in fact, and one day, as he was going, he squeezed my hand terribly hard. My foot began to swell directly after he pressed my hand like that. He had met Pyotr Ilyitch here before, and would you believe it, he is always gibing at him, growling at him, for some reason. I simply looked at the way they went on together and laughed inwardly. So I was sitting her alone—no, I was laid up then. Well, I was lying here alone and suddenly Rakitin comes in, and only fancy! brought me some verses of his own composition—a short poem, on my bad foot: that is, he described my foot in a poem. Wait a minute—how did it go?

A captivating little foot.’

It began somehow like that. I can never remember poetry. I’ve got it here. I’ll show it to you later. But it’s a charming thing—charming; and, you know, it’s not only about the foot; it had a good moral, too, a charming idea, only I’ve forgotten it; in fact, it was just the thing for an album. So, of course, I thanked him, and he was evidently flattered. I’d hardly had time to thank him when in comes Pyotr Ilyitch, and Rakitin suddenly looked as black as night. I could see that Pyotr Ilyitch was in the way, for Rakitin certainly wanted to say something after giving me the verses. I had a presentiment of it; but Pyotr Ilyitch came in. I showed Pyotr Ilyitch the verses and didn’t say who was the author. But I am convinced that he guessed, though he won’t own it to this day, and declares he had no idea. But he says that on purpose. Pyotr Ilyitch began to laugh at once, and fell to criticising it. ‘Wretched doggerel,’ he said they were,’ some divinity student must have written them,’ and with such vehemence, such vehemence! Then instead of laughing, your friend flew into a rage. ‘Good gracious!’ I thought, ‘they’ll fly at each other.’ It was I who wrote them,’ said he. ‘I wrote them as a joke,’ he said, ‘for I think it degrading to write verses.…But they are good poetry. They want to put a monument to your Pushkin for writing about women’s feet, while I wrote with a moral purpose, and you,’ said he, ‘are an advocate of serfdom. You’ve no humane ideas,’ said he. ‘You have no modern, enlightened feelings, you are uninfluenced by progress, you are a mere official,’ he said,’ and you take bribes.’ Then I began screaming and imploring them. And, you know, Pyotr Ilyitch is anything but a coward. He at once took up the most gentlemanly tone, looked at him sarcastically, listened, and apologised. ‘I’d no idea,’ said he. ‘I shouldn’t have said it, if I had known. I should have praised it. Poets are all so irritable,’ he said. In short, he laughed at him under the cover of the most gentlemanly tone. He explained to me afterwards that it was all sarcastic. I thought he was in earnest. Only as I lay there, just as before you now, I thought,’ would it, or would it not, be the proper thing for me to turn Rakitin out for shouting so rudely at a visitor in my house?’ And, would you believe it, I lay here, shut my eyes and wondered, would it be the proper thing or not. I kept worrying and worrying,

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