Scene 14: Tihon

Tihon’s cell in the Convent of the Virgin.

Stavrogin: Did my mother tell you I was mad?

Tihon: No. She didn’t talk of you exactly as of a madman. But she told me of a slap you received and of a duel…. You too ill.

Stavrogin: I am. You see, I have hallucinations. I often see or feel near me a sort of creature who is mocking, wicked, rational, and who takes of different aspects. But it’s always the same creature. He drives me wild. I shall have to consult a doctor.

Tihon: Yes. Do so.

Stavrogin: No, it’s useless. I know who it is. And you do too.

Tihon: You mean the Devil?

Stavrogin: Yes. You believe in him, don’t you? A man of your calling is obliged to believe in him.

Tihon: Well, I’d say that in your case it is more probably an ailment.

Stavrogin: You are skeptical, I see. Do you at least believe in God?

Tihon: I believe in God.

Stavrogin: It is written: “If you believe and if you command the mountain to be removed, you shall be obeyed.” Can you move a mountain?

Tihon: Perhaps. With the help of God.

Stavrogin: Why “perhaps”? If you believe, you must say yes.

Tihon: My faith is imperfect.

Stavrogin: In my opinion, faith must be perfect or there is no faith. That’s why I’m an atheist.

Tihon: The complete atheist is more respectable than the man who is indifferent. He is on the last rung preceding perfect faith.

Stavrogin: You know, I like you very much.

Tihon (in a whisper): I like you too. Don’t be annoyed.

Stavrogin: How did you know…. Indeed, yes, I was annoyed because I told you that I liked you.

Tihon: Don’t be annoyed, and tell me everything.

(Stavrogin is pale and his hands tremble. He takes several sheets of paper out of his pocket.)

Stavrogin: All right. I wrote a story about myself which I am going to publish. Whatever you may say about me it won’t change my decision in any way. However, I should like you to be the first to know this story, and I’m going to tell it to you. Stop up your ears. Promise not to listen to me and I shall speak... Not long ago, I lived indulging in debaucheries that provided no pleasure. I was dreadfully bored. So much so that I might have hanged myself. (pause.) I had three apartments.

Tihon: Three?

Stavrogin: Yes. One in which I had set up Maria, who later became my legitimate wife. And two others in which I used to receive my mistresses. One of them was rented to me by a shopkeeper. I was alone there, rather often, with their twelve-year-old daughter. (He stops.) One day, I watched her from my room. Suddenly she began to sing softly, very softly. My heart began beating violently. I got up and slowly approached her. The sun was hot. I sat down silently beside her on the floor. She was frightened and suddenly stood up. I took her hand and kissed it; she laughed like a child; I made her sit down again, but she again got up with a frightened look. I kissed her hand again. I drew her onto my lap. She withdrew a bit and smiled again. I was laughing too. Then she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me…. (Stavrogin shows a blank sheet.) At this point in my story I left a blank.

Tihon: Are you going to tell me what followed?

Stavrogin: No, no. Later on. When you become worthy of it…(Tihon stares at him.) But nothing happened at all; what are you thinking? Nothing at all…It would be better if you didn’t look at me. (In a whisper) And don’t try my patience. When I returned two days later, she fled into the other room as soon as she saw me. But it was clear to me that she hadn’t said anything to her mother. Yet I was afraid. I sat down, in my room and, without stirring, watched the bed in the darkness of the other room. An hour later she moved. She came out of the darkness, emaciated in her nightgown, came to the door of my room, and there, tossing her head, shook her frail little fist at me. Then she fled. I knew what she was going to do. But I sat down again and forced myself to wait twenty minutes. Someone was singing in the courtyard; a fly was buzzing near me. I caught it, held it in my hand a moment, and then let it go. I recall that on a geranium near me a tiny red spider was walking slowly. When the twenty minutes were up, I forced myself to wait a quarter of an hour more. Then, as I left, I looked into the nook through a crack. She had hanged herself. I left and spent the evening playing cards with the feeling that a weight had been lifted from me.

Tihon: A weight lifted from you?

Stavrogin: Yes. But at the same time I knew that the feeling was based on a horrible cowardice and that never again, never again, could I feel noble in this life, or in another life, never….

Tihon: Is that why you acted so strangely here?

Stavrogin: Yes. I should have liked to kill myself. But I didn’t have the courage. So I ruined my life in the stupidest way possible. I led an ironic life. It occurred to me that it would be a good idea - quite stupid, really - to marry a crazy woman, a cripple, and so I did. I even accepted a duel and dept from shooting in the hope of being killed foolishly. Finally I accepted the heaviest responsibilities, without believing in them. But all that was in vain! And now I live between two dreams. In one of them there are happy islands surrounded by a sun-drenched sea where men wake up and go to bed innocent, and in the other I see an emaciated girl tossing her head and shaking her little fist at me…. Her little fist…. I should like to erase a deed from my life, and I cannot.

Tihon: Are you really going to publish this story?

Stavrogin: Yes. Yes!

Tihon: Your intention is noble. The spirit of penitence can go no further. It would be an admirable action to punish oneself this way if only…

Stavrogin: If?

Tihon: If only it were a true penance.

Stavrogin: What do you mean?

Tihon: You express directly in your narrative the need felt by a heart mortally wounded. This is why you wanted to be spat upon, to be slapped, and to be shamed. But at the same time there is pride and defiance in you confession. Sensuality and idleness have made you insensitive, incapable of loving, and you seem proud of that insensitivity. You are proud of what is shameful. That is despicable.

Stavrogin: I thank you.

Tihon: Why?

Stavrogin: Because, although you are annoyed with me, you don’t seem to feel any disgust and you talk to me as to an equal.

Tihon: I was disgusted. But you have so much pride that you didn’t notice it. Yet your words “You talk to me as to and equal” are beautiful words. They show that your heart is great and your strength tremendous. But that great useless strength in you frightens me because it seeds to express itself only in foul deeds. You have negated everything, you no longer love anything, and a punishment pursues all those who break away from their native soil, from the truth belonging to their own people and their own time.

Stavrogin: I don’t fear that punishment, or any other.

Tihon: One must fear, on the contrary. Or else there is no punishment but only delight. Listen. If someone, someone you didn’t know, whom you would never see again, read that confession and forgave you silently in his heart, would that bring you peace?

Stavrogin: That would bring me peace. (In a whisper) If you forgave me, that would do me great good. (He stares at him and then breaks out in violent passion.) No! I want to win my own forgiveness! That is my principal and sole aim. Only then will the vision disappear! That is why I long for an exceptional suffering; that is why I seek it myself! Don’t discourage me or I shall burst with rage!

Tihon: If you believe that you can forgive yourself, and that you will achieve your forgiveness in this world through suffering, if you seek solely to obtain that forgiveness - oh, then you have complete faith! God will forgive you.

Stavrogin: There can be no forgiveness for me. It is written in your books that there is no greater crime than to offend one of these little ones.

Tihon: If you forgive yourself, Christ will forgive you likewise.

Stavrogin: No. No. Not he. Not he. There can be no forgiveness! Never again, never again…(Stavrogin takes his hat and strides toward the door like a madman. But he turns back toward Tihon and resumes his ceremonious manner. He seems exhausted.)

Tihon: Are you leaving already? I wanted to ask you a favor….But I fea…

Stavrogin: Please do. (He negligently picks up a little crucifix from the table.)

Tihon: Don’t publish that story.

Stavrogin: I warned you that nothing will stop me. I shall make it known to the whole world!

Tihon: I understand. But I propose to you an even greater sacrifice. Give up your intention and in this way you will overcome your pride, and you will crush your demon, and you will achieve liberty. (He clasps his hands.) I see, I see clearly that you have never been closer to committing another crime even more heinous than the one you have just related. (Stavrogin stares at him fixedly, breaks the crucifix, and drops the pieces on the table.)