Alexei enters the elder Zosima’s cell. To his surprise, he finds the old man sitting in an armchair, looking “cheerful and gay.” He’s surrounded by visitors and conversing with them. Those who are gathered for what will probably be the elder’s last talk are Father Iosif, Father Paissy, Father Mikhail, and Brother Anfim. Zosima loves Brother Anfim, though he has said very little to him. Forty years ago, they spent many years together, traveling all over Russia, collecting alms for their monastery in Kostroma.
Zosima is close to death, but he’s not suffering from pain or fear. He loves Brother Anfim because of their shared memories of his youth and the time when he first entered the monastery. For Zosima, that was a time in which his life was simpler, and he wasn’t weighed down with the great moral authority that he now carries.
Dusk is falling. When Zosima sees Alexei, he smiles and holds out his hand. Alexei goes to him and weeps. Zosima tells him not to weep yet, for he could live for another twenty years. He tells Alexei to stand and asks him if he saw his brother today. Alexei says that he saw one of his brothers, but Zosima is asking about Dmitri. Alexei says that he saw him the day before, but he couldn’t find him today. Zosima encourages him to “make haste” and find him, for the sake of preventing something “terrible.”
Alexei weeps because he loves the elder. He is afraid, too, of what could happen when he is left all alone, without advice, to deal with his brothers and his father, all of whom are morally corrupted. What would be perceived as another one of the elder’s prophecies is really another example of his sharp insight. Having observed Dmitri and Fyodor’s exchange, he senses something evil.
Father Iosif and Father Paissy exchange looks, while Alexei asks Zosima about what “suffering” awaits Dmitri. Zosima says that he saw something in Dmitri’s face that “horrified” him, something that seemed to show his whole fate. He says that he sent Alexei to Dmitri because he thought that his “brotherly countenance would help him.”
Zosima seems to intuit Dmitri’s suffering, which still doesn’t exactly make him a prophet—it makes him attentive and intuitive. Zosima’s words here suggest that Alexei could have averted disaster if only he had gone to see Dmitri before it was too late.
Zosima then goes on to talk about how he had an older brother who died his youth and that, without this brother, he may never have entered the monastery. Alexei, he says, resembles his brother “spiritually.” Zosima announces to his visitors that he wishes to speak of his brother. This talk has been partly preserved in writing because Alexei wrote it down “from memory” sometime after Zosima died.
Zosima connects with the Karamazov saga because there are parallels with his early life and his own family. Alexei’s pursuit of truth and a life worth living is similar to Zosima’s long-dead older brother, Markel, and Zosima’s early indulgent habits mirror Dmitri’s.