Fyodor Dostoevsky (18211881). Crime and Punishment.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
A STRANGE period began for Raskolnikov: it was as though a fog had fallen upon him and wrapped him in a dreary solitude from which there was no escape. Recalling that period long after, he believed that his mind had been clouded at times, and that it had continued so, at intervals, till the final catastrophe. He was convinced that he had been mistaken about many things at that time, for instance as to the date of certain events. Any way, when a great deal about himself from what other people told him. He had mixed up incidents and had explained events as due to circumstances which existed only in his imagination. At times he was a prey to agonies of morbid uneasiness, amounting sometimes to panic. But he remembered, too, moments, hours, perhaps whole days, of complete apathy, which came upon him as a reaction from his previous terror and might be compared with the abnormal insensibility, sometimes seen in the dying. He seemed to be trying in that latter stage to escape from a full and clear understanding of his position. Certain essential facts which required immediate consideration were particularly irksome to him. How glad he would have been to be free from some cares, the neglect of which would have threatened him with complete, inevitable ruin.
He was particularly worried about Svidrigaïlov, he might be said to be permanently thinking of Svidrigaïlov. From the time of Svidrigaïlovs too menacing and unmistakable words in Sonias room at the moment of Katerina Ivanovnas death, the normal working of his mind seemed to break down. But although this new fact caused him extreme uneasiness, Raskolnikov was in no hurry for an explanation of it. At times, finding himself in a solitary and remote part of the town, in some wretched eating-house, sitting alone lost in thought, hardly knowing how he had come there, he suddenly thought of Svidrigaïlov. He recognised suddenly, clearly, and with dismay that he ought at once to come to an understanding with that man and to make what terms he could. Walking outside the city gates one day, he positively fancied that they had fixed a meeting there, that he was waiting for Svidrigaïlov. Another time he woke up before daybreak lying on the ground under some bushes and could not at first understand how he had come there.
But during the two or three days after Katerina Ivanovnas death, he had two or three times met Svidrigaïlov at Sonias lodging, where he had gone aimlessly for a moment. They exchanged a few words and made no reference to the vital subject, as though they were tacitly agreed not to speak of it for a time.
Katerina Ivanovnas body was still lying in the coffin, Svidrigaïlov was busy making arrangements for the funeral. Sonia too was very busy. At their last meeting Svidrigaïlov informed Raskolnikov that he had made an arrangement, and a very satisfactory one, for Katerina Ivanovnas children; that he had, through certain connections, succeeded in getting hold of certain personages by whose help the three orphans could be at once placed in very suitable institutions; that the money he had settled on them had been of great assistance, as it is much easier to place orphans with some property than destitute ones. He said something too about Sonia and promised to come himself in a day or two to see Raskolnikov, mentioning that he would like to consult with him, that there were things they must talk over.
This conversation took place in the passage on the stairs. Svidrigaïlov looked intently at Raskolnikov and suddenly, after a brief pause, dropping his voice, asked: But how is it, Rodion Romanovitch; you dont seem yourself? You look and you listen, but you dont seem to understand. Cheer up! Well talk things over; I am only sorry, Ive so much to do of my own business and other peoples. Ah, Rodion Romanovitch. he added suddenly, what all men need is fresh air, fresh air more than anything!
He moved to one side to make way for the priest and server, who were coming up the stairs. They had come for the requiem service. By Svidrigaïlovs orders it was sung twice a day punctually. Svidrigaïlov went his way. Raskolnikov stood still a moment, thought, and followed the priest into Sonias room. He stood at the door. They began quietly, slowly and mournfully singing the service. From his childhood the thought of death and the presence of death had something oppressive and mysteriously awful; and it was long since he had heard the requiem service. And there was something else here as well, too awful and disturbing. He looked at the children: they were all kneeling by the coffin; Polenka was weeping. Behind them Sonia prayed, softly and, as it were, timidly weeping.
These last two days she hasnt said a word to me, she hasnt glanced at me, Raskolnikov thought suddenly. The sunlight was bright in the room; the incense rose in clouds; the priest read, Give rest, oh Lord. Raskolnikov stayed all through the service. As he blessed them and took his leave, the priest looked round strangely. After the service, Raskolnikov went up to Sonia. She took both his hands and let her head sink on his shoulder. This slight friendly gesture bewildered Raskolnikov. It seemed strange to him that there was no trace of repugnance, no trace of disgust, no tremor in her hand. It was the furthest limit of self-abnegation, at least so he interpreted it.
Sonia said nothing. Raskolnikov pressed her hand and went out. He felt very miserable. If it had been possible to escape to some solitude, he would have thought himself lucky, even if he had to spend his whole life there. But although he had almost always been by himself of late, he had never been able to feel alone. Sometimes he walked out of the town on to the high road, once he had even reached a little wood, but the lonelier the place was, the more he seemed to be aware of an uneasy presence near him. It did not frighten him, but greatly annoyed him, so that he made haste to return to the town, to mingle with the crowd, to enter restaurants and taverns, to walk in busy thoroughfares. There he felt easier and even more solitary. One day at dusk he sat for an hour listening to songs in a tavern and he remembered that he positively enjoyed it. But at last he had suddenly felt the same uneasiness again, as though his conscience smote him. Here I sit listening to singing, is that what I ought to be doing? he thought. Yet he felt at once that that was not the only cause of his uneasiness; there was something requiring immediate decision, but it was something he could not clearly understand or put into words. It was a hopeless tangle. No, better the struggle again! Better porfiry again or Svidrigaïlov. Better some challenge again some attack. Yes, yes! he thought. He went out of the tavern and rushed away almost at a run. The thought of Dounia and his mother suddenly reduced him almost to a panic. That night he woke up before morning among some bushes in Krestovsky Island, trembling all over with fever; he walked home, and it was early morning when he arrived. After some hours sleep the fever left him, but he woke up late, two oclock in the afternoon.
He remembered that Katerina Ivanovnas funeral had been fixed for that day, and was glad that he was not present at it. Nastasya brought him some food; he ate and drank with appetite, almost with greediness. His head was fresher and he was calmer than he had been for the last three days. He even felt a passing wonder at his previous attacks of panic.
Listen, he began resolutely. As far as I am concerned you may all go to hell, but from what I see, its clear to me that I cant make head or tail of it; please dont think Ive come to ask you questions. I dont want to know, hang it! If you begin telling me your secrets, I dare say I shouldnt stay to listen, I should go away cursing. I have only come to find out once for all whether its a fact that you are mad? There is a conviction in the air that you are mad or very nearly so. I admit Ive been disposed to that opinion myself, judging from your stupid, repulsive and quite inexplicable actions, and from your recent behaviour to your mother and sister. Only a monster or a madman could treat them as you have; so you must be mad.
Just now. Havent you seen them since then? What have you been doing with yourself? Tell me, please. Ive been to you three times already. Your mother has been seriously ill since yesterday. She had made up her mind to come to you; Avdotya Romanovna tried to prevent her; she wouldnt hear a word. If he is ill, if his mind is giving way, who can look after him like his mother? she said. We all came here together, we couldnt let her come alone all the way. We kept begging her to be calm. We came in, you werent here; she sat down, and stayed ten minutes, while we stood waiting in silence. She got up and said: If hes gone out, that is, if he is well, and has forgotten his mother, its humiliating and unseemly for his mother to stand at his door begging for kindness. She returned home and took to her bed; now she is in a fever. I see, she said, that he has time for his girl. She means by your girl Sofya Semyonovna, your betrothed or your mistress, I dont know. I went at once to Sofya Semyonovnas, for I wanted to know what was going on. I looked round, I saw the coffin, the children crying, and Sofya Semyonovna trying them on mourning dresses. No sign of you. I apologised, came away, and reported to Avdotya Romanovna. So thats all nonsense and you havent got a girl; the most likely thing is that you are mad. But here you sit, guzzling boiled beef as though youd not had a bite for three days. Though as far as that goes, madmen eat too, but though you have not said a word to me yet you are not mad! That Id swear! Above all, you are not mad. So you may go to hell, all of you, for theres some mystery, some secret about it, and I dont intend to worry my brains over your secrets. So Ive simply come to swear at you, he finished, getting up, to relieve my mind. And I know what to do now.
Well, its pretty plain. Wherever I might go, whatever happened to me, you would remain to look after them. I, so to speak, give them into your keeping, Razumihin. I say this because I know quite well how love her, and am convinced of the purity of your heart. I know that she too may love you and perhaps does love you already. Now decide for yourself, as you know best, whether you need go in for a drinking bout or not.
Rodya! You see well Ach, damn it! But where do you mean to go? Of course, if its all a secret, never mind But I I shall find out the secret and I am sure that it must be some ridiculous nonsense and that youve made it all up. Anyway you are a capital fellow, a capital fellow!
That was just what I wanted to add, only you interrupted, that that was a very good decision of yours not to find out these secrets. Leave it to time, dont worry about it. Youll know it all in time when it must be. Yesterday a man said to me that what a man needs is fresh air, fresh air, fresh air. I mean to go to him directly to find out what he meant by that.
So Avdotya Romanovna comes to see you, he said, weighing each syllable, and youre going to see a man who says we need more air, and so of course that letter that too must have something to do with it, he concluded to himself.
She got a letter to-day. It upset her very muchvery much indeed. Too much so. I began speaking of you, she begged me not to. Then then she said that perhaps we should very soon have to part then she began warmly thanking me for something; then she went to her room and locked herself in.
Oh, by the way, do you remember that murder, you know Porfirys, that old woman? Do you know the murderer has been found, he has confessed and given the proofs. Its one of those very workmen, the painter, only fancy! Do you remember I defended them here? Would you believe it, all that scene of fighting and laughing with his companion on the stairs while the porter and the two witnesses were going up, he got up on purpose to disarm suspicion. The cunning, the presence of mind of the young dog! One can hardly credit it; but its his own explanation, he has confessed it all. And what a fool I was about it! Well, hes simply a genius of hypocrisy and resourcefulness in disarming the suspicions of the lawyersso theres nothing much to wonder at, I suppose! Of course people like that are always possible. And the fact that he couldnt keep up the character, but confessed, makes him easier to believe in. But what a fool I was! I was frantic on their side!
Yes, yes; good-bye. Ill tell you all about it another time, but now Im busy. There was a time when I fancied. But no matter, another time! What need is there for me to drink now? You have made me drunk without wine. I am drunk, Rodya! Good-bye, Im going. Ill come again very soon.
Hes political conspirator, theres not a doubt about it, Razumihin decided, as he slowly descended the stairs. And hes drawn his sister in; thats quite, quite in keeping with Avdotya Romanovnas character. There are interviews between them! She hinted at it too So many of her words and hints bear that meaning! And how else can all this tangle be explained? Hm! And I was almost thinking Good heavens, what I thought! Yes, I took leave of my senses and I wronged him! It was his doing, under the lamp in the corridor that day. Pfoo! What a crude, nasty, vile idea on my part! Nikolay is a brick, for confessing And how clear it all is now! His illness then, all his strange actions before this, in the university, how morose he used to be, how gloomy But whats the meaning now of that letter? Theres something in that, too, perhaps. Whom was it from? I suspect ! No, I must find out!
As soon as Razumihin went out, Raskolnikov got up, turned to the window, walked into one corner and then into another, as though forgetting the smallness of his room, and sat down again on the sofa. He felt, so to speak, renewed; again the struggle, so a means of escape had come.
Yes, a means of escape had come! It had been too stifling, too cramping, the burden had been too agonising. A lethargy had come upon him at times. From the moment of the scene with Nikolay at Porfirys he had been suffocating, penned in without hope of escape. After Nikolays confession, on that very day had come the scene with Sonia; his behaviour and his last words had been utterly unlike anything he could have imagined beforehand; he had grown feebler, instantly and fundamentally! And he had agreed at the time with Sonia, he had agreed in his heart he could not go on living alone with such a thing on his mind!
And Svidrigaïlov was a riddle He worried him, that was true, but somehow not on the same point. He might still have a struggle to come with Svidrigaïlov. Svidrigaïlov, too, might be a means of escape; but Porfiry was a different matter.
And so Pofiry himself had explained it to Razumihin, had explained it Psychologically. He had begun bringing in his damned Psychology again! Porfiry? But to think that Porfiry should for one moment believe that Nikolay was guilty, after what had passed between them before Nikolays appearance, after that tete-a-tete interview, which could have only one explanation? (During those days Raskolnikov had often recalled passages in that scene with Porfiry; he could not bear to let his mind rest on it.) Such words, such gestures had passed between them, they had exchanged such glances, things had been said in such a tone and had reached such a pass, that Nikolay, whom Porfiry had seen through at the first word, at the first gesture, could not have shaken his conviction.
And to think that even Razumihin had begun to suspect! The scene in the corridor under the lamp had produced its effect then. He had rushed to Porfiry. But what had induced the latter to deceive him like that? What had been his object in putting Razumihin off with Nikolay? He must have some plan; there was some design, but what was it? It was true that a long time had passed since that morningtoo long a timeand no sight nor sound of Porfiry. Well, that was a bad sign.
Raskolnikov took his cap and went out of the room, still pondering. It was the first time for a long while that he had felt clear in his mind, at least. I must settle Svidrigaïlov, he thought, and as soon as possible; he, too, seems to be waiting for me to come to him of my own accord. And at that moment there was such a rush of hate in his weary heart that he might have killed either of these twoPorfiry or Svidrigaïlov. At least he felt that he would be capable of doing it later, if not now.
But no sooner had he opened the door than he stumbled upon Porfiry himself in the passage. He was coming in to see him. Raskolnikov was dumbfounded for a minute, but only for one minute. Strange to say, he was not very much astonished at seeing Porfiry and scarcely afraid of him. He was simply startled, but was quickly, instantly, on his guard. Perhaps this will mean the end? But how could Porfiry have approached so quietly, like a cat, so that he had heard nothing? Could be have been listening at the door?
You didnt expect a visitor, Rodion Romanovitch, Porfiry explained, laughing. Ive been meaning to look in a long time; I was passing by and thought why not go in for five minutes. Are you going out? I wont keep you long. Just let me have one cigarette.
The last moment had come, the last drops had to be drained! So a man will sometimes go through half an hour of mortal terror with a brigand, yet when the knife is at his throat at last he feels no fear.