Part Two. IV

Zossimov was a tall, fat man with a puffy, colorlessly pale, cleanshaven face and straight blond hair, wearing spectacles, and with a large gold ring on his fat-swollen finger. He was about twenty-seven years old. He had on a loose, foppish summer coat and light-colored summer trousers; generally everything on him was loose, foppish, and brand new; his linen was impeccable, his watch-chain massive. He was slow, almost languid, of manner, and at the same time studiously casual; a certain pretentiousness, though carefully concealed, kept showing itself every moment. All who knew him found him a difficult man, but said that he knew his business.

“I stopped twice at your place, brother…See, he’s come to!” cried Razumikhin.

“I see, I see. So, how are we feeling now, eh?” Zossimov addressed Raskolnikov, looking at him attentively and sitting by his feet on the sofa, where he immediately sprawled as well as he could.

“Eh, he’s still sulking,” Razumikhin went on. “We just changed his shirt, and he almost started to cry.”

“That’s understandable; you might have waited with the shirt, if he didn’t want…Pulse is fine. You still have a little headache, hm?”

“I’m well, I’m completely well!” Raskolnikov said insistently and irritably, raising himself suddenly on the sofa and flashing his eyes, but he immediately fell back on the pillow and turned his face to the wall. Zossimov was watching him attentively.

“Very good…everything’s as it ought to be,” he said languidly. “Has he eaten anything?”

They told him, and asked what he was allowed to have.

“Everything’s allowed…soup, tea…no mushrooms, naturally, or cucumbers—well, and no need for any beef either, and…well, but what’s there to talk about! . . .” He exchanged glances with Razumikhin. “No more medicine, no more anything; and tomorrow we’ll see…Today wouldn’t be…well, yes…”

“Tomorrow evening I’ll take him for an outing!” Razumikhin decided. “To the Yusupov Garden, and then we’ll go to the Palais de Cristal.”[1]

“I wouldn’t budge him tomorrow; though maybe…a little… well, we’ll see.”

“Too bad. I’m having a housewarming party tonight, just two steps away; he could come, too; at least he could lie on the sofa among us! And what about you?” Razumikhin suddenly addressed Zossimov. “Don’t forget, you promised.”

“Maybe a little later. What are you planning to have?”

“Nothing much—tea, vodka, pickled herring. There’ll be a pie. For friends only.”

“Who, precisely?”

“They’re all from around here, and almost all of them new friends, actually—except maybe for the old uncle, and even he is new: came to Petersburg just yesterday on some little business of his; we see each other once in five years.”

“What is he?”

“He’s vegetated all his life as a provincial postmaster…gets some wretched pension, sixty-five years old, nothing to talk about…I love him, though. Porfiry Petrovich will be there, the local police inspector in the department of investigation…a lawyer. But I think you know…”

“He’s also some sort of relative of yours?”

“A very distant one; but why are you frowning? So, you quarreled with him once, and now maybe you won’t come?”

“I don’t give a damn about him . . .”

“So much the better. And then some students, a teacher, one functionary, one musician, an army officer, Zamyotov…”

“Tell me, please, what you, or he, for instance” (Zossimov nodded towards Raskolnikov), “can possibly have in common with someone like Zamyotov?”

“Oh, these peevish ones! Principles! … You’ve all got principles in you like springs; you don’t dare turn around by your own will; no, in my opinion, if he’s a good man, there’s a principle for you, and I don’t want to know any more. Zamyotov is a most wonderful man.”

“And he has an open palm.”

“So what if he has an open palm! To hell with it! Who cares if he has an open palm!” Razumikhin suddenly cried, getting somehow unnaturally irritated. “Did I praise his open palm? I said he was a good man, only in his own way! And if we look straight, in all ways—will there be many good people left? No, in that case I’m sure that I, with all my innards, would be worth about as much as one baked onion, and then only with you thrown in! . . .”

“That’s not enough; I’ll give two for you . . .”

“And I’ll give only one for you! Look at this wit! Zamyotov is still a boy, I can rough him up, because he ought to be drawn in and not pushed away. You won’t set a person right by pushing him away, especially if he’s a boy. You have to be twice as careful with a boy. Eh, you progressive dimwits, you really don’t understand anything! You disparage man and damage yourselves…And if you’d like to know, we’ve even got something started together.”

“I wonder what.”

“It all has to do with the case of that painter—that house-painter, I mean…We’re going to get him off! However, it won’t be any trouble now. The case is perfectly clear now! We’ll just put on some more heat.”

“What about this house-painter?”

“You mean I didn’t tell you? Really? Ah, that’s right, I only told you the beginning…it’s about the murder of the old woman, the pawnbroker, the official’s widow…so now this house-painter is mixed up in it . . .”

“I heard about that murder before you, and am even interested in the case…somewhat… for a certain reason…and I’ve read about it in the papers! So, now . . .”

“They killed Lizaveta, too!” Nastasya suddenly blurted out, addressing Raskolnikov. She had been standing in the room all the while, pressed up next to the door, listening.

“Lizaveta?” Raskolnikov muttered in a barely audible voice.

“Lizaveta, who sold things. She used to visit downstairs. She mended your shirts once.”

Raskolnikov turned to the wall where, from among the little flowers on the dirty yellow wallpaper, he picked out one clumsy white flower with little brown lines and began studying it: how many leaves it had, what sort of serrations the leaves had, and how many little lines. There was no feeling in his arms and legs, as if they were paralyzed, but he did not even try to move and went on stubbornly staring at the flower.

“So what about the house-painter?” Zossimov interrupted Nastasya’s babbling with some particular displeasure. She sighed and fell silent.

“They’ve also put him down as the murderer!” Razumikhin went on with fervor.

“They must have evidence or something?”

“The devil they have! Or, no, they precisely do have evidence, only this evidence is no evidence, that’s what has to be proved! It’s just the same as when they first picked up and suspected those, what’s their names…Koch and Pestryakov. Pah! What a stupid way to do things; it’s disgusting even for an outsider! Pestryakov may stop by my place today…Incidentally, Rodya, you know about this story, it happened just before your illness, exactly the day before you fainted in the office while they were talking about it . . .”

Zossimov glanced curiously at Raskolnikov; he did not move.

“And you know what, Razumikhin? You’re a real busybody after all. Just look at you!” Zossimov remarked.

“Maybe so, but we’ll still get him off!” Razumikhin shouted, banging his fist on the table. “Because you know what irks me the most about it? Not that they’re lying; lying can always be forgiven; lying is a fine thing, because it leads to the truth. No, what irks me is that they lie and then worship their own lies. I respect Porfiry, but…What, for instance, was the first thing that threw them off? The door was locked, and when they came back with the caretaker it was unlocked. Well, so Koch and Pestryakov did the murder! That’s their logic.”

“Don’t get so excited; they were simply detained; they couldn’t just…Incidentally, I used to run into this Koch; so it turns out he bought unredeemed articles from the old woman, eh?”

“Yes, some sort of swindler! He also buys up promissory notes. A trafficker. Devil take him anyway! But this is what makes me so angry, do you understand? It’s their routine that makes me angry, their decrepit, trite, inflexible routine…And here, just in this one case, it would be possible to open up a whole new way. From psychological facts alone one could show how to get on the right track. ‘We have facts,’ they say. But facts are not everything; at least half the game is knowing how to handle the facts!”

“And you know how to handle the facts?”

“But it’s impossible to keep silent when you feel, palpably feel, that you could help with the case, if only…Ahh! … Do you know the case in detail?”

“I’m still waiting to hear about the house-painter.”

“Yes, where was I! So, listen to the story: exactly three days after the murder, in the morning, while they were still nursing Koch and Pestryakov along—though they had both accounted for their every step; it was cryingly obvious—suddenly a most unexpected fact emerged. A certain peasant, Dushkin, the owner of a tavern across the street from that same house, came to the police with a jewelry case containing a pair of gold earrings, and with a whole tale to go with it: ‘The day before yesterday, in the evening, some time after eight or thereabouts’—the very day and hour, you see?—’a workman, this painter, Mikolai, who had also stopped in earlier in the day, came running to me and brought me this box with gold earrings and little stones, and asked if he could pawn them for two roubles, and when I asked where he got them, he declared that he’d picked them up from the sidewalk. I didn’t question him any more about it’—this is Dushkin speaking—’but I got him out one little note’—a rouble, that is—’because I thought if it wasn’t me, he’d pawn them to someone else, and it makes no difference, because he’ll drink it up anyway, and it’s better if the thing stays with me—the deeper hidden, the closer to hand—and if something comes up, or there are any rumors, I can represent it at once.’ Well, of course, that’s all his old granny’s dream, he’s lying like a rug, because I know this Dushkin, he’s a pawnbroker himself, and he receives stolen goods, and he filched a thirty-rouble article from Mikolai with no intention of ‘representing’ it. He simply got scared. But, devil take it, listen; Dushkin goes on: ‘And that peasant there, Mikolai Dementiev, I know him since childhood, he’s from our province, the Zaraisk district, because I’m from Riazan myself. And Mikolai’s not a drunkard, but he does drink, and it was known to me that he was working in that house there, painting, him and Mitrei, the two of them being from the same parts. And when he got the rouble, he broke it straight off, drank two cups in a row, took the change, and left, and I didn’t see Mitrei with him that time. And the next day I heard that Alyona Ivanovna and her sister Lizaveta was killed with an axe, and I used to know them, sir, and I got to wondering about the earrings—because we knew the deceased used to lend money on things like that. I went to their house and started making inquiries, cautiously, for myself, tiptoeing around, and first of all I asked if Mikolai was there. And Mitrei said Mikolai went on a spree, came home drunk at daybreak, stayed for about ten minutes, and left again, and Mitrei didn’t see him after that and was finishing the job by himself. And their job is up the same stairway as the murder was, on the second floor. So I heard all that, but I didn’t say nothing to nobody’—this is Dushkin speaking—’I just found out everything I could about the murder and went home again, still in the same doubts. And then this morning, at eight o’clock’—three days later, you see?—’Mikolai comes in, not sober, but not so drunk either, able to understand what’s said to him. He sits down on the bench without a word. And besides him, right then there was just one stranger in the tavern, and another man, an acquaintance, asleep on a bench, and our two lads, sir. “Have you seen Mitrei?” I ask. “No, I haven’t,” he says. “You’ve been gone?” “Yes,” he says, “since two days ago.” “And where did you sleep last night?” “In Peski, with the boys from Kolomna.”[2] “So,” I say, “where did you get those earrings?” “Found them on the sidewalk.” But the way he says it don’t ring true, and he’s not looking at me straight. “And did you hear,” I say, “thus and so happened that same night, and that same hour, up that same stairway?” “No, I didn’t,” and he listens with his eyes popping out, and suddenly he goes white as chalk. I’m telling him, and he’s reaching for his hat and starting to get up. Right then I wanted to keep him there, so I said, “Wait, Mikolai, why don’t you have a drink?” And I winked to the lad to hold the door, and I was getting out from behind the counter when he up and bolted on me, out into the street, and ran off down a back alley, and that’s the last I saw of him. But I stopped doubting then, because the sin on him was clear “Sure enough! . . .” said Zossimov.

“Wait! Listen to the rest! Naturally, they set out hotfoot after Mikolai; Dushkin was detained, a search was carried out, and the same for Mitrei; they also ransacked the boys from Kolomna—then all at once, two days ago, Mikolai himself was brought in: he’d been detained near the ——sky Gate, at an inn. He’d gone in, taken off his cross, a silver one, and asked for a drink in exchange. They gave him one. A few minutes later a woman went out to the cow-shed and saw him through a crack in the wall of the adjoining shed: he’d tied his belt to a beam, made a noose, and was standing on a stump trying to put the noose around his neck. The woman screamed to high heaven; people came running: ‘So that’s what you’re up to!’ ‘Take me to such-and-such police station, I’ll confess everything.’ So he was presented with all due honors at such-and-such police station—here, that is. And then this and that, who and what, how old are you —’Twenty-two’— and so on and so forth. Question: ‘When you and Mitrei were working, did you see anyone on the stairs at such-and-such an hour?’ Answer: ‘Sure, some people maybe passed by, not so’s we noticed.’ ‘And did you hear anything, any noise, or whatever?’ ‘Nothing special.’ ‘And was it known to you, Mikolai, that on such-and-such a day and hour, the widow so-and-so was murdered and robbed, and her sister as well?’ ‘No, sir, I never knew nothing about that, I first heard it from Afanasy Pavlovich three days after, in the tavern.’ ‘And where did you get the earrings?’ ‘Found them on the sidewalk.’ ‘Why didn’t you come to work with Mitrei the next day?’ ‘Because I went on a spree.’ ‘Where?’ ‘In such-and-such.’ ‘Why did you run away from Dushkin?’ ‘Because then I got real scared.’ ‘Scared of what?’ ‘Having the law on me.’ ‘Why would you be scared if you felt you weren’t guilty of anything? . . .’ Now, you may believe it or not, Zossimov, but this question was asked, and literally in those words—I know positively, it was told to me accurately! How do you like that, eh? How do you like it?”

“Well, no, all the same there is evidence.”

“But I’m not talking about evidence now, I’m talking about the question, about how they understand their essence! Ah, devil take it! … Well, so they pushed him and pushed him, pressed him and pressed him, and so he confessed: ‘I didn’t find them on the sidewalk, I found them in the apartment there where Mitrei and me was painting.’ ‘How was that?’ ‘It was just like this, that Mitrei and me was painting and painting all day till eight o’clock, and was just about to go, and Mitrei took the brush and slapped some paint on my mug; so he slapped some paint on my mug and ran away, and I ran after him. So I was running after him, shouting my head off; and when I turned from the stairs to the gateway, I ran smack into the caretaker and some gentlemen, and how many gentlemen it was I don’t remember, and the caretaker swore at me for that, and the other caretaker also swore at me, and the caretaker’s woman came out and swore at us, too, and there was a gentleman coming in the gate with a lady, and he also swore at us, because me and Mitka was lying there and blocking the way: I grabbed Mitka’s hair and pulled him down and started punching him, and Mitka was under me and grabbed my hair and started punching me, and not because we was mad, it was all real friendly, for the fun of it. And then Mitka got free and ran out to the street, and I ran after him but I couldn’t catch him, so I went back to the apartment by myself, because we had to tidy up. I started picking up and waiting for Mitrei, in case he came back. And by the door to the entryway, behind the wall, in the corner, I stepped on a box. I looked and it was lying there wrapped up in paper. I took the paper off, and saw these tiny little hooks, so I undid the hooks—and there was earrings inside the box…”

“Behind the door? It was behind the door? Behind the door?” Raskolnikov suddenly cried out, staring at Razumikhin with dull, frightened eyes, and slowly raising himself on the sofa with the support of his arm.

“Yes…but why? What’s the matter? Why are you looking like that?” Razumikhin also rose from his seat.

“Nothing! … ” Raskolnikov answered, barely audibly, sinking onto the pillow again and again turning to the wall. Everyone was silent for a short while.

“He must have been dozing and suddenly woke up,” Razumikhin said at last, looking questioningly at Zossimov; the latter made a slight negative movement with his head.

“Well, go on,” said Zossimov. “What then?”

“So, what then? As soon as he saw the earrings, he immediately forgot both the apartment and Mitka, grabbed his hat, and ran to Dushkin, and, as we know, got a rouble from him, lied to him that he had found them on the sidewalk, and at once went on a spree. And about the murder he keeps repeating the same thing: ‘I never knew nothing about that, I first heard about it three days after.’ ‘And why did you not come before now?’ ‘From fear.’ ‘And why did you want to hang yourself?’ ‘From thinking.’ ‘Thinking what?’ ‘That I’d have the law on me.’ Well, that’s the whole story. Now, what do you suppose they drew from it?”

“What is there to suppose? There’s a trace there, something at least. A fact. You don’t think they should let your painter go free?”

“But they’ve put him right down as the murderer now! They don’t even have any doubts . . .”

“Nonsense; you’re too excited. And what about the earrings? You must agree that if on that same day and hour the earrings from the old woman’s trunk got into Nikolai’s hands—you must agree that they got there somehow? That’s no trifle in such investigations.”

“Got there somehow! But how did they get there?” Razumikhin cried out. “And can it be that you, a doctor, you, whose first duty it is to study man, and who have the opportunity before anyone else of studying human nature—can it be that you do not see, from all these facts, what sort of character this Nikolai is? Can you not see from the very first that everything he testified to during the interrogation is the most sacred truth? They got into his hands exactly as he testified. He stepped on the box and picked it up.”

“The most sacred truth? Nevertheless, he himself admitted that he lied at first.”

“Listen to me, listen carefully: the caretaker, and Koch, and Pestryakov, and the other caretaker, and the first caretaker’s wife, and the market woman who was sitting with her in the caretaker’s room at the time, and the court councillor Kriukov, who got out of a carriage that same moment and was coming through the gateway arm in arm with a lady—all, meaning eight or ten witnesses, testify with one voice that Nikolai was holding Dmitri down, was lying on him and punching him, and that the other grabbed his hair and was also punching him. They were lying across the entrance, blocking the way; people swear at them from all sides, and they, ‘like little children’ (as the witnesses literally said), are lying on each other, squealing, fighting, and laughing, each one louder than the other, with the most ridiculous faces, and then they run out to the street, like children, chasing each other. Hear that? Now, pay strict attention: the bodies upstairs are still warm, you hear, still warm; they were found that way! If they killed them, or just Nikolai alone, and broke into the trunk besides and robbed it, or merely took part in the robbery somehow, then allow me to ask you just one question: does such a state of mind—that is, squeals, laughter, a childish fight under the gateway—does it fit with axes, with blood, with criminal cunning, stealth, and robbery? They had only just killed them, only five or ten minutes earlier—that’s how it comes out, since the bodies are still warm—and suddenly, abandoning the bodies and the open apartment, and knowing that people have just gone up there, and abandoning the loot, they go rolling around in the street like little children, laughing, attracting everybody’s attention, and there are ten unanimous witnesses to it!”

“Strange, certainly! Impossible, in fact, but . . .”

“No buts, brother, because if the earrings, which on that day and hour turned up in Nikolai’s hands, do constitute important factual evidence against him—directly explained, however, by his own testimony, and therefore still disputable evidence —we must also take into consideration certain exonerating facts, all the more so in that these facts are irrefutable. But do you think, seeing the nature of our jurisprudence, that they will or can accept such a fact—based solely on psychological impossibility alone, and on state of mind alone—as an irrefutable fact, demolishing all incriminating and material facts whatsoever? No, they won’t, not for anything, because they’ve found the box, and the man wanted to hang himself, ‘which could only be because he felt guilty’! That’s the capital question, that’s why I get so excited! You must understand!”

“Oh, I do see that you’re excited. Wait, I forgot to ask: what proof is there that the box with the earrings indeed came from the old woman’s trunk?”

“It’s been proved,” Razumikhin answered, frowning and as if with reluctance. “Koch recognized the article and led them to the owner, and he proved positively that the article indeed belongs to him.”

“That’s bad. Now another thing: did anyone see Nikolai during the time that Koch and Pestryakov were upstairs, and can it be proved somehow?”

“That’s just it, nobody saw him,” Razumikhin answered with vexation, “that’s the worst of it: even Koch and Pestryakov didn’t notice them as they were going upstairs, though their testimony wouldn’t mean much now. ‘We saw that the apartment was open,’ they say, ‘that someone must have been working in it, but we didn’t pay attention as we passed by, and we don’t remember exactly whether the workers were there at the moment or not.’”

“Hm. So the only defense they have is that they were punching each other and laughing. Granted it’s strong evidence, but. . . Then how, may I ask, do you explain the whole fact yourself? How do you explain the finding of the earrings, if he indeed found them as he testifies?”

“How do I explain it? But what is there to explain; the thing is clear!

At least the path the case should take is clear and established, and it’s precisely the box that establishes it. The real murderer dropped the earrings. The murderer was upstairs when Koch and Pestryakov were knocking, and had locked himself in. Like a fool, Koch went downstairs; then the murderer jumped out and ran downstairs himself, since he had no other choice. On the stairs he hid from Koch, Pestryakov, and the caretaker in the empty apartment at the precise moment when Dmitri and Nikolai had gone running out of it, stood behind the door while the caretaker and the others were going upstairs, waited until their steps died away, then went down as calmly as you please, precisely at the same moment that Dmitri and Nikolai ran out to the street and everyone left and there was no one in the gateway. Maybe someone saw him, but without paying any attention—there were enough people going by! And he dropped the box out of his pocket while he was standing behind the door, and didn’t notice that he’d dropped it because he had other things on his mind. But the box clearly proves that he was standing precisely there. That’s the whole trick!”

“Clever, brother! Really clever! Couldn’t be cleverer!”

“But why, why?”

“Because of the timing…the way it all falls together so nicely…just like a stage play.”

“A-a-ah!” Razumikhin began to shout, but at that moment the door opened and a new person, unknown to anyone present, walked in.


[1] The Palais de Cristal (later referred to in C&’P as the Crystal Palace) was a hotel/restaurant, opened in Petersburg in 1862, but not in the area where Dostoevsky locates the establishment described here. His deliberate use of the name was most likely intended to remind his readers of earlier mentions of “the Crystal Palace” in Notes from Underground (1864) and elsewhere, referring to the great glass hall built in London for the International Exposition of 1851. In polemics with his ideological opponent the radical writer N. G. Chernyshevsky (1828-89), who saw this Crystal Palace as an image of the ideal living space for the future communal society (in his 1862 novel What Is to Be Done?), Dostoevsky’s man from underground likens it to a chicken coop.

[2] Peski (“the Sands”) and Kolomna were neighborhoods on the outskirts of Petersburg.


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