Part Three. VI

…I don’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” the puzzled Razumikhin repeated, trying his best to refute Raskolnikov’s arguments. They were already approaching Bakaleev’s rooming house, where Pulcheria Alexandrovna and Dunya had long been expecting them. In the heat of the conversation, Razumikhin kept stopping every moment, embarrassed and excited by the mere fact that they were talking openly about that for the first time.

“Don’t, then!” Raskolnikov replied, with a cold and careless smile. “You noticed nothing, as is usual with you, but I weighed every word.”

“You’re insecure, that’s why…Hm…I must admit Porfiry’s tone was rather strange, and that scoundrel Zamyotov especially! …  You’re right, there was something in him—but why? Why?”

“Changed his mind overnight.”

“But it’s the opposite, the opposite! If they did have such a brainless idea, they’d try their best to conceal it and keep their cards hidden, so as to catch you later…But now—it was so insolent and reckless!”

“If they had any facts—real facts, that is—or somewhat well-founded suspicions at least, then they would indeed try to conceal their game, in hopes of bigger winnings (but then they would have made a search long ago!). They have no facts, however, not a one—it’s all a mirage, all double-ended, just a fleeting idea—so they’re using insolence to try to throw me off. Maybe he’s angry himself that there are no facts, and his irritation broke through. Or maybe he has something in mind…It seems he’s an intelligent man…Maybe he wanted to frighten me with his knowing…There’s psychology for you, brother…But enough! It’s disgusting to explain it all!”

“And insulting, insulting! I understand you! But…since we’ve started talking openly now (and it’s excellent that we’re talking openly; I’m glad!)—I will now confess to you straight out that I’ve noticed it in them for some time, this idea, all along; in the tiniest sense, naturally; a creeping suspicion—but why even a creeping one! How dare they! Where, where are its roots hidden? If you knew how furious I was! What, just because a poor student, crippled by poverty and hypochondria, on the verge of a cruel illness and delirium, which may already have begun in him (note that!), insecure, vain, conscious of his worth, who for six months has sat in his corner seeing no one, in rags, in boots without soles, is standing there in front of some local cops, suffering their abuse; and here there’s an unexpected debt shoved in his nose, an overdue promissory note from the court councillor Chebarov, rancid paint, thirty degrees Reaumur,[1] a stifling atmosphere, a crowd of people, a story about the murder of a person he’d visited the day before—and all this on an empty stomach! How could anyone not faint! And to base everything on that, on that! Devil take it! I know it’s annoying, but in your place, Rodka, I’d burst out laughing in their faces; or, better—I’d spit in their mugs, and lay it on thick, and deal out a couple of dozen whacks all around—wisely, as it should always be done—and that would be the end of it. Spit on them! Cheer up! For shame!”

“He explained it well, however,” Raskolnikov thought.

“Spit on them? And tomorrow another interrogation!” he said bitterly. “Should I really get into explanations with them? I’m already annoyed that I stooped to Zamyotov yesterday in the tavern…”

“Devil take it! I’ll go to Porfiry myself! And I’ll pin him down as a relative; let him lay it all out to the roots! As for Zamyotov . . .”

“He’s finally figured it out!” thought Raskolnikov.

“Wait!” cried Razumikhin, suddenly seizing him by the shoulder. “Wait! You’re all wrong! I’ve just thought it over: you’re all wrong! Look, what sort of ruse was it? You say the question about the workmen was a ruse? Get what I’m saying: if you had done that, would you let on that you’d seen the apartment being painted…and the workmen? On the contrary: you didn’t see anything, even if you did! Who’s going to come out against himself?”

“If I had done that thing, I would certainly say I had seen both the apartment and the workmen,” Raskolnikov went on answering reluctantly and with obvious loathing.

“But why speak against oneself?”

“Because only peasants or the most inexperienced novices deny everything outright and all down the line. A man with even a bit of development and experience will certainly try to admit as far as possible all the external and unavoidable facts; only he’ll seek other reasons for them, he’ll work in some feature of his own, a special and unexpected one, that will give them an entirely different meaning and present them in a different light. Porfiry could precisely count on my being certain to answer that way, on my being certain to say I’d seen them, for the sake of plausibility, and working in something to explain it . . .”

“But he’d tell you immediately that there were no workmen there two days before, and that you had therefore been there precisely on the day of the murder, between seven and eight. He’d throw you off with nothing!”

“But that’s what he was counting on, that I wouldn’t have time to figure it out and would precisely hasten to answer more plausibly, forgetting that the workmen couldn’t have been there two days before.”

“But how could one forget that?”

“What could be easier! It’s with such nothings that clever people are thrown off most easily. The cleverer the man, the less he suspects that he can be thrown off with the simplest thing. It’s precisely the simplest thing that will throw off the cleverest man. Porfiry isn’t as stupid as you think…”

“In that case he’s a scoundrel!”

Raskolnikov could not help laughing. But at the same moment it struck him as strange that he had become so animated and had so willingly uttered this last explanation, when he had kept up the whole previous conversation with sullen loathing, obviously for some purpose, out of necessity.

“I’m beginning to relish certain points!” he thought to himself.

But at almost the same moment he began suddenly to be somehow uneasy, as if struck by an unexpected and alarming thought. His unease kept growing. They had already reached the entrance to Bakaleev’s rooming house.

“Go alone,” Raskolnikov said suddenly, “I’ll be back right away.”

“Where are you going? We’re already here!”

“I must, I must…something to do…I’ll be back in half an hour…Tell them.”

“As you wish; I’ll follow you!”

“So you want to torment me, too!” he cried out, with such bitter irritation, with such despair in his eyes, that Razumikhin dropped his hands. He stood for a while on the steps and watched glumly as Raskolnikov strode off quickly in the direction of his own lane. Finally, gritting his teeth and clenching his fists, and swearing on the spot that he would squeeze Porfiry out like a lemon that very day, he went upstairs to reassure Pulcheria Alexandrovna, alarmed by then at their long absence.

By the time Raskolnikov reached his house, his temples were damp with sweat and he was breathing heavily. He hastily climbed the stairs, walked into his unlocked apartment, and immediately put the door on the hook. Then he rushed fearfully and madly to the corner, to the same hole in the wallpaper where the things had lain, thrust his hand into it, and for several minutes felt around in it carefully, going over every cranny and every crease in the wallpaper. Finding nothing, he stood up and drew a deep breath. Just as he was coming to Bakaleev’s steps, he had suddenly imagined that something, some chain, a cufflink, or even a scrap of the paper they had been wrapped in, with a mark on it in the old woman’s hand, might somehow have slipped down and lost itself in a crack, afterwards to confront him suddenly as unexpected and irrefutable evidence.

He stood as if pensively, and a strange, humiliated, half-senseless smile wandered over his lips. Finally he took his cap and walked quietly out of the room. His thoughts were confused. Pensively, he went down to the gateway.

“Why, here’s the man himself!” a loud voice exclaimed. He raised his head.

The caretaker was standing by the door of his closet, pointing him out to some short man, a tradesman by the look of it, who was wearing something like a smock over his waistcoat, and from a distance very much resembled a woman. His head hung down in its greasy cap, and he was as if all hunched over. His flabby, wrinkled face told more than fifty years; his small, swollen eyes had a sullen, stern, and displeased look.

“What is it?” Raskolnikov asked, coming up to the caretaker.

The tradesman gave him a sidelong look, examining him closely, attentively, unhurriedly; then he turned slowly and, without saying a word, walked out the gate to the street.

“But what is it!” Raskolnikov cried.

“Just somebody asking if a student lived here—he gave your name— and who you rent from. You came down right then, I pointed you out, and he left. How about that!”

The caretaker, too, was somewhat perplexed, but not very, and after thinking a moment longer, he turned and slouched back to his closet.

Raskolnikov rushed after the tradesman and caught sight of him at once, going along the other side of the street at the same steady and unhurried pace, his eyes fixed on the ground, as if pondering something. He soon overtook him, but walked behind him for a while; finally he drew abreast of him and stole a glance at his face from the side. The man noticed him at once, quickly looked him over, then dropped his eyes again, and thus they walked on for about a minute, side by side, neither one saying a word.

“You were asking for me…at the caretaker’s?” Raskolnikov said at last, but somehow very softly.

The tradesman made no reply and did not even look. Again there was silence.

“But why do you…come asking…and say nothing…what does it mean?” Raskolnikov’s voice was faltering, and the words somehow did not want to come out clearly.

This time the tradesman raised his eyes and gave Raskolnikov an ominous, gloomy look.

“Murderer!” he said suddenly, in a soft but clear and distinct voice.

Raskolnikov was walking beside him. His legs suddenly became terribly weak, a chill ran down his spine, and it was as if his heart stood still for a moment; then all at once it began pounding as if it had jumped off the hook. They walked on thus for about a hundred steps, side by side, and again in complete silence.

The tradesman did not look at him.

“What do you…what…who is a murderer?” Raskolnikov muttered, barely audibly.

“You are a murderer,” the man replied even more distinctly and imposingly, smiling as if with some hateful triumph, and again he looked straight into Raskolnikov’s pale face and deadened eyes. Just then they came to an intersection. The tradesman turned down the street to the left and walked on without looking back. Raskolnikov remained on the spot and gazed after him for a long time. He saw him turn around, after he had gone fifty steps or so, and look at him standing there motionlessly on the same spot. It was impossible to see, but Raskolnikov fancied that the man once again smiled his coldly hateful and triumphant smile.

With slow, weakened steps, with trembling knees and as if terribly cold, Raskolnikov returned and went upstairs to his closet. He took off his cap, put it on the table, and stood motionlessly beside it for about ten minutes. Then, powerless, he lay down on the sofa and painfully, with a weak moan, stretched out on it; his eyes were closed. He lay that way for about half an hour.

He was not thinking of anything. There were just some thoughts, or scraps of thoughts, images without order or connection—the faces of people he had seen as a child, or had met only once somewhere, and whom he would never even have remembered; the belfry of the V——y Church; the billiard table in some tavern, an officer by the billiard table, the smell of cigars in a basement tobacco shop, a pothouse, a back stairway, completely dark, all slopped with swill and strewn with eggshells, and from somewhere the sound of Sunday bells ringing…One thing followed another, spinning like a whirlwind. Some he even liked, and he clung to them, but they would die out, and generally something weighed on him inside, but not very much. At times he even felt good…The slight chill would not go away, but that, too, felt almost good.

He heard Razumikhin’s hurrying steps and his voice, closed his eyes, and pretended to be asleep. Razumikhin opened the door and for a while stood as if hesitating in the doorway. Then he stepped quietly into the room and cautiously approached the sofa. Nastasya could be heard whispering:

“Don’t rile him; let him get some sleep; he can eat later.”

“Right you are,” answered Razumikhin.

They both went out cautiously and closed the door. Another half hour or so passed. Raskolnikov opened his eyes and heaved himself over on his back again, his arms flung behind his head . . .

“Who is he? Who is this man who came from under the ground? Where was he and what did he see? He saw everything, there’s no doubt of it. But where was he standing then, where was he watching from? Why did he come from under the floor only now? And how could he have seen—how is it possible?…Hm . . .” Raskolnikov went on, turning cold and shuddering, “and the case that Nikolai found behind the door—how was that possible? Evidence? One little thing in a hundred thousand overlooked—and here’s evidence as big as an Egyptian pyramid! A fly flew by and saw it! Is it possible this way?”

And he suddenly felt with loathing how weak he had become, physically weak.

“I should have known,” he thought, with a bitter smile, “and how, knowing myself, anticipating myself, did I dare take an axe and bloody my hands! I had to have known beforehand…Eh! but I did know beforehand! . . .” he whispered in despair.

At times he stopped still at some thought.

“No, those people are made differently; the true master, to whom all is permitted, sacks Toulon, makes a slaughterhouse of Paris, forgets an army in Egypt, expends half a million men in a Moscow campaign, and gets off with a pun in Vilno; and when he dies they set up monuments to him—and thus everything is permitted.[2] No, obviously such men are made not of flesh but of bronze!”

All at once a sudden, extraneous thought almost made him laugh:

“Napoleon, pyramids, Waterloo—and a scrawny, vile registrar’s widow, a little old crone, a moneylender with a red trunk under her bed—well, how is Porfiry Petrovich, for instance, going to digest that! … It’s not for them to digest! … Aesthetics will prevent them: would Napoleon, say, be found crawling under some ‘little old crone’s’ bed! Eh, but what rot! . . .”

There were moments when he felt he was almost raving; he would fall into a feverishly ecstatic mood.

“The little old crone is nonsense!” he thought, ardently and impetuously. “The old woman was a mistake perhaps, but she’s not the point! The old woman was merely a sickness…I was in a hurry to step over…it wasn’t a human being I killed, it was a principle! So I killed the principle, but I didn’t step over, I stayed on this side…All I managed to do was kill. And I didn’t even manage that, as it turns out…A principle? Why was that little fool Razumikhin abusing the socialists today? They’re hardworking, commercial people, concerned with ‘universal happiness’…No, life is given to me only once, and never will be again—I don’t want to sit waiting for universal happiness. I want to live myself; otherwise it’s better not to live at all. And so? I just didn’t want to pass by my hungry mother, clutching my rouble in my pocket, while waiting for ‘universal happiness.’ To say, ‘I’m carrying a little brick for universal happiness, and so there’s a feeling of peace in my heart.’[3] Ha, ha! But why did you leave me out? I have only one life; I, too, want…Eh, an aesthetic louse is what I am, and nothing more,” he added, suddenly bursting into laughter like a madman. “Yes, I really am a louse,” he went on, gloatingly seizing upon the thought, rummaging in it, playing and amusing himself with it, “if only because, first, I’m now reasoning about being a louse; second, because I’ve been troubling all-good Providence for a whole month, calling it to witness that I was undertaking it not to satisfy my own flesh and lust, but with a splendid and agreeable goal in mind—ha, ha! Third, because I resolved to observe all possible justice in carrying it out, weight, measure, arithmetic: I chose the most useless louse of all and, having killed her, decided to take from her exactly as much as I needed for the first step, no more and no less (and the rest would thus simply go to the monastery, according to her will—ha, ha!)…And ultimately, ultimately I am a louse,” he added, grinding his teeth, “because I myself am perhaps even more vile and nasty than the louse I killed, and I had anticipated beforehand that I would tell myself so after I killed her. Can anything compare with such horror! Oh, triteness! Oh, meanness! … Oh, how well I understand the ‘prophet’ with his sabre, on his steed. Allah commands—obey, ‘trembling’ creature![4]He’s right, the ‘prophet’ is right when he sets up a first-rate battery across a street somewhere and blasts away at the innocent and the guilty, without even stooping to explain himself! Obey, trembling creature and—forget your wishes, because—that’s none of your business! … Oh, nothing, nothing will make me forgive the old crone!”

His hair was damp with sweat, his trembling lips were parched, his fixed eyes were turned up to the ceiling.

“My mother, my sister, how I loved them! Why do I hate them now? Yes, I hate them, hate them physically, I cannot bear having them near me…I went over and kissed mother this morning, I remember…To embrace her and think that if she found out, she…should I tell her, then? That would be just like me…Hm! She must be the same as I am,” he added, making an effort to think, as though struggling against the delirium that was taking hold of him. “Oh, how I hate that little old crone now! If she recovered, I think I’d kill her again! Poor Lizaveta! Why did she have to turn up there! … Strange, though; why is it that I almost never think of her, as if I hadn’t killed her?…Lizaveta! Sonya! Poor, meek ones, with meek eyes…Dear ones! … Why don’t they weep? Why don’t they moan?…They give everything…their eyes are meek and gentle…Sonya, Sonya! Gentle Sonya! . . .”

He became oblivious; it seemed strange to him that he did not remember how he could have ended up in the street. It was already late evening. The twilight was thickening, the full moon shone brighter and brighter, but the air was somehow especially stifling. People moved in crowds along the street; artisans and office workers were going home, others were out for a stroll; there was a smell of lime, dust, stagnant water. Raskolnikov walked along sad and preoccupied; he remembered very well that he had left the house with some purpose, that he had to do something, and quickly, but precisely what—he had forgotten. Suddenly he stopped and noticed that a man standing on the sidewalk across the street was waving to him with his hand. He started across the street towards him, but the man suddenly turned and went on as though nothing had happened, with his head down, not looking back or showing any sign that he had called him. “But did he call me, really?” Raskolnikov thought, and nevertheless started after him. When he was about ten steps away, he suddenly recognized the man— and was frightened: it was today’s tradesman, in the same smock, hunched over as before. Raskolnikov stayed some distance behind him; his heart was pounding; they turned down a side street—he still refused to look back. “Does he know I’m following him?” thought Raskolnikov. The tradesman walked through the gates of a big house. Raskolnikov hastened up to the gates and looked in to see if he would turn and call him. Indeed, having passed under the gateway and on into the courtyard, he suddenly turned around and again seemed to wave to him. Raskolnikov immediately went through the gateway, but the tradesman was no longer in the courtyard. That meant he had gone straight up the first stairway. Raskolnikov rushed after him. He could indeed hear someone’s steady, unhurried steps two flights above. Strangely, the stairway seemed familiar! Here was the first-floor window; moonlight shone sadly and mysteriously through the glass; here was the second floor. Hah! It was the same apartment where the painters had been working…How had he not recognized it at once? The steps of the man ahead of him faded away: “that means he has stopped or is hiding somewhere.” Here was the third floor; should he go any farther? How silent it was, even frightening…But he went on. The sound of his own steps scared and alarmed him. God, how dark! The tradesman was probably lurking somewhere here in a corner. Ah! The apartment door was standing wide open; he thought a moment and went in. The entryway was very dark and empty, not a soul, as though everything had been taken out; quietly, on tiptoe, he moved on into the living room: the whole room was brightly flooded with moonlight; everything here was as it had been: the chairs, the mirror, the yellow sofa, the pictures in their frames. A huge, round, copper-red moon was looking straight in the window. “It’s because of the moon that it’s so silent,” thought Raskolnikov, “asking some riddle, no doubt.” He stood and waited, waited a long time, and the more silent the moon was, the harder his heart pounded—it was even becoming painful. And still the same silence. Suddenly there came a brief, dry crack like the snapping of a twig; then everything was still again. An awakened fly suddenly swooped and struck against the window, buzzing plaintively. At the same moment he made out what seemed to be a woman’s wrap hanging in the corner between a small cupboard and the window. “Why is that wrap here?” he thought, “it wasn’t here before…” He approached quietly and realized that someone seemed to be hiding there behind the wrap. He cautiously moved the wrap aside with his hand and saw a chair standing there, and on the chair, in the corner, sat the little old crone, all hunched up, with her head bent down so that there was no way he could see her face—but it was she. He stood over her. “Afraid!” he thought, and he quietly freed the axe from its loop and struck the old woman on the crown of the head, once and then again. But, strangely, she did not even stir under his blows, as though she were made of wood. He became frightened, bent closer, and began looking at her, but she also bent her head still lower. Then he bent down all the way to the floor and peeked into her face from below, peeked and went dead: the little old crone was sitting there laughing—simply dissolving in soft, inaudible laughter, trying her best not to let him hear her. He suddenly fancied that the door to the bedroom had opened a little, and there also seemed to be laughter and whispering there. Rage overcame him: he began hitting the old woman on the head with all his strength, but at every blow of the axe the laughing and whispering from the bedroom grew stronger and louder, and the little crone heaved all over with laughter. He wanted to run away, but now the whole entryway is full of people, all the doors to the stairs are wide open, and on the landings, on the stairway, farther down there are people, head to head, all looking—but all hushed and waiting, silent… His heart shrank, his feet became rooted and refused to move…He tried to cry out—and woke up.

He drew a deep breath—yet, strangely, it was as if the dream were still going on: his door was wide open, and a man completely unknown to him was standing on the threshold, studying him intently.

Raskolnikov had not yet managed to open his eyes fully, and he instantly closed them again. He lay on his back without stirring. “Is the dream still going on, or not?” he thought, and again imperceptibly parted his eyelashes a little: the stranger was standing in the same place and was still peering at him. All at once he cautiously stepped across the threshold, closed the door carefully behind him, went over to the table, waited for about a minute—not taking his eyes off him all the while—and softly, noiselessly, sat down on the chair by the sofa; he placed his hat beside him on the floor, leaned with both hands on his cane, and rested his chin on his hands. One could see that he was prepared to wait a long time. As far as could be made out through blinking eyelashes, this was a man no longer young, thickset, and with a bushy, fair, almost white beard . . .

About ten minutes went by. It was still light, but evening was approaching. There was total silence in the room. No sound came even from the stairs. Only a big fly buzzed and struggled, striking with a swoop against the window. Finally it became unbearable: Raskolnikov raised himself all at once and sat up on the sofa.

“Speak, then. What do you want?”

“Ah, I just knew you were not asleep, but only pretending,” the unknown man answered strangely, with a quiet laugh. “Allow me to introduce myself: Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov . . .”

 

[1] A temperature of 30° on the Reaumur scale is the equivalent of 1oo°F or 80°C.

[2] Raskolnikov mentally lists the steps in Napoleon’s career. Napoleon (1760-1821) first distinguished himself as an artillery captain in the battle of Toulon in the south of France (1793). In 1795 he used his artillery to suppress a royalist uprising in Paris. After an unfortunate campaign in the Middle Fast, in August 1799 he abandoned his army in Egypt and hastily returned alone to Paris to seize power (the remnants of the army were finally repatriated only two years later). In his disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, he lost all but a few thousand of his 500,000-man army, and most of his artillery. The “pun in Vilno” refers to Napoleon’s remark after leaving Russia: “Du sublime au ridicule, il n’y a qu’un pas” (“From the sublime to the ridiculous is only one step”), quoted by Victor Hugo in the preface to his historical drama Cromwell (1827).

[3] The phrase, almost a quotation, appears in the writings of Victor Considérant (1808-93), a French Utopian socialist thinker, follower of Fourier.

[4] The expression “trembling creature,” from the Koran, also appears in Pushkin’s cycle of poems Imitations of the Koran (1824), where Dostoevsky may have found it.

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