Part Four. VI

Afterwards, remembering this moment, Raskolnikov pictured it all in the following way.

The noise from behind the door quickly increased all at once, and the door opened a little.

“What is it?” Porfiry Petrovich exclaimed in annoyance. “Didn’t I warn you . . .”

No answer came for a moment, but one could see that several people were outside the door, and that someone was apparently being pushed aside.

“What is it in there?” Porfiry Petrovich repeated worriedly.

“We’ve brought the prisoner Nikolai,” someone’s voice was heard.

“No! Away! Not now! … How did he get here? What is this disorder?” Porfiry cried, rushing to the door.

“But he . . .” the same voice tried to begin again and suddenly stopped short.

For two seconds, not more, a real struggle took place; then it was as if someone suddenly pushed someone violently aside, after which a certain very pale man stepped straight into Porfiry Petrovich’s office.

The man’s appearance, at first sight, was very strange. He was staring straight ahead of him, but as if seeing no one. Determination flashed in his eyes, but at the same time there was a deathly pallor on his face, as though he were being led out to execution. His completely white lips quivered slightly.

He was still very young, dressed as a commoner, of average height, lean, with his hair cut like a bowl, and with gaunt, dry-looking features. The man he had unexpectedly pushed aside was the first to dash into the room after him, and managed to seize him by the shoulder: it was one of the guards; but Nikolai jerked his arm and tore himself free again.

A crowd of several curious onlookers formed in the doorway. Some of them made attempts to enter. Everything described here took place in no more than a moment.

“Away! It’s too soon! Wait till you’re called! …  Why did you bring him ahead of time?” Porfiry Petrovich muttered, extremely annoyed and as if thrown off. But all at once Nikolai went down on his knees.

“What’s this now?” Porfiry cried in amazement.

“I’m guilty. The sin is mine! I am the murderer!” Nikolai suddenly pronounced, somewhat breathlessly, but in a rather loud voice.

The silence lasted for about ten seconds, as though everyone were simply stunned; even the guard recoiled and no longer tried to approach Nikolai, but retreated mechanically towards the door and stood there without moving.

“What is this?” cried Porfiry Petrovich, coming out of his momentary stupor.

“I am…the murderer . . .” Nikolai repeated, after a short silence.

“What…you…what…who did you kill?” Porfiry Petrovich was obviously at a loss.

Again Nikolai was silent for a moment.

“Alyona Ivanovna and her sister, Lizaveta Ivanovna—I…killed them…with an axe. My mind was darkened . . .” he added suddenly, and again fell silent, he was still on his knees.

For a few moments Porfiry Petrovich stood as if pondering, then he roused himself up again and waved away the uninvited witnesses. They vanished instantly, and the door was closed. Then he looked at Raskolnikov, who was standing in the corner gazing wildly at Nikolai, made a move towards him, but suddenly stopped, looked at him, immediately shifted his eyes to Nikolai, then back to Raskolnikov, then back to Nikolai, and suddenly, as if carried away, he fell upon Nikolai again.

“Why are you rushing ahead with your darkening?” he shouted at him almost spitefully. “I haven’t asked you yet whether your mind was darkened or not…Tell me, you killed them?”

“I am the murderer…I’m giving testimony . . .” Nikolai said.

“Ehh! What did you kill them with?”

“An axe. I had it ready.”

“Eh, he’s rushing! Alone?”

Nikolai did not understand the question.

“Did you do it alone?”

“Alone. And Mitka’s not guilty, and he’s not privy to any of it.”

“Don’t rush with Mitka! Ehh! … And how was it, how was it that you went running down the stairs then? The caretakers met both of you, didn’t they?”

“That was to throw you off… that’s why I ran then… with Mitka,” Nikolai replied hurriedly, as if he had prepared the answer beforehand.

“So, there it is!” Porfiry cried out spitefully. “He’s not using his own words!” he muttered, as if to himself, and suddenly he noticed Raskolnikov again.

He had evidently been so carried away with Nikolai that for a moment he even forgot all about Raskolnikov. Now he suddenly recollected himself, was even embarrassed . . .

“Rodion Romanovich, my dear! Excuse me, sir,” he dashed to him, “this simply won’t do; if you please, sir…there’s nothing for you to…I myself…see what surprises! … if you please, sir! . . .”

And taking him by the arm, he showed him to the door.

“It seems you didn’t expect this?” said Raskolnikov, who of course understood nothing clearly yet but had already managed to cheer up considerably.

“You didn’t expect it either, my dear. Look how your hand is shaking! Heh, heh!”

“You’re shaking, too, Porfiry Petrovich.”

“Indeed I am, sir; I didn’t expect this! . . .”

They were standing in the doorway. Porfiry was waiting impatiently for Raskolnikov to go out.

“So you’re not going to show me your little surprise?” Raskolnikov said suddenly.

“He says it, and his teeth are still chattering in his mouth, heh, heh! What an ironical man you are! Well, sir, come again.”

“It’s good-bye, I should think.”

“As God wills, sir, as God wills!” Porfiry muttered, his smile becoming somehow twisted.

As he passed through the office, Raskolnikov noticed that many people were looking at him intently. Among the crowd in the waiting room he managed to make out the two caretakers from that house, the ones he had incited to go to the police that night. They were standing and waiting for something. But as soon as he walked out to the stairs, he suddenly heard the voice of Porfiry Petrovich behind him. Turning around, he saw that he was hurrying after him, all out of breath.

“One little word, Rodion Romanovich, sir; concerning everything else, it’s as God wills, but all the same we’ll have to ask you a thing or two formally, sir…so we’ll be seeing each other right enough, sir.”

And Porfiry stood in front of him, smiling.

“Right enough, sir,” he added once more.

It might be supposed that he wanted to say something more, but it somehow would not get itself said.

“And you must forgive me, Porfiry Petrovich, about these things just now…I lost my temper,” Raskolnikov began, now thoroughly cheered up, so much so that he could not resist the desire to show off.

“Never mind, sir, never mind…” Porfiry picked up almost joyfully. “And I myself, sir…I have a venomous character, I confess, I confess! So we’ll be seeing each other, sir. God willing, we shall indeed, sir!”

“And finally get to know each other?” Raskolnikov picked up.

“And finally get to know each other,” Porfiry Petrovich agreed, narrowing his eyes and looking at him rather seriously. “So, now you’re off to the name-day party, sir?”

“To the funeral, sir!”

“Ah, yes, the funeral, that is! Your health, do look after your health, sir . . .”

“And I really don’t know what to wish you in return!” replied Raskolnikov, who was already starting down the stairs but suddenly turned back to Porfiry. “I would wish you greater success, but, you see, your job is so comical!”

“How is it comical, sir?” Porfiry, who had also turned to go, instantly pricked up his ears.

“Well, just take this poor Mikolka, whom you must have tortured and tormented psychologically, the way you do, until he confessed; you must have been proving it to him day and night: ‘You are the murderer, you are the murderer . . .’—well, and now that he’s confessed, you’re going to pick him apart bone by bone: ‘You’re lying, you’re not the murderer! You couldn’t have been! You’re not using your own words!’ How can it not be a comical job after that?”

“Heh, heh, heh! So you noticed I just told Nikolai that he wasn’t ‘using his own words’?”

“How could I not?”

“Heh, heh! Sharp-witted, you’re sharp-witted, sir. You notice everything! Truly a playful mind, sir! And you do touch the most comical string…heh, heh! They say it’s Gogol, among writers, who had this trait in the highest degree?”[1]

“Yes, Gogol.”

“Yes, Gogol, sir…Till we have the pleasure again, sir.”

“Till we have the pleasure again . . .”

Raskolnikov went straight home. He was so puzzled and confused that, having come home and thrown himself on the sofa, he sat there for a quarter of an hour simply resting and trying at least somehow to collect his thoughts. He did not even venture to reason about Nikolai: he felt that he was defeated, that in Nikolai’s confession there was something inexplicable, astonishing, which at the moment he was totally unable to understand. But Nikolai’s confession was an actual fact. The consequences of this fact became clear to him at once: the lie could not but be revealed, and then they would set to work on him again. But at least he was free until then, and he absolutely had to do something for himself, because the danger was unavoidable.

To what extent, however? The situation was beginning to clarify itself. Recalling his whole recent scene with Porfiry, roughly, in its general outlines, he could not help shuddering with horror again. Of course, he did not know all of Porfiry’s purposes yet, he could not grasp all his calculations. But part of the game had been revealed, and certainly no one knew better than he how terrible this “move” in Porfiry’s game was for him. A little more and he might have given himself away completely, and factually now. Knowing the morbidity of his character, having correctly grasped and penetrated it at first sight, Porfiry had acted almost unerringly, albeit too resolutely. There was no question that Raskolnikov had managed to compromise himself far too much today, but still it had not gone as far as facts; it was all still relative. But was it right, was it right, the way he understood it now? Was he not mistaken? What precisely had Porfiry been driving at today? Did he really have anything prepared today? And what precisely? Was he really expecting something, or not? How precisely would they have parted today, had it not been for the arrival of an unexpected catastrophe through Nikolai?

Porfiry had shown almost the whole of his game; he was taking a risk, of course, but he had shown it, and (Raskolnikov kept thinking) if Porfiry really had something more, he would have shown that, too. What was this “surprise”? A mockery, perhaps? Did it mean anything, or not? Could it have concealed anything resembling a fact, a positive accusation? That man yesterday? Where had he dropped to? Where was he today? Because if Porfiry had anything positive, it must certainly be connected with that man yesterday . . .

He was sitting on the sofa, his head hanging down, his elbows resting on his knees, and his face buried in his hands. A nervous trembling still shook his whole body. Finally he got up, took his cap, thought, and made for the door.

He somehow had a presentiment that for today, at least, he could almost certainly consider himself safe. Suddenly his heart felt almost joyful: he wanted to hasten to Katerina Ivanovna’s. To be sure, he was late for the funeral, but he would still be in time for the memorial meal, and there, now, he would see Sonya.

He stopped, thought, and a sickly smile forced itself to his lips.

“Today! Today!” he repeated to himself. “Yes, today! It must be . . .”

He was just about to open the door, when it suddenly began to open by itself. He trembled and jumped back. The door was opening slowly and quietly, and suddenly a figure appeared—of yesterday’s man from under the ground.

The man stopped on the threshold, looked silently at Raskolnikov, and took a step into the room. He was exactly the same as yesterday, the same figure, the same clothes, but in his face and eyes a great change had taken place: he now looked somehow rueful, and, having stood for a little, he sighed deeply. He need only have put his palm to his cheek and leaned his head to one side, to complete his resemblance to a peasant woman.

“What do you want?” Raskolnikov asked, going dead.

The man paused and then suddenly bowed deeply to him, almost to the ground. At least he touched the ground with one finger of his right hand.

“What is this?” Raskolnikov cried out.

“I am guilty,” the man said softly.

“Of what?”

“Of wicked thoughts.”

The two stood looking at each other.

“I felt bad. When you came that time, maybe under the influence, and told the caretakers to go to the precinct, and asked about blood, I felt bad because it all came to nothing, and you were taken for drunk. And I felt so bad that I lost my sleep. And, remembering the address, we came here yesterday and asked…”

“Who came?” Raskolnikov interrupted, instantly beginning to recall.

“I came, that is. I did you a bad turn.”

“You’re from that house, then?”

“But I was standing with them in the gateway that time, don’t you remember? We have our handcraft there, from old times. We’re furriers, tradespeople, we work at home…but most of all I felt bad . . .”

And all at once Raskolnikov clearly recalled the whole scene in the gateway two days ago; he realized that besides the caretakers several other people had been standing there, and women as well. He recalled one voice suggesting that he be taken straight to the police. He could not recall the speaker’s face, and even now he did not recognize him, but he remembered that he had even made him some reply then, and turned to him . . .

So this was the solution to yesterday’s horror. Most horrible was the thought that he had really almost perished, almost destroyed himself, because of such a worthless circumstance. So except for the renting of the apartment and the talk about blood, this man had nothing to tell. So Porfiry also had nothing, nothing except this delirium, no facts except for psychology, which is double-ended, nothing positive. So if no more facts emerged (and they must not emerge, they must not, they must not!), then…then what could they possibly do to him? How could they expose him finally, even if they should arrest him? And so Porfiry had learned about the apartment only now, only that day, and knew nothing before.

“Was it you who told Porfiry today…that I went there?” he cried, struck by the sudden idea.

“What Porfiry?”

“The chief investigator.”

“Yes, me. The caretakers wouldn’t go that time, so I went.”

“Today?”

“I was there just a minute before you. And I heard everything, everything, the way he was tormenting you.”

“Where? What? When?”

“But, right there, behind the partition, I was sitting there the whole time.”

“What? So the surprise was you? But how could it have happened? For pity’s sake!”

“Seeing as the caretakers didn’t want to go on my words,” the tradesman began, “because they said it was late by then and he might even be angry that they came at the wrong time, I felt bad, and lost my sleep, and began finding things out. And having found out yesterday, I went today. The first time I came, he wasn’t there. I tarried an hour longer, and then he couldn’t see me. The third time I came, they let me in. I began reporting to him everything as it was, and he began rushing around the room and beat himself on the chest with his fist: ‘What are you doing to me, you robbers?’ he said. ‘If I’d known anything of the sort, I’d have gone and brought him in under guard!’ Then he ran out, called someone, and began talking to him in the corner, and then he came back to me, and began questioning and chiding me. And he reproached me very much; and I informed him of everything, and said that you didn’t dare answer anything to my words yesterday, and that you didn’t recognize me. And here he began running around again, and kept beating himself on the chest, and he was angry, and running around, and when you were announced— ‘Well,’ he said, ‘get behind the partition, sit there for now, don’t move, no matter what you hear,’ and he himself brought me a chair there and locked me in; ‘I may ask for you,’ he said. And when they brought Nikolai, he took me out, just after you: ‘I’ll want you again,’ he said, ‘I’ll question you again’ . . .”

“And did he ask Nikolai any questions while you were there?” “As soon as he took you out, he immediately took me out as well, and began questioning Nikolai.”

The tradesman stopped and suddenly bowed again, touching the floor with his finger.

“For my slander and my wickedness, forgive me.” “God will forgive,” Raskolnikov replied, and as soon as he uttered it, the tradesman bowed to him, not to the ground this time but from the waist, turned slowly, and walked out of the room. “Everything’s double-ended, now everything’s double-ended,” Raskolnikov kept repeating, and he walked out of the room more cheerful than ever.

“The struggle’s not over yet,” he said with a spiteful grin, on his way down the stairs. The spite was directed at himself: with scorn and shame he looked back on his “faintheartedness.”

 

[1] Nikolai Gogol (1800-52), prose writer and dramatist, was the greatest of Dostoevsky’s predecessors. Dostoevsky was deeply indebted to him as an artist, particularly in his notion of “fantastic realism”; his works are full of references, hidden parodies, and polemical responses to the writings of the great satirist.

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