Part Six. V

Raskolnikov walked behind him. “What’s the meaning of this!” Svidrigailov exclaimed, turning around. “I believe I said . . .”

“It means that I’m not going to leave you alone right now.”


The two men stopped and looked at each other for a minute or so, as if sizing each other up.

“From all your half-drunken stories,” Raskolnikov snapped sharply, “I’ve positively concluded that you not only have not abandoned your most vile designs on my sister, but are even more occupied with them than ever. It is known to me that my sister received some sort of letter this morning. You were unable to sit still all this while…Suppose you did dig yourself up some wife along the way; it means nothing. I wish personally to make sure…”

Raskolnikov himself could hardly have said precisely what he wanted now, or precisely what he wished personally to make sure of.

“Is that so! And would you like me to call the police right now?”

“Go ahead!”

Again they stood facing each other for a minute. Finally, Svidrigailov’s expression changed. Having assured himself that Raskolnikov was not afraid of the threat, he suddenly assumed a most cheerful and friendly look.

“Aren’t you the one! I purposely did not start talking with you about your affair, though naturally I’m eaten up with curiosity. It’s a fantastic affair. I tried to put it off until next time, but, really, you could even rouse a dead man…Well, come along, only I’ll tell you beforehand that I’m only going home for a moment, to pick up some money; then I’ll lock the apartment, take a carriage, and go off to the Islands for the whole evening. Well, do you think you’re going to follow me?”

“To the apartment, for the moment; not yours but Sofya Semyonovna’s, to apologize for not being at the funeral.”

“Do as you please, but Sofya Semyonovna isn’t home. She took all the children to a certain lady, an aristocratic old lady, a former acquaintance of mine from the old days, who is the patroness of some orphanages. I charmed the lady by paying the fees for all three of Katerina Ivanovna’s younglings and donating money to the institutions as well; finally, I told her Sofya Semyonovna’s story, with full honors, not concealing anything. The effect was indescribable. That’s why Sofya Semyonovna had an appointment to go straight to the ——y Hotel, where this lady is temporarily present, after her summer house.”

“No matter, I’ll still come.”

“As you wish, only I’m no part of it; it’s nothing to me! Here’s the house. Tell me, am I right that you look at me suspiciously because I myself have been so delicate all along and haven’t bothered you with any questions…you understand? It seems a remarkable thing to you, I’ll bet on it! Well, so much for being delicate!”

“And eavesdropping at doors!”

“Ah, so it’s that now!” Svidrigailov laughed. “Yes, I’d be surprised if you let that go unnoticed, after all that’s happened. Ha, ha! I did catch something about your antics that time…there…which you were telling to Sofya Semyonovna, but still, what does it mean? Perhaps I’m a thoroughly backward man and unable to understand anything. Explain, my dear, for God’s sake! Enlighten me with the latest principles.”

“You couldn’t have heard anything; it’s all lies!”

“I don’t mean that, not that (though I did hear a thing or two all the same), no, what I mean is that you keep moaning and groaning all the time! Schiller is constantly being embarrassed in you. And now I’m told that one can’t eavesdrop at doors. In that case, go and tell the authorities; say thus and so, I’ve had this mishap: there was a little mistake in my theory. But if you’re convinced that one cannot eavesdrop at doors, but can go around whacking old crones with whatever comes to hand, to your heart’s content, then leave quickly for America somewhere! Flee, young man! Maybe there’s still time. I say it sincerely. Are you out of money or something? I’ll give you enough for the trip.”

“That’s not at all what I’m thinking about,” Raskolnikov interrupted with loathing.

“I understand (don’t trouble yourself, by the way: you needn’t say much if you don’t want to); I understand what sort of questions are in vogue with you: moral ones, right? Questions of the citizen and the human being? Forget them; what do you need them for now? Heh, heh! Is it because you’re still a citizen and a human being? But in that case you shouldn’t have butted into this; there’s no point in tackling business that isn’t yours. So, shoot yourself; or what, you don’t want to?”

“You seem to be taunting me on purpose so that I’ll leave you alone now . . .”

“What an odd man! But we’re already here, welcome to the stairs. See, there’s Sofya Semyonovna’s door; look, no one’s home! You don’t believe me? Ask Kapernaumov; she leaves them the key. Here’s Madame de Kapernaumov herself, eh? What? (She’s a bit deaf.) Gone out? Where? Well, did you hear now? She’s not in, and may not be back until late in the evening. Well, let’s go to my place now. Didn’t you want to go there, too? So, here we are, at my place. Madame Resslich isn’t home. The woman is eternally bustling about, but she’s a good woman, I assure you…she might be of use to you, if you were a little more reasonable. Well, now observe if you please: I take this five percent note from the bureau (see how many I’ve got left!), but this one’s going to the money-changer’s today. Well, did you see? No point in losing more time. The bureau is being locked, the apartment is being locked, and we’re on the stairs again. Well, do you want us to hire a carriage? Because I’m off to the Islands. Would you like to go for a ride? Look, I’m taking this carriage to Yelagin Island. What? You refuse? Can’t keep it up? Never mind, let’s go for a ride. Looks like it may rain; never mind, we’ll raise the top . . .”

Svidrigailov was already sitting in the carriage. Raskolnikov judged that his suspicions, at least this time, were unwarranted. Without a word of reply, he turned and went back in the direction of the Hay-market. If he had looked behind him at least once on his way, he would have had time to see how Svidrigailov, after driving no more than a hundred paces, paid for the carriage and ended up on the sidewalk himself. But he could no longer see anything, and had already turned the corner. A profound loathing drew him away from Svidrigailov. “How could I, even for a moment, expect something from this crude villain, this sensual profligate and scoundrel!” he exclaimed involuntarily. True, Raskolnikov pronounced his judgment too hastily and light-mindedly. There was something in all that had to do with Svidrigailov which endowed him with at least a certain originality, if not mysteriousness. And as far as his sister was concerned in all this, here Raskolnikov remained convinced quite assuredly that Svidrigailov would not leave her alone. But it was becoming too difficult and unbearable to go on thinking and rethinking it all!

As usual, once he was alone, after going about twenty steps, he fell into deep thoughtfulness. Having walked out onto the bridge, he stopped by the railing and began looking at the water. And meanwhile Avdotya Romanovna was standing close by him.

He had met her as he started across the bridge but had passed by without noticing her. Dunechka had never before met him like this in the street, and was struck to the point of fear. She stopped and did not know whether to call out to him or not. Suddenly she noticed Svidrigailov coming hurriedly from the direction of the Haymarket.

He seemed to be approaching secretively and cautiously. He did not walk out on the bridge, but stopped to one side on the sidewalk, trying as well as he could not to be seen by Raskolnikov. He had noticed Dunya long since and began making signs to her. It appeared to her from his signs that he was begging her not to call her brother, but to leave him alone and come to him.

And Dunya did so. She quietly passed around her brother and went up to Svidrigailov.

“Come along, quickly,” Svidrigailov whispered to her. “I do not wish Rodion Romanovich to know of our meeting. I must warn you that I’ve just been sitting with him, not far from here, in a tavern, where he came looking for me himself, and I had trouble getting rid of him. He somehow knows about my letter to you and suspects something. Of course, it was not you who revealed it? But if not, then who was it?”

“Here, we’ve already turned the corner,” Dunya interrupted, “my brother won’t see us now. I declare to you that I will not go farther with you. Tell me everything here; it can all be said in the street.”

“First, it can by no means be said in the street; second, you must also hear Sofya Semyonovna; third, I have some documents to show you…Well, and finally, if you won’t agree to come to my place, I’ll give up all explanations and leave at once. At the same time I beg you not to forget that a rather curious secret of your beloved brother’s is entirely in my hands.”

Dunya stood hesitantly, and looked at Svidrigailov with piercing eyes.

“What are you afraid of?” the latter remarked calmly. “The city is not the country. And in the country you caused me more harm than I did you, but here…”

“Has Sofya Semyonovna been warned?”

“No, I didn’t say a word to her, and am not even sure that she’s at home now. However, she probably is. She buried her relation today: on such a day one doesn’t go around visiting. For the time being I don’t want to tell anyone about it, and even partly regret having told you. At this point the slightest imprudence is the same as a denunciation. I live just here, here in this house, the one we’re coming to. Here’s our caretaker; the caretaker knows me very well; look, he’s bowing; he sees me coming with a lady, and of course has already managed to notice your face—that will prove useful to you, if you’re very afraid and suspicious of me. Excuse me for speaking so crudely. I’m subletting from tenants. Sofya Semyonovna lives on the other side of my wall; she also sublets from tenants. The whole floor is full of tenants. Why are you afraid, then, like a child? Or am I really so frightening?”

Svidrigailov’s face twisted into a condescending smile, but he could no longer bother about smiling. His heart was pounding, and his breath was taken away. He deliberately raised his voice to conceal his growing excitement, but Dunya failed to notice this special excitement; she was too irritated by his remark that she was afraid of him like a child and found him so frightening.

“Though I know that you are a man…without honor, I am not in the least afraid of you. Go ahead,” she said with apparent calm, but her face was very pale.

Svidrigailov stopped at Sonya’s apartment.

“Allow me to inquire whether she is at home. No. Worse luck! But I know she can come any minute. If she’s stepped out, it must be to see a certain lady, about the orphans. Their mother has died. I also mixed into it and made arrangements. If Sofya Semyonovna doesn’t come back in ten minutes, I’ll send her to you, this very day if you like; now here’s my apartment. Here are my two rooms. My landlady, Mrs. Resslich, lives behind that door. Now look here, I’ll show you my main documents: this door leads from my bedroom to two completely vacant rooms, which are for rent. Here they are…you should take a somewhat more attentive look at this . . .”

Svidrigailov occupied two rather spacious furnished rooms. Dunya was looking around mistrustfully, but did not notice anything special either in the decor or in the layout of the rooms, though there were things to be noticed—for instance, that Svidrigailov’s apartment was somehow placed between two almost uninhabited apartments. His entrance was not direct from the corridor, but through the landlady’s two rooms, which were nearly empty. And, having opened the locked door from the bedroom, Svidrigailov showed Dunya the other apartment, also empty, which was for rent. Dunya stood on the threshold, not understanding why she was being invited to look, but Svidrigailov hastened to explain.

“Now, look here, in this second large room. Notice this door; it’s locked. By the door there’s a chair, the only chair in either room. I brought it from my apartment, to listen more comfortably. Just the other side of the door stands Sofya Semyonovna’s table; she was sitting there, talking with Rodion Romanych. And I was here eavesdropping, sitting on the chair, two evenings in a row, each time for two hours or so—and, of course, I’d be able to find something out, don’t you think?”

“You were eavesdropping?”

“Yes, I was eavesdropping; now come back to my place; there’s nowhere even to sit down here.”

He led Avdotya Romanovna back to his first room, which served him as a living room, and offered her a chair. He himself sat at the other end of the table, at least seven feet away from her, but probably his eyes were already shining with the same flame that had once so frightened Dunechka. She gave a start and again looked around mistrustfully. It was an involuntary gesture; she clearly did not want to show her mistrust. But the isolated situation of Svidrigailov’s apartment finally struck her. She would have liked to ask at least if the landlady was at home, but she did not ask…out of pride. Besides, there was in her heart another, immeasurably greater suffering than fear for herself. She was unbearably tormented.

“Here is your letter,” she began, placing it on the table. “How can what you write be possible? You allude to a crime supposedly committed by my brother. You allude to it all too clearly, you cannot talk your way out of it now. Know, then, that I heard that stupid tale even before this, and I do not believe a single word of it. It is a vile and ridiculous suspicion. I know the story, and how and why it was invented. You cannot possibly have any proof. You promised to prove it: speak, then! But know beforehand that I don’t believe you! I don’t! . . .”

Dunechka spoke in a rapid patter, and for a moment color rushed to her face.

“If you don’t believe me, how did it happen that you risked coming alone to see me? Why did you come, then? Only out of curiosity?”

“Don’t torment me—speak, speak!”

“You’re a brave girl, needless to say. By God, I thought you’d ask Mr. Razumikhin to accompany you here. But he was not with you, or anywhere in the vicinity—I did check. That is courageous; it means you wanted to spare Rodion Romanych. But then, everything in you is divine…As for your brother, what can I tell you? You just saw him yourself. A nice sight?”

“But you’re not just basing it on that?”

“No, not on that, but on his own words. For two evenings in a row he came here to see Sofya Semyonovna. I showed you where they were sitting. He told her his full confession. He is a murderer. He killed the old woman, the money-lender, the official’s widow, to whom he had also pawned things; he killed her sister as well, a small-time dealer named Lizaveta, who chanced to walk in during her sister’s murder. He killed them both with an axe, which he had brought with him. He killed them in order to rob them, and he did rob them; he took money and some things…He himself told it all word for word to Sofya Semyonovna; she’s the only one who knows the secret, but she did not participate in the murder either by word or by deed, but, on the contrary, was as horrified as you are now. Don’t worry, she won’t betray him.”

“It cannot be!” Dunya murmured with pale, deadened lips; she was breathless. “It cannot be, there’s no reason, not the slightest, no motive…It’s a lie! A lie!”

“He robbed her, that’s the whole reason. He took money and some things. True, according to his own confession, he did not put either the money or the things to any use, but went and hid them somewhere under a stone, where they’re lying still. But that was because he didn’t dare use them.”

“But is it conceivable that he could steal, rob, that he could even think of it?” Dunya cried out, jumping up from her chair. “You know him, you’ve seen him! Could he be a thief?”

It was as if she were imploring Svidrigailov; she forgot all her fear.

“There are thousands and millions of combinations and gradations here, Avdotya Romanovna. A thief steals, but then he knows in himself that he’s a scoundrel; but I’ve heard of one gentleman who broke into the mail, and who can tell about him, maybe he really thought he was doing a decent thing! Naturally, I would not have believed it, just as you don’t, if I’d been told it by some third person. But I did believe my own ears. He also explained all his reasons to Sofya Semyonovna; and at first she did not even believe her ears, but in the end she believed her eyes, her own eyes. Because he himself was telling it to her personally.”

“And what are…the reasons!”

“That’s a long story, Avdotya Romanovna. What we have here is—how shall I express it for you—a theory of sorts; it’s the same as if I should find, for example, that an isolated evildoing is permissible if the main purpose is good. A single evil and a hundred good deeds! Of course, it’s also offensive for a young man of merit and measureless vanity to know that if he had, for example, a mere three thousand or so, his whole career, the whole future in terms of his life’s purpose, would shape itself differently—and yet the three thousand aren’t there. Add to that the vexations of hunger, cramped quarters, rags, and a lively sense of the beauty of his social position, as well as that of his sister and mother. But above all vanity, pride and vanity—though, God knows, perhaps even with good inclinations…I’m not blaming him, please don’t think that; it’s none of my business. There was also a certain little theory of his—a so-so theory—according to which people are divided, you see, into raw material and special people, meaning people for whom, owing to their high position, the law does not exist, people, on the contrary, who themselves devise laws for the rest, for the raw material—that is, for the trash. Not bad, a so-so little theory; une théorie comme une autre. [1] He got terribly carried away with Napoleon—that is, essentially what carried him away was that a great many men of genius disregarded isolated evil and stepped over it without hesitation. He seems to have imagined that he, too, was a man of genius—that is, he was sure of it for a time. He suffered greatly, and suffers still, from the thought that though he knew how to devise the theory, he was unable to step over without hesitation and therefore is not a man of genius. Now that, for a vain young man, is truly humiliating, especially in our age…”

“And remorse of conscience? You mean you deny him all moral feeling? Is that what he’s like?”

“Ah, Avdotya Romanovna, things have all become clouded now— though, by the way, they never were in any particular order. Russian people are generally broad people, Avdotya Romanovna, broad as their land, and greatly inclined to the fantastic, the disorderly; but it’s disastrous to be broad without special genius. And do you remember how much you and I used to talk in the same way, and about the same subject, sitting by ourselves on the terrace, every evening after supper? You used to reproach me precisely with this broadness. Who knows, maybe at the same time as we were talking, he was lying here and thinking his thoughts. In our educated society, Avdotya Romanovna, we have no especially sacred traditions; except for what someone somehow pieces together from old books…or something drawn from the old chronicles. But they are mostly scholars and, you know, they’re all dunces in their way, so that for a man of the world it’s even indecent. However, you generally know my opinion; I’m certainly not accusing anyone. I myself am an idler and I keep to that. But we’ve already talked about it more than once. I even had the happiness of interesting you with my judgments…You are very pale, Avdotya Romanovna!”

“I know this theory of his. I read his article in a magazine, about people to whom everything is permitted…Razumikhin brought it to me . . .”

“Mr. Razumikhin? Your brother’s article? In a magazine? Is there such an article? I didn’t know. Now that is most certainly curious! But where are you going, Avdotya Romanovna?”

“I want to see Sofya Semyonovna,” Dunechka said in a weak voice. “How can I get to her? Maybe she’s come back; I absolutely must see her now. Let her . . .”

Avdotya Romanovna could not finish; her breath literally failed her.

“Sofya Semyonovna will not come back before nightfall. So I suppose. She ought to have come very soon, but if not, it will be very late . . .”

“Ah, so you’re lying! I see…you’ve been lying…it was all a lie! I don’t believe you! I don’t! I don’t!” Dunechka cried out in a real frenzy, completely losing her head.[2]

Almost in a faint, she fell onto the chair that Svidrigailov hastened to move towards her.

“Avdotya Romanovna, what’s wrong? Come to your senses! Here’s some water. Take a sip . . .”

He sprinkled her with water. Dunechka started and came to her senses.

“It’s affected her strongly!” Svidrigailov muttered to himself, frowning. “Avdotya Romanovna, calm yourself! I assure you, he has friends. We will save him, rescue him. Do you want me to take him abroad? I have money; I can get a ticket in three days. And as for the murder, he’ll still have time to do many good deeds, so it will all be made up for; calm yourself. He still may be a great man. How are you now? How do you feel?”

“Wicked man! He’s still jeering! Let me . . .”

“Where are you going? Where?”

“To him. Where is he? Do you know? Why is this door locked? We came in this door, and now it’s locked. When did you manage to lock it?”

“We couldn’t really shout for the whole house to hear what we were just talking about. I’m not jeering at all; I’m simply tired of speaking this language. Now, where are you going to go in such a state? Or do you want to betray him? You’ll drive him into a rage, and he’ll betray himself. I want you to know that he’s being watched, they’re already on his trail. You’ll only give him away. Wait. I saw him and spoke with him just now; he can still be saved. Wait, sit down, let’s think it over together. That’s why I sent for you, to talk about it alone with you and think it over carefully. Do sit down!”

“How can you save him? Can he be saved?”

Dunya sat down. Svidrigailov sat beside her.

“It all depends on you, on you, on you alone,” he began, with flashing eyes, almost in a whisper, becoming confused, and even failing to articulate some words in his excitement.

Dunya drew further back from him in fear. He, too, was trembling all over.

“You…one word from you, and he is saved! I… I will save him. I have money, and friends. I’ll send him away at once, and I’ll get a passport, two passports. One for him, the other for me. I have friends; I have practical people…Do you want me to? I’ll also get a passport for you…your mother…what do you need Razumikhin for? I, too, love you…I love you infinitely. Let me kiss the hem of your dress—let me, let me! I can’t bear its rustling! Tell me: ‘Do this,’ and I’ll do it! I’ll do anything. I’ll do the impossible. What you believe, I will believe. I’ll do anything, anything! No, don’t look at me like that! You know you’re killing me . . .”

He was even beginning to rave. Something happened to him suddenly, as if it all suddenly went to his head. Dunya jumped up and rushed to the door.

“Open! Open!” she cried through the door, calling to someone and shaking the door with her hands. “Open, please! Is anyone there?”

Svidrigailov stood up and recovered himself. A spiteful and mocking smile was slowly forcing itself to his still trembling lips.

“No one is there,” he said softly and evenly, “the landlady has gone out, and shouting like that is a wasted effort; you’re only upsetting yourself for nothing.”

“Where is the key? Open the door at once, at once, you vile man!”[3]

“I’ve lost the key; I can’t find it.”

“Ah! So it’s force!” Dunya cried out, turned pale as death, and rushed to the corner, where she quickly shielded herself with a little table that happened to be there. She did not scream; but she fastened her eyes on her tormentor and closely followed his every movement. Svidrigailov did not move from where he was, and stood facing her at the other end of the room. He even regained his composure, at least externally. But his face was as pale as before, and the mocking smile had not left it.

“You just mentioned ‘force,’ Avdotya Romanovna. If it’s to be force, you can judge for yourself that I’ve taken measures. Sofya Semyonovna is not at home; the Kapernaumovs are very far, five locked doors away. Finally, I am at least twice as strong as you are, and, besides, I have nothing to fear, because you cannot complain afterwards either: you really won’t want to betray your brother, will you? Besides, no one will believe you: why on earth should a girl go alone to a single man’s apartment? So that even if you sacrifice your brother, you still won’t prove anything: force is very difficult to prove, Avdotya Romanovna.”

“Scoundrel!” Dunya whispered indignantly.

“As you please, but note that I was speaking only by way of suggestion. According to my own personal conviction, you are entirely right: force is an abomination. What I was getting at was that there would be exactly nothing on your conscience even if…even if you wished to save your brother voluntarily, in the way I have offered. It would mean you were simply submitting to circumstances—well, to force, finally, if it’s impossible to do without the word. Think about it; the fates of your brother and your mother are in your hands. And I shall be your slave…all my life…I’ll wait here . . .”

Svidrigailov sat down on the sofa, about eight steps away from Dunya. For her there was no longer the slightest doubt of his unshakeable determination. Besides, she knew him . . .

Suddenly she took a revolver from her pocket, cocked it, and lowered the hand holding the revolver to the little table. Svidrigailov jumped up from his seat.

“Aha! So that’s how it is!” he cried out in surprise, but with a spiteful grin. “Well, that completely changes the course of things! You’re making it much easier for me, Avdotya Romanovna! And where did you get the revolver? Can it be Mr. Razumikhin? Hah, but that’s my revolver! An old acquaintance! And how I was hunting for it then! … So those shooting lessons I had the honor of giving you in the country weren’t wasted after all.”

“It’s not your revolver, it’s Marfa Petrovna’s, whom you killed, villain![4] Nothing in her house was yours. I took it as soon as I began to suspect what you were capable of. If you dare take just one step, I swear I’ll kill you!”

Dunya was in a frenzy. She held the revolver ready.

“Well, and your brother? I ask out of curiosity,” Svidrigailov said, still standing in the same place.

“Denounce him if you like! Don’t move! Not a step! I’ll shoot! You poisoned your wife, I know it; you’re a murderer yourself! … ”

“And are you firmly convinced that I poisoned Marfa Petrovna?”

“You did! You hinted it to me yourself; you spoke to me about poison…I know you went to get it…you had it ready…It was certainly you…scoundrel!”

“Even if that were true, it was because of you…you would still be the cause of it.”

“You’re lying! I hated you always, always . . .”

“Aha, Avdotya Romanovna! You’ve obviously forgotten how in the heat of propaganda you were already inclining and melting…I saw it in your dear eyes; remember, in the evening, in the moonlight, and with a nightingale singing?”

“You’re lying!” (Rage shone in Dunya’s eyes.) “You’re lying, slanderer!”

“Lying, am I? Well, maybe I am. So I lied. Women oughtn’t to be reminded of these little things.” (He grinned.) “I know you’ll shoot, you pretty little beast. Go on, shoot!”

Dunya raised the revolver and, deathly pale, her white lower lip trembling, her large black eyes flashing like fire, looked at him, having made up her mind, calculating, and waiting for the first movement from his side. He had never yet seen her so beautiful. The fire that flashed from her eyes as she raised the revolver seemed to burn him, and his heart was wrung with pain. He took a step, and a shot rang out. The bullet grazed his hair and struck the wall behind him. He stopped and laughed softly:

“The wasp has stung! She aims straight at the head…What’s this? Blood?” He took out a handkerchief to wipe away the blood that was flowing in a thin trickle from his right temple; the bullet must have slightly touched his scalp. Dunya lowered the revolver and looked at Svidrigailov not really in fear but in some wild perplexity. It was as if she herself did not understand what she had done or what was happening.

“Well, so you missed! Shoot again, I’m waiting,” Svidrigailov said softly, still grinning, but somehow gloomily. “This way I’ll have time to seize you before you cock it!”

Dunechka gave a start, quickly cocked the revolver, and raised it again.

“Let me be!” she said in despair. “I swear, I’ll shoot again…I’ll…kill you! . . .”

“Well, so…from three paces you could hardly fail to kill me. Well, but if you don’t. . . then . . .” His eyes flashed, and he took two more steps.

Dunechka pulled the trigger—a misfire!

“You didn’t load it properly. Never mind! You’ve got another cap left. Put it right; I’ll wait.”[5]

He stood in front of her, two steps away, waiting and looking at her with wild determination, his grim eyes inflamed with passion. Dunya realized that he would rather die than let her go. “And… and of course she would kill him now, from two paces! . . .”

Suddenly she threw the revolver aside.

“She threw it down!” Svidrigailov said in surprise, and drew a deep breath. It was as if something had all at once been lifted from his heart, and perhaps not just the burden of mortal fear—which, besides, he had hardly felt in that minute. It was a deliverance from another, more sorrowful and gloomy feeling, the full force of which he himself would have been unable to define.

He went up to Dunya and gently put his arm around her waist. She did not resist but, all trembling like a leaf, looked at him with imploring eyes. He wanted to say something, his lips twisted, but he was unable to speak.

“Let me go!” Dunya said imploringly.[6]

Svidrigailov started; this let me was spoken somehow differently from the previous one.

“So you don’t love me?” he asked softly.

Dunya moved her head negatively.

“And…you can’t…ever?” he whispered in despair.

“Never!” whispered Dunya.

A moment of terrible, mute struggle passed in Svidrigailov’s soul. He looked at her with an inexpressible look. Suddenly he withdrew his arm, turned away, walked quickly to the window, and stood in front of it.

Another moment passed.

“Here’s the key!” (He took it from the left pocket of his coat and placed it on the table behind him, without looking and without turning to Dunya.) “Take it; go quickly! . . .”

He went on staring out the window.

Dunya approached the table to take the key.

“Quickly! Quickly!” Svidrigailov repeated, still without moving and without turning around. But in this “quickly” some terrible note must have sounded.

Dunya understood it, seized the key, rushed to the door, quickly unlocked it, and burst out of the room. A moment later, beside herself, she rushed madly to the canal and ran in the direction of the ——y Bridge.

Svidrigailov stood by the window for about three minutes; at last, he quietly turned, looked around, and slowly passed his hand over his forehead. A strange smile twisted his face, a pitiful, sad, weak smile, a smile of despair. Blood, already drying, stained his palm; he looked at the blood spitefully; then he wet a towel and washed his temple. The revolver Dunya had thrown aside, which had landed near the door, suddenly caught his eye. He picked it up and examined it. It was a small pocket revolver with a three-shot cylinder, of old-fashioned construction; there were two loads and one cap left. It could be fired one more time. He thought a moment, put the revolver into his pocket, took his hat, and went out.


[1] “As good a theory as any” (French).

[2] Here Dunya suddenly addresses Svidrigailov in the familiar second person singular, which Russians generally use only with family and intimate friends. The shift has a strong effect for the Russian reader, suggesting more to their relationship than has appeared so far.

[3] Here again Dunya uses the second person singular.

[4] Dunya speaks in the second person singular through “You’re lying, slanderer!” Svidrigailov twice responds in kind.

[5] The revolver is of the old cap-and-ball variety, midway between a firelock and the later cartridge pistol. The chambers were hand-loaded and fired by a separate percussion cap. In the “misfire” the cap apparently went off but did not fire the charge.

[6] Here they both begin to speak in the second person singular, through “ever?”


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