Part Six. VII

That same day, but in the evening, past six o’clock, Raskolnikov was approaching the apartment of his mother and sister—the apartment in Bakaleev’s house where Razumikhin had placed them. The entrance to the stairway was from the street. Raskolnikov was still slowing his steps and as if hesitating whether to go in or not. But he would not have turned back for anything in the world; his decision had been taken. “Besides, it doesn’t matter, they still don’t know anything,” he was thinking, “and they’re already used to considering me an odd man…” His clothes were terrible: everything was dirty, torn, tattered, after a whole night out in the rain. His face was almost disfigured by weariness, bad weather, physical exhaustion, and the nearly twenty-four-hour struggle with himself. He had spent the whole night alone, God knows where. But at least he had made up his mind.

He knocked at the door; his mother opened. Dunechka was not there. Even the serving-girl happened not to be there. Pulcheria Alexandrovna was speechless at first from joyful amazement; then she seized him by the hand and pulled him into the room.

“So here you are!” she began, faltering with joy. “Don’t be angry with me, Rodya, for greeting you so foolishly, with tears: I’m laughing, not crying. You think I’m crying? No, I’m rejoicing, but I have this foolish habit: tears pour out of me. I’ve had it ever since your father’s death; I cry at everything. Sit down, darling, you must be tired, I can see. Ah, how dirty you’ve gotten.”

“I was out in the rain yesterday, mama . . .” Raskolnikov tried to begin.

“Don’t, oh, don’t!” Pulcheria Alexandrovna burst out, interrupting him. “You thought I’d just up and start questioning you, from my former woman’s habit, but don’t worry. I do understand, I understand everything now, I now know how things are done here, and really, I can see for myself that it’s more intelligent here. I’ve judged once and for all: is it for me to understand your considerations and demand reports from you? God knows what affairs and plans you may have in your head, or what ideas may be born there; so why should I nudge your arm and ask what you’re thinking about? And now I’m…Ah, Lord! But why am I rushing up and down like a lunatic?… Now I’m reading your article in the magazine, Rodya; Dmitri Prokofych brought it. I just gasped when I saw it: fool that I am, I thought to myself, this is what he’s busy with, this is the solution to it all! Perhaps he has new ideas in his head right now; he’s thinking them over, and I’m tormenting and confusing him. Well, I’m reading it, my dear, and of course there are many things I don’t understand; however, that’s as it must be: how could I?”

“Show it to me, mother!”

Raskolnikov took the little journal and glanced briefly at his article. Contradictory as it was to his situation and condition, he still felt that strange and mordantly sweet sensation an author experiences on seeing himself in print for the first time; besides, his twenty-three years showed themselves. This lasted only a moment. Having read a few lines, he frowned and a terrible anguish wrung his heart. The whole of his soul’s struggle over the past months came back to him all at once. In disgust and vexation, he flung the article down on the table.

“But, foolish as I am, Rodya, I’m able to judge all the same that you will soon be one of the foremost men, if not the very foremost, in our learned world. And they dared to think you were mad. Ha, ha, ha! You don’t know, but they did think that! Ah, base worms, how can they understand what intelligence is! And Dunechka nearly believed it, too—fancy that! Your late father twice sent things to magazines— poems first (I still have the notebook, I’ll show it to you someday), and then a whole long story (I begged to be the one to copy it out), and how we both prayed it would be accepted—but it wasn’t! It grieved me so, six or seven days ago, Rodya, to look at your clothes, the way you live, what you eat, how you dress. But now I see that I was being foolish again, because if you wanted, you could get everything for yourself at once, with your mind and talent. It means that for the time being you don’t want to, and are occupied with far more important matters…”

“Dunya’s not home, mother?”

“No, Rodya. I quite often don’t see her at home; she leaves me by myself. Dmitri Prokofych, bless him, comes to sit with me, and keeps talking about you. He loves and respects you, my dear. I’m not saying that your sister is so very inconsiderate of me. I’m not complaining. She has her character, I have mine; she’s got some sort of secrets now; well, I don’t have any secrets from either of you. Of course, I’m firmly convinced that Dunya is far too intelligent and, besides, she loves both you and me…but I really don’t know where it will all end. You’ve made me happy by coming, Rodya, but she has missed seeing you; she’ll come and I’ll say: your brother stopped by while you were out, and where, may I ask, have you been spending your time? Don’t spoil me too much, Rodya: stop by if you can, and if you can’t—there’s no help for it, I’ll just wait. I’ll know that you love me even so, and that’s enough for me. I’ll read your writings, I’ll hear about you from everyone, and once in a while you’ll stop by to see me yourself—what could be better? For you did come now to comfort your mother, I see that . . .”

Here Pulcheria Alexandrovna suddenly started to cry.

“Me again! Don’t look at your foolish mother! Ah, Lord, but why am I sitting here like this,” she exclaimed, jumping up from her place. “There’s coffee, and I haven’t offered you any! That’s what it means to be a selfish old woman. Just a moment, just a moment!”

“Forget it, mama, I’m going now. I didn’t come for that. Please listen to me.”

Pulcheria Alexandrovna timidly went up to him.

“Mama, whatever happens, whatever you hear about me, whatever they tell you about me, will you still love me as you do now?” he asked suddenly, from the fullness of his heart, as if not thinking about his words or weighing them.

“Rodya, Rodya, what’s the matter with you? How can you ask me that! And who is going to tell me anything about you? No, I won’t believe anyone at all, and whoever comes to me I’ll simply chase away.”

“I’ve come to assure you that I have always loved you, and I’m glad we’re alone now, I’m even glad that Dunechka isn’t here,” he went on with the same impulsiveness. “I’ve come to tell you straight out that, although you will be unhappy, you must know all the same that your son loves you right now more than himself, and whatever you may have thought about me being cruel and not loving you, it’s all untrue. I’ll never cease to love you…Well, and enough; I thought I had to do this, to begin with this . . .”

Pulcheria Alexandrovna was silently embracing him, pressing him to her, and weeping softly.

“What’s the matter with you, Rodya, I don’t know,” she said at last. “I thought all this time that we were simply bothering you, but now I see every sign that there is a great grief ahead of you, and that’s why you are in anguish. I’ve foreseen it for a long time, Rodya. Forgive me for beginning to speak of it; I think about it all the time and don’t sleep nights. Your sister, too, spent the whole of last night in delirium, and kept mentioning you. I heard something but understood none of it. I went around all morning as if I were facing execution, waiting for something, anticipating—and here it is! Rodya, Rodya, what is it? Are you going away somewhere, or what?”

“I’m going away.”

“That’s what I thought! But I can come with you, too, if you want. And Dunya; she loves you, she loves you very much, and Sofya Semyonovna, maybe she can come with us if you want; you see, I’ll willingly take her like a daughter. Dmitri Prokofych will help us all get ready…but…where are you…going?”

“Good-bye, mama.”

“What! This very day!” she cried out, as if she were losing him forever.

“I can’t, I have to go, I must . . .”

“And I can’t go with you?”

“No, but kneel and pray to God for me. Maybe your prayer will be heard.”

“Let me cross you, let me bless you! So, so. Oh, God, what are we doing?”

Yes, he was glad, he was very glad that no one was there, that he and his mother were alone. It was as if his heart softened all at once, to make up for all that terrible time. He fell down before her, he kissed her feet, and they both wept, embracing each other. And this time she was not surprised and did not ask any questions. She had long understood that something terrible was happening with her son, and now some awful moment had come round for him.

“Rodya, my dear, my first-born,” she said, sobbing, “you’re the same now as when you were little and used to come to me in the same way and embrace me and kiss me in the same way; when your father was still alive and times were hard, you gave us comfort simply by being with us; and when I buried your father—how often we used to weep over his grave, embracing each other as we’re doing now. And if I’ve been weeping for so long, it’s because my mother’s heart foreboded calamity. As soon as I saw you that first time, in the evening—remember, when we’d only just arrived?—I understood everything from your eyes alone, and my heart shook within me, and today, as I opened the door to you, I looked and thought, well, the fatal hour must be here. Rodya, Rodya, you’re not going now?”

“No.”

“You’ll come again?”

“Yes…I’ll come.”

“Rodya, don’t be angry, I daren’t even ask any questions, I know I daren’t, but all the same tell me just two words, are you going somewhere far away?”

“Very far.”

“What is there, some job, a career for you, or what?”

“Whatever God sends…only pray for me . . .”

Raskolnikov went to the door, but she clutched at him and looked desperately in his eyes. Her face became distorted with terror.

“Enough, mama,” Raskolnikov said, deeply regretting his decision to come.

“Not forever? It’s not forever yet? You will come, will you come tomorrow?”

“I’ll come, I’ll come, good-bye.”

He finally tore himself away.

The evening was fresh, warm, and bright; the weather had cleared that morning. Raskolnikov was going to his apartment; he was hurrying. He wished to be done with everything before sundown. And until then he had no wish to meet anyone. Going up to his apartment, he noticed that Nastasya tore herself away from the samovar and watched him intently, following him with her eyes. “I hope nobody’s there,” he thought. With loathing, he imagined Porfiry. But when he reached his room and opened the door, he saw Dunechka. She was sitting there all by herself, deep in thought, and seemed to have been waiting for him a long time. He stopped on the threshold. She rose from the sofa in alarm and stood up straight before him. The look she fixed upon him showed horror and unappeasable grief. And from that look alone he understood immediately that she knew everything.

“Well, shall I come in or go away?” he asked mistrustfully.

“I’ve been sitting the whole day with Sofya Semyonovna; we were both waiting for you. We thought you would surely come there.”

Raskolnikov went into the room and sat down on a chair in exhaustion.

“I’m somehow weak, Dunya; very tired, really; and I wished to be in full possession of myself at least at this moment.”

He quickly raised his mistrustful eyes to her.

“But where were you all night?”

“I don’t remember very well; you see, sister, I wanted to make my mind up finally, and walked many times by the Neva; that I remember. I wanted to end it there, but…I couldn’t make up my mind…” he whispered, again glancing mistrustfully at Dunya.

“Thank God! We were so afraid of just that, Sofya Semyonovna and I! So you still believe in life—thank God, thank God!”

Raskolnikov grinned bitterly.

“I didn’t believe, but just now, with mother, I wept as we embraced each other; I don’t believe, but I asked her to pray for me. God knows how these things work, Dunechka, I don’t understand any of it.”

“You went to see mother? And you told her?” Dunya exclaimed in horror. “Could you possibly dare to tell her?”

“No, I didn’t tell her…in words; but she understood a great deal. She heard you raving last night. I’m sure she already understands half of it. Maybe it was a bad thing that I went. I don’t even know why I did it. I’m a vile man, Dunya.”

“A vile man, yet you’re ready to go and suffer! You are going, aren’t you?”

“I am. Right now. Yes, it was to avoid this shame that I wanted to drown myself, Dunya, but I thought, as I was already standing over the water, that if I’ve considered myself a strong man all along, then let me not be afraid of shame now,” he said, getting ahead of himself. “Is that pride, Dunya?”

“Yes, it’s pride, Rodya.”

It was as if fire flashed in his extinguished eyes, as if he were pleased to think there was still pride in him.

“And you don’t think, sister, that I simply got scared of the water?” he asked, with a hideous smirk, peeking into her face.

“Oh, Rodya, enough!” Dunya exclaimed bitterly.

The silence lasted for about two minutes. He sat downcast, staring at the ground; Dunechka stood at the other end of the table and looked at him with suffering. Suddenly he stood up.

“It’s late, it’s time. I’m now going to give myself up. But why I’m going to give myself up, I don’t know.”

Big tears were rolling down her cheeks.

“You’re crying, sister, but can you give me your hand?”

“Did you doubt it?”

She embraced him tightly.

“By going to suffer, haven’t you already washed away half your crime?” she cried out, pressing him in her arms and kissing him.

“Crime? What crime?” he suddenly cried out in some unexpected rage. “I killed a vile, pernicious louse, a little old money-lending crone who was of no use to anyone, to kill whom is worth forty sins forgiven, who sucked the life-sap from the poor—is that a crime? I’m not thinking of it, nor am I thinking of washing it away. And why is everyone jabbing at me from all sides: ‘Crime! Crime!’ Only now do I see clearly all the absurdity of my faintheartedness, now that I’ve already decided to go to this needless shame! I decided on it simply from my own vileness and giftlessness, and perhaps also for my own advantage, as was suggested by this…Porfiry!”

“Brother, brother, what are you saying! You shed blood!” Dunya cried out in despair.

“Which everyone sheds,” he picked up, almost in a frenzy, “which is and always has been shed in torrents in this world, which men spill like champagne, and for which they’re crowned on the Capitoline and afterwards called benefactors of mankind.[1] But just look closer and try to see! I wished people well and would have done hundreds, thousands of good deeds, instead of this one stupidity—or not even stupidity, but simply clumsiness, because the whole idea was by no means as stupid as it seems now that it failed (everything that fails seems stupid!). By this stupidity, I merely wanted to put myself in an independent position, to take the first step, to acquire means, and later everything would be made up for by the—comparatively—immeasurable usefulness…But I, I could not endure even the first step, because I’m a scoundrel! That’s the whole point! But even so I won’t look at it with your eyes: if I’d succeeded, I’d have been crowned, but now I’m walking into the trap!”

“But that’s not it, that’s not it at all! Brother, what are you saying!”

“Ah, the wrong form, not so good aesthetically! Well, I decidedly do not understand why hurling bombs at people, according to all the rules of siege warfare, is a more respectable form. Fear of aesthetics is the first sign of powerlessness! … Never, never have I been more clearly aware of it than now, and now more than ever I fail to understand my crime! Never, never have I been stronger or more certain than now! . . .”

Color even came to his pale, worn-out face. But as he was uttering this last exclamation, his eyes suddenly met Dunya’s, and so great, so great was the anguish for him in those eyes that he came involuntarily to his senses. He felt that after all he had made these two poor women unhappy. After all, it was he who had caused . . .

“Dunya, dear! If I am guilty, forgive me (though if I’m guilty, I cannot be forgiven). Good-bye! Let’s not argue! It’s time, it really is. Don’t follow me, I beg you, I still have to stop at. . . But go now, at once, and stay with mother. I beg you to do that. It is my last, my greatest request of you. Don’t leave her for a moment; I left her in such anxiety that she’ll hardly survive it: she’ll either die or lose her mind. So be with her! Razumikhin will stay by you; I talked with him…Don’t weep over me: I’ll try to be both courageous and honest all my life, even though I’m a murderer. Perhaps you’ll hear my name someday. I won’t disgrace you, you’ll see; I’ll still prove…well, good-bye for now,” he hastened to finish, again noticing some strange expression in Dunya’s eyes at his last words and promises. “Why are you crying so? Don’t cry, don’t; we’re not parting forever! … Ah, yes! Wait, I forgot! . . .”

He went to the table, took a thick, dusty book, opened it, and took from between the pages a small watercolor portrait on ivory. It was a portrait of his landlady’s daughter, his former fiancée, who had died of a fever, the same strange girl who had wanted to go into a convent. He gazed at that expressive and sickly little face for a moment, kissed the portrait, and handed it to Dunechka.

“With her I used to talk a lot—about that, too—with her alone,” he said, reflecting. “I confided much to her heart of what later came true so hideously. Don’t worry,” he turned to Dunya, “she didn’t agree with it, as you don’t, and I’m glad she’s no longer here. The main thing, the main thing is that now everything will go a new way, it will break in two,” he cried out suddenly, returning again to his anguish, “everything, everything, and am I ready for that? Do I myself want it? They say the ordeal is necessary for me! Why, why all these senseless ordeals? Why, am I going to have a better understanding then, when I’m crushed by suffering and idiocy, in senile powerlessness after twenty years of hard labor, than I have now? And why, then, should I live? And why do I agree to such a life now? Oh, I knew I was a scoundrel as I was standing over the Neva at dawn today!”

They both finally left. It was hard for Dunya, but she loved him! She began to walk away, but having gone about fifty steps, she turned once more to look at him. He was still in sight. When he reached the corner, he, too, turned around; their eyes met for a last time; but noticing that she was looking at him, he impatiently and even irritably waved his hand at her to go on, and himself sharply turned the corner.

“I’m wicked, I see that,” he thought to himself, feeling ashamed a moment later of his irritated gesture to Dunya. “But why do they love me so, when I’m unworthy of it! Oh, if only I were alone and no one loved me, and I myself had never loved anyone! None of this would be! Curious, is it possible that in these next fifteen or twenty years my soul will become so humbled that I’ll reverently snivel in front of people, calling myself a robber with every word? Yes, precisely, precisely! That’s why they’re going to exile me now, that’s what they want. . . Look at them all scuttling up and down the street, and each one of them is a scoundrel and a robber by his very nature; worse than that—an idiot! But let exile pass me by, and they’ll all go wild with noble indignation! Oh, how I hate them all!”

He fell to pondering deeply “by what process it might come about that he would finally humble himself before them all without reasoning, humble himself from conviction? But, after all, why not? Of course, that is how it should be. Won’t twenty years of unremitting oppression finish him off completely? Water wears away stone. But why, why live in that case? Why am I going now, if I know myself that it will all be precisely so, as if by the book, and not otherwise!”

It was perhaps the hundredth time he had asked himself that question since the previous evening, and yet he was going.

 

[1] Julius Caesar was crowned high priest and military tribune in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, at the start of his rise to power.

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