Fyodor Dostoevsky (18211881). Crime and Punishment.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
ZOSSIMOV was a tall, fat man with a puffy, colourless, clean-shaven face and straight flaxen hair. He wore spectacles, and a big gold ring on his fat finger. He was twenty-seven. He had on a light grey fashionable loose coat, light summer trousers, and everything about him loose, fashionable and spick and span; his linen was irreproachable, his watch-chain was massive. In manner he was slow and, as it were, nonchalant, and at the same time studiously free and easy; he made efforts to conceal his self-importance, but it was apparent at every instant. All his acquaintances found him tedious, but said he was clever at his work.
I am well, I am perfectly well! Raskolnikov declared positively and irritably. He raised himself on the sofa and looked at them with glittering eyes, but sank back on to the pillow at once and turned to the wall. Zossimov watched him intently.
He may have anything soup, tea mushrooms and cucumbers, of course, you must not give him; hed better not have meat either, and but no need to tell you that! Razumihin and he looked at each other. No more medicine or anything. Ill look at him again to-morrow. Perhaps, to-day even but never mind
Ach, what a nuisance! Ive got a house-warming party to-night; its only a step from here. Couldnt he come? He could lie on the sofa. You are coming? Razumihin said to Zossimov. Dont forget, you promised.
Hes been stagnating all his life as a district postmaster; gets a little pension. He is sixty-fivenot worth talking about. But I am fond of him. Porfiry Petrovitch, the head of the Investigation Department here But you know him.
Oh, you particular gentleman! Principles! You are worked by principles, as it were by springs: you wont venture to turn round on your own account. If a man is a nice fellow, thats the only principle I go upon. Zametov is a delightful person.
Well, he does! and what of it? I dont care if he does take bribes, Razumihin cried with unnatural irritability. I dont praise him for taking bribes. I only say he is a nice man in his own way! But if one looks at men in all waysare there many good ones left? Why, I am sure I shouldnt be worth a baked onion myself perhaps with you thrown in.
And I wouldnt give more than one for you. No more of your jokes. Zametov is no more than a boy, I can pull his hair and one must draw him and not repel him. Youll never improve a man by repelling him, especially a boy. One has to be twice as careful with a boy. Oh, you progressive dullards! You dont understand. You harm yourselves running another man down. But if you want to know, we really have something in common.
Raskolnikov turned to the wall where in the dirty, yellow paper he picked out one clumsy, white flower with brown lines on it and began examining how many petals there were in it, how many scallops in the petals and how many lines on them. He felt his arms and legs as lifeless as though they had been cut off. He did not attempt to move, but stared obstinately at the flower.
Evidence, indeed! Evidence that was no evidence, and thats what we had to prove. It was just as they pitched on those fellows, Koch and Pestryakov, at first. Foo! how stupidly its all done, it makes one sick, though its not ones business! Pestryakov may be coming to-night. By the way, Rodya, youve heard about the business already; it happened before you were ill, the day before you fainted at the police office while they were talking about it.
Maybe I am, but we will get him off anyway, shouted Razumihin, bringing his fist down on the table. Whats the most offensive is not their lyingone can always forgive lyinglying is a delightful thing, for it leads to truthwhat is offensive is that they lie and worship their own lying. I respect Porfiry, but What threw them out at first? The door was locked, and when they came back with the porter it was open. So it followed that Koch and Pestryakov were the murderersthat was their logic!
Yes, he is a swindler. He buys up bad debts, too. He makes a profession of it. But enough of him! Do you know what makes me angry? Its their sickening, rotten, petrified routine. And this case might be the means of introducing a new method. One can show from the psychological data alone how to get on the track of the real man. We have facts, they say. But facts are not everythingat least half the business lies in how you interpret them!
Oh yes! Well, heres the story. Early on the third day after the murder, when they were still dandling Koch and Pestryakovthough they accounted for every step they took and it was as plain as a pikestaffan unexpected fact turned up. A peasant called Dushkin, who keeps a dram-shop facing the house, brought to the police office a jewellers case containing some gold ear-rings, and told a long rigmarole. The day before yesterday, just after eight oclockmark the day and the hour!a journeyman house-painter, Nikolay, who had been in to see me already that day, brought me this box of gold ear-rings and stones, and asked me to give him two roubles for them. When I asked him where he got them, he said that he picked them up in the street. I did not ask him anything more. I am telling you Dushkins story. I gave him a notea rouble that isfor I thought if he did not pawn it with me he would with another. It would all come to the same thinghed spend it on drink, so the thing had better be with me. The further you hide it the quicker you will find it, and if anything turns up, if I hear any rumours, Ill take it to the police. Of course, thats all taradiddle; he lies like a horse, for I know this Dushkin, he is a pawn-broker and a receiver of stolen goods, and he did not cheat Nikolay out of a thirty-rouble trinket in order to give it to the police. He was simply afraid. But not matter, to return to Dushkins story. Ive known this peasant, Nikolay Dementyev, from a child; he comes from the same province and district of Zaraisk, we are both Ryazan men. And though Nikolay is not a drunkard, he drinks, and I knew he had a job in that house, painting, working with Dmitri, who comes from the same village, too. As soon as he got the rouble, he changed it, had a couple of glasses, took his change and went out. But I did not see Dmitri with him then. And the next day I heard that some one had murdered Alyona Ivanovna and her sister, Lizaveta Ivanovna, with an axe. I knew them, and I felt suspicious about the ear-rings at once, for I knew the murdered woman lent money on pledges. I went to the house, and began to make careful inquiries without saying a word to any one. First of all I asked, Is Nikolay here? Dmitri told me that Nikolay had gone off on the spree; he had come home at daybreak drunk, stayed in the house about ten minutes, and went out again. Dmitri didnt see him again in finishing the job alone. And their job is on the same staircase as the murder, on the second floor. When I heard all that I did not say a word to any onethats Dushkins talebut I found out what I could about the murder, and went home feeling as suspicious as ever. And at eight oclock this morningthat was the third day, you understandI saw Nikolay coming in, not sober, though not to say very drunkhe could understand what was said to him. He sat down on the bench and did not speak. There was only one stranger in the bar and a man I knew asleep on a bench and our two boys. Have you seen Dmitri? said I. No, I havent, said he. And youve not been here either? Not since the day before yesterday, said he. And where did you sleep last night? In Peski, with the Kolomensky men. And where did you get those ear-rings? I asked. I found them in the street, and the way he said it was a bit queer; he did not look at me. Did you hear what happened that very evening, at that very hour, on that same staircase? said I. No, said he, I had not heard, and all the while he was listening, his eyes were starting out of his head and he turned as white as chalk. I told him all about it and he took his hat and began getting up. I wanted to keep him. Wait a bit, Nikolay, said I, wont you have a drink? And I signed to the boy to hold the door, and I came out from behind the bar; but he darted out and down the street to the turning at a run. I have not seen him since. Then my doubts were at an endit was his doing, as clear as could be.
Wait! Hear the end. Of course they sought high and low for Nikolay; they detained Dushkin and searched his house; Dmitri, too, was arrested; the Kolomensky men also were turned inside out. And the day before yesterday they arrested Nikolay in a tavern at the end of the town. He had gone there, taken the silver cross off his neck and asked for a dram for it. They gave it to him. A few minutes afterwards the woman went to the cowshed, and through a crack in the wall she saw in the stable adjoining he had made a noose of his sash from the beam, stood on a block of wood, and was trying to put his neck in the noose. The woman screeched her hardest; people ran in. So thats what you are up to! Take me, he says, to such-and-such a police office; Ill confess everything. Well, they took him to that police stationthat is herewith a suitable escort. So they asked him this and that, how old he is, twenty-two, and so on. At the question, When you were working with Dmitri, didnt you see any one on the staircase at such-and-such a time?answer: To be sure folks may have gone up and down, but I did not notice them. And didnt you hear anything, any noise, and so on? We heard nothing special. And did you hear, Nikolay, that on the same day Widow So-and-so and her sister were murdered and robbed? I never knew a thing about it. The first I heard of it was from Afanasy Pavlovitch the day before yesterday. And where did you find the ear-rings? I found them on the pavement. Why didnt you go to work with Dmitri the other day? Because I was drinking. And where were you drinking? Oh, in such and such a place. Why did you run away from Dushkins? Because I was awfully frightened. What were you frightened of? That I should be accused. How could you be frightened, if you felt free from guilt? Now, Zossimov, you may not believe me, that question was put literally in those words. I know it for a fact, it was repeated to me exactly! What do you say to that?
I am not talking of the evidence now, I am talking about that question, of their own idea of themselves. Well, so they squeezed him and he confessed: I did not find it in the street, but in the flat where I was painting with Dmitri. And how was that? Why, Dmitri and I were painting there all day, and we were just getting ready to go, and Dmitri took a brush and painted my face, and he ran off and I after him. I ran after him, shouting my hardest, and at the bottom of the stairs I ran right against the porter and some gentlemenand how many gentlemen were there I dont remember. And the porter swore at me, and the other porter swore, too, and the porters wife came out, and swore at us, too; and a gentleman came into the entry with a lady, and he swore at us, too, for Dmitri and I lay right across the way. I got hold of Dmitris hair and knocked him down and began beating him. And Dmitri, too, caught me by the hair and began beating me. But we did it all not for temper, but in a friendly way, for sport. And then Dmitri escaped and ran into the street, and I ran after him; but I did not catch him, and went back to the flat alone; I had to clear up my things. I began putting them together, expecting Dmitri to come, and there in the passage, in the corner by the door, I stepped on the box. I saw it lying there wrapped up in paper. I took off the paper, and saw some little hooks, undid them, and in the box were the ear-rings.
What next? As soon as he saw the ear-rings, forgetting Dmitri and everything, he took up his cap and ran to Dushkin and, as we know, got a rouble from him. He told a lie saying he found them in the street, and went off drinking. He keeps repeating his old story about the murder: I knew nothing of it, never heard of it till the day before yesterday. And why didnt you come to the police till now? I was frightened. And why did you try to hang yourself? From anxiety. What anxiety? That I should be accused of it. Well, thats the whole story. And now what do you suppose they deduced from that?
Thats nonsense. You are excited. But what about the ear-rings? You must admit that, if on the very same day and hour ear-rings from the old womans box have come into Nikolays hands, they must have come there somehow. Thats a good deal in such a case.
How did they get there? How did they get there? cried Razumihin. How can you, a doctor, whose duty it is to study man and who has more opportunity than any one else for studying human naturehow can you fail to see the character of the man in the whole story? Dont you see at once that the answers he has given in the examination are the holy truth? They came into his hands precisely as he has told ushe stepped on the box and picked it up.
Listen to me, listen attentively. The porter and Koch and Pestryakov and the other porter and the wife of the first porter and the woman who was sitting in the porters lodge and the man Kryukov, who had just got out of a cab at that minute and went in at the entry with a lady on his arm, that is eight or ten witnesses, agree that Nikolay had Dmitri on the ground, was lying on him beating him, while Dmitri hung on to his hair, beating him, too. They lay right across the way, blocking the thoroughfare. They were sworn at on all sides while they like children (the very words of the witnesses), were falling over one another, squealing, fighting and laughing with the funniest faces and, chasing one another like children, they ran into the street. Now take careful note. The bodies upstairs were warm, you understand, warm when they had found them! If they, or Nikolay alone, had murdered them and broken open the boxes, or simply taken part in the robbery, allow me to ask you one question: do their state of mind, their squeals and giggles and childish scuffling at the gate fit in with axes, bloodshed, fiendish cunning, robbery? Theyd just killed them, not five or ten minutes before, for the bodies were still warm, and at once, leaving the flat open, knowing that people would go there at once, flinging away their booty they rolled about like children, laughing and attracting general attention. And there are a dozen witnesses to swear to that!
No, brother, no buts. And if the ear-rings being found in Nikolays hands at the very day and hour of the murder constitutes an important piece of circumstantial evidence against himalthough the explanation given by him accounts for it, and therefore it does not tell seriously against himone must take into consideration the facts which prove him innocent, especially as they are facts that cannot be denied. And do you suppose, from the character of our legal system, that they will accept, or that they are in a position to accept, this factresting simply on a psychological impossibilityas irrefutable and conclusively breaking down the circumstantial evidence for the prosecution? No, they wont accept it, they certainly wont, because they found the jewel-case and the man tried to hang himself, which he could not have done if he hadnt felt guilty. Thats the point, thats what excites me, you must understand!
Nobody did see him, Razumihin answered with vexation. Thats the worst of it. Even Koch and Pestryakov did not notice them on their way upstairs, though, indeed, their evidence could not have been worth much. They said they saw the flat was open, and that there must be work going on in it, but they took no special notice and could not remember whether there actually were men at work in it.
How do I explain them? What is there to explain? Its clear. At any rate, the direction in which explanation is to be sought is clear, and the jewel-case points to it. The real murderer dropped these ear-rings. The murderer was upstairs, looked in, when Koch and Pestryakov knocked at the door. Koch, like an ass, did not stay at the door; so the murderer popped out and ran down, too, for he had no other way of escape. He hid from Koch, Pestryakov and the porter in the flat when Nikolay and Dmitri had just run out of it. He stopped there while the porter and others were going upstairs, waited till they were out of hearing, and then went calmly downstairs at the very minute when Dmitri and Nikolay ran out into the street and there was no one in the entry; possibly he was seen, but not noticed. There are lots of people going in and out. He must have dropped the ear-rings out of his pocket when he stood behind the door, and did not notice he dropped them, because he had other things to think of. The jewel-case is a conclusive proof that he did stand there . Thats how I explain it.