Fyodor Dostoevsky (18211881). Crime and Punishment.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
THIS was a gentleman no longer young, of a stiff and portly appearance, and a cautious and sour countenance. He began by stopping short in the doorway, staring about him with offensive and undisguised astonishment, as though asking himself what sort of place he had come to. Mistrustfully and with an affectation of being alarmed and almost affronted, he scanned Raskolnikovs low and narrow cabin. With the same amazement he stared at Raskolnikov, who lay undressed, dishevelled, unwashed, on his miserable dirty sofa, looking fixedly at him. Then with the same deliberation he scrutinised the uncouth, unkempt figure and unshaven face of Razumihin, who looked him boldly and inquiringly in the face without rising from his seat. A constrained silence lasted for a couple of minutes, and then, as might be expected, some scene-shifting took place. Reflecting, probably from certain fairly unmistakable signs, that he would get nothing in this cabin by attempting to overawe them, the gentleman softened somewhat, and civilly, though with some severity, emphasising every syllable of his question, addressed Zossimov:
This is Raskolnikov, mumbled Zossimov, nodding towards him. Then he gave a prolonged yawn, opening his mouth as wide as possible. Then he lazily put his hand into his waistcoat-pocket, pulled out a huge gold watch in a round hunters case, opened it, looked at it and as slowly and lazily proceeded to put it back.
Raskolnikov himself lay, without speaking, on his back, gazing persistently, though without understanding, at the stranger. Now that his face was turned away from the strange flower on the paper, it was extremely pale and wore a look of anguish, as though he had just undergone an agonising operation or just been taken from the rack. But the new-comer gradually began to arouse his attention, then his wonder, then suspicion and even alarm. When Zossimov said this is Raskolnikov he jumped up quickly, sat on the sofa and with an almost defiant, but weak and breaking, voice articulated:
In reply Raskolnikov sank languidly back on the pillow, put his hands behind his head and gazed at the ceiling. A look of dismay came into Luzhins face. Zossimov and Razumihin stared at him more inquisitively than ever, and at last he showed unmistakable signs of embarrassment.
I say, why are you standing in the doorway? Razumihin interrupted suddenly. If youve something to say, sit down. Nastasya and you are so crowded. Nastasya, make room. Heres a chair, thread your way in!
He moved his chair back from the table, made a little space between the table and his knees, and waited in a rather cramped position for the visitor to thread his way in. The minute was so chosen that it was impossible to refuse, and the visitor squeezed his way through, hurrying and stumbling. Reaching the chair, he sat down, looking suspiciously at Razumihin.
No need to be nervous, the latter blurted out. Rodya has been ill for the last five days and delirious for three, but now he is recovering and has got an appetite. This is his doctor, who has just had a look at him. I am a comrade of Rodyas, like him, formerly a student, and now I am nursing him; so dont you take any notice of us, but go on with your business.
He has been conscious a long time, since the morning, went on Razumihin, whose familiarity seemed so much like unaffected good-nature that Pyotr Petrovitch began to be more cheerful, partly, perhaps, because this shabby and impudent person had introduced himself as a student.
Your mamma had commenced a letter to you while I was sojourning in her neighbourhood. On my arrival here I purposely allowed a few days to elapse before coming to see you, in order that I might be fully assured that you were in full possession of the tidings; but now, to my astonishment
Meanwhile Raskolnikov, who had turned a little towards him when he answered, began suddenly staring at him again with marked curiosity, as though he had not had a good look at him yet, or as though something new had struck him; he rose from his pillow on purpose to stare at him. There certainly was something peculiar in Pyotr Petrovitchs whole appearance, something which seemed to justify the title of fiancé so unceremoniously applied to him. In the first place, it was evident, far too much so indeed, that Pyotr Petrovitch had made eager use of his few days in the capital to get himself up and rig himself out in expectation of his betrotheda perfectly innocent and permissible proceeding, indeed. Even his own, perhaps too complacent, consciousness of the agreeable improvement in his appearance might have been forgiven in such circumstances, seeing that Pyotr Petrovitch had taken up the rôle of fiancé. All his clothes were fresh from the tailors and were all right, except for being too new and too distinctly appropriate. Even the stylish new round hat had the same significance. Pyotr Petrovitch treated it too respectfully and held it too carefully in his hands. The exquisite pair of lavender gloves, real Louvain, told the same tale, if only from the fact of his not wearing them, but carrying them in his hand for show. Light and youthful colours predominated in Pyotr Petrovitchs attire. He wore a charming summer jacket of a fawn shade, light thin trousers, a waistcoat of the same, new and fine linen, a cravat of the lightest cambric with pink stripes on it, and the best of it was, this all suited Pyotr Petrovitch. His very fresh and even handsome face looked younger than his forty-five years at all times. His dark, mutton-chop whiskers made an agreeable setting on both sides, growing thickly about his shining, clean-shaven chin. Even his hair, touched here and there with grey, though it had been combed and curled at a hairdressers, did not give him a stupid appearance, as curled hair usually does, by inevitably suggesting a German on his wedding-day. If there really was something unpleasing and repulsive in his rather good-looking and imposing countenance, it was due to quite other causes. After scanning Mr. Luzhin unceremoniously, Raskolnikov smiled malignantly, sank back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling as before.
I feel the greatest regret at finding you in this situation, he began, again breaking the silence with an effort. If I had been aware of your illness I should have come earlier. But you know what business is. I have, too, a very important legal affair in the Senate, not to mention other preoccupations which you may well conjecture. I am expecting your mamma and sister any minute.
A disgusting placefilthy, stinking and, whats more, of doubtful character. Things have happened there, and there are all sorts of queer people living there. And I went there about a scandalous business. Its cheap, though
I could not, of course, find out so much about it, for I am a stranger in Petersburg myself, Pyotr Petrovitch replied huffily. However, the two rooms are exceedingly clean, and as it is for so short a time I have already taken a permanent, that is, our future flat, he said, addressing Raskolnikov, and I am having it done up. And meanwhile I am myself cramped for room in a lodging with my friend Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov, in the flat of Madame Lippevechsel; it was he who told me of Bakaleyevs house, too
In the most serious and essential matters, Pyotr Petrovitch replied, as though delighted at the question. You see, its ten years since I visited Petersburg. All the novelties, reforms, ideas have reached us in the provinces, but to see it all more clearly one must be in Petersburg. And its my notion that you observe and learn most by watching the younger generation. And I confess I am delighted
Nonsense! Theres no practicality. Razumihin flew at him. Practicality is a difficult thing to find; it does not drop down from heaven. And for the last two hundred years we have been divorced from all practical life. Ideas, if you like, are fermenting, he said to Pyotr Petrovitch, and desire for good exists, though its in a childish form, and honesty you may find, although there are crowds of brigands. Anyway, theres no practicality. Practicality goes well shod.
I dont agree with you, Pyotr Petrovitch replied, with evident enjoyment. Of course, people do get carried away and make mistakes, but one must have indulgence; those mistakes are merely evidence of enthusiasm for the cause and of abnormal external environment. If little has been done, the time has been but short; of means I will not speak. Its my personal view, if you care to know, that something has been accomplished already. New valuable ideas, new valuable works are circulating in the place of our old dreamy and romantic authors. Literature is taking a maturer form, many injurious prejudices have been rooted up and turned into ridicule. In a word, we have cut ourselves off irrevocably from the past, and that, to my thinking, is a great thing
Isnt it so? Pyotr Petrovitch went on, glancing affably at Zossimov. You must admit, he went on, addressing Razumihin with a shade of triumph and superciliousnesshe almost added young manthat there is an advance, or, as they say now, progress in the name of science and economic truth
No, not a commonplace! Hitherto, for instance, if I were told love thy neighbour, what came of it? Pyotr Petrovitch went on, perhaps with excessive haste. It came to my tearing my coat in half to share with my neighbour and we both were left half naked. As a Russian proverb has it, catch several hares and you wont catch one. Science now tells us, love yourself before all men, for everything in the world rests on self-interest. You love yourself and manage your own affairs properly and your coat remains whole. Economic truth adds that the better private affairs are organised in societythe more whole coats, so to saythe firmer are its foundations and the better is the common welfare organised too. Therefore, in acquiring wealth solely and exclusively for myself, I am acquiring so to speak, for all, and helping to bring to pass my neighbours getting a little more than a torn coat; and that not from private, personal liberality, but as a consequence of the general advance. The idea is simple, but unhappily it has been a long time reaching us, being hindered by idealism and sentimentality. And yet it would seem to want very little wit to perceive it
Excuse me, Ive very little wit myself, Razumihin cut in sharply, and so let us drop it. I began this discussion with an object, but Ive grown so sick during the last three years of this chattering to amuse oneself, of this incessant flow of commonplaces, always the same, that, by Jove, I blush even when other people talk like that. You are in a hurry, no doubt, to exhibit your acquirements; and I dont blame you, thats quite pardonable. I only wanted to find out what sort of man you are, for so many unscrupulous people have got hold of the progressive cause of late and have so distorted in their own interests everything they touched, that the whole cause has been dragged in the mire. Thats enough!
I trust our acquaintance, he said, addressing Raskolnikov, may, upon your recovery and in view of the circumstances of which you are aware, become closer. Above all, I hope for your return to health
Thats just what it wasnt! interposed Razumihin. Thats what throws you all off the scent. But I maintain that he is not cunning, not practised, and probably this was his first crime! The supposition that it was a calculated crime and a cunning criminal doesnt work. Suppose him to have been inexperienced, and its clear that it was only a chance that saved himand chance may do anything. Why, he did not foresee obstacles, perhaps! And how did he set to work! He took jewels worth ten or twenty roubles, stuffing his pockets with them, ransacked the old womans trunk, her ragsand they found fifteen hundred roubles, besides notes, in a box in the top drawer of the chest! He did not know how to rob; he could only murder. It was his first crime, I assure you, his first crime; he lost his hand. And he got off more by luck than good counsel!
You are talking of the murder of the old pawnbroker, I believe? Pyotr Petrovitch put in, addressing Zossimov. He was standing, hat and gloves in hand, but before departing he felt disposed to throw off a few more intellectual phrases. He was evidently anxious to make a favourable impression and his vanity overcame his prudence.
I cant say that; but another circumstance interests me in the casethe whole question, so to say. Not to speak of the fact that crime has been greatly on the increase among the lower classes during the last five years, not to speak of the cases of robbery and arson everywhere, what strikes me as the strangest thing is that in the higher classes, too, crime is increasing proportionately. In one place one hears of a students robbing the mail on the high road; in another place people of good social position forge false banknotes; in Moscow of late a whole gang has been captured who used to forge lottery tickets, and one of the ringleaders was a lecturer in universal history; then our secretary abroad was murdered from some obscure motive of gain . And if this old woman, the pawnbroker, has been murdered by some one of a higher class in societyfor peasants dont pawn gold trinketshow are we to explain this demoralisation of the civilised part of our society?
What answer had your lecturer in Moscow to make to the question why he was forging notes? Everybody is getting rich one way or another, so I want to make haste to get rich too. I dont remember the exact words, but the upshot was that he wants money for nothing, without waiting or working! Weve grown used to having everything ready-made, to walking on crutches, to having our food chewed for us. Then the great hour struck,1 and every man showed himself in his true colours.
And it is true, Raskolnikov interposed once more suddenly, again in a voice quivering with fury and delight in insulting him, is it true that you told your fiancée within an hour of her acceptance, that what pleased you most was that she was a beggar because it was better to raise a wife from poverty, so that you may have complete control over her, and reproach her with your being her benefactor?
Upon my word, Luzhin cried wrathfully and irritably, crimson with confusion, to distort my words in this way! Excuse me, allow me to assure you that the report which has reached you, or rather let me say, has been conveyed to you, has no foundation in truth, and I suspect who in a word this arrow in a word, your mamma She seemed to me in other things, with all her excellent qualities, of a somewhat highflown and romantic way of thinking But I was a thousand miles from supposing that she would misunderstand and misrepresent things in so fanciful a way. And indeed
Let me tell you, sir, he began deliberately, doing his utmost to restrain himself but breathing hard, at the first moment I saw you were ill-disposed to me, but I reminded here on purpose to find out more. I could forgive a great deal in a sick man and a connection, but you never after this
But Luzhin was already leaving without finishing his speech, squeezing between the table and the chair; Razumihin got up this time to let pass. Without glancing at any one, and not even nodding to Zossimov, who had for some time been making signs to him to let the sick man alone, he went out, lifting his hat to the level of his shoulder to avoid crushing it as he stopped to go out of the door. And even the curve of his spine was expressive of the horrible insult he had received.
Let me alonelet me alone all of you! Raskolnikov cried in a frenzy. Will you ever leave off tormenting me? I am not afraid of you! I am not afraid of any one, any one now! Get away from me! I want to be alone, alone, alone!
If only he could get some favourable shock, thats what would do it! At first he was better . You know he has got something on his mind! Some fixed idea weighing on him . I am very much afraid so; he must have!
Yes, confound the man! he may have upset the case altogether. But have you noticed, he takes no interest in anything, he does not respond to anything except one point on which seems excitedthats the murder?