Fyodor Dostoevsky (18211881). Crime and Punishment.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
RASKOLNIKOV was already entering the room. He came in looking as though he had the utmost difficulty not to burst out laughing again. Behind him Razumihin strode in gawky and awkward, shamefaced and red as a peony, with an utterly crestfallen and ferocious expression. His face and whole figure really were ridiculous at that moment and amply justified Raskolnikovs laughter. Raskolnikov, not waiting for an introduction, bowed to Porfiry Petrovitch, who stood in the middle of the room looking inquiringly at them. He held out his hand and shook hands, still apparently making desperate efforts to subdue his mirth and utter a few words to introduce himself. But he had no sooner succeeded in assuming a serious air and muttering something when he suddenly glanced again as though accidentally at Razumihin, and could no longer control himself: his stifled laughter broke out the more irresistibly the more he tried to restrain it. The extraordinary ferocity with which Razumihin received this spontaneous mirth gave the whole scene the appearance of most genuine fun and naturalness. Razumihin strengthened this impression as though on purpose.
Raskolnikov was still laughing, with his hand in Porfiry Petrovitchs, but anxious not to overdo it, awaited the right moment to put a natural end to it. Razumihin, completely put to confusion by upsetting the table and smashing the glass, gazed gloomily at the fragments, cursed and turned sharply to the window where he stood looking out with his back to the company with a fiercely scowling countenance, seeing nothing. Porfiry Petrovitch laughed and was ready to go on laughing, but obviously looked for explanations. Zametov had been sitting in the corner, but he rose at the visitors entrance, and was standing in expectation with a smile on his lips, though he looked with surprise and even it seemed incredulity at the whole scene and at Raskolnikov with a certain embarrassment. Zametovs unexpected presence struck Raskolnikov unpleasantly.
Oh, you sharp lawyer! Damn you all! snapped Razumihin, and suddenly bursting out laughing himself, he went up to Porfiry with a more cheerful face as though nothing had happened. Thatll do! We are all fools. To come to business. This is my friend Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov; in the first place he has heard of you and wants to make your acquaintance, and secondly, he has a little matter of business with you. Bah! Zametov, what brought you here? Have you met before? Have you known each other long?
Porfiry Petrovitch was wearing a dressing-gown, very clean linen, and trodden-down slippers. He was a man of about five and thirty, short, stout even to corpulence, and clean shaven. He wore his hair cut short and had a large round head, particularly prominent at the back. His soft, round, rather snub-nosed face was of a sickly yellowish colour, but had a vigorous and rather ironical expression. It would have been good-natured, except for a look in the eyes, which shone with a watery, mawkish light under almost white blinking eyelashes. The expression of those eyes was strangely out of keeping with his somewhat womanish figure, and gave it something far more serious than could be guessed at first sight.
As soon as Porfiry Petrovitch heard that his visitor had a little matter of business with him, he begged him to sit down on the sofa and sat down himself on the other end, waiting for him to explain his business, with that careful and overserious attention which is at once oppressive and embarrassing, especially to a stranger, and especially if what you are discussing is in your own opinion of far too little importance for such exceptional solemnity. But in brief and coherent phrases Raskolnikov explained his business clearly and exactly, and was so well satisfied with himself that he even succeeded in taking a good look at Porfiry. Porfiry Petrovitch did not once take his eyes off him. Razumihin, sitting opposite at the same table, listened warmly and impatiently, looking from one to the other every moment with rather excessive interest.
You have to give information to the police, Porfiry replied, with a most businesslike air, that having learnt of this incident, that is of the murder, you beg to inform the lawyer in charge of the case that such and such things belong to you, and that you desire to redeem them or but they will write to you.
Thats just the point, that at the present moment, Raskolnikov tried his utmost to feign embarrassment, I am not quite in funds and even this trifling sum is beyond me I only wanted, you see, for the present to declare that the things are mine, and that when I have money.
Thats no matter, answered Porfiry Petrovitch, receiving his explanation of his pecuniary position coldly, but you can, if you prefer, write straight to me, to say, that having been informed of the matter, and claiming such and such as your property, you beg
Oh the most ordinary, and suddenly Porfiry Petrovitch looked with obvious irony at him, screwing up his eyes and as it were winking at him. But perhaps it was Raskolnikovs fancy, for it all lasted but a moment. There was certainly something of the sort, Raskolnikov could have sworn he winked at him, goodness knows why.
Forgive my troubling you about such trifles, he went on, a little disconcerted, the things are only worth five roubles, but I prize them particularly for the sake of those from whom they came to me, and I must confess that I was alarmed when I heard
Thats why you were so much struck when I mentioned to Zossimov that Porfiry was inquiring for every one who had pledges! Razumihin put in with obvious intention. This was really unbearable. Raskolnikov could not help glancing at him with a flash of vindictive anger in his black eyes, but immediately recollected himself.
You seem to be jeering at me, brother? he said to him, with a well-feigned irritability. I dare say I do seem to you absurdly anxious about such trash; but you mustnt think me selfish or grasping for that, and these two things may be anything but trash in my eyes. I told you just now that the silver watch, though its not worth a cent, is the only thing left us of my fathers. You may laugh at me, but my mother is here, he turned suddenly to Porfiry, and if she knew, he turned again hurriedly to Razumihin, carefully making his voice tremble, that the watch was lost, she would be in despair! You know what women are!
And as though that was a matter of no importance, he carefully offered the ash-tray to Razumihin, who was ruthlessly scattering cigarette ash over the carpet. Raskolnikov shuddered, but Porfiry did not seem to be looking at him, and was still concerned with Razumihins cigarette.
I am not pale at all. No, I am quite well. Raskolnikov snapped out rudely and angrily, completely changing his tone. His anger was mounting, he could not repress it. And in my anger I shall betray myself, flashed through his mind again. Why are they torturing me?
Not quite well! Razumihin caught him up. What next! He was unconscious and delirious till yesterday. Would you believe, Porfiry, as soon as our backs were turned, he dressed, though he could hardly stand, and gave us the slip and went off on the spree somewhere till midnight, delirious all the time! Would you believe it! Extraordinary!
But how could you have gone out if you hadnt been delirious? Razumihin got hot suddenly. What did you go out for? What was the object of it? And why on the sly? Were you in your senses when you did it? Now that all danger is over I can speak plainly.
I was awfully sick of them yesterday. Raskolnikov addressed Porfiry suddenly with a smile of insolent defiance, I ran away from them to take lodgings where they wouldnt find me, and took a lot of money with me. Mr. Zametov there saw it. I say, Mr. Zametov, was I sensible or delirious yesterday; settle our dispute.
And there, said Razumihin, werent you mad then? You gave your last penny to the widow for the funeral. If you wanted to help, give fifteen or twenty even, but keep three roubles for yourself at least, but he flung away all the twenty-five at once!
Maybe I found a treasure somewhere and you know nothing of it? So thats why I was liberal yesterday. Mr. Zametov knows Ive found a treasure! Excuse us, please, for disturbing you for half an hour with such trivialities, he said turning to Porfiry Petrovitch, with trembling lips. We are boring you, arent we?
The worst of it is they dont disguise it; they dont care to stand on ceremony! And how if you didnt know me at all, did you come to talk to Nikodim Fomitch about me? So they dont care to hide that they are tracking me like a pack of dogs. They simply spit in my face. He was shaking with rage. Come, strike me openly, dont play with me like a cat with a mouse. Its hardly civil, Porfiry Petrovitch, but perhaps I wont allow it! I shall get up and throw the whole truth in your ugly faces, and youll see how I despise you. He could hardly breathe. And what if its only my fancy? What if I am mistaken, and through inexperience I get angry and dont keep up my nasty part? Perhaps its all unintentional. All their phrases are the usual ones, but there is something about them. It all might be said, but there is something. Why did he say bluntly, With her? Why did Zametov add that I spoke artfully? Why do they speak in that tone? Yes, the tone. Razumihin is sitting here, why does he see nothing? That innocent blockhead never does see anything! Feverish again! Did Porfiry wink at me just now? Of course its nonsense! What could he wink for? Are they trying to upset my nerves or are they teasing me? Either its all fancy or they know! Even Zametov is rude. Is Zametov rude? Zametov has changed his mind. I foresaw he would change his mind! He is at home here, while its my first visit. Porfiry does not consider him a visitor; sits with his back to him. Theyre as thick as thieves, no doubt, over me! Not a doubt they were talking about me before we came. Do they know about the flat? If only theyd make haste! When I said that I ran away to take a flat he let it pass I put that in cleverly about a flat, it may be of use afterwards. Delirious, indeed ha-ha-ha! He knows all about last night! He didnt know of my mothers arrival! The hag had written the date on in pencil! You are wrong, you wont catch me! There are no facts its all supposition! You produce facts! The flat even isnt a fact but delirium. I know what to say to them. Do they know about the flat? I wont go with out finding out. What did I come for? But my being angry now, maybe is a fact! Fool, how irritable I am! Perhaps thats right; to play the invalid. He is feeling me. He will try to catch me. Why did I come?
Not quite, thats true, Razumihin agreed at once, getting warm and hurried as usual. Listen, Rodion, and tell us your opinion, I want to hear it. I was fighting tooth and nail with them and wanted you to help me. I told them you were coming. It began with the socialist doctrine. You know their doctrine; crime is a protest against the abnormality of the social organisation and nothing more, and nothing more; no other causes admitted!
Nothing is admitted, Razumihin interrupted with heat. I am not wrong. Ill show you their pamphlets. Everything with them is the influence of environment, and nothing else. Their favourite phrase! From which it follows that, if society is normally organised, all crime will cease at once, since there will be nothing to protest against and all men will become righteous in one instant. Human nature is not taken into account, it is excluded, its not supposed to exist! They dont recognise that humanity, developing by a historical living process, will become at last a normal society, but they believe that a social system that has come out of some mathematical brain is going to organise all humanity at once and make it just and sinless in an instant, quicker than any living process! Thats why they instinctively dislike history, nothing but ugliness and stupidity in it, and they explain it all as stupidity! Thats why they so dislike the living process of life; they dont and a living soul! The living soul demands life, the soul wont obey the rules of mechanics, the soul is an object of suspicion, the soul is retrograde! But what they want though it smells of death and can be made of india-rubber, at least is not alive, has no will, is servile and wont revolt! And it comes in the end to their reducing everything to the building of walls and the planning of rooms and passages in a phalanstery! The phalanstery is ready, indeed, but your human nature is not ready for the phalansteryit wants life, it hasnt completed its vital process, its too soon for the graveyard! You cant skip over nature by logic. Logic presupposes three possibilities, but there are millions! Cut away a million, and reduce it all to the question of comfort! Thats the easiest solution of the problem! Its seductively clear and you mustnt think about it. Thats the great thing, you mustnt think! The whole secret of life in two pages of print!
Now he is off, beating the drum! Catch hold of him, do! laughed Porfiry. Can you imagine, he turned to Raskolnikov, six people holding forth like that last night, in one room, with punch as a preliminary! No, brother, you are wrong, environment accounts for a great deal in crime; I can assure you of that.
Razumihin was almost in a frenzy. Oh, if you like, he roared, Ill prove to you that your white eyelashes may very well be ascribed to the Church of Ivan the Greats being two hundred and fifty feet high, and I will prove it clearly, exactly, progressively, and even with a Liberal tendency! I undertake to! Will you bet on it?
He is always humbugging, confound him, cried Razumihin, jumping up and gesticulating. Whats the use of talking to you! He does all that on purpose; you dont know him, Rodion! He took their side yesterday, simply to make fools of them. And the things he said yesterday! And they were delighted! He can keep it up for a fortnight together. Last year he persuaded us that he was going into a monastery: he stuck to it for two months. Not long ago he took it into his head to declare he was going to get married, that he had everything ready for the wedding. He ordered new clothes indeed. We all began to congratulate him. There was no bride, nothing, all pure fantasy!
You wouldnt have supposed it, eh? Wait a bit, I shall take you in, too. Ha-ha-ha! No, Ill tell you the truth. All these questions about crime, environment, children, recall to my mind an article of yours which interested me at the time. On Crime or something of the sort, I forget the title, I read it with pleasure two months ago in the Periodical Review.
Why, you might get some money out of them for the article! What a strange person you are! You lead such a solitary life that you know nothing of matters that concern you directly. Its a fact, I assure you.
Bravo, Rodya! I knew nothing about it either! cried Razumihin. Ill run to-day to the reading-room and ask for the number. Two months ago? What was the date? It doesnt matter though, I will find it. Think of not telling us!
Yes, and you maintained that the perpetration of a crime is always accompanied by illness. Very, very original, but it was not that part of your article that interested me so much, but an idea at the end of the article which I regret to say you merely suggested without working it out clearly. There is, if you recollect, a suggestion that there are certain persons who can that is, not precisely are able to, but have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes, and that the law is not for them.
No, not exactly because of it, answered Porfiry. In his article all men are divided into ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, dont you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary. That was your idea, if I am not mistaken?
That wasnt quite my contention, he began simply and modestly. Yet I admit that you have stated it almost correctly; perhaps, if you like, perfectly so. (It almost gave him pleasure to admit this.) The only difference is that I dont contend that extraordinary people are always bound to commit breaches of morals, as you call it. In fact, I doubt whether such an argument could be published. I simply hinted that an extraordinary man has the right that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity). You say that my article isnt definite; I am ready to make it as clear as I can. Perhaps I am right in thinking you want me to; very well. I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity. But it does not follow from that that Newton had a right to murder people right and left and to steal every day in the market. Then, I remember, I maintain in my article that all well, legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshedoften of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient lawwere of use to their cause. Its remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage. In short, I maintain that all great men or even men a little out of the common, that is to say capable of giving some new word, must from their very nature be criminalsmore or less, of course. Otherwise its hard for them to get out of the common rut; and to remain in the common rut is what they cant submit to, from their very nature again, and to my mind they ought not, indeed, to submit to it. You see that there is nothing particularly new in all that. The same thing has been printed and read a thousand times before. As for my division of people into ordinary and extraordinary, I acknowledge that its somewhat arbitrary, but I dont insist upon exact numbers. I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word. There are, of course, innumerable sub-divisions, but the distinguishing features of both categories are fairly well marked. The first category, generally speaking, are men conservative in temperament and law-abiding; they live under control and love to be controlled. To my thinking it is their duty to be controlled, because thats their vocation, and there is nothing humiliating in it for them. The second category all transgress the law; they are destroyers or disposed to destruction according to their capacities. The crimes of these men are of course relative and varied; for the most part they seek in very varied ways the destruction of the present for the sake of the idea to step over a corpse or wade through blood, he can, I maintain, find within himself, in his conscience, a sanction for wading through bloodthat depends on the idea and its dimensions, note that. Its only in that sense I speak of their right to crime in my article (you remember it began with the legal question). Theres no need for much anxiety, however; the masses will scarcely ever admit this right, they punish them or hang them (more or less), and in doing so fulfil quite justly their conservative vocation. But the same masses set these criminals on a pedestal in the next generation and worship them (more or less). The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future. The first preserve the world and people it, the second move the world and lead it to its goal. Each class has an equal right to exist. In fact, all have equal rights with meand vive la guerre éternelletill the New Jerusalem, of course!
Thank you. But tell me this: how do you distinguish those extraordinary people from the ordinary ones? Are there signs at their birth! I feel there ought to be more exactitude, more external definition. Excuse the natural anxiety of a practical law-abiding citizen, but couldnt they adopt a special uniform, for instance, couldnt they wear something, be branded in some way? For you know if confusion arises and a member of one category imagines that he belongs to the other, begins to eliminate obstacles as you so happily expressed it, then
No reason to; but take note that the mistake can only arise in the first category, that is among the ordinary people (as I perhaps unfortunately called them). In spite of their predisposition to obedience very many of them, through a playfulness of nature, sometimes vouchsafed even to the cow, like to imagine themselves advanced people, destroyers, and to push themselves into the new movement, and this quite sincerely. Meanwhile the really new people are very often unobserved by them, or even despised as reactionaries of grovelling tendencies. But I dont think there is any considerable danger here, and you really need not be uneasy for they never go very far. Of course, they might have a thrashing sometimes for letting their fancy run away with them and to teach them their place, but no more; in fact, even this isnt necessary as they castigate themselves, for they are very conscientious: some perform this service for one another and others chastise themselves with their own hands. They will impose various public acts of penitence upon themselves with a beautiful and edifying effect; in fact youve nothing to be uneasy about. Its a law of nature.
Well, you have certainly set my mind more at rest on that score; but theres another thing worries me. Tell me, please, are there many people who have the right to kill others, these extraordinary people? I am ready to bow down to them, of course, but you must admit its alarming if there are a great many of them, eh?
Oh, you neednt worry about that either, Raskolnikov went on in the same tone. People with new ideas, people with the faintest capacity for saying something new, are extremely few in number, extraordinarily so in fact. One thing only is clear, that the appearance of all these grades and subdivisions of men must follow with unfailing regularity some law of nature. That law, of course, is unknown at present, but I am convinced that it exists, and one day may become known. The vast mass of mankind is mere material, and only exists in order by some great effort, by some mysterious process, by means of some crossing of races and stocks, to bring into the world at last perhaps one man out of a thousand with a spark of independence. One in ten thousand perhapsI speak roughly, approximatelyis born with some independence, and with still greater independence one in a hundred thousand. The man of genius is one of millions, and the great geniuses, the crown of humanity, appear on earth perhaps one in many thousand millions. In fact I have not peeped into the retort in which all this takes place. But there certainly is and must be a definite law, it cannot be a matter of chance.
Raskolnikov raised his pale and almost mournful face and made no reply. And the unconcealed, persistent, nervous, and discourteous sarcasm of Porfiry seemed strange to Razumihin beside that quiet and mournful face.
Well, brother, if you are really serious. You are right, of course, in saying that its not new, that its like what weve read and heard a thousand times already; but what is really original in all this, and is exclusively your own, to my horror, is that you sanction bloodshed in the name of conscience, and, excuse my saying so, with such fanaticism. That, I take it, is the point of your article. But that sanction of bloodshed by conscience is to my mind more terrible than the official, legal sanction of bloodshed.
Yes, yes. Porfiry couldnt sit still. Your attitude to crime is pretty clear to me now, but excuse me for my impertinence (I am really ashamed to be worrying you like this), you see, youve removed my anxiety as to the two grades getting mixed, but there are various practical possibilities that make me uneasy! What if some man or youth imagines that he is a Lycurgus or Mahometa future one, of courseand suppose he begins to remove all obstacles. He has some great enterprise before him and needs money for it and tries to get it do you see?
What then? Raskolnikov smiled in reply; thats not my fault. So it is and so it always will be. He said just now (he nodded at Razumihin) that I sanction bloodshed. Society is too well protected by prisons, banishment, criminal investigators, penal servitude. Theres no need to be uneasy. You have but to catch the thief.
Why the word ought? Its not a matter of permission or prohibition. He will suffer if he is sorry for his victim. Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth, he added dreamily, not in the tone of the conversation.
Well, you may abuse me, be angry with me if you like, Porfiry Petrovitch began again, but I cant resist. Allow me one little question (I know I am troubling you). There is just one little notion I want to express, simply that I may not forget it.
Well, you see I really dont know how to express it properly. Its a playful, psychological idea. When you were writing your article, surely you couldnt have helped, he-he, fancying yourself just a little, an extraordinary man, uttering a new word in your sense. Thats so, isnt it?
Raskolnikov did not speak, but looked firmly and intently at Porfiry. Razumihin was scowling gloomily. He seemed before this to be noticing something. He looked angrily around. There was a minute of gloomy silence. Raskolnikov turned to go.
Are you going already? Porfiry said amiably, holding out his hand with excessive politeness. Very,very glad of your acquaintance. As for your request, have no uneasiness, write just as I told you, or, better still, come to there yourself in a day or two to-morrow, indeed. I shall be there at eleven oclock for certain. Well arrange it all; well have a talk. As one of the last to be there, you might perhaps be able to tell us something,he added with a most good-natured expression.
Oh, why? Thats not necessary for the present. You misunderstand me. I lose no opportunity, you see, and Ive talked with all who had pledges. I obtained evidence from some of them, and you are the last. Yes, by the way, he cried, seeming suddenly delighted, I just remember, what was I thinking of? he turned to Razumihin, you were talking my ears off about that Nikolay of course, I know, I know very well, he turned to Raskolnikov, that the fellow is innocent, but what is one to do? We had to trouble Dmitri too. This is the point, this is all: when you went up the stairs it was past seven wasnt it?
Then when you went upstairs between seven and eight, didnt you see in a flat that stood open on a second storey, do you remember, two workmen or at least one of them? They were painting there, didnt you notice them? Its very, very important for them.
Painters? No, I didnt see them, Raskolnikov answered slowly, as though ransacking his memory, while at the same instant he was racking every nerve, almost swooning with anxiety to conjecture as quickly as possible where the trap lay and not to overlook anything. No, I didnt see them, and I dont think I noticed a flat like that open. But on the fourth storey (he had mastered the trap now and was triumphant) I remember now that some one was moving out of the flat opposite Alyona Ivanovnas. I remember I remember it clearly. Some porters were carrying out a sofa and they squeezed me against the wall. But painters no, I dont remember that there were any painters, and I dont think that there was a flat open anywhere, no there wasnt.
What do you mean? Razumihin shouted suddenly, as though he had reflected and realised. Why, it was on the day of the murder the painters were at work, and he was there three days before? What are you asking?
Foo! I have muddled it! Porfiry slapped himself on the forehead. Deuce take it! This business is turning my brain! he addressed Raskolnikov somewhat apologetically. It would be such a great thing for us to find out whether any one had seen them between seven and eight at the flat, so I fancied you could perhaps have told us something. I quite muddled it.