Fyodor Dostoevsky (18211881). Crime and Punishment.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
AH, these cigarettes! Porfiry Petrovitch ejaculated at last, having lighted one. They are pernicious, positively pernicious, and yet I cant give them up! I cough, I began to have tickling in my throat and a difficulty in breathing. You know I am a coward, I went lately to Dr. Bn; he always gives at least half an hour to each patient. He positively laughed looking at me; he sounded me: Tobaccos bad for you, he said, your lungs are affected. But how am I to give it up? What is there to take its place? I dont drink, thats the mischief, he-he-he, that I dont. Everything is relative, Rodion Romanovitch, everything is relative!
Why, hes playing his professional tricks again, Raskolnikov thought with disgust. All the circumstances of their last interview suddenly came back to him, and he felt a rush of the feeling that had come upon him then.
I came to see you the day before yesterday, in the evening; you didnt know? Porfiry Petrovitch went on, looking round the room. I came into this very room. I was passing by, just as I did to-day, and I thought Id return your call. I walked in as your door was wide open, I looked round, waited and went out without leaving my name with your servant. Dont you lock your door?
But almost at the same instant a serious and careworn look came into his face; to his surprise Raskolnikov saw a touch of sadness in it. He had never seen and never suspected such an expression in his face.
A strange scene passed between us last time we met, Rodion Romanovitch. Our first interview, too, was a strange one; but then and one thing after another! This is the point: I have perhaps acted unfairly to you; I feel it. Do you remember how we parted? Your nerves were unhinged and your knees were shaking and so were mine. And, you know, our behaviour was unseemly, even ungentlemanly. And yet we are gentlemen, above all, in any case, gentlemen; that must be understood. Do you remember what we came to it was quite indecorous.
Ive decided openness is better between us, Porfiry Petrovitch went on, turning his head away and dropping his eyes, as though unwilling to disconcert his former victim and as though disdaining his former wiles. Yes, such suspicions and such scenes cannot continue for long. Nikolay put a stop to it, or I dont know what we might not have come to. That damned workman was sitting at the time in the next roomcan you realise that? You know that, of course; and I am aware that he came to you afterwards. But what you supposed then was not true: I had not sent for any one, I had made no kind of arrangements. You ask why I hadnt? What shall I say to you: it had all come upon me so suddenly. I had scarcely sent for the porters (you noticed them as you went out, I dare say). An idea flashed upon me; I was firmly convinced at the time, you see, Rodion Romanovitch. Come, I thoughteven if I let one thing slip for a time, I shall get hold of something elseI shant lose what I want, anyway. You are nervously irritable, Rodion Romanovitch, by temperament; its out of proportion with other qualities of your heart and character, which I flatter myself I have to some extent divined. Of course I did reflect even then that it does not always happen that a man gets up and blurts out his whole story. It does happen sometimes, if you make a man lose all patience, though even then its rare. I was capable of realising that. If I only had a fact, I thought, the least little fact to go upon, something I could lay hold of, something tangible, not merely psychological. For if a man is guilty, you must be able to get something substantial out of him; one may reckon upon most surprising results indeed. I was reckoning on your temperament, Rodion Romanovitch, on your temperament above all things! I had great hopes of you at that time.
What am I driving at? Ive come to explain myself, I consider it my duty, so to speak. I want to make clear to you how the whole business, the whole misunderstanding arose. Ive caused you a great deal of suffering, Rodion Romanovitch. I am not a monster. I understand what it must mean for a man who has been unfortunate, but who is proud, imperious and above all, impatient, to have to bear such treatment! I regard you in any case as a man of noble character and not without elements of magnanimity, though I dont agree with all your convictions. I wanted to tell you this first, frankly and quite sincerely, for above all I dont want to deceive you. When I made your acquaintance, I felt attracted by you. Perhaps you will laugh at my saying so. You have a right to. I know you disliked me from the first and indeed youve no reason to like me. You may think what you like, but I desire now to do all I can to efface that impression and to show that I am a man of heart and conscience. I speak sincerely.
Its scarcely necessary to go over everything in detail, Porfiry Petrovitch went on. Indeed, I could scarcely attempt it. To begin with, there were rumours. Through whom, how, and when those rumours came to me and how they affected you, I need not go into. My suspicions were aroused by a complete accident, which might just as easily not have happened. What was it? Hm! I believe there is no need to go into that either. Those rumours and that accident led to one idea in my mind. I admit it openlyfor one may as well make a clean breast of itI was the first to pitch on you. The old womans notes on the pledges and the rest of itthat all came to nothing. Yours was one of a hundred. I happened, too, to hear of the scene at the office, from a man who described it capitally, unconsciously reproducing the scene with great vividness. It was just one thing after another, Rodion Romanovitch, my dear fellow! How could I avoid being brought to certain ideas? From a hundred rabbits you cant make a horse, a hundred suspicions dont make a proof, as the English proverb says, but thats only from the rational point of viewyou cant help being partial, for after all a lawyer is only human. I thought, too, of your article in that journal, do you remember, on your first visit we talked of it? I jeered at you at the time, but that was only to lead you on. I repeat, Rodion Romanovitch, you are ill and impatient. That you were bold, headstrong, in earnest and had felt a great deal I recognised long before. I, too, have felt the same, so that your article seemed familiar to me. It was conceived on sleepless nights, with a throbbing heart, in ecstasy and suppressed enthusiasm. And that proud suppressed enthusiasm in young people is dangerous! I jeered at you then, but let me tell you that, as a literary amateur, I am awfully fond of such first essays, full of the heat of youth. There is mistiness and a chord vibrating in the midst. Your article is absurd and fantastic, but theres a transparent sincerity, a youthful incorruptible pride and the daring of despair in it. Its a gloomy article, but thats whats fine in it. I read your article and put it aside, thinking as I did so that man wont go the common way. Well, I ask you, after that as a preliminary, how could I help being carried away by what followed? Oh dear, I am not saying anything, I am not making any statement now. I simply noted it at the time. What is there in it? I reflected. Theres nothing in it, that is really nothing and perhaps absolutely nothing. And its not at all the thing for the prosecutor to let himself be carried away by notions: here I have Nikolay on my hands with actual evidence against himyou may think what you like of it, but its evidence. He brings in his psychology, too; one has to consider him, too, for its a matter of life and death. Why am I explaining this to you? That you may understand, and not blame my malicious behaviour on that occasion. It was not malicious, I assure you, he-he! Do you suppose I didnt come to search your room at the time? I did, I did, he-he! I was here when you were lying ill in bed, not officially, not in my own person, but I was here. Your room was searched to the last thread at the first suspicion; but umsonst! I thought to myself, now that man will come, will come of himself and quickly, too; if hes guilty, hes sure to come. Another man wouldnt, but he will. And you remember how Mr. Razumihin began discussing the subject with you? We arranged that to excite you, so we purposely spread rumours, that he might discuss the case with you, and Razumihin is not a man to restrain his indignation. Mr. Zametov was tremendously struck by your anger and your open daring. Think of blurting out in a restaurant I killed her. It was too daring, too reckless. I thought to myself, if he is guilty he will be a formidable opponent. That was what I thought at the time. I was expecting you. But you simply bowled Zametov over and well, you see, it all lies in thisthat this damnable psychology can be taken two ways! Well, I kept expecting you, and so it was, you came! My heart was fairly throbbing. Ach!
Now, why need you have come? Your laughter, too, as you came in, do you remember? I saw it all plain as daylight, but if I hadnt expected you so specially, I should not have noticed anything in your laughter. You see what influence a mood has! Mr. Razumihin thenah, that stone, that stone under which the things were hidden! I seem to see it somewhere in a kitchen garden. It was in a kitchen garden, you told Zametov and afterwards you repeated that in my office? And when we began picking your article to pieces, how you explained it! One could take every word of yours in two senses, as though there were another meaning hidden.
So in this way, Rodion Romanovitch, I reached the furthest limit, and knocking my head against a post, I pulled myself up, asking myself what I was about. After all I said, you can take it all in another sense if you like, and its more natural so, indeed, I couldnt help admitting it was more natural. I was bothered! No, Id better get hold of some little fact I said. So when I heard of the bell-ringing, I held my breath and was all in a tremor. Here is my little fact, thought I, and I didnt think it over, I simply wouldnt. I would have given a thousand roubles at that minute to have seen you with my own eyes, when you walked a hundred paces beside that workman, after he had called you murderer to your face, and you did not dare to ask him a question all the way. And then what about your trembling, what about your bell-ringing in your illness, in semidelirium?
And so, Rodion Romanovitch, can you wonder that I played such pranks on you? And what made you come at that very minute? Some one seemed to have sent you, by Jove! And if Nikolay had not parted us and do you remember Nikolay at the time? Do you remember him clearly? It was a thunderbolt, a regular thunderbolt! And how I met him! I didnt believe in the thunderbolt, not for a minute. You could see it for yourself; and how could I? Even afterwards, when you had gone and he began making very, very plausible answers on certain points, so that I was surprised at him myself, even then I didnt believe his story! You see what it is to be as firm as a rock! No, thought I, morgen früh. What has Nikolay got to do with it!
His voice failed him, and he broke off. He had been listening in indescribable agitation, as this man who had seen through and through him, went back upon himself. He was afraid of believing it and did not believe it. In those still ambiguous words he kept eagerly looking for something more definite and conclusive.
Mr. Razumihin! cried Porfiry Petrovitch, seeming glad of a question from Raskolnikov, who had till then, been silent. He-he-he! But I had to put Mr. Razumihin off: two is company, three is none. Mr. Razumihin is not the right man, besides he is an outsider. He came running to me with a pale face. But never mind him, why bring him in! To return to Nikolay, would you like to know what sort of a type he is, how I understand him, that is? To begin with, he is still a child and not exactly a coward, but something by way of an artist. Really, dont laugh at my describing him so. He is innocent and responsive to influence. He has a heart, and is a fantastic fellow. He sings and dances, he tells stories, they say, so that people come from other villages to hear him. He attends school too, and laughs till he cries if you hold up a finger to him; he will drink himself senselessnot as a regular vice, but at times, when people treat him like a child. And he stole, too, then, without knowing it himself, for How can it be stealing, if one picks it up? And do you know he is an Old Believer, or rather a dissenter? There have been Wanderers1 in his family, and he was for two years in his village under the spiritual guidance of a certain elder. I learnt all this from Nikolay and from his fellow villagers. And whats more, he wanted to run into the wilderness! He was full of fervour, prayed at nights, read the old books, the true ones, and read himself crazy.
Petersburg had a great effect upon him, especially the women and the wine. He responds to everything and he forgot the elder and all that. I learnt that an artist here took a fancy to him, and used to go and see him, and now this business came upon him.
Well, he was frightened, he tried to hang himself! He ran away! How can one get over the idea the people have of Russian legal proceedings! The very word trial frightens some of them. Whose fault is it? We shall see what the new juries will do. God grant they do good! Well, in prison, it seems, he remembered the venerable elder, the Bible, too, made its appearance again. Do you know, Rodion Romanovitch, the force of the word suffering among some of these people? Its not a question of suffering for some ones benefit, but simply one must suffer. If they suffer at the hands of the authorities, so much the better. In my time there was a very meek and mild prisoner who spent a whole year in prison always reading his Bible on the stove at night and he read himself crazy, and so crazy, do you know, that one day, apropos of nothing, he seized a brick and flung it at the governor, though he had done him no harm. And the way he threw it too: aimed it a yard on one side on purpose, for fear of hurting him. Well, we know what happens to a prisoner who assaults an officer with a weapon. So he took his suffering.
So I suspect now that Nikolay wants to take his suffering or something of the sort. I know it for certain from facts, indeed. Only he doesnt know that I know. What, you dont admit that there are such fantastic people among the peasants? Lots of them. The elder now has begun influencing him, especially since he tried to hang himself. But hell come and tell me all himself. You think hell hold out? Wait a bit, hell take his words back. I am waiting from hour to hour for him to come and abjure his evidence. I have come to like that Nikolay and am studying him in detail. And what do you think? He-he! He answered me very plausibly on some points, he obviously had collected some evidence and prepared himself cleverly. But on other points he is simply at sea, knows nothing and doesnt even suspect that he doesnt know!
No, Rodion Romanovitch, Nikolay doesnt come in! This is a fantastic, gloomy business, a modern case, an incident of to-day when the heart of man is troubled, when the phrase is quoted that blood renews, when comfort is preached as the aim of life. Here we have bookish dreams a heart unhinged by theories. Here we see resolution in the first stage, but resolution of a special kind; he resolved to do it like jumping over a precipice or from a bell tower and his legs shook as he went to the crime. He forgot to shut the door after him, and murdered two people for a theory. He committed the murder and couldnt take the money, and what he did manage to snatch up he hid under a stone. It wasnt enough for him to suffer agony behind the door while they battered at the door and rung the bell, no, he had to go to the empty lodging, half delirious, to recall the bell-ringing, he wanted to feel the cold shiver over again. Well, that we grant, was through illness, but consider this: he is a murderer, but looks upon himself as an honest man, despises others, poses as injured innocence. No, thats not the work of a Nikolay, my dear Rodion Romanovitch!
Your lip is twitching just as it did before, Porfiry Petrovitch observed almost sympathetically. Youve been misunderstanding me, I think, Rodion Romanovitch, he added after a brief pause, thats why you are so surprised. I came on purpose to tell you everything and deal openly with you.
They were both silent and the silence lasted strangely long, about ten minutes. Raskolnikov put his elbow on the table and passed his fingers through his hair. Porfiry Petrovitch sat quietly waiting. Suddenly Raskolnikov looked scornfully at Porfiry.
Oh, stop that, what does that matter now? It would be a different matter if there were witnesses present, but we are whispering alone. You see yourself that I have not come to chase and capture you like a hare. Whether you confess it or not is nothing to me now; for myself, I am convinced without it.
Ach, what if I am convinced? Thats only my dream for the time. Why should I put you in safety? You know thats it, since you ask me to do it. If I confront you with that workman for instance and you say to him were you drunk or not? Who saw me with you? I simply took you to be drunk, and you were drunk, too. Well, what could I answer, especially as your story is a more likely one than his, for theres nothing but psychology to support his evidencethats almost unseemly with his ugly mug, while you hit the mark exactly, for the rascal is an inveterate drunkard and notoriously so. And I have myself admitted candidly several times already that that psychology can be taken in two ways and that the second way is stronger and looks far more probable, and that apart from that I have as yet nothing against you. And though I shall put you in prison and indeed have comequite contrary to etiquetteto inform you of it beforehand, yet I tell you frankly, also contrary to etiquette, that it wont be to my advantage. Well, secondly, Ive come to you because
Because, as I told you just now, I consider I owe you an explanation. I dont want you to look upon me as a monster, as I have a genuine liking for you, you may believe me or and not. And in the third place Ive come to you with a direct and open propositionthat you should surrender and confess. It will be infinitely more to your advantage and to my advantage too, for my task will be done. Well, is this open on my part or not?
I wont tell you what, Rodion Romanovitch. And in any case, I havent the right to put it off any longer, I must arrest you. So think it over: it makes no difference to me now and so I speak only for your sake. Believe me, it will be better, Rodion Romanovitch.
Thats not simply ridiculous, its positively shameless. Why, even if I were guilty, which I dont admit, what reason should I have to confess, when you tell me yourself that I shall be in greater safety in prison?
Ah, Rodion Romanovitch, dont put too much faith in words, perhaps prison will not be altogether a restful place. Thats only theory and my theory, and what authority am I for you? Perhaps, too, even now I am hiding something from you? I cant lay bare everything, he-he! And how can you ask what advantage? Dont you know how it would lessen your sentence? You would be confessing at a moment when another man has taken the crime on himself and so has muddled the whole case. Consider that! I swear before God that I will so arrange that your confession shall come as a complete surprise. We will make a clean sweep of all these psychological points, of all suspicion against you, so that your crime will appear to have been something like an aberration, for in truth it was an aberration. I am an honest man, Rodion Romanovitch, and will keep my word.
Why, is it the bourgeois disgrace you are afraid of? It may be that you are afraid of it without knowing it, because you are young! But anyway you shouldnt be afraid of giving yourself up and confessing.
Hang it, if you like! Youve lost faith and you think that I am grossly flattering you; but how long has your life been? How much do you understand? You made up a theory and then were ashamed that it broke down and turned out to be not at all original! It turned out something base, thats true, but you are not hopelessly base. By no means so base! At least you didnt deceive yourself for long, you went straight to the furthest point at one bound. How do I regard you? I regard you as one of those men who would stand and smile at their torturer while he cuts their entrails out, if only they have found faith or God. Find it and you will live. You have long needed a change of air. Suffering, too, is a good thing. Suffer! Maybe Nikolay is right in wanting to suffer. I know you dont believe in itbut dont be overwise; fling yourself straight into life, without deliberation; dont be afraidthe flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again. What bank? How can I tell? I only believe that you have long life before you. I know that you take all my words now for a set speech prepared beforehand, but maybe you will remember them after. They may be of use some time. Thats why I speak. Its as well that you only killed the old woman. If youd invented another theory you might perhaps have done something a thousand times more hideous. You ought to thank God, perhaps. How do you know? Perhaps God is saving you for something. But keep a good heart and have less fear! Are you afraid of the great expiation before you? No, it would be shameful to be afraid of it. Since you have taken such a step, you must harden your heart. There is justice in it. You must fulfil the demands of justice. I know that you dont believe it, but indeed, life will bring you through. You will live it down in time. What you need now is fresh air, fresh air, fresh air!
Who am I? I am a man with nothing to hope for, thats all. A man perhaps of feeling and sympathy, maybe of some knowledge, too, but my day is over. But you are a different matter, there is life waiting for you. Though who knows, maybe your life, too, will pass off in smoke and come to nothing. Come, what does it matter, that you will pass into another class of men? Its not comfort you regret, with your heart! What of it that perhaps no one will see you for so long? Its not time, but yourself that will decide that. Be the sun and all will see you. The sun has before all to be the sun. Why are you smiling again? At my being such a Schiller? I bet youre imagining that I am trying to get round you by flattery. Well, perhaps I am, he-he-he! Perhaps youd better not believe my word, perhaps youd better never believe it altogether,Im made that way, I confess it. But let me add, you can judge for yourself, I think, how far I am a base sort of man and how far I am honest.
No, you wont run away. A peasant would run away, a fashionable dissenter would run away, the flunkey of another mans thought, for youve only to show him the end of your little finger and hell be ready to believe in anything for the rest of his life. But youve ceased to believe in your theory already, what will you run away with? And what would you do in hiding? It would be hateful and difficult for you, and what you need more than anything in life is a definite position, an atmosphere to suit you. And what sort of atmosphere would you have. If you ran away, youd come back of yourself. You cant get on without us. And if I put you in prison,say youve been there a month, or two, or threeremember my word, youll confess of yourself and perhaps to your own surprise. You wont know an hour beforehand that you are coming with a confession. I am convinced that you will decide, to take your suffering. You dont believe my words now, but youll come to it of yourself. For suffering, Rodion Romanovitch, is a great thing. Never mind my having grown fat, I know all the same. Dont laugh at it, theres an idea in suffering, Nikolay is right. No, you wont run away, Rodion Romanovitch.
Porfiry Petrovitch, please dont take up the notion that I have confessed to you to-day, Raskolnikov pronounced with sullen insistence. Youre a strange man and I have listened to you from simple curiosity. But I have admitted nothing, remember that!
Oh, I know that, Ill remember. Look at him, hes trembling! Dont be uneasy, my dear fellow, have it your own way. Walk about a bit, you wont be able to walk too far. If anything happens, I have one request to make of you, he added, dropping his voice. Its an awkward one, but important. If anything were to happen (though indeed I dont believe in it and think you quite incapable of it), yet in case you were taken during these forty or fifty hours with the notion of putting an end to the business in some other way, in some fantastic fashionlaying hands on yourself(its an absurd proposition, but you must forgive me for it) do leave a brief but precise note, only two lines and mention the stone. It will be more generous. Come, till we meet! Good thoughts and sound decisions to you!
Porfiry went out, stooping and avoiding looking at Raskolnikov. The latter went to the window and waited with irritable impatience till he calculated that Porfiry had reached the street and moved away. Then he too went hurriedly out of the room.