Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter IV

Raskolnikov went straight to the house on the canal bank where Sonia lived. It was an old green house of three storeys. He found the porter and obtained from him vague directions as to the whereabouts of Kapernaumov, the tailor. Having found in the corner of the courtyard the entrance to the dark and narrow staircase, he mounted to the second floor and came out into a gallery that ran round the whole second storey over the yard. While he was wandering in the darkness, uncertain where to turn for Kapernaumov’s door, a door opened three paces from him; he mechanically took hold of it.

“Who is there?” a woman’s voice asked uneasily.

“It’s I . . . come to see you,” answered Raskolnikov and he walked into the tiny entry.

On a broken chair stood a candle in a battered copper candlestick.

“It’s you! Good heavens!” cried Sonia weakly, and she stood rooted to the spot.

“Which is your room? This way?” and Raskolnikov, trying not to look at her, hastened in.

A minute later Sonia, too, came in with the candle, set down the candlestick and, completely disconcerted, stood before him inexpressibly agitated and apparently frightened by his unexpected visit. The colour rushed suddenly to her pale face and tears came into her eyes . . . She felt sick and ashamed and happy, too. . . . Raskolnikov turned away quickly and sat on a chair by the table. He scanned the room in a rapid glance.

It was a large but exceedingly low-pitched room, the only one let by the Kapernaumovs, to whose rooms a closed door led in the wall on the left. In the opposite side on the right hand wall was another door, always kept locked. That led to the next flat, which formed a separate lodging. Sonia’s room looked like a barn; it was a very irregular quadrangle and this gave it a grotesque appearance. A wall with three windows looking out on to the canal ran aslant so that one corner formed a very acute angle, and it was difficult to see in it without very strong light. The other corner was disproportionately obtuse. There was scarcely any furniture in the big room: in the corner on the right was a bedstead, beside it, nearest the door, a chair. A plain, deal table covered by a blue cloth stood against the same wall, close to the door into the other flat. Two rush-bottom chairs stood by the table. On the opposite wall near the acute angle stood a small plain wooden chest of drawers looking, as it were, lost in a desert. That was all there was in the room. The yellow, scratched and shabby wall-paper was black in the corners. It must have been damp and full of fumes in the winter. There was every sign of poverty; even the bedstead had no curtain.

Sonia looked in silence at her visitor, who was so attentively and unceremoniously scrutinising her room, and even began at last to tremble with terror, as though she was standing before her judge and the arbiter of her destinies.

“I am late. . . . It’s eleven, isn’t it?” he asked, still not lifting his eyes.

“Yes,” muttered Sonia, “oh yes, it is,” she added, hastily, as though in that lay her means of escape. “My landlady’s clock has just struck . . . I heard it myself . . . .”

“I’ve come to you for the last time,” Raskolnikov went on gloomily, although this was the first time. “I may perhaps not see you again . . .”

“Are you . . . going away?”

“I don’t know . . . to-morrow . . . .”

“Then you are not coming to Katerina Ivanovna to-morrow?” Sonia’s voice shook.

“I don’t know. I shall know to-morrow morning. . . . Never mind that: I’ve come to say one word . . . .”

He raised his brooding eyes to her and suddenly noticed that he was sitting down while she was all the while standing before him.

“Why are you standing? Sit down,” he said in a changed voice, gentle and friendly.

She sat down. He looked kindly and almost compassionately at her.

“How thin you are! What a hand! Quite transparent, like a dead hand.”

He took her hand. Sonia smiled faintly.

“I have always been like that,” she said.

“Even when you lived at home?”

“Yes.”

“Of course, you were,” he added abruptly and the expression of his face and the sound of his voice changed again suddenly.

He looked round him once more.

“You rent this room from the Kapernaumovs?”

“Yes . . . .”

“They live there, through that door?”

“Yes. . . . They have another room like this.”

“All in one room?”

“Yes.”

“I should be afraid in your room at night,” he observed gloomily.

“They are very good people, very kind,” answered Sonia, who still seemed bewildered, “and all the furniture, everything . . . everything is theirs. And they are very kind and the children, too, often come to see me.”

“They all stammer, don’t they?”

“Yes. . . . He stammers and he’s lame. And his wife, too. . . . It’s not exactly that she stammers, but she can’t speak plainly. She is a very kind woman. And he used to be a house serf. And there are seven children . . . and it’s only the eldest one that stammers and the others are simply ill . . . but they don’t stammer. . . . But where did you hear about them?” she added with some surprise.

“Your father told me, then. He told me all about you. . . . And how you went out at six o’clock and came back at nine and how Katerina Ivanovna knelt down by your bed.”

Sonia was confused.

“I fancied I saw him to-day,” she whispered hesitatingly.

“Whom?”

“Father. I was walking in the street, out there at the corner, about ten o’clock and he seemed to be walking in front. It looked just like him. I wanted to go to Katerina Ivanovna . . . .”

“You were walking in the streets?”

“Yes,” Sonia whispered abruptly, again overcome with confusion and looking down.

“Katerina Ivanovna used to beat you, I dare say?”

“Oh no, what are you saying? No!” Sonia looked at him almost with dismay.

“You love her, then?”

“Love her? Of course!” said Sonia with plaintive emphasis, and she clasped her hands in distress. “Ah, you don’t . . . . If you only knew! You see, she is quite like a child. . . . Her mind is quite unhinged, you see . . . from sorrow. And how clever she used to be . . . how generous . . . how kind! Ah, you don’t understand, you don’t understand!”

Sonia said this as though in despair, wringing her hands in excitement and distress. Her pale cheeks flushed, there was a look of anguish in her eyes. It was clear that she was stirred to the very depths, that she was longing to speak, to champion, to express something. A sort of insatiable compassion, if one may so express it, was reflected in every feature of her face.

“Beat me! how can you? Good heavens, beat me! And if she did beat me, what then? What of it? You know nothing, nothing about it. . . . She is so unhappy . . . ah, how unhappy! And ill. . . . She is seeking righteousness, she is pure. She has such faith that there must be righteousness everywhere and she expects it. . . . And if you were to torture her, she wouldn’t do wrong. She doesn’t see that it’s impossible for people to be righteous and she is angry at it. Like a child, like a child. She is good!”

“And what will happen to you?”

Sonia looked at him inquiringly.

“They are left on your hands, you see. They were all on your hands before, though. . . . And your father came to you to beg for drink. Well, how will it be now?”

“I don’t know,” Sonia articulated mournfully.

“Will they stay there?”

“I don’t know. . . . They are in debt for the lodging, but the landlady, I hear, said to-day that she wanted to get rid of them, and Katerina Ivanovna says that she won’t stay another minute.”

“How is it she is so bold? She relies upon you?”

“Oh, no, don’t talk like that. . . . We are one, we live like one.” Sonia was agitated again and even angry, as though a canary or some other little bird were to be angry. “And what could she do? What, what could she do?” she persisted, getting hot and excited. “And how she cried to-day! Her mind is unhinged, haven’t you noticed it? At one minute she is worrying like a child that everything should be right to-morrow, the lunch and all that. . . . Then she is wringing her hands, spitting blood, weeping, and all at once she will begin knocking her head against the wall, in despair. Then she will be comforted again. She builds all her hopes on you; she says that you will help her now and that she will borrow a little money somewhere and go to her native town with me and set up a boarding school for the daughters of gentlemen and take me to superintend it, and we will begin a new splendid life. And she kisses and hugs me, comforts me, and you know she has such faith, such faith in her fancies! One can’t contradict her. And all the day long she has been washing, cleaning, mending. She dragged the wash tub into the room with her feeble hands and sank on the bed, gasping for breath. We went this morning to the shops to buy shoes for Polenka and Lida for theirs are quite worn out. Only the money we’d reckoned wasn’t enough, not nearly enough. And she picked out such dear little boots, for she has taste, you don’t know. And there in the shop she burst out crying before the shopmen because she hadn’t enough. . . . Ah, it was sad to see her . . . .”

“Well, after that I can understand your living like this,” Raskolnikov said with a bitter smile.

“And aren’t you sorry for them? Aren’t you sorry?” Sonia flew at him again. “Why, I know, you gave your last penny yourself, though you’d seen nothing of it, and if you’d seen everything, oh dear! And how often, how often I’ve brought her to tears! Only last week! Yes, I! Only a week before his death. I was cruel! And how often I’ve done it! Ah, I’ve been wretched at the thought of it all day!”

Sonia wrung her hands as she spoke at the pain of remembering it.

“You were cruel?”

“Yes, I— I. I went to see them,” she went on, weeping, “and father said, ‘read me something, Sonia, my head aches, read to me, here’s a book.’ He had a book he had got from Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov, he lives there, he always used to get hold of such funny books. And I said, ‘I can’t stay,’ as I didn’t want to read, and I’d gone in chiefly to show Katerina Ivanovna some collars. Lizaveta, the pedlar, sold me some collars and cuffs cheap, pretty, new, embroidered ones. Katerina Ivanovna liked them very much; she put them on and looked at herself in the glass and was delighted with them. ‘Make me a present of them, Sonia,’ she said, ‘please do.’ ‘Please do,’ she said, she wanted them so much. And when could she wear them? They just reminded her of her old happy days. She looked at herself in the glass, admired herself, and she has no clothes at all, no things of her own, hasn’t had all these years! And she never asks anyone for anything; she is proud, she’d sooner give away everything. And these she asked for, she liked them so much. And I was sorry to give them. ‘What use are they to you, Katerina Ivanovna?’ I said. I spoke like that to her, I ought not to have said that! She gave me such a look. And she was so grieved, so grieved at my refusing her. And it was so sad to see. . . . And she was not grieved for the collars, but for my refusing, I saw that. Ah, if only I could bring it all back, change it, take back those words! Ah, if I . . . but it’s nothing to you!”

“Did you know Lizaveta, the pedlar?”

“Yes. . . . Did you know her?” Sonia asked with some surprise.

“Katerina Ivanovna is in consumption, rapid consumption; she will soon die,” said Raskolnikov after a pause, without answering her question.

“Oh, no, no, no!”

And Sonia unconsciously clutched both his hands, as though imploring that she should not.

“But it will be better if she does die.”

“No, not better, not at all better!” Sonia unconsciously repeated in dismay.

“And the children? What can you do except take them to live with you?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” cried Sonia, almost in despair, and she put her hands to her head.

It was evident that that idea had very often occurred to her before and he had only roused it again.

“And, what, if even now, while Katerina Ivanovna is alive, you get ill and are taken to the hospital, what will happen then?” he persisted pitilessly.

“How can you? That cannot be!”

And Sonia’s face worked with awful terror.

“Cannot be?” Raskolnikov went on with a harsh smile. “You are not insured against it, are you? What will happen to them then? They will be in the street, all of them, she will cough and beg and knock her head against some wall, as she did to-day, and the children will cry. . . . Then she will fall down, be taken to the police station and to the hospital, she will die, and the children . . .”

“Oh, no. . . . God will not let it be!” broke at last from Sonia’s overburdened bosom.

She listened, looking imploringly at him, clasping her hands in dumb entreaty, as though it all depended upon him.

Raskolnikov got up and began to walk about the room. A minute passed. Sonia was standing with her hands and her head hanging in terrible dejection.

“And can’t you save? Put by for a rainy day?” he asked, stopping suddenly before her.

“No,” whispered Sonia.

“Of course not. Have you tried?” he added almost ironically.

“Yes.”

“And it didn’t come off! Of course not! No need to ask.”

And again he paced the room. Another minute passed.

“You don’t get money every day?”

Sonia was more confused than ever and colour rushed into her face again.

“No,” she whispered with a painful effort.

“It will be the same with Polenka, no doubt,” he said suddenly.

“No, no! It can’t be, no!” Sonia cried aloud in desperation, as though she had been stabbed. “God would not allow anything so awful!”

“He lets others come to it.”

“No, no! God will protect her, God!” she repeated beside herself.

“But, perhaps, there is no God at all,” Raskolnikov answered with a sort of malignance, laughed and looked at her.

Sonia’s face suddenly changed; a tremor passed over it. She looked at him with unutterable reproach, tried to say something, but could not speak and broke into bitter, bitter sobs, hiding her face in her hands.

“You say Katerina Ivanovna’s mind is unhinged; your own mind is unhinged,” he said after a brief silence.

Five minutes passed. He still paced up and down the room in silence, not looking at her. At last he went up to her; his eyes glittered. He put his two hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her tearful face. His eyes were hard, feverish and piercing, his lips were twitching. All at once he bent down quickly and dropping to the ground, kissed her foot. Sonia drew back from him as from a madman. And certainly he looked like a madman.

“What are you doing to me?” she muttered, turning pale, and a sudden anguish clutched at her heart.

He stood up at once.

“I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity,” he said wildly and walked away to the window. “Listen,” he added, turning to her a minute later. “I said just now to an insolent man that he was not worth your little finger . . . and that I did my sister honour making her sit beside you.”

“Ach, you said that to them! And in her presence?” cried Sonia, frightened. “Sit down with me! An honour! Why, I’m . . . dishonourable. . . . Ah, why did you say that?”

“It was not because of your dishonour and your sin I said that of you, but because of your great suffering. But you are a great sinner, that’s true,” he added almost solemnly, “and your worst sin is that you have destroyed and betrayed yourself for nothing. Isn’t that fearful? Isn’t it fearful that you are living in this filth which you loathe so, and at the same time you know yourself (you’ve only to open your eyes) that you are not helping anyone by it, not saving anyone from anything? Tell me,” he went on almost in a frenzy, “how this shame and degradation can exist in you side by side with other, opposite, holy feelings? It would be better, a thousand times better and wiser to leap into the water and end it all!”

“But what would become of them?” Sonia asked faintly, gazing at him with eyes of anguish, but not seeming surprised at his suggestion.

Raskolnikov looked strangely at her. He read it all in her face; so she must have had that thought already, perhaps many times, and earnestly she had thought out in her despair how to end it and so earnestly, that now she scarcely wondered at his suggestion. She had not even noticed the cruelty of his words. (The significance of his reproaches and his peculiar attitude to her shame she had, of course, not noticed either, and that, too, was clear to him.) But he saw how monstrously the thought of her disgraceful, shameful position was torturing her and had long tortured her. “What, what,” he thought, “could hitherto have hindered her from putting an end to it?” Only then he realised what those poor little orphan children and that pitiful half-crazy Katerina Ivanovna, knocking her head against the wall in her consumption, meant for Sonia.

But, nevertheless, it was clear to him again that with her character and the amount of education she had after all received, she could not in any case remain so. He was still confronted by the question, how could she have remained so long in that position without going out of her mind, since she could not bring herself to jump into the water? Of course he knew that Sonia’s position was an exceptional case, though unhappily not unique and not infrequent, indeed; but that very exceptionalness, her tinge of education, her previous life might, one would have thought, have killed her at the first step on that revolting path. What held her up — surely not depravity? All that infamy had obviously only touched her mechanically, not one drop of real depravity had penetrated to her heart; he saw that. He saw through her as she stood before him . . . .

“There are three ways before her,” he thought, “the canal, the madhouse, or . . . at last to sink into depravity which obscures the mind and turns the heart to stone.”

The last idea was the most revolting, but he was a sceptic, he was young, abstract, and therefore cruel, and so he could not help believing that the last end was the most likely.

“But can that be true?” he cried to himself. “Can that creature who has still preserved the purity of her spirit be consciously drawn at last into that sink of filth and iniquity? Can the process already have begun? Can it be that she has only been able to bear it till now, because vice has begun to be less loathsome to her? No, no, that cannot be!” he cried, as Sonia had just before. “No, what has kept her from the canal till now is the idea of sin and they, the children . . . . And if she has not gone out of her mind . . . but who says she has not gone out of her mind? Is she in her senses? Can one talk, can one reason as she does? How can she sit on the edge of the abyss of loathsomeness into which she is slipping and refuse to listen when she is told of danger? Does she expect a miracle? No doubt she does. Doesn’t that all mean madness?”

He stayed obstinately at that thought. He liked that explanation indeed better than any other. He began looking more intently at her.

“So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” he asked her.

Sonia did not speak; he stood beside her waiting for an answer.

“What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcibly, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.

“Ah, so that is it!” he thought.

“And what does God do for you?” he asked, probing her further.

Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.

“Be silent! Don’t ask! You don’t deserve!” she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.

“That’s it, that’s it,” he repeated to himself.

“He does everything,” she whispered quickly, looking down again.

“That’s the way out! That’s the explanation,” he decided, scrutinising her with eager curiosity, with a new, strange, almost morbid feeling. He gazed at that pale, thin, irregular, angular little face, those soft blue eyes, which could flash with such fire, such stern energy, that little body still shaking with indignation and anger — and it all seemed to him more and more strange, almost impossible. “She is a religious maniac!” he repeated to himself.

There was a book lying on the chest of drawers. He had noticed it every time he paced up and down the room. Now he took it up and looked at it. It was the New Testament in the Russian translation. It was bound in leather, old and worn.

“Where did you get that?” he called to her across the room.

She was still standing in the same place, three steps from the table.

“It was brought me,” she answered, as it were unwillingly, not looking at him.

“Who brought it?”

“Lizaveta, I asked her for it.”

“Lizaveta! strange!” he thought.

Everything about Sonia seemed to him stranger and more wonderful every moment. He carried the book to the candle and began to turn over the pages.

“Where is the story of Lazarus?” he asked suddenly.

Sonia looked obstinately at the ground and would not answer. She was standing sideways to the table.

“Where is the raising of Lazarus? Find it for me, Sonia.”

She stole a glance at him.

“You are not looking in the right place. . . . It’s in the fourth gospel,” she whispered sternly, without looking at him.

“Find it and read it to me,” he said. He sat down with his elbow on the table, leaned his head on his hand and looked away sullenly, prepared to listen.

“In three weeks’ time they’ll welcome me in the madhouse! I shall be there if I am not in a worse place,” he muttered to himself.

Sonia heard Raskolnikov’s request distrustfully and moved hesitatingly to the table. She took the book however.

“Haven’t you read it?” she asked, looking up at him across the table.

Her voice became sterner and sterner.

“Long ago. . . . When I was at school. Read!”

“And haven’t you heard it in church?”

“I . . . haven’t been. Do you often go?”

“N-no,” whispered Sonia.

Raskolnikov smiled.

“I understand. . . . And you won’t go to your father’s funeral to-morrow?”

“Yes, I shall. I was at church last week, too . . . I had a requiem service.”

“For whom?”

“For Lizaveta. She was killed with an axe.”

His nerves were more and more strained. His head began to go round.

“Were you friends with Lizaveta?”

“Yes. . . . She was good . . . she used to come . . . not often . . . she couldn’t. . . . We used to read together and . . . talk. She will see God.”

The last phrase sounded strange in his ears. And here was something new again: the mysterious meetings with Lizaveta and both of them — religious maniacs.

“I shall be a religious maniac myself soon! It’s infectious!”

“Read!” he cried irritably and insistently.

Sonia still hesitated. Her heart was throbbing. She hardly dared to read to him. He looked almost with exasperation at the “unhappy lunatic.”

“What for? You don’t believe? . . .” she whispered softly and as it were breathlessly.

“Read! I want you to,” he persisted. “You used to read to Lizaveta.”

Sonia opened the book and found the place. Her hands were shaking, her voice failed her. Twice she tried to begin and could not bring out the first syllable.

“Now a certain man was sick named Lazarus of Bethany . . .” she forced herself at last to read, but at the third word her voice broke like an overstrained string. There was a catch in her breath.

Raskolnikov saw in part why Sonia could not bring herself to read to him and the more he saw this, the more roughly and irritably he insisted on her doing so. He understood only too well how painful it was for her to betray and unveil all that was her own. He understood that these feelings really were her secret treasure, which she had kept perhaps for years, perhaps from childhood, while she lived with an unhappy father and a distracted stepmother crazed by grief, in the midst of starving children and unseemly abuse and reproaches. But at the same time he knew now and knew for certain that, although it filled her with dread and suffering, yet she had a tormenting desire to read and to read to him that he might hear it, and to read now whatever might come of it! . . . He read this in her eyes, he could see it in her intense emotion. She mastered herself, controlled the spasm in her throat and went on reading the eleventh chapter of St. John. She went on to the nineteenth verse:

“And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother.

“Then Martha as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.

“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

“But I know that even now whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee . . . .”

Then she stopped again with a shamefaced feeling that her voice would quiver and break again.

“Jesus said unto her, thy brother shall rise again.

“Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live.

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?

“She saith unto Him,”

(And drawing a painful breath, Sonia read distinctly and forcibly as though she were making a public confession of faith.)

“Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God Which should come into the world.”

She stopped and looked up quickly at him, but controlling herself went on reading. Raskolnikov sat without moving, his elbows on the table and his eyes turned away. She read to the thirty-second verse.

“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying unto Him, Lord if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled,

“And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto Him, Lord, come and see.

“Jesus wept.

“Then said the Jews, behold how He loved him!

“And some of them said, could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?”

Raskolnikov turned and looked at her with emotion. Yes, he had known it! She was trembling in a real physical fever. He had expected it. She was getting near the story of the greatest miracle and a feeling of immense triumph came over her. Her voice rang out like a bell; triumph and joy gave it power. The lines danced before her eyes, but she knew what she was reading by heart. At the last verse “Could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind . . .” dropping her voice she passionately reproduced the doubt, the reproach and censure of the blind disbelieving Jews, who in another moment would fall at His feet as though struck by thunder, sobbing and believing. . . . “And he, he — too, is blinded and unbelieving, he, too, will hear, he, too, will believe, yes, yes! At once, now,” was what she was dreaming, and she was quivering with happy anticipation.

“Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

“Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”

She laid emphasis on the word four.

“Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.

“And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.

“And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

“And he that was dead came forth.”

(She read loudly, cold and trembling with ecstasy, as though she were seeing it before her eyes.)

“Bound hand and foot with graveclothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go.

“Then many of the Jews which came to Mary and had seen the things which Jesus did believed on Him.”

She could read no more, closed the book and got up from her chair quickly.

“That is all about the raising of Lazarus,” she whispered severely and abruptly, and turning away she stood motionless, not daring to raise her eyes to him. She still trembled feverishly. The candle-end was flickering out in the battered candlestick, dimly lighting up in the poverty-stricken room the murderer and the harlot who had so strangely been reading together the eternal book. Five minutes or more passed.

“I came to speak of something,” Raskolnikov said aloud, frowning. He got up and went to Sonia. She lifted her eyes to him in silence. His face was particularly stern and there was a sort of savage determination in it.

“I have abandoned my family to-day,” he said, “my mother and sister. I am not going to see them. I’ve broken with them completely.”

“What for?” asked Sonia amazed. Her recent meeting with his mother and sister had left a great impression which she could not analyse. She heard his news almost with horror.

“I have only you now,” he added. “Let us go together. . . . I’ve come to you, we are both accursed, let us go our way together!”

His eyes glittered “as though he were mad,” Sonia thought, in her turn.

“Go where?” she asked in alarm and she involuntarily stepped back.

“How do I know? I only know it’s the same road, I know that and nothing more. It’s the same goal!”

She looked at him and understood nothing. She knew only that he was terribly, infinitely unhappy.

“No one of them will understand, if you tell them, but I have understood. I need you, that is why I have come to you.”

“I don’t understand,” whispered Sonia.

“You’ll understand later. Haven’t you done the same? You, too, have transgressed . . . have had the strength to transgress. You have laid hands on yourself, you have destroyed a life . . . your own (it’s all the same!). You might have lived in spirit and understanding, but you’ll end in the Hay Market. . . . But you won’t be able to stand it, and if you remain alone you’ll go out of your mind like me. You are like a mad creature already. So we must go together on the same road! Let us go!”

“What for? What’s all this for?” said Sonia, strangely and violently agitated by his words.

“What for? Because you can’t remain like this, that’s why! You must look things straight in the face at last, and not weep like a child and cry that God won’t allow it. What will happen, if you should really be taken to the hospital to-morrow? She is mad and in consumption, she’ll soon die and the children? Do you mean to tell me Polenka won’t come to grief? Haven’t you seen children here at the street corners sent out by their mothers to beg? I’ve found out where those mothers live and in what surroundings. Children can’t remain children there! At seven the child is vicious and a thief. Yet children, you know, are the image of Christ: ‘theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.’ He bade us honour and love them, they are the humanity of the future . . . .”

“What’s to be done, what’s to be done?” repeated Sonia, weeping hysterically and wringing her hands.

“What’s to be done? Break what must be broken, once for all, that’s all, and take the suffering on oneself. What, you don’t understand? You’ll understand later. . . . Freedom and power, and above all, power! Over all trembling creation and all the ant-heap! . . . That’s the goal, remember that! That’s my farewell message. Perhaps it’s the last time I shall speak to you. If I don’t come to-morrow, you’ll hear of it all, and then remember these words. And some day later on, in years to come, you’ll understand perhaps what they meant. If I come to-morrow, I’ll tell you who killed Lizaveta . . . . Good-bye.”

Sonia started with terror.

“Why, do you know who killed her?” she asked, chilled with horror, looking wildly at him.

“I know and will tell . . . you, only you. I have chosen you out. I’m not coming to you to ask forgiveness, but simply to tell you. I chose you out long ago to hear this, when your father talked of you and when Lizaveta was alive, I thought of it. Good-bye, don’t shake hands. To-morrow!”

He went out. Sonia gazed at him as at a madman. But she herself was like one insane and felt it. Her head was going round.

“Good heavens, how does he know who killed Lizaveta? What did those words mean? It’s awful!” But at the same time the idea did not enter her head, not for a moment! “Oh, he must be terribly unhappy! . . . He has abandoned his mother and sister. . . . What for? What has happened? And what had he in his mind? What did he say to her? He had kissed her foot and said . . . said (yes, he had said it clearly) that he could not live without her. . . . Oh, merciful heavens!”

Sonia spent the whole night feverish and delirious. She jumped up from time to time, wept and wrung her hands, then sank again into feverish sleep and dreamt of Polenka, Katerina Ivanovna and Lizaveta, of reading the gospel and him . . . him with pale face, with burning eyes . . . kissing her feet, weeping.

On the other side of the door on the right, which divided Sonia’s room from Madame Resslich’s flat, was a room which had long stood empty. A card was fixed on the gate and a notice stuck in the windows over the canal advertising it to let. Sonia had long been accustomed to the room’s being uninhabited. But all that time Mr. Svidrigaïlov had been standing, listening at the door of the empty room. When Raskolnikov went out he stood still, thought a moment, went on tiptoe to his own room which adjoined the empty one, brought a chair and noiselessly carried it to the door that led to Sonia’s room. The conversation had struck him as interesting and remarkable, and he had greatly enjoyed it — so much so that he brought a chair that he might not in the future, to-morrow, for instance, have to endure the inconvenience of standing a whole hour, but might listen in comfort.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:49