Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter VI

When he remembered the scene afterwards, this is how Raskolnikov saw it.

The noise behind the door increased, and suddenly the door was opened a little.

“What is it?” cried Porfiry Petrovitch, annoyed. “Why, I gave orders . . .”

For an instant there was no answer, but it was evident that there were several persons at the door, and that they were apparently pushing somebody back.

“What is it?” Porfiry Petrovitch repeated, uneasily.

“The prisoner Nikolay has been brought,” someone answered.

“He is not wanted! Take him away! Let him wait! What’s he doing here? How irregular!” cried Porfiry, rushing to the door.

“But he . . .” began the same voice, and suddenly ceased.

Two seconds, not more, were spent in actual struggle, then someone gave a violent shove, and then a man, very pale, strode into the room.

This man’s appearance was at first sight very strange. He stared straight before him, as though seeing nothing. There was a determined gleam in his eyes; at the same time there was a deathly pallor in his face, as though he were being led to the scaffold. His white lips were faintly twitching.

He was dressed like a workman and was of medium height, very young, slim, his hair cut in round crop, with thin spare features. The man whom he had thrust back followed him into the room and succeeded in seizing him by the shoulder; he was a warder; but Nikolay pulled his arm away.

Several persons crowded inquisitively into the doorway. Some of them tried to get in. All this took place almost instantaneously.

“Go away, it’s too soon! Wait till you are sent for! . . . Why have you brought him so soon?” Porfiry Petrovitch muttered, extremely annoyed, and as it were thrown out of his reckoning.

But Nikolay suddenly knelt down.

“What’s the matter?” cried Porfiry, surprised.

“I am guilty! Mine is the sin! I am the murderer,” Nikolay articulated suddenly, rather breathless, but speaking fairly loudly.

For ten seconds there was silence as though all had been struck dumb; even the warder stepped back, mechanically retreated to the door, and stood immovable.

“What is it?” cried Porfiry Petrovitch, recovering from his momentary stupefaction.

“I . . . am the murderer,” repeated Nikolay, after a brief pause.

“What . . . you . . . what . . . whom did you kill?” Porfiry Petrovitch was obviously bewildered.

Nikolay again was silent for a moment.

“Alyona Ivanovna and her sister Lizaveta Ivanovna, I . . . killed . . . with an axe. Darkness came over me,” he added suddenly, and was again silent.

He still remained on his knees. Porfiry Petrovitch stood for some moments as though meditating, but suddenly roused himself and waved back the uninvited spectators. They instantly vanished and closed the door. Then he looked towards Raskolnikov, who was standing in the corner, staring wildly at Nikolay and moved towards him, but stopped short, looked from Nikolay to Raskolnikov and then again at Nikolay, and seeming unable to restrain himself darted at the latter.

“You’re in too great a hurry,” he shouted at him, almost angrily. “I didn’t ask you what came over you. . . . Speak, did you kill them?”

“I am the murderer. . . . I want to give evidence,” Nikolay pronounced.

“Ach! What did you kill them with?”

“An axe. I had it ready.”

“Ach, he is in a hurry! Alone?”

Nikolay did not understand the question.

“Did you do it alone?”

“Yes, alone. And Mitka is not guilty and had no share in it.”

“Don’t be in a hurry about Mitka! A-ach! How was it you ran downstairs like that at the time? The porters met you both!”

“It was to put them off the scent . . . I ran after Mitka,” Nikolay replied hurriedly, as though he had prepared the answer.

“I knew it!” cried Porfiry, with vexation. “It’s not his own tale he is telling,” he muttered as though to himself, and suddenly his eyes rested on Raskolnikov again.

He was apparently so taken up with Nikolay that for a moment he had forgotten Raskolnikov. He was a little taken aback.

“My dear Rodion Romanovitch, excuse me!” he flew up to him, “this won’t do; I’m afraid you must go . . . it’s no good your staying . . . I will . . . you see, what a surprise! . . . Good-bye!”

And taking him by the arm, he showed him to the door.

“I suppose you didn’t expect it?” said Raskolnikov who, though he had not yet fully grasped the situation, had regained his courage.

“You did not expect it either, my friend. See how your hand is trembling! He-he!”

“You’re trembling, too, Porfiry Petrovitch!”

“Yes, I am; I didn’t expect it.”

They were already at the door; Porfiry was impatient for Raskolnikov to be gone.

“And your little surprise, aren’t you going to show it to me?” Raskolnikov said, sarcastically.

“Why, his teeth are chattering as he asks, he-he! You are an ironical person! Come, till we meet!”

“I believe we can say good-bye!”

“That’s in God’s hands,” muttered Porfiry, with an unnatural smile.

As he walked through the office, Raskolnikov noticed that many people were looking at him. Among them he saw the two porters from the house, whom he had invited that night to the police station. They stood there waiting. But he was no sooner on the stairs than he heard the voice of Porfiry Petrovitch behind him. Turning round, he saw the latter running after him, out of breath.

“One word, Rodion Romanovitch; as to all the rest, it’s in God’s hands, but as a matter of form there are some questions I shall have to ask you . . . so we shall meet again, shan’t we?”

And Porfiry stood still, facing him with a smile.

“Shan’t we?” he added again.

He seemed to want to say something more, but could not speak out.

“You must forgive me, Porfiry Petrovitch, for what has just passed . . . I lost my temper,” began Raskolnikov, who had so far regained his courage that he felt irresistibly inclined to display his coolness.

“Don’t mention it, don’t mention it,” Porfiry replied, almost gleefully. “I myself, too . . . I have a wicked temper, I admit it! But we shall meet again. If it’s God’s will, we may see a great deal of one another.”

“And will get to know each other through and through?” added Raskolnikov.

“Yes; know each other through and through,” assented Porfiry Petrovitch, and he screwed up his eyes, looking earnestly at Raskolnikov. “Now you’re going to a birthday party?”

“To a funeral.”

“Of course, the funeral! Take care of yourself, and get well.”

“I don’t know what to wish you,” said Raskolnikov, who had begun to descend the stairs, but looked back again. “I should like to wish you success, but your office is such a comical one.”

“Why comical?” Porfiry Petrovitch had turned to go, but he seemed to prick up his ears at this.

“Why, how you must have been torturing and harassing that poor Nikolay psychologically, after your fashion, till he confessed! You must have been at him day and night, proving to him that he was the murderer, and now that he has confessed, you’ll begin vivisecting him again. ‘You are lying,’ you’ll say. ‘You are not the murderer! You can’t be! It’s not your own tale you are telling!’ You must admit it’s a comical business!”

“He-he-he! You noticed then that I said to Nikolay just now that it was not his own tale he was telling?”

“How could I help noticing it!”

“He-he! You are quick-witted. You notice everything! You’ve really a playful mind! And you always fasten on the comic side . . . he-he! They say that was the marked characteristic of Gogol, among the writers.”

“Yes, of Gogol.”

“Yes, of Gogol. . . . I shall look forward to meeting you.”

“So shall I.”

Raskolnikov walked straight home. He was so muddled and bewildered that on getting home he sat for a quarter of an hour on the sofa, trying to collect his thoughts. He did not attempt to think about Nikolay; he was stupefied; he felt that his confession was something inexplicable, amazing — something beyond his understanding. But Nikolay’s confession was an actual fact. The consequences of this fact were clear to him at once, its falsehood could not fail to be discovered, and then they would be after him again. Till then, at least, he was free and must do something for himself, for the danger was imminent.

But how imminent? His position gradually became clear to him. Remembering, sketchily, the main outlines of his recent scene with Porfiry, he could not help shuddering again with horror. Of course, he did not yet know all Porfiry’s aims, he could not see into all his calculations. But he had already partly shown his hand, and no one knew better than Raskolnikov how terrible Porfiry’s “lead” had been for him. A little more and he might have given himself away completely, circumstantially. Knowing his nervous temperament and from the first glance seeing through him, Porfiry, though playing a bold game, was bound to win. There’s no denying that Raskolnikov had compromised himself seriously, but no facts had come to light as yet; there was nothing positive. But was he taking a true view of the position? Wasn’t he mistaken? What had Porfiry been trying to get at? Had he really some surprise prepared for him? And what was it? Had he really been expecting something or not? How would they have parted if it had not been for the unexpected appearance of Nikolay?

Porfiry had shown almost all his cards — of course, he had risked something in showing them — and if he had really had anything up his sleeve (Raskolnikov reflected), he would have shown that, too. What was that “surprise”? Was it a joke? Had it meant anything? Could it have concealed anything like a fact, a piece of positive evidence? His yesterday’s visitor? What had become of him? Where was he to-day? If Porfiry really had any evidence, it must be connected with him . . . .

He sat on the sofa with his elbows on his knees and his face hidden in his hands. He was still shivering nervously. At last he got up, took his cap, thought a minute, and went to the door.

He had a sort of presentiment that for to-day, at least, he might consider himself out of danger. He had a sudden sense almost of joy; he wanted to make haste to Katerina Ivanovna’s. He would be too late for the funeral, of course, but he would be in time for the memorial dinner, and there at once he would see Sonia.

He stood still, thought a moment, and a suffering smile came for a moment on to his lips.

“To-day! To-day,” he repeated to himself. “Yes, to-day! So it must be . . . .”

But as he was about to open the door, it began opening of itself. He started and moved back. The door opened gently and slowly, and there suddenly appeared a figure — yesterday’s visitor from underground.

The man stood in the doorway, looked at Raskolnikov without speaking, and took a step forward into the room. He was exactly the same as yesterday; the same figure, the same dress, but there was a great change in his face; he looked dejected and sighed deeply. If he had only put his hand up to his cheek and leaned his head on one side he would have looked exactly like a peasant woman.

“What do you want?” asked Raskolnikov, numb with terror. The man was still silent, but suddenly he bowed down almost to the ground, touching it with his finger.

“What is it?” cried Raskolnikov.

“I have sinned,” the man articulated softly.


“By evil thoughts.”

They looked at one another.

“I was vexed. When you came, perhaps in drink, and bade the porters go to the police station and asked about the blood, I was vexed that they let you go and took you for drunken. I was so vexed that I lost my sleep. And remembering the address we came here yesterday and asked for you . . . .”

“Who came?” Raskolnikov interrupted, instantly beginning to recollect.

“I did, I’ve wronged you.”

“Then you come from that house?”

“I was standing at the gate with them . . . don’t you remember? We have carried on our trade in that house for years past. We cure and prepare hides, we take work home . . . most of all I was vexed . . . .”

And the whole scene of the day before yesterday in the gateway came clearly before Raskolnikov’s mind; he recollected that there had been several people there besides the porters, women among them. He remembered one voice had suggested taking him straight to the police-station. He could not recall the face of the speaker, and even now he did not recognise it, but he remembered that he had turned round and made him some answer . . . .

So this was the solution of yesterday’s horror. The most awful thought was that he had been actually almost lost, had almost done for himself on account of such a trivial circumstance. So this man could tell nothing except his asking about the flat and the blood stains. So Porfiry, too, had nothing but that delirium, no facts but this psychology which cuts both ways, nothing positive. So if no more facts come to light (and they must not, they must not!) then . . . then what can they do to him? How can they convict him, even if they arrest him? And Porfiry then had only just heard about the flat and had not known about it before.

“Was it you who told Porfiry . . . that I’d been there?” he cried, struck by a sudden idea.

“What Porfiry?”

“The head of the detective department?”

“Yes. The porters did not go there, but I went.”


“I got there two minutes before you. And I heard, I heard it all, how he worried you.”

“Where? What? When?”

“Why, in the next room. I was sitting there all the time.”

“What? Why, then you were the surprise? But how could it happen? Upon my word!”

“I saw that the porters did not want to do what I said,” began the man; “for it’s too late, said they, and maybe he’ll be angry that we did not come at the time. I was vexed and I lost my sleep, and I began making inquiries. And finding out yesterday where to go, I went to-day. The first time I went he wasn’t there, when I came an hour later he couldn’t see me. I went the third time, and they showed me in. I informed him of everything, just as it happened, and he began skipping about the room and punching himself on the chest. ‘What do you scoundrels mean by it? If I’d known about it I should have arrested him!’ Then he ran out, called somebody and began talking to him in the corner, then he turned to me, scolding and questioning me. He scolded me a great deal; and I told him everything, and I told him that you didn’t dare to say a word in answer to me yesterday and that you didn’t recognise me. And he fell to running about again and kept hitting himself on the chest, and getting angry and running about, and when you were announced he told me to go into the next room. ‘Sit there a bit,’ he said. ‘Don’t move, whatever you may hear.’ And he set a chair there for me and locked me in. ‘Perhaps,’ he said, ‘I may call you.’ And when Nikolay’d been brought he let me out as soon as you were gone. ‘I shall send for you again and question you,’ he said.”

“And did he question Nikolay while you were there?”

“He got rid of me as he did of you, before he spoke to Nikolay.”

The man stood still, and again suddenly bowed down, touching the ground with his finger.

“Forgive me for my evil thoughts, and my slander.”

“May God forgive you,” answered Raskolnikov.

And as he said this, the man bowed down again, but not to the ground, turned slowly and went out of the room.

“It all cuts both ways, now it all cuts both ways,” repeated Raskolnikov, and he went out more confident than ever.

“Now we’ll make a fight for it,” he said, with a malicious smile, as he went down the stairs. His malice was aimed at himself; with shame and contempt he recollected his “cowardice.”

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