Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter VIII

When he went into Sonia’s room, it was already getting dark. All day Sonia had been waiting for him in terrible anxiety. Dounia had been waiting with her. She had come to her that morning, remembering Svidrigaïlov’s words that Sonia knew. We will not describe the conversation and tears of the two girls, and how friendly they became. Dounia gained one comfort at least from that interview, that her brother would not be alone. He had gone to her, Sonia, first with his confession; he had gone to her for human fellowship when he needed it; she would go with him wherever fate might send him. Dounia did not ask, but she knew it was so. She looked at Sonia almost with reverence and at first almost embarrassed her by it. Sonia was almost on the point of tears. She felt herself, on the contrary, hardly worthy to look at Dounia. Dounia’s gracious image when she had bowed to her so attentively and respectfully at their first meeting in Raskolnikov’s room had remained in her mind as one of the fairest visions of her life.

Dounia at last became impatient and, leaving Sonia, went to her brother’s room to await him there; she kept thinking that he would come there first. When she had gone, Sonia began to be tortured by the dread of his committing suicide, and Dounia too feared it. But they had spent the day trying to persuade each other that that could not be, and both were less anxious while they were together. As soon as they parted, each thought of nothing else. Sonia remembered how Svidrigaïlov had said to her the day before that Raskolnikov had two alternatives — Siberia or . . . Besides she knew his vanity, his pride and his lack of faith.

“Is it possible that he has nothing but cowardice and fear of death to make him live?” she thought at last in despair.

Meanwhile the sun was setting. Sonia was standing in dejection, looking intently out of the window, but from it she could see nothing but the unwhitewashed blank wall of the next house. At last when she began to feel sure of his death — he walked into the room.

She gave a cry of joy, but looking carefully into his face she turned pale.

“Yes,” said Raskolnikov, smiling. “I have come for your cross, Sonia. It was you told me to go to the cross-roads; why is it you are frightened now it’s come to that?”

Sonia gazed at him astonished. His tone seemed strange to her; a cold shiver ran over her, but in a moment she guessed that the tone and the words were a mask. He spoke to her looking away, as though to avoid meeting her eyes.

“You see, Sonia, I’ve decided that it will be better so. There is one fact. . . . But it’s a long story and there’s no need to discuss it. But do you know what angers me? It annoys me that all those stupid brutish faces will be gaping at me directly, pestering me with their stupid questions, which I shall have to answer — they’ll point their fingers at me . . . . Tfoo! You know I am not going to Porfiry, I am sick of him. I’d rather go to my friend, the Explosive Lieutenant; how I shall surprise him, what a sensation I shall make! But I must be cooler; I’ve become too irritable of late. You know I was nearly shaking my fist at my sister just now, because she turned to take a last look at me. It’s a brutal state to be in! Ah! what am I coming to! Well, where are the crosses?”

He seemed hardly to know what he was doing. He could not stay still or concentrate his attention on anything; his ideas seemed to gallop after one another, he talked incoherently, his hands trembled slightly.

Without a word Sonia took out of the drawer two crosses, one of cypress wood and one of copper. She made the sign of the cross over herself and over him, and put the wooden cross on his neck.

“It’s the symbol of my taking up the cross,” he laughed. “As though I had not suffered much till now! The wooden cross, that is the peasant one; the copper one, that is Lizaveta’s — you will wear yourself, show me! So she had it on . . . at that moment? I remember two things like these too, a silver one and a little ikon. I threw them back on the old woman’s neck. Those would be appropriate now, really, those are what I ought to put on now. . . . But I am talking nonsense and forgetting what matters; I’m somehow forgetful. . . . You see I have come to warn you, Sonia, so that you might know . . . that’s all — that’s all I came for. But I thought I had more to say. You wanted me to go yourself. Well, now I am going to prison and you’ll have your wish. Well, what are you crying for? You too? Don’t. Leave off! Oh, how I hate it all!”

But his feeling was stirred; his heart ached, as he looked at her. “Why is she grieving too?” he thought to himself. “What am I to her? Why does she weep? Why is she looking after me, like my mother or Dounia? She’ll be my nurse.”

“Cross yourself, say at least one prayer,” Sonia begged in a timid broken voice.

“Oh certainly, as much as you like! And sincerely, Sonia, sincerely . . . .”

But he wanted to say something quite different.

He crossed himself several times. Sonia took up her shawl and put it over her head. It was the green drap de dames shawl of which Marmeladov had spoken, “the family shawl.” Raskolnikov thought of that looking at it, but he did not ask. He began to feel himself that he was certainly forgetting things and was disgustingly agitated. He was frightened at this. He was suddenly struck too by the thought that Sonia meant to go with him.

“What are you doing? Where are you going? Stay here, stay! I’ll go alone,” he cried in cowardly vexation, and almost resentful, he moved towards the door. “What’s the use of going in procession?” he muttered going out.

Sonia remained standing in the middle of the room. He had not even said good-bye to her; he had forgotten her. A poignant and rebellious doubt surged in his heart.

“Was it right, was it right, all this?” he thought again as he went down the stairs. “Couldn’t he stop and retract it all . . . and not go?”

But still he went. He felt suddenly once for all that he mustn’t ask himself questions. As he turned into the street he remembered that he had not said good-bye to Sonia, that he had left her in the middle of the room in her green shawl, not daring to stir after he had shouted at her, and he stopped short for a moment. At the same instant, another thought dawned upon him, as though it had been lying in wait to strike him then.

“Why, with what object did I go to her just now? I told her — on business; on what business? I had no sort of business! To tell her I was going; but where was the need? Do I love her? No, no, I drove her away just now like a dog. Did I want her crosses? Oh, how low I’ve sunk! No, I wanted her tears, I wanted to see her terror, to see how her heart ached! I had to have something to cling to, something to delay me, some friendly face to see! And I dared to believe in myself, to dream of what I would do! I am a beggarly contemptible wretch, contemptible!”

He walked along the canal bank, and he had not much further to go. But on reaching the bridge he stopped and turning out of his way along it went to the Hay Market.

He looked eagerly to right and left, gazed intently at every object and could not fix his attention on anything; everything slipped away. “In another week, another month I shall be driven in a prison van over this bridge, how shall I look at the canal then? I should like to remember this!” slipped into his mind. “Look at this sign! How shall I read those letters then? It’s written here ‘Campany,’ that’s a thing to remember, that letter a, and to look at it again in a month — how shall I look at it then? What shall I be feeling and thinking then? . . . How trivial it all must be, what I am fretting about now! Of course it must all be interesting . . . in its way . . . (Ha-ha-ha! What am I thinking about?) I am becoming a baby, I am showing off to myself; why am I ashamed? Foo! how people shove! that fat man — a German he must be — who pushed against me, does he know whom he pushed? There’s a peasant woman with a baby, begging. It’s curious that she thinks me happier than she is. I might give her something, for the incongruity of it. Here’s a five copeck piece left in my pocket, where did I get it? Here, here . . . take it, my good woman!”

“God bless you,” the beggar chanted in a lachrymose voice.

He went into the Hay Market. It was distasteful, very distasteful to be in a crowd, but he walked just where he saw most people. He would have given anything in the world to be alone; but he knew himself that he would not have remained alone for a moment. There was a man drunk and disorderly in the crowd; he kept trying to dance and falling down. There was a ring round him. Raskolnikov squeezed his way through the crowd, stared for some minutes at the drunken man and suddenly gave a short jerky laugh. A minute later he had forgotten him and did not see him, though he still stared. He moved away at last, not remembering where he was; but when he got into the middle of the square an emotion suddenly came over him, overwhelming him body and mind.

He suddenly recalled Sonia’s words, “Go to the cross-roads, bow down to the people, kiss the earth, for you have sinned against it too, and say aloud to the whole world, ‘I am a murderer.’” He trembled, remembering that. And the hopeless misery and anxiety of all that time, especially of the last hours, had weighed so heavily upon him that he positively clutched at the chance of this new unmixed, complete sensation. It came over him like a fit; it was like a single spark kindled in his soul and spreading fire through him. Everything in him softened at once and the tears started into his eyes. He fell to the earth on the spot . . . .

He knelt down in the middle of the square, bowed down to the earth, and kissed that filthy earth with bliss and rapture. He got up and bowed down a second time.

“He’s boozed,” a youth near him observed.

There was a roar of laughter.

“He’s going to Jerusalem, brothers, and saying good-bye to his children and his country. He’s bowing down to all the world and kissing the great city of St. Petersburg and its pavement,” added a workman who was a little drunk.

“Quite a young man, too!” observed a third.

“And a gentleman,” someone observed soberly.

“There’s no knowing who’s a gentleman and who isn’t nowadays.”

These exclamations and remarks checked Raskolnikov, and the words, “I am a murderer,” which were perhaps on the point of dropping from his lips, died away. He bore these remarks quietly, however, and, without looking round, he turned down a street leading to the police office. He had a glimpse of something on the way which did not surprise him; he had felt that it must be so. The second time he bowed down in the Hay Market he saw, standing fifty paces from him on the left, Sonia. She was hiding from him behind one of the wooden shanties in the market-place. She had followed him then on his painful way! Raskolnikov at that moment felt and knew once for all that Sonia was with him for ever and would follow him to the ends of the earth, wherever fate might take him. It wrung his heart . . . but he was just reaching the fatal place.

He went into the yard fairly resolutely. He had to mount to the third storey. “I shall be some time going up,” he thought. He felt as though the fateful moment was still far off, as though he had plenty of time left for consideration.

Again the same rubbish, the same eggshells lying about on the spiral stairs, again the open doors of the flats, again the same kitchens and the same fumes and stench coming from them. Raskolnikov had not been here since that day. His legs were numb and gave way under him, but still they moved forward. He stopped for a moment to take breath, to collect himself, so as to enter like a man. “But why? what for?” he wondered, reflecting. “If I must drink the cup what difference does it make? The more revolting the better.” He imagined for an instant the figure of the “explosive lieutenant,” Ilya Petrovitch. Was he actually going to him? Couldn’t he go to someone else? To Nikodim Fomitch? Couldn’t he turn back and go straight to Nikodim Fomitch’s lodgings? At least then it would be done privately. . . . No, no! To the “explosive lieutenant”! If he must drink it, drink it off at once.

Turning cold and hardly conscious, he opened the door of the office. There were very few people in it this time — only a house porter and a peasant. The doorkeeper did not even peep out from behind his screen. Raskolnikov walked into the next room. “Perhaps I still need not speak,” passed through his mind. Some sort of clerk not wearing a uniform was settling himself at a bureau to write. In a corner another clerk was seating himself. Zametov was not there, nor, of course, Nikodim Fomitch.

“No one in?” Raskolnikov asked, addressing the person at the bureau.

“Whom do you want?”

“A-ah! Not a sound was heard, not a sight was seen, but I scent the Russian . . . how does it go on in the fairy tale . . . I’ve forgotten! ‘At your service!’” a familiar voice cried suddenly.

Raskolnikov shuddered. The Explosive Lieutenant stood before him. He had just come in from the third room. “It is the hand of fate,” thought Raskolnikov. “Why is he here?”

“You’ve come to see us? What about?” cried Ilya Petrovitch. He was obviously in an exceedingly good humour and perhaps a trifle exhilarated. “If it’s on business you are rather early.3 It’s only a chance that I am here . . . however I’ll do what I can. I must admit, I . . . what is it, what is it? Excuse me . . . .”

3 Dostoevsky appears to have forgotten that it is after sunset, and that the last time Raskolnikov visited the police office at two in the afternoon he was reproached for coming too late. — TRANSLATOR.

“Raskolnikov.”

“Of course, Raskolnikov. You didn’t imagine I’d forgotten? Don’t think I am like that . . . Rodion Ro — Ro — Rodionovitch, that’s it, isn’t it?”

“Rodion Romanovitch.”

“Yes, yes, of course, Rodion Romanovitch! I was just getting at it. I made many inquiries about you. I assure you I’ve been genuinely grieved since that . . . since I behaved like that . . . it was explained to me afterwards that you were a literary man . . . and a learned one too . . . and so to say the first steps . . . Mercy on us! What literary or scientific man does not begin by some originality of conduct! My wife and I have the greatest respect for literature, in my wife it’s a genuine passion! Literature and art! If only a man is a gentleman, all the rest can be gained by talents, learning, good sense, genius. As for a hat — well, what does a hat matter? I can buy a hat as easily as I can a bun; but what’s under the hat, what the hat covers, I can’t buy that! I was even meaning to come and apologise to you, but thought maybe you’d . . . But I am forgetting to ask you, is there anything you want really? I hear your family have come?”

“Yes, my mother and sister.”

“I’ve even had the honour and happiness of meeting your sister — a highly cultivated and charming person. I confess I was sorry I got so hot with you. There it is! But as for my looking suspiciously at your fainting fit — that affair has been cleared up splendidly! Bigotry and fanaticism! I understand your indignation. Perhaps you are changing your lodging on account of your family’s arriving?”

“No, I only looked in . . . I came to ask . . . I thought that I should find Zametov here.”

“Oh, yes! Of course, you’ve made friends, I heard. Well, no, Zametov is not here. Yes, we’ve lost Zametov. He’s not been here since yesterday . . . he quarrelled with everyone on leaving . . . in the rudest way. He is a feather-headed youngster, that’s all; one might have expected something from him, but there, you know what they are, our brilliant young men. He wanted to go in for some examination, but it’s only to talk and boast about it, it will go no further than that. Of course it’s a very different matter with you or Mr. Razumihin there, your friend. Your career is an intellectual one and you won’t be deterred by failure. For you, one may say, all the attractions of life nihil est — you are an ascetic, a monk, a hermit! . . . A book, a pen behind your ear, a learned research — that’s where your spirit soars! I am the same way myself. . . . Have you read Livingstone’s Travels?”

“No.”

“Oh, I have. There are a great many Nihilists about nowadays, you know, and indeed it is not to be wondered at. What sort of days are they? I ask you. But we thought . . . you are not a Nihilist of course? Answer me openly, openly!”

“N-no . . .”

“Believe me, you can speak openly to me as you would to yourself! Official duty is one thing but . . . you are thinking I meant to say friendship is quite another? No, you’re wrong! It’s not friendship, but the feeling of a man and a citizen, the feeling of humanity and of love for the Almighty. I may be an official, but I am always bound to feel myself a man and a citizen. . . . You were asking about Zametov. Zametov will make a scandal in the French style in a house of bad reputation, over a glass of champagne . . . that’s all your Zametov is good for! While I’m perhaps, so to speak, burning with devotion and lofty feelings, and besides I have rank, consequence, a post! I am married and have children, I fulfil the duties of a man and a citizen, but who is he, may I ask? I appeal to you as a man ennobled by education . . . Then these midwives, too, have become extraordinarily numerous.”

Raskolnikov raised his eyebrows inquiringly. The words of Ilya Petrovitch, who had obviously been dining, were for the most part a stream of empty sounds for him. But some of them he understood. He looked at him inquiringly, not knowing how it would end.

“I mean those crop-headed wenches,” the talkative Ilya Petrovitch continued. “Midwives is my name for them. I think it a very satisfactory one, ha-ha! They go to the Academy, study anatomy. If I fall ill, am I to send for a young lady to treat me? What do you say? Ha-ha!” Ilya Petrovitch laughed, quite pleased with his own wit. “It’s an immoderate zeal for education, but once you’re educated, that’s enough. Why abuse it? Why insult honourable people, as that scoundrel Zametov does? Why did he insult me, I ask you? Look at these suicides, too, how common they are, you can’t fancy! People spend their last halfpenny and kill themselves, boys and girls and old people. Only this morning we heard about a gentleman who had just come to town. Nil Pavlitch, I say, what was the name of that gentleman who shot himself?”

“Svidrigaïlov,” someone answered from the other room with drowsy listlessness.

Raskolnikov started.

“Svidrigaïlov! Svidrigaïlov has shot himself!” he cried.

“What, do you know Svidrigaïlov?”

“Yes . . . I knew him. . . . He hadn’t been here long.”

“Yes, that’s so. He had lost his wife, was a man of reckless habits and all of a sudden shot himself, and in such a shocking way. . . . He left in his notebook a few words: that he dies in full possession of his faculties and that no one is to blame for his death. He had money, they say. How did you come to know him?”

“I . . . was acquainted . . . my sister was governess in his family.”

“Bah-bah-bah! Then no doubt you can tell us something about him. You had no suspicion?”

“I saw him yesterday . . . he . . . was drinking wine; I knew nothing.”

Raskolnikov felt as though something had fallen on him and was stifling him.

“You’ve turned pale again. It’s so stuffy here . . .”

“Yes, I must go,” muttered Raskolnikov. “Excuse my troubling you . . . .”

“Oh, not at all, as often as you like. It’s a pleasure to see you and I am glad to say so.”

Ilya Petrovitch held out his hand.

“I only wanted . . . I came to see Zametov.”

“I understand, I understand, and it’s a pleasure to see you.”

“I . . . am very glad . . . good-bye,” Raskolnikov smiled.

He went out; he reeled, he was overtaken with giddiness and did not know what he was doing. He began going down the stairs, supporting himself with his right hand against the wall. He fancied that a porter pushed past him on his way upstairs to the police office, that a dog in the lower storey kept up a shrill barking and that a woman flung a rolling-pin at it and shouted. He went down and out into the yard. There, not far from the entrance, stood Sonia, pale and horror-stricken. She looked wildly at him. He stood still before her. There was a look of poignant agony, of despair, in her face. She clasped her hands. His lips worked in an ugly, meaningless smile. He stood still a minute, grinned and went back to the police office.

Ilya Petrovitch had sat down and was rummaging among some papers. Before him stood the same peasant who had pushed by on the stairs.

“Hulloa! Back again! have you left something behind? What’s the matter?”

Raskolnikov, with white lips and staring eyes, came slowly nearer. He walked right to the table, leaned his hand on it, tried to say something, but could not; only incoherent sounds were audible.

“You are feeling ill, a chair! Here, sit down! Some water!”

Raskolnikov dropped on to a chair, but he kept his eyes fixed on the face of Ilya Petrovitch, which expressed unpleasant surprise. Both looked at one another for a minute and waited. Water was brought.

“It was I . . .” began Raskolnikov.

“Drink some water.”

Raskolnikov refused the water with his hand, and softly and brokenly, but distinctly said:

It was I killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them.

Ilya Petrovitch opened his mouth. People ran up on all sides.

Raskolnikov repeated his statement.

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