Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter IV

His mother’s letter had been a torture to him, but as regards the chief fact in it, he had felt not one moment’s hesitation, even whilst he was reading the letter. The essential question was settled, and irrevocably settled, in his mind: “Never such a marriage while I am alive and Mr. Luzhin be damned!” “The thing is perfectly clear,” he muttered to himself, with a malignant smile anticipating the triumph of his decision. “No, mother, no, Dounia, you won’t deceive me! and then they apologise for not asking my advice and for taking the decision without me! I dare say! They imagine it is arranged now and can’t be broken off; but we will see whether it can or not! A magnificent excuse: ‘Pyotr Petrovitch is such a busy man that even his wedding has to be in post-haste, almost by express.’ No, Dounia, I see it all and I know what you want to say to me; and I know too what you were thinking about, when you walked up and down all night, and what your prayers were like before the Holy Mother of Kazan who stands in mother’s bedroom. Bitter is the ascent to Golgotha. . . . Hm . . . so it is finally settled; you have determined to marry a sensible business man, Avdotya Romanovna, one who has a fortune (has already made his fortune, that is so much more solid and impressive) a man who holds two government posts and who shares the ideas of our most rising generation, as mother writes, and who seems to be kind, as Dounia herself observes. That seems beats everything! And that very Dounia for that very ‘seems‘ is marrying him! Splendid! splendid!

“ . . . But I should like to know why mother has written to me about ‘our most rising generation’? Simply as a descriptive touch, or with the idea of prepossessing me in favour of Mr. Luzhin? Oh, the cunning of them! I should like to know one thing more: how far they were open with one another that day and night and all this time since? Was it all put into words, or did both understand that they had the same thing at heart and in their minds, so that there was no need to speak of it aloud, and better not to speak of it. Most likely it was partly like that, from mother’s letter it’s evident: he struck her as rude a little, and mother in her simplicity took her observations to Dounia. And she was sure to be vexed and ‘answered her angrily.’ I should think so! Who would not be angered when it was quite clear without any naïve questions and when it was understood that it was useless to discuss it. And why does she write to me, ‘love Dounia, Rodya, and she loves you more than herself’? Has she a secret conscience-prick at sacrificing her daughter to her son? ‘You are our one comfort, you are everything to us.’ Oh, mother!”

His bitterness grew more and more intense, and if he had happened to meet Mr. Luzhin at the moment, he might have murdered him.

“Hm . . . yes, that’s true,” he continued, pursuing the whirling ideas that chased each other in his brain, “it is true that ‘it needs time and care to get to know a man,’ but there is no mistake about Mr. Luzhin. The chief thing is he is ‘a man of business and seems kind,’ that was something, wasn’t it, to send the bags and big box for them! A kind man, no doubt after that! But his bride and her mother are to drive in a peasant’s cart covered with sacking (I know, I have been driven in it). No matter! It is only ninety versts and then they can ‘travel very comfortably, third class,’ for a thousand versts! Quite right, too. One must cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth, but what about you, Mr. Luzhin? She is your bride. . . . And you must be aware that her mother has to raise money on her pension for the journey. To be sure it’s a matter of business, a partnership for mutual benefit, with equal shares and expenses; — food and drink provided, but pay for your tobacco. The business man has got the better of them, too. The luggage will cost less than their fares and very likely go for nothing. How is it that they don’t both see all that, or is it that they don’t want to see? And they are pleased, pleased! And to think that this is only the first blossoming, and that the real fruits are to come! But what really matters is not the stinginess, is not the meanness, but the tone of the whole thing. For that will be the tone after marriage, it’s a foretaste of it. And mother too, why should she be so lavish? What will she have by the time she gets to Petersburg? Three silver roubles or two ‘paper ones’ as she says. . . . that old woman . . . hm. What does she expect to live upon in Petersburg afterwards? She has her reasons already for guessing that she could not live with Dounia after the marriage, even for the first few months. The good man has no doubt let slip something on that subject also, though mother would deny it: ‘I shall refuse,’ says she. On whom is she reckoning then? Is she counting on what is left of her hundred and twenty roubles of pension when Afanasy Ivanovitch’s debt is paid? She knits woollen shawls and embroiders cuffs, ruining her old eyes. And all her shawls don’t add more than twenty roubles a year to her hundred and twenty, I know that. So she is building all her hopes all the time on Mr. Luzhin’s generosity; ‘he will offer it of himself, he will press it on me.’ You may wait a long time for that! That’s how it always is with these Schilleresque noble hearts; till the last moment every goose is a swan with them, till the last moment, they hope for the best and will see nothing wrong, and although they have an inkling of the other side of the picture, yet they won’t face the truth till they are forced to; the very thought of it makes them shiver; they thrust the truth away with both hands, until the man they deck out in false colours puts a fool’s cap on them with his own hands. I should like to know whether Mr. Luzhin has any orders of merit; I bet he has the Anna in his buttonhole and that he puts it on when he goes to dine with contractors or merchants. He will be sure to have it for his wedding, too! Enough of him, confound him!

“Well, . . . mother I don’t wonder at, it’s like her, God bless her, but how could Dounia? Dounia darling, as though I did not know you! You were nearly twenty when I saw you last: I understood you then. Mother writes that ‘Dounia can put up with a great deal.’ I know that very well. I knew that two years and a half ago, and for the last two and a half years I have been thinking about it, thinking of just that, that ‘Dounia can put up with a great deal.’ If she could put up with Mr. Svidrigaïlov and all the rest of it, she certainly can put up with a great deal. And now mother and she have taken it into their heads that she can put up with Mr. Luzhin, who propounds the theory of the superiority of wives raised from destitution and owing everything to their husband’s bounty — who propounds it, too, almost at the first interview. Granted that he ‘let it slip,’ though he is a sensible man, (yet maybe it was not a slip at all, but he meant to make himself clear as soon as possible) but Dounia, Dounia? She understands the man, of course, but she will have to live with the man. Why! she’d live on black bread and water, she would not sell her soul, she would not barter her moral freedom for comfort; she would not barter it for all Schleswig-Holstein, much less Mr. Luzhin’s money. No, Dounia was not that sort when I knew her and . . . she is still the same, of course! Yes, there’s no denying, the Svidrigaïlovs are a bitter pill! It’s a bitter thing to spend one’s life a governess in the provinces for two hundred roubles, but I know she would rather be a nigger on a plantation or a Lett with a German master than degrade her soul, and her moral dignity, by binding herself for ever to a man whom she does not respect and with whom she has nothing in common — for her own advantage. And if Mr. Luzhin had been of unalloyed gold, or one huge diamond, she would never have consented to become his legal concubine. Why is she consenting then? What’s the point of it? What’s the answer? It’s clear enough: for herself, for her comfort, to save her life she would not sell herself, but for someone else she is doing it! For one she loves, for one she adores, she will sell herself! That’s what it all amounts to; for her brother, for her mother, she will sell herself! She will sell everything! In such cases, ‘we overcome our moral feeling if necessary,’ freedom, peace, conscience even, all, all are brought into the market. Let my life go, if only my dear ones may be happy! More than that, we become casuists, we learn to be Jesuitical and for a time maybe we can soothe ourselves, we can persuade ourselves that it is one’s duty for a good object. That’s just like us, it’s as clear as daylight. It’s clear that Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov is the central figure in the business, and no one else. Oh, yes, she can ensure his happiness, keep him in the university, make him a partner in the office, make his whole future secure; perhaps he may even be a rich man later on, prosperous, respected, and may even end his life a famous man! But my mother? It’s all Rodya, precious Rodya, her first born! For such a son who would not sacrifice such a daughter! Oh, loving, over-partial hearts! Why, for his sake we would not shrink even from Sonia’s fate. Sonia, Sonia Marmeladov, the eternal victim so long as the world lasts. Have you taken the measure of your sacrifice, both of you? Is it right? Can you bear it? Is it any use? Is there sense in it? And let me tell you, Dounia, Sonia’s life is no worse than life with Mr. Luzhin. ‘There can be no question of love,’ mother writes. And what if there can be no respect either, if on the contrary there is aversion, contempt, repulsion, what then? So you will have to ‘keep up your appearance,’ too. Is not that so? Do you understand what that smartness means? Do you understand that the Luzhin smartness is just the same thing as Sonia’s and may be worse, viler, baser, because in your case, Dounia, it’s a bargain for luxuries, after all, but with Sonia it’s simply a question of starvation. It has to be paid for, it has to be paid for, Dounia, this smartness. And what if it’s more than you can bear afterwards, if you regret it? The bitterness, the misery, the curses, the tears hidden from all the world, for you are not a Marfa Petrovna. And how will your mother feel then? Even now she is uneasy, she is worried, but then, when she sees it all clearly? And I? Yes, indeed, what have you taken me for? I won’t have your sacrifice, Dounia, I won’t have it, mother! It shall not be, so long as I am alive, it shall not, it shall not! I won’t accept it!”

He suddenly paused in his reflection and stood still.

“It shall not be? But what are you going to do to prevent it? You’ll forbid it? And what right have you? What can you promise them on your side to give you such a right? Your whole life, your whole future, you will devote to them when you have finished your studies and obtained a post? Yes, we have heard all that before, and that’s all words, but now? Now something must be done, now, do you understand that? And what are you doing now? You are living upon them. They borrow on their hundred roubles pension. They borrow from the Svidrigaïlovs. How are you going to save them from Svidrigaïlovs, from Afanasy Ivanovitch Vahrushin, oh, future millionaire Zeus who would arrange their lives for them? In another ten years? In another ten years, mother will be blind with knitting shawls, maybe with weeping too. She will be worn to a shadow with fasting; and my sister? Imagine for a moment what may have become of your sister in ten years? What may happen to her during those ten years? Can you fancy?”

So he tortured himself, fretting himself with such questions, and finding a kind of enjoyment in it. And yet all these questions were not new ones suddenly confronting him, they were old familiar aches. It was long since they had first begun to grip and rend his heart. Long, long ago his present anguish had its first beginnings; it had waxed and gathered strength, it had matured and concentrated, until it had taken the form of a fearful, frenzied and fantastic question, which tortured his heart and mind, clamouring insistently for an answer. Now his mother’s letter had burst on him like a thunderclap. It was clear that he must not now suffer passively, worrying himself over unsolved questions, but that he must do something, do it at once, and do it quickly. Anyway he must decide on something, or else . . .

“Or throw up life altogether!” he cried suddenly, in a frenzy —“accept one’s lot humbly as it is, once for all and stifle everything in oneself, giving up all claim to activity, life and love!”

“Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?” Marmeladov’s question came suddenly into his mind, “for every man must have somewhere to turn . . . .”

He gave a sudden start; another thought, that he had had yesterday, slipped back into his mind. But he did not start at the thought recurring to him, for he knew, he had felt beforehand, that it must come back, he was expecting it; besides it was not only yesterday’s thought. The difference was that a month ago, yesterday even, the thought was a mere dream: but now . . . now it appeared not a dream at all, it had taken a new menacing and quite unfamiliar shape, and he suddenly became aware of this himself. . . . He felt a hammering in his head, and there was a darkness before his eyes.

He looked round hurriedly, he was searching for something. He wanted to sit down and was looking for a seat; he was walking along the K—— Boulevard. There was a seat about a hundred paces in front of him. He walked towards it as fast he could; but on the way he met with a little adventure which absorbed all his attention. Looking for the seat, he had noticed a woman walking some twenty paces in front of him, but at first he took no more notice of her than of other objects that crossed his path. It had happened to him many times going home not to notice the road by which he was going, and he was accustomed to walk like that. But there was at first sight something so strange about the woman in front of him, that gradually his attention was riveted upon her, at first reluctantly and, as it were, resentfully, and then more and more intently. He felt a sudden desire to find out what it was that was so strange about the woman. In the first place, she appeared to be a girl quite young, and she was walking in the great heat bareheaded and with no parasol or gloves, waving her arms about in an absurd way. She had on a dress of some light silky material, but put on strangely awry, not properly hooked up, and torn open at the top of the skirt, close to the waist: a great piece was rent and hanging loose. A little kerchief was flung about her bare throat, but lay slanting on one side. The girl was walking unsteadily, too, stumbling and staggering from side to side. She drew Raskolnikov’s whole attention at last. He overtook the girl at the seat, but, on reaching it, she dropped down on it, in the corner; she let her head sink on the back of the seat and closed her eyes, apparently in extreme exhaustion. Looking at her closely, he saw at once that she was completely drunk. It was a strange and shocking sight. He could hardly believe that he was not mistaken. He saw before him the face of a quite young, fair-haired girl — sixteen, perhaps not more than fifteen, years old, pretty little face, but flushed and heavy looking and, as it were, swollen. The girl seemed hardly to know what she was doing; she crossed one leg over the other, lifting it indecorously, and showed every sign of being unconscious that she was in the street.

Raskolnikov did not sit down, but he felt unwilling to leave her, and stood facing her in perplexity. This boulevard was never much frequented; and now, at two o’clock, in the stifling heat, it was quite deserted. And yet on the further side of the boulevard, about fifteen paces away, a gentleman was standing on the edge of the pavement. He, too, would apparently have liked to approach the girl with some object of his own. He, too, had probably seen her in the distance and had followed her, but found Raskolnikov in his way. He looked angrily at him, though he tried to escape his notice, and stood impatiently biding his time, till the unwelcome man in rags should have moved away. His intentions were unmistakable. The gentleman was a plump, thickly-set man, about thirty, fashionably dressed, with a high colour, red lips and moustaches. Raskolnikov felt furious; he had a sudden longing to insult this fat dandy in some way. He left the girl for a moment and walked towards the gentleman.

“Hey! You Svidrigaïlov! What do you want here?” he shouted, clenching his fists and laughing, spluttering with rage.

“What do you mean?” the gentleman asked sternly, scowling in haughty astonishment.

“Get away, that’s what I mean.”

“How dare you, you low fellow!”

He raised his cane. Raskolnikov rushed at him with his fists, without reflecting that the stout gentleman was a match for two men like himself. But at that instant someone seized him from behind, and a police constable stood between them.

“That’s enough, gentlemen, no fighting, please, in a public place. What do you want? Who are you?” he asked Raskolnikov sternly, noticing his rags.

Raskolnikov looked at him intently. He had a straight-forward, sensible, soldierly face, with grey moustaches and whiskers.

“You are just the man I want,” Raskolnikov cried, catching at his arm. “I am a student, Raskolnikov. . . . You may as well know that too,” he added, addressing the gentleman, “come along, I have something to show you.”

And taking the policeman by the hand he drew him towards the seat.

“Look here, hopelessly drunk, and she has just come down the boulevard. There is no telling who and what she is, she does not look like a professional. It’s more likely she has been given drink and deceived somewhere . . . for the first time . . . you understand? and they’ve put her out into the street like that. Look at the way her dress is torn, and the way it has been put on: she has been dressed by somebody, she has not dressed herself, and dressed by unpractised hands, by a man’s hands; that’s evident. And now look there: I don’t know that dandy with whom I was going to fight, I see him for the first time, but he, too, has seen her on the road, just now, drunk, not knowing what she is doing, and now he is very eager to get hold of her, to get her away somewhere while she is in this state . . . that’s certain, believe me, I am not wrong. I saw him myself watching her and following her, but I prevented him, and he is just waiting for me to go away. Now he has walked away a little, and is standing still, pretending to make a cigarette. . . . Think how can we keep her out of his hands, and how are we to get her home?”

The policeman saw it all in a flash. The stout gentleman was easy to understand, he turned to consider the girl. The policeman bent over to examine her more closely, and his face worked with genuine compassion.

“Ah, what a pity!” he said, shaking his head —“why, she is quite a child! She has been deceived, you can see that at once. Listen, lady,” he began addressing her, “where do you live?” The girl opened her weary and sleepy-looking eyes, gazed blankly at the speaker and waved her hand.

“Here,” said Raskolnikov feeling in his pocket and finding twenty copecks, “here, call a cab and tell him to drive her to her address. The only thing is to find out her address!”

“Missy, missy!” the policeman began again, taking the money. “I’ll fetch you a cab and take you home myself. Where shall I take you, eh? Where do you live?”

“Go away! They won’t let me alone,” the girl muttered, and once more waved her hand.

“Ach, ach, how shocking! It’s shameful, missy, it’s a shame!” He shook his head again, shocked, sympathetic and indignant.

“It’s a difficult job,” the policeman said to Raskolnikov, and as he did so, he looked him up and down in a rapid glance. He, too, must have seemed a strange figure to him: dressed in rags and handing him money!

“Did you meet her far from here?” he asked him.

“I tell you she was walking in front of me, staggering, just here, in the boulevard. She only just reached the seat and sank down on it.”

“Ah, the shameful things that are done in the world nowadays, God have mercy on us! An innocent creature like that, drunk already! She has been deceived, that’s a sure thing. See how her dress has been torn too. . . . Ah, the vice one sees nowadays! And as likely as not she belongs to gentlefolk too, poor ones maybe. . . . There are many like that nowadays. She looks refined, too, as though she were a lady,” and he bent over her once more.

Perhaps he had daughters growing up like that, “looking like ladies and refined” with pretensions to gentility and smartness . . . .

“The chief thing is,” Raskolnikov persisted, “to keep her out of this scoundrel’s hands! Why should he outrage her! It’s as clear as day what he is after; ah, the brute, he is not moving off!”

Raskolnikov spoke aloud and pointed to him. The gentleman heard him, and seemed about to fly into a rage again, but thought better of it, and confined himself to a contemptuous look. He then walked slowly another ten paces away and again halted.

“Keep her out of his hands we can,” said the constable thoughtfully, “if only she’d tell us where to take her, but as it is. . . . Missy, hey, missy!” he bent over her once more.

She opened her eyes fully all of a sudden, looked at him intently, as though realising something, got up from the seat and walked away in the direction from which she had come. “Oh shameful wretches, they won’t let me alone!” she said, waving her hand again. She walked quickly, though staggering as before. The dandy followed her, but along another avenue, keeping his eye on her.

“Don’t be anxious, I won’t let him have her,” the policeman said resolutely, and he set off after them.

“Ah, the vice one sees nowadays!” he repeated aloud, sighing.

At that moment something seemed to sting Raskolnikov; in an instant a complete revulsion of feeling came over him.

“Hey, here!” he shouted after the policeman.

The latter turned round.

“Let them be! What is it to do with you? Let her go! Let him amuse himself.” He pointed at the dandy, “What is it to do with you?”

The policeman was bewildered, and stared at him open-eyed. Raskolnikov laughed.

“Well!” ejaculated the policeman, with a gesture of contempt, and he walked after the dandy and the girl, probably taking Raskolnikov for a madman or something even worse.

“He has carried off my twenty copecks,” Raskolnikov murmured angrily when he was left alone. “Well, let him take as much from the other fellow to allow him to have the girl and so let it end. And why did I want to interfere? Is it for me to help? Have I any right to help? Let them devour each other alive — what is to me? How did I dare to give him twenty copecks? Were they mine?”

In spite of those strange words he felt very wretched. He sat down on the deserted seat. His thoughts strayed aimlessly. . . . He found it hard to fix his mind on anything at that moment. He longed to forget himself altogether, to forget everything, and then to wake up and begin life anew . . . .

“Poor girl!” he said, looking at the empty corner where she had sat — “She will come to herself and weep, and then her mother will find out. . . . She will give her a beating, a horrible, shameful beating and then maybe, turn her out of doors. . . . And even if she does not, the Darya Frantsovnas will get wind of it, and the girl will soon be slipping out on the sly here and there. Then there will be the hospital directly (that’s always the luck of those girls with respectable mothers, who go wrong on the sly) and then . . . again the hospital . . . drink . . . the taverns . . . and more hospital, in two or three years — a wreck, and her life over at eighteen or nineteen. . . . Have not I seen cases like that? And how have they been brought to it? Why, they’ve all come to it like that. Ugh! But what does it matter? That’s as it should be, they tell us. A certain percentage, they tell us, must every year go . . . that way . . . to the devil, I suppose, so that the rest may remain chaste, and not be interfered with. A percentage! What splendid words they have; they are so scientific, so consolatory. . . . Once you’ve said ‘percentage’ there’s nothing more to worry about. If we had any other word . . . maybe we might feel more uneasy. . . . But what if Dounia were one of the percentage! Of another one if not that one?

“But where am I going?” he thought suddenly. “Strange, I came out for something. As soon as I had read the letter I came out. . . . I was going to Vassilyevsky Ostrov, to Razumihin. That’s what it was . . . now I remember. What for, though? And what put the idea of going to Razumihin into my head just now? That’s curious.”

He wondered at himself. Razumihin was one of his old comrades at the university. It was remarkable that Raskolnikov had hardly any friends at the university; he kept aloof from everyone, went to see no one, and did not welcome anyone who came to see him, and indeed everyone soon gave him up. He took no part in the students’ gatherings, amusements or conversations. He worked with great intensity without sparing himself, and he was respected for this, but no one liked him. He was very poor, and there was a sort of haughty pride and reserve about him, as though he were keeping something to himself. He seemed to some of his comrades to look down upon them all as children, as though he were superior in development, knowledge and convictions, as though their beliefs and interests were beneath him.

With Razumihin he had got on, or, at least, he was more unreserved and communicative with him. Indeed it was impossible to be on any other terms with Razumihin. He was an exceptionally good-humoured and candid youth, good-natured to the point of simplicity, though both depth and dignity lay concealed under that simplicity. The better of his comrades understood this, and all were fond of him. He was extremely intelligent, though he was certainly rather a simpleton at times. He was of striking appearance — tall, thin, blackhaired and always badly shaved. He was sometimes uproarious and was reputed to be of great physical strength. One night, when out in a festive company, he had with one blow laid a gigantic policeman on his back. There was no limit to his drinking powers, but he could abstain from drink altogether; he sometimes went too far in his pranks; but he could do without pranks altogether. Another thing striking about Razumihin, no failure distressed him, and it seemed as though no unfavourable circumstances could crush him. He could lodge anywhere, and bear the extremes of cold and hunger. He was very poor, and kept himself entirely on what he could earn by work of one sort or another. He knew of no end of resources by which to earn money. He spent one whole winter without lighting his stove, and used to declare that he liked it better, because one slept more soundly in the cold. For the present he, too, had been obliged to give up the university, but it was only for a time, and he was working with all his might to save enough to return to his studies again. Raskolnikov had not been to see him for the last four months, and Razumihin did not even know his address. About two months before, they had met in the street, but Raskolnikov had turned away and even crossed to the other side that he might not be observed. And though Razumihin noticed him, he passed him by, as he did not want to annoy him.

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