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Existentialism
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881)
Crime and Punishment
translated by Constance Garnett


Fyodor Dostoevsky
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Chapter Three

-

HE WAKED up late next day after a broken sleep. But his sleep had

not refreshed him; he waked up bilious, irritable, ill-tempered, and

looked with hatred at his room. It was a tiny cupboard of a room about

six paces in length. It had a poverty-stricken appearance with its

dusty yellow paper peeling off the walls, and it was so low-pitched

that a man of more than average height was ill at ease in it and

felt every moment that he would knock his head against the ceiling.

The furniture was in keeping with the room: there were three old

chairs, rather rickety; a painted table in the corner on which lay a

few manuscripts and books; the dust that lay thick upon them showed

that they had been long untouched. A big clumsy sofa occupied almost

the whole of one wall and half the floor space of the room; it was

once covered with chintz, but was now in rags and served Raskolnikov

as a bed. Often he went to sleep on it, as he was, without undressing,

without sheets, wrapped in his old student's overcoat, with his head

on one little pillow, under which he heaped up all the linen he had,

clean and dirty, by way of a bolster. A little table stood in front of

the sofa.

It would have been difficult to sink to a lower ebb of disorder, but

to Raskolnikov in his present state of mind this was positively

agreeable. He had got completely away from every one, like a

tortoise in its shell, and even the sight of the servant girl who

had to wait upon him and looked sometimes into his room made him

writhe with nervous irritation. He was in the condition that overtakes

some monomaniacs entirely concentrated upon one thing. His landlady

had for the last fortnight given up sending him in meals, and he had

not yet thought of expostulating with her, though he went without

his dinner. Nastasya, the cook and only servant, was rather pleased at

the lodger's mood and had entirely given up sweeping and doing his

room, only once a week or so she would stray into his room with a

broom. She waked him up that day.

"Get up, why are you asleep!" she called to him. "It's past nine,

I have brought you some tea; will you have a cup? I should think

you're fairly starving?"

Raskolnikov opened his eyes, started and recognized Nastasya.

"From the landlady, eh?" he asked, slowly and with a sickly face

sitting up on the sofa.

"From the landlady, indeed!"

She set before him her own cracked teapot full of weak and stale tea

and laid two yellow lumps of sugar by the side of it.

"Here, Nastasya, take it please," he said, fumbling in his pocket

(for he had slept in his clothes) and taking out a handful of coppers-

"run and buy me a loaf. And get me a little sausage, the cheapest,

at the pork-butcher's."

"The loaf I'll fetch you this very minute, but wouldn't you rather

have some cabbage soup instead of sausage? It's capital soup,

yesterday's. I saved it for you yesterday, but you came in late.

It's fine soup."

When the soup had been brought, and he had begun upon it, Nastasya

sat down beside him on the sofa and began chatting. She was a

country peasant-woman and a very talkative one.

"Praskovya Pavlovna means to complain to the police about you,"

she said.

He scowled.

"To the police? What does she want?"

"You don't pay her money and you won't turn out of the room.

That's what she wants, to be sure."

"The devil, that's the last straw," he muttered, grinding his teeth,

"no, that would not suit me... just now. She is a fool," he added

aloud. "I'll go and talk to her to-day."

"Fool she is and no mistake, just as I am. But why, if you are so

clever, do you lie here like a sack and have nothing to show for it?

One time you used to go out, you say, to teach children. But why is it

you do nothing now?"

"I am doing..." Raskolnikov began sullenly and reluctantly.

"What are you doing?"

"Work..."

"What sort of work?"

"I am thinking," he answered seriously after a pause.

Nastasya was overcome with a fit of laughter. She was given to

laughter and when anything amused her, she laughed inaudibly,

quivering and shaking all over till she felt ill.

"And have you made much money by your thinking?" she managed to

articulate at last.

"One can't go out to give lessons without boots. And I'm sick of

it."

"Don't quarrel with your bread and butter."

"They pay so little for lessons. What's the use of a few coppers?"

he answered, reluctantly, as though replying to his own thought.

"And you want to get a fortune all at once?"

He looked at her strangely.

"Yes, I want a fortune," he answered firmly, after a brief pause.

"Don't be in such a hurry, you quite frighten me! Shall I get you

the loaf or not?"

"As you please."

"Ah, I forgot! A letter came for you yesterday when you were out."

"A letter? for me! from whom?"

"I can't say. I gave three copecks of my own to the postman for

it. Will you pay me back?"

"Then bring it to me, for God's sake, bring it," cried Raskolnikov

greatly excited- "good God!"

A minute later the letter was brought him. That was it: from his

mother, from the province of R___. He turned pale when he took it.

It was a long while since he had received a letter, but another

feeling also suddenly stabbed his heart.

"Nastasya, leave me alone, for goodness' sake; here are your three

copecks, but for goodness' sake, make haste and go!"

The letter was quivering in his hand; he did not want to open it

in her presence; he wanted to be left alone with this letter. When

Nastasya had gone out, he lifted it quickly to his lips and kissed it;

then he gazed intently at the address, the small, sloping handwriting,

so dear and familiar, of the mother who had once taught him to read

and write. He delayed; he seemed almost afraid of something. At last

he opened it; it was a thick heavy letter, weighing over two ounces,

two large sheets of note paper were covered with very small

handwriting.

"My dear Rodya," wrote his mother- "it's two months since I last had

a talk with you by letter which has distressed me and even kept me

awake at night, thinking. But I am sure you will not blame me for my

inevitable silence. You know how I love you; you are all we have to

look to, Dounia and I, you are our all, our one hope, our one stay.

What a grief it was to me when I heard that you had given up the

university some months ago, for want of means to keep yourself and

that you had lost your lessons and your other work! How could I help

you out of my hundred and twenty roubles a year pension? The fifteen

roubles I sent you four months ago I borrowed, as you know, on

security of my pension, from Vassily Ivanovitch Vahrushin a merchant

of this town. He is a kind-hearted man and was a friend of your

father's too. But having given him the right to receive the pension, I

had to wait till the debt was paid off and that is only just done,

so that I've been unable to send you anything all this time. But

now, thank God, I believe I shall be able to send you something more

and in fact we may congratulate ourselves on our good fortune now,

of which I hasten to inform you. In the first place, would you have

guessed, dear Rodya, that your sister has been living with me for

the last six weeks and we shall not be separated in the future.

Thank God, her sufferings are over, but I will tell you everything

in order, so that you may know just how everything has happened and

all that we have hitherto concealed from you. When you wrote to me two

months ago that you had heard that Dounia had a great deal to put up

with in the Svidrigrailovs' house, when you wrote that and asked me to

tell you all about it- what could I write in answer to you? If I had

written the whole truth to you, I dare say you would have thrown up

everything and have come to us, even if you had to walk all the way,

for I know your character and your feelings, and you would not let

your sister be insulted. I was in despair myself, but what could I do?

And, besides, I did not know the whole truth myself then. What made it

all so difficult was that Dounia received a hundred roubles in advance

when she took the place as governess in their family, on condition

of part of her salary being deducted every month, and so it was

impossible to throw up the situation without repaying the debt. This

sum (now I can explain it all to you, my precious Rodya) she took

chiefly in order to send you sixty roubles, which you needed so

terribly then and which you received from us last year. We deceived

you then, writing that this money came from Dounia's savings, but that

was not so, and now I tell you all about it, because, thank God,

things have suddenly changed for the better, and that you may know how

Dounia loves you and what a heart she has. At first indeed Mr.

Svidrigailov treated her very rudely and used to make disrespectful

and jeering remarks at table.... But I don't want to go into all those

painful details, so as not to worry you for nothing when it is now all

over. In short, in spite of the kind and generous behaviour of Marfa

Petrovna, Mr. Svidrigailov's wife, and all the rest of the

household, Dounia had a very hard time, especially when Mr.

Svidrigailov, relapsing into his old regimental habits, was under

the influence of Bacchus. And how do you think it was all explained

later on? Would you believe that the crazy fellow had conceived a

passion for Dounia from the beginning, but had concealed it under a

show of rudeness and contempt. Possibly he was ashamed and horrified

himself at his own flighty hopes, considering his years and his

being the father of a family; and that made him angry with Dounia. And

possibly, too, he hoped by his rude and sneering behaviour to hide the

truth from others. But at last he lost all control and had the face to

make Dounia an open and shameful proposal, promising her all sorts

of inducements and offering, besides, to throw up everything and

take her to another estate of his, or even abroad. You can imagine all

she went through! To leave her situation at once was impossible not

only on account of the money debt, but also to spare the feelings of

Marfa Petrovna, whose suspicions would have been aroused; and then

Dounia would have been the cause of a rupture in the family. And it

would have meant a terrible scandal for Dounia too; that would have

been inevitable. There were various other reasons owing to which

Dounia could not hope to escape from that awful house for another

six weeks. You know Dounia, of course; you know how clever she is

and what a strong will she has. Dounia can endure a great deal and

even in the most difficult cases she has the fortitude to maintain her

firmness. She did not even write to me about everything for fear of

upsetting me, although we were constantly in communication. It all

ended very unexpectedly. Marfa Petrovna accidentally overheard her

husband imploring Dounia in the garden, and, putting quite a wrong

interpretation on the position, threw the blame upon her, believing

her to be the cause of it all. An awful scene took place between

them on the spot in the garden; Marfa Petrovna went so far as to

strike Dounia, refused to hear anything and was shouting at her for

a whole hour and then gave orders that Dounia should be packed off

at once to me in a plain peasant's cart, into which they flung all her

things, her linen and her clothes, all pell-mell, without folding it

up and packing it. And a heavy shower of rain came on, too, and

Dounia, insulted and put to shame, had to drive with a peasant in an

open cart all the seventeen versts into town. Only think now what

answer could I have sent to the letter I received from you two

months ago and what could I have written? I was in despair; I dared

not write to you the truth because you would have been very unhappy,

mortified and indignant, and yet what could you do? You could only

perhaps ruin yourself, and, besides, Dounia would not allow it; and

fill up my letter with trifles when my heart was so full of sorrow,

I could not. For a whole month the town was full of gossip about

this scandal, and it came to such a pass that Dounia and I dared not

even go to church on account of the contemptuous looks, whispers,

and even remarks made aloud about us. All our acquaintances avoided

us, nobody even bowed to us in the street, and I learnt that some

shopmen and clerks were intending to insult us in a shameful way,

smearing the gates of our house with pitch, so that the landlord began

to tell us we must leave. All this was set going by Marfa Petrovna who

managed to slander Dounia and throw dirt at her in every family. She

knows every one in the neighbourhood, and that month she was

continually coming into the town, and as she is rather talkative and

fond of gossiping about her family affairs and particularly of

complaining to all and each of her husband- which is not at all right-

so in a short time she had spread her story not only in the town,

but over the whole surrounding district. It made me ill, but Dounia

bore it better than I did, and if only you could have seen how she

endured it all and tried to comfort me and cheer me up! She is an

angel! But by God's mercy, our sufferings were cut short: Mr.

Svidrigailov returned to his senses and repented and, probably feeling

sorry for Dounia, he laid before Marfa Petrovna a complete and

unmistakable proof of Dounia's innocence, in the form of a letter

Dounia had been forced to write and give to him, before Marfa Petrovna

came upon them in the garden. This letter, which remained in Mr.

Svidrigailov's hands after her departure, she had written to refuse

personal explanations and secret interviews, for which he was

entreating her. In that letter she reproached him with great heat

and indignation for the baseness of his behaviour in regard to Marfa

Petrovna, reminding him that he was the father and head of a family

and telling him how infamous it was of him to torment and make unhappy

a defenceless girl, unhappy enough already. Indeed, dear Rodya, the

letter was so nobly and touchingly written that I sobbed when I read

it and to this day I cannot read it without tears. Moreover, the

evidence of the servants, too, cleared Dounia's reputation; they had

seen and known a great deal more than Mr. Svidrigailov had himself

supposed- as indeed is always the case with servants. Marfa Petrovna

was completely taken aback, and 'again crushed' as she said herself to

us, but she was completely convinced of Dounia's innocence. The very

next day, being Sunday, she went straight to the Cathedral, knelt down

and prayed with tears to Our Lady to give her strength to bear this

new trial and to do her duty. Then she came straight from the

Cathedral to us, told us the whole story, wept bitterly and, fully

penitent, she embraced Dounia and besought her to forgive her. The

same morning without any delay, she went round to all the houses in

the town and everywhere, shedding tears, she asserted in the most

flattering terms Dounia's innocence and the nobility of her feelings

and her behavior. What was more, she showed and read to every one

the letter in Dounia's own handwriting to Mr. Svidrigailov and even

allowed them to take copies of it- which I must say I think was

superfluous. In this way she was busy for several days in driving

about the whole town, because some people had taken offence through

precedence having been given to others. And therefore they had to take

turns, so that in every house she was expected before she arrived, and

every one knew that on such and such a day Marfa Petrovna would be

reading the letter in such and such a place and people assembled for

every reading of it, even many who had heard it several times

already both in their own houses and in other people's. In my

opinion a great deal, a very great deal of all this was unnecessary;

but that's Marfa Petrovna's character. Anyway she succeeded in

completely re-establishing Dounia's reputation and the whole

ignominy of this affair rested as an indelible disgrace upon her

husband, as the only person to blame, so that I really began to feel

sorry for him; it was really treating the crazy fellow too harshly.

Dounia was at once asked to give lessons in several families, but

she refused. All of a sudden every one began to treat her with

marked respect and all this did much to bring about the event by

which, one may say, our whole fortunes are now transformed. You must

know, dear Rodya, that Dounia has a suitor and that she has already

consented to marry him. I hasten to tell you all about the matter, and

though it has been arranged without asking your consent, I think you

will not be aggrieved with me or with your sister on that account, for

you will see that we could not wait and put off our decision till we

heard from you. And you could not have judged all the facts without

being on the spot. This was how it happened. He is already of the rank

of a counsellor, Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin, and is distantly related

to Marfa Petrovna, who has been very active in bringing the match

about. It began with his expressing through her his desire to make our

acquaintance. He was properly received, drank coffee with us and the

very next day he sent us a letter in which he very courteously made an

offer and begged for a speedy and decided answer. He is a very busy

man and is in a great hurry to get to Petersburg, so that every moment

is precious to him. At first, of course, we were greatly surprised, as

it had all happened so quickly and unexpectedly. We thought and talked

it over the whole day. He is a well-to-do man, to be depended upon, he

has two posts in the government and has already made his fortune. It

is true that he is forty-five years old, but he is of a fairly

prepossessing appearance and might still be thought attractive by

women, and he is altogether a very respectable and presentable man,

only he seems a little morose and somewhat conceited. But possibly

that may only be the impression he makes at first sight. And beware,

dear Rodya, when he comes to Petersburg, as he shortly will do, beware

of judging him too hastily and severely, as your way is, if there is

anything you do not like in him at first sight. I give you this

warning, although I feel sure that he will make a favourable

impression upon you. Moreover, in order to understand any man one must

be deliberate and careful to avoid forming prejudices and mistaken

ideas, which are very difficult to correct and get over afterwards.

And Pyotr Petrovitch, judging by many indications, is a thoroughly

estimable man. At his first visit, indeed, he told us that he was a

practical man, but still he shares, as he expressed it, many of the

convictions 'of our most rising generation' and he is an opponent of

all prejudices. He said a good deal more, for he seems a little

conceited and likes to be listened to, but this is scarcely a vice. I,

of course, understood very little of it, but Dounia explained to me

that, though he is not a man of great education, he is clever and

seems to be good-natured. You know your sister's character, Rodya. She

is a resolute, sensible, patient and generous girl, but she has a

passionate heart, as I know very well. Of course, there is no great

love either on his side, or on hers, but Dounia is a clever girl and

has the heart of an angel, and will make it her duty to make her

husband happy who on his side will make her happiness his care. Of

that we have no good reason to doubt, though it must be admitted the

matter has been arranged in great haste. Besides he is a man of

great prudence and he will see, to be sure, of himself, that his own

happiness will be the more secure, the happier Dounia is with him. And

as for some defects of character, for some habits and even certain

differences of opinion- which indeed are inevitable even in the

happiest marriages- Dounia has said that, as regards all that, she

relies on herself, that there is nothing to be uneasy about, and

that she is ready to put up with a great deal, if only their future

relationship can be an honourable and straightforward one. He struck

me, for instance, at first, as rather abrupt, but that may well come

from his being an outspoken man, and that is no doubt how it is. For

instance, at his second visit, after he had received Dounia's consent,

in the course of conversation, he declared that before making Dounia's

acquaintance, he had made up his mind to marry a girl of good

reputation, without dowry and, above all, one who had experienced

poverty, because, as he explained, a man ought not to be indebted to

his wife, but that it is better for a wife to look upon her husband as

her benefactor. I must add that he expressed it more nicely and

politely than I have done, for I have forgotten his actual phrases and

only remember the meaning. And, besides, it was obviously not said

of design, but slipped out in the heat of conversation, so that he

tried afterwards to correct himself and smooth it over, but all the

same it did strike me as somewhat rude, and I said so afterwards to

Dounia. But Dounia was vexed, and answered that 'words are not deeds,'

and that, of course, is perfectly true. Dounia did not sleep all night

before she made up her mind, and, thinking that I was asleep, she

got out of bed and was walking up and down the room all night; at last

she knelt down before the ikon and prayed long and fervently and in

the morning she told me that she had decided.

"I have mentioned already that Pyotr Petrovitch is just setting

off for Petersburg, where he has a great deal of business, and he

wants to open a legal bureau. He has been occupied for many years in

conducting civil and commercial litigation, and only the other day

he won an important case. He has to be in Petersburg because he has an

important case before the Senate. So, Rodya dear, he may be of the

greatest use to you, in every way indeed, and Dounia and I have agreed

that from this very day you could definitely enter upon your career

and might consider that your future is marked out and assured for you.

Oh, if only this comes to pass! This would be such a benefit that we

could only look upon it as a providential blessing. Dounia is dreaming

of nothing else. We have even ventured already to drop a few words

on the subject to Pyotr Petrovitch. He was cautious in his answer, and

said that, of course, as he could not get on without a secretary, it

would be better to be paying a salary to a relation than to a

stranger, if only the former were fitted for the duties (as though

there could be doubt of your being fitted!) but then he expressed

doubts whether your studies at the university would leave you time for

work at his office. The matter dropped for the time, but Dounia is

thinking of nothing else now. She has been in a sort of fever for

the last few days, and has already made a regular plan for your

becoming in the end an associate and even a partner in Pyotr

Petrovitch's business, which might well be, seeing that you are a

student of law. I am in complete agreement with her, Rodya, and

share all her plans and hopes, and think there is every probability of

realising them. And in spite of Pyotr Petrovitch's evasiveness, very

natural at present, (since he does not know you) Dounia is firmly

persuaded that she will gain everything by her good influence over her

future husband; this she is reckoning upon. Of course we are careful

not to talk of any of these more remote plans to Pyotr Petrovitch,

especially of your becoming his partner. He is a practical man and

might take this very coldly, it might all seem to him simply a

day-dream. Nor has either Dounia or I breathed a word to him of the

great hopes we have of his helping us to pay for your university

studies; we have not spoken of it in the first place, because it

will come to pass of itself, later on, and he will no doubt without

wasting words offer to do it of himself, (as though he could refuse

Dounia that) the more readily since you may by your own efforts become

his right hand in the office, and receive this assistance not as a

charity, but as a salary earned by your own work. Dounia wants to

arrange it all like this and I quite agree with her. And we have not

spoken of our plans for another reason, that is, because I

particularly wanted you to feel on an equal footing when you first

meet him. When Dounia spoke to him with enthusiasm about you, he

answered that one could never judge of a man without seeing him close,

for oneself, and that he looked forward to forming his own opinion

when he makes your acquaintance. Do you know, my precious Rodya, I

think that perhaps for some reasons (nothing to do with Pyotr

Petrovitch though, simply for my own personal, perhaps old-womanish,

fancies) I should do better to go on living by myself, apart, than

with them, after the wedding. I am convinced that he will be

generous and delicate enough to invite me and to urge me to remain

with my daughter for the future, and if he has said nothing about it

hitherto, it is simply because it has been taken for granted; but I

shall refuse. I have noticed more than once in my life that husbands

don't quite get on with their mothers-in-law, and I don't want to be

the least bit in any one's way, and for my own sake, too, would rather

be quite independent, so long as I have a crust of bread of my own,

and such children as you and Dounia. If possible, I would settle

somewhere near you, for the most joyful piece of news, dear Rodya, I

have kept for the end of my letter: know then, my dear boy, that we

may, perhaps, be all together in a very short time and may embrace one

another again after a separation of almost three years! It is

settled for certain that Dounia and I are to set off for Petersburg,

exactly when I don't know, but very, very soon, possibly in a week. It

all depends on Pyotr Petrovitch who will let us know when he has had

time to look round him in Petersburg. To suit his own arrangements

he is anxious to have the ceremony as soon as possible, even before

the fast of Our Lady, if it could be managed, or if that is too soon

to be ready, immediately after. Oh, with what happiness I shall

press you to my heart! Dounia is all excitement at the joyful

thought of seeing you, she said one day in joke that she would be

ready to marry Pyotr Petrovitch for that alone. She is an angel! She

is not writing anything to you now, and has only told me to write that

she has so much, so much to tell you that she is not going to take

up her pen now, for a few lines would tell you nothing, and it would

only mean upsetting herself; she bids me send you her love and

innumerable kisses. But although we shall be meeting so soon,

perhaps I shall send you as much money as I can in a day or two. Now

that every one has heard that Dounia is to marry Pyotr Petrovitch,

my credit has suddenly improved and I know that Afanasy Ivanovitch

will trust me now even to seventy-five roubles on the security of my

pension, so that perhaps I shall be able to send you twenty-five or

even thirty roubles. I would send you more, but I am uneasy about

our travelling expenses; for though Pyotr Petrovitch has been so

kind as to undertake part of the expenses of the journey, that is to

say, he has taken upon himself the conveyance of our bags and big

trunk (which will be conveyed through some acquaintances of his), we

must reckon upon some expenses on our arrival in Petersburg, where

we can't be left without a halfpenny, at least for the first few days.

But we have calculated it all, Dounia and I, to the last penny, and we

see that the journey will not cost very much. It is only ninety versts

from us to the railway and we have come to an agreement with a

driver we know, so as to be in readiness; and from there Dounia and

I can travel quite comfortably third class. So that I may very

likely be able to send to you not twenty-five, but thirty roubles. But

enough; I have covered two sheets already and there is no space left

for more; our whole history, but so many events have happened! And

now, my precious Rodya, I embrace you and send you a mother's blessing

till we meet. Love Dounia your sister, Rodya; love her as she loves

you and understand that she loves you beyond everything, more than

herself. She is an angel and you, Rodya, you are everything to us- our

one hope, our one consolation. If only you are happy, we shall be

happy. Do you still say your prayers, Rodya, and believe in the

mercy of our Creator and our Redeemer? I am afraid in my heart that

you may have been visited by the new spirit of infidelity that is

abroad to-day! If it is so, I pray for you. Remember, dear boy, how in

your childhood, when your father was living, you used to lisp your

prayers at my knee, and how happy we all were in those days. Good-bye,

till we meet then- I embrace you warmly, warmly, with many kisses.

"Yours till death

"PULCHERIA RASKOLNIKOV."

-

Almost from the first, while he read the letter, Raskolnikov's

face was wet with tears; but when he finished it, his face was pale

and distorted and a bitter, wrathful and malignant smile was on his

lips. He laid his head down on his threadbare dirty pillow and

pondered, pondered a long time. His heart was beating violently, and

his brain was in a turmoil. At last he felt cramped and stifled in the

little yellow room that was like a cupboard or a box. His eyes and his

mind craved for space. He took up his hat and went out, this time

without dread of meeting any one; he had forgotten his dread. He

turned in the direction of the Vassilyevsky Ostrov, walking along

Vassilyevsky Prospect, as though hastening on some business, but he

walked, as his habit was, without noticing his way, muttering and even

speaking aloud to himself, to the astonishment of the passers-by. Many

of them took him to be drunk.


Ce qu'on fait n'est jamais compris mais seulement loué ou blâmé. Nietzsche, Gay Science

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