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


Fyodor Dostoevsky
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Chapter Four

-

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 naive 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. Svidrigailov 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

Svidrigailovs 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 some one 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 that not 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 Svidrigailovs. How are

you going to save them from Svidrigailovs, 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 Svidrigailov! 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 some one 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 thought 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 every one, went to see

no one, and did not welcome any one who came to see him, and indeed

every one 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.


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

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