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


Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Life
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- the brothers karamazov
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Chapter Four

-

ZOSSIMOV WAS a tall, fat man with a puffy, colourless,

clean-shaven face and straight flaxen hair. He wore spectacles, and

a big gold ring on his fat finger. He was twenty-seven. He had on a

light grey fashionable loose coat, light summer trousers, and

everything about him loose, fashionable and spick and able, his

linen was irreproachable, his watch-chain was massive. In manner he

was slow and, as it were, nonchalant, and at the same time

studiously free and easy; he made efforts to conceal his

self-importance, but it was apparent at every instant. All his

acquaintances found him tedious, but said he was clever at his work.

"I've been to you twice to-day, brother. You see, he's come to

himself," cried Razumihin.

"I see, I see; and how do we feel now, eh?" said Zossimov to

Raskolnikov, watching him carefully and, sitting down at the foot of

the sofa, he settled himself as comfortably as he could.

"He is still depressed," Razumihin went on. "We've just changed

his linen and he almost cried."

"That's very natural; you might have put it off if he did not wish

it.... His pulse is first-rate. Is your head still aching, eh?"

"I am well, I am perfectly well!" Raskolnikov declared positively

and irritably. He raised himself on the sofa and looked at them with

glittering eyes, but sank back on to the pillow at once and turned

to the wall. Zossimov watched him intently.

"Very good.... Going on all right," he said lazily. "Has he eaten

anything?"

They told him, and asked what he might have.

"He may have anything... soup, tea... mushrooms and cucumbers, of

course, you must not give him; he'd better not have meat either,

and... but no need to tell you that!" Razumihin and he looked at

each other. "No more medicine or anything. I'll look at him again

to-morrow. Perhaps, to-day even... but never mind..."

"To-morrow evening I shall take him for a walk," said Razumihin. "We

are going to the Yusupov garden and then to the Palais de Crystal."

"I would not disturb him to-morrow at all, but I don't know... a

little, maybe... but we'll see."

"Ach, what a nuisance! I've got a house-warming party tonight;

it's only a step from here. Couldn't he come? He could lie on the

sofa. You are coming?" Razumihin said to Zossimov. "Don't forget,

you promised."

"All right, only rather later. What are you going to do?"

"Oh, nothing- tea, vodka, herrings. There will be a pie... just

our friends."

"And who?"

"All neighbours here, almost all new friends, except my old uncle,

and he is new too- he only arrived in Petersburg yesterday to see to

some business of his. We meet once in five years."

"What is he?"

"He's been stagnating all his life as a district postmaster; gets

a little pension. He is sixty-five- not worth talking about.... But

I am fond of him. Porfiry Petrovitch, the head of the Investigation

Department here... But you know him."

"Is he a relation of yours, too?"

"A very distant one. But why are you scowling? Because you

quarrelled once, won't you come then?"

"I don't care a damn for him."

"So much the better. Well, there will be some students, a teacher, a

government clerk, a musician, an officer and Zametov."

"Do tell me, please, what you or he"- Zossimov nodded at

Raskolnikov- "can have in common with this Zametov?"

"Oh, you particular gentleman! Principles! You are worked by

principles, as it were by springs; you won't venture to turn round

on your own account. If a man is a nice fellow, that's the only

principle I go upon, Zametov is a delightful person."

"Though he does take bribes."

"Well, he does! and what of it? I don't care if he does take

bribes," Razumihin cried with unnatural irritability. "I don't

praise him for taking bribes. I only say he is a nice man in his own

way! But if one looks at men in all ways- are there many good ones

left? Why, I am sure I shouldn't be worth a baked onion myself...

perhaps with you thrown in."

"That's too little; I'd give two for you."

"And I wouldn't give more than one for you. No more of your jokes!

Zametov is no more than a boy. I can pull his hair and one must draw

him not repel him. You'll never improve a man by repelling him,

especially a boy. One has to be twice as careful with a boy. Oh, you

progressive dullards! You don't understand. You harm yourselves

running another man down.... But if you want to know, we really have

something in common."

"I should like to know what."

"Why, it's all about a house-painter.... We are getting him out of a

mess! Though indeed there's nothing to fear now. The matter is

absolutely self-evident. We only put on steam."

"A painter?"

"Why, haven't I told you about it? I only told you the beginning

then about the murder of the old pawnbroker-woman. Well, the painter

is mixed up in it..."

"Oh, I heard about that murder before and was rather interested in

it... partly... for one reason.... I read about it in the papers,

too...."

"Lizaveta was murdered, too," Nastasya blurted out, suddenly

addressing Raskolnikov. She remained in the room all the time,

standing by the door listening.

"Lizaveta," murmured Raskolnikov hardly audibly.

"Lizaveta, who sold old clothes. Didn't you know her? She used to

come here. She mended a shirt for you, too."

Raskolnikov turned to the wall where in the dirty, yellow paper he

picked out one clumsy, white flower with brown lines on it and began

examining how many petals there were in it, how many scallops in the

petals and how many lines on them. He felt his arms and legs as

lifeless as though they had been cut off. He did not attempt to

move, but stared obstinately at the flower.

"But what about the painter?" Zossimov interrupted Nastasya's

chatter with marked displeasure. She sighed and was silent.

"Why, he was accused of the murder," Razumihin went on hotly.

"Was there evidence against him then?"

"Evidence, indeed! Evidence that was no evidence, and that's what we

have to prove. It was just as they pitched on those fellows, Koch

and Pestryakov, at first. Foo! how stupidly it's all done, it makes

one sick, though it's not one's business! Pestryakov may be coming

to-night.... By the way, Rodya, you've heard about the business

already; it happened before you were ill, the day before you fainted

at the police office while they were talking about it."

Zossimov looked curiously at Raskolnikov. He did not stir.

"But I say, Razumihin, I wonder at you. What a busybody you are!"

Zossimov observed.

"Maybe I am, but we will get him off anyway," shouted Razumihin,

bringing his fist down on the table. "What's the most offensive is not

their lying- one can always forgive lying- lying is a delightful

thing, for it leads to truth- what is offensive is that they lie and

worship their own lying.... I respect Porfiry, but... What threw

them out at first? The door was locked, and when they came back with

the porter it was open. So it followed that Koch and Pestryakov were

the murderers- that was their logic!"

"But don't excite yourself; they simply detained them, they could

not help that.... And, by the way, I've met that man Koch. He used

to buy unredeemed pledges from the old woman? Eh?"

"Yes, he is a swindler. He buys up bad debts, too. He makes a

profession of it. But enough of him! Do you know what makes me

angry? It's their sickening rotten, petrified routine.... And this

case might be the means of introducing a new method. One can show from

the psychological data alone how to get on the track of the real

man. 'We have facts,' they say. But facts are not everything- at least

half the business lies in how you interpret them!"

"Can you interpret them, then?"

"Anyway, one can't hold one's tongue when one has a feeling, a

tangible feeling, that one might be a help if only.... Eh! Do you know

the details of the case?"

"I am waiting to hear about the painter."

"Oh, yes! Well, here's the story. Early on the third day after the

murder, when they were still dandling Koch and Pestryakov- though they

accounted for every step they took and it was as plain as a pikestaff-

an unexpected fact turned up. A peasant called Dushkin, who keeps a

dram-shop facing the house, brought to the police office a

jeweller's case containing some gold ear-rings, and told a long

rigamarole. 'The day before yesterday, just after eight o'clock'- mark

the day and the hour!- 'a journeyman house-painter, Nikolay, who had

been in to see me already that day, brought me this box of gold

ear-rings and stones, and asked me to give him two roubles for them.

When I asked him where he got them, he said that he picked them up

in the street. I did not ask him anything more.' I am telling you

Dushkin's story. 'I gave him a note'- a rouble that is- 'for I thought

if he did not pawn it with me he would with another. It would all come

to the same thing- he'd spend it on drink, so the thing had better

be with me. The further you hide it the quicker you will find it,

and if anything turns up, if I hear any rumours, I'll take it to the

police.' Of course, that's all taradiddle; he lies like a horse, for I

know this Dushkin, he is a pawnbroker and a receiver of stolen

goods, and he did not cheat Nikolay out of a thirty-rouble trinket

in order to give it to the police. He was simply afraid. But no

matter, to return to Dushkin's story. 'I've known this peasant,

Nikolay Dementyev, from a child; he comes from the same province and

district of Zaraisk, we are both Ryazan men. And though Nikolay is not

a drunkard, he drinks, and I knew he had a job in that house, painting

work with Dmitri, who comes from the same village, too. As soon as

he got the rouble he changed it, had a couple of glasses, took his

change and went out. But I did not see Dmitri with him then. And the

next day I heard that some one had murdered Alyona Ivanovna and her

sister, Lizaveta Ivanovna, with an axe. I knew them, and I felt

suspicious about the ear-rings at once, for I knew the murdered

woman lent money on pledges. I went to the house, and began to make

careful inquiries without saying a word to any one. First of all I

asked, "Is Nikolay here?" Dmitri told me that Nikolay had gone off

on the spree; he had come home at daybreak drunk, stayed in the

house about ten minutes, and went out again. Dmitri didn't see him

again and is finishing the job alone. And their job is on the same

staircase as the murder, on the second floor. When I heard all that

I did not say a word to any one'- that's Dushkin's tale- 'but I

found out what I could about the murder, and went home feeling as

suspicious as ever. And at eight o'clock this morning'- that was the

third day, you understand- 'I saw Nikolay coming in, not sober, though

not so very drunk- he could understand what was said to him. He sat

down on the bench and did not speak. There was only one stranger in

the bar and a man I knew asleep on a bench and our two boys. "Have you

seen Dmitri?" said I. "No, I haven't," said he. "And you've not been

here either?" "Not since the day before yesterday," said he. "And

where did you sleep last night?" "In Peski, with the Kolomensky

men." "And where did you get those ear-rings?" I asked. "I found

them in the street," and the way he said it was a bit queer; he did

not look at me. "Did you hear what happened that very evening, at that

very hour, on that same staircase?" said I. "No," said he, "I had

not heard," and all the while he was listening, his eyes were

staring out of his head and he turned as white as chalk. I told him

all about it and he took his hat and began getting up. I wanted to

keep him. "Wait a bit, Nikolay," said I, "won't you have a drink?" And

I signed to the boy to hold the door, and I came out from behind the

bar; but he darted out and down the street to the turning at a run.

I have not seen him since. Then my doubts were at an end- it was his

doing, as clear as could be...."

"I should think so," said Zossimov.

"Wait! Hear the end. Of course they sought high and low for Nikolay;

they detained Dushkin and searched his house; Dmitri, too, was

arrested; the Kolomensky men also were turned inside out. And the

day before yesterday they arrested Nikolay in a tavern at the end of

the town. He had gone there, taken the silver cross off his neck and

asked for a dram for it. They gave it to him. A few minutes afterwards

the woman went to the cowshed, and through a crack in the wall she saw

in the stable adjoining he had made a noose of his sash from the beam,

stood on a block of wood, and was trying to put his neck in the noose.

The woman screeched her hardest; people ran in. 'So that's what you

are up to!' 'Take me,' he says, 'to such-and-such a police officer;

I'll confess everything.' Well, they took him to that police

station- that is here- with a suitable escort. So they asked him

this and that, how old he is, 'twenty-two,' and so on. At the

question, 'When you were working with Dmitri, didn't you see any one

on the staircase at such-and-such a time?'- answer: 'To be sure

folks may have gone up and down, but I did not notice them.' 'And

didn't you hear anything, any noise, and so on?' 'We heard nothing

special.' 'And did you hear, Nikolay, that on the same day Widow

So-and-so and her sister were murdered and robbed?' 'I never knew a

thing about it. The first I heard of it was from Afanasy Pavlovitch

the day before yesterday.' 'And where did you find the ear-rings?'

'I found them on the pavement. "Why didn't you go to work with

Dmitri the other day?' 'Because I was drinking.' 'And where were you

drinking?' 'Oh, in such-and-such a place.' 'Why did you run away

from Dushkin's?' 'Because I was awfully frightened.' 'What were you

frightened of?' 'That I should be accused.' 'How could you be

frightened, if you felt free from guilt?' Now, Zossimov, you may not

believe me, that question was put literally in those words. I know

it for a fact, it was repeated to me exactly! What do you say to

that?"

"Well, anyway, there's the evidence."

"I am not talking of the evidence now, I am talking about that

question, of their own idea of themselves. Well, so they squeezed

and squeezed him and he confessed: 'I did not find it in the street,

but in the flat where I was painting with Dmitri.' 'And how was that?'

'Why, Dmitri and I were painting there all day, and we were just

getting ready to go, and Dmitri took a brush and painted my face,

and he ran off and I after him. I ran after him, shouting my

hardest, and at the bottom of the stairs I ran right against the

porter and some gentlemen- and how many gentlemen were there I don't

remember. And the porter swore at me, and the other porter swore, too,

and the porter's wife came out, and swore at us, too; and a

gentleman came into the entry with a lady, and he swore at us, too,

for Dmitri and I lay right across the way. I got hold of Dmitri's hair

and knocked him down and began beating him. And Dmitri, too, caught me

by the hair and began beating me. But we did it all not for temper,

but in a friendly way, for sport. And then Dmitri escaped and ran into

the street, and I ran after him; but I did not catch him, and went

back to the flat alone; I had to clear up my things. I began putting

them together, expecting Dmitri to come, and there in the passage,

in the corner by the door, I stepped on the box. I saw it lying

there wrapped up in paper. I took off the paper, saw some little

hooks, undid them, and in the box were the ear-rings....'"

"Behind the door? Lying behind the door? Behind the door?"

Raskolnikov cried suddenly, staring with a blank look of terror at

Razumihin, and he slowly sat up on the sofa, leaning on his hand.

"Yes... why? What's the matter? What's wrong?" Razumihin, too, got

up from his seat.

"Nothing," Raskolnikov answered faintly, turning to the wall. All

were silent for a while.

"He must have waked from a dream," Razumihin said at last, looking

inquiringly at Zossimov. The latter slightly shook his head.

"Well, go on," said Zossimov. "What next?"

"What next? As soon as he saw the ear-rings, forgetting Dmitri and

everything, he took up his cap and ran to Dushkin and, as we know, got

a rouble from him. He told a lie saying he found them in the street,

and went off drinking. He keeps repeating his old story about the

murder: 'I knew nothing of it, never heard of it till the day before

yesterday.' 'And why didn't you come to the police till now?' 'I was

frightened.' 'And why did you try to hang yourself?' 'From anxiety.'

'What anxiety?' 'That I should be accused of it.' Well, that's the

whole story. And now what do you suppose they deduced from that?"

"Why, there's no supposing. There's a clue, such as it is, a fact.

You wouldn't have your painter set free?"

"Now they've simply taken him for the murderer. They haven't a

shadow of doubt."

"That's nonsense. You are excited. But what about the ear-rings? You

must admit that, if on the very same day and hour ear-rings from the

old woman's box have come into Nikolay's hands, they must have come

there somehow. That's a good deal in such a case."

"How did they get there? How did they get there?" cried Razumihin.

"How can you, a doctor, whose duty it is to study man and who has more

opportunity than any one else for studying human nature- how can you

fail to see the character of the man in the whole story? Don't you see

at once that the answers he has given in the examination are the

holy truth? They came into his hand precisely as he has told us- he

stepped on the box and picked it up."

"The holy truth! But didn't he own himself that he told a lie at

first?"

"Listen to me, listen attentively. The porter and Koch and

Pestryakov and the other porter and the wife of the first porter and

the woman who was sitting in the porter's lodge and the man Kryukov,

who had just got out of a cab at that minute and went in at the

entry with a lady on his arm, that is eight or ten witnesses, agree

that Nikolay had Dmitri on the ground, was lying on him beating him,

while Dmitri hung on to his hair, beating him, too. They lay right

across the way, blocking the thoroughfare. They were sworn at on all

sides while they 'like children' (the very words of the witnesses)

were falling over one another, squealing, fighting and laughing with

the funniest faces, and, chasing one another like children, they ran

into the street. Now take careful note. The bodies upstairs were warm,

you understand, warm when they found them! If they, or Nikolay

alone, had murdered them and broken open the boxes, or simply taken

part in the robbery, allow me to ask you one question: do their

state of mind, their squeals and giggles and childish scuffling at the

gate fit in with axes, bloodshed, fiendish cunning, robbery? They'd

just killed them, not five or ten minutes before, for the bodies

were still warm, and at once, leaving the flat open, knowing that

people would go there at once, flinging away their booty, they

rolled about like children, laughing and attracting general attention.

And there are a dozen witnesses to swear to that!"

"Of course it is strange! It's impossible, indeed, but..."

"No, brother, no buts. And if the ear-rings' being found in

Nikolay's hands at the very day and hour of the murder constitutes

an important piece of circumstantial evidence against him- although

the explanation given by him accounts for it, and therefore it does

not tell seriously against him- one must take into consideration the

facts which prove him innocent, especially as they are facts that

cannot be denied. And do you suppose, from the character of our

legal system, that they will accept, or that they are in a position to

accept, this fact- resting simply on a psychological impossibility- as

irrefutable and conclusively breaking down the circumstantial evidence

for the prosecution? No, they won't accept it, they certainly won't,

because they found the jewel-case and the man tried to hang himself,

'which he could not have done if he hadn't felt guilty.' That's the

point, that's what excites me, you must understand!"

"Oh, I see you are excited! Wait a bit. I forgot to ask you; what

proof is there that the box came from the old woman?"

"That's been proved," said Razumihin with apparent reluctance,

frowning. "Koch recognised the jewel-case and gave the name of the

owner, who proved conclusively that it was his."

"That's bad. Now another point. Did any one see Nikolay at the

time that Koch and Pestryakov were going upstairs at first, and is

there no evidence about that?"

"Nobody did see him," Razumihin answered with vexation. "That's

the worst of it. Even Koch and Pestryakov did not notice them on their

way upstairs, though, indeed, their evidence could not have been worth

much. They said they saw the flat was open, and that there must be

work going on in it, but they took no special notice and could not

remember whether there actually were men at work in it."

"Hm!... So the only evidence for the defence is that they were

beating one another and laughing. That constitutes a strong

presumption, but... How do you explain the facts yourself?"

"How do I explain them? What is there to explain? It's clear. At any

rate, the direction in which explanation is to be sought is clear, and

the jewel-case points to it. The real murderer dropped those

ear-rings. The murderer was upstairs, locked in, when Koch and

Pestryakov knocked at the door. Koch, like an ass, did not stay at the

door; so the murderer popped out and ran down, too, for he had no

other way of escape. He hid from Koch, Pestryakov and the porter in

the flat when Nikolay and Dmitri had just run out of it. He stopped

there while the porter and others were going upstairs, waited till

they were out of hearing, and then went calmly downstairs at the

very minute when Dmitri and Nikolay ran out into the street and

there was no one in the entry; possibly he was seen, but not

noticed. There are lots of people going in and out. He must have

dropped the ear-rings out of his pocket when he stood behind the door,

and did not notice he dropped them, because he had other things to

think of. The jewel-case is a conclusive proof that he did stand

there.... That's how I explain it."

"Too clever! No, my boy, you're too clever. That beats everything."

"But, why, why?"

"Why, because everything fits too well... it's too melodramatic."

"A-ach!" Razumihin was exclaiming, but at that moment the door

opened and a personage came in who was a stranger to all present.


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

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