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


Fyodor Dostoevsky
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- the brothers karamazov
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Chapter Six

-

"I DON'T BELIEVE it, I can't believe it!" repeated Razumihin, trying

in perplexity to refute Raskolnikov's arguments.

They were by now approaching Bakaleyev's lodgings, where Pulcheria

Alexandrovna and Dounia had been expecting them a long while.

Razumihin kept stopping on the way in the heat of discussion, confused

and excited by the very fact that they were for the first time

speaking openly about it.

"Don't believe it, then!" answered Raskolnikov, with a cold,

careless smile. "You were noticing nothing as usual, but I was

weighing every word."

"You are suspicious. That is why you weighed their words... h'm...

certainly, I agree, Porfiry's tone was rather strange, and still

more that wretch Zametov!... You are right, there was something

about him- but why? Why?"

"He has changed his mind since last night."

"Quite the contrary! If they had that brainless idea, they would

do their utmost to hide it, and conceal their cards, so as to catch

you afterwards.... But it was all impudent and careless."

"If they had had facts- I mean, real facts- or at least grounds

for suspicion, then they would certainly have tried to hide their

game, in the hope of getting more (they would have made a search

long ago besides). But they have no facts, not one. It is all

mirage- all ambiguous. Simply a floating idea. So they try to throw me

out by impudence. And perhaps, he was irritated at having no facts,

and blurted it out in his vexation- or perhaps he has some plan...

he seems an intelligent man. Perhaps he wanted to frighten me by

pretending to know. They have a psychology of their own, brother.

But it is loathsome explaining it all. Stop!"

"And it's insulting, insulting! I understand you. But... since we

have spoken openly now (and it is an excellent thing that we have at

last- I am glad) I will own now frankly that I noticed it in them long

ago, this idea. Of course the merest hint only- an insinuation- but

why an insinuation even? How dare they? What foundation have they?

If only you knew how furious I have been. Think only! Simply because a

poor student, unhinged by poverty and hypochondria, on the eve of a

severe delirious illness (note that), suspicious, vain, proud, who has

not seen a soul to speak to for six months, in rags and in boots

without soles, has to face some wretched policemen and put up with

their insolence; and the unexpected debt thrust under his nose, the

I.O.U. presented by Tchebarov, the new paint, thirty degrees Reaumur

and a stifling atmosphere, a crowd of people, the talk about the

murder of a person where he had been just before, and all that on an

empty stomach- he might well have a fainting fit! And that, that is

what they found it all on! Damn them! I understand how annoying it is,

but in your place, Rodya, I would laugh at them, or better still, spit

in their ugly faces, and spit a dozen times in all directions. I'd hit

out in all directions, neatly too, and so I'd put an end to it. Damn

them! Don't be downhearted. It's a shame!"

"He really has put it well, though," Raskolnikov thought.

"Damn them? But the cross-examination again, to-morrow?" he said

with bitterness. "Must I really enter into explanations with them? I

feel vexed as it is that I condescended to speak to Zametov

yesterday in the restaurant...."

"Damn it! I will go myself to Porfiry. I will squeeze it out of him,

as one of the family: he must let me know the ins and outs of it

all! And as for Zametov..."

"At last he sees through him!" thought Raskolnikov.

"Stay!" cried Razumihin, seizing him by the shoulder again. "Stay!

you were wrong. I have thought it out. You are wrong! How was that a

trap? You say that the question about the workmen was a trap. But if

you had done that, could you have said you had seen them painting

the flat... and the workmen? On the contrary, you would have seen

nothing, even if you had seen it. Who would own it against himself?"

"If I had done that thing, I should certainly have said that I had

seen the workmen and the flat." Raskolnikov answered, with

reluctance and obvious disgust.

"But why speak against yourself?"

"Because only peasants, or the most inexperienced novices deny

everything flatly at examinations. If a man is ever so little

developed and experienced, he will certainly try to admit all the

external facts that can't be avoided, but will seek other explanations

of them, will introduce some special, unexpected turn, that will

give them another significance and put them in another light.

Porfiry might well reckon that I should be sure to answer so, and

say I had seen them to give an air of truth, and then make some

explanation."

"But he would have told you at once, that the workmen could not have

been there two days before, and that therefore you must have been

there on the day of the murder at eight o'clock. And so he would

have caught you over a detail."

"Yes, that is what he was reckoning on, that I should not have

time to reflect, and should be in a hurry to make the most likely

answer, and so would forget that the workmen could not have been there

two days before."

"But how could you forget it?"

"Nothing easier. It is in just such stupid things clever people

are most easily caught. The more cunning a man is, the less he

suspects that he will be caught in a simple thing. The more cunning

a man is, the simpler the trap he must be caught in. Porfiry is not

such a fool as you think...."

"He is a knave then, if that is so!"

Raskolnikov could not help laughing. But at the very moment, he

was struck by the strangeness of his own frankness, and the

eagerness with which he had made this explanation, though he had

kept up all the preceding conversation with gloomy repulsion,

obviously with a motive, from necessity.

"I am getting a relish for certain aspects!" he thought to

himself. But almost at the same instant, he became suddenly uneasy, as

though an unexpected and alarming idea had occurred to him. His

uneasiness kept on increasing. They had just reached the entrance to

Bakaleyev's.

"Go in alone!" said Raskolnikov suddenly. "I will be back directly."

"Where are you going? Why, we are just here."

"I can't help it.... I will come in half an hour. Tell them."

"Say what you like, I will come with you."

"You, too, want to torture me!" he screamed, with such bitter

irritation, such despair in his eyes that Razumihin's hands dropped.

He stood for some time on the steps, looking gloomily at Raskolnikov

striding rapidly away in the direction of his lodging. At last,

gritting his teeth and clenching his fist, he swore he would squeeze

Porfiry like a lemon that very day, and went up the stairs to reassure

Pulcheria Alexandrovna, who was by now alarmed at their long absence.

When Raskolnikov got home, his hair was soaked with sweat and he was

breathing heavily. He went rapidly up the stairs, walked into his

unlocked room and at once fastened the latch. Then in senseless terror

he rushed to the corner, to that hole under the paper where he had put

the thing; put his hand in, and for some minutes felt carefully in the

hole, in every crack and fold of the paper. Finding nothing, he got up

and drew a deep breath. As he was reaching the steps of Bakaleyev's,

he suddenly fancied that something, a chain, a stud or even a bit of

paper in which they had been wrapped with the old woman's

handwriting on it, might somehow have slipped out and been lost in

some crack, and then might suddenly turn up as unexpected,

conclusive evidence against him.

He stood as though lost in thought, and a strange, humiliated,

half senseless smile strayed on his lips. He took his cap at last

and went quietly out of the room. His ideas were all tangled. He

went dreamily through the gateway.

"Here he is himself," shouted a loud voice.

He raised his head.

The porter was standing at the door of his little room and was

pointing him out to a short man who looked like an artisan, wearing

a long coat and a waistcoat, and looking at a distance remarkably like

a woman. He stooped, and his head in a greasy cap hung forward. From

his wrinkled flabby face he looked over fifty; his little eyes were

lost in fat and they looked out grimly, sternly and discontentedly.

"What is it?" Raskolnikov asked, going up to the porter.

The man stole a look at him from under his brows and he looked at

him attentively, deliberately; then he turned slowly and went out of

the gate into the street without saying a word.

"What is it?" cried Raskolnikov.

"Why, he there was asking whether a student lived here, mentioned

your name and whom you lodged with. I saw you coming and pointed you

out and he went away. It's funny."

The porter too seemed rather puzzled, but not much so, and after

wondering for a moment he turned and went back to his room.

Raskolnikov ran after the stranger, and at once caught sight of

him walking along the other side of the street with the same even,

deliberate step with his eyes fixed on the ground, as though in

meditation. He soon overtook him, but for some time walked behind him.

At last, moving on to a level with him, he looked at his face. The man

noticed him at once, looked at him quickly, but dropped his eyes

again; and so they walked for a minute side by side without uttering a

word.

"You were inquiring for me... of the porter?" Raskolnikov said at

last, but in a curiously quiet voice.

The man made no answer; he didn't even look at him. Again they

were both silent.

"Why do you... come and ask for me... and say nothing.... What's the

meaning of it?"

Raskolnikov's voice broke and he seemed unable to articulate the

words clearly.

The man raised his eyes this time and turned a gloomy sinister

look at Raskolnikov.

"Murderer!" he said suddenly in a quiet but clear and distinct

voice.

Raskolnikov went on walking beside him. His legs felt suddenly weak,

a cold shiver ran down his spine, and his heart seemed to stand

still for a moment, then suddenly began throbbing as though it were

set free. So they walked for about a hundred paces, side by side in

silence.

The man did not look at him.

"What do you mean... what is.... Who is a murderer?" muttered

Raskolnikov hardly audibly.

"You are a murderer," the man answered still more articulately and

emphatically, with a smile of triumphant hatred, and again he looked

straight into Raskolnikov's pale face and stricken eyes.

They had just reached the crossroads. The man turned to the left

without looking behind him. Raskolnikov remained standing, gazing

after him. He saw him turn round fifty paces away and look back at him

still standing there. Raskolnikov could not see clearly, but he

fancied that he was again smiling the same smile of cold hatred and

triumph.

With slow faltering steps, with shaking knees, Raskolnikov made

his way back to his little garret, feeling chilled all over. He took

off his cap and put it on the table, and for ten minutes he stood

without moving. Then he sank exhausted on the sofa and with a weak

moan of pain he stretched himself on it. So he lay for half an hour.

He thought of nothing. Some thoughts or fragments of thoughts,

some images without order or coherence floated before his mind-

faces of people he had seen in his childhood or met somewhere once,

whom he would never have recalled, the belfry of the church at V., the

billiard table in a restaurant and some officers playing billiards,

the smell of cigars in some underground tobacco shop, a tavern room, a

back staircase quite dark, all sloppy with dirty water and strewn with

egg shells, and the Sunday bells floating in from somewhere.... The

images followed one another, whirling like a hurricane. Some of them

he liked and tried to clutch at, but they faded and all the while

there was an oppression within him, but it was not overwhelming,

sometimes it was even pleasant.... The slight shivering still

persisted, but that too was an almost pleasant sensation.

He heard the hurried footsteps of Razumihin; he closed his eyes

and pretended to be asleep. Razumihin opened the door and stood for

some time in the doorway as though hesitating, then he stepped

softly into the room and went cautiously to the sofa. Raskolnikov

heard Nastasya's whisper:

"Don't disturb him! Let him sleep. He can have his dinner later."

"Quite so," answered Razumihin. Both withdrew carefully and closed

the door. Another half-hour passed. Raskolnikov opened his eyes,

turned on his back again, clasping his hands behind his head.

"Who is he? Who is that man who sprang out of the earth? Where was

he, what did he see? He has seen it all, that's clear. Where was he

then? And from where did he see? Why has he only now sprung out of the

earth? And how could he see? Is it possible? Hm..." continued

Raskolnikov, turning cold and shivering, "and the jewel case Nikolay

found behind the door- was that possible? A clue? You miss an

infinitesimal line and you can build it into a pyramid of evidence!

A fly flew by and saw it! Is it possible?" He felt with sudden

loathing how weak, how physically weak he had become. "I ought to have

known it," he thought with a bitter smile. "And how dared I, knowing

myself, knowing how I should be, take up an axe and shed blood! I

ought to have known beforehand.... Ah, but I did know!" he whispered

in despair. At times he came to a standstill at some thought.

"No, those men are not made so. The real Master to whom all is

permitted storms Toulon, makes a massacre in Paris, forgets an army in

Egypt, wastes half a million men in the Moscow expedition and gets off

with a jest at Vilna. And altars are set up to him after his death,

and so all is permitted. No, such people it seems are not of flesh but

of bronze!"

One sudden irrelevant idea almost made him laugh. Napoleon, the

pyramids, Waterloo, and a wretched skinny old woman, a pawnbroker with

a red trunk under her bed- it's a nice hash for Porfiry Petrovitch

to digest! How can they digest it! It's too inartistic. "A Napoleon

creep under an old woman's bed! Ugh, how loathsome!"

At moments he felt he was raving. He sank into a state of feverish

excitement. "The old woman is of no consequence," he thought, hotly

and incoherently. "The old woman was a mistake perhaps, but she is not

what matters! The old woman was only an illness.... I was in a hurry

to overstep.... I didn't kill a human being, but a principle! I killed

the principle, but I didn't overstep, I stopped on this side.... I was

only capable of killing. And it seems I wasn't even capable of that...

Principle? Why was that fool Razumihin abusing the socialists? They

are industrious, commercial people; 'the happiness of all' is their

case. No, life is only given to me once and I shall never have it

again; I don't want to wait for 'the happiness of all.' I want to live

myself, or else better not live at all. I simply couldn't pass by my

mother starving, keeping my trouble in my pocket while I waited for

the 'happiness of all.' I am putting my little brick into the

happiness of all and so my heart is at peace. Ha-ha! Why have you

let me slip? I only live once, I too want.... Ech, I am an aesthetic

louse and nothing more," he added suddenly, laughing like a madman.

"Yes, I am certainly a louse," he went on, clutching at the idea,

gloating over it and playing with it with vindictive pleasure. "In the

first place, because I can reason that I am one, and secondly, because

for a month past I have been troubling benevolent Providence,

calling it to witness that not for my own fleshly lusts did I

undertake it, but with a grand and noble object- ha-ha! Thirdly,

because I aimed at carrying it out as justly as possible, weighing,

measuring and calculating. Of all the lice I picked out the most

useless one and proposed to take from her only as much as I needed for

the first step, no more nor less (so the rest would have gone to a

monastery, according to her will, ha-ha!). And what shows that I am

utterly a louse," he added, grinding his teeth, "is that I am

perhaps viler and more loathsome than the louse I killed, and I felt

beforehand that I should tell myself so after killing her. Can

anything be compared with the horror of that! The vulgarity! The

abjectness! I understand the 'prophet' with his sabre, on his steed:

Allah commands and 'trembling' creation must obey! The 'prophet' is

right, he is right when he sets a battery across the street and

blows up the innocent and the guilty without deigning to explain! It's

for you to obey, trembling creation, and not to have desires, for

that's not for you!... I shall never, never forgive the old woman!"

His hair was soaked with sweat, his quivering lips were parched, his

eyes were fixed on the ceiling.

"Mother, sister- how I loved them! Why do I hate them now? Yes, I

hate them, I feel a physical hatred for them, I can't bear them near

me.... I went up to my mother and kissed her, I remember.... To

embrace her and think if she only knew... shall I tell her then?

That's just what I might do.... She must be the same as I am," he

added, straining himself to think, as it were struggling with

delirium. "Ah, how I hate the old woman now! I feel I should kill

her again if she came to life! Poor Lizaveta! Why did she come

in?... It's strange though, why is it I scarcely ever think of her, as

though I hadn't killed her! Lizaveta! Sonia! Poor gentle things,

with gentle eyes.... Dear women! Why don't they weep? Why don't they

moan? They give up everything... their eyes are soft and gentle....

Sonia, Sonia! Gentle Sonia!"

He lost consciousness; it seemed strange to him that he didn't

remember how he got into the street. It was late evening. The twilight

had fallen and the full moon was shining more and more brightly; but

there was a peculiar breathlessness in the air. There were crowds of

people in the street; workmen and business people were making their

way home; other people had come out for a walk; there was a smell of

mortar, dust and stagnant water. Raskolnikov walked along, mournful

and anxious; he was distinctly aware of having come out with a

purpose, of having to do something in a hurry, but what it was he

had forgotten. Suddenly he stood still and saw a man standing on the

other side of the street, beckoning to him. He crossed over to him,

but at once the man turned and walked away with his head hanging, as

though he had made no sign to him. "Stay, did he really beckon?"

Raskolnikov wondered, but he tried to overtake him. When he was within

ten paces he recognised him and was frightened; it was the same man

with stooping shoulders in the long coat. Raskolnikov followed him

at a distance; his heart was beating; they went down a turning; the

man still did not look round. "Does he know I am following him?"

thought Raskolnikov. The man went into the gateway of a big house.

Raskolnikov hastened to the gate and looked in to see whether he would

look round and sign to him. In the courtyard the man did turn round

and again seemed to beckon him. Raskolnikov at once followed him

into the yard, but the man was gone. He must have gone up the first

staircase. Raskolnikov rushed after him. He heard slow measured

steps two flights above. The staircase seemed strangely familiar. He

reached the window on the first floor; the moon shone through the

panes with a melancholy and mysterious light; then he reached the

second floor. Bah! this is the flat where the painters were at work...

but how was it he did not recognise it at once? The steps of the man

above had died away. "So he must have stopped or hidden somewhere." He

reached the third storey, should he go on? There was a stillness

that was dreadful.... But he went on. The sound of his own footsteps

scared and frightened him. How dark it was! The man must be hiding

in some corner here. Ah! the flat was standing wide open, he hesitated

and went in. It was very dark and empty in the passage, as though

everything had been removed; he crept on tiptoe into the parlour which

was flooded with moonlight. Everything there was as before, the

chairs, the looking-glass, the yellow sofa and the pictures in the

frames. A huge, round, copper-red moon looked in at the windows. "It's

the moon that makes it so still, weaving some mystery," thought

Raskolnikov. He stood and waited, waited a long while, and the more

silent the moonlight, the more violently his heart beat, till it was

painful. And still the same hush. Suddenly he heard a momentary

sharp crack like the snapping of a splinter and all was still again. A

fly flew up suddenly and struck the window pane with a plaintive buzz.

At that moment he noticed in the corner between the window and the

little cupboard something like a cloak hanging on the wall. "Why is

that cloak here?" he thought, "it wasn't there before...." He went

up to it quietly and felt that there was some one hiding behind it. He

cautiously moved the cloak and saw, sitting on a chair in the

corner, the old woman bent double so that he couldn't see her face;

but it was she. He stood over her. "She is afraid," he thought. He

stealthily took the axe from the noose and struck her one blow, then

another on the skull. But strange to say she did not stir, as though

she were made of wood. He was frightened, bent down nearer and tried

to look at her; but she, too, bent her head lower. He bent right

down to the ground and peeped up into her face from below, he peeped

and turned cold with horror: the old woman was sitting and laughing,

shaking with noiseless laughter, doing her utmost that he should not

hear it. Suddenly he fancied that the door from the bedroom was opened

a little and that there was laughter and whispering within. He was

overcome with frenzy and he began hitting the old woman on the head

with all his force, but at every blow of the axe the laughter and

whispering from the bedroom grew louder and the old woman was simply

shaking with mirth. He was rushing away, but the passage was full of

people, the doors of the flats stood open and on the landing, on the

stairs and everywhere below there were people, rows of heads, all

looking, but huddled together in silence and expectation. Something

gripped his heart, his legs were rooted to the spot, they would not

move.... He tried to scream and woke up.

He drew a deep breath- but his dream seemed strangely to persist:

his door was flung open and a man whom he had never seen stood in

the doorway watching him intently.

Raskolnikov had hardly opened his eyes and he instantly closed

them again. He lay on his back without stirring.

"Is it still a dream?" he wondered and again raised his eyelids

hardly perceptibly; the stranger was standing in the same place, still

watching him.

He stepped cautiously into the room, carefully closing the door

after him, went up to the table, paused a moment, still keeping his

eyes on Raskolnikov and noiselessly seated himself on the chair by the

sofa; he put his hat on the floor beside him and leaned his hands on

his cane and his chin on his hands. It was evident that he was

prepared to wait indefinitely. As far as Raskolnikov could make out

from his stolen glances, he was a man no longer young, stout, with a

full, fair, almost whitish beard.

Ten minutes passed. It was still light, but beginning to get dusk.

There was complete stillness in the room. Not a sound came from the

stairs. Only a big fly buzzed and fluttered against the window pane.

It was unbearable at last. Raskolnikov suddenly got up and sat on

the sofa.

"Come, tell me what you want."

"I knew you were not asleep, but only pretending," the stranger

answered oddly, laughing calmly. "Arkady Ivanovitch Svidrigailov,

allow me to introduce myself...."


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

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