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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 Two

-

IT WAS nearly eight o'clock. The two young men hurried to

Bakaleyev's, to arrive before Luzhin.

"Why, who was that?" asked Razumihin, as soon as they were in the

street.

"It was Svidrigailov, that landowner in whose house my sister was

insulted when she was their governess. Through his persecuting her

with his attentions, she was turned out by his wife, Marfa Petrovna.

This Marfa Petrovna begged Dounia's forgiveness afterwards, and

she's just died suddenly. It was of her we were talking this

morning. I don't know why I'm afraid of that man. He came here at once

after his wife's funeral. He is very strange, and is determined on

doing something.... We must guard Dounia from him... that's what I

wanted to tell you, do you hear?"

"Guard her! What can he do to harm Avdotya Romanovna? Thank you,

Rodya, for speaking to me like that.... We will, we will guard her.

Where does he live?"

"I don't know."

"Why didn't you ask? What a pity! I'll find out, though."

"Did you see him?" asked Raskolnikov after a pause.

"Yes, I noticed him, I noticed him well."

"You did really see him? You saw him clearly?" Raskolnikov insisted.

"Yes, I remember him perfectly, I should know him in a thousand; I

have a good memory for faces."

They were silent again.

"Hm!... that's all right," muttered Raskolnikov. "Do you know, I

fancied... I keep thinking that it may have been an hallucination."

"What do you mean? I don't understand you."

"Well, you all say," Raskolnikov went on, twisting his mouth into

a smile, "that I am mad. I thought just now that perhaps I really am

mad, and have only seen a phantom."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, who can tell? Perhaps I am really mad, and perhaps

everything that happened all these days may be only imagination."

"Ach, Rodya, you have been upset again!... But what did he say, what

did he come for?"

Raskolnikov did not answer. Razumihin thought a minute.

"Now let me tell you my story," he began, "I came to you, you were

asleep. Then we had dinner and then I went to Porfiry's, Zametov was

still with him. I tried to begin, but it was no use. I couldn't

speak in the right way. They don't seem to understand and can't

understand, but are not a bit ashamed. I drew Porfiry to the window,

and began talking to him, but it was still no use. He looked away

and I looked away. At last I shook my fist in his ugly face, and

told him as a cousin I'd brain him. He merely looked at me, I cursed

and came away. That was all. It was very stupid. To Zametov I didn't

say a word. But, you see, I thought I'd made a mess of it, but as I

went downstairs a brilliant idea struck me: why should we trouble?

Of course if you were in any danger or anything, but why need you

care? You needn't care a hang for them. We shall have a laugh at

them afterwards, and if I were in your place I'd mystify them more

than ever. How ashamed they'll be afterwards! Hang them! We can thrash

them afterwards, but let's laugh at them now!"

"To be sure," answered Raskolnikov. "But what will you say

to-morrow?" he thought to himself. Strange to say, till that moment it

had never occurred to him to wonder what Razumihin would think when he

knew. As he thought it, Raskolnikov looked at him. Razumihin's account

of his visit to Porfiry had very little interest for him, so much

had come and gone since then.

In the corridor they came upon Luzhin; he had arrived punctually

at eight, and was looking for the number, so that all three went in

together without greeting or looking at one another. The young men

walked in first, while Pyotr Petrovitch, for good manners, lingered

a little in the passage, taking off his coat. Pulcheria Alexandrovna

came forward at once to greet him in the doorway, Dounia was welcoming

her brother. Pyotr Petrovitch walked in and quite amiably, though with

redoubled dignity, bowed to the ladies. He looked, however, as

though he were a little put out and could not yet recover himself.

Pulcheria Alexandrovna, who seemed also a little embarrassed, hastened

to make them all sit down at the round table where a samovar was

boiling. Dounia and Luzhin were facing one another on opposite sides

of the table. Razumihin and Raskolnikov were facing Pulcheria

Alexandrovna, Razumihin was next to Luzhin and Raskolnikov was

beside his sister.

A moment's silence followed. Pyotr Petrovitch deliberately drew

out a cambric handkerchief reeking of scent and blew his nose with

an air of a benevolent man who felt himself slighted, and was firmly

resolved to insist on an explanation. In the passage the idea had

occurred to him to keep on his overcoat and walk away, and so give the

two ladies a sharp and emphatic lesson and make them feel the

gravity of the position. But he could not bring himself to do this.

Besides, he could not endure uncertainty and he wanted an explanation:

if his request had been so openly disobeyed, there was something

behind it, and in that case it was better to find it out beforehand;

it rested with him to punish them and there would always be time for

that.

"I trust you had a favourable journey," he inquired officially of

Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

"Oh, very, Pyotr Petrovitch."

"I am gratified to hear it. And Avdotya Romanovna is not over

fatigued either?"

"I am young and strong, I don't get tired, but it was a great strain

for mother," answered Dounia.

"That's unavoidable; our national railways are of terrible length.

'Mother Russia,' as they say, is a vast country.... In spite of all my

desire to do so, I was unable to meet you yesterday. But I trust all

passed off without inconvenience?"

"Oh, no, Pyotr Petrovitch, it was all terribly disheartening,"

Pulcheria Alexandrovna hastened to declare with peculiar intonation,

"and if Dmitri Prokofitch had not been sent us, I really believe by

God Himself, we should have been utterly lost. Here, he is! Dmitri

Prokofitch Razumihin," she added, introducing him to Luzhin.

"I had the pleasure... yesterday," muttered Pyotr Petrovitch with

a hostile glance sidelong at Razumihin; then he scowled and was

silent.

Pyotr Petrovitch belonged to that class of persons, on the surface

very polite in society, who make a great point of punctiliousness, but

who, directly they are crossed in anything, are completely

disconcerted, and become more like sacks of flour than elegant and

lively men of society. Again all was silent; Raskolnikov was

obstinately mute, Avdotya Romanovna was unwilling to open the

conversation too soon. Razumihin had nothing to say, so Pulcheria

Alexandrovna was anxious again.

"Marfa Petrovna is dead, have you heard?" she began having

recourse to her leading item of conversation.

"To be sure, I heard so. I was immediately informed, and I have come

to make you acquainted with the fact that Arkady Ivanovitch

Svidrigailov set off in haste for Petersburg immediately after his

wife's funeral. So at least I have excellent authority for believing."

"To Petersburg? here?" Dounia asked in alarm and looked at her

mother.

"Yes, indeed, and doubtless not without some design, having in

view the rapidity of his departure, and all the circumstances

preceding it."

"Good heavens! won't he leave Dounia in peace even here?" cried

Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

"I imagine that neither you nor Avdotya Romanovna have any grounds

for uneasiness, unless, of course, you are yourselves desirous of

getting into communication with him. For my part I am on my guard, and

am now discovering where he is lodging."

"Oh, Pyotr Petrovitch, you would not believe what a fright you

have given me," Pulcheria Alexandrovna went on. "I've only seen him

twice, but I thought him terrible, terrible! I am convinced that he

was the cause of Marfa Petrovna's death."

"It's impossible to be certain about that. I have precise

information. I do not dispute that he may have contributed to

accelerate the course of events by the moral influence, so to say,

of the affront; but as to the general conduct and moral

characteristics of that personage, I am in agreement with you. I do

not know whether he is well off now, and precisely what Marfa Petrovna

left him; this will be known to me within a very short period; but

no doubt here in Petersburg, if he has any pecuniary resources, he

will relapse at once into his old ways. He is the most depraved, and

abjectly vicious specimen of that class of men. I have considerable

reason to believe that Marfa Petrovna, who was so unfortunate as to

fall in love with him and to pay his debts eight years ago, was of

service to him also in another way. Solely by her exertions and

sacrifices, a criminal charge, involving an element of fantastic and

homicidal brutality for which he might well have been sentenced to

Siberia, was hushed up. That's the sort of man he is, if you care to

know."

"Good heavens!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna. Raskolnikov listened

attentively.

"Are you speaking the truth when you say that you have good evidence

of this?" Dounia asked sternly and emphatically.

"I only repeat what I was told in secret by Marfa Petrovna. I must

observe that from the legal point of view the case was far from clear.

There was, and I believe still is, living here a woman called

Resslich, a foreigner, who lent small sums of money at interest, and

did other commissions, and with this woman Svidrigailov had for a long

while close and mysterious relations. She had a relation, a niece I

believe, living with her, a deaf and dumb girl of fifteen, or

perhaps not more than fourteen. Resslich hated this girl, and

grudged her every crust; she used to beat her mercilessly. One day the

girl was found hanging in the garret. At the inquest the verdict was

suicide. After the usual proceedings the matter ended, but, later

on, information was given that the child had been... cruelly

outraged by Svidrigailov. It is true, this was not clearly

established, the information was given by another German woman of

loose character whose word could not be trusted; no statement was

actually made to the police, thanks to Marfa Petrovna's money and

exertions; it did not get beyond gossip. And yet the story is a very

significant one. You heard, no doubt, Avdotya Romanovna, when you were

with them the story of the servant Philip who died of ill treatment he

received six years ago, before the abolition of serfdom."

"I heard on the contrary that this Philip hanged himself."

"Quite so, but what drove him, or rather perhaps disposed him, to

suicide, was the systematic persecution and severity of Mr.

Svidrigailov."

"I don't know that," answered Dounia, dryly. "I only heard a queer

story that Philip was a sort of hypochondriac, a sort of domestic

philosopher, the servants used to say, 'he read himself silly,' and

that he hanged himself partly on account of Mr. Svidrigailov's mockery

of him and not his blows. When I was there he behaved well to the

servants, and they were actually fond of him, though they certainly

did blame him for Philip's death."

"I perceive, Avdotya Romanovna, that you seem disposed to

undertake his defence all of a sudden," Luzhin observed, twisting

his lips into an ambiguous smile, "there's no doubt that he is an

astute man, and insinuating where ladies are concerned, of which Marfa

Petrovna, who has died so strangely, is a terrible instance. My only

desire has been to be of service to you and your mother with my

advice, in view of the renewed efforts which may certainly be

anticipated from him. For my part it's my firm conviction, that he

will end in a debtor's prison again. Marfa Petrovna had not the

slightest intention of settling anything substantial on him, having

regard for his children's interests, and, if she left him anything, it

would only be the merest sufficiency, something insignificant and

ephemeral, which would not last a year for a man of his habits."

"Pyotr Petrovitch, I beg you," said Dounia, "say no more of Mr.

Svidrigailov. It makes me miserable."

"He has just been to see me," said Raskolnikov, breaking his silence

for the first time.

There were exclamations from all, and they all turned to him. Even

Pyotr Petrovitch was roused.

"An hour and a half ago, he came in when I was asleep, waked me, and

introduced himself," Raskolnikov continued. "He was fairly cheerful

and at ease, and quite hopes that we shall become friends. He is

particularly anxious by the way, Dounia, for an interview with you, at

which he asked me to assist. He has a proposition to make to you,

and he told me about it. He told me, too, that a week before her death

Marfa Petrovna left you three thousand roubles in her will, Dounia,

and that you can receive the money very shortly."

"Thank God!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna, crossing herself. "Pray

for her soul, Dounia!"

"It's a fact!" broke from Luzhin.

"Tell us, what more?" Dounia urged Raskolnikov.

"Then he said that he wasn't rich and all the estate was left to his

children who are now with an aunt, then that he was staying

somewhere not far from me, but where, I don't know, I didn't ask...."

"But what, what does he want to propose to Dounia?" cried

Pulcheria Alexandrovna in a fright. "Did he tell you?"

"Yes."

"What was it?"

"I'll tell you afterwards."

Raskolnikov ceased speaking and turned his attention to his tea.

Pyotr Petrovitch looked at his watch.

"I am compelled to keep a business engagement, and so I shall not be

in your way," he added with an air of some pique and he began

getting up.

"Don't go, Pyotr Petrovitch," said Dounia, "you intended to spend

the evening. Besides, you wrote yourself that you wanted to have an

explanation with mother."

"Precisely so, Avdotya Romanovna," Pyotr Petrovitch answered

impressively, sitting down again, but still holding his hat. "I

certainly desired an explanation with you and your honoured mother

upon a very important point indeed. But as your brother cannot speak

openly in my presence to some proposals of Mr. Svidrigailov, I, too,

do not desire and am not able to speak openly... in the presence of

others... of certain matters of the greatest gravity. Moreover, my

most weighty and urgent request has been disregarded...."

Assuming an aggrieved air, Luzhin relapsed into dignified silence.

"Your request that my brother should not be present at our meeting

was disregarded solely at my instance," said Dounia. "You wrote that

you had been insulted by my brother; I think that this must be

explained at once, and you must be reconciled. And if Rodya really has

insulted you, then he should and will apologise."

Pyotr Petrovitch took a stronger line.

"There are insults, Avdotya Romanovna, which no good-will can make

us forget. There is a line in everything which it is dangerous to

overstep; and when it has been overstepped, there is no return."

"That wasn't what I was speaking of exactly, Pyotr Petrovitch,"

Dounia interrupted with some impatience. "Please understand that our

whole future depends now on whether all this is explained and set

right as soon as possible. I tell you frankly at the start that I

cannot look at it in any other light, and if you have the least regard

for me, all this business must be ended to-day, however hard that

may be. I repeat that if my brother is to blame he will ask your

forgiveness."

"I am surprised at your putting the question like that," said

Luzhin, getting more and more irritated. "Esteeming, and so to say,

adoring you, I may at the same time, very well indeed, be able to

dislike some member of your family. Though I lay claim to the

happiness of your hand, I cannot accept duties incompatible with..."

"Ah, don't be so ready to take offence, Pyotr Petrovitch," Dounia

interrupted with feeling, "and be the sensible and generous man I have

always considered, and wish to consider, you to be. I've given you a

great promise, I am your betrothed. Trust me in this matter and,

believe me, I shall be capable of judging impartially. My assuming the

part of judge is as much a surprise for my brother as for you. When

I insisted on his coming to our interview to-day after your letter,

I told him nothing of what I meant to do. Understand that, if you

are not reconciled, I must choose between you- it must be either you

or he. That is how the question rests on your side and on his. I don't

want to be mistaken in my choice, and I must not be. For your sake I

must break off with my brother, for my brother's sake I must break off

with you. I can find out for certain now whether he is a brother to

me, and I want to know it; and of you, whether I am dear to you,

whether you esteem me, whether you are the husband for me."

"Avdotya Romanovna," Luzhin declared huffily, "your words are of too

much consequence to me; I will say more, they are offensive in view of

the position I have the honour to occupy in relation to you. To say

nothing of your strange and offensive setting me on a level with an

impertinent boy, you admit the possibility of breaking your promise to

me. You say 'you or he,' showing thereby of how little consequence I

am in your eyes... I cannot let this pass considering the relationship

and... the obligations existing between us."

"What!" cried Dounia, flushing. "I set your interest beside all that

has hitherto been most precious in my life, what has made up the whole

of my life, and here you are offended at my making too little

account of you."

Raskolnikov smiled sarcastically, Razumihin fidgeted, but Pyotr

Petrovitch did not accept the reproof; on the contrary, at every

word he became more persistent and irritable, as though he relished

it.

"Love for the future partner of your life, for your husband, ought

to outweigh your love for your brother," he pronounced

sententiously, "and in any case I cannot be put on the same

level.... Although I said so emphatically that I would not speak

openly in your brother's presence, nevertheless, I intend now to ask

your honoured mother for a necessary explanation on a point of great

importance closely affecting my dignity. Your son," he turned to

Pulcheria Alexandrovna, "yesterday in the presence of Mr. Razsudkin

(or... I think that's it? excuse me I have forgotten your surname," he

bowed politely to Razumihin) "insulted me by misrepresenting the

idea I expressed to you in a private conversation, drinking coffee,

that is, that marriage with a poor girl who has had experience of

trouble is more advantageous from the conjugal point of view than with

one who has lived in luxury, since it is more profitable for the moral

character. Your son intentionally exaggerated the significance of my

words and made them ridiculous, accusing me of malicious intentions,

and, as far as I could see, relied upon your correspondence with

him. I shall consider myself happy, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, if it is

possible for you to convince me of an opposite conclusion, and thereby

considerately reassure me. Kindly let me know in what terms

precisely you repeated my words in your letter to Rodion Romanovitch."

"I don't remember," faltered Pulcheria Alexandrovna. "I repeated

them as I understood them. I don't know how Rodya repeated them to

you, perhaps he exaggerated."

"He could not have exaggerated them, except at your instigation."

"Pyotr Petrovitch," Pulcheria Alexandrovna declared with dignity,

"the proof that Dounia and I did not take your words in a very bad

sense is the fact that we are here."

"Good, mother," said Dounia approvingly.

"Then this is my fault again," said Luzhin, aggrieved.

"Well, Pyotr Petrovitch, you keep blaming Rodion, but you yourself

have just written what was false about him," Pulcheria Alexandrovna

added, gaining courage.

"I don't remember writing anything false."

"You wrote," Raskolnikov said sharply, not turning to Luzhin,

"that I gave money yesterday not to the widow of the man who was

killed, as was the fact, but to his daughter (whom I had never seen

till yesterday). You wrote this to make dissension between me and my

family, and for that object added coarse expressions about the conduct

of a girl whom you don't know. All that is mean slander."

"Excuse me, sir," said Luzhin, quivering with fury. "I enlarged upon

your qualities and conduct in my letter solely in response to your

sister's and mother's inquiries how I found you and what impression

you made on me. As for what you've alluded to in my letter, be so good

as to point out one word of falsehood, show, that is, that you

didn't throw away your money, and that there are not worthless persons

in that family, however unfortunate."

"To my thinking, you with all your virtues are not worth the

little finger of that unfortunate girl at whom you throw stones."

"Would you go so far then as to let her associate with your mother

and sister?"

"I have done so already, if you care to know. I made her sit down

to-day with mother and Dounia."

"Rodya!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna. Dounia crimsoned, Razumihin

knitted his brows. Luzhin smiled with lofty sarcasm.

"You may see for yourself, Avdotya Romanovna," he said, "whether

it is possible for us to agree. I hope now that this question is at an

end, once and for all. I will withdraw, that I may not hinder the

pleasures of family intimacy, and the discussion of secrets." He got

up from his chair and took his hat. "But in withdrawing, I venture

to request that for the future I may be spared similar meetings,

and, so to say, compromises. I appeal particularly to you, honoured

Pulcheria Alexandrovna, on this subject, the more as my letter was

addressed to you and to no one else."

Pulcheria Alexandrovna was a little offended.

"You seem to think we are completely under your authority, Pyotr

Petrovitch. Dounia has told you the reason your desire was

disregarded, she had the best intentions. And indeed you write as

though you were laying commands upon me. Are we to consider every

desire of yours as a command? Let me tell you on the contrary that you

ought to show particular delicacy and consideration for us now,

because we have thrown up everything, and have come here relying on

you, and so we are in any case in a sense in your hands."

"That is not quite true, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, especially at the

present moment, when the news has come of Marfa Petrovna's legacy,

which seems indeed very apropos, judging from the new tone you take to

me," he added sarcastically.

"Judging from that remark, we may certainly presume that you were

reckoning on our helplessness," Dounia observed irritably.

"But now in any case I cannot reckon on it, and I particularly

desire not to hinder your discussion of the secret proposals of Arkady

Ivanovitch Svidrigailov, which he has entrusted to your brother and

which have, I perceive, a great and possibly a very agreeable interest

for you."

"Good heavens!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna.

Razumihin could not sit still on his chair.

"Aren't you ashamed now, sister?" asked Raskolnikov.

"I am ashamed, Rodya," said Dounia. "Pyotr Petrovitch, go away," she

turned to him, white with anger.

Pyotr Petrovitch had apparently not at all expected such a

conclusion. He had too much confidence in himself, in his power and in

the helplessness of his victims. He could not believe it even now.

He turned pale, and his lips quivered.

"Avdotyo Romanovna, if I go out of this door now, after such a

dismissal, then, you may reckon on it, I will never come back.

Consider what you are doing. My word is not to be shaken."

"What insolence!" cried Dounia, springing up from her seat. "I don't

want you to come back again."

"What! So that's how it stands!" cried Luzhin, utterly unable to the

last moment to believe in the rupture and so completely thrown out

of his reckoning now. "So that's how it stands! But do you know,

Avdotya Romanovna, that I might protest?"

"What right have you to speak to her like that?" Pulcheria

Alexandrovna intervened hotly. "And what can you protest about? What

rights have you? Am I to give my Dounia to a man like you? Go away,

leave us altogether! We are to blame for having agreed to a wrong

action, and I above all...."

"But you have bound me, Pulcheria Alexandrovna," Luzhin stormed in a

frenzy, "by your promise, and now you deny it and... besides... I have

been led on account of that into expenses...."

This last complaint was so characteristic of Pyotr Petrovitch,

that Raskolnikov, pale with anger and with the effort of restraining

it, could not help breaking into laughter. But Pulcheria

Alexandrovna was furious.

"Expenses? What expenses? Are you speaking of our trunk? But the

conductor brought it for nothing for you. Mercy on us, we have bound

you! What are you thinking about, Pyotr Petrovitch, it was you bound

us, hand and foot, not we!"

"Enough, mother, no more please," Avdotya Romanovna implored. "Pyotr

Petrovitch, do be kind and go!"

"I am going, but one last word," he said, quite unable to control

himself. "Your mamma seems to have entirely forgotten that I made up

my mind to take you, so to speak, after the gossip of the town had

spread all over the district in regard to your reputation.

Disregarding public opinion for your sake and reinstating your

reputation, I certainly might very well reckon on a fitting return,

and might indeed look for gratitude on your part. And my eyes have

only now been opened! I see myself that I may have acted very, very

recklessly in disregarding the universal verdict...."

"Does the fellow want his head smashed?" cried Razumihin, jumping

up.

"You are a mean and spiteful man!" cried Dounia.

"Not a word! Not a movement!" cried Raskolnikov, holding Razumihin

back; then going close up to Luzhin, "Kindly leave the room!" he

said quietly and distinctly, "and not a word more or..."

Pyotr Petrovitch gazed at him for some seconds with a pale face that

worked with anger, then he turned, went out, and rarely has any man

carried away in his heart such vindictive hatred as he felt against

Raskolnikov. Him, and him alone, he blamed for everything. It is

noteworthy that as he went downstairs he still imagined that his

case was perhaps not utterly lost, and that, so far as the ladies were

concerned, all might "very well indeed" be set right again.


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

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