"All right, I'll come," said Lizaveta, still pondering, and she began slowly
Raskolnikov had just passed and heard no more. He passed softly, unnoticed, trying
not to miss a word. His first amazement was followed by a thrill of horror, like
a shiver running down his spine. He had learnt, he had suddenly quite unexpectedly
learnt, that the next day at seven o'clock Lizaveta, the old woman's sister and
only companion, would be away from home and that therefore at seven o'clock precisely
the old woman would be left alone.
He was only a few steps from his lodging. He went in like a man condemned to
death. He thought of nothing and was incapable of thinking; but he felt suddenly
in his whole being that he had no more freedom of thought, no will, and that everything
was suddenly and irrevocably decided.
Certainly, if he had to wait whole years for a suitable opportunity, he could
not reckon on a more certain step towards the success of the plan than that which
had just presented itself. In any case, it would have been difficult to find out
beforehand and with certainty, with greater exactness and less risk, and without
dangerous inquiries and investigations, that next day at a certain time an old woman,
on whose life an attempt was contemplated, would be at home and entirely alone.
CHAPTERSIX Chapter Six
LATER on Raskolnikov happened to find out why the huckster and his wife had invited
Lizaveta. It was a very ordinary matter and there was nothing exceptional about
it. A family who had come to the town and been reduced to poverty were selling their
household goods and clothes, all women's things. As the things would have fetched
little in the market, they were looking for a dealer. This was Lizaveta's business.
She undertook such jobs and was frequently employed, as she was very honest and
always fixed a fair price and stuck to it. She spoke as a rule little and, as we
have said already, she was very submissive and timid.
But Raskolnikov had become superstitious of late. The traces of superstition
remained in him long after, and were almost ineradicable. And in all this he was
always afterwards disposed to see something strange and mysterious, as it were the
presence of some peculiar influences and coincidences. In the previous winter a
student he knew called Pokorev, who had left for Harkov, had chanced in conversation
to give him the address of Alyona Ivanovna, the old pawnbroker, in case he might
want to pawn anything. For a long while he did not go to her, for he had lessons
and managed to get along somehow. Six weeks ago he had remembered the address; he
had two articles that could be pawned: his father's old silver watch and a little
gold ring with three red stones, a present from his sister at parting. He decided
to take the ring. When he found the old woman he had felt an insurmountable repulsion
for her at the first glance, though he knew nothing special about her. He got two
roubles from her and went into a miserable little tavern on his way home. He asked
for tea, sat down and sank into deep thought. A strange idea was pecking at his
brain like a chicken in the egg, and very, very much absorbed him.
Almost beside him at the next table there was sitting a student, whom he did
not know and had never seen, and with him a young officer. They had played a game
of billiards and began drinking tea. All at once he heard the student mention to
the officer the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and give him her address. This of itself
seemed strange to Raskolnikov; he had just come from her and here at once he heard
her name. Of course it was a chance, but he could not shake off a very extraordinary
impression, and here some one seemed to be speaking expressly for him; the student
began telling his friend various details about Alyona Ivanovna.
"She is first rate," he said. "You can always get money from her. She is as rich
as a Jew, she can give you five thousand roubles at a time and she is not above
taking a pledge for a rouble. Lots of our fellows have had dealings with her. But
she is an awful old harpy…."
And he began describing how spiteful and uncertain she was, how if you were only
a day late with your interest the pledge was lost; how she gave a quarter of the
value of an article and took five and even seven percent a month on it and so on.
The student chattered on, saying that she had a sister Lizaveta, whom the wretched
little creature was continually beating, and kept in complete bondage like a small
child, though Lizaveta was at least six feet high.
"There's a phenomenon for you," cried the student and he laughed.
They began talking about Lizaveta. The student spoke about her with a peculiar
relish and was continually laughing and the officer listened with great interest
and asked him to send Lizaveta to do some mending for him. Raskolnikov did not miss
a word and learned everything about her. Lizaveta was younger than the old woman
and was her half-sister, being the child of a different mother. She was thirty-five.
She worked day and night for her sister, and besides doing the cooking and the washing,
she did sewing and worked as a charwoman and gave her sister all she earned. She
did not dare to accept an order or job of any kind without her sister's permission.
The old woman had already made her will, and Lizaveta knew of it, and by this will
she would not get a farthing; nothing but the movables, chairs and so on; all the
money was left to a monastery in the province of N, that prayers might be said for
her in perpetuity. Lizaveta was of lower rank than her sister, unmarried and awfully
uncouth in appearance, remarkably tall with long feet that looked as if they were
bent outwards. She always wore battered goatskin shoes, and was clean in her person.
What the student expressed most surprise and amusement about was the fact that Lizaveta
was continually with child.
"But you say she is hideous?" observed the officer.
"Yes, she is so dark-skinned and looks like a soldier dressed up, but you know
she is not at all hideous. She has such a good-natured face and eyes. Strikingly
so. And the proof of it is that lots of people are attracted by her. She is such
a soft, gentle creature, ready to put up with anything, always willing, willing
to do anything. And her smile is really very sweet."
"You seem to find her attractive yourself," laughed the officer.
"From her queerness. No, I'll tell you what. I could kill that damned old woman
and make off with her money, I assure you, without the faintest conscience-prick,"
the student added with warmth. The officer laughed again while Raskolnikov shuddered.
How strange it was!
"Listen, I want to ask you a serious question," the student said hotly. "I was
joking of course, but look here; on one side we have a stupid, senseless, worthless,
spiteful, ailing, horrid old woman, not simply useless but doing actual mischief,
who has not an idea what she is living for herself, and who will die in a day or
two in any case. You understand? You understand?"
"Yes, yes, I understand," answered the officer, watching his excited companion
"Well, listen then. On the other side, fresh young lives thrown away for want
of help and by thousands, on every side! A hundred thousand good deeds could be
done and helped, on that old woman's money which will be buried in a monastery!
Hundreds, thousands perhaps, might be set on the right path; dozens of families
saved from destitution, from ruin, from vice, from the Lock hospitals– and all with
her money. Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the
service of humanity and the good of all. What do you think, would not one tiny crime
be wiped out by thousands of good deeds? For one life thousands would be saved from
corruption and decay. One death, and a hundred lives in exchange– it's simple arithmetic!
Besides, what value has the life of that sickly, stupid, ill-natured old woman in
the balance of existence! No more than the life of a louse, of a black beetle, less
in fact because the old woman is doing harm. She is wearing out the lives of others;
the other day she bit Lizaveta's finger out of spite; it almost had to be amputated."
"Of course she does not deserve to live," remarked the officer, "but there it
is, it's nature."
"Oh, well, brother, but we have to correct and direct nature, and, but for that,
we should drown in an ocean of prejudice. But for that, there would never have been
a single great man. They talk of duty, conscience– I don't want to say anything
against duty and conscience;– but the point is what do we mean by them. Stay, I
have another question to ask you. Listen!"
"No, you stay, I'll ask you a question. Listen!"
"You are talking and speechifying away, but tell me, would you kill the old woman
"Of course not! I was only arguing the justice of it…. It's nothing to do with
"But I think, if you would not do it yourself, there's no justice about it….
Let us have another game."
Raskolnikov was violently agitated. Of course, it was all ordinary youthful talk
and thought, such as he had often heard before in different forms and on different
themes. But why had he happened to hear such a discussion and such ideas at the
very moment when his own brain was just conceiving… the very same ideas? And why,
just at the moment when he had brought away the embryo of his idea from the old
woman had he dropped at once upon a conversation about her? This coincidence always
seemed strange to him. This trivial talk in a tavern had an immense influence on
him in his later action; as though there had really been in it something preordained,
some guiding hint…. –
On returning from the Hay Market he flung himself on the sofa and sat for a whole
hour without stirring. Meanwhile it got dark; he had no candle and, indeed, it did
not occur to him to light up. He could never recollect whether he had been thinking
about anything at that time. At last he was conscious of his former fever and shivering,
and he realised with relief that he could lie down on the sofa. Soon heavy, leaden
sleep came over him, as it were crushing him.
He slept an extraordinarily long time and without dreaming. Nastasya, coming
into his room at ten o'clock the next morning, had difficulty in rousing him. She
brought him in tea and bread. The tea was again the second brew and again in her
"My goodness, how he sleeps!" she cried indignantly. "And he is always asleep."
He got up with an effort. His head ached, he stood up, took a turn in his garret
and sank back on the sofa again.
"Going to sleep again," cried Nastasya. "Are you ill, eh?"
He made no reply.
"Do you want some tea?"
"Afterwards," he said with an effort, closing his eyes again and turning to the
Nastasya stood over him.
"Perhaps he really is ill," she said, turned and went out. She came in again
at two o'clock with soup. He was lying as before. The tea stood untouched. Nastasya
felt positively offended and began wrathfully rousing him.
"Why are you lying like a log?" she shouted, looking at him with repulsion.
He got up, and sat down again, but said nothing and stared at the floor.
"Are you ill or not?" asked Nastasya and again received no answer. "You'd better
go out and get a breath of air," she said after a pause. "Will you eat it or not?"
"Afterwards," he said weakly. "You can go."
And he motioned her out.
She remained a little longer, looked at him with compassion and went out.
A few minutes afterwards, he raised his eyes and looked for a long while at the
tea and the soup. Then he took the bread, took up a spoon and began to eat.
He ate a little, three or four spoonfuls, without appetite as it were mechanically.
His head ached less. After his meal he stretched himself on the sofa again, but
now he could not sleep; he lay without stirring, with his face in the pillow. He
was haunted by daydreams and such strange daydreams; in one, that kept recurring,
he fancied that he was in Africa, in Egypt, in some sort of oasis. The caravan was
resting, the camels were peacefully lying down; the palms stood all around in a
complete circle; all the party were at dinner. But he was drinking water from a
spring which flowed gurgling close by. And it was so cool, it was wonderful, wonderful,
blue, cold water running among the parti-coloured stones and over the clean sand
which glistened here and there like gold…. Suddenly he heard a clock strike. He
started, roused himself, raised his head, looked out of the window, and seeing how
late it was, suddenly jumped up wide awake as though some one had pulled him off
the sofa. He crept on tiptoe to the door, stealthily opened it and began listening
on the staircase. His heart beat terribly. But all was quiet on the stairs as if
every one was asleep…. It seemed to him strange and monstrous that he could have
slept in such forgetfulness from the previous day and had done nothing, had prepared
nothing yet…. And meanwhile perhaps it had struck six. And his drowsiness and stupefaction
were followed by an extraordinary, feverish, as it were, distracted, haste. But
the preparations to be made were few. He concentrated all his energies on thinking
of everything and forgetting nothing; and his heart kept beating and thumping so
that he could hardly breathe. First he had to make a noose and sew it into his overcoat–
a work of a moment. He rummaged under his pillow and picked out amongst the linen
stuffed away under it, a worn out, old unwashed shirt. From its rags he tore a long
strip, a couple of inches wide and about sixteen inches long. He folded this strip
in two, took off his wide, strong summer overcoat of some stout cotton material
(his only outer garment) and began sewing the two ends of the rag on the inside,
under the left armhole. His hands shook as he sewed, but he did it successfully
so that nothing showed outside when he put the coat on again. The needle and thread
he had got ready long before and they lay on his table in a piece of paper. As for
the noose, it was a very ingenious device of his own; the noose was intended for
the axe. It was impossible for him to carry the axe through the street in his hands.
And if hidden under his coat he would still have had to support it with his hand,
which would have been noticeable. Now he had only to put the head of the axe in
the noose, and it would hang quietly under his arm on the inside. Putting his hand
in his coat pocket, he could hold the end of the handle all the way, so that it
did not swing; and as the coat was very full, a regular sack in fact, it could not
be seen from outside that he was holding something with the hand that was in the
pocket. This noose, too, he had designed a fortnight before.