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Fyodor Dostoevsky >> Crime and Punishment (page 14)


He had not reckoned on having trinkets to hide. He had only thought of money, and so had not prepared a hiding-place.

"But now, now, what am I glad of?" he thought, "Is that hiding things? My reason's deserting me simply!"

He sat down on the sofa in exhaustion and was at once shaken by another unbearable fit of shivering. Mechanically he drew from a chair beside him his old student's winter coat, which was still warm though almost in rags, covered himself up with it and once more sank into drowsiness and delirium. He lost consciousness.

Not more than five minutes had passed when he jumped up a second time, and at once pounced in a frenzy on his clothes again.

"How could I go to sleep again with nothing done? Yes, yes; I have not taken the loop off the armhole! I forgot it, forgot a thing like that! Such a piece of evidence!"

He pulled off the noose, hurriedly cut it to pieces and threw the bits among his linen under the pillow.

"Pieces of torn linen couldn't rouse suspicion, whatever happened; I think not, I think not, any way!" he repeated, standing in the middle of the room, and with painful concentration he fell to gazing about him again, at the floor and everywhere, trying to make sure he had not forgotten anything. The conviction, that all his faculties, even memory, and the simplest power of reflection were failing him, began to be an insufferable torture.

"Surely it isn't beginning already! Surely it isn't my punishment coming upon me? It is!"

The frayed rags he had cut off his trousers were actually lying on the floor in the middle of the room, where any one coming in would see them!

"What is the matter with me!" he cried again, like one distraught.

Then a strange idea entered his head; that, perhaps, all his clothes were covered with blood, that, perhaps, there were a great many stains, but that he did not see them, did not notice them because his perceptions were failing, were going to pieces his reason was clouded. Suddenly he remembered that there had been blood on the purse too. "Ah! Then there must be blood on the pocket too, for I put the wet purse in my pocket!"

In a flash he had turned the pocket inside out and, yes! there were traces, stains on the lining of the pocket!

"So my reason has not quite deserted me, so I still have some sense and memory, since I guessed it of myself," he thought triumphantly, with a deep sigh of relief: "It's simply the weakness of fever, a moment's delirium," and he tore the whole lining out of the left pocket of his trousers. At that instant the sunlight fell on his left boot; on the sock which poked out from the boot, he fancied there were traces! He flung off his boots: "traces indeed! The tip of the sock was soaked with blood"; he must have unwarily stepped into that pool. "But what am I to do with this now? Where am I to put the sock and rags and pocket?"

He gathered them all up in his hands and stood in the middle of the room.

"In the stove? But they would ransack the stove first of all. Burn them? But what can I burn them with? There are no matches even. No, better go out and throw it all away somewhere. Yes, better throw it away," he repeated, sitting down on the sofa again, "and at once, this minute, without lingering"

But his head sank on the pillow instead. Again the unbearable icy shivering came over him; again he drew his coat over him.

And for a long while, for some hours, he was haunted by the impulse to "go off somewhere at once, this moment, and fling it all away, so that it may be out of sight and done with, at once, at once!" Several times he tried to rise from the sofa but could not.

He was thoroughly waked up at last by a violent knocking at his door.

"Open, do, are you dead or alive? He keeps sleeping here!" shouted Nastasya, banging with her fist on the door. "For whole days together he's snoring here like a dog! A dog he is too. Open I tell you. It's past ten."

"Maybe he's not at home," said a man's voice.

"Ha! that's the porter's voice. What does he want?"

He jumped up and sat on the sofa. The beating of his heart was a positive pain.

"Then who can have latched the door?" retorted Nastasya.

"He's taken to bolting himself in! As if he were worth stealing! Open, you stupid, wake up!"

"What do they want? Why the porter? All's discovered. Resist or open? Come what may!"

He half rose, stooped forward and unlatched the door.

His room was so small that he could undo the latch without leaving the bed. Yes; the porter and Nastasya were standing there.

Nastasya stared at him in a strange way. He glanced with a defiant and desperate air at the porter, who without a word held out a grey folded paper sealed with bottle-wax.

"A notice from the office," he announced, as he gave him the paper.

"From what office?"

"A summons to the police office, of course. You know which office."

"To the police? What for?"

"How can I tell? You're sent for, so you go."

The man looked at him attentively, looked round the room and turned to go away.

"He's downright ill!" observed Nastasya, not taking her eyes off him. The porter turned his head for a moment. "He's been in a fever since yesterday," she added.

Raskolnikov made no response and held the paper in his hands, without opening it. "Don't you get up then," Nastasya went on compassionately, seeing that he was letting his feet down from the sofa. "You're ill, and so don't go; there's no such hurry. What have you got there?"

He looked; in his right hand he held the shreds he had cut from his trousers, the sock, and the rags of the pocket. So he had been asleep with them in his hand. Afterwards reflecting upon it, he remembered that half waking up in his fever, he had grasped all this tightly in his hand and so fallen asleep again.

"Look at the rags he's collected and sleeps with them, as though he has got hold of a treasure"

And Nastasya went off into her hysterical giggle.

Instantly he thrust them all under his great coat and fixed his eyes intently upon her. Far as he was from being capable of rational reflection at that moment, he felt that no one would behave like that with a person who was going to be arrested. "But the police?"

"You'd better have some tea! Yes? I'll bring it, there's some left."

"No I'm going; I'll go at once," he muttered, getting on to his feet.

"Why, you'll never get downstairs!"

"Yes, I'll go."

"As you please."

She followed the porter out.

At once he rushed to the light to examine the sock and the rags.

"There are stains, but not very noticeable; all covered with dirt, and rubbed and already discoloured. No one who had no suspicion could distinguish anything. Nastasya from a distance could not have noticed, thank God!" Then with a tremor he broke the seal of the notice and began reading; he was a long while reading, before he understood. It was an ordinary summons from the district police station to appear that day at half past nine at the office of the district superintendent.

"But when has such a thing happened? I never have anything to do with the police! And why just to-day?" he thought in agonising bewilderment. "Good God, only get it over soon!"

He was flinging himself on his knees to pray, but broke into laughter not at the idea of prayer, but at himself.

He began, hurriedly dressing. "If I'm lost, I am lost, I don't care! Shall I put the sock on?" he suddenly wondered, "it will get dustier still and the traces will be gone."

But no sooner had he put it on than he pulled it off again in loathing and horror. He pulled it off, but reflecting that he had no other socks, he picked it up and put it on again and again he laughed.

"That's all conventional, that's all relative, merely a way of looking at it," he thought in a flash, but only on the top surface of his mind, while he was shuddering all over, "there, I've got it on! I have finished by getting it on!"

But his laughter was quickly followed by despair.

"No, it's too much for me" he thought. His legs shook. "From fear," he muttered. His head swam and ached with fever. "It's a trick! They want to decoy me there and confound me over everything," he mused, as he went out on to the stairs "the worst of it is I'm almost light-headed I may blurt out something stupid"

On the stairs he remembered that he was leaving all the things just as they were in the hole in the wall, "and very likely, it's on purpose to search when I'm out," he thought, and stopped short. But he was possessed by such despair, such cynicism of misery, if one may so call it, that with a wave of his hand he went on. "Only to get it over!"

In the street the heat was insufferable again; not a drop of rain had fallen all those days. Again dust, bricks, and mortar, again the stench from the shops and pot-houses, again the drunken men, the Finnish pedlars and half-broken-down cabs. The sun shone straight in his eyes, so that it hurt him to look out of them, and he felt his head going round as a man in a fever is apt to feel when he comes out into the street on a bright sunny day.

When he reached the turning into the street, in an agony of trepidation he looked down it at the house and at once averted his eyes.

"If they question me, perhaps I'll simply tell," he thought, as he drew near the police station.

The police station was about a quarter of a mile off. It had lately been moved to new rooms on the fourth floor of a new house. He had been once for a moment in the old office but long ago. Turning in at the gateway, he saw on the right a flight of stairs which a peasant was mounting with a book in his hand. "A house-porter, no doubt; so then, the office is here," and he began ascending the stairs on the chance. He did not want to ask questions of any one.

"I'll go in, fall on my knees, and confess everything" he thought, as he reached the fourth floor.

The staircase was steep, narrow and all sloppy with dirty water. The kitchens of the flats opened on to the stairs and stood open almost the whole day. So there was a fearful smell and heat. The staircase was crowded with porters going up and down with their books under their arms, policemen, and persons of all sorts and both sexes. The door of the office, too, stood wide open. Peasants stood waiting within. There, too, the heat was stifling and there was a sickening smell of fresh paint and stale oil from the newly decorated rooms.

After waiting a little, he decided to move forward into the next room. All the rooms were small and low-pitched. A fearful impatience drew him on and on. No one paid attention to him. In the second room some clerks sat writing, dressed hardly better than he was, and rather a queer-looking set. He went up to one of them.

"What is it?"

He showed the notice he had received.

"You are a student?" the man asked, glancing at the notice.

"Yes, formerly a student."

The clerk looked at him, but without the slightest interest. He was a particularly unkempt person with the look of a fixed idea in his eye.

"There would be no getting anything out of him, because he has no interest in anything," thought Raskolnikov.

"Go in there to the head clerk," said the clerk, pointing towards the furthest room.

He went into that room the fourth in order; it was a small room and packed full of people, rather better dressed than in the outer rooms. Among them were two ladies. One, poorly dressed in mourning, sat at the table opposite the chief clerk, writing something at his dictation. The other, a very stout, buxom woman with a purplish-red, blotchy face, excessively smartly dressed with a brooch on her bosom as big as a saucer, was standing on one side, apparently waiting for something. Raskolnikov thrust his notice upon the head clerk. The latter glanced at it, said: "Wait a minute," and went on attending to the lady in mourning.

He breathed more freely. "It can't be that!"

By degrees he began to regain confidence, he kept urging himself to have courage and be calm.

"Some foolishness, some trifling carelessness, and I may betray myself! Hm it's a pity there's no air here," he added, "it's stifling. It makes one's head dizzier than ever and one's mind too"

He was conscious of a terrible inner turmoil. He was afraid of losing his self-control; he tried to catch at something and fix his mind on it, something quite irrelevant, but he could not succeed in this at all. Yet the head clerk greatly interested him, he kept hoping to see through him and guess something from his face.

He was a very young man, about two and twenty, with a dark mobile face that looked older than his years. He was fashionably dressed and foppish, with his hair parted in the middle, well combed and pomaded, and wore a number of rings on his well-scrubbed fingers and a gold chain on his waistcoat. He said a couple of words in French to a foreigner who was in the room, and said them fairly correctly.

"Luise Ivanovna, you can sit down," he said casually to the gaily-dressed, purple-faced lady, who was still standing as though not venturing to sit down, though there was a chair beside her.

"Ich danke," said the latter, and softly, with a rustle of silk she sank into the chair. Her light blue dress trimmed with white lace floated about the table like an air-balloon and filled almost half the room. She smelt of scent. But she was obviously embarrassed at filling half the room and smelling so strongly of scent; and though her smile was impudent as well as cringing, it betrayed evident uneasiness.

Title: Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
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