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Fyodor Dostoevsky >> Crime and Punishment (page 24)


"Oh, my handsome soldier

Don't beat me for nothing,"

trilled the thin voice of the singer. Raskolnikov felt a great desire to make out what he was singing, as though everything depended on that.

"Shall I go in?" he thought. "They are laughing. From drink. Shall I get drunk?"

"Won't you come in?" one of the women asked him. Her voice was still musical and less thick than the others, she was young and not repulsive the only one of the group.

"Why, she's pretty," he said, drawing himself up and looking at her.

She smiled, much pleased at the compliment.

"You're very nice looking yourself," she said.

"Isn't he thin though!" observed another woman in a deep bass. "Have you just come out of a hospital?"

"They're all generals' daughters, it seems, but they have all snub noses," interposed a tipsy peasant with a sly smile on his face, wearing a loose coat. "See how jolly they are."

"Go along with you!"

"I'll go, sweetie!"

And he darted down into the saloon below. Raskolnikov moved on.

"I say, sir," the girl shouted after him.

"What is it?"

She hesitated.

"I'll always be pleased to spend an hour with you, kind gentleman, but now I feel shy. Give me six copecks for a drink, there's a nice young man!"

Raskolnikov gave her what came first fifteen copecks.

"Ah, what a good-natured gentleman!"

"What's your name?"

"Ask for Duclida."

"Well, that's too much," one of the women observed, shaking her head at Duclida. "I don't know how you can ask like that. I believe I should drop with shame."

Raskolnikov looked curiously at the speaker. She was a pock-marked wench of thirty, covered with bruises, with her upper lip swollen. She made her criticism quietly and earnestly. "Where is it," thought Raskolnikov. "Where is it I've read that some one condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he'd only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be! How true it is! Good God, how true! Man is a vile creature! And vile is he who calls him vile for that," he added a moment later.

He went into another street. "Bah, the Palais de Crystal! Razumihin was just talking of the Palais de Crystal. But what on earth was it I wanted? Yes, the newspapers. Zossimov said he'd read it in the papers. Have you the papers?" he asked, going into a very spacious and positively clean restaurant, consisting of several rooms, which were however rather empty. Two or three people were drinking tea, and in a room further away were sitting four men drinking champagne. Raskolnikov fancied that Zametov was one of them, but he could not be sure at that distance. "What if it is!" he thought.

"Will you have vodka?" asked the waiter.

"Give me some tea and bring me the papers, the old ones for the last five days and I'll give you something."

"Yes, sir, here's to-day's. No vodka?"

The old newspapers and the tea were brought. Raskolnikov sat down and began to look through them.

"Oh, damn these are the items of intelligence. An accident on a staircase, spontaneous combustion of a shopkeeper from alcohol, a fire in Peski a fire in the Petersburg quarter another fire in the Petersburg quarter and another fire in the Petersburg quarter Ah, here it is!" He found at last what he was seeking and began to read it. The lines danced before his eyes, but he read it all and began eagerly seeking later additions in the following numbers. His hands shook with nervous impatience as he turned the sheets. Suddenly some one sat down beside him at his table. He looked up, it was the head clerk Zametov, looking just the same, with the rings on his fingers and the watch-chain, with the curly, black hair, parted and pomaded, with the smart waistcoat, rather shabby coat and doubtful linen. He was in a good humour, at least he was smiling very gaily and good-humouredly. His dark face was rather flushed from the champagne he had drunk.

"What, you here?" he began in surprise, speaking as though he'd known him all his life. "Why, Razumihin told me only yesterday you were unconscious. How strange! And do you know I've been to see you?"

Raskolnikov knew he would come up to him. He laid aside the papers and turned to Zametov. There was a smile on his lips, and a new shade of irritable impatience was apparent in that smile.

"I know you have," he answered. "I've heard it. You looked for my sock. And you know Razumihin has lost his heart to you? He says you've been with him to Luise Ivanovna's, you know the woman you tried to befriend, for whom you winked to the Explosive Lieutenant and he would not understand. Do you remember? How could he fail to understand it was quite clear, wasn't it?"

"What a hot head he is!"

"The explosive one?"

"No, your friend Razumihin."

"You must have a jolly life, Mr. Zametov; entrance free to the most agreeable places. Who's been pouring champagne into you just now?"

"We've just been having a drink together. You talk about pouring it into me!"

"By way of a fee! You profit by everything!" Raskolnikov laughed, "it's all right, my dear boy," he added, slapping Zametov on the shoulder. "I am not speaking from temper, but in a friendly way, for sport, as that workman of yours said when he was scuffling with Dmitri, in the case of the old woman."

"How do you know about it?"

"Perhaps I know more about it than you do."

"How strange you are. I am sure you are still very unwell. You oughtn't to have come out."

"Oh, do I seem strange to you?"

"Yes. What are you doing, reading the papers?"

"Yes."

"There's a lot about the fires."

"No, I am not reading about the fires." Here he looked mysteriously at Zametov; his lips were twisted again in a mocking smile. "No, I am not reading about the fires," he went on, winking at Zametov. "But confess now, my dear fellow, you're awfully anxious to know what I am reading about?"

"I am not in the least. Mayn't I ask a question? Why do you keep on ?"

"Listen, you are a man of culture and education?"

"I was in the sixth class at the gymnasium," said Zametov with some dignity.

"Sixth class! Ah, my cocksparrow! With your parting and your rings you are a gentleman of fortune. Foo, what a charming boy!" Here Raskolnikov broke into a nervous laugh right in Zametov's face. The latter drew back, more amazed than offended.

"Foo, how strange you are!" Zametov repeated very seriously. "I can't help thinking you are still delirious."

"I am delirious? You are fibbing, my cocksparrow! So I am strange? You find me curious, do you?"

"Yes, curious."

"Shall I tell you what I was reading about, what I was looking for? See what a lot of papers I've made them bring me. Suspicious, eh?"

"Well, what is it?"

"You prick up your ears?"

"How do you mean prick up my ears?"

"I'll explain that afterwards, but now, my boy, I declare to you no, better 'I confess' No, that's not right either; 'I make a deposition and you take it.' I depose that I was reading, that I was looking and searching." he screwed up his eyes and paused. "I was searching and came here on purpose to do it for news of the murder of the old pawnbroker woman," he articulated at last, almost in a whisper, bringing his face exceedingly close to the face of Zametov. Zametov looked at him steadily, without moving or drawing his face away. What struck Zametov afterwards as the strangest part of it all was that silence followed for exactly a minute, and that they gazed at one another all the while.

"What if you have been reading about it?" he cried at last, perplexed and impatient. "That's no business of mine! What of it?"

"The same old woman," Raskolnikov went on in the same whisper, not heeding Zametov's explanation, "about whom you were talking in the police office, you remember, when I fainted. Well, do you understand now?"

"What do you mean? Understand what?" Zametov brought out, almost alarmed.

Raskolnikov's set and earnest face was suddenly transformed, and he suddenly went off into the same nervous laugh as before, as though utterly unable to restrain himself. And in one flash he recalled with extraordinary vividness of sensation a moment in the recent past, that moment when he stood with the axe behind the door, while the latch trembled and the men outside swore and shook it, and he had a sudden desire to shout at them, to swear at them, to put out his tongue at them, to mock them, to laugh, and laugh, and laugh!

"You are either mad, or" began Zametov, and he broke off, as though stunned by the idea that had suddenly flashed into his mind.

"Or? Or what? What? Come, tell me!"

"Nothing," said Zametov, getting angry, "it's all nonsense!"

Both were silent. After his sudden fit of laughter Raskolnikov became suddenly thoughtful and melancholy. He put his elbow on the table and leaned his head on his hand. He seemed to have completely forgotten Zametov. The silence lasted for some time.

"Why don't you drink your tea? It's getting cold," said Zametov.

"What! Tea? Oh, yes" Raskolnikov sipped the glass, put a morsel of bread in his mouth and, suddenly looking at Zametov, seemed to remember everything and pulled himself together. At the same moment his face resumed its original mocking expression. He went on drinking tea.

"There have been a great many of these crimes lately," said Zametov. "Only the other day I read in the Moscow News that a whole gang of false coiners had been caught in Moscow. It was a regular society. They used to forge tickets!"

"Oh, but it was a long time ago! I read about it a month ago," Raskolnikov answered calmly. "So you consider them criminals?" he added smiling.

"Of course they are criminals."

"They? They are children, simpletons, not criminals! Why, half a hundred people meeting for such an object what an idea! Three would be too many, and then they want to have more faith in one other than in themselves! One has only to blab in his cups and it all collapses. Simpletons! They engaged untrustworthy people to change the notes what a thing to trust to a casual stranger! Well, let us suppose that these simpletons succeed and each makes a million, and what follows for the rest of their lives? Each is dependent on the others for the rest of his life! Better hang oneself at once! And they did not know how to change the notes either; the man who changed the notes took five thousand roubles, and his hands trembled. He counted the first four thousand, but did not count the fifth thousand he was in such a hurry to get the money into his pocket and run away. Of course he roused suspicion. And the whole thing came to a crash through one fool! Is it possible?"

"That his hands trembled?" observed Zametov, "yes, that's quite possible. That I feel quite sure is possible. Sometimes one can't stand things."

"Can't stand that?"

"Why, could you stand it then? No, I couldn't. For the sake of a hundred roubles to face such a terrible experience! To go with false notes into a bank where it's their business to spot that sort of thing! No, I should not have the face to do it. Would you?"

Raskolnikov had an intense desire again "to put his tongue out." Shivers kept running down his spine.

"I should do it quite differently," Raskolnikov began. "This is how I would change the notes: I'd count the first thousand three or four times backwards and forwards, look at every note and then I'd set to the second thousand; I'd count that half way through and then hold some fifty rouble note to the light, then turn it, then hold it to the light again to see whether it was a good one? 'I am afraid,' I would say. 'A relation of mine lost twenty-five roubles the other day through a false note,' and then I'd tell them the whole story. And after I began counting the third, 'no, excuse me,' I would say, 'I fancy I made a mistake in the seventh hundred in that second thousand, I am not sure.' And so I would give up the third thousand and go back to the second and so on to the end. And when I had finished, I'd pick out one from the fifth and one from the second thousand and take them again to the light and ask again 'change them, please,' and put the clerk into such a stew that he would not know how to get rid of me. When I'd finished and had gone out, I'd come back, 'No, excuse me,' and ask for some explanation. That's how I'd do it."

"Foo, what terrible things you say!" said Zametov, laughing. "But all that is only talk. I dare say when it came to deeds you'd make a slip. I believe that even a practised, desperate man cannot always reckon on himself, much less you and I. To take an example near home that old woman murdered in our district. The murderer seems to have been a desperate fellow, he risked everything in open daylight, was saved by a miracle but his hands shook, too. He did not succeed in robbing the place, he' couldn't stand it. That was clear from the"

Title: Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Viewed 96137 times

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