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Fyodor Dostoevsky >> Crime and Punishment (page 27)


"You wouldn't believe, you can't imagine, Polenka," she said, walking about the room, "what a happy luxurious life we had in my papa's house and how this drunkard has brought me, and will bring you all, to ruin! Papa was a civil colonel and only a step from being a governor; so that every one who came to see him said, 'We look upon you, Ivan Mihailovitch, as our governor!' When I when" she coughed violently, "oh, cursed life," she cried, clearing her throat and pressing her hands to her breast, "when I when at the last ball at the marshal's Princess Bezzemelny saw me who gave me the blessing when your father and I were married, Polenka she asked at once 'Isn't that the pretty girl who donced the shawl dance at the breaking up?' (You must mend that tear, you must take your needle and darn it as I showed you, or to-morrow cough, cough, cough he will make the hole bigger," she articulated with effort.) "Prince Schegolskoy, a kammerjunker, had just come from Petersburg then he danced the mazurka with me and wanted to make me an offer next day; but I thanked him in flattering expressions and told him that my heart had long been another's. That other was your father, Polya; papa was fearfully angry. Is the water ready? Give me the shirt, and the stockings! Lida," said she to the youngest one, "you must manage without your chemise to-night and lay your stockings out with it I'll wash them together. How is it that drunken vagabond doesn't come in? He has worn his shirt till it looks like a dishclout, he has torn it to rags! I'd do it all together, so as not to have to work two nights running! Oh, dear! (Cough, cough, cough, cough!) Again! What's this?" she cried, noticing a crowd in the passage and the men who were pushing into her room, carrying a burden. "What is it? What are they bringing? Mercy on us!"

"Where are we to put him?" asked the policeman, looking round when Marmeladov, unconscious and covered with blood, had been carried in.

"On the sofa! Put him straight on the sofa, with his head this way," Raskolnikov showed him.

"Run over in the road! Drunk!" some one shouted in the passage.

Katerina Ivanovna stood, turning white and gasping for breath. The children were terrified. Little Lida screamed, rushed to Polenka and clutched at her, trembling all over.

Having laid Marmeladov down, Raskolnikov flew to Katerina Ivanovna.

"For God's sake be calm, don't be frightened!" he said, speaking quickly, "he was crossing the road and was run over by a carriage, don't be frightened, he will come to, I told them bring him here I've been here already, you remember? He will come to; I'll pay!"

"He's done it this time!" Katerina Ivanovna cried despairingly and she rushed to her husband.

Raskolnikov noticed at once that she was not one of those women who swoon easily. She instantly placed under the luckless man's head a pillow, which no one had thought of and began undressing and examining him. She kept her head, forgetting herself, biting her trembling lips and stifling the screams which were ready to break from her.

Raskolnikov meanwhile induced some one to run for a doctor. There was a doctor, it appeared, next door but one.

"I've sent for a doctor," he kept assuring Katerina Ivanovna, "don't be uneasy, I'll pay. Haven't you water? and give me a napkin or a towel, anything, as quick as you can. He is injured, but not killed, believe me. We shall see what the doctor says!"

Katerina Ivanovna ran to the window; there, on a broken chair in the corner, a large earthenware basin full of water had been stood, in readiness for washing her children's and husband's linen that night. This washing was done by Katerina Ivanovna at night at least twice a week, if not oftener. For the family had come to such a pass that they were practically without change of linen, and Katerina Ivanovna could not endure uncleanliness and, rather than see dirt in the house, she preferred to wear herself out at night, working beyond her strength when the rest were asleep, so as to get the wet linen hung on a line and dry by the morning. She took up the basin of water at Raskolnikov's request, but almost fell down with her burden. But the latter had already succeeded in finding a towel, wetted it and begun washing the blood off Marmeladov's face.

Katerina Ivanovna stood by, breathing painfully and pressing her hands to her breast. She was in need of attention herself. Raskolnikov began to realise that he might have made a mistake in having the injured man brought here. The policeman, too, stood in hesitation.

"Polenka," cried Katerina Ivanovna, "run to Sonia, make haste. If you don't find her at home, leave word that her father has been run over and that she is to come here at once when she comes in. Run, Polenka! there, put on the shawl."

"Run your fastest!" cried the little boy on the chair suddenly, after which he relapsed into the same dumb rigidity, with round eyes, his heels thrust forward and his toes spread out.

Meanwhile the room had become so full of people that you couldn't have dropped a pin. The policemen left, all except one, who remained for a time, trying to drive out the people who came in from the stairs. Almost all Madame Lippevechsel's lodgers had streamed in from the inner rooms of the flat; at first they were squeezed together in the doorway, but afterwards they overflowed into the room. Katerina Ivanovna flew into a fury.

"You might let him die in peace, at least," she shouted at the crowd, "is it a spectacle for you to gape at? With cigarettes! (Cough, cough, cough!) You might as well keep your hats on. And there is one in his hat! Get away! You should respect the dead, at least!"

Her cough choked her but her reproaches were not without result. They evidently stood in some awe of Katerina Ivanovna. The lodgers, one after another, squeezed back into the doorway with that strange inner feeling of satisfaction which may be observed in the presence of a sudden accident, even in those nearest and dearest to the victim, from which no living man is exempt, even in spite of the sincerest sympathy and compassion.

Voices outside were heard, however, speaking of the hospital and saying that they'd no business to make a disturbance here.

"No business to die!" cried Katerina Ivanovna, and she was rushing to the door to vent her wrath upon them, but in the doorway came face to face with Madame Lippevechsel who had only just heard of the accident and ran in to restore order. She was a particularly quarrelsome and irresponsible German.

"Ah, my God!" she cried, clasping her hands, "your husband drunken horses have trampled! To the hospital with him! I am the landlady!"

"Amalia Ludwigovna, I beg you to recollect what you are saying," Katerina Ivanovna began haughtily (she always took a haughty tone with the landlady that she might "remember her place" and even now could not deny herself this satisfaction). "Amalia Ludwigovna"

"I have you once before told that you to call me Amalia Ludwigovna may not dare; I am Amalia Ivanovna."

"You are not Amalia Ivanovna, but Amalia Ludwigovna, and as I am not one of your despicable flatterers like Mr. Lebeziatnikov, who's laughing behind the door at this moment (a laugh and a cry of 'they are at it again' was in fact audible at the door) so I shall always call you Amalia Ludwigovna, though I fail to understand why you dislike that name. You can see for yourself what has happened to Semyon Zaharovitch; he is dying. I beg you to close that door at once and to admit no one. Let him at least die in peace! Or I warn you the Governor-General, himself, shall be informed of your conduct to-morrow. The prince knew me as a girl; he remembers Semyon Zaharovitch well and has often been a benefactor to him. Every one knows that Semyon Zaharovitch had many friends and protectors, whom he abandoned himself from an honourable pride, knowing his unhappy weakness, but now (she pointed to Raskolnikov) a generous young man has come to our assistance, who has wealth and connections and whom Semyon Zaharovitch has known from a child. You may rest assured, Amalia Ludwigovna"

All this was uttered with extreme rapidity, getting quicker and quicker, but a cough suddenly cut short Katerina Ivanovna's eloquence. At that instant the dying man recovered consciousness and uttered a groan; she ran to him. The injured man opened his eyes and without recognition or understanding gazed at Raskolnikov who was bending over him. He drew deep, slow, painful breaths; blood oozed at the corners of his mouth and drops of perspiration came out on his forehead. Not recognising Raskolnikov, he began looking round uneasily. Katerina Ivanovna looked at him with a sad but stern face, and tears trickled from her eyes.

"My God! His whole chest is crushed! How he is bleeding," she said in despair. "We must take off his clothes. Turn a little, Semyon Zaharovitch, if you can," she cried to him.

Marmeladov recognised her.

"A priest," he articulated huskily.

Katerina Ivanovna walked to the window, laid her head against the window frame and exclaimed in despair:

"Oh, cursed life!"

"A priest," the dying man said again after a moment's silence.

"They've gone for him," Katerina Ivanovna shouted to him, he obeyed her shout and was silent. With sad and timid eyes he looked for her; she returned and stood by his pillow. He seemed a little easier but not for long.

Soon his eyes rested on little Lida, his favourite, who was shaking in the corner, as though she were in a fit, and staring at him with her wondering childish eyes.

"A-ah," he signed towards her uneasily. He wanted to say something.

"What now?" cried Katerina Ivanovna.

"Barefoot, barefoot!" he muttered, indicating with frenzied eyes the child's bare feet.

"Be silent," Katerina Ivanovna cried irritably, "you know why she is barefooted."

"Thank God, the doctor," exclaimed Raskolnikov, relieved.

The doctor came in, a precise little old man, a German, looking about him mistrustfully; he went up to the sick man, took his pulse, carefully felt his head and with the help of Katerina Ivanovna he unbuttoned the blood-stained shirt, and bared the injured man's chest. It was gashed, crushed and fractured, several ribs on the right side were broken. On the left side, just over the heart, was a large, sinister-looking yellowish-black bruise a cruel kick from the horse's hoof. The doctor frowned. The policeman told him that he was caught in the wheel and turned round with it for thirty yards on the road.

"It's wonderful that he has recovered consciousness," the doctor whispered softly to Raskolnikov.

"What do you think of him?" he asked.

"He will die immediately."

"Is there really no hope?"

"Not the faintest! He is at the last gasp. His head is badly injured, too Him I could bleed him if you like, but it would be useless. He is bound to die within the next five or ten minutes."

"Better bleed him then."

"If you like. But I warn you it will be perfectly useless."

At that moment other steps were heard; the crowd in the passage parted, and the priest, a little, grey old man, appeared in the doorway bearing the sacrament. A policeman had gone for him at the time of the accident. The doctor changed places with him, exchanging glances with him. Raskolnikov begged the doctor to remain a little while. He shrugged his shoulders and remained.

All stepped back. The confession was soon over. The dying man probably understood little; he could only utter indistinct broken sounds. Katerina Ivanovna took little Lida, lifted the boy from the chair, knelt down in the corner by the stove and made the children kneel in front of her. The little girl was still trembling; but the boy, kneeling on his little bare knees, lifted his hand rhythmically, crossing himself with precision and bowed down, touching the floor with his forehead, which seemed to afford him especial satisfaction. Katerina Ivanovna bit her lips and held back her tears; she prayed, too, now and then pulling straight the boy's shirt, and managed to cover the girl's bare shoulders with a kerchief, which she took from the chest without rising from her knees or ceasing to pray. Meanwhile the door from the inner rooms was opened inquisitively again. In the passage the crowd of spectators from all the flats on the staircase grew denser and denser, but they did not venture beyond the threshold. A single candle-end lighted up the scene.

At that moment Polenka forced her way through the crowd at the door. She came in panting from running so fast, took off her kerchief, looked for her mother, went up to her and said, "She's coming, I met her in the street." Her mother made her kneel beside her.

Timidly and noiselessly a young girl made her way through the crowd, and strange was her appearance in that room, in the midst of want, rags, death and despair. She, too, was in rags, her attire was all of the cheapest, but decked out in gutter finery of a special stamp, unmistakably betraying its shameful purpose. Sonia stopped short in the doorway and looked about her bewildered, unconscious of everything. She forgot her fourth-hand, gaudy silk dress, so unseemly here with its ridiculous long train, and her immense crinoline that filled up the whole doorway, and her light-coloured shoes, and the parasol she brought with her, though it was no use at night, and the absurd round straw hat with its flaring flame-coloured feather. Under this rakishly-tilted hat was a pale, frightened little face with lips parted and eyes staring in terror. Sonia was a small thin girl of eighteen with fair hair, rather pretty, with wonderful blue eyes. She looked intently at the bed and the priest; she too was out of breath with running. At last whispers, some words in the crowd probably, reached her. She looked down and took a step forward into the room, still keeping close to the door.

Title: Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
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