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Fyodor Dostoevsky >> Crime and Punishment (page 28)


The service was over. Katerina Ivanovna went up to her husband again. The priest stepped back and turned to say a few words of admonition and consolation to Katerina Ivanovna on leaving.

"What am I to do with these?" she interrupted sharply and irritably, pointing to the little ones.

"God is merciful; look to the Most High for succour," the priest began.

"Ach! He is merciful, but not to us."

"That's a sin, a sin, madam," observed the priest, shaking his head.

"And isn't that a sin?" cried Katerina Ivanovna, pointing to the dying man.

"Perhaps those who have involuntarily caused the accident will agree to compensate you, at least for the loss of his earnings."

"You don't understand!" cried Katerina Ivanovna angrily waving her hand. "And why should they compensate me? Why, he was drunk and threw himself under the horses! What earnings? He brought us in nothing but misery. He drank everything away, the drunkard! He robbed us to get drink, he wasted their lives and mine for drink! And thank God he's dying! One less to keep!"

"You must forgive in the hour of death, that's a sin, madam, such feelings are a great sin."

Katerina Ivanovna was busy with the dying man; she was giving him water, wiping the blood and sweat from his head, setting his pillow straight, and had only turned now and then for a moment to address the priest. Now she flew at him almost in a frenzy.

"Ah, father! That's words and only words! Forgive! If he'd not been run over, he'd have come home to-day drunk and his only shirt dirty and in rags and he'd have fallen asleep like a log, and I should have been sousing and rinsing till daybreak, washing his rags and the children's and then drying them by the window and as soon as it was daylight I should have been darning them. That's how I spend my nights! What's the use of talking of forgiveness! I have forgiven as it is!"

A terrible hollow cough interrupted her words. She put her handkerchief to her lips and showed it to the priest, pressing her other hand to her aching chest. The handkerchief was covered with blood. The priest bowed his head and said nothing.

Marmeladov was in the last agony; he did not take his eyes off the face of Katerina Ivanovna, who was bending over him again. He kept trying to say something to her; he began moving his tongue with difficulty and articulating indistinctly, but Katerina Ivanovna, understanding that he wanted to ask her forgiveness, called peremptorily to him:

"Be silent! No need! I know what you want to say!" And the sick man was silent, but at the same instant his wandering eyes strayed to the doorway and he saw Sonia.

Till then he had not noticed her: she was standing in the shadow in a corner.

"Who's that? Who's that?" he said suddenly in a thick gasping voice, in agitation, turning his eyes in horror towards the door where his daughter was standing, and trying to sit up.

"Lie down! Lie do-own!" cried Katerina Ivanovna.

With unnatural strength he had succeeded in propping himself on his elbow. He looked wildly and fixedly for some time on his daughter, as though not recognising her. He had never seen her before in such attire. Suddenly he recognised her, crushed and ashamed in her humiliation and gaudy finery, meekly awaiting her turn to say good-bye to her dying father. His face showed intense suffering.

"Sonia! Daughter! Forgive!" he cried, and he tried to hold out his hand to her, but losing his balance, he fell off the sofa, face downwards on the floor. They rushed to pick him up, they put him on the sofa; but he was dying. Sonia with a faint cry ran up, embraced him and remained so without moving. He died in her arms.

"He's got what he wanted," Katerina Ivanovna cried, seeing her husband's dead body. "Well, what's to be done now? How am I to bury him! What can I give them to-morrow to eat?"

Raskolnikov went up to Katerina Ivanovna.

"Katerina Ivanovna," he began, "last week your husband told me all his life and circumstances. Believe me, he spoke of you with passionate reverence. From that evening, when I learnt how devoted he was to you all and how he loved and respected you especially, Katerina Ivanovna, in spite of his unfortunate weakness, from that evening we became friends. Allow me now to do something to repay my debt to my dead friend. Here are twenty roubles I think and if that can be of any assistance to you, then I in short, I will come again, I will be sure to come again I shall, perhaps, come again to-morrow. Good-bye!"

And he went quickly out of the room, squeezing his way through the crowd to the stairs. But in the crowd he suddenly jostled against Nikodim Fomitch, who had heard of the accident and had come to give instructions in person. They had not met since the scene at the police station, but Nikodim Fomitch knew him instantly.

"Ah, is that you?" he asked him.

"He's dead," answered Raskolnikov. "The doctor and the priest have been, all as it should have been. Don't worry the poor woman too much, she is in consumption as it is. Try and cheer her up, if possible you are a kind-hearted man, I know" he added with a smile, looking straight in his face.

"But you are spattered with blood," observed Nikodim Fomitch, noticing in the lamplight some fresh stains on Raskolnikov's waistcoat.

"Yes I'm covered with blood," Raskolnikov said with a peculiar air; then he smiled, nodded and went downstairs.

He walked down slowly and deliberately, feverish but not conscious of it, entirely absorbed in a new overwhelming sensation of life and strength that surged up suddenly within him. This sensation might be compared to that of a man condemned to death who has suddenly been pardoned. Halfway down the staircase he was overtaken by the priest on his way home; Raskolnikov let him pass, exchanging a silent greeting with him. He was just descending the last steps when he heard rapid footsteps behind him. Some one overtook him; it was Polenka. She was running after him, calling "Wait! wait!"

He turned round. She was at the bottom of the staircase and stopped short a step above him. A dim light came in from the yard. Raskolnikov could distinguish the child's thin but pretty little face, looking at him with a bright childish smile. She had run after him with a message which she was evidently glad to give.

"Tell me, what is your name? and where do you live?" she said hurriedly in a breathless voice.

He laid both hands on her shoulders and looked at her with a sort of rapture. It was such a joy to him to look at her, he could not have said why.

"Who sent you?"

"Sister Sonia sent me," answered the girl, smiling still more brightly.

"I knew it was sister Sonia sent you."

"Mamma sent me, too when sister Sonia was sending me, mamma came up, too, and said 'Run fast, Polenka.'"

"Do you love sister Sonia?"

"I love her more than any one," Polenka answered with a peculiar earnestness, and her smile became graver.

"And will you love me?"

By way of answer he saw the little girl's face approaching him, her full lips naively held out to kiss him. Suddenly her arms as thin as sticks held him tightly, her head rested on his shoulder and the little girl wept softly, pressing her face against him.

"I am sorry for father," she said a moment later, raising her tear-stained face and brushing away the tears with her hands. "It's nothing but misfortunes now," she added suddenly with that peculiarly sedate air which children try hard to assume when they want to speak like grown-up people.

"Did your father love you?"

"He loved Lida most," she went on very seriously without a smile, exactly like grown-up people, "he loved her because she is little and because she is ill, too. And he always used to bring her presents. But he taught us to read and me grammar and scripture, too," she added with dignity. "And mother never used to say anything, but we knew that she liked it and father knew it, too. And mother wants to teach me French, for it's time my education began."

"And do you know your prayers?"

"Of course, we do! We knew them long ago. I say my prayers to myself as I am a big girl now, but Kolya and Lida say them aloud with mother. First they repeat the 'Ave Maria' and then another prayer: 'Lord, forgive and bless Sister Sonia,' and then another, 'Lord, forgive and bless our second father.' For our elder father is dead and this is another one, but we do pray for the other as well."

"Polenka, my name is Rodion. Pray sometimes for me, too. 'And Thy servant Rodion,' nothing more."

"I'll pray for you all the rest of my life," the little girl declared hotly, and suddenly smiling again she rushed at him and hugged him warmly once more.

Raskolnikov told her his name and address and promised to be sure to come next day. The child went away quite enchanted with him. It was past ten when he came out into the street. In five minutes he was standing on the bridge at the spot where the woman had jumped in.

"Enough," he pronounced resolutely and triumphantly. "I've done with fancies, imaginary terrors and phantoms! Life is real! haven't I lived just now? My life has not yet died with that old woman! The Kingdom of Heaven to her and now enough, madam, leave me in peace! Now for the reign of reason and light and of will, and of strength and now we will see! We will try our strength!" he added defiantly, as though challenging some power of darkness. "And I was ready to consent to live in a square of space!

"I am very weak at this moment, but I believe my illness is all over. I knew it would be over when I went out. By the way, Potchinkov's house is only a few steps away. I certainly must go to Razumihin even if it were not close by let him win his bet! Let us give him some satisfaction, too no matter! Strength, strength is what one wants, you can get nothing without it, and strength must be won by strength that's what they don't know," he added proudly and self-confidently and he walked with flagging footsteps from the bridge. Pride and self-confidence grew continually stronger in him; he was becoming a different man every moment. What was it had happened to work this revolution in him? He did not know himself; like a man catching at a straw, he suddenly felt that he, too, 'could live, that there was still life for him, that his life had not died with the old woman.' Perhaps he was in too great a hurry with his conclusion, but he did not think of that.

"But I did ask her to remember 'Thy servant Rodion' in her prayers," the idea struck him. "Well, that was in case of emergency," he added and laughed himself at his boyish sally. He was in the best of spirits.

He easily found Razumihin; the new lodger was already known at Potchinkov's and the porter at once showed him the way. Half-way upstairs he could hear the noise and animated conversation of a big gathering of people. The door was wide open on the stairs; he could hear exclamations and discussion. Razumihin's room was fairly large; the company consisted of fifteen people. Raskolnikov stopped in the entry, where two of the landlady's servants were busy behind a screen with two samovars, bottles, plates and dishes of pie and savouries, brought up from the landlady's kitchen. Raskolnikov sent in for Razumihin. He ran out delighted. At the first glance it was apparent that he had had a great deal to drink and, though no amount of liquor made Razumihin quite drunk, this time he was perceptibly affected by it.

"Listen," Raskolnikov hastened to say, "I've only just come to tell you you've won your bet and that no one really knows what may not happen to him. I can't come in; I am so weak that I shall fall down directly. And so good evening and good-bye! Come and see me to-morrow."

"Do you know what? I'll see you home. If you say you're weak yourself, you must"

"And your visitors? Who is the curly-headed one who has just peeped out?"

"He? Goodness only knows! Some friend of uncle's I expect, or perhaps he has come without being invited I'll leave uncle with them, he is an invaluable person, pity I can't introduce you to him now. But confound them all now! They won't notice me, and I need a little fresh air, for you've come just in the nick of time another two minutes and I should have come to blows! They are talking such a lot of wild stuff you simply can't imagine what men will say! Though why shouldn't you imagine? Don't we talk nonsense ourselves? And let them that's the way to learn not to! Wait a minute, I'll fetch Zossimov."

Zossimov pounced upon Raskolnikov almost greedily; he showed a special interest in him; soon his face brightened.

"You must go to bed at once," he pronounced, examining the patient as far as he could, "and take something for the night. Will you take it? I got it ready some time ago a powder."

"Two, if you like," answered Raskolnikov. The powder was taken at once.

"It's a good thing you are taking him home," observed Zossimov to Razumihin "we shall see how he is to-morrow, to-day he's not at all amiss a considerable change since the afternoon. Live and learn"

"Do you know what Zossimov whispered to me when we were coming out?" Razumihin blurted out, as soon as they were in the street. "I won't tell you everything, brother, because they are such fools. Zossimov told me to talk freely to you on the way and get you to talk freely to me, and afterwards I am to tell him about it, for he's got a notion in his head that you are mad or close on it. Only fancy! In the first place, you've three times the brains he has; in the second, if you are not mad, you needn't care a hang that he has got such a wild idea; and thirdly, that piece of beef whose specialty is surgery has gone mad on mental diseases, and what's brought him to this conclusion about you was your conversation to-day with Zametov."

Title: Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
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