Porfiry Petrovitch took breath a moment. He had simply babbled on uttering empty
phrases, letting slip a few enigmatic words and again reverting to incoherence.
He was almost running about the room, moving his fat little legs quicker and quicker,
looking at the ground, with his right hand behind his back, while with his left
making gesticulations that were extraordinarily incongruous with his words. Raskolnikov
suddenly noticed that as he ran about the room he seemed twice to stop for a moment
near the door, as though he were listening.
"Is he expecting anything?"
"You are certainly quite right about it," Porfiry began gaily, looking with extraordinary
simplicity at Raskolnikov (which startled him and instantly put him on his guard),
"certainly quite right in laughing so wittily at our legal forms, he-he! Some of
these elaborate psychological methods are exceedingly ridiculous and perhaps useless,
if one adheres too closely to the forms. Yes… I am talking of forms again. Well,
if I recognise, or more strictly speaking, if I suspect some one or other to be
a criminal in any case entrusted to me… you're reading for the law, of course, Rodion
"Yes, I was…"
"Well, then it is a precedent for you for the future– though don't suppose I
should venture to instruct you after the articles you publish about crime! No, I
simply make bold to state it by way of fact, if I took this man or that for a criminal,
why, I ask, should I worry him prematurely, even though I had evidence against him?
In one case I may be bound, for instance, to arrest a man at once, but another may
be in quite a different position, you know, so why shouldn't I let him walk about
the town a bit, he-he-he! But I see you don't quite understand, so I'll give you
a clearer example. If I put him in prison too soon, I may very likely give him,
so to speak, moral support, he-he! You're laughing?"
Raskolnikov had no idea of laughing. He was sitting with compressed lips, his
feverish eyes fixed on Porfiry Petrovitch's.
"Yes that is the case, with some types especially, for men are so different.
You say evidence. Well, there may be evidence. But evidence, you know, can generally
be taken two ways. I am an examining lawyer and a weak man, I confess it. I should
like to make a proof, so to say, mathematically clear, I should like to make a chain
of evidence such as twice two are four, it ought to be a direct, irrefutable proof!
And if I shut him up too soon– even though I might be convinced he was the man,
I should very likely be depriving myself of the means of getting further evidence
against him. And how? By giving him, so to speak, a definite position, I shall put
him out of suspense and set his mind at rest, so that he will retreat into his shell.
They say that at Sevastopol, soon after Alma, the clever people were in a terrible
fright that the enemy would attack openly and take Sevastopol at once. But when
they saw that the enemy preferred a regular siege, they were delighted, I am told
and reassured, for the thing would drag on for two months at least. You're laughing,
you don't believe me again? Of course, you're right, too. You're right, you're right.
These are an special cases, I admit. But you must observe this, my dear Rodion Romanovitch,
the general case, the case for which all legal forms and rules are intended, for
which they are calculated and laid down in books, does not exist at all, for the
reason that every case, every crime for instance, so soon as it actually occurs,
at once becomes a thoroughly special case and sometimes a case unlike any that's
gone before. Very comic cases of that sort sometimes occur. If I leave one man quite
alone, if I don't touch him and don't worry him, but let him know or at least suspect
every moment that I know all about it and am watching him day and night, and if
he is in continual suspicion and terror, he'll be bound to lose his head. He'll
come of himself, or maybe do something which will make it as plain as twice two
are four– it's delightful. It may be so with a simple peasant, but with one of our
sort, an intelligent man cultivated on a certain side, it's a dead certainty. For,
my dear fellow, it's a very important matter to know on what side a man is cultivated.
And then there are nerves, there are nerves, you have overlooked them! Why, they
are all sick, nervous and irritable!… And then how they all suffer from spleen!
That I assure you is a regular gold mine for us. And it's no anxiety to me, his
running about the town free! Let him, let him walk about for a bit! I know well
enough that I've caught him and that he won't escape me. Where could he escape to,
he-he? Abroad, perhaps? A Pole will escape abroad, but not here, especially as I
am watching and have taken measures. Will he escape into the depths of the country
perhaps? But you know, peasants live there, real rude Russian peasants. A modern
cultivated man would prefer prison to living with such strangers as our peasants.
He-he! But that's all nonsense, and on the surface. It's not merely that he has
nowhere to run to, he is psychologically unable to escape me, he-he! What an expression!
Through a law of nature he can't escape me if he had anywhere to go. Have you seen
a butterfly round a candle? That's how he will keep circling and circling round
me. Freedom will lose its attractions. He'll begin to brood, hell weave a tangle
round himself, he'll worry himself to death! What's more he will provide me with
a mathematical proof– if I only give him long enough interval…. And he'll keep circling
round me, getting nearer and nearer and then– flop! He'll fly straight into my mouth
and I'll swallow him, and that will be very amusing, he-he-he! You don't believe
Raskolnikov made no reply; he sat pale and motionless, still gazing with the
same intensity into Porfiry's face.
"It's a lesson," he thought, turning cold. "This is beyond the cat playing with
a mouse, like yesterday. He can't be showing off his power with no motive… prompting
me; he is far too clever for that… he must have another object. What is it? It's
all nonsense, my friend, you are pretending, to scare me! You've no proofs and the
man I saw had no real existence. You simply want to make me lose my head, to work
me up beforehand and so to crush me. But you are wrong, you won't do it! But why
give me such a hint? Is he reckoning on my shattered nerves? No, my friend, you
are wrong, you won't do it even though you have some trap for me… let us see what
you have in store for me."
And he braced himself to face a terrible and unknown ordeal. At times he longed
to fall on Porfiry and strangle him. This anger was what he dreaded from the beginning.
He felt that his parched lips were flecked with foam, his heart was throbbing. But
he was still determined not to speak till the right moment. He realised that this
was the best policy in his position, because instead of saying too much he would
be irritating his enemy by his silence and provoking him into speaking too freely.
Anyhow, this was what he hoped for.
"No, I see you don't believe me, you think I am playing a harmless joke on you,"
Porfiry began again, getting more and more lively, chuckling at every instant and
again pacing round the room. "And, to be sure, you're right: God has given me a
figure that can awaken none but comic ideas in other people; a buffoon; but let
me tell you and I repeat it, excuse an old man, my dear Rodion Romanovitch, you
are a man still young, so to say, in your first youth and so you put intellect above
everything, like all young people. Playful wit and abstract arguments fascinate
you and that's for all the world like the old Austrian Hofkriegsrath, as far as
I can judge of military matters that is: on paper they'd beaten Napoleon and taken
him prisoner, and there in their study they worked it all out in the cleverest fashion,
but look you, General Mack surrendered with all his army, he-he-he! I see, I see,
Rodion Romanovitch, you are laughing at a civilian like me, taking examples out
of military history! But I can't help it, it's my weakness. I am fond of military
science. And I'm ever so fond of reading all military histories. I've certainly
missed my proper career. I ought to have been in the army, upon my word I ought.
I shouldn't have been a Napoleon, but I might have been a major, he-he-he! Well,
I'll tell you the whole truth, my dear fellow, about this special case, I mean:
actual fact and a man's temperament, my dear sir, are weighty matters and it's astonishing
how they sometimes deceive the sharpest calculation! I– listen to an old man– am
speaking seriously, Rodion Romanovitch (as he said this Porfiry Petrovitch who was
scarcely five and thirty actually seemed to have grown old; even his voice changed
and he seemed to shrink together) moreover, I'm a candid man… am I a candid man
or not? What do you say? I fancy I really am: I tell you these things for nothing
and don't even expect a reward for it, he-he! Well, to proceed, wit in my opinion
is a splendid thing, it is, so to say, an adornment of nature and a consolation
of life, and what tricks it can play! So that it sometimes is hard for a poor examining
lawyer to know where he is, especially when he's liable to be carried away by his
own fancy, too, for you know he is a man after all. But the poor fellow is saved
by the criminal's temperament, worse luck for him! But young people carried away
by their own wit don't think of that 'when they overstep all obstacles' as you wittily
and cleverly expressed it yesterday. He will lie– that is, the man who is a special
case, the incognito, and he will lie well, in the cleverest fashion; you might think
he would triumph and enjoy the fruits of his wit, but at the most interesting, the
most flagrant moment he will faint. Of course there may be illness and a stuffy
room as well, but anyway! Anyway he's given us the idea! He lied incomparably, but
he didn't reckon on his temperament. That's what betrays him! Another time he will
be carried away by his playful wit into making fun of the man who suspects him,
he will turn pale as it were on purpose to mislead, but his paleness will be too
natural, too much like the real thing, again he has given us an idea! Though his
questioner may be deceived at first, he will think differently next day if he is
not a fool, and, of course, it is like that at every step! He puts himself forward
where he is not wanted, speaks continually when he ought to keep silent, brings
in all sorts of allegorical allusions, he-he! Comes and asks why didn't you take
me long ago, he-he-he! And that can happen, you know, with the cleverest man, the
psychologist, the literary man. The temperament reflects everything like a mirror!
Gaze into it and admire what you see! But why are you so pale, Rodion Romanovitch?
Is the room stuffy? Shall I open the window?"
"Oh, don't trouble, please," cried Raskolnikov and he suddenly broke into a laugh.
"Please don't trouble."
Porfiry stood facing him, paused a moment and suddenly he too laughed. Raskolnikov
got up from the sofa, abruptly checking his hysterical laughter.
"Porfiry Petrovitch," he began, speaking loudly and distinctly, though his legs
trembled and he could scarcely stand. "I see clearly at last that you actually suspect
me of murdering that old woman and her sister Lizaveta. Let me tell you for my part
that I am sick of this. If you find that you have a right to prosecute me legally,
to arrest me, then prosecute me, arrest me. But I will not let myself be jeered
at to my face and worried…"
His lips trembled, his eyes glowed with fury and he could not restrain his voice.
"I won't allow it!" he shouted, bringing his fist down on the table. "Do you
hear that, Porfiry Petrovitch? I won't allow it."
"Good heavens! What does it mean?" cried Porfiry Petrovitch, apparently quite
frightened. "Rodion Romanovitch, my dear fellow, what is the matter with you?"
"I won't allow it," Raskolnikov shouted again.
"Hush, my dear man! They'll hear and come in. Just think, what could we say to
them?" Porfiry Petrovitch whispered in horror, bringing his face close to Raskolnikov's.
"I won't allow it, I won't allow it," Raskolnikov repeated mechanically, but
he too spoke in a sudden whisper.
Porfiry turned quickly and ran to open the window.
"Some fresh air! And you must have some water, my dear fellow. You're ill!" and
he was running to the door to call for some when he found a decanter of water in
the corner. "Come, drink a little," he whispered, rushing up to him with the decanter.
"It will be sure to do you good."
Porfiry Petrovitch's alarm and sympathy were so natural that Raskolnikov was
silent and began looking at him with wild curiosity. He did not take the water,
"Rodion Romanovitch, my dear fellow, you'll drive yourself out of your mind,
I assure you, ach, ach! Have some water, do drink a little."
He forced him to take the glass. Raskolnikov raised it mechanically to his lips,
but set it on the table again with disgust.
"Yes, you've had a little attack! You'll bring back your illness again, my dear
fellow," Porfiry Petrovitch cackled with friendly sympathy, though he still looked
rather disconcerted. "Good heavens, you must take more care of yourself! Dmitri
Prokofitch was here, came to see me yesterday– I know, I know, I've a nasty, ironical
temper, but what they made of it!… Good heavens, he came yesterday after you'd been.
We dined and he talked and talked away, and I could only throw up my hands in despair!
Did he come from you? But do sit down, for mercy's sake, sit down!"
"No, not from me, but I knew he went to you and why he went," Raskolnikov answered
"I knew. What of it?"
"Why this, Rodion Romanovitch, that I know more than that about you; I know about
everything. I know how you went to take a flat at night when it was dark and how
you rang the bell and asked about the blood, so that the workmen and the porter
did not know what to make of it. Yes, I understand your state of mind at that time…
but you'll drive yourself mad like that, upon my word! You'll lose your head! You're
full of generous indignation at the wrongs you've received, first from destiny,
and then from the police officers, and so you rush from one thing to another to
force them to speak out and make an end of it all, because you are sick of all this
suspicion and foolishness. That's so, isn't it? I have guessed how you feel, haven't
I? Only in that way you'll lose your head and Razumihin's, too; he's too good a
man for such a position, you must know that. You are ill and he is good and your
illness is infectious for him… I'll tell you about it when you are more yourself….
But do sit down, for goodness' sake. Please rest, you look shocking, do sit down."