Fyodor Dostoevsky >> Crime and Punishment (page 52)

He still remained on his knees. Porfiry Petrovitch stood for some moments as though meditating, but suddenly roused himself and waved back the uninvited spectators. They instantly vanished and closed the door. Then he looked towards Raskolnikov, who was standing in the corner, staring wildly at Nikolay, and moved towards him, but stopped short, looked from Nikolay to Raskolnikov and then again at Nikolay, and seeming unable to restrain himself darted at the latter.

"You're in too great a hurry," he shouted at him, almost angrily. "I didn't ask you what came over you. Speak, did you kill them?"

"I am the murderer. I want to give evidence," Nikolay pronounced.

"Ach! What did you kill them with?"

"An axe. I had it ready."

"Ach, he is in a hurry! Alone?"

Nikolay did not understand the question.

"Did you do it alone?"

"Yes, alone. And Mitka is not guilty and had no share in it."

"Don't be in a hurry about Mitka! A-ach! How was it you ran downstairs like that at the time? The porters met you both!"

"It was to put them off the scent I ran after Mitka," Nikolay replied hurriedly, as though he had prepared the answer.

"I knew it!" cried Porfiry, with vexation. "It's not his own tale he is telling," he muttered as though to himself, and suddenly his eyes rested on Raskolnikov again.

He was apparently so taken up with Nikolay that for a moment he had forgotten Raskolnikov. He was a little taken aback.

"My dear Rodion Romanovitch, excuse me!" he flew up to him, "this won't do; I'm afraid you must go it's no good your staying I will you see, what a surprise! Good-bye!"

And taking him by the arm, he showed him to the door.

"I suppose you didn't expect it?" said Raskolnikov who, though he had not yet fully grasped the situation, had regained his courage.

"You did not expect it either, my friend. See how your hand is trembling! He-he!"

"You're trembling, too, Porfiry Petrovitch!"

"Yes, I am; I didn't expect it."

They were already at the door; Porfiry was impatient for Raskolnikov to be gone.

"And your little surprise, aren't you going to show it to me?" Raskolnikov said, sarcastically.

"Why, his teeth are chattering as he asks, he-he! You are an ironical person! Come, till we meet!"

"I believe we can say good-bye!"

"That's in God's hands," muttered Porfiry, with an unnatural smile.

As he walked through the office, Raskolnikov noticed that many people were looking at him. Among them he saw the two porters from the house, whom he had invited that night to the police station. They stood there waiting. But he was no sooner on the stairs than he heard the voice of Porfiry Petrovitch behind him. Turning round, he saw the latter running after him, out of breath.

"One word, Rodion Romanovitch; as to all the rest, it's in God's hands, but as a matter of form there are some questions I shall have to ask you so we shall meet again, shan't we?"

And Porfiry stood still, facing him with a smile.

"Shan't we?" he added again.

He seemed to want to say something more, but could not speak out.

"You must forgive me, Porfiry Petrovitch, for what has just passed I lost my temper," began Raskolnikov, who had so far regained his courage that he felt irresistibly inclined to display his coolness.

"Don't mention it, don't mention it," Porfiry replied, almost gleefully. "I myself, too I have a wicked temper, I admit it! But we shall meet again. If it's God's will, we may see a great deal of one another."

"And will get to know each other through and through?" added Raskolnikov.

"Yes; know each other through and through," assented Porfiry Petrovitch, and he screwed up his eyes, looking earnestly at Raskolnikov. "Now you're going to a birthday party?"

"To a funeral."

"Of course, the funeral! Take care of yourself, and get well."

"I don't know what to wish you," said Raskolnikov, who had begun to descend the stairs, but looked back again. "I should like to wish you success, but your office is such a comical one."

"Why comical?" Porfiry Petrovitch had turned to go, but he seemed to prick up his ears at this.

"Why, how you must have been torturing and harassing that poor Nikolay psychologically, after your fashion, till he confessed! You must have been at him day and night, proving to him that he was the murderer, and now that he has confessed, you'll begin vivisecting him again. 'You are lying,' you'll say. 'You are not the murderer! You can't be! It's not your own tale you are telling!' You must admit it's a comical business!"

"He-he-he! You noticed then that I said to Nikolay just now that it was not his own tale he was telling?"

"How could I help noticing it!"

"He-he! You are quick-witted. You notice everything! You've really a playful mind! And you always fasten on the comic side he-he! They say that was the marked characteristic of Gogol, among the writers."

"Yes, of Gogol."

"Yes, of Gogol. I shall look forward to meeting you."

"So shall I."

Raskolnikov walked straight home. He was so muddled and bewildered that on getting home he sat for a quarter of an hour on the sofa, trying to collect his thoughts. He did not attempt to think about Nikolay; he was stupefied; he felt that his confession was something inexplicable, amazing something beyond his understanding. But Nikolay's confession was an actual fact. The consequences of this fact were clear to him at once, its falsehood could not fail to be discovered, and then they would be after him again. Till then, at least, he was free and must do something for himself, for the danger was imminent.

But how imminent? His position gradually became clear to him. Remembering, sketchily, the main outlines of his recent scene with Porfiry, he could not help shuddering again with horror. Of course, he did not yet know all Porfiry's aims, he could not see into all his calculations. But he had already partly shown his hand, and no one knew better than Raskolnikov how terrible Porfiry's "lead" had been for him. A little more and he might have given himself away completely, circumstantially. Knowing his nervous temperament and from the first glance seeing through him, Porfiry, though playing a bold game, was bound to win. There's no denying that Raskolnikov had compromised himself seriously, but no facts had come to light as yet; there was nothing positive. But was he taking a true view of the position? Wasn't he mistaken? What had Porfiry been trying to get at? Had he really some surprise prepared for him? And what was it? Had he really been expecting something or not? How would they have parted if it had not been for the unexpected appearance of Nikolay?

Porfiry had shown almost all his cards of course, he had risked something in showing them and if he had really had anything up his sleeve (Raskolnikov reflected), he would have shown that, too. What was that "surprise"? Was it a joke? Had it meant anything? Could it have concealed anything like a fact, a piece of positive evidence? His yesterday's visitor? What had become of him? Where was he to-day? If Porfiry really had any evidence, it must be connected with him.

He sat on the sofa with his elbows on his knees and his face hidden in his hands. He was still shivering nervously. At last he got up, took his cap, thought a minute, and went to the door.

He had a sort of presentiment that for to-day, at least, he might consider himself out of danger. He had a sudden sense almost of joy; he wanted to make haste to Katerina Ivanovna's. He would be too late for the funeral, of course, but he would be in time for the memorial dinner, and there at once he would see Sonia.

He stood still, thought a moment, and a suffering smile came for a moment on to his lips.

"To-day! To-day," he repeated to himself. "Yes, to-day! So it must be."

But as he was about to open the door, it began opening of itself. He started and moved back. The door opened gently and slowly, and there suddenly appeared a figure yesterday's visitor from underground.

The man stood in the doorway, looked at Raskolnikov without speaking, and took a step forward into the room. He was exactly the same as yesterday; the same figure, the same dress, but there was a great change in his face; he looked dejected and sighed deeply. If he had only put his hand up to his cheek and leaned his head on one side he would have looked exactly like a peasant woman.

"What do you want?" asked Raskolnikov, numb with terror. The man was still silent, but suddenly he bowed down almost to the ground, touching it with his finger.

"What is it?" cried Raskolnikov.

"I have sinned," the man articulated softly.

"By evil thoughts."

They looked at one another.

"I was vexed. When you came, perhaps in drink, and bade the porters go to the police station and asked about the blood, I was vexed that they let you go and took you for drunken. I was so vexed that I lost my sleep. And remembering the address we came here yesterday and asked for you."

"Who came?" Raskolnikov interrupted, instantly beginning to recollect.

"I did, I've wronged you."

"Then you came from that house?"

"I was standing at the gate with them don't you remember? We have carried on our trade in that house for years past. We cure and prepare hides, we take work home most of all I was vexed."

And the whole scene of the day before yesterday in the gateway came clearly before Raskolnikov's mind; he recollected that there had been several people there besides the porters, women among them. He remembered one voice had suggested taking him straight to the police station. He could not recall the face of the speaker, and even now he did not recognise it, but he remembered that he had turned round and made him some answer.

So this was the solution of yesterday's horror. The most awful thought was that he had been actually almost lost, had almost done for himself on account of such a trivial circumstance. So this man could tell nothing except his asking about the flat and the blood stains. So Porfiry, too, had nothing but that delirium, no facts but this psychology which cuts both ways, nothing positive. So if no more facts come to light (and they must not, they must not!) then then what can they do to him? How can they convict him, even if they arrest him? And Porfiry then had only just heard about the flat and had not known about it before.

"Was it you who told Porfiry that I'd been there?" he cried, struck by a sudden idea.

"What Porfiry?"

"The head of the detective department?"

"Yes. The porters did not go there, but I went."


"I got there two minutes before you. And I heard, I heard it all, how he worried you."

"Where? What? When?"

"Why, in the next room. I was sitting there all the time." CHAPTERONE PART FIVE

Chapter One

THE MORNING that followed the fateful interview with Dounia and her mother brought sobering influences to bear on Pyotr Petrovitch. Intensely unpleasant as it was, he was forced little by little to accept as a fact beyond recall what had seemed to him only the day before fantastic and incredible. The black snake of wounded vanity had been gnawing at his heart all night. When he got out of bed, Pyotr Petrovitch immediately looked in the looking-glass. He was afraid that he had jaundice. However his health seemed unimpaired so far, and looking at his noble, clear-skinned countenance which had grown fattish of late, Pyotr Petrovitch for an instant was positively comforted in the conviction that he would find another bride and, perhaps, even a better one. But coming back to the sense of his present position, he turned aside and spat vigorously, which excited a sarcastic smile in Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov, the young friend with whom he was staying. That smile Pyotr Petrovitch noticed, and at once set it down against his young friend's account. He had set down a good many points against him of late. His anger was redoubled when he reflected that he ought not to have told Andrey Semyonovitch about the result of yesterday's interview. That was the second mistake he had made in temper, through impulsiveness and irritability. Moreover, all that morning one unpleasantness followed another. He even found a hitch awaiting him in his legal case in the Senate. He was particularly irritated by the owner of the flat which had been taken in view of his approaching marriage and was being redecorated at his own expense; the owner, a rich German tradesman, would not entertain the idea of breaking the contract which had just been signed and insisted on the full forfeit money, though Pyotr Petrovitch would be giving him back the flat practically redecorated. In the same way the upholsterers refused to return a single rouble of the instalment paid for the furniture purchased but not yet removed to the flat.

"Am I to get married simply for the sake of the furniture?" Pyotr Petrovitch ground his teeth and at the same time once more he had a gleam of desperate hope. "Can all that be really so irrevocably over? Is it no use to make another effort?" The thought of Dounia sent a voluptuous pang through his heart. He endured anguish at that moment, and if it had been possible to slay Raskolnikov instantly by wishing it, Pyotr Petrovitch would promptly have uttered the wish.

"It was my mistake, too, not to have given them money," he thought, as he returned dejectedly to Lebeziatnikov's room, "and why on earth was I such a Jew? It was false economy! I meant to keep them without a penny so that they should turn to me as their providence, and look at them! Foo! If I'd spent some fifteen hundred roubles on them for the trousseau and presents, on knick-knacks, dressing-cases, jewellery, materials, and all that sort of trash from Knopp's and the English shop, my position would have been better and stronger! They could not have refused me so easily! They are the sort of people that would feel bound to return money and presents if they broke it off; and they would find it hard to do it! And their consciences would prick them: how can we dismiss a man who has hitherto been so generous and delicate?. H'm! I've made a blunder."

Title: Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
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