All this time Lebeziatnikov had stood at the window or walked about the room,
anxious not to interrupt the conversation; when Sonia had gone he walked up to Pyotr
Petrovitch and solemnly held out his hand.
"I heard and saw everything," he said, laying stress on the last verb. "That
is honourable, I mean to say, it's humane! You wanted to avoid gratitude, I saw!
And although I cannot, I confess, in principle sympathise with private charity,
for it not only fails to eradicate the evil but even promotes it, yet I must admit
that I saw your action with pleasure– yes, yes, I like it."
"That's all nonsense," muttered Pyotr Petrovitch, somewhat disconcerted, looking
carefully at Lebeziatnikov.
"No, it's not nonsense! A man who has suffered distress and annoyance as you
did yesterday and who yet can sympathise with the misery of others, such a man…
even though he is making a social mistake– is still deserving of respect! I did
not expect it indeed of you, Pyotr Petrovitch, especially as according to your ideas…
oh, what a drawback your ideas are to you! How distressed you are for instance by
your ill luck yesterday," cried the simple-hearted Lebeziatnikov, who felt a return
of affection for Pyotr Petrovitch. "And, what do you want with marriage, with legal
marriage, my dear, noble Pyotr Petrovitch? Why do you cling to this legality of
marriage? Well, you may beat me if you like, but I am glad, positively glad it hasn't
come off, that you are free, that you are not quite lost for humanity…. you see,
I've spoken my mind!"
"Because I don't want in your free marriage to be made a fool of and to bring
up another man's children, that's why I want legal marriage," Luzhin replied in
order to make some answer.
He seemed preoccupied by something.
"Children? You referred to children," Lebeziatnikov started off like a warhorse
at the trumpet call. "Children are a social question and a question of first importance,
I agree; but the question of children has another solution. Some refuse to have
children altogether, because they suggest the institution of the family. We'll speak
of children later, but now as to the question of honour, I confess that's my weak
point. That horrid, military, Pushkin expression is unthinkable in the dictionary
of the future. What does it mean indeed? It's nonsense, there will be no deception
in a free marriage! That is only the natural consequence of a legal marriage, so
to say, its corrective, a protest. So that indeed it's not humiliating… and if I
ever, to suppose an absurdity, were to be legally married, I should be positively
glad of it. I should say to my wife: 'My dear, hitherto I have loved you, now I
respect you, for you've shown you can protest!' You laugh! That's because you are
of incapable of getting away from prejudices. Confound it all! I understand now
where the unpleasantness is of being deceived in a legal marriage, but it's simply
a despicable consequence of a despicable position in which both are humiliated.
When the deception is open, as in a free marriage, then it does not exist, it's
unthinkable. Your wife will only prove how she respects you by considering you incapable
of opposing her happiness and avenging yourself on her for her new husband. Damn
it all! I sometimes dream if I were to be married, foo! I mean if I were to marry,
legally or not, it's just the same, I should present my wife with a lover if she
had not found one for herself. 'My dear,' I should say, 'I love you, but even more
than that I desire you to respect me. See!' Am I not right?"
Pyotr Petrovitch sniggered as he listened, but without much merriment. He hardly
heard it indeed. He was preoccupied with something else and even Lebeziatnikov at
last noticed it. Pyotr Petrovitch seemed excited and rubbed his hands. Lebeziatnikov
remembered all this and reflected upon it afterwards. CHAPTERTWO Chapter Two
IT WOULD be difficult to explain exactly what could have originated the idea
of that senseless dinner in Katerina Ivanovna's disordered brain. Nearly ten of
the twenty roubles, given by Raskolnikov for Marmeladov's funeral, were wasted upon
it. Possibly Katerina Ivanovna felt obliged to honour the memory of the deceased
"suitably," that all the lodgers, and still more Amalia Ivanovna, might know "that
he was in no way their inferior, and perhaps very much their superior," and that
no one had the right "to turn up his nose at him." Perhaps the chief element was
that peculiar "poor man's pride," which compels many poor people to spend their
last savings on some traditional social ceremony, simply in order to do "like other
people," and not to "be looked down upon." It is very probable, too, that Katerina
Ivanovna longed on this occasion, at the moment when she seemed to be abandoned
by every one, to show those "wretched contemptible lodgers" that she knew "how to
do things, how to entertain" and that she had been brought up "in a genteel, she
might almost say aristocratic colonel's family" and had not been meant for sweeping
floors and washing the children's rags at night. Even the poorest and most broken-spirited
people are sometimes liable to these paroxysms of pride and vanity which take the
form of an irresistible nervous craving. And Katerina Ivanovna was not broken-spirited;
she might have been killed by circumstance, but her spirit could not have been broken,
that is, she could not have been intimidated, her will could not be crushed. Moreover
Sonia had said with good reason that her mind was unhinged. She could not be said
to be insane, but for a year past she had been so harassed that her mind might well
be overstrained. The later stages of consumption are apt, doctors tell us, to affect
There was no great variety of wines, nor was there Madeira; but wine there was.
There was vodka, rum and Lisbon wine, all of the poorest quality but in sufficient
quantity. Besides the traditional rice and honey, there were three or four dishes,
one of which consisted of pancakes, all prepared in Amalia Ivanovna's kitchen. Two
samovars were boiling, that tea and punch might be offered after dinner. Katerina
Ivanovna had herself seen to purchasing the provisions, with the help of one of
the lodgers, an unfortunate little Pole who had somehow been stranded at Madame
Lippevechsel's. He promptly put himself at Katerina Ivanovna's disposal and had
been all that morning and all the day before running about as fast as his legs could
carry him, and very anxious that every one should be aware of it. For every trifle
he ran to Katerina Ivanovna, even hunting her out at the bazaar, at every instant
called her "Pani." She was heartily sick of him before the end, though she had declared
at first that she could not have got on without this "serviceable and magnanimous
man." It was one of Katerina Ivanovna's characteristics to paint every one she met
in the most glowing colours. Her praises were so exaggerated as sometimes to be
embarrassing; she would invent various circumstances to the credit of her new acquaintance
and quite genuinely believe in their reality. Then all of a sudden she would be
disillusioned and would rudely and contemptuously repulse the person she had only
a few hours before been literally adoring. She was naturally of a gay, lively and
peace-loving disposition, but from continual failures and misfortunes she had come
to desire so keenly that all should live in peace and joy and should not dare to
break the peace, that the slightest jar, the smallest disaster reduced her almost
to frenzy, and she would pass in an instant from the brightest hopes and fancies
to cursing her fate and raving, and knocking her head against the wall.
Amalia Ivanovna, too, suddenly acquired extraordinary importance in Katerina
Ivanovna's eyes and was treated by her with extraordinary respect, probably only
because Amalia Ivanovna had thrown herself heart and soul into the preparations.
She had undertaken to lay the table, to provide the linen, crockery, &c., and to
cook the dishes in her kitchen, and Katerina Ivanovna had left it all in her hands
and gone herself to the cemetery. Everything had been well done. Even the tablecloth
was nearly clean; the crockery, knives, forks and glasses were, of course, of all
shapes and patterns, lent by different lodgers, but the table was properly laid
at the time fixed, and Amalia Ivanovna, feeling she had done her work well, had
put on a black silk dress and a cap with new mourning ribbons and met the returning
party with some pride. This pride, though justifiable, displeased Katerina Ivanovna
for some reason: "as though the table could not have been laid except by Amalia
Ivanovna!" She disliked the cap with new ribbons, too. "Could she be stuck up, the
stupid German, because she was mistress of the house, and had consented as a favour
to help her poor lodgers! As a favour! Fancy that! Katerina Ivanovna's father who
had been a colonel and almost a governor had sometimes had the table set for forty
persons, and then any one like Amalia Ivanovna, or rather Ludwigovna, would not
have been allowed into the kitchen."
Katerina Ivanovna, however, put off expressing her feelings for the time and
contented herself with treating her coldly, though she decided inwardly that she
would certainly have to put Amalia Ivanovna down and set her in her proper place,
for goodness only knew what she was fancying herself. Katerina Ivanovna was irritated
too by the fact that hardly any of the lodgers invited had come to the funeral,
except the Pole who had just managed to run into the cemetery, while to the memorial
dinner the poorest and most insignificant of them had turned up, the wretched creatures,
many of them not quite sober. The older and more respectable of them all, as if
by common consent, stayed away. Pyotr Petrovitch Luzhin, for instance, who might
be said to be the most respectable of all the lodgers, did not appear, though Katerina
Ivanovna had the evening before told all the world, that is Amalia Ivanovna, Polenka,
Sonia and the Pole, that he was the most generous, noble-hearted man with a large
property and vast connections, who had been a friend of her first husband's, and
a guest in her father's house, and that he had promised to use all his influence
to secure her a considerable pension. It must be noted that when Katerina Ivanovna
exalted any one's connections and fortune, it was without any ulterior motive, quite
disinterestedly, for the mere pleasure of adding to the consequence of the person
praised. Probably "taking his cue" from Luzhin, "that contemptible wretch Lebeziatnikov
had not turned up either. What did he fancy himself? He was only asked out of kindness
and because he was sharing the same room with Pyotr Petrovitch and was a friend
of his, so that it would have been awkward not to invite him."
Among those who failed to appear were "the genteel lady and her old-maidish daughter,"
who had only been lodgers in the house for the last fortnight, but had several times
complained of the noise and uproar in Katerina Ivanovna's room, especially when
Marmeladov had come back drunk. Katerina Ivanovna heard this from Amalia Ivanovna
who, quarrelling with Katerina Ivanovna, and threatening to turn the whole family
out of doors, had shouted at her that they "were not worth the foot" of the honourable
lodgers whom they were disturbing. Katerina Ivanovna determined now to invite this
lady and her daughter, "whose foot she was not worth," and who had turned away haughtily
when she casually met them, so that they might know that "she was more noble in
her thoughts and feelings and did not harbour malice," and might see that she was
not accustomed to her way of living. She had proposed to make this clear to them
at dinner with allusions to her late father's governorship, and also at the same
time to hint that it was exceedingly stupid of them to turn away on meeting her.
The fat colonel-major (he was really a discharged officer of low rank) was also
absent, but it appeared that he had been "not himself" for the last two days. The
party consisted of the Pole, a wretched looking clerk with a spotty face and a greasy
coat, who had not a word to say for himself, and smelt abominably, a deaf and almost
blind old man who had once been in the post office and who had been from immemorial
ages maintained by some one at Amalia Ivanovna's.
A retired clerk of the commissariat department came, too; he was drunk, had a
loud and most unseemly laugh and only fancy– was without a waistcoat! One of the
visitors sat straight down to the table without even greeting Katerina Ivanovna.
Finally one person having no suit appeared in his dressing gown, but this was too
much, and the efforts of Amalia Ivanovna and the Pole succeeded in removing him.
The Pole brought with him, however, two other Poles who did not live at Amalia Ivanovna's
and whom no one had seen here before. All this irritated Katerina Ivanovna intensely.
"For whom had they made all these preparations then?" To make room for the visitors
the children had not even been laid for at the table; but the two little ones were
sitting on a bench in the furthest corner with their dinner laid on a box, while
Polenka as a big girl had to look after them, feed them, and keep their noses wiped
like well-bred children's.
Katerina Ivanovna, in fact, could hardly help meeting her guests with increased
dignity, and even haughtiness. She stared at some of them with special severity,
and loftily invited them to take their seats. Rushing to the conclusion that Amalia
Ivanovna must be responsible for those who were absent, she began treating her with
extreme nonchalance, which the latter promptly observed and resented. Such a beginning
was no good omen for the end. All were seated at last.
Raskolnikov came in almost at the moment of their return from the cemetery. Katerina
Ivanovna was greatly delighted to see him, in the first place, because he was the
one "educated visitor, and, as every one knew, was in two years to take a professorship
in the university," and secondly because he immediately and respectfully apologised
for having been unable to be at the funeral. She positively pounced upon him, and
made him sit on her left hand (Amalia Ivanovna was on her right). In spite of her
continual anxiety that the dishes should be passed round correctly and that every
one should taste them, in spite of the agonising cough which interrupted her every
minute and seemed to have grown worse during the last few days she hastened to pour
out in a half whisper to Raskolnikov all her suppressed feelings and her just indignation
at the failure of the dinner, interspersing her remarks with lively and uncontrollable
laughter at the expense of her visitors and especially of her landlady.