translated by Constance Garnett
Chapter One –
ON AN exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret
in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards
He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret
was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than
a room. The landlady who provided him with garret, dinners, and attendance, lived
on the floor below, and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen,
the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man
had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly
in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her.
This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; but for
some time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria.
He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that
he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but any one at all. He was crushed by
poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him.
He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire
to do so. Nothing that any landlady could do had a real terror for him. But to be
stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to her trivial, irrelevant gossip,
to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack his brains
for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie– no, rather than that, he would creep down the
stairs like a cat and slip out unseen.
This evening, however, on coming out into the street, he became acutely aware
of his fears.
"I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles," he
thought, with an odd smile. "Hm… yes, all is in a man's hands and he lets it all
slip from cowardice, that's an axiom. It would be interesting to know what it is
men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear
most…. But I am talking too much. It's because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps
it is that I chatter because I do nothing. I've learned to chatter this last month,
lying for days together in my den thinking… of Jack the Giant-killer. Why am I going
there now? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It's
simply a fantasy to amuse myself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything."
The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and the
plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg
stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer– all worked
painfully upon the young man's already overwrought nerves. The insufferable stench
from the pot-houses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and
the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed
the revolting misery of the picture. An expression of the profoundest disgust gleamed
for a moment in the young man's refined face. He was, by the way, exceptionally
handsome, above the average in height, slim, well-built, with beautiful dark eyes
and dark brown hair. Soon he sank into deep thought, or more accurately speaking
into a complete blankness of mind; he walked along not observing what was about
him and not caring to observe it. From time to time, he would mutter something,
from the habit of talking to himself, to which he had just confessed. At these moments
he would become conscious that his ideas were sometimes in a tangle and that he
was very weak; for two days he had scarcely tasted food.
He was so badly dressed that even a man accustomed to shabbiness would have been
ashamed to be seen in the street in such rags. In that quarter of the town, however,
scarcely any shortcoming in dress would have created surprise. Owing to the proximity
of the Hay Market, the number of establishments of bad character, the preponderance
of the trading and working class population crowded in these streets and alleys
in the heart of Petersburg, types so various were to be seen in the streets that
no figure, however queer, would have caused surprise. But there was such accumulated
bitterness and contempt in the young man's heart, that, in spite of all the fastidiousness
of youth, he minded his rags least of all in the street. It was a different matter
when he met with acquaintances or with former fellow students, whom, indeed, he
disliked meeting at any time. And yet when a drunken man who, for some unknown reason,
was being taken somewhere in a huge waggon dragged by a heavy dray horse, suddenly
shouted at him as he drove past: "Hey there, German hatter" bawling at the top of
his voice and pointing at him– the young man stopped suddenly and clutched tremulously
at his hat. It was a tall round hat from Zimmerman's, but completely worn out, rusty
with age, all torn and bespattered, brimless and bent on one side in a most unseemly
fashion. Not shame, however, but quite another feeling akin to terror had overtaken
"I knew it," he muttered in confusion, "I thought so! That's the worst of all!
Why, a stupid thing like this, the most trivial detail might spoil the whole plan.
Yes, my hat is too noticeable…. It looks absurd and that makes it noticeable…. With
my rags I ought to wear a cap, any sort of old pancake, but not this grotesque thing.
Nobody wears such a hat, it would be noticed a mile off, it would be remembered….
What matters is that people would remember it, and that would give them a clue.
For this business one should be as little conspicuous as possible…. Trifles, trifles
are what matter! Why, it's just such trifles that always ruin everything…."
He had not far to go; he knew indeed how many steps it was from the gate of his
lodging house: exactly seven hundred and thirty. He had counted them once when he
had been lost in dreams. At the time he had put no faith in those dreams and was
only tantalising himself by their hideous but daring recklessness. Now, a month
later, he had begun to look upon them differently, and, in spite of the monologues
in which he jeered at his own impotence and indecision, he had involuntarily come
to regard this "hideous" dream as an exploit to be attempted, although he still
did not realise this himself. He was positively going now for a "rehearsal" of his
project, and at every step his excitement grew more and more violent.
With a sinking heart and a nervous tremor, he went up to a huge house which on
one side looked on to the canal, and on the other into the street. This house was
let out in tiny tenements and was inhabited by working people of all kinds– tailors,
locksmiths, cooks, Germans of sorts, girls picking up a living as best they could,
petty clerks, &c. There was a continual coming and going through the two gates and
in the two courtyards of the house. Three or four door-keepers were employed on
the building. The young man was very glad to meet none of them, and at once slipped
unnoticed through the door on the right, and up the staircase. It was a back staircase,
dark and narrow, but he was familiar with it already, and knew his way, and he liked
all these surroundings: in such darkness even the most inquisitive eyes were not
to be dreaded.
"If I am so scared now, what would it be if it somehow came to pass that I were
really going to do it?" he could not help asking himself as he reached the fourth
storey. There his progress was barred by some porters who were engaged in moving
furniture out of a flat. He knew that the flat had been occupied by a German clerk
in the civil service, and his family. This German was moving out then, and so the
fourth floor on this staircase would be untenanted except by the old woman. "That's
a good thing anyway," he thought to himself, as he rang the bell of the old woman's
flat. The bell gave a faint tinkle as though it were made of tin and not of copper.
The little flats in such houses always have bells that ring like that. He had forgotten
the note of that bell, and now its peculiar tinkle seemed to remind him of something
and to bring it clearly before him…. He started, his nerves were terribly overstrained
by now. In a little while, the door was opened a tiny crack: the old woman eyed
her visitor with evident distrust through the crack, and nothing could be seen but
her little eyes, glittering in the darkness. But, seeing a number of people on the
landing, she grew bolder, and opened the door wide. The young man stepped into the
dark entry, which was partitioned off from the tiny kitchen. The old woman stood
facing him in silence and looking inquiringly at him. She was a diminutive, withered
up old woman of sixty, with sharp malignant eyes and a sharp little nose. Her colourless,
somewhat grizzled hair was thickly smeared with oil, and she wore no kerchief over
it. Round her thin long neck, which looked like a hen's leg, was knotted some sort
of flannel rag, and, in spite of the heat, there hung flapping on her shoulders,
a mangy fur cape, yellow with age. The old woman coughed and groaned at every instant.
The young man must have looked at her with a rather peculiar expression, for a gleam
of mistrust came into her eyes again.
"Raskolnikov, a student, I came here a month ago," the young man made haste to
mutter, with a half bow, remembering that he ought to be more polite.
"I remember, my good sir, I remember quite well your coming here," the old woman
said distinctly, still keeping her inquiring eyes on his face.
"And here… I am again on the same errand," Raskolnikov continued, a little disconcerted
and surprised at the old woman's mistrust. "Perhaps she is always like that though,
only I did not notice it the other time," he thought with an uneasy feeling.
The old woman paused, as though hesitating; then stepped on one side, and pointing
to the door of the room, she said, letting her visitor pass in front of her:
"Step in, my good sir."
The little room into which the young man walked, with yellow paper on the walls,
geraniums and muslin curtains in the windows, was brightly lighted up at that moment
by the setting sun.
"So the sun will shine like this then too!" flashed as it were by chance through
Raskolnikov's mind, and with a rapid glance he scanned everything in the room, trying
as far as possible to notice and remember its arrangement. But there was nothing
special in the room. The furniture, all very old and of yellow wood, consisted of
a sofa with a huge bent wooden back, an oval table in front of the sofa, a dressing-table
with a looking-glass fixed on it between the windows, chairs along the walls and
two or three half-penny prints in yellow frames, representing German damsels with
birds in their hands– that was all. In the corner a light was burning before a small
ikon. Everything was very clean; the floor and the furniture were brightly polished;
"Lizaveta's work," thought the young man. There was not a speck of dust to be
seen in the whole flat.
"It's in the houses of spiteful old widows that one finds such cleanliness,"
Raskolnikov thought again, and he stole a curious glance at the cotton curtain over
the door leading into another tiny room, in which stood the old woman's bed and
chest of drawers and into which he had never looked before. These two rooms made
up the whole flat.
"What do you want?" the old woman said severely, coming into the room and, as
before, standing in front of him so as to look him straight in the face.
"I've brought something to pawn here," and he drew out of his pocket an old-fashioned
flat silver watch, on the back of which was engraved a globe; the chain was of steel.
"But the time is up for your last pledge. The month was up the day before yesterday."
"I will bring you the interest for another month; wait a little."
"But that's for me to do as I please, my good sir, to wait or to sell your pledge
"How much will you give me for the watch, Alyona Ivanovna?"
"You come with such trifles, my good sir, it's scarcely worth anything. I gave
you two roubles last time for your ring and one could buy it quite new at a jeweler's
for a rouble and a half."
"Give me four roubles for it, I shall redeem it, it was my father's. I shall
be getting some money soon."
"A rouble and a half, and interest in advance, if you like!"
"A rouble and a half!" cried the young man.
"Please yourself"– and the old woman handed him back the watch. The young man
took it, and was so angry that he was on the point of going away; but checked himself
at once, remembering that there was nowhere else he could go, and that he had had
another object also in coming.
"Hand it over," he said roughly.
The old woman fumbled in her pocket for her keys, and disappeared behind the
curtain into the other room. The young man, left standing alone in the middle of
the room, listened inquisitively, thinking. He could hear her unlocking the chest
"It must be the top drawer," he reflected. "So she carries the keys in a pocket
on the right. All in one bunch on a steel ring…. And there's one key there, three
times as big as all the others, with deep notches; that can't be the key of the
chest of drawers… then there must be some other chest or strong-box… that's worth
knowing. Strong-boxes always have keys like that… but how degrading it all is."
The old woman came back.
"Here, sir: as we say ten copecks the rouble a month, so I must take fifteen
copecks from a rouble and a half for the month in advance. But for the two roubles
I lent you before, you owe me now twenty copecks on the same reckoning in advance.
That makes thirty-five copecks altogether. So I must give you a rouble and fifteen
copecks for the watch. Here it is."
"What! only a rouble and fifteen copecks now!"
The young man did not dispute it and took the money. He looked at the old woman,
and was in no hurry to get away, as though there was still something he wanted to
say or to do, but he did not himself quite know what.