"Can this be still a dream?" Raskolnikov thought once more.
He looked carefully and suspiciously at the unexpected visitor.
"Svidriga�lov! What nonsense! It can't be!" he said at last aloud in bewilderment.
His visitor did not seem at all surprised at this exclamation.
"I've come to you for two reasons. In the first place, I wanted to make your personal acquaintance, as I have already heard a great deal about you that is interesting and flattering; secondly, I cherish the hope that you may not refuse to assist me in a matter directly concerning the welfare of your sister, Avdotya Romanovna. For without your support she might not let me come near her now, for she is prejudiced against me, but with your assistance I reckon on..."
"You reckon wrongly," interrupted Raskolnikov.
"They only arrived yesterday, may I ask you?"
Raskolnikov made no reply.
"It was yesterday, I know. I only arrived myself the day before. Well, let me tell you this, Rodion Romanovitch, I don't consider it necessary to justify myself, but kindly tell me what was there particularly criminal on my part in all this business, speaking without prejudice, with common sense?"
Raskolnikov continued to look at him in silence.
"That in my own house I persecuted a defenceless girl and 'insulted her with my infamous proposals'--is that it? (I am anticipating you.) But you've only to assume that I, too, am a man _et nihil humanum_... in a word, that I am capable of being attracted and falling in love (which does not depend on our will), then everything can be explained in the most natural manner. The question is, am I a monster, or am I myself a victim? And what if I am a victim? In proposing to the object of my passion to elope with me to America or Switzerland, I may have cherished the deepest respect for her and may have thought that I was promoting our mutual happiness! Reason is the slave of passion, you know; why, probably, I was doing more harm to myself than anyone!"
"But that's not the point," Raskolnikov interrupted with disgust. "It's simply that whether you are right or wrong, we dislike you. We don't want to have anything to do with you. We show you the door. Go out!"
Svidriga�lov broke into a sudden laugh.
"But you're... but there's no getting round you," he said, laughing in the frankest way. "I hoped to get round you, but you took up the right line at once!"
"But you are trying to get round me still!"
"What of it? What of it?" cried Svidriga�lov, laughing openly. "But this is what the French call _bonne guerre_, and the most innocent form of deception!... But still you have interrupted me; one way or another, I repeat again: there would never have been any unpleasantness except for what happened in the garden. Marfa Petrovna..."
"You have got rid of Marfa Petrovna, too, so they say?" Raskolnikov interrupted rudely.
"Oh, you've heard that, too, then? You'd be sure to, though.... But as for your question, I really don't know what to say, though my own conscience is quite at rest on that score. Don't suppose that I am in any apprehension about it. All was regular and in order; the medical inquiry diagnosed apoplexy due to bathing immediately after a heavy dinner and a bottle of wine, and indeed it could have proved nothing else. But I'll tell you what I have been thinking to myself of late, on my way here in the train, especially: didn't I contribute to all that... calamity, morally, in a way, by irritation or something of the sort. But I came to the conclusion that that, too, was quite out of the question."
"I wonder you trouble yourself about it!"
"But what are you laughing at? Only consider, I struck her just twice with a switch--there were no marks even... don't regard me as a cynic, please; I am perfectly aware how atrocious it was of me and all that; but I know for certain, too, that Marfa Petrovna was very likely pleased at my, so to say, warmth. The story of your sister had been wrung out to the last drop; for the last three days Marfa Petrovna had been forced to sit at home; she had nothing to show herself with in the town. Besides, she had bored them so with that letter (you heard about her reading the letter). And all of a sudden those two switches fell from heaven! Her first act was to order the carriage to be got out.... Not to speak of the fact that there are cases when women are very, very glad to be insulted in spite of all their show of indignation. There are instances of it with everyone; human beings in general, indeed, greatly love to be insulted, have you noticed that? But it's particularly so with women. One might even say it's their only amusement."
At one time Raskolnikov thought of getting up and walking out and so finishing the interview. But some curiosity and even a sort of prudence made him linger for a moment.
"You are fond of fighting?" he asked carelessly.
"No, not very," Svidriga�lov answered, calmly. "And Marfa Petrovna and I scarcely ever fought. We lived very harmoniously, and she was always pleased with me. I only used the whip twice in all our seven years (not counting a third occasion of a very ambiguous character). The first time, two months after our marriage, immediately after we arrived in the country, and the last time was that of which we are speaking. Did you suppose I was such a monster, such a reactionary, such a slave driver? Ha, ha! By the way, do you remember, Rodion Romanovitch, how a few years ago, in those days of beneficent publicity, a nobleman, I've forgotten his name, was put to shame everywhere, in all the papers, for having thrashed a German woman in the railway train. You remember? It was in those days, that very year I believe, the 'disgraceful action of the _Age_' took place (you know, 'The Egyptian Nights,' that public reading, you remember? The dark eyes, you know! Ah, the golden days of our youth, where are they?). Well, as for the gentleman who thrashed the German, I feel no sympathy with him, because after all what need is there for sympathy? But I must say that there are sometimes such provoking 'Germans' that I don't believe there is a progressive who could quite answer for himself. No one looked at the subject from that point of view then, but that's the truly humane point of view, I assure you."
After saying this, Svidriga�lov broke into a sudden laugh again. Raskolnikov saw clearly that this was a man with a firm purpose in his mind and able to keep it to himself.
"I expect you've not talked to anyone for some days?" he asked.
"Scarcely anyone. I suppose you are wondering at my being such an adaptable man?"
"No, I am only wondering at your being too adaptable a man."
"Because I am not offended at the rudeness of your questions? Is that it? But why take offence? As you asked, so I answered," he replied, with a surprising expression of simplicity. "You know, there's hardly anything I take interest in," he went on, as it were dreamily, "especially now, I've nothing to do.... You are quite at liberty to imagine though that I am making up to you with a motive, particularly as I told you I want to see your sister about something. But I'll confess frankly, I am very much bored. The last three days especially, so I am delighted to see you.... Don't be angry, Rodion Romanovitch, but you seem to be somehow awfully strange yourself. Say what you like, there's something wrong with you, and now, too... not this very minute, I mean, but now, generally.... Well, well, I won't, I won't, don't scowl! I am not such a bear, you know, as you think."
Raskolnikov looked gloomily at him.
"You are not a bear, perhaps, at all," he said. "I fancy indeed that you are a man of very good breeding, or at least know how on occasion to behave like one."
"I am not particularly interested in anyone's opinion," Svidriga�lov answered, dryly and even with a shade of haughtiness, "and therefore why not be vulgar at times when vulgarity is such a convenient cloak for our climate... and especially if one has a natural propensity that way," he added, laughing again.
"But I've heard you have many friends here. You are, as they say, 'not without connections.' What can you want with me, then, unless you've some special object?"
"That's true that I have friends here," Svidriga�lov admitted, not replying to the chief point. "I've met some already. I've been lounging about for the last three days, and I've seen them, or they've seen me. That's a matter of course. I am well dressed and reckoned not a poor man; the emancipation of the serfs hasn't affected me; my property consists chiefly of forests and water meadows. The revenue has not fallen off; but... I am not going to see them, I was sick of them long ago. I've been here three days and have called on no one.... What a town it is! How has it come into existence among us, tell me that? A town of officials and students of all sorts. Yes, there's a great deal I didn't notice when I was here eight years ago, kicking up my heels.... My only hope now is in anatomy, by Jove, it is!"
"But as for these clubs, Dussauts, parades, or progress, indeed, maybe--well, all that can go on without me," he went on, again without noticing the question. "Besides, who wants to be a card-sharper?"
"Why, have you been a card-sharper then?"
"How could I help being? There was a regular set of us, men of the best society, eight years ago; we had a fine time. And all men of breeding, you know, poets, men of property. And indeed as a rule in our Russian society the best manners are found among those who've been thrashed, have you noticed that? I've deteriorated in the country. But I did get into prison for debt, through a low Greek who came from Nezhin. Then Marfa Petrovna turned up; she bargained with him and bought me off for thirty thousand silver pieces (I owed seventy thousand). We were united in lawful wedlock and she bore me off into the country like a treasure. You know she was five years older than I. She was very fond of me. For seven years I never left the country. And, take note, that all my life she held a document over me, the IOU for thirty thousand roubles, so if I were to elect to be restive about anything I should be trapped at once! And she would have done it! Women find nothing incompatible in that."
"If it hadn't been for that, would you have given her the slip?"
"I don't know what to say. It was scarcely the document restrained me. I didn't want to go anywhere else. Marfa Petrovna herself invited me to go abroad, seeing I was bored, but I've been abroad before, and always felt sick there. For no reason, but the sunrise, the bay of Naples, the sea--you look at them and it makes you sad. What's most revolting is that one is really sad! No, it's better at home. Here at least one blames others for everything and excuses oneself. I should have gone perhaps on an expedition to the North Pole, because _j'ai le vin mauvais_ and hate drinking, and there's nothing left but wine. I have tried it. But, I say, I've been told Berg is going up in a great balloon next Sunday from the Yusupov Garden and will take up passengers at a fee. Is it true?"
"Why, would you go up?"
"I... No, oh, no," muttered Svidriga�lov really seeming to be deep in thought.
"What does he mean? Is he in earnest?" Raskolnikov wondered.
"No, the document didn't restrain me," Svidriga�lov went on, meditatively. "It was my own doing, not leaving the country, and nearly a year ago Marfa Petrovna gave me back the document on my name-day and made me a present of a considerable sum of money, too. She had a fortune, you know. 'You see how I trust you, Arkady Ivanovitch'--that was actually her expression. You don't believe she used it? But do you know I managed the estate quite decently, they know me in the neighbourhood. I ordered books, too. Marfa Petrovna at first approved, but afterwards she was afraid of my over-studying."
"You seem to be missing Marfa Petrovna very much?"
"Missing her? Perhaps. Really, perhaps I am. And, by the way, do you believe in ghosts?"
"Why, ordinary ghosts."
"Do you believe in them?"
"Perhaps not, _pour vous plaire_.... I wouldn't say no exactly."
"Do you see them, then?"
Svidriga�lov looked at him rather oddly.
"Marfa Petrovna is pleased to visit me," he said, twisting his mouth into a strange smile.
"How do you mean 'she is pleased to visit you'?"
"She has been three times. I saw her first on the very day of the funeral, an hour after she was buried. It was the day before I left to come here. The second time was the day before yesterday, at daybreak, on the journey at the station of Malaya Vishera, and the third time was two hours ago in the room where I am staying. I was alone."
"Were you awake?"
"Quite awake. I was wide awake every time. She comes, speaks to me for a minute and goes out at the door--always at the door. I can almost hear her."
"What made me think that something of the sort must be happening to you?" Raskolnikov said suddenly.
At the same moment he was surprised at having said it. He was much excited.
"What! Did you think so?" Svidriga�lov asked in astonishment. "Did you really? Didn't I say that there was something in common between us, eh?"
"You never said so!" Raskolnikov cried sharply and with heat.
"I thought I did. When I came in and saw you lying with your eyes shut, pretending, I said to myself at once, 'Here's the man.'"
"What do you mean by 'the man?' What are you talking about?" cried Raskolnikov.
"What do I mean? I really don't know...." Svidriga�lov muttered ingenuously, as though he, too, were puzzled.
For a minute they were silent. They stared in each other's faces.
"That's all nonsense!" Raskolnikov shouted with vexation. "What does she say when she comes to you?"
"She! Would you believe it, she talks of the silliest trifles and--man is a strange creature--it makes me angry. The first time she came in (I was tired you know: the funeral service, the funeral ceremony, the lunch afterwards. At last I was left alone in my study. I lighted a cigar and began to think), she came in at the door. 'You've been so busy to-day, Arkady Ivanovitch, you have forgotten to wind the dining-room clock,' she said. All those seven years I've wound that clock every week, and if I forgot it she would always remind me. The next day I set off on my way here. I got out at the station at daybreak; I'd been asleep, tired out, with my eyes half open, I was drinking some coffee. I looked up and there was suddenly Marfa Petrovna sitting beside me with a pack of cards in her hands. 'Shall I tell your fortune for the journey, Arkady Ivanovitch?' She was a great hand at telling fortunes. I shall never forgive myself for not asking her to. I ran away in a fright, and, besides, the bell rang. I was sitting to-day, feeling very heavy after a miserable dinner from a cookshop; I was sitting smoking, all of a sudden Marfa Petrovna again. She came in very smart in a new green silk dress with a long train. 'Good day, Arkady Ivanovitch! How do you like my dress? Aniska can't make like this.' (Aniska was a dressmaker in the country, one of our former serf girls who had been trained in Moscow, a pretty wench.) She stood turning round before me. I looked at the dress, and then I looked carefully, very carefully, at her face. 'I wonder you trouble to come to me about such trifles, Marfa Petrovna.' 'Good gracious, you won't let one disturb you about anything!' To tease her I said, 'I want to get married, Marfa Petrovna.' 'That's just like you, Arkady Ivanovitch; it does you very little credit to come looking for a bride when you've hardly buried your wife. And if you could make a good choice, at least, but I know it won't be for your happiness or hers, you will only be a laughing-stock to all good people.' Then she went out and her train seemed to rustle. Isn't it nonsense, eh?"
"But perhaps you are telling lies?" Raskolnikov put in.
"I rarely lie," answered Svidriga�lov thoughtfully, apparently not noticing the rudeness of the question.
"And in the past, have you ever seen ghosts before?"
"Y-yes, I have seen them, but only once in my life, six years ago. I had a serf, Filka; just after his burial I called out forgetting 'Filka, my pipe!' He came in and went to the cupboard where my pipes were. I sat still and thought 'he is doing it out of revenge,' because we had a violent quarrel just before his death. 'How dare you come in with a hole in your elbow?' I said. 'Go away, you scamp!' He turned and went out, and never came again. I didn't tell Marfa Petrovna at the time. I wanted to have a service sung for him, but I was ashamed."
"You should go to a doctor."
"I know I am not well, without your telling me, though I don't know what's wrong; I believe I am five times as strong as you are. I didn't ask you whether you believe that ghosts are seen, but whether you believe that they exist."
"No, I won't believe it!" Raskolnikov cried, with positive anger.
"What do people generally say?" muttered Svidriga�lov, as though speaking to himself, looking aside and bowing his head. "They say, 'You are ill, so what appears to you is only unreal fantasy.' But that's not strictly logical. I agree that ghosts only appear to the sick, but that only proves that they are unable to appear except to the sick, not that they don't exist."
"Nothing of the sort," Raskolnikov insisted irritably.
"No? You don't think so?" Svidriga�lov went on, looking at him deliberately. "But what do you say to this argument (help me with it): ghosts are, as it were, shreds and fragments of other worlds, the beginning of them. A man in health has, of course, no reason to see them, because he is above all a man of this earth and is bound for the sake of completeness and order to live only in this life. But as soon as one is ill, as soon as the normal earthly order of the organism is broken, one begins to realise the possibility of another world; and the more seriously ill one is, the closer becomes one's contact with that other world, so that as soon as the man dies he steps straight into that world. I thought of that long ago. If you believe in a future life, you could believe in that, too."
"I don't believe in a future life," said Raskolnikov.
Svidriga�lov sat lost in thought.
"And what if there are only spiders there, or something of that sort," he said suddenly.
"He is a madman," thought Raskolnikov.
"We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it's one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that's all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that."
"Can it be you can imagine nothing juster and more comforting than that?" Raskolnikov cried, with a feeling of anguish.
"Juster? And how can we tell, perhaps that is just, and do you know it's what I would certainly have made it," answered Svidriga�lov, with a vague smile.
This horrible answer sent a cold chill through Raskolnikov. Svidriga�lov raised his head, looked at him, and suddenly began laughing.
"Only think," he cried, "half an hour ago we had never seen each other, we regarded each other as enemies; there is a matter unsettled between us; we've thrown it aside, and away we've gone into the abstract! Wasn't I right in saying that we were birds of a feather?"
"Kindly allow me," Raskolnikov went on irritably, "to ask you to explain why you have honoured me with your visit... and... and I am in a hurry, I have no time to waste. I want to go out."
"By all means, by all means. Your sister, Avdotya Romanovna, is going to be married to Mr. Luzhin, Pyotr Petrovitch?"
"Can you refrain from any question about my sister and from mentioning her name? I can't understand how you dare utter her name in my presence, if you really are Svidriga�lov."
"Why, but I've come here to speak about her; how can I avoid mentioning her?"
"Very good, speak, but make haste."
"I am sure that you must have formed your own opinion of this Mr. Luzhin, who is a connection of mine through my wife, if you have only seen him for half an hour, or heard any facts about him. He is no match for Avdotya Romanovna. I believe Avdotya Romanovna is sacrificing herself generously and imprudently for the sake of... for the sake of her family. I fancied from all I had heard of you that you would be very glad if the match could be broken off without the sacrifice of worldly advantages. Now I know you personally, I am convinced of it."
"All this is very na�ve... excuse me, I should have said impudent on your part," said Raskolnikov.
"You mean to say that I am seeking my own ends. Don't be uneasy, Rodion Romanovitch, if I were working for my own advantage, I would not have spoken out so directly. I am not quite a fool. I will confess something psychologically curious about that: just now, defending my love for Avdotya Romanovna, I said I was myself the victim. Well, let me tell you that I've no feeling of love now, not the slightest, so that I wonder myself indeed, for I really did feel something..."
"Through idleness and depravity," Raskolnikov put in.
"I certainly am idle and depraved, but your sister has such qualities that even I could not help being impressed by them. But that's all nonsense, as I see myself now."
"Have you seen that long?"
"I began to be aware of it before, but was only perfectly sure of it the day before yesterday, almost at the moment I arrived in Petersburg. I still fancied in Moscow, though, that I was coming to try to get Avdotya Romanovna's hand and to cut out Mr. Luzhin."
"Excuse me for interrupting you; kindly be brief, and come to the object of your visit. I am in a hurry, I want to go out..."
"With the greatest pleasure. On arriving here and determining on a certain... journey, I should like to make some necessary preliminary arrangements. I left my children with an aunt; they are well provided for; and they have no need of me personally. And a nice father I should make, too! I have taken nothing but what Marfa Petrovna gave me a year ago. That's enough for me. Excuse me, I am just coming to the point. Before the journey which may come off, I want to settle Mr. Luzhin, too. It's not that I detest him so much, but it was through him I quarrelled with Marfa Petrovna when I learned that she had dished up this marriage. I want now to see Avdotya Romanovna through your mediation, and if you like in your presence, to explain to her that in the first place she will never gain anything but harm from Mr. Luzhin. Then, begging her pardon for all past unpleasantness, to make her a present of ten thousand roubles and so assist the rupture with Mr. Luzhin, a rupture to which I believe she is herself not disinclined, if she could see the way to it."
"You are certainly mad," cried Raskolnikov not so much angered as astonished. "How dare you talk like that!"
"I knew you would scream at me; but in the first place, though I am not rich, this ten thousand roubles is perfectly free; I have absolutely no need for it. If Avdotya Romanovna does not accept it, I shall waste it in some more foolish way. That's the first thing. Secondly, my conscience is perfectly easy; I make the offer with no ulterior motive. You may not believe it, but in the end Avdotya Romanovna and you will know. The point is, that I did actually cause your sister, whom I greatly respect, some trouble and unpleasantness, and so, sincerely regretting it, I want--not to compensate, not to repay her for the unpleasantness, but simply to do something to her advantage, to show that I am not, after all, privileged to do nothing but harm. If there were a millionth fraction of self-interest in my offer, I should not have made it so openly; and I should not have offered her ten thousand only, when five weeks ago I offered her more, Besides, I may, perhaps, very soon marry a young lady, and that alone ought to prevent suspicion of any design on Avdotya Romanovna. In conclusion, let me say that in marrying Mr. Luzhin, she is taking money just the same, only from another man. Don't be angry, Rodion Romanovitch, think it over coolly and quietly."
Svidriga�lov himself was exceedingly cool and quiet as he was saying this.
"I beg you to say no more," said Raskolnikov. "In any case this is unpardonable impertinence."
"Not in the least. Then a man may do nothing but harm to his neighbour in this world, and is prevented from doing the tiniest bit of good by trivial conventional formalities. That's absurd. If I died, for instance, and left that sum to your sister in my will, surely she wouldn't refuse it?"
"Very likely she would."
"Oh, no, indeed. However, if you refuse it, so be it, though ten thousand roubles is a capital thing to have on occasion. In any case I beg you to repeat what I have said to Avdotya Romanovna."
"No, I won't."
"In that case, Rodion Romanovitch, I shall be obliged to try and see her myself and worry her by doing so."
"And if I do tell her, will you not try to see her?"
"I don't know really what to say. I should like very much to see her once more."
"Don't hope for it."
"I'm sorry. But you don't know me. Perhaps we may become better friends."
"You think we may become friends?"
"And why not?" Svidriga�lov said, smiling. He stood up and took his hat. "I didn't quite intend to disturb you and I came here without reckoning on it... though I was very much struck by your face this morning."
"Where did you see me this morning?" Raskolnikov asked uneasily.
"I saw you by chance.... I kept fancying there is something about you like me.... But don't be uneasy. I am not intrusive; I used to get on all right with card-sharpers, and I never bored Prince Svirbey, a great personage who is a distant relation of mine, and I could write about Raphael's _Madonna_ in Madam Prilukov's album, and I never left Marfa Petrovna's side for seven years, and I used to stay the night at Viazemsky's house in the Hay Market in the old days, and I may go up in a balloon with Berg, perhaps."
"Oh, all right. Are you starting soon on your travels, may I ask?"
"Why, on that 'journey'; you spoke of it yourself."
"A journey? Oh, yes. I did speak of a journey. Well, that's a wide subject.... if only you knew what you are asking," he added, and gave a sudden, loud, short laugh. "Perhaps I'll get married instead of the journey. They're making a match for me."
"How have you had time for that?"
"But I am very anxious to see Avdotya Romanovna once. I earnestly beg it. Well, good-bye for the present. Oh, yes. I have forgotten something. Tell your sister, Rodion Romanovitch, that Marfa Petrovna remembered her in her will and left her three thousand roubles. That's absolutely certain. Marfa Petrovna arranged it a week before her death, and it was done in my presence. Avdotya Romanovna will be able to receive the money in two or three weeks."
"Are you telling the truth?"
"Yes, tell her. Well, your servant. I am staying very near you."
As he went out, Svidriga�lov ran up against Razumihin in the doorway.
It was nearly eight o'clock. The two young men hurried to Bakaleyev's, to arrive before Luzhin.
"Why, who was that?" asked Razumihin, as soon as they were in the street.
"It was Svidriga�lov, that landowner in whose house my sister was insulted when she was their governess. Through his persecuting her with his attentions, she was turned out by his wife, Marfa Petrovna. This Marfa Petrovna begged Dounia's forgiveness afterwards, and she's just died suddenly. It was of her we were talking this morning. I don't know why I'm afraid of that man. He came here at once after his wife's funeral. He is very strange, and is determined on doing something.... We must guard Dounia from him... that's what I wanted to tell you, do you hear?"
"Guard her! What can he do to harm Avdotya Romanovna? Thank you, Rodya, for speaking to me like that.... We will, we will guard her. Where does he live?"
"I don't know."
"Why didn't you ask? What a pity! I'll find out, though."
"Did you see him?" asked Raskolnikov after a pause.
"Yes, I noticed him, I noticed him well."
"You did really see him? You saw him clearly?" Raskolnikov insisted.
"Yes, I remember him perfectly, I should know him in a thousand; I have a good memory for faces."
They were silent again.
"Hm!... that's all right," muttered Raskolnikov. "Do you know, I fancied... I keep thinking that it may have been an hallucination."
"What do you mean? I don't understand you."
"Well, you all say," Raskolnikov went on, twisting his mouth into a smile, "that I am mad. I thought just now that perhaps I really am mad, and have only seen a phantom."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, who can tell? Perhaps I am really mad, and perhaps everything that happened all these days may be only imagination."
"Ach, Rodya, you have been upset again!... But what did he say, what did he come for?"
Raskolnikov did not answer. Razumihin thought a minute.
"Now let me tell you my story," he began, "I came to you, you were asleep. Then we had dinner and then I went to Porfiry's, Zametov was still with him. I tried to begin, but it was no use. I couldn't speak in the right way. They don't seem to understand and can't understand, but are not a bit ashamed. I drew Porfiry to the window, and began talking to him, but it was still no use. He looked away and I looked away. At last I shook my fist in his ugly face, and told him as a cousin I'd brain him. He merely looked at me, I cursed and came away. That was all. It was very stupid. To Zametov I didn't say a word. But, you see, I thought I'd made a mess of it, but as I went downstairs a brilliant idea struck me: why should we trouble? Of course if you were in any danger or anything, but why need you care? You needn't care a hang for them. We shall have a laugh at them afterwards, and if I were in your place I'd mystify them more than ever. How ashamed they'll be afterwards! Hang them! We can thrash them afterwards, but let's laugh at them now!"
"To be sure," answered Raskolnikov. "But what will you say to-morrow?" he thought to himself. Strange to say, till that moment it had never occurred to him to wonder what Razumihin would think when he knew. As he thought it, Raskolnikov looked at him. Razumihin's account of his visit to Porfiry had very little interest for him, so much had come and gone since then.
In the corridor they came upon Luzhin; he had arrived punctually at eight, and was looking for the number, so that all three went in together without greeting or looking at one another. The young men walked in first, while Pyotr Petrovitch, for good manners, lingered a little in the passage, taking off his coat. Pulcheria Alexandrovna came forward at once to greet him in the doorway, Dounia was welcoming her brother. Pyotr Petrovitch walked in and quite amiably, though with redoubled dignity, bowed to the ladies. He looked, however, as though he were a little put out and could not yet recover himself. Pulcheria Alexandrovna, who seemed also a little embarrassed, hastened to make them all sit down at the round table where a samovar was boiling. Dounia and Luzhin were facing one another on opposite sides of the table. Razumihin and Raskolnikov were facing Pulcheria Alexandrovna, Razumihin was next to Luzhin and Raskolnikov was beside his sister.
A moment's silence followed. Pyotr Petrovitch deliberately drew out a cambric handkerchief reeking of scent and blew his nose with an air of a benevolent man who felt himself slighted, and was firmly resolved to insist on an explanation. In the passage the idea had occurred to him to keep on his overcoat and walk away, and so give the two ladies a sharp and emphatic lesson and make them feel the gravity of the position. But he could not bring himself to do this. Besides, he could not endure uncertainty, and he wanted an explanation: if his request had been so openly disobeyed, there was something behind it, and in that case it was better to find it out beforehand; it rested with him to punish them and there would always be time for that.
"I trust you had a favourable journey," he inquired officially of Pulcheria Alexandrovna.
"Oh, very, Pyotr Petrovitch."
"I am gratified to hear it. And Avdotya Romanovna is not over-fatigued either?"
"I am young and strong, I don't get tired, but it was a great strain for mother," answered Dounia.
"That's unavoidable! our national railways are of terrible length. 'Mother Russia,' as they say, is a vast country.... In spite of all my desire to do so, I was unable to meet you yesterday. But I trust all passed off without inconvenience?"
"Oh, no, Pyotr Petrovitch, it was all terribly disheartening," Pulcheria Alexandrovna hastened to declare with peculiar intonation, "and if Dmitri Prokofitch had not been sent us, I really believe by God Himself, we should have been utterly lost. Here, he is! Dmitri Prokofitch Razumihin," she added, introducing him to Luzhin.
"I had the pleasure... yesterday," muttered Pyotr Petrovitch with a hostile glance sidelong at Razumihin; then he scowled and was silent.
Pyotr Petrovitch belonged to that class of persons, on the surface very polite in society, who make a great point of punctiliousness, but who, directly they are crossed in anything, are completely disconcerted, and become more like sacks of flour than elegant and lively men of society. Again all was silent; Raskolnikov was obstinately mute, Avdotya Romanovna was unwilling to open the conversation too soon. Razumihin had nothing to say, so Pulcheria Alexandrovna was anxious again.
"Marfa Petrovna is dead, have you heard?" she began having recourse to her leading item of conversation.
"To be sure, I heard so. I was immediately informed, and I have come to make you acquainted with the fact that Arkady Ivanovitch Svidriga�lov set off in haste for Petersburg immediately after his wife's funeral. So at least I have excellent authority for believing."
"To Petersburg? here?" Dounia asked in alarm and looked at her mother.
"Yes, indeed, and doubtless not without some design, having in view the rapidity of his departure, and all the circumstances preceding it."
"Good heavens! won't he leave Dounia in peace even here?" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna.
"I imagine that neither you nor Avdotya Romanovna have any grounds for uneasiness, unless, of course, you are yourselves desirous of getting into communication with him. For my part I am on my guard, and am now discovering where he is lodging."
"Oh, Pyotr Petrovitch, you would not believe what a fright you have given me," Pulcheria Alexandrovna went on: "I've only seen him twice, but I thought him terrible, terrible! I am convinced that he was the cause of Marfa Petrovna's death."
"It's impossible to be certain about that. I have precise information. I do not dispute that he may have contributed to accelerate the course of events by the moral influence, so to say, of the affront; but as to the general conduct and moral characteristics of that personage, I am in agreement with you. I do not know whether he is well off now, and precisely what Marfa Petrovna left him; this will be known to me within a very short period; but no doubt here in Petersburg, if he has any pecuniary resources, he will relapse at once into his old ways. He is the most depraved, and abjectly vicious specimen of that class of men. I have considerable reason to believe that Marfa Petrovna, who was so unfortunate as to fall in love with him and to pay his debts eight years ago, was of service to him also in another way. Solely by her exertions and sacrifices, a criminal charge, involving an element of fantastic and homicidal brutality for which he might well have been sentenced to Siberia, was hushed up. That's the sort of man he is, if you care to know."
"Good heavens!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna. Raskolnikov listened attentively.
"Are you speaking the truth when you say that you have good evidence of this?" Dounia asked sternly and emphatically.
"I only repeat what I was told in secret by Marfa Petrovna. I must observe that from the legal point of view the case was far from clear. There was, and I believe still is, living here a woman called Resslich, a foreigner, who lent small sums of money at interest, and did other commissions, and with this woman Svidriga�lov had for a long while close and mysterious relations. She had a relation, a niece I believe, living with her, a deaf and dumb girl of fifteen, or perhaps not more than fourteen. Resslich hated this girl, and grudged her every crust; she used to beat her mercilessly. One day the girl was found hanging in the garret. At the inquest the verdict was suicide. After the usual proceedings the matter ended, but, later on, information was given that the child had been... cruelly outraged by Svidriga�lov. It is true, this was not clearly established, the information was given by another German woman of loose character whose word could not be trusted; no statement was actually made to the police, thanks to Marfa Petrovna's money and exertions; it did not get beyond gossip. And yet the story is a very significant one. You heard, no doubt, Avdotya Romanovna, when you were with them the story of the servant Philip who died of ill treatment he received six years ago, before the abolition of serfdom."
"I heard, on the contrary, that this Philip hanged himself."
"Quite so, but what drove him, or rather perhaps disposed him, to suicide was the systematic persecution and severity of Mr. Svidriga�lov."
"I don't know that," answered Dounia, dryly. "I only heard a queer story that Philip was a sort of hypochondriac, a sort of domestic philosopher, the servants used to say, 'he read himself silly,' and that he hanged himself partly on account of Mr. Svidriga�lov's mockery of him and not his blows. When I was there he behaved well to the servants, and they were actually fond of him, though they certainly did blame him for Philip's death."
"I perceive, Avdotya Romanovna, that you seem disposed to undertake his defence all of a sudden," Luzhin observed, twisting his lips into an ambiguous smile, "there's no doubt that he is an astute man, and insinuating where ladies are concerned, of which Marfa Petrovna, who has died so strangely, is a terrible instance. My only desire has been to be of service to you and your mother with my advice, in view of the renewed efforts which may certainly be anticipated from him. For my part it's my firm conviction, that he will end in a debtor's prison again. Marfa Petrovna had not the slightest intention of settling anything substantial on him, having regard for his children's interests, and, if she left him anything, it would only be the merest sufficiency, something insignificant and ephemeral, which would not last a year for a man of his habits."
"Pyotr Petrovitch, I beg you," said Dounia, "say no more of Mr. Svidriga�lov. It makes me miserable."
"He has just been to see me," said Raskolnikov, breaking his silence for the first time.
There were exclamations from all, and they all turned to him. Even Pyotr Petrovitch was roused.
"An hour and a half ago, he came in when I was asleep, waked me, and introduced himself," Raskolnikov continued. "He was fairly cheerful and at ease, and quite hopes that we shall become friends. He is particularly anxious, by the way, Dounia, for an interview with you, at which he asked me to assist. He has a proposition to make to you, and he told me about it. He told me, too, that a week before her death Marfa Petrovna left you three thousand roubles in her will, Dounia, and that you can receive the money very shortly."
"Thank God!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna, crossing herself. "Pray for her soul, Dounia!"
"It's a fact!" broke from Luzhin.
"Tell us, what more?" Dounia urged Raskolnikov.
"Then he said that he wasn't rich and all the estate was left to his children who are now with an aunt, then that he was staying somewhere not far from me, but where, I don't know, I didn't ask...."
"But what, what does he want to propose to Dounia?" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna in a fright. "Did he tell you?"
"What was it?"
"I'll tell you afterwards."
Raskolnikov ceased speaking and turned his attention to his tea.
Pyotr Petrovitch looked at his watch.
"I am compelled to keep a business engagement, and so I shall not be in your way," he added with an air of some pique and he began getting up.
"Don't go, Pyotr Petrovitch," said Dounia, "you intended to spend the evening. Besides, you wrote yourself that you wanted to have an explanation with mother."
"Precisely so, Avdotya Romanovna," Pyotr Petrovitch answered impressively, sitting down again, but still holding his hat. "I certainly desired an explanation with you and your honoured mother upon a very important point indeed. But as your brother cannot speak openly in my presence of some proposals of Mr. Svidriga�lov, I, too, do not desire and am not able to speak openly... in the presence of others... of certain matters of the greatest gravity. Moreover, my most weighty and urgent request has been disregarded...."
Assuming an aggrieved air, Luzhin relapsed into dignified silence.
"Your request that my brother should not be present at our meeting was disregarded solely at my instance," said Dounia. "You wrote that you had been insulted by my brother; I think that this must be explained at once, and you must be reconciled. And if Rodya really has insulted you, then he _should_ and _will_ apologise."
Pyotr Petrovitch took a stronger line.
"There are insults, Avdotya Romanovna, which no goodwill can make us forget. There is a line in everything which it is dangerous to overstep; and when it has been overstepped, there is no return."
"That wasn't what I was speaking of exactly, Pyotr Petrovitch," Dounia interrupted with some impatience. "Please understand that our whole future depends now on whether all this is explained and set right as soon as possible. I tell you frankly at the start that I cannot look at it in any other light, and if you have the least regard for me, all this business must be ended to-day, however hard that may be. I repeat that if my brother is to blame he will ask your forgiveness."
"I am surprised at your putting the question like that," said Luzhin, getting more and more irritated. "Esteeming, and so to say, adoring you, I may at the same time, very well indeed, be able to dislike some member of your family. Though I lay claim to the happiness of your hand, I cannot accept duties incompatible with..."
"Ah, don't be so ready to take offence, Pyotr Petrovitch," Dounia interrupted with feeling, "and be the sensible and generous man I have always considered, and wish to consider, you to be. I've given you a great promise, I am your betrothed. Trust me in this matter and, believe me, I shall be capable of judging impartially. My assuming the part of judge is as much a surprise for my brother as for you. When I insisted on his coming to our interview to-day after your letter, I told him nothing of what I meant to do. Understand that, if you are not reconciled, I must choose between you--it must be either you or he. That is how the question rests on your side and on his. I don't want to be mistaken in my choice, and I must not be. For your sake I must break off with my brother, for my brother's sake I must break off with you. I can find out for certain now whether he is a brother to me, and I want to know it; and of you, whether I am dear to you, whether you esteem me, whether you are the husband for me."
"Avdotya Romanovna," Luzhin declared huffily, "your words are of too much consequence to me; I will say more, they are offensive in view of the position I have the honour to occupy in relation to you. To say nothing of your strange and offensive setting me on a level with an impertinent boy, you admit the possibility of breaking your promise to me. You say 'you or he,' showing thereby of how little consequence I am in your eyes... I cannot let this pass considering the relationship and... the obligations existing between us."
"What!" cried Dounia, flushing. "I set your interest beside all that has hitherto been most precious in my life, what has made up the _whole_ of my life, and here you are offended at my making too _little_ account of you."
Raskolnikov smiled sarcastically, Razumihin fidgeted, but Pyotr Petrovitch did not accept the reproof; on the contrary, at every word he became more persistent and irritable, as though he relished it.
"Love for the future partner of your life, for your husband, ought to outweigh your love for your brother," he pronounced sententiously, "and in any case I cannot be put on the same level.... Although I said so emphatically that I would not speak openly in your brother's presence, nevertheless, I intend now to ask your honoured mother for a necessary explanation on a point of great importance closely affecting my dignity. Your son," he turned to Pulcheria Alexandrovna, "yesterday in the presence of Mr. Razsudkin (or... I think that's it? excuse me I have forgotten your surname," he bowed politely to Razumihin) "insulted me by misrepresenting the idea I expressed to you in a private conversation, drinking coffee, that is, that marriage with a poor girl who has had experience of trouble is more advantageous from the conjugal point of view than with one who has lived in luxury, since it is more profitable for the moral character. Your son intentionally exaggerated the significance of my words and made them ridiculous, accusing me of malicious intentions, and, as far as I could see, relied upon your correspondence with him. I shall consider myself happy, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, if it is possible for you to convince me of an opposite conclusion, and thereby considerately reassure me. Kindly let me know in what terms precisely you repeated my words in your letter to Rodion Romanovitch."
"I don't remember," faltered Pulcheria Alexandrovna. "I repeated them as I understood them. I don't know how Rodya repeated them to you, perhaps he exaggerated."
"He could not have exaggerated them, except at your instigation."
"Pyotr Petrovitch," Pulcheria Alexandrovna declared with dignity, "the proof that Dounia and I did not take your words in a very bad sense is the fact that we are here."
"Good, mother," said Dounia approvingly.
"Then this is my fault again," said Luzhin, aggrieved.
"Well, Pyotr Petrovitch, you keep blaming Rodion, but you yourself have just written what was false about him," Pulcheria Alexandrovna added, gaining courage.
"I don't remember writing anything false."
"You wrote," Raskolnikov said sharply, not turning to Luzhin, "that I gave money yesterday not to the widow of the man who was killed, as was the fact, but to his daughter (whom I had never seen till yesterday). You wrote this to make dissension between me and my family, and for that object added coarse expressions about the conduct of a girl whom you don't know. All that is mean slander."
"Excuse me, sir," said Luzhin, quivering with fury. "I enlarged upon your qualities and conduct in my letter solely in response to your sister's and mother's inquiries, how I found you, and what impression you made on me. As for what you've alluded to in my letter, be so good as to point out one word of falsehood, show, that is, that you didn't throw away your money, and that there are not worthless persons in that family, however unfortunate."
"To my thinking, you, with all your virtues, are not worth the little finger of that unfortunate girl at whom you throw stones."
"Would you go so far then as to let her associate with your mother and sister?"
"I have done so already, if you care to know. I made her sit down to-day with mother and Dounia."
"Rodya!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna. Dounia crimsoned, Razumihin knitted his brows. Luzhin smiled with lofty sarcasm.
"You may see for yourself, Avdotya Romanovna," he said, "whether it is possible for us to agree. I hope now that this question is at an end, once and for all. I will withdraw, that I may not hinder the pleasures of family intimacy, and the discussion of secrets." He got up from his chair and took his hat. "But in withdrawing, I venture to request that for the future I may be spared similar meetings, and, so to say, compromises. I appeal particularly to you, honoured Pulcheria Alexandrovna, on this subject, the more as my letter was addressed to you and to no one else."
Pulcheria Alexandrovna was a little offended.
"You seem to think we are completely under your authority, Pyotr Petrovitch. Dounia has told you the reason your desire was disregarded, she had the best intentions. And indeed you write as though you were laying commands upon me. Are we to consider every desire of yours as a command? Let me tell you on the contrary that you ought to show particular delicacy and consideration for us now, because we have thrown up everything, and have come here relying on you, and so we are in any case in a sense in your hands."
"That is not quite true, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, especially at the present moment, when the news has come of Marfa Petrovna's legacy, which seems indeed very apropos, judging from the new tone you take to me," he added sarcastically.
"Judging from that remark, we may certainly presume that you were reckoning on our helplessness," Dounia observed irritably.
"But now in any case I cannot reckon on it, and I particularly desire not to hinder your discussion of the secret proposals of Arkady Ivanovitch Svidriga�lov, which he has entrusted to your brother and which have, I perceive, a great and possibly a very agreeable interest for you."
"Good heavens!" cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna.
Razumihin could not sit still on his chair.
"Aren't you ashamed now, sister?" asked Raskolnikov.
"I am ashamed, Rodya," said Dounia. "Pyotr Petrovitch, go away," she turned to him, white with anger.
Pyotr Petrovitch had apparently not at all expected such a conclusion. He had too much confidence in himself, in his power and in the helplessness of his victims. He could not believe it even now. He turned pale, and his lips quivered.
"Avdotya Romanovna, if I go out of this door now, after such a dismissal, then, you may reckon on it, I will never come back. Consider what you are doing. My word is not to be shaken."
"What insolence!" cried Dounia, springing up from her seat. "I don't want you to come back again."
"What! So that's how it stands!" cried Luzhin, utterly unable to the last moment to believe in the rupture and so completely thrown out of his reckoning now. "So that's how it stands! But do you know, Avdotya Romanovna, that I might protest?"
"What right have you to speak to her like that?" Pulcheria Alexandrovna intervened hotly. "And what can you protest about? What rights have you? Am I to give my Dounia to a man like you? Go away, leave us altogether! We are to blame for having agreed to a wrong action, and I above all...."
"But you have bound me, Pulcheria Alexandrovna," Luzhin stormed in a frenzy, "by your promise, and now you deny it and... besides... I have been led on account of that into expenses...."
This last complaint was so characteristic of Pyotr Petrovitch, that Raskolnikov, pale with anger and with the effort of restraining it, could not help breaking into laughter. But Pulcheria Alexandrovna was furious.
"Expenses? What expenses? Are you speaking of our trunk? But the conductor brought it for nothing for you. Mercy on us, we have bound you! What are you thinking about, Pyotr Petrovitch, it was you bound us, hand and foot, not we!"
"Enough, mother, no more please," Avdotya Romanovna implored. "Pyotr Petrovitch, do be kind and go!"
"I am going, but one last word," he said, quite unable to control himself. "Your mamma seems to have entirely forgotten that I made up my mind to take you, so to speak, after the gossip of the town had spread all over the district in regard to your reputation. Disregarding public opinion for your sake and reinstating your reputation, I certainly might very well reckon on a fitting return, and might indeed look for gratitude on your part. And my eyes have only now been opened! I see myself that I may have acted very, very recklessly in disregarding the universal verdict...."
"Does the fellow want his head smashed?" cried Razumihin, jumping up.
"You are a mean and spiteful man!" cried Dounia.
"Not a word! Not a movement!" cried Raskolnikov, holding Razumihin back; then going close up to Luzhin, "Kindly leave the room!" he said quietly and distinctly, "and not a word more or..."
Pyotr Petrovitch gazed at him for some seconds with a pale face that worked with anger, then he turned, went out, and rarely has any man carried away in his heart such vindictive hatred as he felt against Raskolnikov. Him, and him alone, he blamed for everything. It is noteworthy that as he went downstairs he still imagined that his case was perhaps not utterly lost, and that, so far as the ladies were concerned, all might "very well indeed" be set right again.