Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 2: Chapter 2

It was dusk when he was waked up by a fearful scream. Good God, what a scream! Such unnatural sounds, such howling, wailing, grinding, tears, blows and curses he had never heard.

He could never have imagined such brutality, such frenzy. In terror he sat up in bed, almost swooning with agony. But the fighting, wailing and cursing grew louder and louder. And then to his intense amazement he caught the voice of his landlady. She was howling, shrieking and wailing, rapidly, hurriedly, incoherently, so that he could not make out what she was talking about; she was beseeching, no doubt, not to be beaten, for she was being mercilessly beaten on the stairs. The voice of her assailant was so horrible from spite and rage that it was almost a croak; but he, too, was saying something, and just as quickly and indistinctly, hurrying and spluttering. All at once Raskolnikov trembled; he recognised the voice — it was the voice of Ilya Petrovitch. Ilya Petrovitch here and beating the landlady! He is kicking her, banging her head against the steps — that's clear, that can be told from the sounds, from the cries and the thuds. How is it, is the world topsy-turvy? He could hear people running in crowds from all the storeys and all the staircases; he heard voices, exclamations, knocking, doors banging. "But why, why, and how could it be?" he repeated, thinking seriously that he had gone mad. But no, he heard too distinctly! And they would come to him then next, "for no doubt . . . it's all about that . . . about yesterday . . . . Good God!" He would have fastened his door with the latch, but he could not lift his hand . . . besides, it would be useless. Terror gripped his heart like ice, tortured him and numbed him . . . . But at last all this uproar, after continuing about ten minutes, began gradually to subside. The landlady was moaning and groaning; Ilya Petrovitch was still uttering threats and curses . . . . But at last he, too, seemed to be silent, and now he could not be heard. "Can he have gone away? Good Lord!" Yes, and now the landlady is going too, still weeping and moaning . . . and then her door slammed . . . . Now the crowd was going from the stairs to their rooms, exclaiming, disputing, calling to one another, raising their voices to a shout, dropping them to a whisper. There must have been numbers of them — almost all the inmates of the block. "But, good God, how could it be! And why, why had he come here!"

Raskolnikov sank worn out on the sofa, but could not close his eyes. He lay for half an hour in such anguish, such an intolerable sensation of infinite terror as he had never experienced before. Suddenly a bright light flashed into his room. Nastasya came in with a candle and a plate of soup. Looking at him carefully and ascertaining that he was not asleep, she set the candle on the table and began to lay out what she had brought — bread, salt, a plate, a spoon.

"You've eaten nothing since yesterday, I warrant. You've been trudging about all day, and you're shaking with fever."

"Nastasya . . . what were they beating the landlady for?"

She looked intently at him.

"Who beat the landlady?"

"Just now . . . half an hour ago, Ilya Petrovitch, the assistant superintendent, on the stairs . . . . Why was he ill-treating her like that, and . . . why was he here?"

Nastasya scrutinised him, silent and frowning, and her scrutiny lasted a long time. He felt uneasy, even frightened at her searching eyes.

"Nastasya, why don't you speak?" he said timidly at last in a weak voice.

"It's the blood," she answered at last softly, as though speaking to herself.

"Blood? What blood?" he muttered, growing white and turning towards the wall.

Nastasya still looked at him without speaking.

"Nobody has been beating the landlady," she declared at last in a firm, resolute voice.

He gazed at her, hardly able to breathe.

"I heard it myself . . . . I was not asleep . . . I was sitting up," he said still more timidly. "I listened a long while. The assistant superintendent came . . . . Everyone ran out on to the stairs from all the flats."

"No one has been here. That's the blood crying in your ears. When there's no outlet for it and it gets clotted, you begin fancying things . . . . Will you eat something?"

He made no answer. Nastasya still stood over him, watching him.

"Give me something to drink . . . Nastasya."

She went downstairs and returned with a white earthenware jug of water. He remembered only swallowing one sip of the cold water and spilling some on his neck. Then followed forgetfulness.

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