"It was not I murdered her," Raskolnikov whispered like a frightened child caught in the act.
"No, it was you, you Rodion Romanovitch, and no one else," Porfiry whispered sternly, with conviction.
They were both silent and the silence lasted strangely long, about ten minutes. Raskolnikov put his elbow on the table and passed his fingers through his hair. Porfiry Petrovitch sat quietly waiting. Suddenly Raskolnikov looked scornfully at Porfiry.
"You are at your old tricks again, Porfiry Petrovitch! Your old method again. I wonder you don't get sick of it!"
"Oh, stop that, what does that matter now? It would be a different matter if there were witnesses present, but we are whispering alone. You see yourself that I have not come to chase and capture you like a hare. Whether you confess it or not is nothing to me now; for myself, I am convinced without it."
"If so, what did you come for?" Raskolnikov asked irritably. "I ask you the same question again: if you consider me guilty, why don't you take me to prison?"
"Oh, that's your question! I will answer you, point for point. In the first place, to arrest you so directly is not to my interest."
"How so? If you are convinced you ought . . . ."
"Ach, what if I am convinced? That's only my dream for the time. Why should I put you in safety? You know that's it, since you ask me to do it. If I confront you with that workman for instance and you say to him 'were you drunk or not? Who saw me with you? I simply took you to be drunk, and you were drunk, too.' Well, what could I answer, especially as your story is a more likely one than his? for there's nothing but psychology to support his evidence — that's almost unseemly with his ugly mug, while you hit the mark exactly, for the rascal is an inveterate drunkard and notoriously so. And I have myself admitted candidly several times already that that psychology can be taken in two ways and that the second way is stronger and looks far more probable, and that apart from that I have as yet nothing against you. And though I shall put you in prison and indeed have come — quite contrary to etiquette — to inform you of it beforehand, yet I tell you frankly, also contrary to etiquette, that it won't be to my advantage. Well, secondly, I've come to you because . . . "
"Yes, yes, secondly?" Raskolnikov was listening breathless.
"Because, as I told you just now, I consider I owe you an explanation. I don't want you to look upon me as a monster, as I have a genuine liking for you, you may believe me or not. And in the third place I've come to you with a direct and open proposition — that you should surrender and confess. It will be infinitely more to your advantage and to my advantage too, for my task will be done. Well, is this open on my part or not?"
Raskolnikov thought a minute.
"Listen, Porfiry Petrovitch. You said just now you have nothing but psychology to go on, yet now you've gone on mathematics. Well, what if you are mistaken yourself, now?"
"No, Rodion Romanovitch, I am not mistaken. I have a little fact even then, Providence sent it me."
"What little fact?"
"I won't tell you what, Rodion Romanovitch. And in any case, I haven't the right to put it off any longer, I must arrest you. So think it over: it makes no difference to me now and so I speak only for your sake. Believe me, it will be better, Rodion Romanovitch."
Raskolnikov smiled malignantly.
"That's not simply ridiculous, it's positively shameless. Why, even if I were guilty, which I don't admit, what reason should I have to confess, when you tell me yourself that I shall be in greater safety in prison?"
"Ah, Rodion Romanovitch, don't put too much faith in words, perhaps prison will not be altogether a restful place. That's only theory and my theory, and what authority am I for you? Perhaps, too, even now I am hiding something from you? I can't lay bare everything, he-he! And how can you ask what advantage? Don't you know how it would lessen your sentence? You would be confessing at a moment when another man has taken the crime on himself and so has muddled the whole case. Consider that! I swear before God that I will so arrange that your confession shall come as a complete surprise. We will make a clean sweep of all these psychological points, of a suspicion against you, so that your crime will appear to have been something like an aberration, for in truth it was an aberration. I am an honest man, Rodion Romanovitch, and will keep my word."
Raskolnikov maintained a mournful silence and let his head sink dejectedly. He pondered a long while and at last smiled again, but his smile was sad and gentle.
"No!" he said, apparently abandoning all attempt to keep up appearances with Porfiry, "it's not worth it, I don't care about lessening the sentence!"
"That's just what I was afraid of!" Porfiry cried warmly and, as it seemed, involuntarily. "That's just what I feared, that you wouldn't care about the mitigation of sentence."
Raskolnikov looked sadly and expressively at him.
"Ah, don't disdain life!" Porfiry went on. "You have a great deal of it still before you. How can you say you don't want a mitigation of sentence? You are an impatient fellow!"
"A great deal of what lies before me?"
"Of life. What sort of prophet are you, do you know much about it? Seek and ye shall find. This may be God's means for bringing you to Him. And it's not for ever, the bondage . . . ."
"The time will be shortened," laughed Raskolnikov.
"Why, is it the bourgeois disgrace you are afraid of? It may be that you are afraid of it without knowing it, because you are young! But anyway you shouldn't be afraid of giving yourself up and confessing."
"Ach, hang it!" Raskolnikov whispered with loathing and contempt, as though he did not want to speak aloud.
He got up again as though he meant to go away, but sat down again in evident despair.
"Hang it, if you like! You've lost faith and you think that I am grossly flattering you; but how long has your life been? How much do you understand? You made up a theory and then were ashamed that it broke down and turned out to be not at all original! It turned out something base, that's true, but you are not hopelessly base. By no means so base! At least you didn't deceive yourself for long, you went straight to the furthest point at one bound. How do I regard you? I regard you as one of those men who would stand and smile at their torturer while he cuts their entrails out, if only they have found faith or God. Find it and you will live. You have long needed a change of air. Suffering, too, is a good thing. Suffer! Maybe Nikolay is right in wanting to suffer. I know you don't believe in it — but don't be over-wise; fling yourself straight into life, without deliberation; don't be afraid — the flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again. What bank? How can I tell? I only believe that you have long life before you. I know that you take all my words now for a set speech prepared beforehand, but maybe you will remember them after. They may be of use some time. That's why I speak. It's as well that you only killed the old woman. If you'd invented another theory you might perhaps have done something a thousand times more hideous. You ought to thank God, perhaps. How do you know? Perhaps God is saving you for something. But keep a good heart and have less fear! Are you afraid of the great expiation before you? No, it would be shameful to be afraid of it. Since you have taken such a step, you must harden your heart. There is justice in it. You must fulfil the demands of justice. I know that you don't believe it, but indeed, life will bring you through. You will live it down in time. What you need now is fresh air, fresh air, fresh air!"
Raskolnikov positively started.
"But who are you? what prophet are you? From the height of what majestic calm do you proclaim these words of wisdom?"
"Who am I? I am a man with nothing to hope for, that's all. A man perhaps of feeling and sympathy, maybe of some knowledge too, but my day is over. But you are a different matter, there is life waiting for you. Though, who knows? maybe your life, too, will pass off in smoke and come to nothing. Come, what does it matter, that you will pass into another class of men? It's not comfort you regret, with your heart! What of it that perhaps no one will see you for so long? It's not time, but yourself that will decide that. Be the sun and all will see you. The sun has before all to be the sun. Why are you smiling again? At my being such a Schiller? I bet you're imagining that I am trying to get round you by flattery. Well, perhaps I am, he-he-he! Perhaps you'd better not believe my word, perhaps you'd better never believe it altogether — I'm made that way, I confess it. But let me add, you can judge for yourself, I think, how far I am a base sort of man and how far I am honest."
"When do you mean to arrest me?"
"Well, I can let you walk about another day or two. Think it over, my dear fellow, and pray to God. It's more in your interest, believe me."
"And what if I run away?" asked Raskolnikov with a strange smile.
"No, you won't run away. A peasant would run away, a fashionable dissenter would run away, the flunkey of another man's thought, for you've only to show him the end of your little finger and he'll be ready to believe in anything for the rest of his life. But you've ceased to believe in your theory already, what will you run away with? And what would you do in hiding? It would be hateful and difficult for you, and what you need more than anything in life is a definite position, an atmosphere to suit you. And what sort of atmosphere would you have? If you ran away, you'd come back to yourself. You can't get on without us. And if I put you in prison — say you've been there a month, or two, or three — remember my word, you'll confess of yourself and perhaps to your own surprise. You won't know an hour beforehand that you are coming with a confession. I am convinced that you will decide, 'to take your suffering.' You don't believe my words now, but you'll come to it of yourself. For suffering, Rodion Romanovitch, is a great thing. Never mind my having grown fat, I know all the same. Don't laugh at it, there's an idea in suffering, Nokolay is right. No, you won't run away, Rodion Romanovitch."