Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 3: Chapter 3

He said this as though to himself, but said it aloud, and looked for some time at his sister, as though puzzled. He opened the letter at last, still with the same look of strange wonder on his face. Then, slowly and attentively, he began reading, and read it through twice. Pulcheria Alexandrovna showed marked anxiety, and all indeed expected something particular.

"What surprises me," he began, after a short pause, handing the letter to his mother, but not addressing anyone in particular, "is that he is a business man, a lawyer, and his conversation is pretentious indeed, and yet he writes such an uneducated letter."

They all started. They had expected something quite different.

"But they all write like that, you know," Razumihin observed, abruptly.

"Have you read it?"

"Yes."

"We showed him, Rodya. We . . . consulted him just now," Pulcheria Alexandrovna began, embarrassed.

"That's just the jargon of the courts," Razumihin put in. "Legal documents are written like that to this day."

"Legal? Yes, it's just legal — business language — not so very uneducated, and not quite educated — business language!"

"Pyotr Petrovitch makes no secret of the fact that he had a cheap education, he is proud indeed of having made his own way," Avdotya Romanovna observed, somewhat offended by her brother's tone.

"Well, if he's proud of it, he has reason, I don't deny it. You seem to be offended, sister, at my making only such a frivolous criticism on the letter, and to think that I speak of such trifling matters on purpose to annoy you. It is quite the contrary, an observation apropos of the style occurred to me that is by no means irrelevant as things stand. There is one expression, 'blame yourselves' put in very significantly and plainly, and there is besides a threat that he will go away at once if I am present. That threat to go away is equivalent to a threat to abandon you both if you are disobedient, and to abandon you now after summoning you to Petersburg. Well, what do you think? Can one resent such an expression from Luzhin, as we should if he (he pointed to Razumihin) had written it, or Zossimov, or one of us?"

"N-no," answered Dounia, with more animation. "I saw clearly that it was too naively expressed, and that perhaps he simply has no skill in writing . . . that is a true criticism, brother. I did not expect, indeed . . . "

"It is expressed in legal style, and sounds coarser than perhaps he intended. But I must disillusion you a little. There is one expression in the letter, one slander about me, and rather a contemptible one. I gave the money last night to the widow, a woman in consumption, crushed with trouble, and not 'on the pretext of the funeral,' but simply to pay for the funeral, and not to the daughter — a young woman, as he writes, of notorious behaviour (whom I saw last night for the first time in my life) — but to the widow. In all this I see a too hasty desire to slander me and to raise dissension between us. It is expressed again in legal jargon, that is to say, with a too obvious display of the aim, and with a very naive eagerness. He is a man of intelligence, but to act sensibly, intelligence is not enough. It all shows the man and . . . I don't think he has a great esteem for you. I tell you this simply to warn you, because I sincerely wish for your good . . . "

Dounia did not reply. Her resolution had been taken. She was only awaiting the evening.

"Then what is your decision, Rodya?" asked Pulcheria Alexandrovna, who was more uneasy than ever at the sudden, new businesslike tone of his talk.

"What decision?"

"You see Pyotr Petrovitch writes that you are not to be with us this evening, and that he will go away if you come. So will you . . . come?"

"That, of course, is not for me to decide, but for you first, if you are not offended by such a request; and secondly, by Dounia, if she, too, is not offended. I will do what you think best," he added, drily.

"Dounia has already decided, and I fully agree with her," Pulcheria Alexandrovna hastened to declare.

"I decided to ask you, Rodya, to urge you not to fail to be with us at this interview," said Dounia. "Will you come?"

"Yes."

"I will ask you, too, to be with us at eight o'clock," she said, addressing Razumihin. "Mother, I am inviting him, too."

"Quite right, Dounia. Well, since you have decided," added Pulcheria Alexandrovna, "so be it. I shall feel easier myself. I do not like concealment and deception. Better let us have the whole truth . . . . Pyotr Petrovitch may be angry or not, now!"

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