Sonia looked at him inquiringly.
"They are left on your hands, you see. They were all on your hands before, though . . . . And your father came to you to beg for drink. Well, how will it be now?"
"I don't know," Sonia articulated mournfully.
"Will they stay there?"
"I don't know . . . . They are in debt for the lodging, but the landlady, I hear, said to-day that she wanted to get rid of them, and Katerina Ivanovna says that she won't stay another minute."
"How is it she is so bold? She relies upon you?"
"Oh, no, don't talk like that . . . . We are one, we live like one." Sonia was agitated again and even angry, as though a canary or some other little bird were to be angry. "And what could she do? What, what could she do?" she persisted, getting hot and excited. "And how she cried to-day! Her mind is unhinged, haven't you noticed it? At one minute she is worrying like a child that everything should be right to-morrow, the lunch and all that . . . . Then she is wringing her hands, spitting blood, weeping, and all at once she will begin knocking her head against the wall, in despair. Then she will be comforted again. She builds all her hopes on you; she says that you will help her now and that she will borrow a little money somewhere and go to her native town with me and set up a boarding school for the daughters of gentlemen and take me to superintend it, and we will begin a new splendid life. And she kisses and hugs me, comforts me, and you know she has such faith, such faith in her fancies! One can't contradict her. And all the day long she has been washing, cleaning, mending. She dragged the wash tub into the room with her feeble hands and sank on the bed, gasping for breath. We went this morning to the shops to buy shoes for Polenka and Lida for theirs are quite worn out. Only the money we'd reckoned wasn't enough, not nearly enough. And she picked out such dear little boots, for she has taste, you don't know. And there in the shop she burst out crying before the shopmen because she hadn't enough . . . . Ah, it was sad to see her . . . ."
"Well, after that I can understand your living like this," Raskolnikov said with a bitter smile.
"And aren't you sorry for them? Aren't you sorry?" Sonia flew at him again. "Why, I know, you gave your last penny yourself, though you'd seen nothing of it, and if you'd seen everything, oh dear! And how often, how often I've brought her to tears! Only last week! Yes, I! Only a week before his death. I was cruel! And how often I've done it! Ah, I've been wretched at the thought of it all day!"
Sonia wrung her hands as she spoke at the pain of remembering it.
"You were cruel?"
"Yes, I — I. I went to see them," she went on, weeping, "and father said, 'read me something, Sonia, my head aches, read to me, here's a book.' He had a book he had got from Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov, he lives there, he always used to get hold of such funny books. And I said, 'I can't stay,' as I didn't want to read, and I'd gone in chiefly to show Katerina Ivanovna some collars. Lizaveta, the pedlar, sold me some collars and cuffs cheap, pretty, new, embroidered ones. Katerina Ivanovna liked them very much; she put them on and looked at herself in the glass and was delighted with them. 'Make me a present of them, Sonia,' she said, 'please do.' 'Please do,' she said, she wanted them so much. And when could she wear them? They just reminded her of her old happy days. She looked at herself in the glass, admired herself, and she has no clothes at all, no things of her own, hasn't had all these years! And she never asks anyone for anything; she is proud, she'd sooner give away everything. And these she asked for, she liked them so much. And I was sorry to give them. 'What use are they to you, Katerina Ivanovna?' I said. I spoke like that to her, I ought not to have said that! She gave me such a look. And she was so grieved, so grieved at my refusing her. And it was so sad to see . . . . And she was not grieved for the collars, but for my refusing, I saw that. Ah, if only I could bring it all back, change it, take back those words! Ah, if I . . . but it's nothing to you!"
"Did you know Lizaveta, the pedlar?"
"Yes . . . . Did you know her?" Sonia asked with some surprise.
"Katerina Ivanovna is in consumption, rapid consumption; she will soon die," said Raskolnikov after a pause, without answering her question.
"Oh, no, no, no!"
And Sonia unconsciously clutched both his hands, as though imploring that she should not.
"But it will be better if she does die."
"No, not better, not at all better!" Sonia unconsciously repeated in dismay.
"And the children? What can you do except take them to live with you?"
"Oh, I don't know," cried Sonia, almost in despair, and she put her hands to her head.
It was evident that that idea had very often occurred to her before and he had only roused it again.
"And, what, if even now, while Katerina Ivanovna is alive, you get ill and are taken to the hospital, what will happen then?" he persisted pitilessly.
"How can you? That cannot be!"
And Sonia's face worked with awful terror.
"Cannot be?" Raskolnikov went on with a harsh smile. "You are not insured against it, are you? What will happen to them then? They will be in the street, all of them, she will cough and beg and knock her head against some wall, as she did to-day, and the children will cry . . . . Then she will fall down, be taken to the police station and to the hospital, she will die, and the children . . . "
"Oh, no . . . . God will not let it be!" broke at last from Sonia's overburdened bosom.
She listened, looking imploringly at him, clasping her hands in dumb entreaty, as though it all depended upon him.
Raskolnikov got up and began to walk about the room. A minute passed. Sonia was standing with her hands and her head hanging in terrible dejection.
"And can't you save? Put by for a rainy day?" he asked, stopping suddenly before her.
"No," whispered Sonia.
"Of course not. Have you tried?" he added almost ironically.
"And it didn't come off! Of course not! No need to ask."
And again he paced the room. Another minute passed.
"You don't get money every day?"
Sonia was more confused than ever and colour rushed into her face again.
"No," she whispered with a painful effort.
"It will be the same with Polenka, no doubt," he said suddenly.
"No, no! It can't be, no!" Sonia cried aloud in desperation, as though she had been stabbed. "God would not allow anything so awful!"
"He lets others come to it."
"No, no! God will protect her, God!" she repeated beside herself.
"But, perhaps, there is no God at all," Raskolnikov answered with a sort of malignance, laughed and looked at her.
Sonia's face suddenly changed; a tremor passed over it. She looked at him with unutterable reproach, tried to say something, but could not speak and broke into bitter, bitter sobs, hiding her face in her hands.
"You say Katerina Ivanovna's mind is unhinged; your own mind is unhinged," he said after a brief silence.
Five minutes passed. He still paced up and down the room in silence, not looking at her. At last he went up to her; his eyes glittered. He put his two hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her tearful face. His eyes were hard, feverish and piercing, his lips were twitching. All at once he bent down quickly and dropping to the ground, kissed her foot. Sonia drew back from him as from a madman. And certainly he looked like a madman.
"What are you doing to me?" she muttered, turning pale, and a sudden anguish clutched at her heart.
He stood up at once.