"No, Sonia," he broke in hurriedly, "that money was not it. Don't worry yourself! That money my mother sent me and it came when I was ill, the day I gave it to you . . . . Razumihin saw it . . . he received it for me . . . . That money was mine — my own."
Sonia listened to him in bewilderment and did her utmost to comprehend.
"And that money . . . . I don't even know really whether there was any money," he added softly, as though reflecting. "I took a purse off her neck, made of chamois leather . . . a purse stuffed full of something . . . but I didn't look in it; I suppose I hadn't time . . . . And the things — chains and trinkets — I buried under a stone with the purse next morning in a yard off the V — — Prospect. They are all there now . . . ."
Sonia strained every nerve to listen.
"Then why . . . why, you said you did it to rob, but you took nothing?" she asked quickly, catching at a straw.
"I don't know . . . . I haven't yet decided whether to take that money or not," he said, musing again; and, seeming to wake up with a start, he gave a brief ironical smile. "Ach, what silly stuff I am talking, eh?"
The thought flashed through Sonia's mind, wasn't he mad? But she dismissed it at once. "No, it was something else." She could make nothing of it, nothing.
"Do you know, Sonia," he said suddenly with conviction, "let me tell you: if I'd simply killed because I was hungry," laying stress on every word and looking enigmatically but sincerely at her, "I should be happy now. You must believe that! What would it matter to you," he cried a moment later with a sort of despair, "what would it matter to you if I were to confess that I did wrong? What do you gain by such a stupid triumph over me? Ah, Sonia, was it for that I've come to you to-day?"
Again Sonia tried to say something, but did not speak.
"I asked you to go with me yesterday because you are all I have left."
"Go where?" asked Sonia timidly.
"Not to steal and not to murder, don't be anxious," he smiled bitterly. "We are so different . . . . And you know, Sonia, it's only now, only this moment that I understand where I asked you to go with me yesterday! Yesterday when I said it I did not know where. I asked you for one thing, I came to you for one thing — not to leave me. You won't leave me, Sonia?"
She squeezed his hand.
"And why, why did I tell her? Why did I let her know?" he cried a minute later in despair, looking with infinite anguish at her. "Here you expect an explanation from me, Sonia; you are sitting and waiting for it, I see that. But what can I tell you? You won't understand and will only suffer misery . . . on my account! Well, you are crying and embracing me again. Why do you do it? Because I couldn't bear my burden and have come to throw it on another: you suffer too, and I shall feel better! And can you love such a mean wretch?"
"But aren't you suffering, too?" cried Sonia.
Again a wave of the same feeling surged into his heart, and again for an instant softened it.
"Sonia, I have a bad heart, take note of that. It may explain a great deal. I have come because I am bad. There are men who wouldn't have come. But I am a coward and . . . a mean wretch. But . . . never mind! That's not the point. I must speak now, but I don't know how to begin."
He paused and sank into thought.
"Ach, we are so different," he cried again, "we are not alike. And why, why did I come? I shall never forgive myself that."
"No, no, it was a good thing you came," cried Sonia. "It's better I should know, far better!"
He looked at her with anguish.
"What if it were really that?" he said, as though reaching a conclusion. "Yes, that's what it was! I wanted to become a Napoleon, that is why I killed her . . . . Do you understand now?"
"N-no," Sonia whispered naively and timidly. "Only speak, speak, I shall understand, I shall understand in myself!" she kept begging him.
"You'll understand? Very well, we shall see!" He paused and was for some time lost in meditation.
"It was like this: I asked myself one day this question — what if Napoleon, for instance, had happened to be in my place, and if he had not had Toulon nor Egypt nor the passage of Mont Blanc to begin his career with, but instead of all those picturesque and monumental things, there had simply been some ridiculous old hag, a pawnbroker, who had to be murdered too to get money from her trunk (for his career, you understand). Well, would he have brought himself to that if there had been no other means? Wouldn't he have felt a pang at its being so far from monumental and . . . and sinful, too? Well, I must tell you that I worried myself fearfully over that 'question' so that I was awfully ashamed when I guessed at last (all of a sudden, somehow) that it would not have given him the least pang, that it would not even have struck him that it was not monumental . . . that he would not have seen that there was anything in it to pause over, and that, if he had had no other way, he would have strangled her in a minute without thinking about it! Well, I too . . . left off thinking about it . . . murdered her, following his example. And that's exactly how it was! Do you think it funny? Yes, Sonia, the funniest thing of all is that perhaps that's just how it was."
Sonia did not think it at all funny.
"You had better tell me straight out . . . without examples," she begged, still more timidly and scarcely audibly.
He turned to her, looked sadly at her and took her hands.
"You are right again, Sonia. Of course that's all nonsense, it's almost all talk! You see, you know of course that my mother has scarcely anything, my sister happened to have a good education and was condemned to drudge as a governess. All their hopes were centered on me. I was a student, but I couldn't keep myself at the university and was forced for a time to leave it. Even if I had lingered on like that, in ten or twelve years I might (with luck) hope to be some sort of teacher or clerk with a salary of a thousand roubles" (he repeated it as though it were a lesson) "and by that time my mother would be worn out with grief and anxiety and I could not succeed in keeping her in comfort while my sister . . . well, my sister might well have fared worse! And it's a hard thing to pass everything by all one's life, to turn one's back upon everything, to forget one's mother and decorously accept the insults inflicted on one's sister. Why should one? When one has buried them to burden oneself with others — wife and children — and to leave them again without a farthing? So I resolved to gain possession of the old woman's money and to use it for my first years without worrying my mother, to keep myself at the university and for a little while after leaving it — and to do this all on a broad, thorough scale, so as to build up a completely new career and enter upon a new life of independence . . . . Well . . . that's all . . . . Well, of course in killing the old woman I did wrong . . . . Well, that's enough."
He struggled to the end of his speech in exhaustion and let his head sink.
"Oh, that's not it, that's not it," Sonia cried in distress. "How could one . . . no, that's not right, not right."
"You see yourself that it's not right. But I've spoken truly, it's the truth."
"As though that could be the truth! Good God!"
"I've only killed a louse, Sonia, a useless, loathsome, harmful creature."
"A human being — a louse!"
"I too know it wasn't a louse," he answered, looking strangely at her. "But I am talking nonsense, Sonia," he added. "I've been talking nonsense a long time . . . . That's not it, you are right there. There were quite, quite other causes for it! I haven't talked to anyone for so long, Sonia . . . . My head aches dreadfully now."
His eyes shone with feverish brilliance. He was almost delirious; an uneasy smile strayed on his lips. His terrible exhaustion could be seen through his excitement. Sonia saw how he was suffering. She too was growing dizzy. And he talked so strangely; it seemed somehow comprehensible, but yet . . . "But how, how! Good God!" And she wrung her hands in despair.
"No, Sonia, that's not it," he began again suddenly, raising his head, as though a new and sudden train of thought had struck and as it were roused him — "that's not it! Better . . . imagine — yes, it's certainly better — imagine that I am vain, envious, malicious, base, vindictive and . . . well, perhaps with a tendency to insanity. (Let's have it all out at once! They've talked of madness already, I noticed.) I told you just now I could not keep myself at the university. But do you know that perhaps I might have done? My mother would have sent me what I needed for the fees and I could have earned enough for clothes, boots and food, no doubt. Lessons had turned up at half a rouble. Razumihin works! But I turned sulky and wouldn't. (Yes, sulkiness, that's the right word for it!) I sat in my room like a spider. You've been in my den, you've seen it . . . . And do you know, Sonia, that low ceilings and tiny rooms cramp the soul and the mind? Ah, how I hated that garret! And yet I wouldn't go out of it! I wouldn't on purpose! I didn't go out for days together, and I wouldn't work, I wouldn't even eat, I just lay there doing nothing. If Nastasya brought me anything, I ate it, if she didn't, I went all day without; I wouldn't ask, on purpose, from sulkiness! At night I had no light, I lay in the dark and I wouldn't earn money for candles. I ought to have studied, but I sold my books; and the dust lies an inch thick on the notebooks on my table. I preferred lying still and thinking. And I kept thinking . . . . And I had dreams all the time, strange dreams of all sorts, no need to describe! Only then I began to fancy that . . . No, that's not it! Again I am telling you wrong! You see I kept asking myself then: why am I so stupid that if others are stupid — and I know they are — yet I won't be wiser? Then I saw, Sonia, that if one waits for everyone to get wiser it will take too long . . . . Afterwards I understood that that would never come to pass, that men won't change and that nobody can alter it and that it's not worth wasting effort over it. Yes, that's so. That's the law of their nature, Sonia, . . . that's so! . . . And I know now, Sonia, that whoever is strong in mind and spirit will have power over them. Anyone who is greatly daring is right in their eyes. He who despises most things will be a lawgiver among them and he who dares most of all will be most in the right! So it has been till now and so it will always be. A man must be blind not to see it!"