Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 2: Chapter 5

"You are talking of the murder of the old pawnbroker, I believe?" Pyotr Petrovitch put in, addressing Zossimov. He was standing, hat and gloves in hand, but before departing he felt disposed to throw off a few more intellectual phrases. He was evidently anxious to make a favourable impression and his vanity overcame his prudence.

"Yes. You've heard of it?"

"Oh, yes, being in the neighbourhood."

"Do you know the details?"

"I can't say that; but another circumstance interests me in the case — the whole question, so to say. Not to speak of the fact that crime has been greatly on the increase among the lower classes during the last five years, not to speak of the cases of robbery and arson everywhere, what strikes me as the strangest thing is that in the higher classes, too, crime is increasing proportionately. In one place one hears of a student's robbing the mail on the high road; in another place people of good social position forge false banknotes; in Moscow of late a whole gang has been captured who used to forge lottery tickets, and one of the ringleaders was a lecturer in universal history; then our secretary abroad was murdered from some obscure motive of gain . . . . And if this old woman, the pawnbroker, has been murdered by someone of a higher class in society — for peasants don't pawn gold trinkets — how are we to explain this demoralisation of the civilised part of our society?"

"There are many economic changes," put in Zossimov.

"How are we to explain it?" Razumihin caught him up. "It might be explained by our inveterate impracticality."

"How do you mean?"

"What answer had your lecturer in Moscow to make to the question why he was forging notes? 'Everybody is getting rich one way or another, so I want to make haste to get rich too.' I don't remember the exact words, but the upshot was that he wants money for nothing, without waiting or working! We've grown used to having everything ready-made, to walking on crutches, to having our food chewed for us. Then the great hour struck,[*] and every man showed himself in his true colours."

[*] The emancipation of the serfs in 1861 is meant. — TRANSLATOR'S NOTE.

"But morality? And so to speak, principles . . . "

"But why do you worry about it?" Raskolnikov interposed suddenly. "It's in accordance with your theory!"

"In accordance with my theory?"

"Why, carry out logically the theory you were advocating just now, and it follows that people may be killed . . . "

"Upon my word!" cried Luzhin.

"No, that's not so," put in Zossimov.

Raskolnikov lay with a white face and twitching upper lip, breathing painfully.

"There's a measure in all things," Luzhin went on superciliously. "Economic ideas are not an incitement to murder, and one has but to suppose . . . "

"And is it true," Raskolnikov interposed once more suddenly, again in a voice quivering with fury and delight in insulting him, "is it true that you told your fiancee . . . within an hour of her acceptance, that what pleased you most . . . was that she was a beggar . . . because it was better to raise a wife from poverty, so that you may have complete control over her, and reproach her with your being her benefactor?"

"Upon my word," Luzhin cried wrathfully and irritably, crimson with confusion, "to distort my words in this way! Excuse me, allow me to assure you that the report which has reached you, or rather, let me say, has been conveyed to you, has no foundation in truth, and I . . . suspect who . . . in a word . . . this arrow . . . in a word, your mamma . . . She seemed to me in other things, with all her excellent qualities, of a somewhat high-flown and romantic way of thinking . . . . But I was a thousand miles from supposing that she would misunderstand and misrepresent things in so fanciful a way . . . . And indeed . . . indeed . . . "

"I tell you what," cried Raskolnikov, raising himself on his pillow and fixing his piercing, glittering eyes upon him, "I tell you what."

"What?" Luzhin stood still, waiting with a defiant and offended face. Silence lasted for some seconds.

"Why, if ever again . . . you dare to mention a single word . . . about my mother . . . I shall send you flying downstairs!"

"What's the matter with you?" cried Razumihin.

"So that's how it is?" Luzhin turned pale and bit his lip. "Let me tell you, sir," he began deliberately, doing his utmost to restrain himself but breathing hard, "at the first moment I saw you you were ill-disposed to me, but I remained here on purpose to find out more. I could forgive a great deal in a sick man and a connection, but you . . . never after this . . . "

"I am not ill," cried Raskolnikov.

"So much the worse . . . "

"Go to hell!"

But Luzhin was already leaving without finishing his speech, squeezing between the table and the chair; Razumihin got up this time to let him pass. Without glancing at anyone, and not even nodding to Zossimov, who had for some time been making signs to him to let the sick man alone, he went out, lifting his hat to the level of his shoulders to avoid crushing it as he stooped to go out of the door. And even the curve of his spine was expressive of the horrible insult he had received.

"How could you — how could you!" Razumihin said, shaking his head in perplexity.

"Let me alone — let me alone all of you!" Raskolnikov cried in a frenzy. "Will you ever leave off tormenting me? I am not afraid of you! I am not afraid of anyone, anyone now! Get away from me! I want to be alone, alone, alone!"

"Come along," said Zossimov, nodding to Razumihin.

"But we can't leave him like this!"

"Come along," Zossimov repeated insistently, and he went out. Razumihin thought a minute and ran to overtake him.

"It might be worse not to obey him," said Zossimov on the stairs. "He mustn't be irritated."

"What's the matter with him?"

"If only he could get some favourable shock, that's what would do it! At first he was better . . . . You know he has got something on his mind! Some fixed idea weighing on him . . . . I am very much afraid so; he must have!"

"Perhaps it's that gentleman, Pyotr Petrovitch. From his conversation I gather he is going to marry his sister, and that he had received a letter about it just before his illness . . . ."

"Yes, confound the man! he may have upset the case altogether. But have you noticed, he takes no interest in anything, he does not respond to anything except one point on which he seems excited — that's the murder?"

"Yes, yes," Razumihin agreed, "I noticed that, too. He is interested, frightened. It gave him a shock on the day he was ill in the police office; he fainted."

"Tell me more about that this evening and I'll tell you something afterwards. He interests me very much! In half an hour I'll go and see him again . . . . There'll be no inflammation though."

"Thanks! And I'll wait with Pashenka meantime and will keep watch on him through Nastasya . . . ."

Raskolnikov, left alone, looked with impatience and misery at Nastasya, but she still lingered.

"Won't you have some tea now?" she asked.

"Later! I am sleepy! Leave me."

He turned abruptly to the wall; Nastasya went out.

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