Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 3: Chapter 5


Raskolnikov was already entering the room. He came in looking as though he had the utmost difficulty not to burst out laughing again. Behind him Razumihin strode in gawky and awkward, shamefaced and red as a peony, with an utterly crestfallen and ferocious expression. His face and whole figure really were ridiculous at that moment and amply justified Raskolnikov's laughter. Raskolnikov, not waiting for an introduction, bowed to Porfiry Petrovitch, who stood in the middle of the room looking inquiringly at them. He held out his hand and shook hands, still apparently making desperate efforts to subdue his mirth and utter a few words to introduce himself. But he had no sooner succeeded in assuming a serious air and muttering something when he suddenly glanced again as though accidentally at Razumihin, and could no longer control himself: his stifled laughter broke out the more irresistibly the more he tried to restrain it. The extraordinary ferocity with which Razumihin received this "spontaneous" mirth gave the whole scene the appearance of most genuine fun and naturalness. Razumihin strengthened this impression as though on purpose.

"Fool! You fiend," he roared, waving his arm which at once struck a little round table with an empty tea-glass on it. Everything was sent flying and crashing.

"But why break chairs, gentlemen? You know it's a loss to the Crown," Porfiry Petrovitch quoted gaily.

Raskolnikov was still laughing, with his hand in Porfiry Petrovitch's, but anxious not to overdo it, awaited the right moment to put a natural end to it. Razumihin, completely put to confusion by upsetting the table and smashing the glass, gazed gloomily at the fragments, cursed and turned sharply to the window where he stood looking out with his back to the company with a fiercely scowling countenance, seeing nothing. Porfiry Petrovitch laughed and was ready to go on laughing, but obviously looked for explanations. Zametov had been sitting in the corner, but he rose at the visitors' entrance and was standing in expectation with a smile on his lips, though he looked with surprise and even it seemed incredulity at the whole scene and at Raskolnikov with a certain embarrassment. Zametov's unexpected presence struck Raskolnikov unpleasantly.

"I've got to think of that," he thought. "Excuse me, please," he began, affecting extreme embarrassment. "Raskolnikov."

"Not at all, very pleasant to see you . . . and how pleasantly you've come in . . . . Why, won't he even say good-morning?" Porfiry Petrovitch nodded at Razumihin.

"Upon my honour I don't know why he is in such a rage with me. I only told him as we came along that he was like Romeo . . . and proved it. And that was all, I think!"

"Pig!" ejaculated Razumihin, without turning round.

"There must have been very grave grounds for it, if he is so furious at the word," Porfiry laughed.

"Oh, you sharp lawyer! . . . Damn you all!" snapped Razumihin, and suddenly bursting out laughing himself, he went up to Porfiry with a more cheerful face as though nothing had happened. "That'll do! We are all fools. To come to business. This is my friend Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov; in the first place he has heard of you and wants to make your acquaintance, and secondly, he has a little matter of business with you. Bah! Zametov, what brought you here? Have you met before? Have you known each other long?"

"What does this mean?" thought Raskolnikov uneasily.

Zametov seemed taken aback, but not very much so.

"Why, it was at your rooms we met yesterday," he said easily.

"Then I have been spared the trouble. All last week he was begging me to introduce him to you. Porfiry and you have sniffed each other out without me. Where is your tobacco?"

Porfiry Petrovitch was wearing a dressing-gown, very clean linen, and trodden-down slippers. He was a man of about five and thirty, short, stout even to corpulence, and clean shaven. He wore his hair cut short and had a large round head, particularly prominent at the back. His soft, round, rather snub-nosed face was of a sickly yellowish colour, but had a vigorous and rather ironical expression. It would have been good-natured except for a look in the eyes, which shone with a watery, mawkish light under almost white, blinking eyelashes. The expression of those eyes was strangely out of keeping with his somewhat womanish figure, and gave it something far more serious than could be guessed at first sight.

As soon as Porfiry Petrovitch heard that his visitor had a little matter of business with him, he begged him to sit down on the sofa and sat down himself on the other end, waiting for him to explain his business, with that careful and over-serious attention which is at once oppressive and embarrassing, especially to a stranger, and especially if what you are discussing is in your opinion of far too little importance for such exceptional solemnity. But in brief and coherent phrases Raskolnikov explained his business clearly and exactly, and was so well satisfied with himself that he even succeeded in taking a good look at Porfiry. Porfiry Petrovitch did not once take his eyes off him. Razumihin, sitting opposite at the same table, listened warmly and impatiently, looking from one to the other every moment with rather excessive interest.

"Fool," Raskolnikov swore to himself.

"You have to give information to the police," Porfiry replied, with a most businesslike air, "that having learnt of this incident, that is of the murder, you beg to inform the lawyer in charge of the case that such and such things belong to you, and that you desire to redeem them . . . or . . . but they will write to you."

"That's just the point, that at the present moment," Raskolnikov tried his utmost to feign embarrassment, "I am not quite in funds . . . and even this trifling sum is beyond me . . . I only wanted, you see, for the present to declare that the things are mine, and that when I have money . . . ."

"That's no matter," answered Porfiry Petrovitch, receiving his explanation of his pecuniary position coldly, "but you can, if you prefer, write straight to me, to say, that having been informed of the matter, and claiming such and such as your property, you beg . . . "

"On an ordinary sheet of paper?" Raskolnikov interrupted eagerly, again interested in the financial side of the question.

"Oh, the most ordinary," and suddenly Porfiry Petrovitch looked with obvious irony at him, screwing up his eyes and, as it were, winking at him. But perhaps it was Raskolnikov's fancy, for it all lasted but a moment. There was certainly something of the sort, Raskolnikov could have sworn he winked at him, goodness knows why.

"He knows," flashed through his mind like lightning.

"Forgive my troubling you about such trifles," he went on, a little disconcerted, "the things are only worth five roubles, but I prize them particularly for the sake of those from whom they came to me, and I must confess that I was alarmed when I heard . . . "

"That's why you were so much struck when I mentioned to Zossimov that Porfiry was inquiring for everyone who had pledges!" Razumihin put in with obvious intention.

This was really unbearable. Raskolnikov could not help glancing at him with a flash of vindictive anger in his black eyes, but immediately recollected himself.

"You seem to be jeering at me, brother?" he said to him, with a well-feigned irritability. "I dare say I do seem to you absurdly anxious about such trash; but you mustn't think me selfish or grasping for that, and these two things may be anything but trash in my eyes. I told you just now that the silver watch, though it's not worth a cent, is the only thing left us of my father's. You may laugh at me, but my mother is here," he turned suddenly to Porfiry, "and if she knew," he turned again hurriedly to Razumihin, carefully making his voice tremble, "that the watch was lost, she would be in despair! You know what women are!"

"Not a bit of it! I didn't mean that at all! Quite the contrary!" shouted Razumihin distressed.

"Was it right? Was it natural? Did I overdo it?" Raskolnikov asked himself in a tremor. "Why did I say that about women?"

"Oh, your mother is with you?" Porfiry Petrovitch inquired.


"When did she come?"

"Last night."

Porfiry paused as though reflecting.

"Your things would not in any case be lost," he went on calmly and coldly. "I have been expecting you here for some time."

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