Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 6: Chapter 5


Raskolnikov walked after him.

"What's this?" cried Svidrigailov turning round, "I thought I said . . . "

"It means that I am not going to lose sight of you now."


Both stood still and gazed at one another, as though measuring their strength.

"From all your half tipsy stories," Raskolnikov observed harshly, "I am positive that you have not given up your designs on my sister, but are pursuing them more actively than ever. I have learnt that my sister received a letter this morning. You have hardly been able to sit still all this time . . . . You may have unearthed a wife on the way, but that means nothing. I should like to make certain myself."

Raskolnikov could hardly have said himself what he wanted and of what he wished to make certain.

"Upon my word! I'll call the police!"

"Call away!"

Again they stood for a minute facing each other. At last Svidrigailov's face changed. Having satisfied himself that Raskolnikov was not frightened at his threat, he assumed a mirthful and friendly air.

"What a fellow! I purposely refrained from referring to your affair, though I am devoured by curiosity. It's a fantastic affair. I've put it off till another time, but you're enough to rouse the dead . . . . Well, let us go, only I warn you beforehand I am only going home for a moment, to get some money; then I shall lock up the flat, take a cab and go to spend the evening at the Islands. Now, now are you going to follow me?"

"I'm coming to your lodgings, not to see you but Sofya Semyonovna, to say I'm sorry not to have been at the funeral."

"That's as you like, but Sofya Semyonovna is not at home. She has taken the three children to an old lady of high rank, the patroness of some orphan asylums, whom I used to know years ago. I charmed the old lady by depositing a sum of money with her to provide for the three children of Katerina Ivanovna and subscribing to the institution as well. I told her too the story of Sofya Semyonovna in full detail, suppressing nothing. It produced an indescribable effect on her. That's why Sofya Semyonovna has been invited to call to-day at the X. Hotel where the lady is staying for the time."

"No matter, I'll come all the same."

"As you like, it's nothing to me, but I won't come with you; here we are at home. By the way, I am convinced that you regard me with suspicion just because I have shown such delicacy and have not so far troubled you with questions . . . you understand? It struck you as extraordinary; I don't mind betting it's that. Well, it teaches one to show delicacy!"

"And to listen at doors!"

"Ah, that's it, is it?" laughed Svidrigailov. "Yes, I should have been surprised if you had let that pass after all that has happened. Ha-ha! Though I did understand something of the pranks you had been up to and were telling Sofya Semyonovna about, what was the meaning of it? Perhaps I am quite behind the times and can't understand. For goodness' sake, explain it, my dear boy. Expound the latest theories!"

"You couldn't have heard anything. You're making it all up!"

"But I'm not talking about that (though I did hear something). No, I'm talking of the way you keep sighing and groaning now. The Schiller in you is in revolt every moment, and now you tell me not to listen at doors. If that's how you feel, go and inform the police that you had this mischance: you made a little mistake in your theory. But if you are convinced that one mustn't listen at doors, but one may murder old women at one's pleasure, you'd better be off to America and make haste. Run, young man! There may still be time. I'm speaking sincerely. Haven't you the money? I'll give you the fare."

"I'm not thinking of that at all," Raskolnikov interrupted with disgust.

"I understand (but don't put yourself out, don't discuss it if you don't want to). I understand the questions you are worrying over — moral ones, aren't they? Duties of citizen and man? Lay them all aside. They are nothing to you now, ha-ha! You'll say you are still a man and a citizen. If so you ought not to have got into this coil. It's no use taking up a job you are not fit for. Well, you'd better shoot yourself, or don't you want to?"

"You seem trying to enrage me, to make me leave you."

"What a queer fellow! But here we are. Welcome to the staircase. You see, that's the way to Sofya Semyonovna. Look, there is no one at home. Don't you believe me? Ask Kapernaumov. She leaves the key with him. Here is Madame de Kapernaumov herself. Hey, what? She is rather deaf. Has she gone out? Where? Did you hear? She is not in and won't be till late in the evening probably. Well, come to my room; you wanted to come and see me, didn't you? Here we are. Madame Resslich's not at home. She is a woman who is always busy, an excellent woman I assure you . . . . She might have been of use to you if you had been a little more sensible. Now, see! I take this five-per-cent bond out of the bureau — see what a lot I've got of them still — this one will be turned into cash to-day. I mustn't waste any more time. The bureau is locked, the flat is locked, and here we are again on the stairs. Shall we take a cab? I'm going to the Islands. Would you like a lift? I'll take this carriage. Ah, you refuse? You are tired of it! Come for a drive! I believe it will come on to rain. Never mind, we'll put down the hood . . . ."

Svidrigailov was already in the carriage. Raskolnikov decided that his suspicions were at least for that moment unjust. Without answering a word he turned and walked back towards the Hay Market. If he had only turned round on his way he might have seen Svidrigailov get out not a hundred paces off, dismiss the cab and walk along the pavement. But he had turned the corner and could see nothing. Intense disgust drew him away from Svidrigailov.

"To think that I could for one instant have looked for help from that coarse brute, that depraved sensualist and blackguard!" he cried.

Raskolnikov's judgment was uttered too lightly and hastily: there was something about Svidrigailov which gave him a certain original, even a mysterious character. As concerned his sister, Raskolnikov was convinced that Svidrigailov would not leave her in peace. But it was too tiresome and unbearable to go on thinking and thinking about this.

When he was alone, he had not gone twenty paces before he sank, as usual, into deep thought. On the bridge he stood by the railing and began gazing at the water. And his sister was standing close by him.

He met her at the entrance to the bridge, but passed by without seeing her. Dounia had never met him like this in the street before and was struck with dismay. She stood still and did not know whether to call to him or not. Suddenly she saw Svidrigailov coming quickly from the direction of the Hay Market.

He seemed to be approaching cautiously. He did not go on to the bridge, but stood aside on the pavement, doing all he could to avoid Raskolnikov's seeing him. He had observed Dounia for some time and had been making signs to her. She fancied he was signalling to beg her not to speak to her brother, but to come to him.

That was what Dounia did. She stole by her brother and went up to Svidrigailov.

"Let us make haste away," Svidrigailov whispered to her, "I don't want Rodion Romanovitch to know of our meeting. I must tell you I've been sitting with him in the restaurant close by, where he looked me up and I had great difficulty in getting rid of him. He has somehow heard of my letter to you and suspects something. It wasn't you who told him, of course, but if not you, who then?"

"Well, we've turned the corner now," Dounia interrupted, "and my brother won't see us. I have to tell you that I am going no further with you. Speak to me here. You can tell it all in the street."

"In the first place, I can't say it in the street; secondly, you must hear Sofya Semyonovna too; and, thirdly, I will show you some papers . . . . Oh well, if you won't agree to come with me, I shall refuse to give any explanation and go away at once. But I beg you not to forget that a very curious secret of your beloved brother's is entirely in my keeping."

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