"Ah, Avdotya Romanovna, everything is in a muddle now; not that it was ever in very good order. Russians in general are broad in their ideas, Avdotya Romanovna, broad like their land and exceedingly disposed to the fantastic, the chaotic. But it's a misfortune to be broad without a special genius. Do you remember what a lot of talk we had together on this subject, sitting in the evenings on the terrace after supper? Why, you used to reproach me with breadth! Who knows, perhaps we were talking at the very time when he was lying here thinking over his plan. There are no sacred traditions amongst us, especially in the educated class, Avdotya Romanovna. At the best someone will make them up somehow for himself out of books or from some old chronicle. But those are for the most part the learned and all old fogeys, so that it would be almost ill-bred in a man of society. You know my opinions in general, though. I never blame anyone. I do nothing at all, I persevere in that. But we've talked of this more than once before. I was so happy indeed as to interest you in my opinions . . . . You are very pale, Avdotya Romanovna."
"I know his theory. I read that article of his about men to whom all is permitted. Razumihin brought it to me."
"Mr. Razumihin? Your brother's article? In a magazine? Is there such an article? I didn't know. It must be interesting. But where are you going, Avdotya Romanovna?"
"I want to see Sofya Semyonovna," Dounia articulated faintly. "How do I go to her? She has come in, perhaps. I must see her at once. Perhaps she . . . "
Avdotya Romanovna could not finish. Her breath literally failed her.
"Sofya Semyonovna will not be back till night, at least I believe not. She was to have been back at once, but if not, then she will not be in till quite late."
"Ah, then you are lying! I see . . . you were lying . . . lying all the time . . . . I don't believe you! I don't believe you!" cried Dounia, completely losing her head.
Almost fainting, she sank on to a chair which Svidrigailov made haste to give her.
"Avdotya Romanovna, what is it? Control yourself! Here is some water. Drink a little . . . ."
He sprinkled some water over her. Dounia shuddered and came to herself.
"It has acted violently," Svidrigailov muttered to himself, frowning. "Avdotya Romanovna, calm yourself! Believe me, he has friends. We will save him. Would you like me to take him abroad? I have money, I can get a ticket in three days. And as for the murder, he will do all sorts of good deeds yet, to atone for it. Calm yourself. He may become a great man yet. Well, how are you? How do you feel?"
"Cruel man! To be able to jeer at it! Let me go . . . "
"Where are you going?"
"To him. Where is he? Do you know? Why is this door locked? We came in at that door and now it is locked. When did you manage to lock it?"
"We couldn't be shouting all over the flat on such a subject. I am far from jeering; it's simply that I'm sick of talking like this. But how can you go in such a state? Do you want to betray him? You will drive him to fury, and he will give himself up. Let me tell you, he is already being watched; they are already on his track. You will simply be giving him away. Wait a little: I saw him and was talking to him just now. He can still be saved. Wait a bit, sit down; let us think it over together. I asked you to come in order to discuss it alone with you and to consider it thoroughly. But do sit down!"
"How can you save him? Can he really be saved?"
Dounia sat down. Svidrigailov sat down beside her.
"It all depends on you, on you, on you alone," he began with glowing eyes, almost in a whisper and hardly able to utter the words for emotion.
Dounia drew back from him in alarm. He too was trembling all over.
"You . . . one word from you, and he is saved. I . . . I'll save him. I have money and friends. I'll send him away at once. I'll get a passport, two passports, one for him and one for me. I have friends . . . capable people . . . . If you like, I'll take a passport for you . . . for your mother . . . . What do you want with Razumihin? I love you too . . . . I love you beyond everything . . . . Let me kiss the hem of your dress, let me, let me . . . . The very rustle of it is too much for me. Tell me, 'do that,' and I'll do it. I'll do everything. I will do the impossible. What you believe, I will believe. I'll do anything — anything! Don't, don't look at me like that. Do you know that you are killing me? . . . "
He was almost beginning to rave . . . . Something seemed suddenly to go to his head. Dounia jumped up and rushed to the door.
"Open it! Open it!" she called, shaking the door. "Open it! Is there no one there?"
Svidrigailov got up and came to himself. His still trembling lips slowly broke into an angry mocking smile.
"There is no one at home," he said quietly and emphatically. "The landlady has gone out, and it's waste of time to shout like that. You are only exciting yourself uselessly."
"Where is the key? Open the door at once, at once, base man!"
"I have lost the key and cannot find it."
"This is an outrage," cried Dounia, turning pale as death. She rushed to the furthest corner, where she made haste to barricade herself with a little table.
She did not scream, but she fixed her eyes on her tormentor and watched every movement he made.
Svidrigailov remained standing at the other end of the room facing her. He was positively composed, at least in appearance, but his face was pale as before. The mocking smile did not leave his face.
"You spoke of outrage just now, Avdotya Romanovna. In that case you may be sure I've taken measures. Sofya Semyonovna is not at home. The Kapernaumovs are far away — there are five locked rooms between. I am at least twice as strong as you are and I have nothing to fear, besides. For you could not complain afterwards. You surely would not be willing actually to betray your brother? Besides, no one would believe you. How should a girl have come alone to visit a solitary man in his lodgings? So that even if you do sacrifice your brother, you could prove nothing. It is very difficult to prove an assault, Avdotya Romanovna."
"Scoundrel!" whispered Dounia indignantly.
"As you like, but observe I was only speaking by way of a general proposition. It's my personal conviction that you are perfectly right — violence is hateful. I only spoke to show you that you need have no remorse even if . . . you were willing to save your brother of your own accord, as I suggest to you. You would be simply submitting to circumstances, to violence, in fact, if we must use that word. Think about it. Your brother's and your mother's fate are in your hands. I will be your slave . . . all my life . . . I will wait here."
Svidrigailov sat down on the sofa about eight steps from Dounia. She had not the slightest doubt now of his unbending determination. Besides, she knew him. Suddenly she pulled out of her pocket a revolver, cocked it and laid it in her hand on the table. Svidrigailov jumped up.
"Aha! So that's it, is it?" he cried, surprised but smiling maliciously. "Well, that completely alters the aspect of affairs. You've made things wonderfully easier for me, Avdotya Romanovna. But where did you get the revolver? Was it Mr. Razumihin? Why, it's my revolver, an old friend! And how I've hunted for it! The shooting lessons I've given you in the country have not been thrown away."
"It's not your revolver, it belonged to Marfa Petrovna, whom you killed, wretch! There was nothing of yours in her house. I took it when I began to suspect what you were capable of. If you dare to advance one step, I swear I'll kill you." She was frantic.
"But your brother? I ask from curiosity," said Svidrigailov, still standing where he was.
"Inform, if you want to! Don't stir! Don't come nearer! I'll shoot! You poisoned your wife, I know; you are a murderer yourself!" She held the revolver ready.
"Are you so positive I poisoned Marfa Petrovna?"
"You did! You hinted it yourself; you talked to me of poison . . . . I know you went to get it . . . you had it in readiness . . . . It was your doing . . . . It must have been your doing . . . . Scoundrel!"
"Even if that were true, it would have been for your sake . . . you would have been the cause."
"You are lying! I hated you always, always . . . ."
"Oho, Avdotya Romanovna! You seem to have forgotten how you softened to me in the heat of propaganda. I saw it in your eyes. Do you remember that moonlight night, when the nightingale was singing?"
"That's a lie," there was a flash of fury in Dounia's eyes, "that's a lie and a libel!"