"A lie? Well, if you like, it's a lie. I made it up. Women ought not to be reminded of such things," he smiled. "I know you will shoot, you pretty wild creature. Well, shoot away!"
Dounia raised the revolver, and deadly pale, gazed at him, measuring the distance and awaiting the first movement on his part. Her lower lip was white and quivering and her big black eyes flashed like fire. He had never seen her so handsome. The fire glowing in her eyes at the moment she raised the revolver seemed to kindle him and there was a pang of anguish in his heart. He took a step forward and a shot rang out. The bullet grazed his hair and flew into the wall behind. He stood still and laughed softly.
"The wasp has stung me. She aimed straight at my head. What's this? Blood?" he pulled out his handkerchief to wipe the blood, which flowed in a thin stream down his right temple. The bullet seemed to have just grazed the skin.
Dounia lowered the revolver and looked at Svidrigailov not so much in terror as in a sort of wild amazement. She seemed not to understand what she was doing and what was going on.
"Well, you missed! Fire again, I'll wait," said Svidrigailov softly, still smiling, but gloomily. "If you go on like that, I shall have time to seize you before you cock again."
Dounia started, quickly cocked the pistol and again raised it.
"Let me be," she cried in despair. "I swear I'll shoot again. I . . . I'll kill you."
"Well . . . at three paces you can hardly help it. But if you don't . . . then." His eyes flashed and he took two steps forward. Dounia shot again: it missed fire.
"You haven't loaded it properly. Never mind, you have another charge there. Get it ready, I'll wait."
He stood facing her, two paces away, waiting and gazing at her with wild determination, with feverishly passionate, stubborn, set eyes. Dounia saw that he would sooner die than let her go. "And . . . now, of course she would kill him, at two paces!" Suddenly she flung away the revolver.
"She's dropped it!" said Svidrigailov with surprise, and he drew a deep breath. A weight seemed to have rolled from his heart — perhaps not only the fear of death; indeed he may scarcely have felt it at that moment. It was the deliverance from another feeling, darker and more bitter, which he could not himself have defined.
He went to Dounia and gently put his arm round her waist. She did not resist, but, trembling like a leaf, looked at him with suppliant eyes. He tried to say something, but his lips moved without being able to utter a sound.
"Let me go," Dounia implored. Svidrigailov shuddered. Her voice now was quite different.
"Then you don't love me?" he asked softly. Dounia shook her head.
"And . . . and you can't? Never?" he whispered in despair.
There followed a moment of terrible, dumb struggle in the heart of Svidrigailov. He looked at her with an indescribable gaze. Suddenly he withdrew his arm, turned quickly to the window and stood facing it. Another moment passed.
"Here's the key."
He took it out of the left pocket of his coat and laid it on the table behind him, without turning or looking at Dounia.
"Take it! Make haste!"
He looked stubbornly out of the window. Dounia went up to the table to take the key.
"Make haste! Make haste!" repeated Svidrigailov, still without turning or moving. But there seemed a terrible significance in the tone of that "make haste."
Dounia understood it, snatched up the key, flew to the door, unlocked it quickly and rushed out of the room. A minute later, beside herself, she ran out on to the canal bank in the direction of X. Bridge.
Svidrigailov remained three minutes standing at the window. At last he slowly turned, looked about him and passed his hand over his forehead. A strange smile contorted his face, a pitiful, sad, weak smile, a smile of despair. The blood, which was already getting dry, smeared his hand. He looked angrily at it, then wetted a towel and washed his temple. The revolver which Dounia had flung away lay near the door and suddenly caught his eye. He picked it up and examined it. It was a little pocket three-barrel revolver of old-fashioned construction. There were still two charges and one capsule left in it. It could be fired again. He thought a little, put the revolver in his pocket, took his hat and went out.