Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 2: Chapter 6

"Or? Or what? What? Come, tell me!"

"Nothing," said Zametov, getting angry, "it's all nonsense!"

Both were silent. After his sudden fit of laughter Raskolnikov became suddenly thoughtful and melancholy. He put his elbow on the table and leaned his head on his hand. He seemed to have completely forgotten Zametov. The silence lasted for some time.

"Why don't you drink your tea? It's getting cold," said Zametov.

"What! Tea? Oh, yes . . . ." Raskolnikov sipped the glass, put a morsel of bread in his mouth and, suddenly looking at Zametov, seemed to remember everything and pulled himself together. At the same moment his face resumed its original mocking expression. He went on drinking tea.

"There have been a great many of these crimes lately," said Zametov. "Only the other day I read in the Moscow News that a whole gang of false coiners had been caught in Moscow. It was a regular society. They used to forge tickets!"

"Oh, but it was a long time ago! I read about it a month ago," Raskolnikov answered calmly. "So you consider them criminals?" he added, smiling.

"Of course they are criminals."

"They? They are children, simpletons, not criminals! Why, half a hundred people meeting for such an object — what an idea! Three would be too many, and then they want to have more faith in one another than in themselves! One has only to blab in his cups and it all collapses. Simpletons! They engaged untrustworthy people to change the notes — what a thing to trust to a casual stranger! Well, let us suppose that these simpletons succeed and each makes a million, and what follows for the rest of their lives? Each is dependent on the others for the rest of his life! Better hang oneself at once! And they did not know how to change the notes either; the man who changed the notes took five thousand roubles, and his hands trembled. He counted the first four thousand, but did not count the fifth thousand — he was in such a hurry to get the money into his pocket and run away. Of course he roused suspicion. And the whole thing came to a crash through one fool! Is it possible?"

"That his hands trembled?" observed Zametov, "yes, that's quite possible. That, I feel quite sure, is possible. Sometimes one can't stand things."

"Can't stand that?"

"Why, could you stand it then? No, I couldn't. For the sake of a hundred roubles to face such a terrible experience? To go with false notes into a bank where it's their business to spot that sort of thing! No, I should not have the face to do it. Would you?"

Raskolnikov had an intense desire again "to put his tongue out." Shivers kept running down his spine.

"I should do it quite differently," Raskolnikov began. "This is how I would change the notes: I'd count the first thousand three or four times backwards and forwards, looking at every note and then I'd set to the second thousand; I'd count that half-way through and then hold some fifty-rouble note to the light, then turn it, then hold it to the light again — to see whether it was a good one. 'I am afraid,' I would say, 'a relation of mine lost twenty-five roubles the other day through a false note,' and then I'd tell them the whole story. And after I began counting the third, 'No, excuse me,' I would say, 'I fancy I made a mistake in the seventh hundred in that second thousand, I am not sure.' And so I would give up the third thousand and go back to the second and so on to the end. And when I had finished, I'd pick out one from the fifth and one from the second thousand and take them again to the light and ask again, 'Change them, please,' and put the clerk into such a stew that he would not know how to get rid of me. When I'd finished and had gone out, I'd come back, 'No, excuse me,' and ask for some explanation. That's how I'd do it."

"Foo! what terrible things you say!" said Zametov, laughing. "But all that is only talk. I dare say when it came to deeds you'd make a slip. I believe that even a practised, desperate man cannot always reckon on himself, much less you and I. To take an example near home — that old woman murdered in our district. The murderer seems to have been a desperate fellow, he risked everything in open daylight, was saved by a miracle — but his hands shook, too. He did not succeed in robbing the place, he couldn't stand it. That was clear from the . . . "

Raskolnikov seemed offended.

"Clear? Why don't you catch him then?" he cried, maliciously gibing at Zametov.

"Well, they will catch him."

"Who? You? Do you suppose you could catch him? You've a tough job! A great point for you is whether a man is spending money or not. If he had no money and suddenly begins spending, he must be the man. So that any child can mislead you."

"The fact is they always do that, though," answered Zametov. "A man will commit a clever murder at the risk of his life and then at once he goes drinking in a tavern. They are caught spending money, they are not all as cunning as you are. You wouldn't go to a tavern, of course?"

Raskolnikov frowned and looked steadily at Zametov.

"You seem to enjoy the subject and would like to know how I should behave in that case, too?" he asked with displeasure.

"I should like to," Zametov answered firmly and seriously. Somewhat too much earnestness began to appear in his words and looks.

"Very much?"

"Very much!"

"All right then. This is how I should behave," Raskolnikov began, again bringing his face close to Zametov's, again staring at him and speaking in a whisper, so that the latter positively shuddered. "This is what I should have done. I should have taken the money and jewels, I should have walked out of there and have gone straight to some deserted place with fences round it and scarcely anyone to be seen, some kitchen garden or place of that sort. I should have looked out beforehand some stone weighing a hundredweight or more which had been lying in the corner from the time the house was built. I would lift that stone — there would sure to be a hollow under it, and I would put the jewels and money in that hole. Then I'd roll the stone back so that it would look as before, would press it down with my foot and walk away. And for a year or two, three maybe, I would not touch it. And, well, they could search! There'd be no trace."

"You are a madman," said Zametov, and for some reason he too spoke in a whisper, and moved away from Raskolnikov, whose eyes were glittering. He had turned fearfully pale and his upper lip was twitching and quivering. He bent down as close as possible to Zametov, and his lips began to move without uttering a word. This lasted for half a minute; he knew what he was doing, but could not restrain himself. The terrible word trembled on his lips, like the latch on that door; in another moment it will break out, in another moment he will let it go, he will speak out.

"And what if it was I who murdered the old woman and Lizaveta?" he said suddenly and — realised what he had done.

Zametov looked wildly at him and turned white as the tablecloth. His face wore a contorted smile.

"But is it possible?" he brought out faintly. Raskolnikov looked wrathfully at him.

"Own up that you believed it, yes, you did?"

"Not a bit of it, I believe it less than ever now," Zametov cried hastily.

"I've caught my cock-sparrow! So you did believe it before, if now you believe less than ever?"

"Not at all," cried Zametov, obviously embarrassed. "Have you been frightening me so as to lead up to this?"

"You don't believe it then? What were you talking about behind my back when I went out of the police-office? And why did the explosive lieutenant question me after I fainted? Hey, there," he shouted to the waiter, getting up and taking his cap, "how much?"

"Thirty copecks," the latter replied, running up.

"And there is twenty copecks for vodka. See what a lot of money!" he held out his shaking hand to Zametov with notes in it. "Red notes and blue, twenty-five roubles. Where did I get them? And where did my new clothes come from? You know I had not a copeck. You've cross-examined my landlady, I'll be bound . . . . Well, that's enough! Assez cause! Till we meet again!"

He went out, trembling all over from a sort of wild hysterical sensation, in which there was an element of insufferable rapture. Yet he was gloomy and terribly tired. His face was twisted as after a fit. His fatigue increased rapidly. Any shock, any irritating sensation stimulated and revived his energies at once, but his strength failed as quickly when the stimulus was removed.

Zametov, left alone, sat for a long time in the same place, plunged in thought. Raskolnikov had unwittingly worked a revolution in his brain on a certain point and had made up his mind for him conclusively.

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