Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 2: Chapter 6

"Well, it's a way out of it," he thought, walking slowly and listlessly along the canal bank. "Anyway I'll make an end, for I want to . . . . But is it a way out? What does it matter! There'll be the square yard of space — ha! But what an end! Is it really the end? Shall I tell them or not? Ah . . . damn! How tired I am! If I could find somewhere to sit or lie down soon! What I am most ashamed of is its being so stupid. But I don't care about that either! What idiotic ideas come into one's head."

To reach the police office he had to go straight forward and take the second turning to the left. It was only a few paces away. But at the first turning he stopped and, after a minute's thought, turned into a side street and went two streets out of his way, possibly without any object, or possibly to delay a minute and gain time. He walked, looking at the ground; suddenly someone seemed to whisper in his ear; he lifted his head and saw that he was standing at the very gate of the house. He had not passed it, he had not been near it since that evening. An overwhelming, unaccountable prompting drew him on. He went into the house, passed through the gateway, then into the first entrance on the right, and began mounting the familiar staircase to the fourth storey. The narrow, steep staircase was very dark. He stopped at each landing and looked round him with curiosity; on the first landing the framework of the window had been taken out. "That wasn't so then," he thought. Here was the flat on the second storey where Nikolay and Dmitri had been working. "It's shut up and the door newly painted. So it's to let." Then the third storey and the fourth. "Here!" He was perplexed to find the door of the flat wide open. There were men there, he could hear voices; he had not expected that. After brief hesitation he mounted the last stairs and went into the flat. It, too, was being done up; there were workmen in it. This seemed to amaze him; he somehow fancied that he would find everything as he left it, even perhaps the corpses in the same places on the floor. And now, bare walls, no furniture; it seemed strange. He walked to the window and sat down on the window-sill. There were two workmen, both young fellows, but one much younger than the other. They were papering the walls with a new white paper covered with lilac flowers, instead of the old, dirty, yellow one. Raskolnikov for some reason felt horribly annoyed by this. He looked at the new paper with dislike, as though he felt sorry to have it all so changed. The workmen had obviously stayed beyond their time and now they were hurriedly rolling up their paper and getting ready to go home. They took no notice of Raskolnikov's coming in; they were talking. Raskolnikov folded his arms and listened.

"She comes to me in the morning," said the elder to the younger, "very early, all dressed up. 'Why are you preening and prinking?' says I. 'I am ready to do anything to please you, Tit Vassilitch!' That's a way of going on! And she dressed up like a regular fashion book!"

"And what is a fashion book?" the younger one asked. He obviously regarded the other as an authority.

"A fashion book is a lot of pictures, coloured, and they come to the tailors here every Saturday, by post from abroad, to show folks how to dress, the male sex as well as the female. They're pictures. The gentlemen are generally wearing fur coats and for the ladies' fluffles, they're beyond anything you can fancy."

"There's nothing you can't find in Petersburg," the younger cried enthusiastically, "except father and mother, there's everything!"

"Except them, there's everything to be found, my boy," the elder declared sententiously.

Raskolnikov got up and walked into the other room where the strong box, the bed, and the chest of drawers had been; the room seemed to him very tiny without furniture in it. The paper was the same; the paper in the corner showed where the case of ikons had stood. He looked at it and went to the window. The elder workman looked at him askance.

"What do you want?" he asked suddenly.

Instead of answering Raskolnikov went into the passage and pulled the bell. The same bell, the same cracked note. He rang it a second and a third time; he listened and remembered. The hideous and agonisingly fearful sensation he had felt then began to come back more and more vividly. He shuddered at every ring and it gave him more and more satisfaction.

"Well, what do you want? Who are you?" the workman shouted, going out to him. Raskolnikov went inside again.

"I want to take a flat," he said. "I am looking round."

"It's not the time to look at rooms at night! and you ought to come up with the porter."

"The floors have been washed, will they be painted?" Raskolnikov went on. "Is there no blood?"

"What blood?"

"Why, the old woman and her sister were murdered here. There was a perfect pool there."

"But who are you?" the workman cried, uneasy.

"Who am I?"

"Yes."

"You want to know? Come to the police station, I'll tell you."

The workmen looked at him in amazement.

"It's time for us to go, we are late. Come along, Alyoshka. We must lock up," said the elder workman.

"Very well, come along," said Raskolnikov indifferently, and going out first, he went slowly downstairs. "Hey, porter," he cried in the gateway.

At the entrance several people were standing, staring at the passers-by; the two porters, a peasant woman, a man in a long coat and a few others. Raskolnikov went straight up to them.

"What do you want?" asked one of the porters.

"Have you been to the police office?"

"I've just been there. What do you want?"

"Is it open?"

"Of course."

"Is the assistant there?"

"He was there for a time. What do you want?"

Raskolnikov made no reply, but stood beside them lost in thought.

"He's been to look at the flat," said the elder workman, coming forward.

"Which flat?"

"Where we are at work. 'Why have you washed away the blood?' says he. 'There has been a murder here,' says he, 'and I've come to take it.' And he began ringing at the bell, all but broke it. 'Come to the police station,' says he. 'I'll tell you everything there.' He wouldn't leave us."

The porter looked at Raskolnikov, frowning and perplexed.

"Who are you?" he shouted as impressively as he could.

"I am Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov, formerly a student, I live in Shil's house, not far from here, flat Number 14, ask the porter, he knows me." Raskolnikov said all this in a lazy, dreamy voice, not turning round, but looking intently into the darkening street.

"Why have you been to the flat?"

"To look at it."

"What is there to look at?"

"Take him straight to the police station," the man in the long coat jerked in abruptly.

Raskolnikov looked intently at him over his shoulder and said in the same slow, lazy tones:

"Come along."

"Yes, take him," the man went on more confidently. "Why was he going into that, what's in his mind, eh?"

"He's not drunk, but God knows what's the matter with him," muttered the workman.

"But what do you want?" the porter shouted again, beginning to get angry in earnest — "Why are you hanging about?"

"You funk the police station then?" said Raskolnikov jeeringly.

"How funk it? Why are you hanging about?"

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