"Of course, the funeral! Take care of yourself, and get well."
"I don't know what to wish you," said Raskolnikov, who had begun to descend the stairs, but looked back again. "I should like to wish you success, but your office is such a comical one."
"Why comical?" Porfiry Petrovitch had turned to go, but he seemed to prick up his ears at this.
"Why, how you must have been torturing and harassing that poor Nikolay psychologically, after your fashion, till he confessed! You must have been at him day and night, proving to him that he was the murderer, and now that he has confessed, you'll begin vivisecting him again. 'You are lying,' you'll say. 'You are not the murderer! You can't be! It's not your own tale you are telling!' You must admit it's a comical business!"
"He-he-he! You noticed then that I said to Nikolay just now that it was not his own tale he was telling?"
"How could I help noticing it!"
"He-he! You are quick-witted. You notice everything! You've really a playful mind! And you always fasten on the comic side . . . he-he! They say that was the marked characteristic of Gogol, among the writers."
"Yes, of Gogol."
"Yes, of Gogol . . . . I shall look forward to meeting you."
"So shall I."
Raskolnikov walked straight home. He was so muddled and bewildered that on getting home he sat for a quarter of an hour on the sofa, trying to collect his thoughts. He did not attempt to think about Nikolay; he was stupefied; he felt that his confession was something inexplicable, amazing — something beyond his understanding. But Nikolay's confession was an actual fact. The consequences of this fact were clear to him at once, its falsehood could not fail to be discovered, and then they would be after him again. Till then, at least, he was free and must do something for himself, for the danger was imminent.
But how imminent? His position gradually became clear to him. Remembering, sketchily, the main outlines of his recent scene with Porfiry, he could not help shuddering again with horror. Of course, he did not yet know all Porfiry's aims, he could not see into all his calculations. But he had already partly shown his hand, and no one knew better than Raskolnikov how terrible Porfiry's "lead" had been for him. A little more and he might have given himself away completely, circumstantially. Knowing his nervous temperament and from the first glance seeing through him, Porfiry, though playing a bold game, was bound to win. There's no denying that Raskolnikov had compromised himself seriously, but no facts had come to light as yet; there was nothing positive. But was he taking a true view of the position? Wasn't he mistaken? What had Porfiry been trying to get at? Had he really some surprise prepared for him? And what was it? Had he really been expecting something or not? How would they have parted if it had not been for the unexpected appearance of Nikolay?
Porfiry had shown almost all his cards — of course, he had risked something in showing them — and if he had really had anything up his sleeve (Raskolnikov reflected), he would have shown that, too. What was that "surprise"? Was it a joke? Had it meant anything? Could it have concealed anything like a fact, a piece of positive evidence? His yesterday's visitor? What had become of him? Where was he to-day? If Porfiry really had any evidence, it must be connected with him . . . .
He sat on the sofa with his elbows on his knees and his face hidden in his hands. He was still shivering nervously. At last he got up, took his cap, thought a minute, and went to the door.
He had a sort of presentiment that for to-day, at least, he might consider himself out of danger. He had a sudden sense almost of joy; he wanted to make haste to Katerina Ivanovna's. He would be too late for the funeral, of course, but he would be in time for the memorial dinner, and there at once he would see Sonia.
He stood still, thought a moment, and a suffering smile came for a moment on to his lips.
"To-day! To-day," he repeated to himself. "Yes, to-day! So it must be . . . ."
But as he was about to open the door, it began opening of itself. He started and moved back. The door opened gently and slowly, and there suddenly appeared a figure — yesterday's visitor from underground.
The man stood in the doorway, looked at Raskolnikov without speaking, and took a step forward into the room. He was exactly the same as yesterday; the same figure, the same dress, but there was a great change in his face; he looked dejected and sighed deeply. If he had only put his hand up to his cheek and leaned his head on one side he would have looked exactly like a peasant woman.
"What do you want?" asked Raskolnikov, numb with terror. The man was still silent, but suddenly he bowed down almost to the ground, touching it with his finger.
"What is it?" cried Raskolnikov.
"I have sinned," the man articulated softly.
"By evil thoughts."
They looked at one another.
"I was vexed. When you came, perhaps in drink, and bade the porters go to the police station and asked about the blood, I was vexed that they let you go and took you for drunken. I was so vexed that I lost my sleep. And remembering the address we came here yesterday and asked for you . . . ."
"Who came?" Raskolnikov interrupted, instantly beginning to recollect.
"I did, I've wronged you."
"Then you come from that house?"
"I was standing at the gate with them . . . don't you remember? We have carried on our trade in that house for years past. We cure and prepare hides, we take work home . . . most of all I was vexed . . . ."
And the whole scene of the day before yesterday in the gateway came clearly before Raskolnikov's mind; he recollected that there had been several people there besides the porters, women among them. He remembered one voice had suggested taking him straight to the police-station. He could not recall the face of the speaker, and even now he did not recognise it, but he remembered that he had turned round and made him some answer . . . .
So this was the solution of yesterday's horror. The most awful thought was that he had been actually almost lost, had almost done for himself on account of such a trivial circumstance. So this man could tell nothing except his asking about the flat and the blood stains. So Porfiry, too, had nothing but that delirium, no facts but this psychology which cuts both ways, nothing positive. So if no more facts come to light (and they must not, they must not!) then . . . then what can they do to him? How can they convict him, even if they arrest him? And Porfiry then had only just heard about the flat and had not known about it before.
"Was it you who told Porfiry . . . that I'd been there?" he cried, struck by a sudden idea.
"The head of the detective department?"
"Yes. The porters did not go there, but I went."
"I got there two minutes before you. And I heard, I heard it all, how he worried you."
"Where? What? When?"
"Why, in the next room. I was sitting there all the time."
"What? Why, then you were the surprise? But how could it happen? Upon my word!"