The same day, about seven o'clock in the evening, Raskolnikov was on his way to his mother's and sister's lodging — the lodging in Bakaleyev's house which Razumihin had found for them. The stairs went up from the street. Raskolnikov walked with lagging steps, as though still hesitating whether to go or not. But nothing would have turned him back: his decision was taken.
"Besides, it doesn't matter, they still know nothing," he thought, "and they are used to thinking of me as eccentric."
He was appallingly dressed: his clothes torn and dirty, soaked with a night's rain. His face was almost distorted from fatigue, exposure, the inward conflict that had lasted for twenty-four hours. He had spent all the previous night alone, God knows where. But anyway he had reached a decision.
He knocked at the door which was opened by his mother. Dounia was not at home. Even the servant happened to be out. At first Pulcheria Alexandrovna was speechless with joy and surprise; then she took him by the hand and drew him into the room.
"Here you are!" she began, faltering with joy. "Don't be angry with me, Rodya, for welcoming you so foolishly with tears: I am laughing not crying. Did you think I was crying? No, I am delighted, but I've got into such a stupid habit of shedding tears. I've been like that ever since your father's death. I cry for anything. Sit down, dear boy, you must be tired; I see you are. Ah, how muddy you are."
"I was in the rain yesterday, mother . . . ." Raskolnikov began.
"No, no," Pulcheria Alexandrovna hurriedly interrupted, "you thought I was going to cross-question you in the womanish way I used to; don't be anxious, I understand, I understand it all: now I've learned the ways here and truly I see for myself that they are better. I've made up my mind once for all: how could I understand your plans and expect you to give an account of them? God knows what concerns and plans you may have, or what ideas you are hatching; so it's not for me to keep nudging your elbow, asking you what you are thinking about? But, my goodness! why am I running to and fro as though I were crazy . . . ? I am reading your article in the magazine for the third time, Rodya. Dmitri Prokofitch brought it to me. Directly I saw it I cried out to myself: 'There, foolish one,' I thought, 'that's what he is busy about; that's the solution of the mystery! Learned people are always like that. He may have some new ideas in his head just now; he is thinking them over and I worry him and upset him.' I read it, my dear, and of course there was a great deal I did not understand; but that's only natural — how should I?"
"Show me, mother."
Raskolnikov took the magazine and glanced at his article. Incongruous as it was with his mood and his circumstances, he felt that strange and bitter sweet sensation that every author experiences the first time he sees himself in print; besides, he was only twenty-three. It lasted only a moment. After reading a few lines he frowned and his heart throbbed with anguish. He recalled all the inward conflict of the preceding months. He flung the article on the table with disgust and anger.
"But, however foolish I may be, Rodya, I can see for myself that you will very soon be one of the leading — if not the leading man — in the world of Russian thought. And they dared to think you were mad! You don't know, but they really thought that. Ah, the despicable creatures, how could they understand genius! And Dounia, Dounia was all but believing it — what do you say to that? Your father sent twice to magazines — the first time poems (I've got the manuscript and will show you) and the second time a whole novel (I begged him to let me copy it out) and how we prayed that they should be taken — they weren't! I was breaking my heart, Rodya, six or seven days ago over your food and your clothes and the way you are living. But now I see again how foolish I was, for you can attain any position you like by your intellect and talent. No doubt you don't care about that for the present and you are occupied with much more important matters . . . ."
"Dounia's not at home, mother?"
"No, Rodya. I often don't see her; she leaves me alone. Dmitri Prokofitch comes to see me, it's so good of him, and he always talks about you. He loves you and respects you, my dear. I don't say that Dounia is very wanting in consideration. I am not complaining. She has her ways and I have mine; she seems to have got some secrets of late and I never have any secrets from you two. Of course, I am sure that Dounia has far too much sense, and besides she loves you and me . . . but I don't know what it will all lead to. You've made me so happy by coming now, Rodya, but she has missed you by going out; when she comes in I'll tell her: 'Your brother came in while you were out. Where have you been all this time?' You mustn't spoil me, Rodya, you know; come when you can, but if you can't, it doesn't matter, I can wait. I shall know, anyway, that you are fond of me, that will be enough for me. I shall read what you write, I shall hear about you from everyone, and sometimes you'll come yourself to see me. What could be better? Here you've come now to comfort your mother, I see that."
Here Pulcheria Alexandrovna began to cry.
"Here I am again! Don't mind my foolishness. My goodness, why am I sitting here?" she cried, jumping up. "There is coffee and I don't offer you any. Ah, that's the selfishness of old age. I'll get it at once!"
"Mother, don't trouble, I am going at once. I haven't come for that. Please listen to me."
Pulcheria Alexandrovna went up to him timidly.
"Mother, whatever happens, whatever you hear about me, whatever you are told about me, will you always love me as you do now?" he asked suddenly from the fullness of his heart, as though not thinking of his words and not weighing them.
"Rodya, Rodya, what is the matter? How can you ask me such a question? Why, who will tell me anything about you? Besides, I shouldn't believe anyone, I should refuse to listen."
"I've come to assure you that I've always loved you and I am glad that we are alone, even glad Dounia is out," he went on with the same impulse. "I have come to tell you that though you will be unhappy, you must believe that your son loves you now more than himself, and that all you thought about me, that I was cruel and didn't care about you, was all a mistake. I shall never cease to love you . . . . Well, that's enough: I thought I must do this and begin with this . . . ."
Pulcheria Alexandrovna embraced him in silence, pressing him to her bosom and weeping gently.
"I don't know what is wrong with you, Rodya," she said at last. "I've been thinking all this time that we were simply boring you and now I see that there is a great sorrow in store for you, and that's why you are miserable. I've foreseen it a long time, Rodya. Forgive me for speaking about it. I keep thinking about it and lie awake at nights. Your sister lay talking in her sleep all last night, talking of nothing but you. I caught something, but I couldn't make it out. I felt all the morning as though I were going to be hanged, waiting for something, expecting something, and now it has come! Rodya, Rodya, where are you going? You are going away somewhere?"
"That's what I thought! I can come with you, you know, if you need me. And Dounia, too; she loves you, she loves you dearly — and Sofya Semyonovna may come with us if you like. You see, I am glad to look upon her as a daughter even . . . Dmitri Prokofitch will help us to go together. But . . . where . . . are you going?"
"What, to-day?" she cried, as though losing him for ever.
"I can't stay, I must go now . . . ."
"And can't I come with you?"
"No, but kneel down and pray to God for me. Your prayer perhaps will reach Him."
"Let me bless you and sign you with the cross. That's right, that's right. Oh, God, what are we doing?"
Yes, he was glad, he was very glad that there was no one there, that he was alone with his mother. For the first time after all those awful months his heart was softened. He fell down before her, he kissed her feet and both wept, embracing. And she was not surprised and did not question him this time. For some days she had realised that something awful was happening to her son and that now some terrible minute had come for him.
"Rodya, my darling, my first born," she said sobbing, "now you are just as when you were little. You would run like this to me and hug me and kiss me. When your father was living and we were poor, you comforted us simply by being with us and when I buried your father, how often we wept together at his grave and embraced, as now. And if I've been crying lately, it's that my mother's heart had a foreboding of trouble. The first time I saw you, that evening, you remember, as soon as we arrived here, I guessed simply from your eyes. My heart sank at once, and to-day when I opened the door and looked at you, I thought the fatal hour had come. Rodya, Rodya, you are not going away to-day?"
"You'll come again?"
"Yes . . . I'll come."
"Rodya, don't be angry, I don't dare to question you. I know I mustn't. Only say two words to me — is it far where you are going?"