Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky Part 6: Chapter 8

He knelt down in the middle of the square, bowed down to the earth, and kissed that filthy earth with bliss and rapture. He got up and bowed down a second time.

"He's boozed," a youth near him observed.

There was a roar of laughter.

"He's going to Jerusalem, brothers, and saying good-bye to his children and his country. He's bowing down to all the world and kissing the great city of St. Petersburg and its pavement," added a workman who was a little drunk.

"Quite a young man, too!" observed a third.

"And a gentleman," someone observed soberly.

"There's no knowing who's a gentleman and who isn't nowadays."

These exclamations and remarks checked Raskolnikov, and the words, "I am a murderer," which were perhaps on the point of dropping from his lips, died away. He bore these remarks quietly, however, and, without looking round, he turned down a street leading to the police office. He had a glimpse of something on the way which did not surprise him; he had felt that it must be so. The second time he bowed down in the Hay Market he saw, standing fifty paces from him on the left, Sonia. She was hiding from him behind one of the wooden shanties in the market-place. She had followed him then on his painful way! Raskolnikov at that moment felt and knew once for all that Sonia was with him for ever and would follow him to the ends of the earth, wherever fate might take him. It wrung his heart . . . but he was just reaching the fatal place.

He went into the yard fairly resolutely. He had to mount to the third storey. "I shall be some time going up," he thought. He felt as though the fateful moment was still far off, as though he had plenty of time left for consideration.

Again the same rubbish, the same eggshells lying about on the spiral stairs, again the open doors of the flats, again the same kitchens and the same fumes and stench coming from them. Raskolnikov had not been here since that day. His legs were numb and gave way under him, but still they moved forward. He stopped for a moment to take breath, to collect himself, so as to enter like a man. "But why? what for?" he wondered, reflecting. "If I must drink the cup what difference does it make? The more revolting the better." He imagined for an instant the figure of the "explosive lieutenant," Ilya Petrovitch. Was he actually going to him? Couldn't he go to someone else? To Nikodim Fomitch? Couldn't he turn back and go straight to Nikodim Fomitch's lodgings? At least then it would be done privately . . . . No, no! To the "explosive lieutenant"! If he must drink it, drink it off at once.

Turning cold and hardly conscious, he opened the door of the office. There were very few people in it this time — only a house porter and a peasant. The doorkeeper did not even peep out from behind his screen. Raskolnikov walked into the next room. "Perhaps I still need not speak," passed through his mind. Some sort of clerk not wearing a uniform was settling himself at a bureau to write. In a corner another clerk was seating himself. Zametov was not there, nor, of course, Nikodim Fomitch.

"No one in?" Raskolnikov asked, addressing the person at the bureau.

"Whom do you want?"

"A-ah! Not a sound was heard, not a sight was seen, but I scent the Russian . . . how does it go on in the fairy tale . . . I've forgotten! 'At your service!'" a familiar voice cried suddenly.

Raskolnikov shuddered. The Explosive Lieutenant stood before him. He had just come in from the third room. "It is the hand of fate," thought Raskolnikov. "Why is he here?"

"You've come to see us? What about?" cried Ilya Petrovitch. He was obviously in an exceedingly good humour and perhaps a trifle exhilarated. "If it's on business you are rather early.[*] It's only a chance that I am here . . . however I'll do what I can. I must admit, I . . . what is it, what is it? Excuse me . . . ."

[*] Dostoevsky appears to have forgotten that it is after sunset, and that the last time Raskolnikov visited the police office at two in the afternoon he was reproached for coming too late. — TRANSLATOR.

"Raskolnikov."

"Of course, Raskolnikov. You didn't imagine I'd forgotten? Don't think I am like that . . . Rodion Ro — Ro — Rodionovitch, that's it, isn't it?"

"Rodion Romanovitch."

"Yes, yes, of course, Rodion Romanovitch! I was just getting at it. I made many inquiries about you. I assure you I've been genuinely grieved since that . . . since I behaved like that . . . it was explained to me afterwards that you were a literary man . . . and a learned one too . . . and so to say the first steps . . . Mercy on us! What literary or scientific man does not begin by some originality of conduct! My wife and I have the greatest respect for literature, in my wife it's a genuine passion! Literature and art! If only a man is a gentleman, all the rest can be gained by talents, learning, good sense, genius. As for a hat — well, what does a hat matter? I can buy a hat as easily as I can a bun; but what's under the hat, what the hat covers, I can't buy that! I was even meaning to come and apologise to you, but thought maybe you'd . . . But I am forgetting to ask you, is there anything you want really? I hear your family have come?"

"Yes, my mother and sister."

"I've even had the honour and happiness of meeting your sister — a highly cultivated and charming person. I confess I was sorry I got so hot with you. There it is! But as for my looking suspiciously at your fainting fit — that affair has been cleared up splendidly! Bigotry and fanaticism! I understand your indignation. Perhaps you are changing your lodging on account of your family's arriving?"

"No, I only looked in . . . I came to ask . . . I thought that I should find Zametov here."

"Oh, yes! Of course, you've made friends, I heard. Well, no, Zametov is not here. Yes, we've lost Zametov. He's not been here since yesterday . . . he quarrelled with everyone on leaving . . . in the rudest way. He is a feather-headed youngster, that's all; one might have expected something from him, but there, you know what they are, our brilliant young men. He wanted to go in for some examination, but it's only to talk and boast about it, it will go no further than that. Of course it's a very different matter with you or Mr. Razumihin there, your friend. Your career is an intellectual one and you won't be deterred by failure. For you, one may say, all the attractions of life nihil est — you are an ascetic, a monk, a hermit! . . . A book, a pen behind your ear, a learned research — that's where your spirit soars! I am the same way myself . . . . Have you read Livingstone's Travels?"

"No."

"Oh, I have. There are a great many Nihilists about nowadays, you know, and indeed it is not to be wondered at. What sort of days are they? I ask you. But we thought . . . you are not a Nihilist of course? Answer me openly, openly!"

"N-no . . . "

"Believe me, you can speak openly to me as you would to yourself! Official duty is one thing but . . . you are thinking I meant to say friendship is quite another? No, you're wrong! It's not friendship, but the feeling of a man and a citizen, the feeling of humanity and of love for the Almighty. I may be an official, but I am always bound to feel myself a man and a citizen . . . . You were asking about Zametov. Zametov will make a scandal in the French style in a house of bad reputation, over a glass of champagne . . . that's all your Zametov is good for! While I'm perhaps, so to speak, burning with devotion and lofty feelings, and besides I have rank, consequence, a post! I am married and have children, I fulfil the duties of a man and a citizen, but who is he, may I ask? I appeal to you as a man ennobled by education . . . Then these midwives, too, have become extraordinarily numerous."

Raskolnikov raised his eyebrows inquiringly. The words of Ilya Petrovitch, who had obviously been dining, were for the most part a stream of empty sounds for him. But some of them he understood. He looked at him inquiringly, not knowing how it would end.

"I mean those crop-headed wenches," the talkative Ilya Petrovitch continued. "Midwives is my name for them. I think it a very satisfactory one, ha-ha! They go to the Academy, study anatomy. If I fall ill, am I to send for a young lady to treat me? What do you say? Ha-ha!" Ilya Petrovitch laughed, quite pleased with his own wit. "It's an immoderate zeal for education, but once you're educated, that's enough. Why abuse it? Why insult honourable people, as that scoundrel Zametov does? Why did he insult me, I ask you? Look at these suicides, too, how common they are, you can't fancy! People spend their last halfpenny and kill themselves, boys and girls and old people. Only this morning we heard about a gentleman who had just come to town. Nil Pavlitch, I say, what was the name of that gentleman who shot himself?"

"Svidrigailov," someone answered from the other room with drowsy listlessness.

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