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PART IV > CHAPTER I

"Can this be still a dream?" Raskolnikov thought once more.

He looked carefully and suspiciously at the unexpected visitor.

"Svidriga´lov! What nonsense! It can't be!" he said at last aloud in
bewilderment.

His visitor did not seem at all surprised at this exclamation.

"I've come to you for two reasons. In the first place, I wanted to
make your personal acquaintance, as I have already heard a great deal
about you that is interesting and flattering; secondly, I cherish the
hope that you may not refuse to assist me in a matter directly
concerning the welfare of your sister, Avdotya Romanovna. For without
your support she might not let me come near her now, for she is
prejudiced against me, but with your assistance I reckon on . . ."

"You reckon wrongly," interrupted Raskolnikov.

"They only arrived yesterday, may I ask you?"

Raskolnikov made no reply.

"It was yesterday, I know. I only arrived myself the day before. Well,
let me tell you this, Rodion Romanovitch, I don't consider it
necessary to justify myself, but kindly tell me what was there
particularly criminal on my part in all this business, speaking
without prejudice, with common sense?"

Raskolnikov continued to look at him in silence.

"That in my own house I persecuted a defenceless girl and 'insulted
her with my infamous proposals'--is that it? (I am anticipating you.)
But you've only to assume that I, too, am a man /et nihil humanum/
. . . in a word, that I am capable of being attracted and falling in
love (which does not depend on our will), then everything can be
explained in the most natural manner. The question is, am I a monster,
or am I myself a victim? And what if I am a victim? In proposing to
the object of my passion to elope with me to America or Switzerland, I
may have cherished the deepest respect for her and may have thought
that I was promoting our mutual happiness! Reason is the slave of
passion, you know; why, probably, I was doing more harm to myself than
anyone!"

"But that's not the point," Raskolnikov interrupted with disgust.
"It's simply that whether you are right or wrong, we dislike you. We
don't want to have anything to do with you. We show you the door. Go
out!"

Svidriga´lov broke into a sudden laugh.

"But you're . . . but there's no getting round you," he said, laughing
in the frankest way. "I hoped to get round you, but you took up the
right line at once!"

"But you are trying to get round me still!"

"What of it? What of it?" cried Svidriga´lov, laughing openly. "But
this is what the French call /bonne guerre/, and the most innocent
form of deception! . . . But still you have interrupted me; one way or
another, I repeat again: there would never have been any
unpleasantness except for what happened in the garden. Marfa
Petrovna . . ."

"You have got rid of Marfa Petrovna, too, so they say?" Raskolnikov
interrupted rudely.

"Oh, you've heard that, too, then? You'd be sure to, though. . . . But
as for your question, I really don't know what to say, though my own
conscience is quite at rest on that score. Don't suppose that I am in
any apprehension about it. All was regular and in order; the medical
inquiry diagnosed apoplexy due to bathing immediately after a heavy
dinner and a bottle of wine, and indeed it could have proved nothing
else. But I'll tell you what I have been thinking to myself of late,
on my way here in the train, especially: didn't I contribute to all
that . . . calamity, morally, in a way, by irritation or something of
the sort. But I came to the conclusion that that, too, was quite out
of the question."

Raskolnikov laughed.

"I wonder you trouble yourself about it!"

"But what are you laughing at? Only consider, I struck her just twice
with a switch--there were no marks even . . . don't regard me as a
cynic, please; I am perfectly aware how atrocious it was of me and all
that; but I know for certain, too, that Marfa Petrovna was very likely
pleased at my, so to say, warmth. The story of your sister had been
wrung out to the last drop; for the last three days Marfa Petrovna had
been forced to sit at home; she had nothing to show herself with in
the town. Besides, she had bored them so with that letter (you heard
about her reading the letter). And all of a sudden those two switches
fell from heaven! Her first act was to order the carriage to be got
out. . . . Not to speak of the fact that there are cases when women
are very, very glad to be insulted in spite of all their show of
indignation. There are instances of it with everyone; human beings in
general, indeed, greatly love to be insulted, have you noticed that?
But it's particularly so with women. One might even say it's their
only amusement."

At one time Raskolnikov thought of getting up and walking out and so
finishing the interview. But some curiosity and even a sort of
prudence made him linger for a moment.

"You are fond of fighting?" he asked carelessly.

"No, not very," Svidriga´lov answered, calmly. "And Marfa Petrovna and
I scarcely ever fought. We lived very harmoniously, and she was always
pleased with me. I only used the whip twice in all our seven years
(not counting a third occasion of a very ambiguous character). The
first time, two months after our marriage, immediately after we
arrived in the country, and the last time was that of which we are
speaking. Did you suppose I was such a monster, such a reactionary,
such a slave driver? Ha, ha! By the way, do you remember, Rodion
Romanovitch, how a few years ago, in those days of beneficent
publicity, a nobleman, I've forgotten his name, was put to shame
everywhere, in all the papers, for having thrashed a German woman in
the railway train. You remember? It was in those days, that very year
I believe, the 'disgraceful action of the /Age/' took place (you know,
'The Egyptian Nights,' that public reading, you remember? The dark
eyes, you know! Ah, the golden days of our youth, where are they?).
Well, as for the gentleman who thrashed the German, I feel no sympathy
with him, because after all what need is there for sympathy? But I
must say that there are sometimes such provoking 'Germans' that I
don't believe there is a progressive who could quite answer for
himself. No one looked at the subject from that point of view then,
but that's the truly humane point of view, I assure you."

After saying this, Svidriga´lov broke into a sudden laugh again.
Raskolnikov saw clearly that this was a man with a firm purpose in his
mind and able to keep it to himself.

"I expect you've not talked to anyone for some days?" he asked.

"Scarcely anyone. I suppose you are wondering at my being such an
adaptable man?"

"No, I am only wondering at your being too adaptable a man."

"Because I am not offended at the rudeness of your questions? Is that
it? But why take offence? As you asked, so I answered," he replied,
with a surprising expression of simplicity. "You know, there's hardly
anything I take interest in," he went on, as it were dreamily,
"especially now, I've nothing to do. . . . You are quite at liberty to
imagine though that I am making up to you with a motive, particularly
as I told you I want to see your sister about something. But I'll
confess frankly, I am very much bored. The last three days especially,
so I am delighted to see you. . . . Don't be angry, Rodion
Romanovitch, but you seem to be somehow awfully strange yourself. Say
what you like, there's something wrong with you, and now, too . . .
not this very minute, I mean, but now, generally. . . . Well, well, I
won't, I won't, don't scowl! I am not such a bear, you know, as you
think."

Raskolnikov looked gloomily at him.

"You are not a bear, perhaps, at all," he said. "I fancy indeed that
you are a man of very good breeding, or at least know how on occasion
to behave like one."

"I am not particularly interested in anyone's opinion," Svidriga´lov
answered, dryly and even with a shade of haughtiness, "and therefore
why not be vulgar at times when vulgarity is such a convenient cloak
for our climate . . . and especially if one has a natural propensity
that way," he added, laughing again.

"But I've heard you have many friends here. You are, as they say, 'not
without connections.' What can you want with me, then, unless you've
some special object?"

"That's true that I have friends here," Svidriga´lov admitted, not
replying to the chief point. "I've met some already. I've been
lounging about for the last three days, and I've seen them, or they've
seen me. That's a matter of course. I am well dressed and reckoned not
a poor man; the emancipation of the serfs hasn't affected me; my
property consists chiefly of forests and water meadows. The revenue
has not fallen off; but . . . I am not going to see them, I was sick
of them long ago. I've been here three days and have called on no one.
. . . What a town it is! How has it come into existence among us, tell
me that? A town of officials and students of all sorts. Yes, there's a
great deal I didn't notice when I was here eight years ago, kicking up
my heels. . . . My only hope now is in anatomy, by Jove, it is!"

"Anatomy?"

"But as for these clubs, Dussauts, parades, or progress, indeed, maybe
--well, all that can go on without me," he went on, again without
noticing the question. "Besides, who wants to be a card-sharper?"

"Why, have you been a card-sharper then?"

"How could I help being? There was a regular set of us, men of the
best society, eight years ago; we had a fine time. And all men of
breeding, you know, poets, men of property. And indeed as a rule in
our Russian society the best manners are found among those who've
been thrashed, have you noticed that? I've deteriorated in the
country. But I did get into prison for debt, through a low Greek who
came from Nezhin. Then Marfa Petrovna turned up; she bargained with
him and bought me off for thirty thousand silver pieces (I owed
seventy thousand). We were united in lawful wedlock and she bore me
off into the country like a treasure. You know she was five years
older than I. She was very fond of me. For seven years I never left
the country. And, take note, that all my life she held a document over
me, the IOU for thirty thousand roubles, so if I were to elect to be
restive about anything I should be trapped at once! And she would have
done it! Women find nothing incompatible in that."

"If it hadn't been for that, would you have given her the slip?"

"I don't know what to say. It was scarcely the document restrained me.
I didn't want to go anywhere else. Marfa Petrovna herself invited me
to go abroad, seeing I was bored, but I've been abroad before, and
always felt sick there. For no reason, but the sunrise, the bay of
Naples, the sea--you look at them and it makes you sad. What's most
revolting is that one is really sad! No, it's better at home. Here at
least one blames others for everything and excuses oneself. I should
have gone perhaps on an expedition to the North Pole, because /j'ai le
vin mauvais/ and hate drinking, and there's nothing left but wine. I
have tried it. But, I say, I've been told Berg is going up in a great
balloon next Sunday from the Yusupov Garden and will take up
passengers at a fee. Is it true?"

"Why, would you go up?"

"I . . . No, oh, no," muttered Svidriga´lov really seeming to be deep
in thought.

"What does he mean? Is he in earnest?" Raskolnikov wondered.

"No, the document didn't restrain me," Svidriga´lov went on,
meditatively. "It was my own doing, not leaving the country, and
nearly a year ago Marfa Petrovna gave me back the document on my name-
day and made me a present of a considerable sum of money, too. She had
a fortune, you know. 'You see how I trust you, Arkady Ivanovitch'--
that was actually her expression. You don't believe she used it? But
do you know I managed the estate quite decently, they know me in the
neighbourhood. I ordered books, too. Marfa Petrovna at first approved,
but afterwards she was afraid of my over-studying."

"You seem to be missing Marfa Petrovna very much?"

"Missing her? Perhaps. Really, perhaps I am. And, by the way, do you
believe in ghosts?"

"What ghosts?"

"Why, ordinary ghosts."

"Do you believe in them?"

"Perhaps not, /pour vous plaire/. . . . I wouldn't say no exactly."

"Do you see them, then?"

Svidriga´lov looked at him rather oddly.

"Marfa Petrovna is pleased to visit me," he said, twisting his mouth
into a strange smile.

"How do you mean 'she is pleased to visit you'?"

"She has been three times. I saw her first on the very day of the
funeral, an hour after she was buried. It was the day before I left to
come here. The second time was the day before yesterday, at daybreak,
on the journey at the station of Malaya Vishera, and the third time
was two hours ago in the room where I am staying. I was alone."

"Were you awake?"

"Quite awake. I was wide awake every time. She comes, speaks to me for
a minute and goes out at the door--always at the door. I can almost
hear her."

"What made me think that something of the sort must be happening to
you?" Raskolnikov said suddenly.

At the same moment he was surprised at having said it. He was much
excited.

"What! Did you think so?" Svidriga´lov asked in astonishment. "Did you
really? Didn't I say that there was something in common between us,
eh?"

"You never said so!" Raskolnikov cried sharply and with heat.

"Didn't I?"

"No!"

"I thought I did. When I came in and saw you lying with your eyes
shut, pretending, I said to myself at once, 'Here's the man.'"

"What do you mean by 'the man?' What are you talking about?" cried
Raskolnikov.

"What do I mean? I really don't know. . . ." Svidriga´lov muttered
ingenuously, as though he, too, were puzzled.

For a minute they were silent. They stared in each other's faces.

"That's all nonsense!" Raskolnikov shouted with vexation. "What does
she say when she comes to you?"

"She! Would you believe it, she talks of the silliest trifles and--man
is a strange creature--it makes me angry. The first time she came in
(I was tired you know: the funeral service, the funeral ceremony, the
lunch afterwards. At last I was left alone in my study. I lighted a
cigar and began to think), she came in at the door. 'You've been so
busy to-day, Arkady Ivanovitch, you have forgotten to wind the dining-
room clock,' she said. All those seven years I've wound that clock
every week, and if I forgot it she would always remind me. The next
day I set off on my way here. I got out at the station at daybreak;
I'd been asleep, tired out, with my eyes half open, I was drinking
some coffee. I looked up and there was suddenly Marfa Petrovna sitting
beside me with a pack of cards in her hands. 'Shall I tell your
fortune for the journey, Arkady Ivanovitch?' She was a great hand at
telling fortunes. I shall never forgive myself for not asking her to.
I ran away in a fright, and, besides, the bell rang. I was sitting
to-day, feeling very heavy after a miserable dinner from a cookshop; I
was sitting smoking, all of a sudden Marfa Petrovna again. She came in
very smart in a new green silk dress with a long train. 'Good day,
Arkady Ivanovitch! How do you like my dress? Aniska can't make like
this.' (Aniska was a dressmaker in the country, one of our former serf
girls who had been trained in Moscow, a pretty wench.) She stood
turning round before me. I looked at the dress, and then I looked
carefully, very carefully, at her face. 'I wonder you trouble to come
to me about such trifles, Marfa Petrovna.' 'Good gracious, you won't
let one disturb you about anything!' To tease her I said, 'I want to
get married, Marfa Petrovna.' 'That's just like you, Arkady
Ivanovitch; it does you very little credit to come looking for a bride
when you've hardly buried your wife. And if you could make a good
choice, at least, but I know it won't be for your happiness or hers,
you will only be a laughing-stock to all good people.' Then she went
out and her train seemed to rustle. Isn't it nonsense, eh?"

"But perhaps you are telling lies?" Raskolnikov put in.

"I rarely lie," answered Svidriga´lov thoughtfully, apparently not
noticing the rudeness of the question.

"And in the past, have you ever seen ghosts before?"

"Y-yes, I have seen them, but only once in my life, six years ago. I
had a serf, Filka; just after his burial I called out forgetting
'Filka, my pipe!' He came in and went to the cupboard where my pipes
were. I sat still and thought 'he is doing it out of revenge,' because
we had a violent quarrel just before his death. 'How dare you come in
with a hole in your elbow?' I said. 'Go away, you scamp!' He turned
and went out, and never came again. I didn't tell Marfa Petrovna at
the time. I wanted to have a service sung for him, but I was ashamed."

"You should go to a doctor."

"I know I am not well, without your telling me, though I don't know
what's wrong; I believe I am five times as strong as you are. I didn't
ask you whether you believe that ghosts are seen, but whether you
believe that they exist."

"No, I won't believe it!" Raskolnikov cried, with positive anger.

"What do people generally say?" muttered Svidriga´lov, as though
speaking to himself, looking aside and bowing his head. "They say,
'You are ill, so what appears to you is only unreal fantasy.' But
that's not strictly logical. I agree that ghosts only appear to the
sick, but that only proves that they are unable to appear except to
the sick, not that they don't exist."

"Nothing of the sort," Raskolnikov insisted irritably.

"No? You don't think so?" Svidriga´lov went on, looking at him
deliberately. "But what do you say to this argument (help me with it):
ghosts are, as it were, shreds and fragments of other worlds, the
beginning of them. A man in health has, of course, no reason to see
them, because he is above all a man of this earth and is bound for the
sake of completeness and order to live only in this life. But as soon
as one is ill, as soon as the normal earthly order of the organism is
broken, one begins to realise the possibility of another world; and
the more seriously ill one is, the closer becomes one's contact with
that other world, so that as soon as the man dies he steps straight
into that world. I thought of that long ago. If you believe in a
future life, you could believe in that, too."

"I don't believe in a future life," said Raskolnikov.

Svidriga´lov sat lost in thought.

"And what if there are only spiders there, or something of that sort,"
he said suddenly.

"He is a madman," thought Raskolnikov.

"We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception,
something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that,
what if it's one little room, like a bath house in the country, black
and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that's all eternity is? I
sometimes fancy it like that."

"Can it be you can imagine nothing juster and more comforting than
that?" Raskolnikov cried, with a feeling of anguish.

"Juster? And how can we tell, perhaps that is just, and do you know
it's what I would certainly have made it," answered Svidriga´lov, with
a vague smile.

This horrible answer sent a cold chill through Raskolnikov.
Svidriga´lov raised his head, looked at him, and suddenly began
laughing.

"Only think," he cried, "half an hour ago we had never seen each
other, we regarded each other as enemies; there is a matter unsettled
between us; we've thrown it aside, and away we've gone into the
abstract! Wasn't I right in saying that we were birds of a feather?"

"Kindly allow me," Raskolnikov went on irritably, "to ask you to
explain why you have honoured me with your visit . . . and . . . and I
am in a hurry, I have no time to waste. I want to go out."

"By all means, by all means. Your sister, Avdotya Romanovna, is going
to be married to Mr. Luzhin, Pyotr Petrovitch?"

"Can you refrain from any question about my sister and from mentioning
her name? I can't understand how you dare utter her name in my
presence, if you really are Svidriga´lov."

"Why, but I've come here to speak about her; how can I avoid
mentioning her?"

"Very good, speak, but make haste."

"I am sure that you must have formed your own opinion of this Mr.
Luzhin, who is a connection of mine through my wife, if you have only
seen him for half an hour, or heard any facts about him. He is no
match for Avdotya Romanovna. I believe Avdotya Romanovna is
sacrificing herself generously and imprudently for the sake of . . .
for the sake of her family. I fancied from all I had heard of you that
you would be very glad if the match could be broken off without the
sacrifice of worldly advantages. Now I know you personally, I am
convinced of it."

"All this is very na´ve . . . excuse me, I should have said impudent
on your part," said Raskolnikov.

"You mean to say that I am seeking my own ends. Don't be uneasy,
Rodion Romanovitch, if I were working for my own advantage, I would
not have spoken out so directly. I am not quite a fool. I will confess
something psychologically curious about that: just now, defending my
love for Avdotya Romanovna, I said I was myself the victim. Well, let
me tell you that I've no feeling of love now, not the slightest, so
that I wonder myself indeed, for I really did feel something . . ."

"Through idleness and depravity," Raskolnikov put in.

"I certainly am idle and depraved, but your sister has such qualities
that even I could not help being impressed by them. But that's all
nonsense, as I see myself now."

"Have you seen that long?"

"I began to be aware of it before, but was only perfectly sure of it
the day before yesterday, almost at the moment I arrived in
Petersburg. I still fancied in Moscow, though, that I was coming to
try to get Avdotya Romanovna's hand and to cut out Mr. Luzhin."

"Excuse me for interrupting you; kindly be brief, and come to the
object of your visit. I am in a hurry, I want to go out . . ."

"With the greatest pleasure. On arriving here and determining on a
certain . . . journey, I should like to make some necessary
preliminary arrangements. I left my children with an aunt; they are
well provided for; and they have no need of me personally. And a nice
father I should make, too! I have taken nothing but what Marfa
Petrovna gave me a year ago. That's enough for me. Excuse me, I am
just coming to the point. Before the journey which may come off, I
want to settle Mr. Luzhin, too. It's not that I detest him so much,
but it was through him I quarrelled with Marfa Petrovna when I learned
that she had dished up this marriage. I want now to see Avdotya
Romanovna through your mediation, and if you like in your presence, to
explain to her that in the first place she will never gain anything
but harm from Mr. Luzhin. Then, begging her pardon for all past
unpleasantness, to make her a present of ten thousand roubles and so
assist the rupture with Mr. Luzhin, a rupture to which I believe she
is herself not disinclined, if she could see the way to it."

"You are certainly mad," cried Raskolnikov not so much angered as
astonished. "How dare you talk like that!"

"I knew you would scream at me; but in the first place, though I am
not rich, this ten thousand roubles is perfectly free; I have
absolutely no need for it. If Avdotya Romanovna does not accept it, I
shall waste it in some more foolish way. That's the first thing.
Secondly, my conscience is perfectly easy; I make the offer with no
ulterior motive. You may not believe it, but in the end Avdotya
Romanovna and you will know. The point is, that I did actually cause
your sister, whom I greatly respect, some trouble and unpleasantness,
and so, sincerely regretting it, I want--not to compensate, not to
repay her for the unpleasantness, but simply to do something to her
advantage, to show that I am not, after all, privileged to do nothing
but harm. If there were a millionth fraction of self-interest in my
offer, I should not have made it so openly; and I should not have
offered her ten thousand only, when five weeks ago I offered her more,
Besides, I may, perhaps, very soon marry a young lady, and that alone
ought to prevent suspicion of any design on Avdotya Romanovna. In
conclusion, let me say that in marrying Mr. Luzhin, she is taking
money just the same, only from another man. Don't be angry, Rodion
Romanovitch, think it over coolly and quietly."

Svidriga´lov himself was exceedingly cool and quiet as he was saying
this.

"I beg you to say no more," said Raskolnikov. "In any case this is
unpardonable impertinence."

"Not in the least. Then a man may do nothing but harm to his neighbour
in this world, and is prevented from doing the tiniest bit of good by
trivial conventional formalities. That's absurd. If I died, for
instance, and left that sum to your sister in my will, surely she
wouldn't refuse it?"

"Very likely she would."

"Oh, no, indeed. However, if you refuse it, so be it, though ten
thousand roubles is a capital thing to have on occasion. In any case I
beg you to repeat what I have said to Avdotya Romanovna."

"No, I won't."

"In that case, Rodion Romanovitch, I shall be obliged to try and see
her myself and worry her by doing so."

"And if I do tell her, will you not try to see her?"

"I don't know really what to say. I should like very much to see her
once more."

"Don't hope for it."

"I'm sorry. But you don't know me. Perhaps we may become better
friends."

"You think we may become friends?"

"And why not?" Svidriga´lov said, smiling. He stood up and took his
hat. "I didn't quite intend to disturb you and I came here without
reckoning on it . . . though I was very much struck by your face this
morning."

"Where did you see me this morning?" Raskolnikov asked uneasily.

"I saw you by chance. . . . I kept fancying there is something about
you like me. . . . But don't be uneasy. I am not intrusive; I used to
get on all right with card-sharpers, and I never bored Prince Svirbey,
a great personage who is a distant relation of mine, and I could write
about Raphael's /Madonna/ in Madam Prilukov's album, and I never left
Marfa Petrovna's side for seven years, and I used to stay the night at
Viazemsky's house in the Hay Market in the old days, and I may go up
in a balloon with Berg, perhaps."

"Oh, all right. Are you starting soon on your travels, may I ask?"

"What travels?"

"Why, on that 'journey'; you spoke of it yourself."

"A journey? Oh, yes. I did speak of a journey. Well, that's a wide
subject. . . . if only you knew what you are asking," he added, and
gave a sudden, loud, short laugh. "Perhaps I'll get married instead of
the journey. They're making a match for me."

"Here?"

"Yes."

"How have you had time for that?"

"But I am very anxious to see Avdotya Romanovna once. I earnestly beg
it. Well, good-bye for the present. Oh, yes. I have forgotten
something. Tell your sister, Rodion Romanovitch, that Marfa Petrovna
remembered her in her will and left her three thousand roubles. That's
absolutely certain. Marfa Petrovna arranged it a week before her
death, and it was done in my presence. Avdotya Romanovna will be able
to receive the money in two or three weeks."

"Are you telling the truth?"

"Yes, tell her. Well, your servant. I am staying very near you."

As he went out, Svidriga´lov ran up against Razumihin in the doorway.



Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Category:
General Fiction
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