eBooks Cube
 
PART V > CHAPTER I

The morning that followed the fateful interview with Dounia and her
mother brought sobering influences to bear on Pyotr Petrovitch.
Intensely unpleasant as it was, he was forced little by little to
accept as a fact beyond recall what had seemed to him only the day
before fantastic and incredible. The black snake of wounded vanity had
been gnawing at his heart all night. When he got out of bed, Pyotr
Petrovitch immediately looked in the looking-glass. He was afraid that
he had jaundice. However his health seemed unimpaired so far, and
looking at his noble, clear-skinned countenance which had grown
fattish of late, Pyotr Petrovitch for an instant was positively
comforted in the conviction that he would find another bride and,
perhaps, even a better one. But coming back to the sense of his
present position, he turned aside and spat vigorously, which excited a
sarcastic smile in Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov, the young friend
with whom he was staying. That smile Pyotr Petrovitch noticed, and at
once set it down against his young friend's account. He had set down a
good many points against him of late. His anger was redoubled when he
reflected that he ought not to have told Andrey Semyonovitch about the
result of yesterday's interview. That was the second mistake he had
made in temper, through impulsiveness and irritability. . . .
Moreover, all that morning one unpleasantness followed another. He
even found a hitch awaiting him in his legal case in the senate. He
was particularly irritated by the owner of the flat which had been
taken in view of his approaching marriage and was being redecorated at
his own expense; the owner, a rich German tradesman, would not
entertain the idea of breaking the contract which had just been signed
and insisted on the full forfeit money, though Pyotr Petrovitch would
be giving him back the flat practically redecorated. In the same way
the upholsterers refused to return a single rouble of the instalment
paid for the furniture purchased but not yet removed to the flat.

"Am I to get married simply for the sake of the furniture?" Pyotr
Petrovitch ground his teeth and at the same time once more he had a
gleam of desperate hope. "Can all that be really so irrevocably over?
Is it no use to make another effort?" The thought of Dounia sent a
voluptuous pang through his heart. He endured anguish at that moment,
and if it had been possible to slay Raskolnikov instantly by wishing
it, Pyotr Petrovitch would promptly have uttered the wish.

"It was my mistake, too, not to have given them money," he thought, as
he returned dejectedly to Lebeziatnikov's room, "and why on earth was
I such a Jew? It was false economy! I meant to keep them without a
penny so that they should turn to me as their providence, and look at
them! foo! If I'd spent some fifteen hundred roubles on them for the
trousseau and presents, on knick-knacks, dressing-cases, jewellery,
materials, and all that sort of trash from Knopp's and the English
shop, my position would have been better and . . . stronger! They
could not have refused me so easily! They are the sort of people that
would feel bound to return money and presents if they broke it off;
and they would find it hard to do it! And their conscience would prick
them: how can we dismiss a man who has hitherto been so generous and
delicate?. . . . H'm! I've made a blunder."

And grinding his teeth again, Pyotr Petrovitch called himself a fool--
but not aloud, of course.

He returned home, twice as irritated and angry as before. The
preparations for the funeral dinner at Katerina Ivanovna's excited his
curiosity as he passed. He had heard about it the day before; he
fancied, indeed, that he had been invited, but absorbed in his own
cares he had paid no attention. Inquiring of Madame Lippevechsel who
was busy laying the table while Katerina Ivanovna was away at the
cemetery, he heard that the entertainment was to be a great affair,
that all the lodgers had been invited, among them some who had not
known the dead man, that even Andrey Semyonovitch Lebeziatnikov was
invited in spite of his previous quarrel with Katerina Ivanovna, that
he, Pyotr Petrovitch, was not only invited, but was eagerly expected
as he was the most important of the lodgers. Amalia Ivanovna herself
had been invited with great ceremony in spite of the recent
unpleasantness, and so she was very busy with preparations and was
taking a positive pleasure in them; she was moreover dressed up to the
nines, all in new black silk, and she was proud of it. All this
suggested an idea to Pyotr Petrovitch and he went into his room, or
rather Lebeziatnikov's, somewhat thoughtful. He had learnt that
Raskolnikov was to be one of the guests.

Andrey Semyonovitch had been at home all the morning. The attitude of
Pyotr Petrovitch to this gentleman was strange, though perhaps
natural. Pyotr Petrovitch had despised and hated him from the day he
came to stay with him and at the same time he seemed somewhat afraid
of him. He had not come to stay with him on his arrival in Petersburg
simply from parsimony, though that had been perhaps his chief object.
He had heard of Andrey Semyonovitch, who had once been his ward, as a
leading young progressive who was taking an important part in certain
interesting circles, the doings of which were a legend in the
provinces. It had impressed Pyotr Petrovitch. These powerful
omniscient circles who despised everyone and showed everyone up had
long inspired in him a peculiar but quite vague alarm. He had not, of
course, been able to form even an approximate notion of what they
meant. He, like everyone, had heard that there were, especially in
Petersburg, progressives of some sort, nihilists and so on, and, like
many people, he exaggerated and distorted the significance of those
words to an absurd degree. What for many years past he had feared more
than anything was /being shown up/ and this was the chief ground for
his continual uneasiness at the thought of transferring his business
to Petersburg. He was afraid of this as little children are sometimes
panic-stricken. Some years before, when he was just entering on his
own career, he had come upon two cases in which rather important
personages in the province, patrons of his, had been cruelly shown up.
One instance had ended in great scandal for the person attacked and
the other had very nearly ended in serious trouble. For this reason
Pyotr Petrovitch intended to go into the subject as soon as he reached
Petersburg and, if necessary, to anticipate contingencies by seeking
the favour of "our younger generation." He relied on Andrey
Semyonovitch for this and before his visit to Raskolnikov he had
succeeded in picking up some current phrases. He soon discovered that
Andrey Semyonovitch was a commonplace simpleton, but that by no means
reassured Pyotr Petrovitch. Even if he had been certain that all the
progressives were fools like him, it would not have allayed his
uneasiness. All the doctrines, the ideas, the systems, with which
Andrey Semyonovitch pestered him had no interest for him. He had his
own object--he simply wanted to find out at once what was happening
/here/. Had these people any power or not? Had he anything to fear
from them? Would they expose any enterprise of his? And what precisely
was now the object of their attacks? Could he somehow make up to them
and get round them if they really were powerful? Was this the thing to
do or not? Couldn't he gain something through them? In fact hundreds
of questions presented themselves.

Andrey Semyonovitch was an anćmic, scrofulous little man, with
strangely flaxen mutton-chop whiskers of which he was very proud. He
was a clerk and had almost always something wrong with his eyes. He
was rather soft-hearted, but self-confident and sometimes extremely
conceited in speech, which had an absurd effect, incongruous with his
little figure. He was one of the lodgers most respected by Amalia
Ivanovna, for he did not get drunk and paid regularly for his
lodgings. Andrey Semyonovitch really was rather stupid; he attached
himself to the cause of progress and "our younger generation" from
enthusiasm. He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards,
of half-animate abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who
attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarise it and
who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.

Though Lebeziatnikov was so good-natured, he, too, was beginning to
dislike Pyotr Petrovitch. This happened on both sides unconsciously.
However simple Andrey Semyonovitch might be, he began to see that
Pyotr Petrovitch was duping him and secretly despising him, and that
"he was not the right sort of man." He had tried expounding to him the
system of Fourier and the Darwinian theory, but of late Pyotr
Petrovitch began to listen too sarcastically and even to be rude. The
fact was he had begun instinctively to guess that Lebeziatnikov was
not merely a commonplace simpleton, but, perhaps, a liar, too, and
that he had no connections of any consequence even in his own circle,
but had simply picked things up third-hand; and that very likely he
did not even know much about his own work of propaganda, for he was in
too great a muddle. A fine person he would be to show anyone up! It
must be noted, by the way, that Pyotr Petrovitch had during those ten
days eagerly accepted the strangest praise from Andrey Semyonovitch;
he had not protested, for instance, when Andrey Semyonovitch belauded
him for being ready to contribute to the establishment of the new
"commune," or to abstain from christening his future children, or to
acquiesce if Dounia were to take a lover a month after marriage, and
so on. Pyotr Petrovitch so enjoyed hearing his own praises that he did
not disdain even such virtues when they were attributed to him.

Pyotr Petrovitch had had occasion that morning to realise some five-
per-cent bonds and now he sat down to the table and counted over
bundles of notes. Andrey Semyonovitch who hardly ever had any money
walked about the room pretending to himself to look at all those bank
notes with indifference and even contempt. Nothing would have
convinced Pyotr Petrovitch that Andrey Semyonovitch could really look
on the money unmoved, and the latter, on his side, kept thinking
bitterly that Pyotr Petrovitch was capable of entertaining such an
idea about him and was, perhaps, glad of the opportunity of teasing
his young friend by reminding him of his inferiority and the great
difference between them.

He found him incredibly inattentive and irritable, though he, Andrey
Semyonovitch, began enlarging on his favourite subject, the foundation
of a new special "commune." The brief remarks that dropped from Pyotr
Petrovitch between the clicking of the beads on the reckoning frame
betrayed unmistakable and discourteous irony. But the "humane" Andrey
Semyonovitch ascribed Pyotr Petrovitch's ill-humour to his recent
breach with Dounia and he was burning with impatience to discourse on
that theme. He had something progressive to say on the subject which
might console his worthy friend and "could not fail" to promote his
development.

"There is some sort of festivity being prepared at that . . . at the
widow's, isn't there?" Pyotr Petrovitch asked suddenly, interrupting
Andrey Semyonovitch at the most interesting passage.

"Why, don't you know? Why, I was telling you last night what I think
about all such ceremonies. And she invited you too, I heard. You were
talking to her yesterday . . ."

"I should never have expected that beggarly fool would have spent on
this feast all the money she got from that other fool, Raskolnikov. I
was surprised just now as I came through at the preparations there,
the wines! Several people are invited. It's beyond everything!"
continued Pyotr Petrovitch, who seemed to have some object in pursuing
the conversation. "What? You say I am asked too? When was that? I
don't remember. But I shan't go. Why should I? I only said a word to
her in passing yesterday of the possibility of her obtaining a year's
salary as a destitute widow of a government clerk. I suppose she has
invited me on that account, hasn't she? He-he-he!"

"I don't intend to go either," said Lebeziatnikov.

"I should think not, after giving her a thrashing! You might well
hesitate, he-he!"

"Who thrashed? Whom?" cried Lebeziatnikov, flustered and blushing.

"Why, you thrashed Katerina Ivanovna a month ago. I heard so yesterday
. . . so that's what your convictions amount to . . . and the woman
question, too, wasn't quite sound, he-he-he!" and Pyotr Petrovitch, as
though comforted, went back to clicking his beads.

"It's all slander and nonsense!" cried Lebeziatnikov, who was always
afraid of allusions to the subject. "It was not like that at all, it
was quite different. You've heard it wrong; it's a libel. I was simply
defending myself. She rushed at me first with her nails, she pulled
out all my whiskers. . . . It's permissable for anyone, I should hope,
to defend himself and I never allow anyone to use violence to me on
principle, for it's an act of despotism. What was I to do? I simply
pushed her back."

"He-he-he!" Luzhin went on laughing maliciously.

"You keep on like that because you are out of humour yourself. . . .
But that's nonsense and it has nothing, nothing whatever to do with
the woman question! You don't understand; I used to think, indeed,
that if women are equal to men in all respects, even in strength (as
is maintained now) there ought to be equality in that, too. Of course,
I reflected afterwards that such a question ought not really to arise,
for there ought not to be fighting and in the future society fighting
is unthinkable . . . and that it would be a queer thing to seek for
equality in fighting. I am not so stupid . . . though, of course,
there is fighting . . . there won't be later, but at present there is
. . . confound it! How muddled one gets with you! It's not on that
account that I am not going. I am not going on principle, not to take
part in the revolting convention of memorial dinners, that's why!
Though, of course, one might go to laugh at it. . . . I am sorry there
won't be any priests at it. I should certainly go if there were."

"Then you would sit down at another man's table and insult it and
those who invited you. Eh?"

"Certainly not insult, but protest. I should do it with a good object.
I might indirectly assist the cause of enlightenment and propaganda.
It's a duty of every man to work for enlightenment and propaganda and
the more harshly, perhaps, the better. I might drop a seed, an idea.
. . . And something might grow up from that seed. How should I be
insulting them? They might be offended at first, but afterwards they'd
see I'd done them a service. You know, Terebyeva (who is in the
community now) was blamed because when she left her family and . . .
devoted . . . herself, she wrote to her father and mother that she
wouldn't go on living conventionally and was entering on a free
marriage and it was said that that was too harsh, that she might have
spared them and have written more kindly. I think that's all nonsense
and there's no need of softness; on the contrary, what's wanted is
protest. Varents had been married seven years, she abandoned her two
children, she told her husband straight out in a letter: 'I have
realised that I cannot be happy with you. I can never forgive you that
you have deceived me by concealing from me that there is another
organisation of society by means of the communities. I have only
lately learned it from a great-hearted man to whom I have given myself
and with whom I am establishing a community. I speak plainly because I
consider it dishonest to deceive you. Do as you think best. Do not
hope to get me back, you are too late. I hope you will be happy.'
That's how letters like that ought to be written!"

"Is that Terebyeva the one you said had made a third free marriage?"

"No, it's only the second, really! But what if it were the fourth,
what if it were the fifteenth, that's all nonsense! And if ever I
regretted the death of my father and mother, it is now, and I
sometimes think if my parents were living what a protest I would have
aimed at them! I would have done something on purpose . . . I would
have shown them! I would have astonished them! I am really sorry there
is no one!"

"To surprise! He-he! Well, be that as you will," Pyotr Petrovitch
interrupted, "but tell me this; do you know the dead man's daughter,
the delicate-looking little thing? It's true what they say about her,
isn't it?"

"What of it? I think, that is, it is my own personal conviction that
this is the normal condition of women. Why not? I mean, /distinguons/.
In our present society it is not altogether normal, because it is
compulsory, but in the future society it will be perfectly normal,
because it will be voluntary. Even as it is, she was quite right: she
was suffering and that was her asset, so to speak, her capital which
she had a perfect right to dispose of. Of course, in the future
society there will be no need of assets, but her part will have
another significance, rational and in harmony with her environment. As
to Sofya Semyonovna personally, I regard her action as a vigorous
protest against the organisation of society, and I respect her deeply
for it; I rejoice indeed when I look at her!"

"I was told that you got her turned out of these lodgings."

Lebeziatnikov was enraged.

"That's another slander," he yelled. "It was not so at all! That was
all Katerina Ivanovna's invention, for she did not understand! And I
never made love to Sofya Semyonovna! I was simply developing her,
entirely disinterestedly, trying to rouse her to protest. . . . All I
wanted was her protest and Sofya Semyonovna could not have remained
here anyway!"

"Have you asked her to join your community?"

"You keep on laughing and very inappropriately, allow me to tell you.
You don't understand! There is no such rôle in a community. The
community is established that there should be no such rôles. In a
community, such a rôle is essentially transformed and what is stupid
here is sensible there, what, under present conditions, is unnatural
becomes perfectly natural in the community. It all depends on the
environment. It's all the environment and man himself is nothing. And
I am on good terms with Sofya Semyonovna to this day, which is a proof
that she never regarded me as having wronged her. I am trying now to
attract her to the community, but on quite, quite a different footing.
What are you laughing at? We are trying to establish a community of
our own, a special one, on a broader basis. We have gone further in
our convictions. We reject more! And meanwhile I'm still developing
Sofya Semyonovna. She has a beautiful, beautiful character!"

"And you take advantage of her fine character, eh? He-he!"

"No, no! Oh, no! On the contrary."

"Oh, on the contrary! He-he-he! A queer thing to say!"

"Believe me! Why should I disguise it? In fact, I feel it strange
myself how timid, chaste and modern she is with me!"

"And you, of course, are developing her . . . he-he! trying to prove
to her that all that modesty is nonsense?"

"Not at all, not at all! How coarsely, how stupidly--excuse me saying
so--you misunderstand the word development! Good heavens, how . . .
crude you still are! We are striving for the freedom of women and you
have only one idea in your head. . . . Setting aside the general
question of chastity and feminine modesty as useless in themselves and
indeed prejudices, I fully accept her chastity with me, because that's
for her to decide. Of course if she were to tell me herself that she
wanted me, I should think myself very lucky, because I like the girl
very much; but as it is, no one has ever treated her more courteously
than I, with more respect for her dignity . . . I wait in hopes,
that's all!"

"You had much better make her a present of something. I bet you never
thought of that."

"You don't understand, as I've told you already! Of course, she is in
such a position, but it's another question. Quite another question!
You simply despise her. Seeing a fact which you mistakenly consider
deserving of contempt, you refuse to take a humane view of a fellow
creature. You don't know what a character she is! I am only sorry that
of late she has quite given up reading and borrowing books. I used to
lend them to her. I am sorry, too, that with all the energy and
resolution in protesting--which she has already shown once--she has
little self-reliance, little, so to say, independence, so as to break
free from certain prejudices and certain foolish ideas. Yet she
thoroughly understands some questions, for instance about kissing of
hands, that is, that it's an insult to a woman for a man to kiss her
hand, because it's a sign of inequality. We had a debate about it and
I described it to her. She listened attentively to an account of the
workmen's associations in France, too. Now I am explaining the
question of coming into the room in the future society."

"And what's that, pray?"

"We had a debate lately on the question: Has a member of the community
the right to enter another member's room, whether man or woman, at any
time . . . and we decided that he has!"

"It might be at an inconvenient moment, he-he!"

Lebeziatnikov was really angry.

"You are always thinking of something unpleasant," he cried with
aversion. "Tfoo! How vexed I am that when I was expounding our system,
I referred prematurely to the question of personal privacy! It's
always a stumbling-block to people like you, they turn it into
ridicule before they understand it. And how proud they are of it, too!
Tfoo! I've often maintained that that question should not be
approached by a novice till he has a firm faith in the system. And
tell me, please, what do you find so shameful even in cesspools? I
should be the first to be ready to clean out any cesspool you like.
And it's not a question of self-sacrifice, it's simply work,
honourable, useful work which is as good as any other and much better
than the work of a Raphael and a Pushkin, because it is more useful."

"And more honourable, more honourable, he-he-he!"

"What do you mean by 'more honourable'? I don't understand such
expressions to describe human activity. 'More honourable,' 'nobler'--
all those are old-fashioned prejudices which I reject. Everything
which is /of use/ to mankind is honourable. I only understand one
word: /useful/! You can snigger as much as you like, but that's so!"

Pyotr Petrovitch laughed heartily. He had finished counting the money
and was putting it away. But some of the notes he left on the table.
The "cesspool question" had already been a subject of dispute between
them. What was absurd was that it made Lebeziatnikov really angry,
while it amused Luzhin and at that moment he particularly wanted to
anger his young friend.

"It's your ill-luck yesterday that makes you so ill-humoured and
annoying," blurted out Lebeziatnikov, who in spite of his
"independence" and his "protests" did not venture to oppose Pyotr
Petrovitch and still behaved to him with some of the respect habitual
in earlier years.

"You'd better tell me this," Pyotr Petrovitch interrupted with haughty
displeasure, "can you . . . or rather are you really friendly enough
with that young person to ask her to step in here for a minute? I
think they've all come back from the cemetery . . . I heard the sound
of steps . . . I want to see her, that young person."

"What for?" Lebeziatnikov asked with surprise.

"Oh, I want to. I am leaving here to-day or to-morrow and therefore I
wanted to speak to her about . . . However, you may be present during
the interview. It's better you should be, indeed. For there's no
knowing what you might imagine."

"I shan't imagine anything. I only asked and, if you've anything to
say to her, nothing is easier than to call her in. I'll go directly
and you may be sure I won't be in your way."

Five minutes later Lebeziatnikov came in with Sonia. She came in very
much surprised and overcome with shyness as usual. She was always shy
in such circumstances and was always afraid of new people, she had
been as a child and was even more so now. . . . Pyotr Petrovitch met
her "politely and affably," but with a certain shade of bantering
familiarity which in his opinion was suitable for a man of his
respectability and weight in dealing with a creature so young and so
/interesting/ as she. He hastened to "reassure" her and made her sit
down facing him at the table. Sonia sat down, looked about her--at
Lebeziatnikov, at the notes lying on the table and then again at Pyotr
Petrovitch and her eyes remained riveted on him. Lebeziatnikov was
moving to the door. Pyotr Petrovitch signed to Sonia to remain seated
and stopped Lebeziatnikov.

"Is Raskolnikov in there? Has he come?" he asked him in a whisper.

"Raskolnikov? Yes. Why? Yes, he is there. I saw him just come in.
. . . Why?"

"Well, I particularly beg you to remain here with us and not to leave
me alone with this . . . young woman. I only want a few words with
her, but God knows what they may make of it. I shouldn't like
Raskolnikov to repeat anything. . . . You understand what I mean?"

"I understand!" Lebeziatnikov saw the point. "Yes, you are right.
. . . Of course, I am convinced personally that you have no reason to
be uneasy, but . . . still, you are right. Certainly I'll stay. I'll
stand here at the window and not be in your way . . . I think you are
right . . ."

Pyotr Petrovitch returned to the sofa, sat down opposite Sonia, looked
attentively at her and assumed an extremely dignified, even severe
expression, as much as to say, "don't you make any mistake, madam."
Sonia was overwhelmed with embarrassment.

"In the first place, Sofya Semyonovna, will you make my excuses to
your respected mamma. . . . That's right, isn't it? Katerina Ivanovna
stands in the place of a mother to you?" Pyotr Petrovitch began with
great dignity, though affably.

It was evident that his intentions were friendly.

"Quite so, yes; the place of a mother," Sonia answered, timidly and
hurriedly.

"Then will you make my apologies to her? Through inevitable
circumstances I am forced to be absent and shall not be at the dinner
in spite of your mamma's kind invitation."

"Yes . . . I'll tell her . . . at once."

And Sonia hastily jumped up from her seat.

"Wait, that's not all," Pyotr Petrovitch detained her, smiling at her
simplicity and ignorance of good manners, "and you know me little, my
dear Sofya Semyonovna, if you suppose I would have ventured to trouble
a person like you for a matter of so little consequence affecting
myself only. I have another object."

Sonia sat down hurriedly. Her eyes rested again for an instant on the
grey-and-rainbow-coloured notes that remained on the table, but she
quickly looked away and fixed her eyes on Pyotr Petrovitch. She felt
it horribly indecorous, especially for /her/, to look at another
person's money. She stared at the gold eye-glass which Pyotr
Petrovitch held in his left hand and at the massive and extremely
handsome ring with a yellow stone on his middle finger. But suddenly
she looked away and, not knowing where to turn, ended by staring Pyotr
Petrovitch again straight in the face. After a pause of still greater
dignity he continued.

"I chanced yesterday in passing to exchange a couple of words with
Katerina Ivanovna, poor woman. That was sufficient to enable me to
ascertain that she is in a position--preternatural, if one may so
express it."

"Yes . . . preternatural . . ." Sonia hurriedly assented.

"Or it would be simpler and more comprehensible to say, ill."

"Yes, simpler and more comprehen . . . yes, ill."

"Quite so. So then from a feeling of humanity and so to speak
compassion, I should be glad to be of service to her in any way,
foreseeing her unfortunate position. I believe the whole of this
poverty-stricken family depends now entirely on you?"

"Allow me to ask," Sonia rose to her feet, "did you say something to
her yesterday of the possibility of a pension? Because she told me you
had undertaken to get her one. Was that true?"

"Not in the slightest, and indeed it's an absurdity! I merely hinted
at her obtaining temporary assistance as the widow of an official who
had died in the service--if only she has patronage . . . but
apparently your late parent had not served his full term and had not
indeed been in the service at all of late. In fact, if there could be
any hope, it would be very ephemeral, because there would be no claim
for assistance in that case, far from it. . . . And she is dreaming of
a pension already, he-he-he! . . . A go-ahead lady!"

"Yes, she is. For she is credulous and good-hearted, and she believes
everything from the goodness of her heart and . . . and . . . and she
is like that . . . yes . . . You must excuse her," said Sonia, and
again she got up to go.

"But you haven't heard what I have to say."

"No, I haven't heard," muttered Sonia.

"Then sit down." She was terribly confused; she sat down again a third
time.

"Seeing her position with her unfortunate little ones, I should be
glad, as I have said before, so far as lies in my power, to be of
service, that is, so far as is in my power, not more. One might for
instance get up a subscription for her, or a lottery, something of the
sort, such as is always arranged in such cases by friends or even
outsiders desirous of assisting people. It was of that I intended to
speak to you; it might be done."

"Yes, yes . . . God will repay you for it," faltered Sonia, gazing
intently at Pyotr Petrovitch.

"It might be, but we will talk of it later. We might begin it to-day,
we will talk it over this evening and lay the foundation so to speak.
Come to me at seven o'clock. Mr. Lebeziatnikov, I hope, will assist
us. But there is one circumstance of which I ought to warn you
beforehand and for which I venture to trouble you, Sofya Semyonovna,
to come here. In my opinion money cannot be, indeed it's unsafe to put
it into Katerina Ivanovna's own hands. The dinner to-day is a proof of
that. Though she has not, so to speak, a crust of bread for to-morrow
and . . . well, boots or shoes, or anything; she has bought to-day
Jamaica rum, and even, I believe, Madeira and . . . and coffee. I saw
it as I passed through. To-morrow it will all fall upon you again,
they won't have a crust of bread. It's absurd, really, and so, to my
thinking, a subscription ought to be raised so that the unhappy widow
should not know of the money, but only you, for instance. Am I right?"

"I don't know . . . this is only to-day, once in her life. . . . She
was so anxious to do honour, to celebrate the memory. . . . And she is
very sensible . . . but just as you think and I shall be very, very
. . . they will all be . . . and God will reward . . . and the
orphans . . ."

Sonia burst into tears.

"Very well, then, keep it in mind; and now will you accept for the
benefit of your relation the small sum that I am able to spare, from
me personally. I am very anxious that my name should not be mentioned
in connection with it. Here . . . having so to speak anxieties of my
own, I cannot do more . . ."

And Pyotr Petrovitch held out to Sonia a ten-rouble note carefully
unfolded. Sonia took it, flushed crimson, jumped up, muttered
something and began taking leave. Pyotr Petrovitch accompanied her
ceremoniously to the door. She got out of the room at last, agitated
and distressed, and returned to Katerina Ivanovna, overwhelmed with
confusion.

All this time Lebeziatnikov had stood at the window or walked about
the room, anxious not to interrupt the conversation; when Sonia had
gone he walked up to Pyotr Petrovitch and solemnly held out his hand.

"I heard and /saw/ everything," he said, laying stress on the last
verb. "That is honourable, I mean to say, it's humane! You wanted to
avoid gratitude, I saw! And although I cannot, I confess, in principle
sympathise with private charity, for it not only fails to eradicate
the evil but even promotes it, yet I must admit that I saw your action
with pleasure--yes, yes, I like it."

"That's all nonsense," muttered Pyotr Petrovitch, somewhat
disconcerted, looking carefully at Lebeziatnikov.

"No, it's not nonsense! A man who has suffered distress and annoyance
as you did yesterday and who yet can sympathise with the misery of
others, such a man . . . even though he is making a social mistake--is
still deserving of respect! I did not expect it indeed of you, Pyotr
Petrovitch, especially as according to your ideas . . . oh, what a
drawback your ideas are to you! How distressed you are for instance by
your ill-luck yesterday," cried the simple-hearted Lebeziatnikov, who
felt a return of affection for Pyotr Petrovitch. "And, what do you
want with marriage, with /legal/ marriage, my dear, noble Pyotr
Petrovitch? Why do you cling to this /legality/ of marriage? Well, you
may beat me if you like, but I am glad, positively glad it hasn't come
off, that you are free, that you are not quite lost for humanity.
. . . you see, I've spoken my mind!"

"Because I don't want in your free marriage to be made a fool of and
to bring up another man's children, that's why I want legal marriage,"
Luzhin replied in order to make some answer.

He seemed preoccupied by something.

"Children? You referred to children," Lebeziatnikov started off like a
warhorse at the trumpet call. "Children are a social question and a
question of first importance, I agree; but the question of children
has another solution. Some refuse to have children altogether, because
they suggest the institution of the family. We'll speak of children
later, but now as to the question of honour, I confess that's my weak
point. That horrid, military, Pushkin expression is unthinkable in the
dictionary of the future. What does it mean indeed? It's nonsense,
there will be no deception in a free marriage! That is only the
natural consequence of a legal marriage, so to say, its corrective, a
protest. So that indeed it's not humiliating . . . and if I ever, to
suppose an absurdity, were to be legally married, I should be
positively glad of it. I should say to my wife: 'My dear, hitherto I
have loved you, now I respect you, for you've shown you can protest!'
You laugh! That's because you are of incapable of getting away from
prejudices. Confound it all! I understand now where the unpleasantness
is of being deceived in a legal marriage, but it's simply a despicable
consequence of a despicable position in which both are humiliated.
When the deception is open, as in a free marriage, then it does not
exist, it's unthinkable. Your wife will only prove how she respects
you by considering you incapable of opposing her happiness and
avenging yourself on her for her new husband. Damn it all! I sometimes
dream if I were to be married, pfoo! I mean if I were to marry,
legally or not, it's just the same, I should present my wife with a
lover if she had not found one for herself. 'My dear,' I should say,
'I love you, but even more than that I desire you to respect me. See!'
Am I not right?"

Pyotr Petrovitch sniggered as he listened, but without much merriment.
He hardly heard it indeed. He was preoccupied with something else and
even Lebeziatnikov at last noticed it. Pyotr Petrovitch seemed excited
and rubbed his hands. Lebeziatnikov remembered all this and reflected
upon it afterwards.



Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Category:
General Fiction
Nabou.com: the big site