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"You know perhaps--yes, I told you myself," began Svidriga´lov, "that
I was in the debtors' prison here, for an immense sum, and had not any
expectation of being able to pay it. There's no need to go into
particulars how Marfa Petrovna bought me out; do you know to what a
point of insanity a woman can sometimes love? She was an honest woman,
and very sensible, although completely uneducated. Would you believe
that this honest and jealous woman, after many scenes of hysterics and
reproaches, condescended to enter into a kind of contract with me
which she kept throughout our married life? She was considerably older
than I, and besides, she always kept a clove or something in her
mouth. There was so much swinishness in my soul and honesty too, of a
sort, as to tell her straight out that I couldn't be absolutely
faithful to her. This confession drove her to frenzy, but yet she
seems in a way to have liked my brutal frankness. She thought it
showed I was unwilling to deceive her if I warned her like this
beforehand and for a jealous woman, you know, that's the first
consideration. After many tears an unwritten contract was drawn up
between us: first, that I would never leave Marfa Petrovna and would
always be her husband; secondly, that I would never absent myself
without her permission; thirdly, that I would never set up a permanent
mistress; fourthly, in return for this, Marfa Petrovna gave me a free
hand with the maidservants, but only with her secret knowledge;
fifthly, God forbid my falling in love with a woman of our class;
sixthly, in case I--which God forbid--should be visited by a great
serious passion I was bound to reveal it to Marfa Petrovna. On this
last score, however, Marfa Petrovna was fairly at ease. She was a
sensible woman and so she could not help looking upon me as a
dissolute profligate incapable of real love. But a sensible woman and
a jealous woman are two very different things, and that's where the
trouble came in. But to judge some people impartially we must renounce
certain preconceived opinions and our habitual attitude to the
ordinary people about us. I have reason to have faith in your judgment
rather than in anyone's. Perhaps you have already heard a great deal
that was ridiculous and absurd about Marfa Petrovna. She certainly had
some very ridiculous ways, but I tell you frankly that I feel really
sorry for the innumerable woes of which I was the cause. Well, and
that's enough, I think, by way of a decorous /oraison funŔbre/ for the
most tender wife of a most tender husband. When we quarrelled, I
usually held my tongue and did not irritate her and that gentlemanly
conduct rarely failed to attain its object, it influenced her, it
pleased her, indeed. These were times when she was positively proud of
me. But your sister she couldn't put up with, anyway. And however she
came to risk taking such a beautiful creature into her house as a
governess. My explanation is that Marfa Petrovna was an ardent and
impressionable woman and simply fell in love herself--literally fell
in love--with your sister. Well, little wonder--look at Avdotya
Romanovna! I saw the danger at the first glance and what do you think,
I resolved not to look at her even. But Avdotya Romanovna herself made
the first step, would you believe it? Would you believe it too that
Marfa Petrovna was positively angry with me at first for my persistent
silence about your sister, for my careless reception of her continual
adoring praises of Avdotya Romanovna. I don't know what it was she
wanted! Well, of course, Marfa Petrovna told Avdotya Romanovna every
detail about me. She had the unfortunate habit of telling literally
everyone all our family secrets and continually complaining of me; how
could she fail to confide in such a delightful new friend? I expect
they talked of nothing else but me and no doubt Avdotya Romanovna
heard all those dark mysterious rumours that were current about me.
. . . I don't mind betting that you too have heard something of the
sort already?"

"I have. Luzhin charged you with having caused the death of a child.
Is that true?"

"Don't refer to those vulgar tales, I beg," said Svidriga´lov with
disgust and annoyance. "If you insist on wanting to know about all
that idiocy, I will tell you one day, but now . . ."

"I was told too about some footman of yours in the country whom you
treated badly."

"I beg you to drop the subject," Svidriga´lov interrupted again with
obvious impatience.

"Was that the footman who came to you after death to fill your pipe?
. . . you told me about it yourself." Raskolnikov felt more and more

Svidriga´lov looked at him attentively and Raskolnikov fancied he
caught a flash of spiteful mockery in that look. But Svidriga´lov
restrained himself and answered very civilly:

"Yes, it was. I see that you, too, are extremely interested and shall
feel it my duty to satisfy your curiosity at the first opportunity.
Upon my soul! I see that I really might pass for a romantic figure
with some people. Judge how grateful I must be to Marfa Petrovna for
having repeated to Avdotya Romanovna such mysterious and interesting
gossip about me. I dare not guess what impression it made on her, but
in any case it worked in my interests. With all Avdotya Romanovna's
natural aversion and in spite of my invariably gloomy and repellent
aspect--she did at least feel pity for me, pity for a lost soul. And
if once a girl's heart is moved to /pity/, it's more dangerous than
anything. She is bound to want to 'save him,' to bring him to his
senses, and lift him up and draw him to nobler aims, and restore him
to new life and usefulness--well, we all know how far such dreams can
go. I saw at once that the bird was flying into the cage of herself.
And I too made ready. I think you are frowning, Rodion Romanovitch?
There's no need. As you know, it all ended in smoke. (Hang it all,
what a lot I am drinking!) Do you know, I always, from the very
beginning, regretted that it wasn't your sister's fate to be born in
the second or third century A.D., as the daughter of a reigning prince
or some governor or pro-consul in Asia Minor. She would undoubtedly
have been one of those who would endure martyrdom and would have
smiled when they branded her bosom with hot pincers. And she would
have gone to it of herself. And in the fourth or fifth century she
would have walked away into the Egyptian desert and would have stayed
there thirty years living on roots and ecstasies and visions. She is
simply thirsting to face some torture for someone, and if she can't
get her torture, she'll throw herself out of a window. I've heard
something of a Mr. Razumihin--he's said to be a sensible fellow; his
surname suggests it, indeed. He's probably a divinity student. Well,
he'd better look after your sister! I believe I understand her, and I
am proud of it. But at the beginning of an acquaintance, as you know,
one is apt to be more heedless and stupid. One doesn't see clearly.
Hang it all, why is she so handsome? It's not my fault. In fact, it
began on my side with a most irresistible physical desire. Avdotya
Romanovna is awfully chaste, incredibly and phenomenally so. Take
note, I tell you this about your sister as a fact. She is almost
morbidly chaste, in spite of her broad intelligence, and it will stand
in her way. There happened to be a girl in the house then, Parasha, a
black-eyed wench, whom I had never seen before--she had just come from
another village--very pretty, but incredibly stupid: she burst into
tears, wailed so that she could be heard all over the place and caused
scandal. One day after dinner Avdotya Romanovna followed me into an
avenue in the garden and with flashing eyes /insisted/ on my leaving
poor Parasha alone. It was almost our first conversation by ourselves.
I, of course, was only too pleased to obey her wishes, tried to appear
disconcerted, embarrassed, in fact played my part not badly. Then came
interviews, mysterious conversations, exhortations, entreaties,
supplications, even tears--would you believe it, even tears? Think
what the passion for propaganda will bring some girls to! I, of
course, threw it all on my destiny, posed as hungering and thirsting
for light, and finally resorted to the most powerful weapon in the
subjection of the female heart, a weapon which never fails one. It's
the well-known resource--flattery. Nothing in the world is harder than
speaking the truth and nothing easier than flattery. If there's the
hundredth part of a false note in speaking the truth, it leads to a
discord, and that leads to trouble. But if all, to the last note, is
false in flattery, it is just as agreeable, and is heard not without
satisfaction. It may be a coarse satisfaction, but still a
satisfaction. And however coarse the flattery, at least half will be
sure to seem true. That's so for all stages of development and classes
of society. A vestal virgin might be seduced by flattery. I can never
remember without laughter how I once seduced a lady who was devoted to
her husband, her children, and her principles. What fun it was and how
little trouble! And the lady really had principles--of her own,
anyway. All my tactics lay in simply being utterly annihilated and
prostrate before her purity. I flattered her shamelessly, and as soon
as I succeeded in getting a pressure of the hand, even a glance from
her, I would reproach myself for having snatched it by force, and
would declare that she had resisted, so that I could never have gained
anything but for my being so unprincipled. I maintained that she was
so innocent that she could not foresee my treachery, and yielded to me
unconsciously, unawares, and so on. In fact, I triumphed, while my
lady remained firmly convinced that she was innocent, chaste, and
faithful to all her duties and obligations and had succumbed quite by
accident. And how angry she was with me when I explained to her at
last that it was my sincere conviction that she was just as eager as
I. Poor Marfa Petrovna was awfully weak on the side of flattery, and
if I had only cared to, I might have had all her property settled on
me during her lifetime. (I am drinking an awful lot of wine now and
talking too much.) I hope you won't be angry if I mention now that I
was beginning to produce the same effect on Avdotya Romanovna. But I
was stupid and impatient and spoiled it all. Avdotya Romanovna had
several times--and one time in particular--been greatly displeased by
the expression of my eyes, would you believe it? There was sometimes a
light in them which frightened her and grew stronger and stronger and
more unguarded till it was hateful to her. No need to go into detail,
but we parted. There I acted stupidly again. I fell to jeering in the
coarsest way at all such propaganda and efforts to convert me; Parasha
came on to the scene again, and not she alone; in fact there was a
tremendous to-do. Ah, Rodion Romanovitch, if you could only see how
your sister's eyes can flash sometimes! Never mind my being drunk at
this moment and having had a whole glass of wine. I am speaking the
truth. I assure you that this glance has haunted my dreams; the very
rustle of her dress was more than I could stand at last. I really
began to think that I might become epileptic. I could never have
believed that I could be moved to such a frenzy. It was essential,
indeed, to be reconciled, but by then it was impossible. And imagine
what I did then! To what a pitch of stupidity a man can be brought by
frenzy! Never undertake anything in a frenzy, Rodion Romanovitch. I
reflected that Avdotya Romanovna was after all a beggar (ach, excuse
me, that's not the word . . . but does it matter if it expresses the
meaning?), that she lived by her work, that she had her mother and you
to keep (ach, hang it, you are frowning again), and I resolved to
offer her all my money--thirty thousand roubles I could have realised
then--if she would run away with me here, to Petersburg. Of course I
should have vowed eternal love, rapture, and so on. Do you know, I was
so wild about her at that time that if she had told me to poison Marfa
Petrovna or to cut her throat and to marry herself, it would have been
done at once! But it ended in the catastrophe of which you know
already. You can fancy how frantic I was when I heard that Marfa
Petrovna had got hold of that scoundrelly attorney, Luzhin, and had
almost made a match between them--which would really have been just
the same thing as I was proposing. Wouldn't it? Wouldn't it? I notice
that you've begun to be very attentive . . . you interesting young
man. . . ."

Svidriga´lov struck the table with his fist impatiently. He was
flushed. Raskolnikov saw clearly that the glass or glass and a half of
champagne that he had sipped almost unconsciously was affecting him--
and he resolved to take advantage of the opportunity. He felt very
suspicious of Svidriga´lov.

"Well, after what you have said, I am fully convinced that you have
come to Petersburg with designs on my sister," he said directly to
Svidriga´lov, in order to irritate him further.

"Oh, nonsense," said Svidriga´lov, seeming to rouse himself. "Why, I
told you . . . besides your sister can't endure me."

"Yes, I am certain that she can't, but that's not the point."

"Are you so sure that she can't?" Svidriga´lov screwed up his eyes and
smiled mockingly. "You are right, she doesn't love me, but you can
never be sure of what has passed between husband and wife or lover and
mistress. There's always a little corner which remains a secret to the
world and is only known to those two. Will you answer for it that
Avdotya Romanovna regarded me with aversion?"

"From some words you've dropped, I notice that you still have designs
--and of course evil ones--on Dounia and mean to carry them out

"What, have I dropped words like that?" Svidriga´lov asked in na´ve
dismay, taking not the slightest notice of the epithet bestowed on his

"Why, you are dropping them even now. Why are you so frightened? What
are you so afraid of now?"

"Me--afraid? Afraid of you? You have rather to be afraid of me, /cher
ami/. But what nonsense. . . . I've drunk too much though, I see that.
I was almost saying too much again. Damn the wine! Hi! there, water!"

He snatched up the champagne bottle and flung it without ceremony out
of the window. Philip brought the water.

"That's all nonsense!" said Svidriga´lov, wetting a towel and putting
it to his head. "But I can answer you in one word and annihilate all
your suspicions. Do you know that I am going to get married?"

"You told me so before."

"Did I? I've forgotten. But I couldn't have told you so for certain
for I had not even seen my betrothed; I only meant to. But now I
really have a betrothed and it's a settled thing, and if it weren't
that I have business that can't be put off, I would have taken you to
see them at once, for I should like to ask your advice. Ach, hang it,
only ten minutes left! See, look at the watch. But I must tell you,
for it's an interesting story, my marriage, in its own way. Where are
you off to? Going again?"

"No, I'm not going away now."

"Not at all? We shall see. I'll take you there, I'll show you my
betrothed, only not now. For you'll soon have to be off. You have to
go to the right and I to the left. Do you know that Madame Resslich,
the woman I am lodging with now, eh? I know what you're thinking, that
she's the woman whose girl they say drowned herself in the winter.
Come, are you listening? She arranged it all for me. You're bored, she
said, you want something to fill up your time. For, you know, I am a
gloomy, depressed person. Do you think I'm light-hearted? No, I'm
gloomy. I do no harm, but sit in a corner without speaking a word for
three days at a time. And that Resslich is a sly hussy, I tell you. I
know what she has got in her mind; she thinks I shall get sick of it,
abandon my wife and depart, and she'll get hold of her and make a
profit out of her--in our class, of course, or higher. She told me the
father was a broken-down retired official, who has been sitting in a
chair for the last three years with his legs paralysed. The mamma, she
said, was a sensible woman. There is a son serving in the provinces,
but he doesn't help; there is a daughter, who is married, but she
doesn't visit them. And they've two little nephews on their hands, as
though their own children were not enough, and they've taken from
school their youngest daughter, a girl who'll be sixteen in another
month, so that then she can be married. She was for me. We went there.
How funny it was! I present myself--a landowner, a widower, of a well-
known name, with connections, with a fortune. What if I am fifty and
she is not sixteen? Who thinks of that? But it's fascinating, isn't
it? It is fascinating, ha-ha! You should have seen how I talked to the
papa and mamma. It was worth paying to have seen me at that moment.
She comes in, curtseys, you can fancy, still in a short frock--an
unopened bud! Flushing like a sunset--she had been told, no doubt. I
don't know how you feel about female faces, but to my mind these
sixteen years, these childish eyes, shyness and tears of bashfulness
are better than beauty; and she is a perfect little picture, too. Fair
hair in little curls, like a lamb's, full little rosy lips, tiny feet,
a charmer! . . . Well, we made friends. I told them I was in a hurry
owing to domestic circumstances, and the next day, that is the day
before yesterday, we were betrothed. When I go now I take her on my
knee at once and keep her there. . . . Well, she flushes like a sunset
and I kiss her every minute. Her mamma of course impresses on her that
this is her husband and that this must be so. It's simply delicious!
The present betrothed condition is perhaps better than marriage. Here
you have what is called /la nature et la vÚritÚ/, ha-ha! I've talked
to her twice, she is far from a fool. Sometimes she steals a look at
me that positively scorches me. Her face is like Raphael's Madonna.
You know, the Sistine Madonna's face has something fantastic in it,
the face of mournful religious ecstasy. Haven't you noticed it? Well,
she's something in that line. The day after we'd been betrothed, I
bought her presents to the value of fifteen hundred roubles--a set of
diamonds and another of pearls and a silver dressing-case as large as
this, with all sorts of things in it, so that even my Madonna's face
glowed. I sat her on my knee, yesterday, and I suppose rather too
unceremoniously--she flushed crimson and the tears started, but she
didn't want to show it. We were left alone, she suddenly flung herself
on my neck (for the first time of her own accord), put her little arms
round me, kissed me, and vowed that she would be an obedient,
faithful, and good wife, would make me happy, would devote all her
life, every minute of her life, would sacrifice everything,
everything, and that all she asks in return is my /respect/, and that
she wants 'nothing, nothing more from me, no presents.' You'll admit
that to hear such a confession, alone, from an angel of sixteen in a
muslin frock, with little curls, with a flush of maiden shyness in her
cheeks and tears of enthusiasm in her eyes is rather fascinating!
Isn't it fascinating? It's worth paying for, isn't it? Well . . .
listen, we'll go to see my betrothed, only not just now!"

"The fact is this monstrous difference in age and development excites
your sensuality! Will you really make such a marriage?"

"Why, of course. Everyone thinks of himself, and he lives most gaily
who knows best how to deceive himself. Ha-ha! But why are you so keen
about virtue? Have mercy on me, my good friend. I am a sinful man. Ha-

"But you have provided for the children of Katerina Ivanovna. Though
. . . though you had your own reasons. . . . I understand it all now."

"I am always fond of children, very fond of them," laughed
Svidriga´lov. "I can tell you one curious instance of it. The first
day I came here I visited various haunts, after seven years I simply
rushed at them. You probably notice that I am not in a hurry to renew
acquaintance with my old friends. I shall do without them as long as I
can. Do you know, when I was with Marfa Petrovna in the country, I was
haunted by the thought of these places where anyone who knows his way
about can find a great deal. Yes, upon my soul! The peasants have
vodka, the educated young people, shut out from activity, waste
themselves in impossible dreams and visions and are crippled by
theories; Jews have sprung up and are amassing money, and all the rest
give themselves up to debauchery. From the first hour the town reeked
of its familiar odours. I chanced to be in a frightful den--I like my
dens dirty--it was a dance, so called, and there was a /cancan/ such
as I never saw in my day. Yes, there you have progress. All of a
sudden I saw a little girl of thirteen, nicely dressed, dancing with a
specialist in that line, with another one /vis-Ó-vis/. Her mother was
sitting on a chair by the wall. You can't fancy what a /cancan/ that
was! The girl was ashamed, blushed, at last felt insulted, and began
to cry. Her partner seized her and began whirling her round and
performing before her; everyone laughed and--I like your public, even
the /cancan/ public--they laughed and shouted, 'Serves her right--
serves her right! Shouldn't bring children!' Well, it's not my
business whether that consoling reflection was logical or not. I at
once fixed on my plan, sat down by the mother, and began by saying
that I too was a stranger and that people here were ill-bred and that
they couldn't distinguish decent folks and treat them with respect,
gave her to understand that I had plenty of money, offered to take
them home in my carriage. I took them home and got to know them. They
were lodging in a miserable little hole and had only just arrived from
the country. She told me that she and her daughter could only regard
my acquaintance as an honour. I found out that they had nothing of
their own and had come to town upon some legal business. I proffered
my services and money. I learnt that they had gone to the dancing
saloon by mistake, believing that it was a genuine dancing class. I
offered to assist in the young girl's education in French and dancing.
My offer was accepted with enthusiasm as an honour--and we are still
friendly. . . . If you like, we'll go and see them, only not just

"Stop! Enough of your vile, nasty anecdotes, depraved vile, sensual

"Schiller, you are a regular Schiller! /O la vertu va-t-elle se
nicher?/ But you know I shall tell you these things on purpose, for
the pleasure of hearing your outcries!"

"I dare say. I can see I am ridiculous myself," muttered Raskolnikov

Svidriga´lov laughed heartily; finally he called Philip, paid his
bill, and began getting up.

"I say, but I am drunk, /assez causÚ/," he said. "It's been a

"I should rather think it must be a pleasure!" cried Raskolnikov,
getting up. "No doubt it is a pleasure for a worn-out profligate to
describe such adventures with a monstrous project of the same sort in
his mind--especially under such circumstances and to such a man as me.
. . . It's stimulating!"

"Well, if you come to that," Svidriga´lov answered, scrutinising
Raskolnikov with some surprise, "if you come to that, you are a
thorough cynic yourself. You've plenty to make you so, anyway. You can
understand a great deal . . . and you can do a great deal too. But
enough. I sincerely regret not having had more talk with you, but I
shan't lose sight of you. . . . Only wait a bit."

Svidriga´lov walked out of the restaurant. Raskolnikov walked out
after him. Svidriga´lov was not however very drunk, the wine had
affected him for a moment, but it was passing off every minute. He was
preoccupied with something of importance and was frowning. He was
apparently excited and uneasy in anticipation of something. His manner
to Raskolnikov had changed during the last few minutes, and he was
ruder and more sneering every moment. Raskolnikov noticed all this,
and he too was uneasy. He became very suspicious of Svidriga´lov and
resolved to follow him.

They came out on to the pavement.

"You go to the right, and I to the left, or if you like, the other
way. Only /adieu, mon plaisir/, may we meet again."

And he walked to the right towards the Hay Market.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
General Fiction
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