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II

He was ill a long time. But it was not the horrors of prison life, not
the hard labour, the bad food, the shaven head, or the patched clothes
that crushed him. What did he care for all those trials and hardships!
he was even glad of the hard work. Physically exhausted, he could at
least reckon on a few hours of quiet sleep. And what was the food to
him--the thin cabbage soup with beetles floating in it? In the past as
a student he had often not had even that. His clothes were warm and
suited to his manner of life. He did not even feel the fetters. Was he
ashamed of his shaven head and parti-coloured coat? Before whom?
Before Sonia? Sonia was afraid of him, how could he be ashamed before
her? And yet he was ashamed even before Sonia, whom he tortured
because of it with his contemptuous rough manner. But it was not his
shaven head and his fetters he was ashamed of: his pride had been
stung to the quick. It was wounded pride that made him ill. Oh, how
happy he would have been if he could have blamed himself! He could
have borne anything then, even shame and disgrace. But he judged
himself severely, and his exasperated conscience found no particularly
terrible fault in his past, except a simple /blunder/ which might
happen to anyone. He was ashamed just because he, Raskolnikov, had so
hopelessly, stupidly come to grief through some decree of blind fate,
and must humble himself and submit to "the idiocy" of a sentence, if
he were anyhow to be at peace.

Vague and objectless anxiety in the present, and in the future a
continual sacrifice leading to nothing--that was all that lay before
him. And what comfort was it to him that at the end of eight years he
would only be thirty-two and able to begin a new life! What had he to
live for? What had he to look forward to? Why should he strive? To
live in order to exist? Why, he had been ready a thousand times before
to give up existence for the sake of an idea, for a hope, even for a
fancy. Mere existence had always been too little for him; he had
always wanted more. Perhaps it was just because of the strength of his
desires that he had thought himself a man to whom more was permissible
than to others.

And if only fate would have sent him repentance--burning repentance
that would have torn his heart and robbed him of sleep, that
repentance, the awful agony of which brings visions of hanging or
drowning! Oh, he would have been glad of it! Tears and agonies would
at least have been life. But he did not repent of his crime.

At least he might have found relief in raging at his stupidity, as he
had raged at the grotesque blunders that had brought him to prison.
But now in prison, /in freedom/, he thought over and criticised all
his actions again and by no means found them so blundering and so
grotesque as they had seemed at the fatal time.

"In what way," he asked himself, "was my theory stupider than others
that have swarmed and clashed from the beginning of the world? One has
only to look at the thing quite independently, broadly, and
uninfluenced by commonplace ideas, and my idea will by no means seem
so . . . strange. Oh, sceptics and halfpenny philosophers, why do you
halt half-way!"

"Why does my action strike them as so horrible?" he said to himself.
"Is it because it was a crime? What is meant by crime? My conscience
is at rest. Of course, it was a legal crime, of course, the letter of
the law was broken and blood was shed. Well, punish me for the letter
of the law . . . and that's enough. Of course, in that case many of
the benefactors of mankind who snatched power for themselves instead
of inheriting it ought to have been punished at their first steps. But
those men succeeded and so /they were right/, and I didn't, and so I
had no right to have taken that step."

It was only in that that he recognised his criminality, only in the
fact that he had been unsuccessful and had confessed it.

He suffered too from the question: why had he not killed himself? Why
had he stood looking at the river and preferred to confess? Was the
desire to live so strong and was it so hard to overcome it? Had not
Svidriga´lov overcome it, although he was afraid of death?

In misery he asked himself this question, and could not understand
that, at the very time he had been standing looking into the river, he
had perhaps been dimly conscious of the fundamental falsity in himself
and his convictions. He didn't understand that that consciousness
might be the promise of a future crisis, of a new view of life and of
his future resurrection.

He preferred to attribute it to the dead weight of instinct which he
could not step over, again through weakness and meanness. He looked at
his fellow prisoners and was amazed to see how they all loved life and
prized it. It seemed to him that they loved and valued life more in
prison than in freedom. What terrible agonies and privations some of
them, the tramps for instance, had endured! Could they care so much
for a ray of sunshine, for the primeval forest, the cold spring hidden
away in some unseen spot, which the tramp had marked three years
before, and longed to see again, as he might to see his sweetheart,
dreaming of the green grass round it and the bird singing in the bush?
As he went on he saw still more inexplicable examples.

In prison, of course, there was a great deal he did not see and did
not want to see; he lived as it were with downcast eyes. It was
loathsome and unbearable for him to look. But in the end there was
much that surprised him and he began, as it were involuntarily, to
notice much that he had not suspected before. What surprised him most
of all was the terrible impossible gulf that lay between him and all
the rest. They seemed to be a different species, and he looked at them
and they at him with distrust and hostility. He felt and knew the
reasons of his isolation, but he would never have admitted till then
that those reasons were so deep and strong. There were some Polish
exiles, political prisoners, among them. They simply looked down upon
all the rest as ignorant churls; but Raskolnikov could not look upon
them like that. He saw that these ignorant men were in many respects
far wiser than the Poles. There were some Russians who were just as
contemptuous, a former officer and two seminarists. Raskolnikov saw
their mistake as clearly. He was disliked and avoided by everyone;
they even began to hate him at last--why, he could not tell. Men who
had been far more guilty despised and laughed at his crime.

"You're a gentleman," they used to say. "You shouldn't hack about with
an axe; that's not a gentleman's work."

The second week in Lent, his turn came to take the sacrament with his
gang. He went to church and prayed with the others. A quarrel broke
out one day, he did not know how. All fell on him at once in a fury.

"You're an infidel! You don't believe in God," they shouted. "You
ought to be killed."

He had never talked to them about God nor his belief, but they wanted
to kill him as an infidel. He said nothing. One of the prisoners
rushed at him in a perfect frenzy. Raskolnikov awaited him calmly and
silently; his eyebrows did not quiver, his face did not flinch. The
guard succeeded in intervening between him and his assailant, or there
would have been bloodshed.

There was another question he could not decide: why were they all so
fond of Sonia? She did not try to win their favour; she rarely met
them, sometimes only she came to see him at work for a moment. And yet
everybody knew her, they knew that she had come out to follow /him/,
knew how and where she lived. She never gave them money, did them no
particular services. Only once at Christmas she sent them all presents
of pies and rolls. But by degrees closer relations sprang up between
them and Sonia. She would write and post letters for them to their
relations. Relations of the prisoners who visited the town, at their
instructions, left with Sonia presents and money for them. Their wives
and sweethearts knew her and used to visit her. And when she visited
Raskolnikov at work, or met a party of the prisoners on the road, they
all took off their hats to her. "Little mother Sofya Semyonovna, you
are our dear, good little mother," coarse branded criminals said to
that frail little creature. She would smile and bow to them and
everyone was delighted when she smiled. They even admired her gait and
turned round to watch her walking; they admired her too for being so
little, and, in fact, did not know what to admire her most for. They
even came to her for help in their illnesses.

He was in the hospital from the middle of Lent till after Easter. When
he was better, he remembered the dreams he had had while he was
feverish and delirious. He dreamt that the whole world was condemned
to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the
depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except a very few chosen.
Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these
microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them
became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered
themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the
truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions,
their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible.
Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection.
All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that
he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat
himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know
how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good;
they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each
other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in armies
against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin
attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers would
fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each
other. The alarm bell was ringing all day long in the towns; men
rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was summoning them
no one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone
proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and they could not
agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups, agreed on
something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something
quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another,
fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations and famine.
All men and all things were involved in destruction. The plague spread
and moved further and further. Only a few men could be saved in the
whole world. They were a pure chosen people, destined to found a new
race and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but no one had
seen these men, no one had heard their words and their voices.

Raskolnikov was worried that this senseless dream haunted his memory
so miserably, the impression of this feverish delirium persisted so
long. The second week after Easter had come. There were warm bright
spring days; in the prison ward the grating windows under which the
sentinel paced were opened. Sonia had only been able to visit him
twice during his illness; each time she had to obtain permission, and
it was difficult. But she often used to come to the hospital yard,
especially in the evening, sometimes only to stand a minute and look
up at the windows of the ward.

One evening, when he was almost well again, Raskolnikov fell asleep.
On waking up he chanced to go to the window, and at once saw Sonia in
the distance at the hospital gate. She seemed to be waiting for
someone. Something stabbed him to the heart at that minute. He
shuddered and moved away from the window. Next day Sonia did not come,
nor the day after; he noticed that he was expecting her uneasily. At
last he was discharged. On reaching the prison he learnt from the
convicts that Sofya Semyonovna was lying ill at home and was unable to
go out.

He was very uneasy and sent to inquire after her; he soon learnt that
her illness was not dangerous. Hearing that he was anxious about her,
Sonia sent him a pencilled note, telling him that she was much better,
that she had a slight cold and that she would soon, very soon come and
see him at his work. His heart throbbed painfully as he read it.

Again it was a warm bright day. Early in the morning, at six o'clock,
he went off to work on the river bank, where they used to pound
alabaster and where there was a kiln for baking it in a shed. There
were only three of them sent. One of the convicts went with the guard
to the fortress to fetch a tool; the other began getting the wood
ready and laying it in the kiln. Raskolnikov came out of the shed on
to the river bank, sat down on a heap of logs by the shed and began
gazing at the wide deserted river. From the high bank a broad
landscape opened before him, the sound of singing floated faintly
audible from the other bank. In the vast steppe, bathed in sunshine,
he could just see, like black specks, the nomads' tents. There there
was freedom, there other men were living, utterly unlike those here;
there time itself seemed to stand still, as though the age of Abraham
and his flocks had not passed. Raskolnikov sat gazing, his thoughts
passed into day-dreams, into contemplation; he thought of nothing, but
a vague restlessness excited and troubled him. Suddenly he found Sonia
beside him; she had come up noiselessly and sat down at his side. It
was still quite early; the morning chill was still keen. She wore her
poor old burnous and the green shawl; her face still showed signs of
illness, it was thinner and paler. She gave him a joyful smile of
welcome, but held out her hand with her usual timidity. She was always
timid of holding out her hand to him and sometimes did not offer it at
all, as though afraid he would repel it. He always took her hand as
though with repugnance, always seemed vexed to meet her and was
sometimes obstinately silent throughout her visit. Sometimes she
trembled before him and went away deeply grieved. But now their hands
did not part. He stole a rapid glance at her and dropped his eyes on
the ground without speaking. They were alone, no one had seen them.
The guard had turned away for the time.

How it happened he did not know. But all at once something seemed to
seize him and fling him at her feet. He wept and threw his arms round
her knees. For the first instant she was terribly frightened and she
turned pale. She jumped up and looked at him trembling. But at the
same moment she understood, and a light of infinite happiness came
into her eyes. She knew and had no doubt that he loved her beyond
everything and that at last the moment had come. . . .

They wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in their eyes. They
were both pale and thin; but those sick pale faces were bright with
the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They
were renewed by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life
for the heart of the other.

They resolved to wait and be patient. They had another seven years to
wait, and what terrible suffering and what infinite happiness before
them! But he had risen again and he knew it and felt it in all his
being, while she--she only lived in his life.

On the evening of the same day, when the barracks were locked,
Raskolnikov lay on his plank bed and thought of her. He had even
fancied that day that all the convicts who had been his enemies looked
at him differently; he had even entered into talk with them and they
answered him in a friendly way. He remembered that now, and thought it
was bound to be so. Wasn't everything now bound to be changed?

He thought of her. He remembered how continually he had tormented her
and wounded her heart. He remembered her pale and thin little face.
But these recollections scarcely troubled him now; he knew with what
infinite love he would now repay all her sufferings. And what were
all, /all/ the agonies of the past! Everything, even his crime, his
sentence and imprisonment, seemed to him now in the first rush of
feeling an external, strange fact with which he had no concern. But he
could not think for long together of anything that evening, and he
could not have analysed anything consciously; he was simply feeling.
Life had stepped into the place of theory and something quite
different would work itself out in his mind.

Under his pillow lay the New Testament. He took it up mechanically.
The book belonged to Sonia; it was the one from which she had read the
raising of Lazarus to him. At first he was afraid that she would worry
him about religion, would talk about the gospel and pester him with
books. But to his great surprise she had not once approached the
subject and had not even offered him the Testament. He had asked her
for it himself not long before his illness and she brought him the
book without a word. Till now he had not opened it.

He did not open it now, but one thought passed through his mind: "Can
her convictions not be mine now? Her feelings, her aspirations at
least. . . ."

She too had been greatly agitated that day, and at night she was taken
ill again. But she was so happy--and so unexpectedly happy--that she
was almost frightened of her happiness. Seven years, /only/ seven
years! At the beginning of their happiness at some moments they were
both ready to look on those seven years as though they were seven
days. He did not know that the new life would not be given him for
nothing, that he would have to pay dearly for it, that it would cost
him great striving, great suffering.

But that is the beginning of a new story--the story of the gradual
renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his
passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new
unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our
present story is ended.



THE END





Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Category:
General Fiction
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