> CHAPTER VI
Later on Raskolnikov happened to find out why the huckster and his
wife had invited Lizaveta. It was a very ordinary matter and there was
nothing exceptional about it. A family who had come to the town and
been reduced to poverty were selling their household goods and
clothes, all women's things. As the things would have fetched little
in the market, they were looking for a dealer. This was Lizaveta's
business. She undertook such jobs and was frequently employed, as she
was very honest and always fixed a fair price and stuck to it. She
spoke as a rule little and, as we have said already, she was very
submissive and timid.
But Raskolnikov had become superstitious of late. The traces of
superstition remained in him long after, and were almost ineradicable.
And in all this he was always afterwards disposed to see something
strange and mysterious, as it were, the presence of some peculiar
influences and coincidences. In the previous winter a student he knew
called Pokorev, who had left for Harkov, had chanced in conversation
to give him the address of Alyona Ivanovna, the old pawnbroker, in
case he might want to pawn anything. For a long while he did not go to
her, for he had lessons and managed to get along somehow. Six weeks
ago he had remembered the address; he had two articles that could be
pawned: his father's old silver watch and a little gold ring with
three red stones, a present from his sister at parting. He decided to
take the ring. When he found the old woman he had felt an
insurmountable repulsion for her at the first glance, though he knew
nothing special about her. He got two roubles from her and went into a
miserable little tavern on his way home. He asked for tea, sat down
and sank into deep thought. A strange idea was pecking at his brain
like a chicken in the egg, and very, very much absorbed him.
Almost beside him at the next table there was sitting a student, whom
he did not know and had never seen, and with him a young officer. They
had played a game of billiards and began drinking tea. All at once he
heard the student mention to the officer the pawnbroker Alyona
Ivanovna and give him her address. This of itself seemed strange to
Raskolnikov; he had just come from her and here at once he heard her
name. Of course it was a chance, but he could not shake off a very
extraordinary impression, and here someone seemed to be speaking
expressly for him; the student began telling his friend various
details about Alyona Ivanovna.
"She is first-rate," he said. "You can always get money from her. She
is as rich as a Jew, she can give you five thousand roubles at a time
and she is not above taking a pledge for a rouble. Lots of our fellows
have had dealings with her. But she is an awful old harpy. . . ."
And he began describing how spiteful and uncertain she was, how if you
were only a day late with your interest the pledge was lost; how she
gave a quarter of the value of an article and took five and even seven
percent a month on it and so on. The student chattered on, saying that
she had a sister Lizaveta, whom the wretched little creature was
continually beating, and kept in complete bondage like a small child,
though Lizaveta was at least six feet high.
"There's a phenomenon for you," cried the student and he laughed.
They began talking about Lizaveta. The student spoke about her with a
peculiar relish and was continually laughing and the officer listened
with great interest and asked him to send Lizaveta to do some mending
for him. Raskolnikov did not miss a word and learned everything about
her. Lizaveta was younger than the old woman and was her half-sister,
being the child of a different mother. She was thirty-five. She worked
day and night for her sister, and besides doing the cooking and the
washing, she did sewing and worked as a charwoman and gave her sister
all she earned. She did not dare to accept an order or job of any kind
without her sister's permission. The old woman had already made her
will, and Lizaveta knew of it, and by this will she would not get a
farthing; nothing but the movables, chairs and so on; all the money
was left to a monastery in the province of N----, that prayers might
be said for her in perpetuity. Lizaveta was of lower rank than her
sister, unmarried and awfully uncouth in appearance, remarkably tall
with long feet that looked as if they were bent outwards. She always
wore battered goatskin shoes, and was clean in her person. What the
student expressed most surprise and amusement about was the fact that
Lizaveta was continually with child.
"But you say she is hideous?" observed the officer.
"Yes, she is so dark-skinned and looks like a soldier dressed up, but
you know she is not at all hideous. She has such a good-natured face
and eyes. Strikingly so. And the proof of it is that lots of people
are attracted by her. She is such a soft, gentle creature, ready to
put up with anything, always willing, willing to do anything. And her
smile is really very sweet."
"You seem to find her attractive yourself," laughed the officer.
"From her queerness. No, I'll tell you what. I could kill that damned
old woman and make off with her money, I assure you, without the
faintest conscience-prick," the student added with warmth. The officer
laughed again while Raskolnikov shuddered. How strange it was!
"Listen, I want to ask you a serious question," the student said
hotly. "I was joking of course, but look here; on one side we have a
stupid, senseless, worthless, spiteful, ailing, horrid old woman, not
simply useless but doing actual mischief, who has not an idea what she
is living for herself, and who will die in a day or two in any case.
You understand? You understand?"
"Yes, yes, I understand," answered the officer, watching his excited
"Well, listen then. On the other side, fresh young lives thrown away
for want of help and by thousands, on every side! A hundred thousand
good deeds could be done and helped, on that old woman's money which
will be buried in a monastery! Hundreds, thousands perhaps, might be
set on the right path; dozens of families saved from destitution, from
ruin, from vice, from the Lock hospitals--and all with her money. Kill
her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the
service of humanity and the good of all. What do you think, would
not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds? For one
life thousands would be saved from corruption and decay. One death,
and a hundred lives in exchange--it's simple arithmetic! Besides, what
value has the life of that sickly, stupid, ill-natured old woman in
the balance of existence! No more than the life of a louse, of a
black-beetle, less in fact because the old woman is doing harm. She is
wearing out the lives of others; the other day she bit Lizaveta's
finger out of spite; it almost had to be amputated."
"Of course she does not deserve to live," remarked the officer, "but
there it is, it's nature."
"Oh, well, brother, but we have to correct and direct nature, and, but
for that, we should drown in an ocean of prejudice. But for that,
there would never have been a single great man. They talk of duty,
conscience--I don't want to say anything against duty and conscience;
--but the point is, what do we mean by them. Stay, I have another
question to ask you. Listen!"
"No, you stay, I'll ask you a question. Listen!"
"You are talking and speechifying away, but tell me, would you kill
the old woman /yourself/?"
"Of course not! I was only arguing the justice of it. . . . It's
nothing to do with me. . . ."
"But I think, if you would not do it yourself, there's no justice
about it. . . . Let us have another game."
Raskolnikov was violently agitated. Of course, it was all ordinary
youthful talk and thought, such as he had often heard before in
different forms and on different themes. But why had he happened to
hear such a discussion and such ideas at the very moment when his own
brain was just conceiving . . . /the very same ideas/? And why, just
at the moment when he had brought away the embryo of his idea from the
old woman had he dropped at once upon a conversation about her? This
coincidence always seemed strange to him. This trivial talk in a
tavern had an immense influence on him in his later action; as though
there had really been in it something preordained, some guiding
hint. . . .
On returning from the Hay Market he flung himself on the sofa and sat
for a whole hour without stirring. Meanwhile it got dark; he had no
candle and, indeed, it did not occur to him to light up. He could
never recollect whether he had been thinking about anything at that
time. At last he was conscious of his former fever and shivering, and
he realised with relief that he could lie down on the sofa. Soon
heavy, leaden sleep came over him, as it were crushing him.
He slept an extraordinarily long time and without dreaming. Nastasya,
coming into his room at ten o'clock the next morning, had difficulty
in rousing him. She brought him in tea and bread. The tea was again
the second brew and again in her own tea-pot.
"My goodness, how he sleeps!" she cried indignantly. "And he is always
He got up with an effort. His head ached, he stood up, took a turn in
his garret and sank back on the sofa again.
"Going to sleep again," cried Nastasya. "Are you ill, eh?"
He made no reply.
"Do you want some tea?"
"Afterwards," he said with an effort, closing his eyes again and
turning to the wall.
Nastasya stood over him.
"Perhaps he really is ill," she said, turned and went out. She came in
again at two o'clock with soup. He was lying as before. The tea stood
untouched. Nastasya felt positively offended and began wrathfully
"Why are you lying like a log?" she shouted, looking at him with
He got up, and sat down again, but said nothing and stared at the
"Are you ill or not?" asked Nastasya and again received no answer.
"You'd better go out and get a breath of air," she said after a pause.
"Will you eat it or not?"
"Afterwards," he said weakly. "You can go."
And he motioned her out.
She remained a little longer, looked at him with compassion and went
A few minutes afterwards, he raised his eyes and looked for a long
while at the tea and the soup. Then he took the bread, took up a spoon
and began to eat.
He ate a little, three or four spoonfuls, without appetite, as it
were mechanically. His head ached less. After his meal he stretched
himself on the sofa again, but now he could not sleep; he lay
without stirring, with his face in the pillow. He was haunted by
day-dreams and such strange day-dreams; in one, that kept recurring,
he fancied that he was in Africa, in Egypt, in some sort of oasis. The
caravan was resting, the camels were peacefully lying down; the
palms stood all around in a complete circle; all the party were at
dinner. But he was drinking water from a spring which flowed
gurgling close by. And it was so cool, it was wonderful, wonderful,
blue, cold water running among the parti-coloured stones and over
the clean sand which glistened here and there like gold. . . .
Suddenly he heard a clock strike. He started, roused himself, raised
his head, looked out of the window, and seeing how late it was,
suddenly jumped up wide awake as though someone had pulled him off
the sofa. He crept on tiptoe to the door, stealthily opened it and
began listening on the staircase. His heart beat terribly. But all was
quiet on the stairs as if everyone was asleep. . . . It seemed to him
strange and monstrous that he could have slept in such forgetfulness
from the previous day and had done nothing, had prepared nothing
yet. . . . And meanwhile perhaps it had struck six. And his drowsiness
and stupefaction were followed by an extraordinary, feverish, as it
were distracted haste. But the preparations to be made were few. He
concentrated all his energies on thinking of everything and forgetting
nothing; and his heart kept beating and thumping so that he could
hardly breathe. First he had to make a noose and sew it into his
overcoat--a work of a moment. He rummaged under his pillow and picked
out amongst the linen stuffed away under it, a worn out, old unwashed
shirt. From its rags he tore a long strip, a couple of inches wide and
about sixteen inches long. He folded this strip in two, took off his
wide, strong summer overcoat of some stout cotton material (his only
outer garment) and began sewing the two ends of the rag on the inside,
under the left armhole. His hands shook as he sewed, but he did it
successfully so that nothing showed outside when he put the coat on
again. The needle and thread he had got ready long before and they lay
on his table in a piece of paper. As for the noose, it was a very
ingenious device of his own; the noose was intended for the axe. It
was impossible for him to carry the axe through the street in his
hands. And if hidden under his coat he would still have had to support
it with his hand, which would have been noticeable. Now he had only to
put the head of the axe in the noose, and it would hang quietly under
his arm on the inside. Putting his hand in his coat pocket, he could
hold the end of the handle all the way, so that it did not swing; and
as the coat was very full, a regular sack in fact, it could not be
seen from outside that he was holding something with the hand that was
in the pocket. This noose, too, he had designed a fortnight before.
When he had finished with this, he thrust his hand into a little
opening between his sofa and the floor, fumbled in the left corner and
drew out the /pledge/, which he had got ready long before and hidden
there. This pledge was, however, only a smoothly planed piece of wood
the size and thickness of a silver cigarette case. He picked up this
piece of wood in one of his wanderings in a courtyard where there was
some sort of a workshop. Afterwards he had added to the wood a thin
smooth piece of iron, which he had also picked up at the same time in
the street. Putting the iron which was a little the smaller on the
piece of wood, he fastened them very firmly, crossing and re-crossing
the thread round them; then wrapped them carefully and daintily in
clean white paper and tied up the parcel so that it would be very
difficult to untie it. This was in order to divert the attention of
the old woman for a time, while she was trying to undo the knot, and
so to gain a moment. The iron strip was added to give weight, so that
the woman might not guess the first minute that the "thing" was made
of wood. All this had been stored by him beforehand under the sofa. He
had only just got the pledge out when he heard someone suddenly about
in the yard.
"It struck six long ago."
"Long ago! My God!"
He rushed to the door, listened, caught up his hat and began to
descend his thirteen steps cautiously, noiselessly, like a cat. He had
still the most important thing to do--to steal the axe from the
kitchen. That the deed must be done with an axe he had decided long
ago. He had also a pocket pruning-knife, but he could not rely on the
knife and still less on his own strength, and so resolved finally on
the axe. We may note in passing, one peculiarity in regard to all the
final resolutions taken by him in the matter; they had one strange
characteristic: the more final they were, the more hideous and the
more absurd they at once became in his eyes. In spite of all his
agonising inward struggle, he never for a single instant all that time
could believe in the carrying out of his plans.
And, indeed, if it had ever happened that everything to the least
point could have been considered and finally settled, and no
uncertainty of any kind had remained, he would, it seems, have
renounced it all as something absurd, monstrous and impossible. But a
whole mass of unsettled points and uncertainties remained. As for
getting the axe, that trifling business cost him no anxiety, for
nothing could be easier. Nastasya was continually out of the house,
especially in the evenings; she would run in to the neighbours or to a
shop, and always left the door ajar. It was the one thing the landlady
was always scolding her about. And so, when the time came, he would
only have to go quietly into the kitchen and to take the axe, and an
hour later (when everything was over) go in and put it back again. But
these were doubtful points. Supposing he returned an hour later to put
it back, and Nastasya had come back and was on the spot. He would of
course have to go by and wait till she went out again. But supposing
she were in the meantime to miss the axe, look for it, make an outcry
--that would mean suspicion or at least grounds for suspicion.
But those were all trifles which he had not even begun to consider,
and indeed he had no time. He was thinking of the chief point, and put
off trifling details, until /he could believe in it all/. But that
seemed utterly unattainable. So it seemed to himself at least. He
could not imagine, for instance, that he would sometime leave off
thinking, get up and simply go there. . . . Even his late experiment
(i.e. his visit with the object of a final survey of the place) was
simply an attempt at an experiment, far from being the real thing, as
though one should say "come, let us go and try it--why dream about
it!"--and at once he had broken down and had run away cursing, in a
frenzy with himself. Meanwhile it would seem, as regards the moral
question, that his analysis was complete; his casuistry had become
keen as a razor, and he could not find rational objections in himself.
But in the last resort he simply ceased to believe in himself, and
doggedly, slavishly sought arguments in all directions, fumbling for
them, as though someone were forcing and drawing him to it.
At first--long before indeed--he had been much occupied with one
question; why almost all crimes are so badly concealed and so easily
detected, and why almost all criminals leave such obvious traces? He
had come gradually to many different and curious conclusions, and in
his opinion the chief reason lay not so much in the material
impossibility of concealing the crime, as in the criminal himself.
Almost every criminal is subject to a failure of will and reasoning
power by a childish and phenomenal heedlessness, at the very instant
when prudence and caution are most essential. It was his conviction
that this eclipse of reason and failure of will power attacked a man
like a disease, developed gradually and reached its highest point just
before the perpetration of the crime, continued with equal violence at
the moment of the crime and for longer or shorter time after,
according to the individual case, and then passed off like any other
disease. The question whether the disease gives rise to the crime, or
whether the crime from its own peculiar nature is always accompanied
by something of the nature of disease, he did not yet feel able to
When he reached these conclusions, he decided that in his own case
there could not be such a morbid reaction, that his reason and will
would remain unimpaired at the time of carrying out his design, for
the simple reason that his design was "not a crime. . . ." We will
omit all the process by means of which he arrived at this last
conclusion; we have run too far ahead already. . . . We may add only
that the practical, purely material difficulties of the affair
occupied a secondary position in his mind. "One has but to keep all
one's will-power and reason to deal with them, and they will all be
overcome at the time when once one has familiarised oneself with the
minutest details of the business. . . ." But this preparation had
never been begun. His final decisions were what he came to trust
least, and when the hour struck, it all came to pass quite
differently, as it were accidentally and unexpectedly.
One trifling circumstance upset his calculations, before he had even
left the staircase. When he reached the landlady's kitchen, the door
of which was open as usual, he glanced cautiously in to see whether,
in Nastasya's absence, the landlady herself was there, or if not,
whether the door to her own room was closed, so that she might not
peep out when he went in for the axe. But what was his amazement when
he suddenly saw that Nastasya was not only at home in the kitchen, but
was occupied there, taking linen out of a basket and hanging it on a
line. Seeing him, she left off hanging the clothes, turned to him and
stared at him all the time he was passing. He turned away his eyes,
and walked past as though he noticed nothing. But it was the end of
everything; he had not the axe! He was overwhelmed.
"What made me think," he reflected, as he went under the gateway,
"what made me think that she would be sure not to be at home at that
moment! Why, why, why did I assume this so certainly?"
He was crushed and even humiliated. He could have laughed at himself
in his anger. . . . A dull animal rage boiled within him.
He stood hesitating in the gateway. To go into the street, to go a
walk for appearance' sake was revolting; to go back to his room, even
more revolting. "And what a chance I have lost for ever!" he muttered,
standing aimlessly in the gateway, just opposite the porter's little
dark room, which was also open. Suddenly he started. From the porter's
room, two paces away from him, something shining under the bench to
the right caught his eye. . . . He looked about him--nobody. He
approached the room on tiptoe, went down two steps into it and in a
faint voice called the porter. "Yes, not at home! Somewhere near
though, in the yard, for the door is wide open." He dashed to the axe
(it was an axe) and pulled it out from under the bench, where it lay
between two chunks of wood; at once, before going out, he made it fast
in the noose, he thrust both hands into his pockets and went out of
the room; no one had noticed him! "When reason fails, the devil
helps!" he thought with a strange grin. This chance raised his spirits
He walked along quietly and sedately, without hurry, to avoid
awakening suspicion. He scarcely looked at the passers-by, tried to
escape looking at their faces at all, and to be as little noticeable
as possible. Suddenly he thought of his hat. "Good heavens! I had the
money the day before yesterday and did not get a cap to wear instead!"
A curse rose from the bottom of his soul.
Glancing out of the corner of his eye into a shop, he saw by a clock
on the wall that it was ten minutes past seven. He had to make haste
and at the same time to go someway round, so as to approach the house
from the other side. . . .
When he had happened to imagine all this beforehand, he had sometimes
thought that he would be very much afraid. But he was not very much
afraid now, was not afraid at all, indeed. His mind was even occupied
by irrelevant matters, but by nothing for long. As he passed the
Yusupov garden, he was deeply absorbed in considering the building of
great fountains, and of their refreshing effect on the atmosphere in
all the squares. By degrees he passed to the conviction that if the
summer garden were extended to the field of Mars, and perhaps joined
to the garden of the Mihailovsky Palace, it would be a splendid thing
and a great benefit to the town. Then he was interested by the
question why in all great towns men are not simply driven by
necessity, but in some peculiar way inclined to live in those parts of
the town where there are no gardens nor fountains; where there is most
dirt and smell and all sorts of nastiness. Then his own walks through
the Hay Market came back to his mind, and for a moment he waked up to
reality. "What nonsense!" he thought, "better think of nothing at
"So probably men led to execution clutch mentally at every object that
meets them on the way," flashed through his mind, but simply flashed,
like lightning; he made haste to dismiss this thought. . . . And by
now he was near; here was the house, here was the gate. Suddenly a
clock somewhere struck once. "What! can it be half-past seven?
Impossible, it must be fast!"
Luckily for him, everything went well again at the gates. At that very
moment, as though expressly for his benefit, a huge waggon of hay had
just driven in at the gate, completely screening him as he passed
under the gateway, and the waggon had scarcely had time to drive
through into the yard, before he had slipped in a flash to the right.
On the other side of the waggon he could hear shouting and
quarrelling; but no one noticed him and no one met him. Many windows
looking into that huge quadrangular yard were open at that moment, but
he did not raise his head--he had not the strength to. The staircase
leading to the old woman's room was close by, just on the right of the
gateway. He was already on the stairs. . . .
Drawing a breath, pressing his hand against his throbbing heart, and
once more feeling for the axe and setting it straight, he began softly
and cautiously ascending the stairs, listening every minute. But the
stairs, too, were quite deserted; all the doors were shut; he met no
one. One flat indeed on the first floor was wide open and painters
were at work in it, but they did not glance at him. He stood still,
thought a minute and went on. "Of course it would be better if they
had not been here, but . . . it's two storeys above them."
And there was the fourth storey, here was the door, here was the flat
opposite, the empty one. The flat underneath the old woman's was
apparently empty also; the visiting card nailed on the door had been
torn off--they had gone away! . . . He was out of breath. For one
instant the thought floated through his mind "Shall I go back?" But he
made no answer and began listening at the old woman's door, a dead
silence. Then he listened again on the staircase, listened long and
intently . . . then looked about him for the last time, pulled himself
together, drew himself up, and once more tried the axe in the noose.
"Am I very pale?" he wondered. "Am I not evidently agitated? She is
mistrustful. . . . Had I better wait a little longer . . . till my
heart leaves off thumping?"
But his heart did not leave off. On the contrary, as though to spite
him, it throbbed more and more violently. He could stand it no longer,
he slowly put out his hand to the bell and rang. Half a minute later
he rang again, more loudly.
No answer. To go on ringing was useless and out of place. The old
woman was, of course, at home, but she was suspicious and alone. He
had some knowledge of her habits . . . and once more he put his ear to
the door. Either his senses were peculiarly keen (which it is
difficult to suppose), or the sound was really very distinct. Anyway,
he suddenly heard something like the cautious touch of a hand on the
lock and the rustle of a skirt at the very door. someone was standing
stealthily close to the lock and just as he was doing on the outside
was secretly listening within, and seemed to have her ear to the door.
. . . He moved a little on purpose and muttered something aloud that
he might not have the appearance of hiding, then rang a third time,
but quietly, soberly, and without impatience, Recalling it afterwards,
that moment stood out in his mind vividly, distinctly, for ever; he
could not make out how he had had such cunning, for his mind was as it
were clouded at moments and he was almost unconscious of his body.
. . . An instant later he heard the latch unfastened.