Raskolnikov was already entering the room. He came in looking as though he had the utmost difficulty not to burst out laughing again. Behind him Razumihin strode in gawky and awkward, shamefaced and red as a peony, with an utterly crestfallen and ferocious expression. His face and whole figure really were ridiculous at that moment and amply justified Raskolnikov’s laughter. Raskolnikov, not waiting for an introduction, bowed to Porfiry Petrovitch, who stood in the middle of the room looking inquiringly at them. He held out his hand and shook hands, still apparently making desperate efforts to subdue his mirth and utter a few words to introduce himself. But he had no sooner succeeded in assuming a serious air and muttering something when he suddenly glanced again as though accidentally at Razumihin, and could no longer control himself: his stifled laughter broke out the more irresistibly the more he tried to restrain it. The extraordinary ferocity with which Razumihin received this “spontaneous” mirth gave the whole scene the appearance of most genuine fun and naturalness. Razumihin strengthened this impression as though on purpose.
“Fool! You fiend,” he roared, waving his arm which at once struck a little round table with an empty tea-glass on it. Everything was sent flying and crashing.
“But why break chairs, gentlemen? You know it’s a loss to the Crown,” Porfiry Petrovitch quoted gaily.
Raskolnikov was still laughing, with his hand in Porfiry Petrovitch’s, but anxious not to overdo it, awaited the right moment to put a natural end to it. Razumihin, completely put to confusion by upsetting the table and smashing the glass, gazed gloomily at the fragments, cursed and turned sharply to the window where he stood looking out with his back to the company with a fiercely scowling countenance, seeing nothing. Porfiry Petrovitch laughed and was ready to go on laughing, but obviously looked for explanations. Zametov had been sitting in the corner, but he rose at the visitors’ entrance and was standing in expectation with a smile on his lips, though he looked with surprise and even it seemed incredulity at the whole scene and at Raskolnikov with a certain embarrassment. Zametov’s unexpected presence struck Raskolnikov unpleasantly.
“I’ve got to think of that,” he thought. “Excuse me, please,” he began, affecting extreme embarrassment. “Raskolnikov.”
“Not at all, very pleasant to see you... and how pleasantly you’ve come in.... Why, won’t he even say good-morning?” Porfiry Petrovitch nodded at Razumihin.
“Upon my honour I don’t know why he is in such a rage with me. I only told him as we came along that he was like Romeo... and proved it. And that was all, I think!”
“Pig!” ejaculated Razumihin, without turning round.
“There must have been very grave grounds for it, if he is so furious at the word,” Porfiry laughed.
“Oh, you sharp lawyer!... Damn you all!” snapped Razumihin, and suddenly bursting out laughing himself, he went up to Porfiry with a more cheerful face as though nothing had happened. “That’ll do! We are all fools. To come to business. This is my friend Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov; in the first place he has heard of you and wants to make your acquaintance, and secondly, he has a little matter of business with you. Bah! Zametov, what brought you here? Have you met before? Have you known each other long?”
“What does this mean?” thought Raskolnikov uneasily.
Zametov seemed taken aback, but not very much so.
“Why, it was at your rooms we met yesterday,” he said easily.
“Then I have been spared the trouble. All last week he was begging me to introduce him to you. Porfiry and you have sniffed each other out without me. Where is your tobacco?”
Porfiry Petrovitch was wearing a dressing-gown, very clean linen, and trodden-down slippers. He was a man of about five and thirty, short, stout even to corpulence, and clean shaven. He wore his hair cut short and had a large round head, particularly prominent at the back. His soft, round, rather snub-nosed face was of a sickly yellowish colour, but had a vigorous and rather ironical expression. It would have been good-natured except for a look in the eyes, which shone with a watery, mawkish light under almost white, blinking eyelashes. The expression of those eyes was strangely out of keeping with his somewhat womanish figure, and gave it something far more serious than could be guessed at first sight.
As soon as Porfiry Petrovitch heard that his visitor had a little matter of business with him, he begged him to sit down on the sofa and sat down himself on the other end, waiting for him to explain his business, with that careful and over-serious attention which is at once oppressive and embarrassing, especially to a stranger, and especially if what you are discussing is in your opinion of far too little importance for such exceptional solemnity. But in brief and coherent phrases Raskolnikov explained his business clearly and exactly, and was so well satisfied with himself that he even succeeded in taking a good look at Porfiry. Porfiry Petrovitch did not once take his eyes off him. Razumihin, sitting opposite at the same table, listened warmly and impatiently, looking from one to the other every moment with rather excessive interest.
“Fool,” Raskolnikov swore to himself.
“You have to give information to the police,” Porfiry replied, with a most businesslike air, “that having learnt of this incident, that is of the murder, you beg to inform the lawyer in charge of the case that such and such things belong to you, and that you desire to redeem them... or... but they will write to you.”
“That’s just the point, that at the present moment,” Raskolnikov tried his utmost to feign embarrassment, “I am not quite in funds... and even this trifling sum is beyond me... I only wanted, you see, for the present to declare that the things are mine, and that when I have money....”
“That’s no matter,” answered Porfiry Petrovitch, receiving his explanation of his pecuniary position coldly, “but you can, if you prefer, write straight to me, to say, that having been informed of the matter, and claiming such and such as your property, you beg...”
“On an ordinary sheet of paper?” Raskolnikov interrupted eagerly, again interested in the financial side of the question.
“Oh, the most ordinary,” and suddenly Porfiry Petrovitch looked with obvious irony at him, screwing up his eyes and, as it were, winking at him. But perhaps it was Raskolnikov’s fancy, for it all lasted but a moment. There was certainly something of the sort, Raskolnikov could have sworn he winked at him, goodness knows why.
“He knows,” flashed through his mind like lightning.
“Forgive my troubling you about such trifles,” he went on, a little disconcerted, “the things are only worth five roubles, but I prize them particularly for the sake of those from whom they came to me, and I must confess that I was alarmed when I heard...”
“That’s why you were so much struck when I mentioned to Zossimov that Porfiry was inquiring for everyone who had pledges!” Razumihin put in with obvious intention.
This was really unbearable. Raskolnikov could not help glancing at him with a flash of vindictive anger in his black eyes, but immediately recollected himself.
“You seem to be jeering at me, brother?” he said to him, with a well-feigned irritability. “I dare say I do seem to you absurdly anxious about such trash; but you mustn’t think me selfish or grasping for that, and these two things may be anything but trash in my eyes. I told you just now that the silver watch, though it’s not worth a cent, is the only thing left us of my father’s. You may laugh at me, but my mother is here,” he turned suddenly to Porfiry, “and if she knew,” he turned again hurriedly to Razumihin, carefully making his voice tremble, “that the watch was lost, she would be in despair! You know what women are!”
“Not a bit of it! I didn’t mean that at all! Quite the contrary!” shouted Razumihin distressed.
“Was it right? Was it natural? Did I overdo it?” Raskolnikov asked himself in a tremor. “Why did I say that about women?”
“Oh, your mother is with you?” Porfiry Petrovitch inquired.
“When did she come?”
Porfiry paused as though reflecting.
“Your things would not in any case be lost,” he went on calmly and coldly. “I have been expecting you here for some time.”
And as though that was a matter of no importance, he carefully offered the ash-tray to Razumihin, who was ruthlessly scattering cigarette ash over the carpet. Raskolnikov shuddered, but Porfiry did not seem to be looking at him, and was still concerned with Razumihin’s cigarette.
“What? Expecting him? Why, did you know that he had pledges there?” cried Razumihin.
Porfiry Petrovitch addressed himself to Raskolnikov.
“Your things, the ring and the watch, were wrapped up together, and on the paper your name was legibly written in pencil, together with the date on which you left them with her...”
“How observant you are!” Raskolnikov smiled awkwardly, doing his very utmost to look him straight in the face, but he failed, and suddenly added:
“I say that because I suppose there were a great many pledges... that it must be difficult to remember them all.... But you remember them all so clearly, and... and...”
“Stupid! Feeble!” he thought. “Why did I add that?”
“But we know all who had pledges, and you are the only one who hasn’t come forward,” Porfiry answered with hardly perceptible irony.
“I haven’t been quite well.”
“I heard that too. I heard, indeed, that you were in great distress about something. You look pale still.”
“I am not pale at all.... No, I am quite well,” Raskolnikov snapped out rudely and angrily, completely changing his tone. His anger was mounting, he could not repress it. “And in my anger I shall betray myself,” flashed through his mind again. “Why are they torturing me?”
“Not quite well!” Razumihin caught him up. “What next! He was unconscious and delirious all yesterday. Would you believe, Porfiry, as soon as our backs were turned, he dressed, though he could hardly stand, and gave us the slip and went off on a spree somewhere till midnight, delirious all the time! Would you believe it! Extraordinary!”
“Really delirious? You don’t say so!” Porfiry shook his head in a womanish way.
“Nonsense! Don’t you believe it! But you don’t believe it anyway,” Raskolnikov let slip in his anger. But Porfiry Petrovitch did not seem to catch those strange words.
“But how could you have gone out if you hadn’t been delirious?” Razumihin got hot suddenly. “What did you go out for? What was the object of it? And why on the sly? Were you in your senses when you did it? Now that all danger is over I can speak plainly.”
“I was awfully sick of them yesterday.” Raskolnikov addressed Porfiry suddenly with a smile of insolent defiance, “I ran away from them to take lodgings where they wouldn’t find me, and took a lot of money with me. Mr. Zametov there saw it. I say, Mr. Zametov, was I sensible or delirious yesterday; settle our dispute.”
He could have strangled Zametov at that moment, so hateful were his expression and his silence to him.
“In my opinion you talked sensibly and even artfully, but you were extremely irritable,” Zametov pronounced dryly.
“And Nikodim Fomitch was telling me to-day,” put in Porfiry Petrovitch, “that he met you very late last night in the lodging of a man who had been run over.”
“And there,” said Razumihin, “weren’t you mad then? You gave your last penny to the widow for the funeral. If you wanted to help, give fifteen or twenty even, but keep three roubles for yourself at least, but he flung away all the twenty-five at once!”
“Maybe I found a treasure somewhere and you know nothing of it? So that’s why I was liberal yesterday.... Mr. Zametov knows I’ve found a treasure! Excuse us, please, for disturbing you for half an hour with such trivialities,” he said, turning to Porfiry Petrovitch, with trembling lips. “We are boring you, aren’t we?”
“Oh no, quite the contrary, quite the contrary! If only you knew how you interest me! It’s interesting to look on and listen... and I am really glad you have come forward at last.”
“But you might give us some tea! My throat’s dry,” cried Razumihin.
“Capital idea! Perhaps we will all keep you company. Wouldn’t you like... something more essential before tea?”
“Get along with you!”
Porfiry Petrovitch went out to order tea.
Raskolnikov’s thoughts were in a whirl. He was in terrible exasperation.
“The worst of it is they don’t disguise it; they don’t care to stand on ceremony! And how if you didn’t know me at all, did you come to talk to Nikodim Fomitch about me? So they don’t care to hide that they are tracking me like a pack of dogs. They simply spit in my face.” He was shaking with rage. “Come, strike me openly, don’t play with me like a cat with a mouse. It’s hardly civil, Porfiry Petrovitch, but perhaps I won’t allow it! I shall get up and throw the whole truth in your ugly faces, and you’ll see how I despise you.” He could hardly breathe. “And what if it’s only my fancy? What if I am mistaken, and through inexperience I get angry and don’t keep up my nasty part? Perhaps it’s all unintentional. All their phrases are the usual ones, but there is something about them.... It all might be said, but there is something. Why did he say bluntly, ‘With her’? Why did Zametov add that I spoke artfully? Why do they speak in that tone? Yes, the tone.... Razumihin is sitting here, why does he see nothing? That innocent blockhead never does see anything! Feverish again! Did Porfiry wink at me just now? Of course it’s nonsense! What could he wink for? Are they trying to upset my nerves or are they teasing me? Either it’s ill fancy or they know! Even Zametov is rude.... Is Zametov rude? Zametov has changed his mind. I foresaw he would change his mind! He is at home here, while it’s my first visit. Porfiry does not consider him a visitor; sits with his back to him. They’re as thick as thieves, no doubt, over me! Not a doubt they were talking about me before we came. Do they know about the flat? If only they’d make haste! When I said that I ran away to take a flat he let it pass.... I put that in cleverly about a flat, it may be of use afterwards.... Delirious, indeed... ha-ha-ha! He knows all about last night! He didn’t know of my mother’s arrival! The hag had written the date on in pencil! You are wrong, you won’t catch me! There are no facts... it’s all supposition! You produce facts! The flat even isn’t a fact but delirium. I know what to say to them.... Do they know about the flat? I won’t go without finding out. What did I come for? But my being angry now, maybe is a fact! Fool, how irritable I am! Perhaps that’s right; to play the invalid.... He is feeling me. He will try to catch me. Why did I come?”
All this flashed like lightning through his mind.
Porfiry Petrovitch returned quickly. He became suddenly more jovial.
“Your party yesterday, brother, has left my head rather.... And I am out of sorts altogether,” he began in quite a different tone, laughing to Razumihin.
“Was it interesting? I left you yesterday at the most interesting point. Who got the best of it?”
“Oh, no one, of course. They got on to everlasting questions, floated off into space.”
“Only fancy, Rodya, what we got on to yesterday. Whether there is such a thing as crime. I told you that we talked our heads off.”
“What is there strange? It’s an everyday social question,” Raskolnikov answered casually.
“The question wasn’t put quite like that,” observed Porfiry.
“Not quite, that’s true,” Razumihin agreed at once, getting warm and hurried as usual. “Listen, Rodion, and tell us your opinion, I want to hear it. I was fighting tooth and nail with them and wanted you to help me. I told them you were coming.... It began with the socialist doctrine. You know their doctrine; crime is a protest against the abnormality of the social organisation and nothing more, and nothing more; no other causes admitted!...”
“You are wrong there,” cried Porfiry Petrovitch; he was noticeably animated and kept laughing as he looked at Razumihin, which made him more excited than ever.
“Nothing is admitted,” Razumihin interrupted with heat.
“I am not wrong. I’ll show you their pamphlets. Everything with them is ‘the influence of environment,’ and nothing else. Their favourite phrase! From which it follows that, if society is normally organised, all crime will cease at once, since there will be nothing to protest against and all men will become righteous in one instant. Human nature is not taken into account, it is excluded, it’s not supposed to exist! They don’t recognise that humanity, developing by a historical living process, will become at last a normal society, but they believe that a social system that has come out of some mathematical brain is going to organise all humanity at once and make it just and sinless in an instant, quicker than any living process! That’s why they instinctively dislike history, ‘nothing but ugliness and stupidity in it,’ and they explain it all as stupidity! That’s why they so dislike the living process of life; they don’t want a living soul! The living soul demands life, the soul won’t obey the rules of mechanics, the soul is an object of suspicion, the soul is retrograde! But what they want though it smells of death and can be made of India-rubber, at least is not alive, has no will, is servile and won’t revolt! And it comes in the end to their reducing everything to the building of walls and the planning of rooms and passages in a phalanstery! The phalanstery is ready, indeed, but your human nature is not ready for the phalanstery — it wants life, it hasn’t completed its vital process, it’s too soon for the graveyard! You can’t skip over nature by logic. Logic presupposes three possibilities, but there are millions! Cut away a million, and reduce it all to the question of comfort! That’s the easiest solution of the problem! It’s seductively clear and you musn’t think about it. That’s the great thing, you mustn’t think! The whole secret of life in two pages of print!”
“Now he is off, beating the drum! Catch hold of him, do!” laughed Porfiry. “Can you imagine,” he turned to Raskolnikov, “six people holding forth like that last night, in one room, with punch as a preliminary! No, brother, you are wrong, environment accounts for a great deal in crime; I can assure you of that.”
“Oh, I know it does, but just tell me: a man of forty violates a child of ten; was it environment drove him to it?”
“Well, strictly speaking, it did,” Porfiry observed with noteworthy gravity; “a crime of that nature may be very well ascribed to the influence of environment.”
Razumihin was almost in a frenzy. “Oh, if you like,” he roared. “I’ll prove to you that your white eyelashes may very well be ascribed to the Church of Ivan the Great’s being two hundred and fifty feet high, and I will prove it clearly, exactly, progressively, and even with a Liberal tendency! I undertake to! Will you bet on it?”
“Done! Let’s hear, please, how he will prove it!”
“He is always humbugging, confound him,” cried Razumihin, jumping up and gesticulating. “What’s the use of talking to you? He does all that on purpose; you don’t know him, Rodion! He took their side yesterday, simply to make fools of them. And the things he said yesterday! And they were delighted! He can keep it up for a fortnight together. Last year he persuaded us that he was going into a monastery: he stuck to it for two months. Not long ago he took it into his head to declare he was going to get married, that he had everything ready for the wedding. He ordered new clothes indeed. We all began to congratulate him. There was no bride, nothing, all pure fantasy!”
“Ah, you are wrong! I got the clothes before. It was the new clothes in fact that made me think of taking you in.”
“Are you such a good dissembler?” Raskolnikov asked carelessly.
“You wouldn’t have supposed it, eh? Wait a bit, I shall take you in, too. Ha-ha-ha! No, I’ll tell you the truth. All these questions about crime, environment, children, recall to my mind an article of yours which interested me at the time. ‘On Crime’... or something of the sort, I forget the title, I read it with pleasure two months ago in the Periodical Review.”
“My article? In the Periodical Review?” Raskolnikov asked in astonishment. “I certainly did write an article upon a book six months ago when I left the university, but I sent it to the Weekly Review.”
“But it came out in the Periodical.”
“And the Weekly Review ceased to exist, so that’s why it wasn’t printed at the time.”
“That’s true; but when it ceased to exist, the Weekly Review was amalgamated with the Periodical, and so your article appeared two months ago in the latter. Didn’t you know?”
Raskolnikov had not known.
“Why, you might get some money out of them for the article! What a strange person you are! You lead such a solitary life that you know nothing of matters that concern you directly. It’s a fact, I assure you.”
“Bravo, Rodya! I knew nothing about it either!” cried Razumihin. “I’ll run to-day to the reading-room and ask for the number. Two months ago? What was the date? It doesn’t matter though, I will find it. Think of not telling us!”
“How did you find out that the article was mine? It’s only signed with an initial.”
“I only learnt it by chance, the other day. Through the editor; I know him.... I was very much interested.”
“I analysed, if I remember, the psychology of a criminal before and after the crime.”
“Yes, and you maintained that the perpetration of a crime is always accompanied by illness. Very, very original, but... it was not that part of your article that interested me so much, but an idea at the end of the article which I regret to say you merely suggested without working it out clearly. There is, if you recollect, a suggestion that there are certain persons who can... that is, not precisely are able to, but have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes, and that the law is not for them.”
Raskolnikov smiled at the exaggerated and intentional distortion of his idea.
“What? What do you mean? A right to crime? But not because of the influence of environment?” Razumihin inquired with some alarm even.
“No, not exactly because of it,” answered Porfiry. “In his article all men are divided into ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary.’ Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, don’t you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary. That was your idea, if I am not mistaken?”
“What do you mean? That can’t be right?” Razumihin muttered in bewilderment.
Raskolnikov smiled again. He saw the point at once, and knew where they wanted to drive him. He decided to take up the challenge.
“That wasn’t quite my contention,” he began simply and modestly. “Yet I admit that you have stated it almost correctly; perhaps, if you like, perfectly so.” (It almost gave him pleasure to admit this.) “The only difference is that I don’t contend that extraordinary people are always bound to commit breaches of morals, as you call it. In fact, I doubt whether such an argument could be published. I simply hinted that an ‘extraordinary’ man has the right... that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep... certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity). You say that my article isn’t definite; I am ready to make it as clear as I can. Perhaps I am right in thinking you want me to; very well. I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty-bound... to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity. But it does not follow from that that Newton had a right to murder people right and left and to steal every day in the market. Then, I remember, I maintain in my article that all... well, legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law, they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed — often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law — were of use to their cause. It’s remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage. In short, I maintain that all great men or even men a little out of the common, that is to say capable of giving some new word, must from their very nature be criminals — more or less, of course. Otherwise it’s hard for them to get out of the common rut; and to remain in the common rut is what they can’t submit to, from their very nature again, and to my mind they ought not, indeed, to submit to it. You see that there is nothing particularly new in all that. The same thing has been printed and read a thousand times before. As for my division of people into ordinary and extraordinary, I acknowledge that it’s somewhat arbitrary, but I don’t insist upon exact numbers. I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word. There are, of course, innumerable sub-divisions, but the distinguishing features of both categories are fairly well marked. The first category, generally speaking, are men conservative in temperament and law-abiding; they live under control and love to be controlled. To my thinking it is their duty to be controlled, because that’s their vocation, and there is nothing humiliating in it for them. The second category all transgress the law; they are destroyers or disposed to destruction according to their capacities. The crimes of these men are of course relative and varied; for the most part they seek in very varied ways the destruction of the present for the sake of the better. But if such a one is forced for the sake of his idea to step over a corpse or wade through blood, he can, I maintain, find within himself, in his conscience, a sanction for wading through blood — that depends on the idea and its dimensions, note that. It’s only in that sense I speak of their right to crime in my article (you remember it began with the legal question). There’s no need for such anxiety, however; the masses will scarcely ever admit this right, they punish them or hang them (more or less), and in doing so fulfil quite justly their conservative vocation. But the same masses set these criminals on a pedestal in the next generation and worship them (more or less). The first category is always the man of the present, the second the man of the future. The first preserve the world and people it, the second move the world and lead it to its goal. Each class has an equal right to exist. In fact, all have equal rights with me — and vive la guerre éternelle — till the New Jerusalem, of course!”
“Then you believe in the New Jerusalem, do you?”
“I do,” Raskolnikov answered firmly; as he said these words and during the whole preceding tirade he kept his eyes on one spot on the carpet.
“And... and do you believe in God? Excuse my curiosity.”
“I do,” repeated Raskolnikov, raising his eyes to Porfiry.
“And... do you believe in Lazarus’ rising from the dead?”
“I... I do. Why do you ask all this?”
“You believe it literally?”
“You don’t say so.... I asked from curiosity. Excuse me. But let us go back to the question; they are not always executed. Some, on the contrary...”
“Triumph in their lifetime? Oh, yes, some attain their ends in this life, and then...”
“They begin executing other people?”
“If it’s necessary; indeed, for the most part they do. Your remark is very witty.”
“Thank you. But tell me this: how do you distinguish those extraordinary people from the ordinary ones? Are there signs at their birth? I feel there ought to be more exactitude, more external definition. Excuse the natural anxiety of a practical law-abiding citizen, but couldn’t they adopt a special uniform, for instance, couldn’t they wear something, be branded in some way? For you know if confusion arises and a member of one category imagines that he belongs to the other, begins to ‘eliminate obstacles’ as you so happily expressed it, then...”
“Oh, that very often happens! That remark is wittier than the other.”
“No reason to; but take note that the mistake can only arise in the first category, that is among the ordinary people (as I perhaps unfortunately called them). In spite of their predisposition to obedience very many of them, through a playfulness of nature, sometimes vouchsafed even to the cow, like to imagine themselves advanced people, ‘destroyers,’ and to push themselves into the ‘new movement,’ and this quite sincerely. Meanwhile the really new people are very often unobserved by them, or even despised as reactionaries of grovelling tendencies. But I don’t think there is any considerable danger here, and you really need not be uneasy for they never go very far. Of course, they might have a thrashing sometimes for letting their fancy run away with them and to teach them their place, but no more; in fact, even this isn’t necessary as they castigate themselves, for they are very conscientious: some perform this service for one another and others chastise themselves with their own hands.... They will impose various public acts of penitence upon themselves with a beautiful and edifying effect; in fact you’ve nothing to be uneasy about.... It’s a law of nature.”
“Well, you have certainly set my mind more at rest on that score; but there’s another thing worries me. Tell me, please, are there many people who have the right to kill others, these extraordinary people? I am ready to bow down to them, of course, but you must admit it’s alarming if there are a great many of them, eh?”
“Oh, you needn’t worry about that either,” Raskolnikov went on in the same tone. “People with new ideas, people with the faintest capacity for saying something new, are extremely few in number, extraordinarily so in fact. One thing only is clear, that the appearance of all these grades and sub-divisions of men must follow with unfailing regularity some law of nature. That law, of course, is unknown at present, but I am convinced that it exists, and one day may become known. The vast mass of mankind is mere material, and only exists in order by some great effort, by some mysterious process, by means of some crossing of races and stocks, to bring into the world at last perhaps one man out of a thousand with a spark of independence. One in ten thousand perhaps — I speak roughly, approximately — is born with some independence, and with still greater independence one in a hundred thousand. The man of genius is one of millions, and the great geniuses, the crown of humanity, appear on earth perhaps one in many thousand millions. In fact I have not peeped into the retort in which all this takes place. But there certainly is and must be a definite law, it cannot be a matter of chance.”
“Why, are you both joking?” Razumihin cried at last. “There you sit, making fun of one another. Are you serious, Rodya?”
Raskolnikov raised his pale and almost mournful face and made no reply. And the unconcealed, persistent, nervous, and discourteous sarcasm of Porfiry seemed strange to Razumihin beside that quiet and mournful face.
“Well, brother, if you are really serious... You are right, of course, in saying that it’s not new, that it’s like what we’ve read and heard a thousand times already; but what is really original in all this, and is exclusively your own, to my horror, is that you sanction bloodshed in the name of conscience, and, excuse my saying so, with such fanaticism.... That, I take it, is the point of your article. But that sanction of bloodshed by conscience is to my mind... more terrible than the official, legal sanction of bloodshed....”
“You are quite right, it is more terrible,” Porfiry agreed.
“Yes, you must have exaggerated! There is some mistake, I shall read it. You can’t think that! I shall read it.”
“All that is not in the article, there’s only a hint of it,” said Raskolnikov.
“Yes, yes.” Porfiry couldn’t sit still. “Your attitude to crime is pretty clear to me now, but... excuse me for my impertinence (I am really ashamed to be worrying you like this), you see, you’ve removed my anxiety as to the two grades getting mixed, but... there are various practical possibilities that make me uneasy! What if some man or youth imagines that he is a Lycurgus or Mahomet — a future one of course — and suppose he begins to remove all obstacles.... He has some great enterprise before him and needs money for it... and tries to get it... do you see?”
Zametov gave a sudden guffaw in his corner. Raskolnikov did not even raise his eyes to him.
“I must admit,” he went on calmly, “that such cases certainly must arise. The vain and foolish are particularly apt to fall into that snare; young people especially.”
“Yes, you see. Well then?”
“What then?” Raskolnikov smiled in reply; “that’s not my fault. So it is and so it always will be. He said just now (he nodded at Razumihin) that I sanction bloodshed. Society is too well protected by prisons, banishment, criminal investigators, penal servitude. There’s no need to be uneasy. You have but to catch the thief.”
“And what if we do catch him?”
“Then he gets what he deserves.”
“You are certainly logical. But what of his conscience?”
“Why do you care about that?”
“Simply from humanity.”
“If he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake. That will be his punishment — as well as the prison.”
“But the real geniuses,” asked Razumihin frowning, “those who have the right to murder? Oughtn’t they to suffer at all even for the blood they’ve shed?”
“Why the word ought? It’s not a matter of permission or prohibition. He will suffer if he is sorry for his victim. Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth,” he added dreamily, not in the tone of the conversation.
He raised his eyes, looked earnestly at them all, smiled, and took his cap. He was too quiet by comparison with his manner at his entrance, and he felt this. Everyone got up.
“Well, you may abuse me, be angry with me if you like,” Porfiry Petrovitch began again, “but I can’t resist. Allow me one little question (I know I am troubling you). There is just one little notion I want to express, simply that I may not forget it.”
“Very good, tell me your little notion,” Raskolnikov stood waiting, pale and grave before him.
“Well, you see... I really don’t know how to express it properly.... It’s a playful, psychological idea.... When you were writing your article, surely you couldn’t have helped, he-he! fancying yourself... just a little, an ‘extraordinary’ man, uttering a new word in your sense.... That’s so, isn’t it?”
“Quite possibly,” Raskolnikov answered contemptuously.
Razumihin made a movement.
“And, if so, could you bring yourself in case of worldly difficulties and hardship or for some service to humanity — to overstep obstacles?... For instance, to rob and murder?”
And again he winked with his left eye, and laughed noiselessly just as before.
“If I did I certainly should not tell you,” Raskolnikov answered with defiant and haughty contempt.
“No, I was only interested on account of your article, from a literary point of view...”
“Foo! how obvious and insolent that is!” Raskolnikov thought with repulsion.
“Allow me to observe,” he answered dryly, “that I don’t consider myself a Mahomet or a Napoleon, nor any personage of that kind, and not being one of them I cannot tell you how I should act.”
“Oh, come, don’t we all think ourselves Napoleons now in Russia?” Porfiry Petrovitch said with alarming familiarity.
Something peculiar betrayed itself in the very intonation of his voice.
“Perhaps it was one of these future Napoleons who did for Alyona Ivanovna last week?” Zametov blurted out from the corner.
Raskolnikov did not speak, but looked firmly and intently at Porfiry. Razumihin was scowling gloomily. He seemed before this to be noticing something. He looked angrily around. There was a minute of gloomy silence. Raskolnikov turned to go.
“Are you going already?” Porfiry said amiably, holding out his hand with excessive politeness. “Very, very glad of your acquaintance. As for your request, have no uneasiness, write just as I told you, or, better still, come to me there yourself in a day or two... to-morrow, indeed. I shall be there at eleven o’clock for certain. We’ll arrange it all; we’ll have a talk. As one of the last to be there, you might perhaps be able to tell us something,” he added with a most good-natured expression.
“You want to cross-examine me officially in due form?” Raskolnikov asked sharply.
“Oh, why? That’s not necessary for the present. You misunderstand me. I lose no opportunity, you see, and... I’ve talked with all who had pledges.... I obtained evidence from some of them, and you are the last.... Yes, by the way,” he cried, seemingly suddenly delighted, “I just remember, what was I thinking of?” he turned to Razumihin, “you were talking my ears off about that Nikolay... of course, I know, I know very well,” he turned to Raskolnikov, “that the fellow is innocent, but what is one to do? We had to trouble Dmitri too.... This is the point, this is all: when you went up the stairs it was past seven, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” answered Raskolnikov, with an unpleasant sensation at the very moment he spoke that he need not have said it.
“Then when you went upstairs between seven and eight, didn’t you see in a flat that stood open on a second storey, do you remember? two workmen or at least one of them? They were painting there, didn’t you notice them? It’s very, very important for them.”
“Painters? No, I didn’t see them,” Raskolnikov answered slowly, as though ransacking his memory, while at the same instant he was racking every nerve, almost swooning with anxiety to conjecture as quickly as possible where the trap lay and not to overlook anything. “No, I didn’t see them, and I don’t think I noticed a flat like that open.... But on the fourth storey” (he had mastered the trap now and was triumphant) “I remember now that someone was moving out of the flat opposite Alyona Ivanovna’s.... I remember... I remember it clearly. Some porters were carrying out a sofa and they squeezed me against the wall. But painters... no, I don’t remember that there were any painters, and I don’t think that there was a flat open anywhere, no, there wasn’t.”
“What do you mean?” Razumihin shouted suddenly, as though he had reflected and realised. “Why, it was on the day of the murder the painters were at work, and he was there three days before? What are you asking?”
“Foo! I have muddled it!” Porfiry slapped himself on the forehead. “Deuce take it! This business is turning my brain!” he addressed Raskolnikov somewhat apologetically. “It would be such a great thing for us to find out whether anyone had seen them between seven and eight at the flat, so I fancied you could perhaps have told us something.... I quite muddled it.”
“Then you should be more careful,” Razumihin observed grimly.
The last words were uttered in the passage. Porfiry Petrovitch saw them to the door with excessive politeness.
They went out into the street gloomy and sullen, and for some steps they did not say a word. Raskolnikov drew a deep breath.
Part 3. Chapter 5. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.