On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out ofthe garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as thoughin hesitation, towards K. bridge.
He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. Hisgarret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was morelike a cupboard than a room. The landlady who provided him with garret,dinners, and attendance, lived on the floor below, and every timehe went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of whichinvariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had asick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He washopelessly in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her.
This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; butfor some time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition,verging on hypochondria. He had become so completely absorbed inhimself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, notonly his landlady, but anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty, but theanxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He hadgiven up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost alldesire to do so. Nothing that any landlady could do had a real terrorfor him. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to hertrivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threatsand complaints, and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, tolie--no, rather than that, he would creep down the stairs like a cat andslip out unseen.
This evening, however, on coming out into the street, he became acutelyaware of his fears.
“I want to attempt a thing _like that_ and am frightened by thesetrifles,” he thought, with an odd smile. “Hm... yes, all is in a man’shands and he lets it all slip from cowardice, that’s an axiom. It wouldbe interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a newstep, uttering a new word is what they fear most.... But I am talkingtoo much. It’s because I chatter that I do nothing. Or perhaps it isthat I chatter because I do nothing. I’ve learned to chatter thislast month, lying for days together in my den thinking... of Jack theGiant-killer. Why am I going there now? Am I capable of _that_? Is_that_ serious? It is not serious at all. It’s simply a fantasy to amusemyself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything.”
The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustleand the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and thatspecial Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get outof town in summer--all worked painfully upon the young man’s alreadyoverwrought nerves. The insufferable stench from the pot-houses, whichare particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken menwhom he met continually, although it was a working day, completedthe revolting misery of the picture. An expression of the profoundestdisgust gleamed for a moment in the young man’s refined face. He was,by the way, exceptionally handsome, above the average in height, slim,well-built, with beautiful dark eyes and dark brown hair. Soon he sankinto deep thought, or more accurately speaking into a complete blanknessof mind; he walked along not observing what was about him and not caringto observe it. From time to time, he would mutter something, from thehabit of talking to himself, to which he had just confessed. At thesemoments he would become conscious that his ideas were sometimes in atangle and that he was very weak; for two days he had scarcely tastedfood.
He was so badly dressed that even a man accustomed to shabbiness wouldhave been ashamed to be seen in the street in such rags. In that quarterof the town, however, scarcely any shortcoming in dress would havecreated surprise. Owing to the proximity of the Hay Market, the numberof establishments of bad character, the preponderance of the tradingand working class population crowded in these streets and alleys in theheart of Petersburg, types so various were to be seen in the streetsthat no figure, however queer, would have caused surprise. But there wassuch accumulated bitterness and contempt in the young man’s heart, that,in spite of all the fastidiousness of youth, he minded his rags leastof all in the street. It was a different matter when he met withacquaintances or with former fellow students, whom, indeed, he dislikedmeeting at any time. And yet when a drunken man who, for some unknownreason, was being taken somewhere in a huge waggon dragged by a heavydray horse, suddenly shouted at him as he drove past: “Hey there, Germanhatter” bawling at the top of his voice and pointing at him--the youngman stopped suddenly and clutched tremulously at his hat. It was a tallround hat from Zimmerman’s, but completely worn out, rusty with age, alltorn and bespattered, brimless and bent on one side in a most unseemlyfashion. Not shame, however, but quite another feeling akin to terrorhad overtaken him.
“I knew it,” he muttered in confusion, “I thought so! That’s the worstof all! Why, a stupid thing like this, the most trivial detail mightspoil the whole plan. Yes, my hat is too noticeable.... It looks absurdand that makes it noticeable.... With my rags I ought to wear a cap, anysort of old pancake, but not this grotesque thing. Nobody wears sucha hat, it would be noticed a mile off, it would be remembered.... Whatmatters is that people would remember it, and that would give thema clue. For this business one should be as little conspicuous aspossible.... Trifles, trifles are what matter! Why, it’s just suchtrifles that always ruin everything....”
He had not far to go; he knew indeed how many steps it was from the gateof his lodging house: exactly seven hundred and thirty. He had countedthem once when he had been lost in dreams. At the time he had put nofaith in those dreams and was only tantalising himself by their hideousbut daring recklessness. Now, a month later, he had begun to look uponthem differently, and, in spite of the monologues in which he jeered athis own impotence and indecision, he had involuntarily come to regardthis “hideous” dream as an exploit to be attempted, although hestill did not realise this himself. He was positively going now for a“rehearsal” of his project, and at every step his excitement grew moreand more violent.
With a sinking heart and a nervous tremor, he went up to a huge housewhich on one side looked on to the canal, and on the other into thestreet. This house was let out in tiny tenements and was inhabited byworking people of all kinds--tailors, locksmiths, cooks, Germans ofsorts, girls picking up a living as best they could, petty clerks, etc.There was a continual coming and going through the two gates and in thetwo courtyards of the house. Three or four door-keepers were employed onthe building. The young man was very glad to meet none of them, andat once slipped unnoticed through the door on the right, and up thestaircase. It was a back staircase, dark and narrow, but he was familiarwith it already, and knew his way, and he liked all these surroundings:in such darkness even the most inquisitive eyes were not to be dreaded.
“If I am so scared now, what would it be if it somehow came to pass thatI were really going to do it?” he could not help asking himself as hereached the fourth storey. There his progress was barred by some porterswho were engaged in moving furniture out of a flat. He knew that theflat had been occupied by a German clerk in the civil service, and hisfamily. This German was moving out then, and so the fourth floor on thisstaircase would be untenanted except by the old woman. “That’s a goodthing anyway,” he thought to himself, as he rang the bell of the oldwoman’s flat. The bell gave a faint tinkle as though it were made oftin and not of copper. The little flats in such houses always have bellsthat ring like that. He had forgotten the note of that bell, and nowits peculiar tinkle seemed to remind him of something and to bring itclearly before him.... He started, his nerves were terribly overstrainedby now. In a little while, the door was opened a tiny crack: the oldwoman eyed her visitor with evident distrust through the crack, andnothing could be seen but her little eyes, glittering in the darkness.But, seeing a number of people on the landing, she grew bolder, andopened the door wide. The young man stepped into the dark entry, whichwas partitioned off from the tiny kitchen. The old woman stood facinghim in silence and looking inquiringly at him. She was a diminutive,withered up old woman of sixty, with sharp malignant eyes and a sharplittle nose. Her colourless, somewhat grizzled hair was thickly smearedwith oil, and she wore no kerchief over it. Round her thin long neck,which looked like a hen’s leg, was knotted some sort of flannel rag,and, in spite of the heat, there hung flapping on her shoulders, a mangyfur cape, yellow with age. The old woman coughed and groaned at everyinstant. The young man must have looked at her with a rather peculiarexpression, for a gleam of mistrust came into her eyes again.
“Raskolnikov, a student, I came here a month ago,” the young man madehaste to mutter, with a half bow, remembering that he ought to be morepolite.
“I remember, my good sir, I remember quite well your coming here,” theold woman said distinctly, still keeping her inquiring eyes on his face.
“And here... I am again on the same errand,” Raskolnikov continued, alittle disconcerted and surprised at the old woman’s mistrust. “Perhapsshe is always like that though, only I did not notice it the othertime,” he thought with an uneasy feeling.
The old woman paused, as though hesitating; then stepped on one side,and pointing to the door of the room, she said, letting her visitor passin front of her:
“Step in, my good sir.”
The little room into which the young man walked, with yellow paper onthe walls, geraniums and muslin curtains in the windows, was brightlylighted up at that moment by the setting sun.
“So the sun will shine like this _then_ too!” flashed as it were bychance through Raskolnikov’s mind, and with a rapid glance he scannedeverything in the room, trying as far as possible to notice andremember its arrangement. But there was nothing special in the room. Thefurniture, all very old and of yellow wood, consisted of a sofa witha huge bent wooden back, an oval table in front of the sofa, adressing-table with a looking-glass fixed on it between the windows,chairs along the walls and two or three half-penny prints in yellowframes, representing German damsels with birds in their hands--that wasall. In the corner a light was burning before a small ikon. Everythingwas very clean; the floor and the furniture were brightly polished;everything shone.
“Lizaveta’s work,” thought the young man. There was not a speck of dustto be seen in the whole flat.
“It’s in the houses of spiteful old widows that one finds suchcleanliness,” Raskolnikov thought again, and he stole a curious glanceat the cotton curtain over the door leading into another tiny room, inwhich stood the old woman’s bed and chest of drawers and into which hehad never looked before. These two rooms made up the whole flat.
“What do you want?” the old woman said severely, coming into the roomand, as before, standing in front of him so as to look him straight inthe face.
“I’ve brought something to pawn here,” and he drew out of his pocketan old-fashioned flat silver watch, on the back of which was engraved aglobe; the chain was of steel.
“But the time is up for your last pledge. The month was up the daybefore yesterday.”
“I will bring you the interest for another month; wait a little.”
“But that’s for me to do as I please, my good sir, to wait or to sellyour pledge at once.”
“How much will you give me for the watch, Alyona Ivanovna?”
“You come with such trifles, my good sir, it’s scarcely worth anything.I gave you two roubles last time for your ring and one could buy itquite new at a jeweler’s for a rouble and a half.”
“Give me four roubles for it, I shall redeem it, it was my father’s. Ishall be getting some money soon.”
“A rouble and a half, and interest in advance, if you like!”
“A rouble and a half!” cried the young man.
“Please yourself”--and the old woman handed him back the watch. Theyoung man took it, and was so angry that he was on the point of goingaway; but checked himself at once, remembering that there was nowhereelse he could go, and that he had had another object also in coming.
“Hand it over,” he said roughly.
The old woman fumbled in her pocket for her keys, and disappeared behindthe curtain into the other room. The young man, left standing alone inthe middle of the room, listened inquisitively, thinking. He could hearher unlocking the chest of drawers.
“It must be the top drawer,” he reflected. “So she carries the keys ina pocket on the right. All in one bunch on a steel ring.... And there’sone key there, three times as big as all the others, with deep notches;that can’t be the key of the chest of drawers... then there must be someother chest or strong-box... that’s worth knowing. Strong-boxes alwayshave keys like that... but how degrading it all is.”
The old woman came back.
“Here, sir: as we say ten copecks the rouble a month, so I must takefifteen copecks from a rouble and a half for the month in advance. Butfor the two roubles I lent you before, you owe me now twenty copeckson the same reckoning in advance. That makes thirty-five copecksaltogether. So I must give you a rouble and fifteen copecks for thewatch. Here it is.”
“What! only a rouble and fifteen copecks now!”
The young man did not dispute it and took the money. He looked at theold woman, and was in no hurry to get away, as though there was stillsomething he wanted to say or to do, but he did not himself quite knowwhat.
“I may be bringing you something else in a day or two, AlyonaIvanovna--a valuable thing--silver--a cigarette-box, as soon as I get itback from a friend...” he broke off in confusion.
“Well, we will talk about it then, sir.”
“Good-bye--are you always at home alone, your sister is not here withyou?” He asked her as casually as possible as he went out into thepassage.
“What business is she of yours, my good sir?”
“Oh, nothing particular, I simply asked. You are too quick.... Good-day,Alyona Ivanovna.”
Raskolnikov went out in complete confusion. This confusion became moreand more intense. As he went down the stairs, he even stopped short, twoor three times, as though suddenly struck by some thought. When he wasin the street he cried out, “Oh, God, how loathsome it all is! andcan I, can I possibly.... No, it’s nonsense, it’s rubbish!” he addedresolutely. “And how could such an atrocious thing come into my head?What filthy things my heart is capable of. Yes, filthy above all,disgusting, loathsome, loathsome!--and for a whole month I’ve been....”But no words, no exclamations, could express his agitation. The feelingof intense repulsion, which had begun to oppress and torture his heartwhile he was on his way to the old woman, had by now reached such apitch and had taken such a definite form that he did not know what todo with himself to escape from his wretchedness. He walked along thepavement like a drunken man, regardless of the passers-by, and jostlingagainst them, and only came to his senses when he was in the nextstreet. Looking round, he noticed that he was standing close to a tavernwhich was entered by steps leading from the pavement to the basement.At that instant two drunken men came out at the door, and abusing andsupporting one another, they mounted the steps. Without stopping tothink, Raskolnikov went down the steps at once. Till that moment he hadnever been into a tavern, but now he felt giddy and was tormented by aburning thirst. He longed for a drink of cold beer, and attributed hissudden weakness to the want of food. He sat down at a sticky littletable in a dark and dirty corner; ordered some beer, and eagerly drankoff the first glassful. At once he felt easier; and his thoughts becameclear.
“All that’s nonsense,” he said hopefully, “and there is nothing in itall to worry about! It’s simply physical derangement. Just a glass ofbeer, a piece of dry bread--and in one moment the brain is stronger,the mind is clearer and the will is firm! Phew, how utterly petty it allis!”
But in spite of this scornful reflection, he was by now looking cheerfulas though he were suddenly set free from a terrible burden: and he gazedround in a friendly way at the people in the room. But even at thatmoment he had a dim foreboding that this happier frame of mind was alsonot normal.
There were few people at the time in the tavern. Besides the two drunkenmen he had met on the steps, a group consisting of about five men anda girl with a concertina had gone out at the same time. Their departureleft the room quiet and rather empty. The persons still in the tavernwere a man who appeared to be an artisan, drunk, but not extremely so,sitting before a pot of beer, and his companion, a huge, stout man witha grey beard, in a short full-skirted coat. He was very drunk: and haddropped asleep on the bench; every now and then, he began as though inhis sleep, cracking his fingers, with his arms wide apart and the upperpart of his body bounding about on the bench, while he hummed somemeaningless refrain, trying to recall some such lines as these:
“His wife a year he fondly lovedHis wife a--a year he--fondly loved.”
Or suddenly waking up again:
“Walking along the crowded rowHe met the one he used to know.”
But no one shared his enjoyment: his silent companion looked withpositive hostility and mistrust at all these manifestations. There wasanother man in the room who looked somewhat like a retired governmentclerk. He was sitting apart, now and then sipping from his pot andlooking round at the company. He, too, appeared to be in some agitation.