Ive come to you for two reasons. In the first place, I wanted to make your personal acquaintance, as I have already heard a great deal about you that is interesting and flattering; secondly, I cherish the hope that you may not refuse to assist me in a matter directly concerning the welfare of your sister, Avdotya Romanovna. For without your support she might not let me come near her now, for she is prejudiced against me, but with your assistance I reckon on
It was yesterday, I know. I only arrived myself the day before. Well, let me tell you this, Rodion Romanovitch, I dont consider it necessary to justify myself, but kindly tell me what was there particularly criminal on my part in all this business, speaking without prejudice, with common sense?
That in my own house I persecuted a defenceless girl and insulted her with my infamous proposalsis that it? (I am anticipating you.) But youve only to assume that I, too, am a man et nihil himanum in a word, that I am capable of being attracted and falling in love (which does not depend on our will), then everything can be explained in the most natural manner. The question is, am I a monster, or am I myself a victim? And what if I am a victim? In proposing to the object of my passion to elope with me to America or Switzerland, I may have cherished the deepest respect for her and may have thought that I was promoting our mutual happiness! Reason is the slave of passion, you know; why, probably, I was doing more harm to myself than any one!
But thats not the point, Raskolnikov interrupted with disgust. Its simply that whether you are right or wrong, we dislike you. We dont want to have anything to do with you. We show you the door. Go out!
What of it? What of it? cried Svidrigaïlov, laughing openly. But this is what the French call bonne guerre, and the most innocent form of deception! But still you have interrupted me; one way or another, I repeat again: there would never have been any unpleasantness except for what happened in the garden. Marfa Petrovna
Oh, youve heard that, too, then? Youd be sure to, though. But as for your question, I really dont know what to say, though my own conscience is quite at rest on that score. Dont suppose that I am in any apprehension about it. All was regular and in order; the medical inquiry diagnosed apoplexy due to bathing immediately after a heavy dinner and a bottle of wine, and indeed it could have proved nothing else. But Ill tell you what I have been thinking to myself of late, on my way here in the train, especially: didnt I contribute to all that calamity, morally, in a way, by irritation or something of the sort. But I came to the conclusion that that, too, was quite out of the question.
But what are you laughing at? Only consider, I struck her just twice with a switchthere were no marks even dont regard me as a cynic, please; I am perfectly aware how atrocious it was of me and all that; but I know for certain, too, that Marfa Petrovna was very likely pleased at my, so to say, warmth. The story of your sister had been wrung out to the last drop; for the last three days Marfa Petrovna had been forced to sit at home; she had nothing to show herself with in the town. Besides, she had bored them so with that letter (you heard about her reading the letter). And all of a sudden those two switches fell from heaven! Her first act was to order the carriage to be got out. Not to speak of the fact that there are cases when women are very, very glad to be insulted in spite of all their show of indignation. There are instances of it with every one; human beings in general, indeed, greatly love to be insulted, have you noticed that? But its particularly so with women. One might even say its their only amusement.
No, not very, Svidrigaïlov answered, calmly. And Marfa Petrovna and I scarcely ever fought. We lived very harmoniously, and she was always pleased with me. I only used the whip twice in all our seven years (not counting a third occasion of a very ambiguous character). The first time, two months after our marriage, immediately after we arrived in the country, and the last time was that of which we are speaking. Did you suppose I was such a monster, such a reactionary, such a slave driver? Ha, ha! By the way, do you remember, Rodion Romanovitch, how a few years ago, in those days of beneficent publicity, a nobleman, Ive forgotten his name, was put to shame everywhere, in all the papers, for having thrashed a German woman in the railway train. You remember? It was in those days, that very year I believe, the disgraceful action of the Age took place (you know, The Egyptian Nights, that public reading, you remember? The dark eyes, you know! Ah, the golden days of our youth, where are they?) Well, as for the gentleman who thrashed the German, I feel no sympathy with him, because after all what need is there for sympathy? But I must say that there are sometimes such provoking Germans that I dont believe there is a progressive who could quite answer for himself. No one looked at the subject from that point of view then, but thats the truly humane point of view, I assure you.
Because I am not offended at the rudeness of your questions? Is that it? But why take offense? As you asked, so I answered, he replied, with a surprising expression of simplicity. You know, theres hardly anything I take interest in, he went on, as it were dreamily, especially now, Ive nothing to do. You are quite at liberty to imagine though that I am making up to you with a motive, particularly as I told you I want to see your sister about something. But Ill confess frankly, I am very much bored. The last three days especially, so am delighted to see you. Dont be angry, Rodion Romanovitch, but you seem to be somehow awfully strange yourself. Say what you like, theres something wrong with you, and now, too not this very minute, I mean, but now, generally. Well, well, I wont, I wont, dont scowl! I am not such a bear, you know, as you think.
I am not particularly interested in any ones opinion, Svidrigaïlov answered, dryly and even with a shade of haughtiness, and therefore why not be vulgar at times when vulgarity is such a convenient cloak for our climate and especially if one has a natural propensity that way, he added, laughing again.
Thats true that I have friends here, Svidrigaïlov admitted, not replying to the chief point. Ive met some already. Ive been lounging about for the last three days, and Ive seen them, or theyve seen me. Thats a matter of course. I am well dressed and reckoned not a poor man; the emancipation of the serfs hasnt affected me; my property consists chiefly of forests and water meadows. The revenue has not fallen off; but I am not going to see them, I was sick of them long ago. Ive been here three days and have called on no one. What a town it is! How has it come into existence among us, tell me that? A town of officials and students of all sorts. Yes, theres a great deal I didnt notice when I was here eight years ago, kicking up my heels. My only hope now is in anatomy, by Jove, it is!
But as for these clubs, Dussauts, parades, or progress, indeed, may bewell, all that can go on without me, he went on, again without noticing the question. Besides, who wants to be a card-sharper?
How could I help being? There was a regular set of us, men of the best society, eight years ago; we had a fine time. And all men of breeding, you know, poets, men of property. And indeed as a rule in our Russian society the best manners are found among those whove been thrashed, have you noticed that? Ive deteriorated in the country. But I did get into prison for debt, through a low Greek who came from Nezhin. Then Marfa Petrovna turned up; she bargained with him and bought me off for thirty thousand silver pieces (I owed seventy thousand). We were united in lawful wedlock and she bore me off into the country like a treasure. You know she was five years older than I. She was very fond of me. For seven years I never left the country. And, take note, that all my life she held a document over me, the I. O. U. for thirty thousand roubles, so if I were to elect to be restive about anything I should be trapped at once! And she would have done it! Women find nothing incompatible in that.
I dont know what to say. It was scarcely the document restrained me. I didnt want to go anywhere else. Marfa Petrovna herself invited me to go abroad, seeing I was bored, but Ive been abroad before, and always felt sick there. For no reason, but the sunrise, the bay of Naples, the seayou look at them and it makes you sad. Whats most revolting is that one is really sad! No, its better at home. Here at least one blames others for everything and excuses oneself. I should have gone perhaps on an expedition to the North Pole, because jai le vin mauvais and hate drinking, and theres nothing left but wine. I have tried it. But, I say, Ive been told Berg is going up in a great balloon next Sunday from the Yusupov Garden and will take up passengers at a fee. Is it true?
No, the document didnt restrain me, Svidrigaïlov went on, meditatively. It was my own doing, not leaving the country, and nearly a year ago Marfa Petrovna gave me back the document on my name day and made me a present of a considerable sum of money, too. She had a fortune, you know. You see how I trust you, Arkady Ivanovitchthat was actually her expression. You dont believe she used it? But do you know I managed the estate quite decently, they know me in the neighbourhood. I ordered books, too. Marfa Petrovna at first approved, but afterwards she was afraid of my over-studying.
She has been three times. I saw her first on the very day of the funeral, an hour after she was buried. It was the day before I left to come here. The second time was the day before yesterday, at daybreak, on the journey at the station of Malaya Vishera, and the third time was two hours ago in the room where I am staying. I was alone.
She? Would you believe it, she talks of the silliest trifles andman is a strange creatureit makes me angry. The first time she came in (I was tired you know: the funeral service, the funeral ceremony, the lunch afterwards. At last I was left alone in my study. I lighted a cigar and began to think), she came in at the door. Youve been so busy to-day, Arkady Ivanovitch, you have forgotten to wind the dining room clock, she said. All those seven years Ive wound that clock every week, and if I forgot it she would always remind me. The next day I set off on my way here. I got out at the station at daybreak; Id been asleep, tired out, with my eyes half open, I was drinking some coffee. I look up and there was suddenly Marfa Petrovna sitting beside me with a pack of cards in her hands. Shall I tell your fortune for the journey, Arkady Ivanovitch? She was a great hand at telling fortunes. I shall never forgive myself for not asking her to. I ran away in a fright, and, besides, the bell rang. I was sitting to-day, feeling very heavy after a miserable dinner from a cookshop; I was sitting smoking, all of a sudden Marfa Petrovna again. She came in very smart in a new green silk dress with a long train. Good day, Arkady Ivanovitch! How do you like my dress? Aniska cant make like this. (Aniska was a dressmaker in the country, one of our former serf girls who had been trained in Moscow, a pretty wench.) She stood turning round before me. I looked at the dress, and then I looked carefully, very carefully, at her face. I wonder you trouble to come to me about such trifles, Marfa Petrovna. Good gracious, you wont let one disturb you about anything! To tease her I said, I want to get married, Marfa Petrovna. Thats just like you, Arkady Ivanovitch; it does you very little credit to come looking for a bride when youve hardly buried your wife. And if you could make a good choice, at least, but I know it wont be for your happiness or hers, you will only be a laughing-stock to all good people. Then she went out and her train seemed to rustle. Isnt it nonsense, eh?
Y-yes, I have seen them, but only once in my life, six years ago. I had a serf, Filka; just after his burial I called out forgetting Filka, my pipe! He came in and went to the cupboard where my pipes were. I sat still and thought he is doing it out of revenge because we had a violent quarrel just before his death. How dare you come in with a hole in your elbow, I said. Go away, you scamp! He turned and went out, and never came again. I didnt tell Marfa Petrovna at the time. I wanted to have a service sung for him, but I was ashamed.
I know I am not well, without your telling me, though I dont know whats wrong; I believe I am five times as strong as you are. I didnt ask you whether you believe that ghosts are seen, but whether you believe that they exist.
What do people generally say? muttered Svidrigaïlov, as though speaking to himself, looking aside and bowing his head. They say, You are ill, so what appears to you is only unreal fantasy. But thats not strictly logical. I agree that ghosts only appear to the sick, but that only proves that they are unable to appear except to the sick, not that they dont exist.
No? You dont think so? Svidrigaïlov went on, looking at him deliberately. But what do you say to this argument (help me with it): ghosts are as it were shreds and fragments of other worlds, the beginning of them. A man in health has, of course, no reason to see them, because he is above all a man of this earth and is bound for the sake of completeness and order to live only in this life. But as soon as one is ill, as soon as the normal earthly order of the organism is broken, one begins to realise the possibility of another world; and the more seriously ill one is, the closer becomes ones contact with that other world, so that as soon as the man dies he steps straight into that world. I thought of that long ago. If you believe in a future life, you could believe in that, too.
We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if its one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and thats all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that.
Only think, he cried, half an hour ago we had never seen each other, we regarded each other as enemies; there is a matter unsettled between us; weve thrown it aside, and away weve gone into the abstract! Wasnt I right in saying that we were birds of a feather?
I am sure that you must have formed your own opinion of this Mr. Luzhin, who is a connection of mine through my wife, if you have only seen him for half an hour, or heard any facts about him. He is no match for Avdotya Romanovna. I believe Avdotya Romanovna is sacrificing herself generously and imprudently for the sake of for the sake of her family. I fancied from all I had heard of you that you would be very glad if the match could be broken off without the sacrifice of worldly advantages. Now I know you personally, I am convinced of it.
You mean to say that I am seeking my own ends. Dont be uneasy, Rodion Romanovitch, if I were working for my own advantage, I would not have spoken out so directly. I am not quite a fool. I will confess something psychologically curious about that: just now, defending my love for Avdotya Romanovna, I said I was myself the victim. Well, let me tell you that Ive no feeling of love now, not the slightest, so that I wonder myself indeed, for I really did feel something
I began to be aware of it before, but was only perfectly sure of it the day before yesterday, almost at the moment I arrived in Petersburg. I still fancied in Moscow, though, that I was coming to try to get Avdotya Romanovnas hand and to cut out Mr. Luzhin.
With the greatest pleasure. On arriving here and determining on a certain journey, I should like to make some necessary preliminary arrangements. I left my children with an aunt; they are well provided for; and they have no need of me personally. And a nice father I should make, too! I have taken nothing but what Marfa Petrovna gave me a year ago. Thats enough for me. Excuse me, I am just coming to the point. Before the journey which may come off, I want to settle Mr. Luzhin, too. Its not that I detest him so much, but it was through him I quarrelled with Marfa Petrovna when I learned that she had dished up this marriage. I want now to see Avdotya Romanovna through your mediation, and if you like in your presence, to explain to her that in the first place she will never gain anything but harm from Mr. Luzhin. Then begging her pardon for all past unpleasantness, to make her a present of ten thousand roubles and so assist the rupture with Mr. Luzhin, a rupture to which I believe she is herself not disinclined, if she could see the way to it.
I knew you would scream at me; but in the first place, though I am not rich, this ten thousand roubles is perfectly free; I have absolutely no need for it. If Avdotya Romanovna does not accept it, I shall waste it in some more foolish way. Thats the first thing. Secondly, my conscience is perfectly easy; I make the offer with no ulterior motive. You may not believe it, but in the end Avdotya Romanovna and you will know. The point is, that I did actually cause your sister, whom I greatly respect, some trouble and unpleasantness, and so, sincerely regretting it, I wantnot to compensate, not to repay her for the unpleasantness, but simply to do something to her advantage, to show that I am not, after all, privileged to do nothing but harm. If there were a millionth fraction of self interest in my offer, I should not have made it so openly; and I should not have offered her ten thousand only, when five weeks ago I offered her more. Besides, I may, perhaps, very soon marry a young lady, and that alone ought to prevent suspicion of any design on Avdotya Romanovna. In conclusion, let me say that in marrying Mr. Luzhin, she is taking money just the same, only from another man. Dont be angry, Rodion Romanovitch, think it over coolly and quietly.
Not in the least. Then a man may do nothing but harm to his neighbour in this world, and is prevented from doing the tiniest bit of good by trivial conventional formalities. Thats absurd. If I died, for instance, and left that sum to your sister in my will, surely she wouldnt refuse it?
And why not? Svidrigaïlov said, smiling. He stood up and took his hat. I didnt quite intend to disturb you and I came here without reckoning on it though I was very much struck by your face this morning.
I saw you by chance. I keep fancying there is something about you like me. But dont be uneasy. I am not intrusive; I used to get on all right with card-sharpers, and I never bored Prince Svirbey, a great personage who is a distant relation of mine, and I could write about Raphaels Madonna in Madam Prilukovs album, and I never left Marfa Petrovnas side for seven years, and I used to stay the night at Viazemskys house in the Hay Market in the old days, and I may go up in a balloon with Berg, perhaps.
A journey? Oh, yes. I did speak of a journey. Well, thats a wide subject. If only you knew what you are asking, he added, and gave a sudden, loud, short laugh. Perhaps Ill get married instead of the journey. Theyre making a match for me.
But I am very anxious to see Avdotya Romanovna once, I earnestly beg it. Well, good-bye for the present. Oh, yes, I have forgotten something. Tell your sister, Rodion Romanovitch, that Marfa Petrovna remembered her in her will and left her three thousand roubles. Thats absolutely certain. Marfa Petrovna arranged it a week before her death, and it was done in my presence. Avdotya Romanovna will be able to receive the money in two or three weeks.