On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of th_arret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though i_esitation, towards K. bridge.
He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garre_as under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboar_han a room. The landlady who provided him with garret, dinners, an_ttendance, lived on the floor below, and every time he went out he wa_bliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And eac_ime he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made hi_cowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady, and wa_fraid of meeting her.
This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; but fo_ome time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging o_ypochondria. He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolate_rom his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone a_ll. He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of lat_eased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of practica_mportance; he had lost all desire to do so. Nothing that any landlady coul_o had a real terror for him. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced t_isten to her trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, t_ie—no, rather than that, he would creep down the stairs like a cat and sli_ut unseen.
This evening, however, on coming out into the street, he became acutely awar_f his fears.
"I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles," h_hought, with an odd smile. "Hm … yes, all is in a man's hands and he lets i_ll slip from cowardice, that's an axiom. It would be interesting to know wha_t is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is wha_hey fear most… . But I am talking too much. It's because I chatter that I d_othing. Or perhaps it is that I chatter because I do nothing. I've learned t_hatter this last month, lying for days together in my den thinking … of Jac_he Giant-killer. Why am I going there now? Am I capable of that? Is tha_erious? It is not serious at all. It's simply a fantasy to amuse myself; _laything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything."
The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and th_laster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that specia_etersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town i_ummer—all worked painfully upon the young man's already overwrought nerves.
The insufferable stench from the pot- houses, which are particularly numerou_n that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture.
An expression of the profoundest disgust gleamed for a moment in the youn_an's refined face. He was, by the way, exceptionally handsome, above th_verage in height, slim, well-built, with beautiful dark eyes and dark brow_air. Soon he sank into deep thought, or more accurately speaking into _omplete blankness of mind; he walked along not observing what was about hi_nd not caring to observe it. From time to time, he would mutter something, from the habit of talking to himself, to which he had just confessed. At thes_oments he would become conscious that his ideas were sometimes in a tangl_nd that he was very weak; for two days he had scarcely tasted food.
He was so badly dressed that even a man accustomed to shabbiness would hav_een ashamed to be seen in the street in such rags. In that quarter of th_own, however, scarcely any shortcoming in dress would have created surprise.
Owing to the proximity of the Hay Market, the number of establishments of ba_haracter, the preponderance of the trading and working class populatio_rowded in these streets and alleys in the heart of Petersburg, types s_arious were to be seen in the streets that no figure, however queer, woul_ave caused surprise. But there was such accumulated bitterness and contemp_n the young man's heart, that, in spite of all the fastidiousness of youth, he minded his rags least of all in the street. It was a different matter whe_e met with acquaintances or with former fellow students, whom, indeed, h_isliked meeting at any time. And yet when a drunken man who, for some unknow_eason, was being taken somewhere in a huge waggon dragged by a heavy dra_orse, suddenly shouted at him as he drove past: "Hey there, German hatter"
bawling at the top of his voice and pointing at him—the young man stoppe_uddenly and clutched tremulously at his hat. It was a tall round hat fro_immerman's, but completely worn out, rusty with age, all torn an_espattered, brimless and bent on one side in a most unseemly fashion. No_hame, however, but quite another feeling akin to terror had overtaken him.
"I knew it," he muttered in confusion, "I thought so! That's the worst of all!
Why, a stupid thing like this, the most trivial detail might spoil the whol_lan. Yes, my hat is too noticeable… . It looks absurd and that makes i_oticeable… . With my rags I ought to wear a cap, any sort of old pancake, bu_ot this grotesque thing. Nobody wears such a hat, it would be noticed a mil_ff, it would be remembered… . What matters is that people would remember it, and that would give them a clue. For this business one should be as littl_onspicuous as possible… . Trifles, trifles are what matter! Why, it's jus_uch trifles that always ruin everything… ."
He had not far to go; he knew indeed how many steps it was from the gate o_is lodging house: exactly seven hundred and thirty. He had counted them onc_hen he had been lost in dreams. At the time he had put no faith in thos_reams and was only tantalising himself by their hideous but darin_ecklessness. Now, a month later, he had begun to look upon them differently, and, in spite of the monologues in which he jeered at his own impotence an_ndecision, he had involuntarily come to regard this "hideous" dream as a_xploit to be attempted, although he still did not realise this himself. H_as positively going now for a "rehearsal" of his project, and at every ste_is excitement grew more and more violent.
With a sinking heart and a nervous tremor, he went up to a huge house which o_ne side looked on to the canal, and on the other into the street. This hous_as let out in tiny tenements and was inhabited by working people of al_inds—tailors, locksmiths, cooks, Germans of sorts, girls picking up a livin_s best they could, petty clerks, etc. There was a continual coming and goin_hrough the two gates and in the two courtyards of the house. Three or fou_oor-keepers were employed on the building. The young man was very glad t_eet none of them, and at once slipped unnoticed through the door on th_ight, and up the staircase. It was a back staircase, dark and narrow, but h_as familiar with it already, and knew his way, and he liked all thes_urroundings: in such darkness even the most inquisitive eyes were not to b_readed.
"If I am so scared now, what would it be if it somehow came to pass that _ere really going to do it?" he could not help asking himself as he reache_he fourth storey. There his progress was barred by some porters who wer_ngaged in moving furniture out of a flat. He knew that the flat had bee_ccupied by a German clerk in the civil service, and his family. This Germa_as moving out then, and so the fourth floor on this staircase would b_ntenanted except by the old woman. "That's a good thing anyway," he though_o himself, as he rang the bell of the old woman's flat. The bell gave a fain_inkle as though it were made of tin and not of copper. The little flats i_uch houses always have bells that ring like that. He had forgotten the not_f that bell, and now its peculiar tinkle seemed to remind him of somethin_nd to bring it clearly before him… . He started, his nerves were terribl_verstrained by now. In a little while, the door was opened a tiny crack: th_ld woman eyed her visitor with evident distrust through the crack, an_othing could be seen but her little eyes, glittering in the darkness. But, seeing a number of people on the landing, she grew bolder, and opened the doo_ide. The young man stepped into the dark entry, which was partitioned of_rom the tiny kitchen. The old woman stood facing him in silence and lookin_nquiringly at him. She was a diminutive, withered up old woman of sixty, wit_harp malignant eyes and a sharp little nose. Her colourless, somewha_rizzled hair was thickly smeared with oil, and she wore no kerchief over it.
Round her thin long neck, which looked like a hen's leg, was knotted some sor_f flannel rag, and, in spite of the heat, there hung flapping on he_houlders, a mangy fur cape, yellow with age. The old woman coughed an_roaned at every instant. The young man must have looked at her with a rathe_eculiar expression, for a gleam of mistrust came into her eyes again.
"Raskolnikov, a student, I came here a month ago," the young man made haste t_utter, with a half bow, remembering that he ought to be more polite.
"I remember, my good sir, I remember quite well your coming here," the ol_oman said distinctly, still keeping her inquiring eyes on his face.
"And here … I am again on the same errand," Raskolnikov continued, a littl_isconcerted and surprised at the old woman's mistrust. "Perhaps she is alway_ike that though, only I did not notice it the other time," he thought with a_neasy feeling.
The old woman paused, as though hesitating; then stepped on one side, an_ointing to the door of the room, she said, letting her visitor pass in fron_f her:
"Step in, my good sir."
The little room into which the young man walked, with yellow paper on th_alls, geraniums and muslin curtains in the windows, was brightly lighted u_t that moment by the setting sun.
"So the sun will shine like this then too!" flashed as it were by chanc_hrough Raskolnikov's mind, and with a rapid glance he scanned everything i_he room, trying as far as possible to notice and remember its arrangement.
But there was nothing special in the room. The furniture, all very old and o_ellow wood, consisted of a sofa with a huge bent wooden back, an oval tabl_n front of the sofa, a dressing-table with a looking-glass fixed on i_etween the windows, chairs along the walls and two or three half-penny print_n yellow frames, representing German damsels with birds in their hands—tha_as all. In the corner a light was burning before a small ikon. Everything wa_ery clean; the floor and the furniture were brightly polished; everythin_hone.
"Lizaveta's work," thought the young man. There was not a speck of dust to b_een in the whole flat.
"It's in the houses of spiteful old widows that one finds such cleanliness,"
Raskolnikov thought again, and he stole a curious glance at the cotton curtai_ver the door leading into another tiny room, in which stood the old woman'_ed and chest of drawers and into which he had never looked before. These tw_ooms made up the whole flat.
"What do you want?" the old woman said severely, coming into the room and, a_efore, standing in front of him so as to look him straight in the face.
"I've brought something to pawn here," and he drew out of his pocket an old- fashioned flat silver watch, on the back of which was engraved a globe; th_hain was of steel.
"But the time is up for your last pledge. The month was up the day befor_esterday."
"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 sell you_ledge 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 gav_ou two roubles last time for your ring and one could buy it quite new at _eweler's for a rouble and a half."
"Give me four roubles for it, I shall redeem it, it was my father's. I shal_e 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. The young ma_ook it, and was so angry that he was on the point of going away; but checke_imself at once, remembering that there was nowhere else he could go, and tha_e 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 behind th_urtain into the other room. The young man, left standing alone in the middl_f the room, listened inquisitively, thinking. He could hear her unlocking th_hest of drawers.
"It must be the top drawer," he reflected. "So she carries the keys in _ocket on the right. All in one bunch on a steel ring… . And there's one ke_here, three times as big as all the others, with deep notches; that can't b_he key of the chest of drawers … then there must be some other chest o_trong-box … that's worth knowing. Strong-boxes always have 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 take fiftee_opecks from a rouble and a half for the month in advance. But for the tw_oubles I lent you before, you owe me now twenty copecks on the same reckonin_n advance. That makes thirty-five copecks altogether. So I must give you _ouble and fifteen copecks for the watch. 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 the ol_oman, and was in no hurry to get away, as though there was still something h_anted to say or to do, but he did not himself quite know what.
"I may be bringing you something else in a day or two, Alyona Ivanovna —_aluable thing—silver—a cigarette-box, as soon as I get it back 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 with you?" H_sked her as casually as possible as he went out into the passage.
"What business is she of yours, my good sir?"
"Oh, nothing particular, I simply asked. You are too quick… . Good-day, Alyon_vanovna."
Raskolnikov went out in complete confusion. This confusion became more an_ore intense. As he went down the stairs, he even stopped short, two or thre_imes, as though suddenly struck by some thought. When he was in the street h_ried out, "Oh, God, how loathsome it all is! and can I, can I possibly… . No, it's nonsense, it's rubbish!" he added resolutely. "And how could such a_trocious thing come into my head? What filthy things my heart is capable of.
Yes, filthy above all, disgusting, loathsome, loathsome!—and for a whole mont_'ve been… ." But no words, no exclamations, could express his agitation. Th_eeling of intense repulsion, which had begun to oppress and torture his hear_hile he was on his way to the old woman, had by now reached such a pitch an_ad taken such a definite form that he did not know what to do with himself t_scape from his wretchedness. He walked along the pavement like a drunken man, regardless of the passers-by, and jostling against them, and only came to hi_enses when he was in the next street. Looking round, he noticed that he wa_tanding close to a tavern which was entered by steps leading from th_avement to the basement. At that instant two drunken men came out at th_oor, and abusing and supporting one another, they mounted the steps. Withou_topping to think, Raskolnikov went down the steps at once. Till that momen_e had never been into a tavern, but now he felt giddy and was tormented by _urning thirst. He longed for a drink of cold beer, and attributed his sudde_eakness to the want of food. He sat down at a sticky little table in a dar_nd dirty corner; ordered some beer, and eagerly drank off the first glassful.
At once he felt easier; and his thoughts became clear.
"All that's nonsense," he said hopefully, "and there is nothing in it all t_orry about! It's simply physical derangement. Just a glass of beer, a piec_f dry bread—and in one moment the brain is stronger, the mind is clearer an_he will is firm! Phew, how utterly petty it all is!"
But in spite of this scornful reflection, he was by now looking cheerful a_hough he were suddenly set free from a terrible burden: and he gazed round i_ friendly way at the people in the room. But even at that moment he had a di_oreboding that this happier frame of mind was also not normal.
There were few people at the time in the tavern. Besides the two drunken me_e had met on the steps, a group consisting of about five men and a girl wit_ concertina had gone out at the same time. Their departure left the roo_uiet and rather empty. The persons still in the tavern were a man wh_ppeared to be an artisan, drunk, but not extremely so, sitting before a po_f beer, and his companion, a huge, stout man with a grey beard, in a shor_ull-skirted coat. He was very drunk: and had dropped asleep on the bench; every now and then, he began as though in his sleep, cracking his fingers, with his arms wide apart and the upper part of his body bounding about on th_ench, while he hummed some meaningless refrain, trying to recall some suc_ines as these:
"His wife a year he fondly loved
His wife a—a year he—fondly loved."
Or suddenly waking up again:
"Walking along the crowded row
He met the one he used to know."
But no one shared his enjoyment: his silent companion looked with positiv_ostility and mistrust at all these manifestations. There was another man i_he room who looked somewhat like a retired government clerk. He was sittin_part, now and then sipping from his pot and looking round at the company. He, too, appeared to be in some agitation.