Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Part 3, Chapter 1
- Year Published: 1866
- Language: English
- Country of Origin: Russia
- Source: Dostoyevsky, F. (1866). Crime and Punishment. Moscow, Russia: The Russian Messenger.
- Flesch–Kincaid Level: 7.2
- Word Count: 5,837
- Genre: Realism
- Keywords: morality, poverty, suspense
- ✎ Cite This
Dostoyevsky, F. (1866). Part 3, Chapter 1. Crime and Punishment (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved May 31, 2023, from https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/182/crime-and-punishment/3406/part-3-chapter-1/
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. "Part 3, Chapter 1." Crime and Punishment. Lit2Go Edition. 1866. Web. <https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/182/crime-and-punishment/3406/part-3-chapter-1/>. May 31, 2023.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "Part 3, Chapter 1," Crime and Punishment, Lit2Go Edition, (1866), accessed May 31, 2023, https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/182/crime-and-punishment/3406/part-3-chapter-1/.
Raskolnikov got up, and sat down on the sofa. He waved his hand weakly to Razumihin to cut short the flow of warm and incoherent consolations he was addressing to his mother and sister, took them both by the hand and for a minute or two gazed from one to the other without speaking. His mother was alarmed by his expression. It revealed an emotion agonisingly poignant, and at the same time something immovable, almost insane. Pulcheria Alexandrovna began to cry.
Avdotya Romanovna was pale; her hand trembled in her brother’s.
“Go home… with him,” he said in a broken voice, pointing to Razumihin, “good-bye till to-morrow; to-morrow everything… Is it long since you arrived?”
“This evening, Rodya,” answered Pulcheria Alexandrovna, “the train was awfully late. But, Rodya, nothing would induce me to leave you now! I will spend the night here, near you…”
“Don’t torture me!” he said with a gesture of irritation.
“I will stay with him,” cried Razumihin, “I won’t leave him for a moment. Bother all my visitors! Let them rage to their hearts’ content! My uncle is presiding there.”
“How, how can I thank you!” Pulcheria Alexandrovna was beginning, once more pressing Razumihin’s hands, but Raskolnikov interrupted her again.
“I can’t have it! I can’t have it!” he repeated irritably, “don’t worry me! Enough, go away… I can’t stand it!”
“Come, mamma, come out of the room at least for a minute,” Dounia whispered in dismay; “we are distressing him, that’s evident.”
“Mayn’t I look at him after three years?” wept Pulcheria Alexandrovna.
“Stay,” he stopped them again, “you keep interrupting me, and my ideas get muddled…. Have you seen Luzhin?”
“No, Rodya, but he knows already of our arrival. We have heard, Rodya, that Pyotr Petrovitch was so kind as to visit you today,” Pulcheria Alexandrovna added somewhat timidly.
“Yes… he was so kind… Dounia, I promised Luzhin I’d throw him downstairs and told him to go to hell….”
“Rodya, what are you saying! Surely, you don’t mean to tell us…” Pulcheria Alexandrovna began in alarm, but she stopped, looking at Dounia.
Avdotya Romanovna was looking attentively at her brother, waiting for what would come next. Both of them had heard of the quarrel from Nastasya, so far as she had succeeded in understanding and reporting it, and were in painful perplexity and suspense.
“Dounia,” Raskolnikov continued with an effort, “I don’t want that marriage, so at the first opportunity to-morrow you must refuse Luzhin, so that we may never hear his name again.”
“Good Heavens!” cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna.
“Brother, think what you are saying!” Avdotya Romanovna began impetuously, but immediately checked herself. “You are not fit to talk now, perhaps; you are tired,” she added gently.
“You think I am delirious? No… You are marrying Luzhin for my sake. But I won’t accept the sacrifice. And so write a letter before to-morrow, to refuse him… Let me read it in the morning and that will be the end of it!”
“That I can’t do!” the girl cried, offended, “what right have you…”
“Dounia, you are hasty, too, be quiet, to-morrow… Don’t you see…” the mother interposed in dismay. “Better come away!”
“He is raving,” Razumihin cried tipsily, “or how would he dare! To-morrow all this nonsense will be over… to-day he certainly did drive him away. That was so. And Luzhin got angry, too…. He made speeches here, wanted to show off his learning and he went out crest-fallen….”
“Then it’s true?” cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna.
“Good-bye till to-morrow, brother,” said Dounia compassionately—”let us go, mother… Good-bye, Rodya.”
“Do you hear, sister,” he repeated after them, making a last effort, “I am not delirious; this marriage is—an infamy. Let me act like a scoundrel, but you mustn’t… one is enough… and though I am a scoundrel, I wouldn’t own such a sister. It’s me or Luzhin! Go now….”
“But you’re out of your mind! Despot!” roared Razumihin; but Raskolnikov did not and perhaps could not answer. He lay down on the sofa, and turned to the wall, utterly exhausted. Avdotya Romanovna looked with interest at Razumihin; her black eyes flashed; Razumihin positively started at her glance.
Pulcheria Alexandrovna stood overwhelmed.
“Nothing would induce me to go,” she whispered in despair to Razumihin. “I will stay somewhere here… escort Dounia home.”
“You’ll spoil everything,” Razumihin answered in the same whisper, losing patience—”come out on to the stairs, anyway. Nastasya, show a light! I assure you,” he went on in a half whisper on the stairs-”that he was almost beating the doctor and me this afternoon! Do you understand? The doctor himself! Even he gave way and left him, so as not to irritate him. I remained downstairs on guard, but he dressed at once and slipped off. And he will slip off again if you irritate him, at this time of night, and will do himself some mischief….”
“What are you saying?”
“And Avdotya Romanovna can’t possibly be left in those lodgings without you. Just think where you are staying! That blackguard Pyotr Petrovitch couldn’t find you better lodgings… But you know I’ve had a little to drink, and that’s what makes me… swear; don’t mind it….”
“But I’ll go to the landlady here,” Pulcheria Alexandrovna insisted, “Ill beseech her to find some corner for Dounia and me for the night. I can’t leave him like that, I cannot!”
This conversation took place on the landing just before the landlady’s door. Nastasya lighted them from a step below. Razumihin was in extraordinary excitement. Half an hour earlier, while he was bringing Raskolnikov home, he had indeed talked too freely, but he was aware of it himself, and his head was clear in spite of the vast quantities he had imbibed. Now he was in a state bordering on ecstasy, and all that he had drunk seemed to fly to his head with redoubled effect. He stood with the two ladies, seizing both by their hands, persuading them, and giving them reasons with astonishing plainness of speech, and at almost every word he uttered, probably to emphasise his arguments, he squeezed their hands painfully as in a vise. He stared at Avdotya Romanovna without the least regard for good manners. They sometimes pulled their hands out of his huge bony paws, but far from noticing what was the matter, he drew them all the closer to him. If they’d told him to jump head foremost from the staircase, he would have done it without thought or hesitation in their service. Though Pulcheria Alexandrovna felt that the young man was really too eccentric and pinched her hand too much, in her anxiety over her Rodya she looked on his presence as providential, and was unwilling to notice all his peculiarities. But though Avdotya Romanovna shared her anxiety, and was not of timorous disposition, she could not see the glowing light in his eyes without wonder and almost alarm. It was only the unbounded confidence inspired by Nastasya’s account of her brother’s queer friend, which prevented her from trying to run away from him, and to persuade her mother to do the same. She realised, too, that even running away was perhaps impossible now. Ten minutes later, however, she was considerably reassured; it was characteristic of Razumihin that he showed his true nature at once, whatever mood he might be in, so that people quickly saw the sort of man they had to deal with.
“You can’t go to the landlady, that’s perfect nonsense!” he cried. “If you stay, though you are his mother, you’ll drive him to a frenzy, and then goodness knows what will happen! Listen, I’ll tell you what I’ll do: Nastasya will stay with him now, and I’ll conduct you both home, you can’t be in the streets alone; Petersburg is an awful place in that way…. But no matter! Then I’ll run straight back here and a quarter of an hour later, on my word of honour, I’ll bring you news how he is, whether he is asleep, and all that. Then, listen! Then I’ll run home in a twinkling—I’ve a lot of friends there, all drunk—I’ll fetch Zossimov—that’s the doctor who is looking after him, he is there, too, but he is not drunk; he is not drunk, he is never drunk! I’ll drag him to Rodya, and then to you, so that you’ll get two reports in the hour—from the doctor, you understand, from the doctor himself, that’s a very different thing from my account of him! If there’s anything wrong, I swear I’ll bring you here myself, but, if it’s all right, you go to bed. And I’ll spend the night here, in the passage, he won’t hear me, and I’ll tell Zossimov to sleep at the landlady’s, to be at hand. Which is better for him: you or the doctor? So come home then! But the landlady is out of the question; it’s all right for me, but it’s out of the question for you: she wouldn’t take you, for she’s… for she’s a fool… She’d be jealous on my account of Avdotya Romanovna and of you, too, if you want to know… of Avdotya Romanovna certainly. She is an absolutely, absolutely unaccountable character! But I am a fool, too!... No matter! Come along! Do you trust me? Come, do you trust me or not?”
“Let us go, mother,” said Avdotya Romanovna, “he will certainly do what he has promised. He has saved Rodya already, and if the doctor really will consent to spend the night here, what could be better?”
“You see, you… you… understand me, because you are an angel!” Razumihin cried in ecstasy, “let us go! Nastasya! Fly upstairs and sit with him with a light; I’ll come in a quarter of an hour.”
Though Pulcheria Alexandrovna was not perfectly convinced, she made no further resistance. Razumihin gave an arm to each and drew them down the stairs. He still made her uneasy, as though he was competent and good-natured, was he capable of carrying out his promise? He seemed in such a condition….
“Ah, I see you think I am in such a condition!” Razumihin broke in upon her thoughts, guessing them, as he strolled along the pavement with huge steps, so that the two ladies could hardly keep up with him, a fact he did not observe, however. “Nonsense! That is… I am drunk like a fool, but that’s not it; I am not drunk from wine. It’s seeing you has turned my head… But don’t mind me! Don’t take any notice: I am talking nonsense, I am not worthy of you…. I am utterly unworthy of you! The minute I’ve taken you home, I’ll pour a couple of pailfuls of water over my head in the gutter here, and then I shall be all right…. If only you knew how I love you both! Don’t laugh, and don’t be angry! You may be angry with anyone, but not with me! I am his friend, and therefore I am your friend, too, I want to be… I had a presentiment… Last year there was a moment… though it wasn’t a presentiment really, for you seem to have fallen from heaven. And I expect I shan’t sleep all night… Zossimov was afraid a little time ago that he would go mad… that’s why he mustn’t be irritated.”
“What do you say?” cried the mother.
“Did the doctor really say that?” asked Avdotya Romanovna, alarmed.
“Yes, but it’s not so, not a bit of it. He gave him some medicine, a powder, I saw it, and then your coming here…. Ah! It would have been better if you had come to-morrow. It’s a good thing we went away. And in an hour Zossimov himself will report to you about everything. He is not drunk! And I shan’t be drunk…. And what made me get so tight? Because they got me into an argument, damn them! I’ve sworn never to argue! They talk such trash! I almost came to blows! I’ve left my uncle to preside. Would you believe, they insist on complete absence of individualism and that’s just what they relish! Not to be themselves, to be as unlike themselves as they can. That’s what they regard as the highest point of progress. If only their nonsense were their own, but as it is…”
“Listen!” Pulcheria Alexandrovna interrupted timidly, but it only added fuel to the flames.
“What do you think?” shouted Razumihin, louder than ever, “you think I am attacking them for talking nonsense? Not a bit! I like them to talk nonsense. That’s man’s one privilege over all creation. Through error you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen. And a fine thing, too, in its way; but we can’t even make mistakes on our own account! Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I’ll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. In the first case you are a man, in the second you’re no better than a bird. Truth won’t escape you, but life can be cramped. There have been examples. And what are we doing now? In science, development, thought, invention, ideals, aims, liberalism, judgment, experience and everything, everything, everything, we are still in the preparatory class at school. We prefer to live on other people’s ideas, it’s what we are used to! Am I right, am I right?” cried Razumihin, pressing and shaking the two ladies’ hands.
“Oh, mercy, I do not know,” cried poor Pulcheria Alexandrovna.
“Yes, yes… though I don’t agree with you in everything,” added Avdotya Romanovna earnestly and at once uttered a cry, for he squeezed her hand so painfully.
“Yes, you say yes… well after that you… you…” he cried in a transport, “you are a fount of goodness, purity, sense… and perfection. Give me your hand… you give me yours, too! I want to kiss your hands here at once, on my knees…” and he fell on his knees on the pavement, fortunately at that time deserted.
“Leave off, I entreat you, what are you doing?” Pulcheria Alexandrovna cried, greatly distressed.
“Get up, get up!” said Dounia laughing, though she, too, was upset.
“Not for anything till you let me kiss your hands! That’s it! Enough! I get up and we’ll go on! I am a luckless fool, I am unworthy of you and drunk… and I am ashamed…. I am not worthy to love you, but to do homage to you is the duty of every man who is not a perfect beast! And I’ve done homage…. Here are your lodgings, and for that alone Rodya was right in driving your Pyotr Petrovitch away…. How dare he! how dare he put you in such lodgings! It’s a scandal! Do you know the sort of people they take in here? And you his betrothed! You are his betrothed? Yes? Well, then, I’ll tell you, your fiancé is a scoundrel.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Razumihin, you are forgetting…” Pulcheria Alexandrovna was beginning.
“Yes, yes, you are right, I did forget myself, I am ashamed of it,” Razumihin made haste to apologise. “But… but you can’t be angry with me for speaking so! For I speak sincerely and not because… hm, hm! That would be disgraceful; in fact not because I’m in… hm! Well, anyway, I won’t say why, I daren’t…. But we all saw to-day when he came in that that man is not of our sort. Not because he had his hair curled at the barber’s, not because he was in such a hurry to show his wit, but because he is a spy, a speculator, because he is a skin-flint and a buffoon. That’s evident. Do you think him clever? No, he is a fool, a fool. And is he a match for you? Good heavens! Do you see, ladies?” he stopped suddenly on the way upstairs to their rooms, “though all my friends there are drunk, yet they are all honest, and though we do talk a lot of trash, and I do, too, yet we shall talk our way to the truth at last, for we are on the right path, while Pyotr Petrovitch… is not on the right path. Though I’ve been calling them all sorts of names just now, I do respect them all… though I don’t respect Zametov, I like him, for he is a puppy, and that bullock Zossimov, because he is an honest man and knows his work. But enough, it’s all said and forgiven. Is it forgiven? Well, then, let’s go on. I know this corridor, I’ve been here, there was a scandal here at Number 3…. Where are you here? Which number? eight? Well, lock yourselves in for the night, then. Don’t let anybody in. In a quarter of an hour I’ll come back with news, and half an hour later I’ll bring Zossimov, you’ll see! Good-bye, I’ll run.”
“Good heavens, Dounia, what is going to happen?” said Pulcheria Alexandrovna, addressing her daughter with anxiety and dismay.
“Don’t worry yourself, mother,” said Dounia, taking off her hat and cape. “God has sent this gentleman to our aid, though he has come from a drinking party. We can depend on him, I assure you. And all that he has done for Rodya….”
“Ah. Dounia, goodness knows whether he will come! How could I bring myself to leave Rodya?... And how different, how different I had fancied our meeting! How sullen he was, as though not pleased to see us….”
Tears came into her eyes.
“No, it’s not that, mother. You didn’t see, you were crying all the time. He is quite unhinged by serious illness—that’s the reason.”
“Ah, that illness! What will happen, what will happen? And how he talked to you, Dounia!” said the mother, looking timidly at her daughter, trying to read her thoughts and, already half consoled by Dounia’s standing up for her brother, which meant that she had already forgiven him. “I am sure he will think better of it to-morrow,” she added, probing her further.
“And I am sure that he will say the same to-morrow… about that,” Avdotya Romanovna said finally. And, of course, there was no going beyond that, for this was a point which Pulcheria Alexandrovna was afraid to discuss. Dounia went up and kissed her mother. The latter warmly embraced her without speaking. Then she sat down to wait anxiously for Razumihin’s return, timidly watching her daughter who walked up and down the room with her arms folded, lost in thought. This walking up and down when she was thinking was a habit of Avdotya Romanovna’s and the mother was always afraid to break in on her daughter’s mood at such moments.
Razumihin, of course, was ridiculous in his sudden drunken infatuation for Avdotya Romanovna. Yet apart from his eccentric condition, many people would have thought it justified if they had seen Avdotya Romanovna, especially at that moment when she was walking to and fro with folded arms, pensive and melancholy. Avdotya Romanovna was remarkably good looking; she was tall, strikingly well-proportioned, strong and self-reliant—the latter quality was apparent in every gesture, though it did not in the least detract from the grace and softness of her movements. In face she resembled her brother, but she might be described as really beautiful. Her hair was dark brown, a little lighter than her brother’s; there was a proud light in her almost black eyes and yet at times a look of extraordinary kindness. She was pale, but it was a healthy pallor; her face was radiant with freshness and vigour. Her mouth was rather small; the full red lower lip projected a little as did her chin; it was the only irregularity in her beautiful face, but it gave it a peculiarly individual and almost haughty expression. Her face was always more serious and thoughtful than gay; but how well smiles, how well youthful, lighthearted, irresponsible, laughter suited her face! It was natural enough that a warm, open, simple-hearted, honest giant like Razumihin, who had never seen anyone like her and was not quite sober at the time, should lose his head immediately. Besides, as chance would have it, he saw Dounia for the first time transfigured by her love for her brother and her joy at meeting him. Afterwards he saw her lower lip quiver with indignation at her brother’s insolent, cruel and ungrateful words—and his fate was sealed.
He had spoken the truth, moreover, when he blurted out in his drunken talk on the stairs that Praskovya Pavlovna, Raskolnikov’s eccentric landlady, would be jealous of Pulcheria Alexandrovna as well as of Avdotya Romanovna on his account. Although Pulcheria Alexandrovna was forty-three, her face still retained traces of her former beauty; she looked much younger than her age, indeed, which is almost always the case with women who retain serenity of spirit, sensitiveness and pure sincere warmth of heart to old age. We may add in parenthesis that to preserve all this is the only means of retaining beauty to old age. Her hair had begun to grow grey and thin, there had long been little crow’s foot wrinkles round her eyes, her cheeks were hollow and sunken from anxiety and grief, and yet it was a handsome face. She was Dounia over again, twenty years older, but without the projecting underlip. Pulcheria Alexandrovna was emotional, but not sentimental, timid and yielding, but only to a certain point. She could give way and accept a great deal even of what was contrary to her convictions, but there was a certain barrier fixed by honesty, principle and the deepest convictions which nothing would induce her to cross.
Exactly twenty minutes after Razumihin’s departure, there came two subdued but hurried knocks at the door: he had come back.
“I won’t come in, I haven’t time,” he hastened to say when the door was opened. “He sleeps like a top, soundly, quietly, and God grant he may sleep ten hours. Nastasya’s with him; I told her not to leave till I came. Now I am fetching Zossimov, he will report to you and then you’d better turn in; I can see you are too tired to do anything….”
And he ran off down the corridor.
“What a very competent and… devoted young man!” cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna exceedingly delighted.
“He seems a splendid person!” Avdotya Romanovna replied with some warmth, resuming her walk up and down the room.
It was nearly an hour later when they heard footsteps in the corridor and another knock at the door. Both women waited this time completely relying on Razumihin’s promise; he actually had succeeded in bringing Zossimov. Zossimov had agreed at once to desert the drinking party to go to Raskolnikov’s, but he came reluctantly and with the greatest suspicion to see the ladies, mistrusting Razumihin in his exhilarated condition. But his vanity was at once reassured and flattered; he saw that they were really expecting him as an oracle. He stayed just ten minutes and succeeded in completely convincing and comforting Pulcheria Alexandrovna. He spoke with marked sympathy, but with the reserve and extreme seriousness of a young doctor at an important consultation. He did not utter a word on any other subject and did not display the slightest desire to enter into more personal relations with the two ladies. Remarking at his first entrance the dazzling beauty of Avdotya Romanovna, he endeavoured not to notice her at all during his visit and addressed himself solely to Pulcheria Alexandrovna. All this gave him extraordinary inward satisfaction. He declared that he thought the invalid at this moment going on very satisfactorily. According to his observations the patient’s illness was due partly to his unfortunate material surroundings during the last few months, but it had partly also a moral origin, “was, so to speak, the product of several material and moral influences, anxieties, apprehensions, troubles, certain ideas… and so on.” Noticing stealthily that Avdotya Romanovna was following his words with close attention, Zossimov allowed himself to enlarge on this theme. On Pulcheria Alexandrovna’s anxiously and timidly inquiring as to “some suspicion of insanity,” he replied with a composed and candid smile that his words had been exaggerated; that certainly the patient had some fixed idea, something approaching a monomania—he, Zossimov, was now particularly studying this interesting branch of medicine—but that it must be recollected that until to-day the patient had been in delirium and… and that no doubt the presence of his family would have a favourable effect on his recovery and distract his mind, “if only all fresh shocks can be avoided,” he added significantly. Then he got up, took leave with an impressive and affable bow, while blessings, warm gratitude, and entreaties were showered upon him, and Avdotya Romanovna spontaneously offered her hand to him. He went out exceedingly pleased with his visit and still more so with himself.
“We’ll talk to-morrow; go to bed at once!” Razumihin said in conclusion, following Zossimov out. “I’ll be with you to-morrow morning as early as possible with my report.”
“That’s a fetching little girl, Avdotya Romanovna,” remarked Zossimov, almost licking his lips as they both came out into the street.
“Fetching? You said fetching?” roared Razumihin and he flew at Zossimov and seized him by the throat. “If you ever dare…. Do you understand? Do you understand?” he shouted, shaking him by the collar and squeezing him against the wall. “Do you hear?”
“Let me go, you drunken devil,” said Zossimov, struggling and when he had let him go, he stared at him and went off into a sudden guffaw. Razumihin stood facing him in gloomy and earnest reflection.
“Of course, I am an ass,” he observed, sombre as a storm cloud, “but still… you are another.”
“No, brother, not at all such another. I am not dreaming of any folly.”
They walked along in silence and only when they were close to Raskolnikov’s lodgings, Razumihin broke the silence in considerable anxiety.
“Listen,” he said, “you’re a first-rate fellow, but among your other failings, you’re a loose fish, that I know, and a dirty one, too. You are a feeble, nervous wretch, and a mass of whims, you’re getting fat and lazy and can’t deny yourself anything—and I call that dirty because it leads one straight into the dirt. You’ve let yourself get so slack that I don’t know how it is you are still a good, even a devoted doctor. You—a doctor—sleep on a feather bed and get up at night to your patients! In another three or four years you won’t get up for your patients… But hang it all, that’s not the point!... You are going to spend to-night in the landlady’s flat here. (Hard work I’ve had to persuade her!) And I’ll be in the kitchen. So here’s a chance for you to get to know her better…. It’s not as you think! There’s not a trace of anything of the sort, brother…!”
“But I don’t think!”
“Here you have modesty, brother, silence, bashfulness, a savage virtue… and yet she’s sighing and melting like wax, simply melting! Save me from her, by all that’s unholy! She’s most prepossessing… I’ll repay you, I’ll do anything….”
Zossimov laughed more violently than ever.
“Well, you are smitten! But what am I to do with her?”
“It won’t be much trouble, I assure you. Talk any rot you like to her, as long as you sit by her and talk. You’re a doctor, too; try curing her of something. I swear you won’t regret it. She has a piano, and you know, I strum a little. I have a song there, a genuine Russian one: ‘I shed hot tears.’ She likes the genuine article—and well, it all began with that song; Now you’re a regular performer, a maître, a Rubinstein…. I assure you, you won’t regret it!”
“But have you made her some promise? Something signed? A promise of marriage, perhaps?”
“Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of the kind! Besides she is not that sort at all…. Tchebarov tried that….”
“Well then, drop her!”
“But I can’t drop her like that!”
“Why can’t you?”
“Well, I can’t, that’s all about it! There’s an element of attraction here, brother.”
“Then why have you fascinated her?”
“I haven’t fascinated her; perhaps I was fascinated myself in my folly. But she won’t care a straw whether it’s you or I, so long as somebody sits beside her, sighing…. I can’t explain the position, brother… look here, you are good at mathematics, and working at it now… begin teaching her the integral calculus; upon my soul, I’m not joking, I’m in earnest, it’ll be just the same to her. She will gaze at you and sigh for a whole year together. I talked to her once for two days at a time about the Prussian House of Lords (for one must talk of something)—she just sighed and perspired! And you mustn’t talk of love—she’s bashful to hysterics—but just let her see you can’t tear yourself away—that’s enough. It’s fearfully comfortable; you’re quite at home, you can read, sit, lie about, write. You may even venture on a kiss, if you’re careful.”
“But what do I want with her?”
“Ach, I can’t make you understand! You see, you are made for each other! I have often been reminded of you!... You’ll come to it in the end! So does it matter whether it’s sooner or later? There’s the feather-bed element here, brother—ach! and not only that! There’s an attraction here—here you have the end of the world, an anchorage, a quiet haven, the navel of the earth, the three fishes that are the foundation of the world, the essence of pancakes, of savoury fish-pies, of the evening samovar, of soft sighs and warm shawls, and hot stoves to sleep on—as snug as though you were dead, and yet you’re alive—the advantages of both at once! Well, hang it, brother, what stuff I’m talking, it’s bedtime! Listen. I sometimes wake up at night; so I’ll go in and look at him. But there’s no need, it’s all right. Don’t you worry yourself, yet if you like, you might just look in once, too. But if you notice anything—delirium or fever—wake me at once. But there can’t be….”