Crime And Punishment Page-49

Crime And Punishment

become of your sister in ten years? What may happen to her during those ten years? Can you fancy?” So he tortured himself, fretting himself with such questions, and finding a kind of enjoyment in it. And yet all these questions were not new ones suddenly confronting him, they were old familiar aches. It was long since they had first begun to grip and rend his heart. Long, long ago his present anguish had its first beginnings; it had waxed and gathered strength, it had matured and concentrated, until it had taken the form of a fearful, frenzied and fantastic question, which tortured his heart and mind, clamouring insistently for an answer. Now his mother’s letter had burst on him like a thunderclap. It was clear that he must not now suffer passively, worrying himself over unsolved questions, but that he must do something, do it at once, and do it quickly. Anyway he must decide on something, or else... “Or throw up life altogether!” he cried suddenly, in a frenzy—“accept one’s lot humbly as it is, once for all and stifle everything in oneself, giving up all claim to activity, life and love!” “Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?” Marmeladov’s question came suddenly into his mind, “for every man must have somewhere to turn....” He gave a sudden start; another thought, that he had had yesterday, slipped back into his mind. But he did not start at the thought recurring to him, for he knew, he had felt beforehand, that it must come back, he was expecting it; besides it was not only yesterday’s thought. The difference was that a month ago, yesterday even, the thought was a mere dream: but now... now it appeared not a dream at all, it had taken a new menacing and quite unfamiliar shape, and he suddenly became aware of this himself.... He felt a hammering in his head, and there was a darkness before his eyes. He looked round hurriedly, he was searching for something. He wanted to sit down and was looking for a seat; he was walking along the K—— Boulevard. There was a seat about a hundred paces in front of him. He walked towards it as fast he could; but on the way he met with a little adventure which absorbed all his attention. Looking for the seat, he had noticed a woman walking some twenty paces in front of him, but at first he took no more notice of her than of other objects that crossed his path. It had happened to him many times going home not to notice the road by which he was going, and he was accustomed to walk like that. But there was at first sight something so strange about the woman in front of him, that gradually his attention was riveted upon her, at first reluctantly and, as it were, resentfully, and then more and more intently. He felt a