Crime And Punishment Page-68

Crime And Punishment

conscience-prick,” the student added with warmth. The officer laughed again while Raskolnikov shuddered. How strange it was! “Listen, I want to ask you a serious question,” the student said hotly. “I was joking of course, but look here; on one side we have a stupid, senseless, worthless, spiteful, ailing, horrid old woman, not simply useless but doing actual mischief, who has not an idea what she is living for herself, and who will die in a day or two in any case. You understand? You understand?” “Yes, yes, I understand,” answered the officer, watching his excited companion attentively. “Well, listen then. On the other side, fresh young lives thrown away for want of help and by thousands, on every side! A hundred thousand good deeds could be done and helped, on that old woman’s money which will be buried in a monastery! Hundreds, thousands perhaps, might be set on the right path; dozens of families saved from destitution, from ruin, from vice, from the Lock hospitals —and all with her money. Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the service of humanity and the good of all. What do you think, would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds? For one life thousands would be saved from corruption and decay. One death, and a hundred lives in exchange—it’s simple arithmetic! Besides, what value has the life of that sickly, stupid, ill-natured old woman in the balance of existence! No more than the life of a louse, of a black-beetle, less in fact because the old woman is doing harm. She is wearing out the lives of others; the other day she bit Lizaveta’s finger out of spite; it almost had to be amputated.” “Of course she does not deserve to live,” remarked the officer, “but there it is, it’s nature.” “Oh, well, brother, but we have to correct and direct nature, and, but for that, we should drown in an ocean of prejudice. But for that, there would never have been a single great man. They talk of duty, conscience—I don’t want to say anything against duty and conscience;—but the point is, what do we mean by them? Stay, I have another question to ask you. Listen!” “No, you stay, I’ll ask you a question. Listen!” “Well?” “You are talking and speechifying away, but tell me, would you kill the old woman yourself?” “Of course not! I was only arguing the justice of it.... It’s nothing to do with me....”