“I have come and if you have anything to ask me, ask it, and if not, allow me to withdraw. I have no time to spare. … I have to be at the funeral of that man who was run over, of whom you … know also,” he added, feeling angry at once at having made this addition and more irritated at his anger. “I am sick of it all, do you hear? and have long been. It’s partly what made me ill. In short,” he shouted, feeling that the phrase about his illness was still more out of place, “in short, kindly examine me or let me go, at once. And if you must examine me, do so in the proper form! I will not allow you to do so otherwise, and so meanwhile, good-bye, as we have evidently nothing to keep us now.”

“Good heavens! What do you mean? What shall I question you about?” cackled Porfiry Petrovitch with a change of tone, instantly leaving off laughing. “Please don’t disturb yourself,” he began fidgeting from place to place and fussily making Raskolnikov sit down. “There’s no hurry, there’s no hurry, it’s all nonsense. Oh, no, I’m very glad you’ve come to see me at last … I look upon you simply as a visitor. And as for my confounded laughter, please excuse it, Rodion Romanovitch. Rodion Romanovitch? That is your name? … It’s my nerves, you tickled me so with your witty observation; I assure you, sometimes I shake with laughter like an india-rubber ball for half an hour at a time. … I’m often afraid of an attack of paralysis. Do sit down. Please do, or I shall think you are angry …”

Raskolnikov did not speak; he listened, watching him, still frowning angrily. He did sit down, but still held his cap.

“I must tell you one thing about myself, my dear Rodion Romanovitch,” Porfiry Petrovitch continued, moving about the room and again avoiding his visitor’s eyes. “You see, I’m a bachelor, a man of no consequence and not used to society; besides, I have nothing before me, I’m set, I’m running to seed and … and have you noticed, Rodion Romanovitch, that in our Petersburg circles, if two clever men meet who are not intimate, but respect each other, like you and me, it takes them half an hour before they can find a subject for conversation—they are dumb, they sit opposite each other and feel awkward. Everyone has subjects of conversation, ladies for instance … people in high society always have their subjects of conversation, c’est de rigueur, but people of the middle sort like us, thinking people that is, are always tongue-tied and awkward. What is the reason of it? Whether it is the lack of public interest, or whether it is we are so honest we don’t want to deceive one another, I don’t know. What do you think? Do put down your cap, it looks as if you were just going, it makes me uncomfortable … I am so delighted …”

Raskolnikov put down his cap and continued listening in silence with a serious frowning face to the vague and empty chatter of Porfiry Petrovitch. “Does he really want to distract my attention with his silly babble?”

“I can’t offer you coffee here; but why not spend five minutes with a friend?” Porfiry pattered on, “and you know all these official duties … please don’t mind my running up and down, excuse it, my dear fellow, I am very much afraid of offending you, but exercise is absolutely indispensable for me. I’m always sitting and so glad to be moving about for five minutes … I suffer from my sedentary life … I always intend to join a gymnasium; they say that officials of all ranks, even Privy Councillors, may be seen skipping gaily there; there you have it, modern science … yes, yes. … But as for my duties here, inquiries and all such formalities … you mentioned inquiries yourself just now … I assure you these interrogations are sometimes more embarrassing for the interrogator than for the interrogated. … You made the observation yourself just now very aptly and wittily.” (Raskolnikov had made no observation of the kind.) “One gets into a muddle! A regular muddle! One keeps harping on the same note, like a drum! There is to be a reform and we shall be called by a different name, at least, he-he-he! And as for our legal tradition, as you so wittily called it, I thoroughly agree with you. Every prisoner on trial, even the rudest peasant, knows that they begin by disarming him with irrelevant questions (as you so happily put it) and then deal him a knock-down blow, he-he-he!—your felicitous comparison, he-he! So you really imagined that I meant by ‘government quarters’ … he-he! You are an ironical person. Come. I won’t go on! Ah, by the way, yes! One word leads to another. You spoke of formality just now, apropos of the inquiry, you know. But what’s the use of formality? In many cases it’s nonsense. Sometimes one has a friendly chat and gets a good deal more out of it. One can always fall back on formality, allow me to assure you. And after all, what

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