He unfastened the latch, opened the door and began listening on the staircase.
He listened a long time. Somewhere far away, it might be at the gateway, two voices were loudly and shrilly shouting, quarreling and scolding. "What are they about?" He waited patiently. At last all was still, as though suddenly cut off; they had separated. He was meaning to go out, but suddenly, on the floor below, a door was noisily opened and someone began going downstairs humming a tune. "How is it that they all make such a noise?" flashed through his mind. Once more he closed the door and waited. At last all was still, not a soul stirring. He was just taking a step towards the stairs when he heard fresh footsteps.
The steps sounded very far off, at the very bottom of the stairs, but he remembered quite clearly and distinctly that from the first sound he began for some, reason to suspect that this was someone coming there, to the fourth floor, to the old woman. Why? Were the sounds somehow peculiar, significant? The steps were heavy, even and unhurried. Now he had passed the first floor, now he was mounting higher, it was growing more and more distinct! He could hear his heavy breathing. And now the third story had been reached. Coming here! and it seemed to him all at once that he was turned to stone, that it was like a dream in which one is being pursued, nearly caught and will be killed, and is rooted into the spot and cannot even move one's arms.
At last when the unknown was mounting to the fourth floor, he suddenly started, and succeeded in slipping neatly and quickly back into the flat and closing the door behind him. Then he took the hook and softly, noiselessly, fixed it in the latch. Instinct helped him. When he had done this, he crouched, holding his breath, by the door. The unknown visitor was by now also at the door. They were now standing opposite one another, as he had just before been standing with the old woman, when the door divided them and he was listening.
The visitor panted several times. "He must be a big, fat, old man," thought Raskolnikov, squeezing the axe in his hand. It seemed like a dream indeed. The visitor took hold of the bell and rang it loudly.
As soon as the tin bell tinkled, Raskolnikov seemed to be aware of something moving in the room. For some seconds he listened quite seriously. The unknown rang again, waited and suddenly tugged violently and impatiently at the handle of the door. Raskolnikov gazed in horror at the hook shaking in its fastening, and in blank terror expected every minute that the fastening would be pulled out. It certainly did seem possible, so violently was he shaking it. He was tempted to hold the fastening, but he might be aware of it. A giddiness came over him again. "I shall fall down!" flashed through his mind, but the unknown began to speak and he recovered himself at once.
"What's up? Are they asleep, or murdered? D-damn them!" he bawled in a thick voice. "Hey, Alyona Ivanovna, old witch! Lizaveta Ivanovna, hey, my beauty! open the door! Oh, damn them! Are they asleep or what?"
And again, enraged, he tugged with all his might a dozen times at the bell. He must certainly be a man of authority and an intimate acquaintance.
At this moment light hurried steps were heard not far off I on the stairs. Someone else was approaching. Raskolnikov had not heard them at first.
"You don't say there's no one at home," the newcomer cried in a dreadful ringing voice, addressing the first visitor who still went on pulling the bell. "Good evening, Koch."
"From his voice he must be quite young," thought Raskolnikov.
"Who the devil can tell? I've almost broken the lock," answered Koch. "But how do you come to know me?"
"Why? The day before yesterday I beat you three times running at billiards at Gambrinus'.
"So they are not at home? That's queer. It's awfully stupid though. Where could the old woman have gone? I've come on business."
"Yes; and I have business with her, too."
"Well, what can we do? Go back, I suppose. Aie- aie! And I was hoping to get some money!" cried the young man.
"We must give it up, of course, but what did she fix this time for? The old witch fixed the time for me to come herself. It's out of my way. And where the devil can she have got to, I can't make out. She sits here from year's end to year's end, the old hag; her legs are bad and yet here all of a sudden she is out for a walk!"
"Hadn't we better ask the porter?"
"Where she's gone and when she'll be back."
"Hm.... Damn it all! ... We might ask .... But you know she never does go anywhere."
And he once more tugged at the door handle.
"Damn it all. There's nothing to be done, we must go!"
"Stay!"cried the young man suddenly. "Do you see how the door shakes if you pull it?"
... Raskolnikav went into the passage and pulled the bell. The same bell, the same cracked note. He rang it a second and a third time; he listened and remembered. The hideous and agonizingly fearful sensation he had felt then began to come back more and more vividly. He shuddered at every ring, and it gave him more and more satisfaction.
Fydor Dostoyevski, Crime and Punishment.
TIME: 2nd half of 18th c.
CIRCUMSTANCE: An acute aural memory gives Raskoinikov a rather masochistic thrill; now safe from the inquiry of curious visitors to the scene of the crime, he listens to the same bell that had previously given him frightful moments fearing discovery; it now affords him the assurance of a very close call.