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Notes from the Underground

VII
"Oh, hush, Liza! How can you talk about being like a book, when it makes even
me, an outsider, feel sick? Though I don't look at it as an outsider, for, indeed, it
touches me to the heart .... Is it possible, is it possible that you do not feel sick at
being here yourself? Evidently habit does wonders! God knows what habit can
do with anyone. Can you seriously think that you will never grow old, that you will
always be good- looking, and that they will keep you here for ever and ever? I
say nothing of the loathsomeness of the life here .... Though let me tell you this
about it--about your present life, I mean; here though you are young now,
attractive, nice, with soul and feeling, yet you know as soon as I came to myself
just now I felt at once sick at being here with you! One can only come here when
one is drunk. But if you were anywhere else, living as good people live, I should
perhaps be more than attracted by you, should fall in love with you, should be
glad of a look from you, let alone a word; I should hang about your door, should
go down on my knees to you, should look upon you as my betrothed and think it
an honour to be allowed to. I should not dare to have an impure thought about
you. But here, you see, I know that I have only to whistle and you have to come
with me whether you like it or not. I don't consult your wishes, but you mine. The
lowest labourer hires himself as a workman, but he doesn't make a slave of
himself altogether; besides, he knows that he will be free again presently. But
when are you free? Only think what you are giving up here? What is it you are
making a slave of? It is your soul, together with your body; you are selling your
soul which you have no right to dispose of! You give your love to be outraged by
every drunkard! Love! But that's everything, you know, it's a priceless diamond,
it's a maiden's treasure, love--why, a man would be ready to give his soul, to face
death to gain that love. But how much is your love worth now? You are sold, all
of you, body and soul, and there is no need to strive for love when you can have
everything without love. And you know there is no greater insult to a girl than
that, do you understand? To be sure, I have heard that they comfort you, poor
fools, they let you have lovers of your own here. But you know that's simply a
farce, that's simply a sham, it's just laughing at you, and you are taken in by it!
Why, do you suppose he really loves you, that lover of yours? I don't believe it.
How can he love you when he knows you may be called away from him any
minute? He would be a low fellow if he did! Will he have a grain of respect for
you? What have you in common with him? He laughs at you and robs you--that is
all his love amounts to! You are lucky if he does not beat you. Very likely he does
beat you, too. Ask him, if you have got one, whether he will marry you. He will
laugh in your face, if he doesn't spit in it or give you a blow--though maybe he is
not worth a bad halfpenny himself. And for what have you ruined your life, if you
come to think of it? For the coffee they give you to drink and the plentiful meals?
But with what object are they feeding you up? An honest girl couldn't swallow the
food, for she would know what she was being fed for. You are in debt here, and,
of course, you will always be in debt, and you will go on in debt to the end, till the
visitors here begin to scorn you. And that will soon happen, don't rely upon your
 
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