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Everything is in wild commotion, with Porfiry the most outraged of all. A pale, strange man has walked uninvited into the office and fallen to his knees despite Porfiry's orders to take him away.
"I am guilty.... I am the murderer!" the painter Nickolay confesses. Porfiry is in a stupor. He is so astounded by this turn of events that he nearly forgets that Raskolnikov is standing in the room.
Trying to usher Raskolnikov out with the explanation that he shouldn't be there, Porfiry has to admit his admiration for the daring that Raskolnikov shows in asking if he isn't going to see Porfiry's "little surprise."
Porfiry insists that they will see each other again, but Raskolnikov, made bold by Nickolay's unexpected confession, feels like a new man. For the moment his battle with Porfiry is a tie. Raskolnikov is shaken, though, for he knows that Porfiry knows too much for him to be completely safe. But for today he is free, and he will go to the funeral dinner and see Sonia.
But this incredible day has one more surprise: the man who had accosted him in the street walks into his room. The stranger is full of contrition for having accused him, and for having gone to Porfiry. Even more, he is appalled at the way Porfiry baited Raskolnikov while the stranger waited behind the closed door as the "surprise." He begs forgiveness for his slander and his spite.
Raskolnikov is elated, but bitter, too. The bitterness is at his own cowardice, which had almost given him away.
The mysterious, unnamed character whose accusation is such a psychological blow to Raskolnikov and such a boost to Porfiry's case is one of the more perplexing characters in the novel. As we noted earlier, he doesn't seem realistic. Nor does his explanation seem to justify the accusation he made. Should we conclude that this character is just a clumsy plot device that Dostoevsky used to speed up the confrontation? Some readers think so. Or does he demonstrate that irrational actions, like Raskolnikov's return visit to the flat, doom criminals?