But the surprise is different from what Porfiry intended. Instead of witnesses, the painter Nikolai is brought in. A crowd waits in the doorway and Nikolai confesses to the murder, saying the other painter Mitka had nothing to do with it. Raskolnikov tells Porfiry, with a smile, that Porfiry must not have expected this outcome; Porfiry retorts that Raskolnikov must not have, either. Raskolnikov replies that Nikolai’s confession is no surprise at all.
This scene presents an intriguing series of deceptions. Raskolnikov must pretend that he is not surprised to see another man confess to the crime he has committed. And Porfiry must pretend to know all along that Raskolnikov is the criminal, despite having another man claim, stridently, that he has killed the two women.
Raskolnikov apologizes to Porfiry for losing his temper earlier, says he must be going to Marmeladov’s funeral, and finds it funny that Porfiry will attempt to dispute Nikolai’s confession point by point. Porfiry admits that Raskolnikov is astute and playful, like Nikolai Gogol, the famous Russian comic writer. Raskolnikov returns to his apartment and realizes that Nikolai’s confession will be suspected and eventually disproved; at which point, Porfiry will come after him. Raskolnikov comforts himself by saying that Porfiry only has “psychological” evidence against him, but no facts.
Raskolnikov realizes that Nikolai’s confession will only delay his ultimate fate. At this point Raskolnikov seems resigned to an admission of guilt. He must only determine how and when to go about it. But the more he thinks about things, the more he realizes that Porfiry would still have to prove him guilty, and this would be difficult with only “psychological” evidence. This gives Raskolnikov hope against hope that he might still get away with his murders. This switch from despair to joy is characteristic of Raskolnikov’s “illness,” and evidence of his continued desire to escape punishment for what he's done.
As Raskolnikov leaves to go to the funeral, he runs into the “man from the under the ground” who had accused him, the day before, of being a murderer. The man admits that he had seen Raskolnikov leaving the apartment after asking about the blood, and that he went to Porfiry to give this shred of psychological evidence against Raskolnikov. The man apologizes, now, because Nikolai has confessed, and Raskolnikov is upset for having assumed Porfiry had more information against him.
Another surprise: the man from under the ground, who had gone to Porfiry with evidence against Raskolnikov, believes he owes Raskolnikov an apology, since Nikolai has confessed to the two murders. What the man does not know, however, is that Nikolai’s confession was coerced by torture, and Raskolnikov is in fact the killer. Yet, at the same time, the man under the ground's apology is an action of extreme openness, and honesty. It is extraordinary in its way, while Raskolnikov's efforts to get away with his crime are anything but.
The tradesman then admits that he was the “surprise” Porfiry was going to spring on Raskolnikov; he was instructed to wait behind the partition and emerge later, but Nikolai beat him to it and confessed. Porfiry then questioned both Nikolai and the tradesman after Raskolnikov left. The tradesman apologizes for his slander. Raskolnikov, however, recognizes that his struggles are far from over. He repeats to himself that all the evidence and the circumstances are “two-sided,” and he curses himself for the weakness he displayed in Porfiry’s office.
Once again, a character waits behind a wall or partition. Raskolnikov comes to realize that psychological evidence is “two-sided,” meaning it can be used either to support a thesis of guilt or to proclaim one’s innocence. For example, Raskolnikov might have fainted in the police station because he was the killer, or because he simply could not stand to hear about so gruesome a murder.