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Ne tece to reka,nego voda!Ne prolazi vreme,već mi!

Zodijak Taurus
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Knez je otišao iz salona i zatvorio se u svoju sobu. Za njim je odmah dotrčao Kolja da ga tješi. Siroti dječak kao da se više nije mogao odvojiti od njega.
 
— Dobro je što ste otišli — reče mu — sad će tamo nastati još veći lom nego što je bio maloprije. I svaki vam je dan kod nas tako, a sve se to zakuhalo zbog te Nastasje Filipovne.
 
— Tu se kod vas nakupilo mnogo jada i nevolje, Kolja - pripomene knez.
 
— Jest, mnogo jada i nevolje. Ali, o nama ne vrijedi ni govoriti. Sami smo svemu krivi. Nego, imam jednog velikog prijatelja koji je još nesretniji. Hoćete li da vas upoznam s njim?
 
— Kako da ne. Je li vam to kolega?
 
— Jest, tako nešto. Sve ću vam to poslije razjasniti... A lijepa je ta Nastasja Filipovna, što kažete? Nikad je dosad nisam još vidio, iako sam se mnogo trudio da je vidim. Naprosto me zaslijepila. Sve bih oprostio Ganjki kad bi on to činio iz ljubavi, ali što novac prima, to mu ne valja!
 
— Da, meni se vaš brat baš ne sviđa.
 
— Pa kako i bi! Poslije onoga što ste... A znate li da nikako ne trpim njihova kojekakva shvaćanja. Kakav god luđak, ili budala, ili zlikovac u abnormalnom stanju, opali čovjeku ćušku, i sad je tobože odmah čovjek obeščašćen do kraja života, i ne može to sprati drukčije nego krvlju, ili da ga na koljenima mole za oproštenje. Mislim da to nema smisla, to je despotizam. Na tome je zasnovana Ljermontovljeva drama Maskerata, a ja mislim da je to glupo. Naime, hoću da kažem, nije prirodno. Doduše, on ju je napisao, tako reći, još u djetinjstvu.
 
— Nego, vaša mi se sestra neobično svidjela.
 
— Kako je samo pljunula Ganjki u njušku! Odvažna je ta Varka! A vi niste pljunuli, ali sam uvjeren da to nije bilo iz nedostatka hrabrosti. A, evo i nje, mi o vuku, a vuk na vrata. Znao sam da će doći — plemenita je, iako ima svojih mana.
 
— A ti nemaš tu nikakva posla — obrecne se odmah Varja na njega — idi ocu. Dosađuje vam, kneže?
 
— Ni najmanje, dapače.
 
— E, starija sestro, već si počela! Eto, to je ono gadno kod nje. A zbilja, već sam mislio da će tata sigurno otići s Rogožinom. Bit će da se sad kaje. Baš da vidim šta je s njim — dometne Kolja izlazeći.
 
— Odvela sam, hvala bogu, mamu i spremila je u krevet, i ništa se više nije dogodilo. Ganja je zbunjen i vrlo zabrinut. A ima zbog čega, Ovo mu je bila dobra pouka!... Došla sam da vam još jednom zahvalim i da vas pitam, kneže, niste li možda otprije poznavali Nastasju Filipovnu?
 
— Ne, nisam je poznavao.
 
— Pa kako ste joj onda mogli reći onako u lice da »nije takva«? I čini mi se da ste pogodili. Pokazalo se da možda i nije takva. Uostalom, ja nju ne razumijem. Namjera joj je, naravno, bila da nas uvrijedi, to je jasno. Već sam i prije svašta o njoj čula. Ali, ako je došla da nas pozove k sebi, zašto se onda u početku onako držala prema mami? Pticin je dobro poznaje, ali kaže da je maloprije nikako nije mogao shvatiti. A ono s Rogožinom? Onako se ne može razgovarati, ako čovjek poštuje sam sebe, u kući svog... I mama se mnogo brine zbog vas.
 
— Nije to ništa! — reče knez i odmahne rukom.
 
— A kako vas je samo poslušala!
 
— Što me je poslušala?
 
— Rekli ste joj neka je bude stid, i odjednom se sva promijenila.
 
Vi možete na nju utjecati, kneže — nadoda Varja smješkajući se ovlaš.
 
Otvoriše se vrata i posve nenadano uđe Ganja.
 
Nije se nimalo smeo kad je ugledao Varju; časak je stajao na vratima, a onda je naglo i odlučno prišao knezu.
 
— Kneže, nečasno sam se ponio, oprostite mi, dragi moj — reče iznenada neobično osjećajno. Crte mu na licu odavahu veliku bol. Knez ga gledaše začudeno i ne odgovori mu odmah. - Ama, oprostite mi, oprostite, čujete li! - navaljivaše Ganja nestrpljivo. - Ama, ako baš hoćete, poljubit ću vam sad odmah ruku!
 
Knez bijaše duboko potresen te nijemo objema rukama zagrli Ganju. Iskreno se obojica izljubiše.
 
— Nipošto, nipošto nisam mislio da ste takvi — reče napokon knez, jedva predišući. - Mislio sam da... niste kadri...
 
— Priznati krivicu, je li?... A kako sam mogao maloprije i pomisliti da ste vi idiot? Vi zapažate ono što drugi ne bi nikad zapazili. S vama bi se čovjek mogao lijepo porazgovarati, ali... bolje je ništa ne govoriti!
 
— Evo pred kim još treba da priznate krivicu — reče knez pokazujući na Varju.
 
— Ne, to su mi već sami neprijatelji. Vjerujte mi, kneže, da sam više puta pokušao, ali ovdje nitko ne prašta od srca! - plahovito se ote Ganji, pa se okrene od Varje na drugu stranu.
 
— Ama, oprostit ću ti ja! — iznenada će Varja.
 
- I poći ćeš večeras sa mnom do Nastasje Filipovne?
 
- Poći ću ako baš hoćeš, ali prosudi i sam: kako joj ja sad uopće mogu otići?
 
- Ama, nije ona takva. Vidiš kakve nam zagonetke zadaje! Same mudrolije! - i Ganja se pakosno nasmije.
 
- Znam i sama da nije takva i da se služi mudrolijama, samo kakvim? A, osim toga, pazi dobro, Ganja, za koga te ona drži! Istina je da je mami poljubila ruku. Neka su to njene mudrolije, ali je tebe svejedno ismijala! Ne vrijedi to sedamdeset pet tisuća, tako mi boga, brate! Ti još nisi bez plemenitih osjećaja, zato ti i govorim ovako. Čuj me, ne idi ni ti onamo! Ćuvaj se, kad ti kažem! Ne može to na dobro izaći!
 
Pošto je to izrekla, onako uzrujana, Varja iziđe brže-bolje iz sobe.
 
- Eto, vazda one tako! - reče Ganja smješkajući se. - Pa zar zbilja misle da to ne znam i sam? Ama, znam ja kudikamo više od njih. 
Rekavši to, Ganja sjede na divan jer je, očito, želio da još ostane.
 
- Pa, kad već i sami znate - priupita ga knez prilično bojažljivo — što ste onda izabrali takve muke, ako ste znali da zaista ne vrijede sedamdeset pet tisuća?
 
- Ma ne govorim ja sad o tome - promrmlja Ganja. - A zbilja, recite mi što vi mislite, baš bih htio znati vaše mišljenje: vrijede li te »muke« sedamdeset pet tisuća ili ne vrijede?
 
- Ja mislim da ne vrijede.
 
- E pa, da, zna se. I sramota je da se čovjek zbog toga oženi?
 
- Velika sramota.
 
- E pa, onda znajte da ću se oženiti, o tom sad više nema dvojbe. Maloprije sam se još dvoumio, ali sad više ne! Nemojte mi ništa govoriti! Znam što hoćete reći...
 
- Neću o onome što vi mislite, nego se ne mogu načuditi toj vašoj uvjerenosti...
 
- Što? Kakvoj uvjerenosti?
 
- U to da će Nastasja Filipovna svakako poći za vas i da je to već svršena stvar, a drugo, ako i pođe, da će tih sedamdeset pet tisuća samo tako vama ravno u džep. Doduše, ja tu mnogo šta ne znam.
 
Ganja se naglo primakne knezu.
 
- Dakako da ne znate sve - reče. - A šta mislite, zašto bih ja uzimao na sebe sav taj teret?
 
— Meni se čini da se to često događa: ljudi se žene radi novaca, a novci ostanu kod žene.
 
— N-ne, kod nas neće biti tako... Tu... tu postoje neke okolnosti... — promrmlja Ganja nekako nujno i zamišljeno. — A što se tiče njena odgovora, o tom nema više dvojbe — doda brzo. — Po čemu ste zaključili da će me odbiti?
 
— Ništa ja ne znam osim onoga što sam vidio; ali, eto, i Varvara Ardalionovna je maloprije rekla...
 
— Eh! To one samo onako, ne znaju više što bi rekle. A Rogožinu se podsmjehivala, vjerujte mi, dobro sam vidio. To je bilo očito. Prije toga sam se pribojavao, ali sam sad sve lijepo vidio. Ili, možda, mislite na to kako se vladala prema mojoj majci, i prema ocu, i prema Varji?
 
— I prema vama.
 
— Pa dobro, ali to je prastara ženska osveta i ništa drugo. To vam je strašno razdražljiva, sumnjičava i tašta žena. Baš kao činovnik kojeg su zaobišli pri promaknuću! Htjela je da se iskaže i da pokaže sav svoj prezir prema njima... pa i prema meni, to je istina, ne poričem... Pa ipak će se udati za mene. Vi i ne slutite na kakve je sve trikove sposobna ljudska taština: eto, ona mene drži za hulju zato što nju, tuđu ljubavnicu, ovako otvoreno uzimam radi njenih para, a ne zna da bi joj neki drugi jos huljskije podvalio — saletio bi je i počeo se pred njom razbacivati liberalno-progresivnim nazorima i poslužio se kojekakvim ženskim problemima ne bi li je preveo žednu preko vode. Uvjerio bi je, uobraženu budalu (i to bez po muke), da je uzima samo zbog njena »plemenita srca« i zbog njene »nesreće«, a ipak bi je uzeo samo radi para. Ja joj baš nisam po ćudi zato što neću da okolišam, a morao bih. A što ona radi? Zar ne radi to isto? Pa što me onda prezire, što igra tu komediju? Zato što ne popuštam i što pokazujem da imam ponosa. E pa, vidjet ćemo još!
 
— A zar ste je prije toga voljeli?
 
— Isprva sam je volio. Ali, dosta sad o tome... Ima žena koje su dobre samo kao ljubavnice, koje nisu ni za šta drugo. Nisam htio reći da je bila moja ljubavnica. Ako bude htjela živjeti na miru, i ja ću živjeti na miru; ako se pobuni, istog časa ću je ostaviti, ali pare ću prigrabiti. Neću da budem smiješan; najvažnije mi je da ne ispadnem smiješan.
 
— Meni se sve čini — oprezno će knez — da je Nastasja Filipovna pametna žena. Zašto bi srljala u zamku ako naslućuje takve muke? Pa mogla bi se i za koga drugog udati! Eto, to mi je čudno.
 
— Pa u tome je baš njen račun! Vi tu ne znate sve, kneže... tu je... a, osim toga, ona je uvjerena da je ludo volim, kunem vam se, a znate šta, sve mi se čini da i ona mene voli, naime, na svoj način, znate onu uzrečicu: »Koga voliš, tog i tučeš«. Ona će mene do kraja života držati za pik zibnera (možda joj baš to i treba), pa ipak će me na svoj način voljeti; sprema se ona na to, takva joj je narav. Ona vam je prava Ruskinja, kažem vam, ali i ja njoj spremam iznenađenje. Do te scene maloprije s Varjom došlo je bilo slučajno, ali je meni dobro došla - sad je vidjela i uvjerila se koliko sam joj privržen, i da bih radi nje mogao raskinuti sve svoje veze. Nisam, dakle, ni ja baš takva budala, budite bez brige! Zbilja, ne mislite sad valjda da sam brbljavac? Možda dragi moj kneže, zaista griješim što vam se povjeravam. Ali baš zato što ste vi prvi plemenit čovjek na kojeg sam naišao, baš zato sam vas i saletio, naime, nemojte to »saletio« shvatiti kao dosjetku. Ne ljutite se valjda na mene zbog onog maloprije, a? Prvi put, možda, u ove dvije godine govorim od srca. Ovdje ima strašno malo poštenih ljudi; još je Pticin najpošteniji. Šta, kao da se smijete, ili mi se samo čini? Hulje vole poštene ljude, niste to znali? A ja ipak... A, uostalom, po čemu sam ja hulja, recite mi onako po duši? Zato što me sad svi, povodeći se za njom, smatraju huljom? A znate li da sam se za njima i za njom i ja poveo pa sam sebe smatram huljom! Eto, to je ono huljski!
 
- Ja vas sad više nikad neću držati za hulju — reče knez. — Maloprije sam već mislio da ste pravi zlotvor, a sad ste me najednom ovako obradovali. I to mi je sad pouka: ne sudi čovjeka dok ga nisi upoznao. Sad vidim da ne samo što niste zlotvor, nego da niste ni previše pokvaren čovjek. Po mom mišljenju, vi ste samo najobičniji čovjek kakav može biti, samo što ste vrlo slabi i nimalo originalni. 
Ganja se pakosno osmjehne više za se, ali ništa ne odgovori. Knez zapazi da mu se njegovo mišljenje nije svidjelo, pa se zbuni i također ušuti.
 
- Je li moj otac tražio od vas novaca? - zapita iznenada Ganja.
 
- Nije.
 
- Tražit će, ali mu ne dajte. A kad se samo sjetim kako je nekad bio, dapače, pristojan čovjek! Primali su ga i u bolje društvo. I kako samo svi oni brzo propadaju, svi ti stari pristojni ljudi! Čim se malo promijene prilike, raspline se sve ono nekadašnje, kao da je barut planuo. Nekad nije tako lagao, vjerujte mi; nekad je bio samo velik zanesenjak, a eto u što se izvrgao! Naravno, svemu je krivo piće. Znate li da drži ljubavnicu? Nije više puki nedužni lažljivac. Nikako ne mogu shvatiti tu maminu strpljivost. Je li vam pričao o opsadi Karsa? Ili o tome kako je njegov zelenko logov progovorio? Eto, vidite dokle je dotjerao.
 
I Ganja odjednom prasne u smijeh.
 
- Što me tako gledate? - priupita kneza.
 
- Pa, čudim se kako ste se sad od srca nasmijali. Smijeh vam je zbilja još djetinji. Maloprije ste došli da se pomirite, pa ste rekli:
 
»Ako hoćete, poljubit ću vam ruku« - baš onako kako se mire djeca. Prema tome, sposobni ste još da tako govorite i vladate se. A najednom razvezete cijelu lekciju o tom mraku oko sebe i o tih sedamdeset pet tisuća. Zbilja je sve to nekako besmisleno i nevjerojatno.
 
- I što biste iz svega toga htjeli zaključiti?
 
- To da možda ipak malo odveć lakoumno postupate, i da bi možda trebalo da još malo promislite? Možda Varvara Ardalionovna ima pravo.
 
- A, moral! Da sam još mladac, to i sam znam — upade mu Ganja plahovito u riječ - ako ni zbog čega drugog a ono zato što sam s vama poveo ovakav razgovor. Ne idem ja, kneže, u taj mrak iz računa — produži pravdajući se, kao mladić kome je pozlijeđena taština. — U računu bih se sigurno prevario jer ni umno ni karakterno nisam još sazreo. Nego, idem iz strasti, iz zanosa, zato što je preda mnom velik cilj. Eto, vi mislite da ću ja, čim dobijem tih sedamdeset pet tisuća, kupiti sebi kočiju. Ali neću, baš ću tada dokraja iznositi svoj preklanjski stari redengot i raskrstit ću sa svim svojim poznanstvima iz kluba. Kod nas ima malo ustrajnih ljudi, iako su svi lihvari, a ja baš hoću da ustrajem. Tu je najvažnije da dotjeraš do kraja - u tome je cijeli zadatak! Pticin je, kad mu je bilo sedamnaest godina, spavao na ulici, prodavao džepne nožiće, počeo je od kopjejke; sad ima šezdeset tisuća, ali koliko se za to nagombao! A ja ću, eto, sve to gombanje preskočiti i počet ću pravo od kapitala; za petnaest godina ljudi će govoriti:
 
»Eno Ivolgina, kralja judejskog!» Kažete da nisam originalan čovjek. Upamtite, dragi kneže, da nema ničeg uvredljivijeg za čovjeka našeg doba i rase nego kad mu kažete da nije originalan, da je karakterno slab, bez osobite nadarenosti, da je običan čovjek. Niste se udostojali čak ni da me držite za dobru hulju, i znajte da sam vas zbog toga htio maloprije progutati! Uvrijedili ste me gore nego Jepančin, koji misli (i to bez mnogo riječi, bez sablažnjavanja, iz puke prostodušnosti, da znate!) da bih mu mogao prodati svoju ženu! To me, dragi moj, već odavno grize, i zato sad hoću para. Kad zgrnem para, znajte da ću biti i te kako originalan čovjek. Novac je još nečasniji i gadniji baš zato što ti daje talent. I davat će dok bude svijeta i vijeka. Reći ćete da je sve ovo djetinjarija ili, možda, poezija, ali nije važno, zato će mi biti još draže, a ipak ću postići ono što sam nakanio. Tjerat ću do kraja i ustrajati. Rira bien qui rira le dernier! Zašto mene Jepančin toliko vrijeđa? Zato što je, možda, kivan na mene? Nipošto, ni govora. Nego naprosto zato što sam nitko i ništa. E, ali onda... Pa ipak, dosta je bilo, a i vrijeme je da prekinemo. Kolja je već dva puta pomolio nos na vrata, a to znači da vas poziva na ručak. A ja idem van. Svratit ću se do vas pokoji put. Neće vam biti loše kod nas; sad će vas odmah svi prigrliti kao svoga. Pazite da se opet ne izbrbljate! Čini mi se da ćemo nas dvojica biti ili prijatelji ili neprijatelji. A što mislite, kneže, da sam vam maloprije poljubio ruku (kao što sam vam od srca bio ponudio), ne bih li vam zbog toga poslije postao neprijatelj?
 
- Svakako, samo mi ne biste ostali neprijatelj, jer ne biste ustrajali, oprostili biste mi - zaključi knez pošto je promislio i nasmijao se.
 
- Ehe! Pa s vama treba biti oprezniji. Vrag bi vas znao, i tu ste sad malo dolili otrova. A tko zna, možda mi i jeste neprijatelj? Zbilja, ha-ha-ha! Zaboravio sam vas pitati — je li istina ono što mi se učinilo, da vam se Nastasja Filipovna nekako mnogo sviđa, a?
 
- Pa... sviđa mi se.
 
- Jeste li se zaljubili?
 
- N-nisam.
 
- A kako je samo pocrvenio i kako pati! Ma, dobro, ništa, ništa, neću vas peckati; do viđenja. A znate li da je ona poštena žena, hoćete li mi vjerovati? Mislite li da živi s onim, s Tockim? Ni govora! Već odavno ne živi. A jeste li primijetili kako je i ona strašno nespretna i kako je ono maloprije bila na mahove zbunjena? Bogami je bila. Eto, upravo takve vole da gospodare. E pa, zbogom!
 
Ganečka je izišao kudikamo sigurnije nego što je bio ušao, i bio je dobro raspoložen. Knez se desetak minuta nije ni pomaknuo, razmišljao je nešto.
 
Kolja ponovo pomoli glavu na vrata.
 
- Neću ručati, Kolja; maloprije sam se kod Jepančinovih dobro najeo.
 
Kolja uđe u sobu i pruži knezu nekakav papirić. Bio je od generala, presavijen i zapečaćen. Po Koljinu se licu vidjelo kako mu je bilo teško da ga uruči. Knez pročita, ustane i uze šešir.
 
- To je svega dva-tri koraka odavde - zbuni se Kolja. - Sad tamo sjedi za čašom. I kako je samo tamo stekao kredit, nije mi jasno. Kneže dragi, molim vas, nemojte poslije govoriti našima ovdje da sam vam donio to pisamce! Tisuću puta sam se već zakleo da mu ih neću nositi, ali mi ga je žao; nego, znate šta, nemojte se, molim vas, ništa ustručavati pred njim - dajte mu koju paru, i kvit posla.
 
- I sam sam baš nešto mislio, Kolja, treba da se vidim s vašim tatom... zbog nečega... Idemo, onda...
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Ne tece to reka,nego voda!Ne prolazi vreme,već mi!

Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
OS
Windows XP
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XII

 
Kolja nije daleko odveo kneza, samo do Litejne, u jednu kavanu s bilijarom, u prizemlju, s ulazom s ulice. Tu je zdesna, u kutu, u zasebnoj sobici, kao stari redoviti gost, zasjeo bio Ardalion Alek-sandrovič, s bocom pred sobom na stoliću i zaista s novinama Indépendence Belge u rukama. Očekivao je kneza; čim ga je spazio, odložio je novine i upustio še u vatreno i opširno objašnjavanje, od kojeg knez, doduše, nije gotovo ni riječi razumio jer general samo što nije bio bogin.
 
—  Nemam deset rubalja — upade mu knez u riječ — ali evo vam dvadeset pet, razmijenite ih pa mi vratite petnaest, jer nemam više ni prebijene pare.
 
—  O, svakako, budite uvjereni da ću sad odmah...
 
—  Nego, došao sam da vas nešto zamolim, generale. Vi niste nikad bili kod Nastasje Filipovne?
 
—  Ja? Ja da nisam bio? Vi to meni kažete? Više puta, dragi moj, više puta! — slavodobitno i podrugljivo uzvikne general, zadovoljan sam sobom. — Ali sam na kraju sam prestao odlaziti jer neću da potpomažem nedoličnu vezu. I sami ste vidjeli, bili ste danas svjedok: učinio sam sve što može učiniti otac, blag i milostiv otac; ali sad će stupiti na scenu otac drugčijeg kova, pa ćemo vidjeti što će biti: hoće li zaslužni stari ratnik nadvladati sve spletke, ili će se besramna kamelija uvući u jednu plemenitu obitelj!
 
—  Baš sam vas htio zamoliti ne biste li me, kao znanac, mogli večeras uvesti u kuću Nastasje Filipovne. To bi svakako moralo biti još danas, imam kod nje posla, ali naprosto ne znam kako da uđem. Maloprije su me predstavili njoj, ali me ona, ipak, nije pozvala: a večeras su onamo pozvani gosti. Inače sam spreman da preskočim neke formalnosti, pa neka mi se i smiju, samo da nekako dođem do nje.
 
—  Ama, taman ste, taman pogodili moju misao, mladi moj prijatelju — usklikne general ushićeno. — Pa nisam vas valjda zvao radi ove sitnice! - produži, ali uzgred uze novac i strpa ga u džep. —  Zvao sam upravo radi toga da zajedno pođemo u pohode Nastasji Filipovnoj, ili, još bolje, u pohod na Nastasju Filipovnu! General Ivolgin i knez Miškin! Kako će joj se to svidjeti? Napokon ću, pod krinkom ljubeznosti za njen rođendan, izložiti svoju volju — uvijeno, neću otvoreno, ali će biti svejedno kao i otvoreno. Tada će i Ganja uvidjeti što treba da radi: je li otac, zaslužan i... da tako kažem... i tako dalje, ili... Ali, što bude, bude! Vaša je ideja plodonosna u najvećoj mjeri. U devet ćemo krenuti, imamo još vremena.
 
—  A gdje ona stanuje?
 
—  Daleko odavde: kod Velikog kazališta, u kući Mitovcove, gotovo na samom trgu, na prvom katu... Neće u nje biti veliko društvo, iako slavi rođendan, i rano će se svi razići...
 
Bilo se već odavno smrklo; knez je svejednako sjedio, slušao i čekao generala koji je počinjao kazivati bezbrojne zgode, ali ni jedne nije dovršio. Kad je knez došao, naručio je još jednu bocu i tek je za sat vremena popio, pa je naručio drugu i nju također popio. Dotle je valjda ispripovjedio gotovo cijeli svoj život. Napokon knez ustane i reče da više ne može čekati. General ispi i posljednje kapi iz boce, ustane i pođe iz sobe hodajući prilično nesigurno. Knez je očajavao. Nije mu bilo jasno kako se mogao tako glupo pouzdati u tog čovjeka. Ali zapravo se i nije pouzdao u njega, nego je samo računao da će ga general nekako dovesti do Nastasje Filipovne, pa ma i po cijenu kakva skandala. Međutim, nije računao na kakav velik skandal — a general je bio trešten pijan i neobično razgovorljiv, pa je pričao bez kraja i konca, osjećajno, duše pune suza. Pričao je neprestano o tome kako zbog lošeg vladanja svih članova njegove obitelji sve propada, i kako je napokon vrijeme da se tome stane na kraj. Iziđoše najzad na ulicu. Još je bilo jugo; turoban, topao, nezdrav vjetar fijukao je ulicama, ekipaže su bućkale po blatu, kasači i kljusad zveckali potkovama po kolniku. Pješaci su kao turobna i pokisla svjetina švrljali ulicama. Bilo je i pijanaca.
 
—  Vidite li osvijetljene prozore na prvom katu ovih zgrada — govorio je general - tu vam stanuju moji drugovi, a ja, koji sam od svih njih najviše služio i najviše stradao, ja klipšem pješice do Velikog kazališta, do stana jedne sumnjive žene! Čovjek koji nosi u svojim grudima trinaest kugli... ne vjerujete mi? Pa ipak je specijalno radi mene Pirogov brzojavio u Pariz i napustio na neko vrijeme opsjednuti Sevastopolj, a Nélaton, pariski dvorski liječnik, ishodio u ime znanosti slobodan prolaz i došao u opsjednuti Sevastopolj da mene pregleda. Za to zna i vrhovna vlast: »A, to je onaj Ivolgin koji nosi u sebi trinaest kugli!...« Eto, tako govore o meni, molim lijepo! Vidite li, kneže, ovu kuću? Ovdje, na prvom katu, stanuje moj stari drug, general Sokolovič, sa svojom neobično čestitom i velikom obitelji. Eto, ta kuća i još tri kuće na Nevskom prospektu i dvije u Morskoj ulici — eto, to je cijeli današnji krug mojih poznanstava, naime, mojih osobnih poznanstava. Nina Aleksandrovna se već odavno pomirila sa sadašnjim prilikama. A ja i dalje živim sa svojim uspomenama... i, da tako kažem, odmaram se u naobraženom društvu svojih nekadašnjih drugova i potčinjenih koji me i dan-danas još obožavaju. Taj general Sokolović (doduše, već odavno nisam bio kod njega i nisam vidio Anu Fjodorovnu)... znate, dragi kneže, kad sâm nikog ne primaš, onda nekako i nehotice prestaneš odlaziti u posjete. Međutim... hm... kao da mi baš ne vjerujete... Uostalom, zašto ne bih uveo sina svoga najboljeg prijatelja i druga od malih nogu u ovaj čarobni obiteljski dom? General Ivolgin i knez Miškin! Vidjet ćete divnu djevojku, ma ne samo jednu, nego dvije, pa i tri, ures prijestolnice i otmjenog društva: ljepota, obrazovanost, idejna usmjerenost... žensko pitanje, poezija, sve se to zbilo u sretnu šaroliku smjesu, ne računajući miraz od najmanje osamdeset tisuća rubalja gotovine, za svaku od njih, što nikad nije naodmet bez obzira na ženska i socijalna pitanja... ukratko, bezuvjetno, bezuvjetno vas moram upoznati s tom obitelji. General Ivolgin i knez Miškin!
 
—  Sad? Odmah? Ali, zaboravili ste... — poče knez.
 
—  Ništa, ništa ja nisam zaboravio, idemo! Ovamo, uz ove velebne stube. Čudim se što nema vratara, ali... blagdan je, pa je vratar otišao u grad. Još nisu otjerali tu pijanicu. Taj Sokolovič svu svoju sreću u životu i službi duguje meni, samo meni i nikome drugome, ali... evo nas, stigli smo.
Knez se više nije protivio tom posjetu nego je pokorno išao za generalom da ga ne naljuti, tvrdo se uzdajući da će se general Sokolović i cijela njegova obitelj malo-pomalo rasplinuti kao priviđenje, da će se pokazati da i ne postoje, pa da će njih dvojica opet lijepo sići niza stube. Ali je, na svoj užas, počeo gubiti tu nadu — general ga je vodio uza stube kao čovjek koji tu zaista ima svojih znanaca te je neprestance ubacivao u svoje pričanje matematski točne biografske i topografske pojedinosti. Napokon, kad su se već popeli na prvi kat i stali na desnoj strani pred vratima jednog raskošnog stana, a general uhvatio za ručku zvonca, knez tvrdo naumi da pobjegne, ali ga jedna čudna okolnost načasak zadrži.
 
-  Zabunili ste se, generale - reče - na vratima piše Kulakov, a vi tražite Sokoloviča.
 
-  Kulakov... Kulakov još ništa ne znači. Stan je Sokolovičev, i ja zvonim Sokoloviču; pljujem ja na Kulakova... A, evo, otvaraju.
 
Vrata se doista otvoriše. Izviri lakaj i reče da »gospode nema kod kuće«.
 
-  Šteta, velika šteta, baš kao za pakost — ponovi nekoliko puta Ardalion Aleksandrovič izražavajući svoje najdublje žaljenje. - Recite im, dragi moj, da su general Ivolgin i knez Miškin željeli da im iskažu svoje poštovanje i da neobično, neobično žale...
 
U tom času izviri na otvorena vrata iz odaja još jedno lice, po svoj prilici lice gazdarice, možda čak i guvernante, dame od svojih četrdeset godina, u tamnoj haljini. Kad je začula imena generala Ivolgina i kneza Miškina, približi in se radoznalo i nepovjerljivo.
 
-  Marje Aleksandrovne nema kod kuće — prozbori zagledajući se napose u generala - otišli su s gospodičnom, s Aleksandrom Mihajlovnom, do bake.
 
- I Aleksandra Mihajlovna je izišla, o bože, baš nemamo sreće! I zamislite, gospodo, ja baš nikad nemam sreće! Pokorno vas molim da im izručite moje pozdrave, a Aleksandra Mihajlovna neka ne zaboravi... ukratko, izručite im moju srdačnu želju da im se ostvari ono što su same sebi zaželjele u četvrtak navečer, uz zvuke Chopinove balade; one će se već sjetiti... Od srca im to želim! General Ivolgin i knez Miškin!
 
-  Neću zaboraviti - nakloni im se na rastanku dama, koja je bila postala malo povjerljivija.
 
Silazeći niza stube, general je s jednakim žarom i dalje žalio što nisu zatekli domaćine kod kuće i što je knez ostao prikraćen za takvo divno poznanstvo.
 
—  Znate, dragi moj, ja sam vam u duši pomalo pjesnik, jeste li to primijetili? A uostalom... uostalom, čini mi se da i nismo bili na pravom mjestu — zaključi odjednom posve neočekivano. — Sokoloviči, sad sam se sjetio, stanuju u drugoj kući i, čini mi se, štoviše, da su sad u Moskvi. Da, malo sam se zabunio, ali... ništa za to.
 
—  Htio bih samo nešto znati — snuždeno će knez — mogu li se još uopće uzdati u vas i ne bi li bilo bolje da odem sam onamo?
 
—  Uzdati se? U mene? Sam? Ali zašto, za boga miloga, kad je to za mene neobično važan pothvat, o kojem ovisi mnogo šta u sudbini cijele moje obitelji? E, mladi moj prijatelju, slabo vi poznajete Ivolgina. Tko kaže »Ivolgin«, taj kao da je rekao »stanac kamen« - Ivolgin ti stoji kao stanac kamen, tako su govorili o meni još u eskadronu u kojem sam počeo služiti. Svratio bih samo ovako uz put načas u jednu kuću u kojoj mi se duša odmara, evo, već nekoliko godina, nakon svih velikih briga i kušnji...
 
—  Želite još svratiti kući?
 
—  Ne! Želim... do kapetanice Terentjeve, udovice kapetana Terentjeva, mog bivšeg potčinjenog... pa čak i prijatelja... Tu, kod te kapetanice, preporađam se duhovno i tu istresam svoje životne i obiteljske jade... A kako me je baš danas pritisnuo velik duševni teret, htio bih...
 
—  Meni se čini da sam ionako učinio veliku glupost što sam vas maloprije uznemirio — promrmlja knez. — Osim toga ste vi sad... Zbogom!
 
—  Ali ja vas sad ne mogu, ne mogu samo tako pustiti, mladi moj prijatelju! — navali general na njega. — Riječ je o jednoj udovici, majci obitelji, koja iz svog srca suče žice koje odjekuju u cijelom mom biću. Posjetit ćemo je samo na pet minuta, kod nje sam vam ja kao kod kuće, gotovo da tamo i stanujem; umit ću se, dotjerat ću se onoliko koliko je najnužnije, pa ćemo onda lijepo fijakerom skoknuti do Velikog kazališta. Budite uvjereni da ću vas trebati cijelu večer... Eto, to je ta kuća, već smo stigli... A, Kolja, ti si već ovdje? Šta, je li Marfa Borisovna kod kuće, ili si tek sad stigao?
 
—  Ma nisam — odgovori Kolja koji se baš namjerio na njih na ulazu u kuću - odavno sam već ovdje, kod Ipolita, njemu je opet gore, od jutros leži. Upravo sam pošao u dućan da kupim karte. Marfa Borisovna vas čeka. Samo, kakvi ste to, tata!... - završi Kolja zagledajući se u generala kako hoda i kako se drži. - Pa, hajdemo onda!
 
Susret s Koljom naveo je kneza da otprati generala i do Marfe Borisovne, ali samo načas. Knez je trebao Kolju; nakanio je da se generala svakako otrese, i nije mogao sebi oprostiti što se uopće oslonio na njega. Dugo su se penjali, na treći kat, i to uz stražnje stepenice.
 
—  Hoćete da predstavite kneza? — priupita uz put Kolja oca.
 
—  Hoću, dijete moje, da ga predstavim: general Ivolgin i knez Miškin, ali što... kako... Marfa Borisovna...
 
—  Znate, tata, bolje da se i ne pojavljujete! Progutat će vas! Već je treći dan kako niste nosa pomolili, a ona očekuje od vas novaca. Zašto ste joj uopće obećavali? Vječito vi tako! Sad pazite kako ćete se izvući!
 
Na trećem katu zastadoše pred oniskim vratima. General se, očito, bojao i gurao kneza preda se.
 
—  A ja ću ovdje ostati — mrmljao je — hoću da je iznenadim...
 
Kolja uđe prvi. Neka dama, sva nabijeljena i narumenjena, u papučama i kućnom haljetku, kose spletene u kratke pletenice, četrdesetih godina, izviri na vrata, pa generalovo iznenađenje neočekivano propade. Čim ga dama ugleda, digne dreku:
 
—  A, došao si, podmukli i prefrigani čovječe, slutilo je moje srce da ćeš doći.
 
—  Uđimo, ona to samo onako — promuca general knezu, svejednako se nedužno smješkajući.
 
Ali nije to ona govorila samo onako. Tek što su ušli, kroz mračno i nisko predsoblje, u usku dnevnu sobu zakrčenu s pola tuceta pletenih stolaca i dva kartaška stolića, domaćica odmah produži nekakvim neprirodnim plačljivim glasom koji joj je bio prešao u naviku:
 
—  I nije te stid, nije te stid, barbarine i tiranine moje obitelji, barbarine i izrode! Dogola si me opljačkao, krv mi popio i još nisi zadovoljan! Dokle ću te još trpjeti, besramni i nepošteni čovječe!
 
—  Marfo Borisovna, Marfo Borisovna! Ovo je... knez Miškin. General Ivolgin i knez Miškin - mucao je uzdrhtali i smeteni general.
 
—  Hoćete li mi vjerovati - obrati se iznenada kapetanica knezu - hoćete li mi vjerovati da taj bestidnik nije poštedio ni ovu moju siročad! Sve nam je uzeo, sve odvukao, sve prodao i založio, ništa nam nije ostavio. I šta da radim s onim tvojim zadužnicama, prefrigani i bezdušni čovječe? Odgovaraj, prefriganče, odgovaraj, zvijeri nezasitna — čime, čime da prehranim svoju siročad? I, eto, dolazi mi sad pijan, jedva se na nogama drži... Čime sam to Gospodina Boga razgnjevila, reci mi, prefriganče jedan odvratni, pokvareni!
Ali generalu sad nije bilo do toga.
 
—  Marfa Borisovna, evo vam dvadeset pet rubalja... to je sve što mogu učiniti, uz pomoć ovog svog plemenitog prijatelja! Kneže! Grdno sam se prevario! Takav vam je... život... A sad... oprostite, nekako sam slab — nastavi general stojeći nasred sobe i klanjajući se na sve strane — nekako sam slab, oprostite! Lenočka! Dodaj mi jastučić... dijete moje!
 
Osmogodišnja djevojčica Lenočka otrča brže-bolje po jastučić i stavi ga na tvrd i poderan divan presvučen voštanim platnom. General sjede na njega u namjeri da još štošta kaže, ali tek što se dotakne divana, nagne se na stranu, okrene zidu i zaspi kao zaklan. Marfa Borisovna pozva kneza izvještačenom i turobnom kretnjom da sjedne za kartaški stolić, pa i sama sjede sučelice njemu, podboči se rukom o desni obraz i poče nijemo uzdisati motreći kneza. Troje male djece, dvije djevojčice i jedan dječak, među kojima je Lenočka bila najstarija, priđoše stolu, sve troje staviše ruke na stol i sve troje počeše isto tako uporno promatrati kneza. Iz druge sobe dođe Kolja.
 
—  Baš mi je drago, Kolja, što sam vas ovdje zatekao — obrati mu se knez - možda biste mi vi mogli pomoći? Moram pošto-poto posjetiti Nastasju Filipovnu. Zamolio sam bio Ardaliona Aleksan-droviča, ali je on, eto, zaspao. Odvedite me onamo jer ne znam ni puta ni ulicu. Adresu, doduše, imam: to je negdje kod Velikog kazališta, u kući Mitovcove.
 
—  Nastasja Filipovna, kažete? Pa ona nikad nije stanovala kod Velikog kazališta, a moj otac nije nikad bio kod nje, ako baš hoćete znati; čudim se što ste se uopće nečemu nadali od njega. Ona vam stanuje nedaleko od Vladimirske, kod Pet uglova, a to je odavde mnogo bliže. Hoćete li da odmah pođemo? Sad vam je devet i pol. Izvolite, mogu vas odvesti!
 
Knez i Kolja odmah iziđoše. Ali, jao! Knez nije imao čime platiti fijaker, pa su morali pješice.
 
—  A baš sam vas htio upoznati s Ipolitom — reče Kolja — to vam je najstariji sin te kapetanice u haljetku, bio je u onoj drugoj sobi; bolestan je i danas je cijeli dan proležao. Ali je vrlo čudan; strašno je osjetljiv, pa sam mislio da će se postidjeti pred vama, zato što ste došli baš u ovakvom trenutku... Mene ipak nije toliko stid koliko njega, jer je meni to otac, a njemu je majka, to je ipak razlika jer za muški spol nema u tom smislu sramote. A, uostalom, možda je to i predrasuda, što se tiče prevlasti muškog spola u tom smislu. Ipolit je sjajan dečko, ali robuje izvjesnim predrasudama.
 
—  Kažete da boluje na pluća?
 
—  Da, čini mi se da bi bilo bolje da što prije umre. Ja bih na njegovu mjestu svakako želio umrijeti. Ali njemu je žao brata i sestara, onih malih ondje. Kad bismo samo mogli, kad bismo imali novaca, nas bismo dvojica unajmili zaseban stan i odrekli se svojih obitelji. To nam je san. A znate šta, kad sam mu maloprije ispričao što vam se danas dogodilo, on se čak razljutio i rekao da je hulja onaj tko dobije ćušku a ne izazove na dvoboj onoga tko ga je ćušio. Uostalom, strašno je razdražljiv pa se više i ne prepirem s njim. Tako, dakle, Nastasja Filipovna vas je odmah pozvala k sebi?
 
—  Ma, to je baš ono što nije.
 
—  Pa kako onda idete onamo? - usklikne Kolja i, štoviše, zastane nasred nogostupa. — I... i još tako obučeni, a onamo su pozvani gosti?
 
—  Bogami i ne znam kako ću ući. Ako me prime, dobro, a ako ne prime, onda je sve propalo. A što se tiče odijela, šta sad mogu?
 
—  A imate posla kod nje? Ili idete tek toliko, pour passer le temps u »dičnu društvu«?
 
—  Ne idem, zapravo ... naime, imam posla ... teško mi je to izraziti, ali...
 
—  Ama, po kakvu poslu idete, to me nije briga, nego mi je glavno da se tamo ne namećete društvu, onom čarobnom društvu kamelija, generala i lihvara. Jer, kad bi tako bilo, onda bih vam se, oprostite, kneže, nasmijao u brk i počeo vas prezirati. Ovdje ima strašno malo poštenih ljudi pa čovjek i nema koga poštivati. I nehotice ih gledaš s visine, a oni svi zahtijevaju da ih poštuješ; Varja prva. A jeste li primijetili, kneže, kako je ovo naše doba puno samih avanturista! I to baš kod nas, u Rusiji, u našoj dragoj domovini. Kako je do svega toga došlo, nije mi jasno. Reklo bi se da je donedavno još sve čvrsto stajalo, a šta je ovo sad? To svi govore i svugdje pišu o tome. Sve raskrinkavaju. Kod nas vam svi nešto raskrinkavaju. Roditelji se prvi povlače i sami se stide svog nekadašnjeg morala. Eno, u Moskvi je otac upućivao sina da ni od čega ne zazire u zgrtanju novaca; pisalo je u novinama. Pogledajte samo moga generala! Vidite li šta je od njega postalo! Ali, inače, znate šta, meni se čini da je moj general ipak pošten čovjek; bogme, jest! Svemu je tome kriva samo neurednost i piće. Bog i bogme! Naprosto mi ga je žao; samo se bojim da to kažem jer mi se svi smiju; a bogme mi ga je žao. A čime se mogu oni pohvaliti, ti pametni ljudi? Svi su lihvari, svi do jednoga! Ipolit opravdava lihvarstvo, kaže da tako mora biti, ekonomski potresi, nekakva plima i oseka, vrag ih odnio! Zbog toga se i te kako ljutim na njega, ali je on na sve ogorčen. Pomislite samo, njegova majka, ta kapetanica, prima od generala novce pa mu ih pozajmljuje uz kamate na kratak rok; sramota doboga! A znate li da mama, to jest moja mama, Nina Aleksandrovna, generalica, potpomaže Ipolita novcem, odjećom, rubljem i svačim, pa i djecu donekle potpomaže, preko Ipolita, jer ih je ona njihova mati zapustila. Pa i Varja ih pomaže.
 
—  Eto, vidite, kažete da nema poštenih i snažnih ljudi, i da su sve sami lihvari, a vidite da ima i snažnih ljudi, eto vam vaše majke i Varje. Zar pomaganje ovdje i u ovakvim prilikama nije znak moralne snage?
 
—  Ma Varja to čini iz taštine, razmeće se, da ne zaostane za majkom; ali mama zbilja... svaka joj čast. Da, kod nje to poštujem i odobravam. Čak je i Ipolit ganut, a on je gotovo sasvim okorio. Iz početka se rugao i govorio da to nije pošteno od mame; ali sad je ponekad i ganut. Hm! Vama je to, dakle, snaga? Zapamtit ću to. Ganja ne zna za to, a da zna, nazvao bi to slabošću.
 
—  Ganja ne zna za to? Čini mi se da Ganja još mnogo toga ne zna — ote se zamišljenom knezu.
 
—  A znate li, kneže, da mi se baš sviđate. Nikako mi ne ide iz glave ono što vam se danas dogodilo.
 
—  Pa i vi se meni, Kolja, i te kako sviđate.
 
—  Čujte, kako namjeravate ovdje živjeti? Uskoro ću ja doći do nekog posla pa ću pomalo zarađivati, pa hajde da ja, vi i Ipolit, sva trojica zajedno, nađemo neki stan; a general će nam dolaziti u posjete.
 
—  Drage volje. Ali još ćemo, uostalom, vidjeti. Sad sam vrlo... vrlo uzrujan. Što? Već smo stigli? U ovoj kući... kakav raskošan ulaz! I vratar. E, Kolja, ne znam što će se iz ovoga izleći.
 
Knez je stajao nekako potišten.
 
—  Sutra ćete mi sve ispričati! Nemojte se toliko plašiti! Neka vam bog pomogne, jer ja imam o svemu ista uvjerenja kao i vi! Zbogom. Idem sad natrag pa ću sve ispričati Ipolitu. A da će vas primiti, o tom nema ni sumnje, ne bojte se ništa! Ona je strašno originalna. Uz ove stepenice do prizemlja, vratar će vam pokazati!
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The Idiot




Part I

I


Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o'clock one
morning, a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was
approaching the latter city at full speed. The morning was so
damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the
day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish
anything more than a few yards away from the carriage windows.

Some of the passengers by this particular train were returning
from abroad; but the third-class carriages were the best filled,
chiefly with insignificant persons of various occupations and
degrees, picked up at the different stations nearer town. All of
them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a
shivering expression, while their complexions generally appeared
to have taken on the colour of the fog outside.

When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third-class
carriages found themselves opposite each other. Both were young
fellows, both were rather poorly dressed, both had remarkable
faces, and both were evidently anxious to start a conversation.
If they had but known why, at this particular moment, they were
both remarkable persons, they would undoubtedly have wondered at
the strange chance which had set them down opposite to one
another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway Company.

One of them was a young fellow of about twenty-seven, not tall,
with black curling hair, and small, grey, fiery eyes. His nose
was broad and flat, and he had high cheek bones; his thin lips
were constantly compressed into an impudent, ironical--it might
almost be called a malicious--smile; but his forehead was high
and well formed, and atoned for a good deal of the ugliness of
the lower part of his face. A special feature of this physiognomy
was its death-like pallor, which gave to the whole man an
indescribably emaciated appearance in spite of his hard look, and
at the same time a sort of passionate and suffering expression
which did not harmonize with his impudent, sarcastic smile and
keen, self-satisfied bearing. He wore a large fur--or rather
astrachan--overcoat, which had kept him warm all night, while his
neighbour had been obliged to bear the full severity of a Russian
November night entirely unprepared. His wide sleeveless mantle
with a large cape to it--the sort of cloak one sees upon
travellers during the winter months in Switzerland or North
Italy--was by no means adapted to the long cold journey through
Russia, from Eydkuhnen to St. Petersburg.

The wearer of this cloak was a young fellow, also of about
twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age, slightly above the
middle height, very fair, with a thin, pointed and very light
coloured beard; his eyes were large and blue, and had an intent
look about them, yet that heavy expression which some people
affirm to be a peculiarity. as well as evidence, of an epileptic
subject. His face was decidedly a pleasant one for all that;
refined, but quite colourless, except for the circumstance that
at this moment it was blue with cold. He held a bundle made up of
an old faded silk handkerchief that apparently contained all his
travelling wardrobe, and wore thick shoes and gaiters, his whole
appearance being very un-Russian.

His black-haired neighbour inspected these peculiarities, having
nothing better to do, and at length remarked, with that rude
enjoyment of the discomforts of others which the common classes
so often show:

"Cold?"

"Very," said his neighbour, readily. "and this is a thaw, too.
Fancy if it had been a hard frost! I never thought it would be so
cold in the old country. I've grown quite out of the way of it."

"What, been abroad, I suppose?"

"Yes, straight from Switzerland."

"Wheugh! my goodness!" The black-haired young fellow whistled,
and then laughed.

The conversation proceeded. The readiness of the fair-haired
young man in the cloak to answer all his opposite neighbour's
questions was surprising. He seemed to have no suspicion of any
impertinence or inappropriateness in the fact of such questions
being put to him. Replying to them, he made known to the inquirer
that he certainly had been long absent from Russia, more than
four years; that he had been sent abroad for his health; that he
had suffered from some strange nervous malady--a kind of
epilepsy, with convulsive spasms. His interlocutor burst out
laughing several times at his answers; and more than ever, when
to the question, " whether he had been cured?" the patient
replied:

"No, they did not cure me."

"Hey! that's it! You stumped up your money for nothing, and we
believe in those fellows, here!" remarked the black-haired
individual, sarcastically.

"Gospel truth, sir, Gospel truth!" exclaimed another passenger, a
shabbily dressed man of about forty, who looked like a clerk, and
possessed a red nose and a very blotchy face. "Gospel truth! All
they do is to get hold of our good Russian money free, gratis,
and for nothing. "

"Oh, but you're quite wrong in my particular instance," said the
Swiss patient, quietly. "Of course I can't argue the matter,
because I know only my own case; but my doctor gave me money--and
he had very little--to pay my journey back, besides having kept
me at his own expense, while there, for nearly two years."

"Why? Was there no one else to pay for you?" asked the black-
haired one.

"No--Mr. Pavlicheff, who had been supporting me there, died a
couple of years ago. I wrote to Mrs. General Epanchin at the time
(she is a distant relative of mine), but she did not answer my
letter. And so eventually I came back."

"And where have you come to?"

"That is--where am I going to stay? I--I really don't quite know
yet, I--"

Both the listeners laughed again.

"I suppose your whole set-up is in that bundle, then?" asked the
first.

"I bet anything it is!" exclaimed the red-nosed passenger, with
extreme satisfaction, "and that he has precious little in the
luggage van!--though of course poverty is no crime--we must
remember that!"

It appeared that it was indeed as they had surmised. The young
fellow hastened to admit the fact with wonderful readiness.

"Your bundle has some importance, however," continued the clerk,
when they had laughed their fill  (it was observable that the
subject of their mirth joined in the laughter when he saw them
laughing); "for though I dare say it is not stuffed full of
friedrichs d'or and louis d'or--judge from your costume and
gaiters--still--if you can add to your possessions such a
valuable property as a relation like Mrs. General Epanchin, then
your bundle becomes a significant object at once. That is, of
course, if you really are a relative of Mrs. Epanchin's, and have
not made a little error through--well, absence of mind, which is
very common to human beings; or, say--through a too luxuriant
fancy?"

"Oh, you are right again," said the fair-haired traveller, "for I
really am ALMOST wrong when I say she and I are related. She is
hardly a relation at all; so little, in fact, that I was not in
the least surprised to have no answer to my letter. I expected as
much."

"H'm! you spent your postage for nothing, then. H'm! you are
candid, however--and that is commendable. H'm!  Mrs. Epanchin--oh
yes! a most eminent person. I know her. As for Mr. Pavlicheff,
who supported you in Switzerland, I know him too--at least, if it
was Nicolai Andreevitch of that name? A fine fellow he was--and
had a property of four thousand souls in his day."

"Yes, Nicolai Andreevitch--that was his name," and the young
fellow looked earnestly and with curiosity at the all-knowing
gentleman with the red nose.

This sort of character is met with pretty frequently in a certain
class. They are people who know everyone--that is, they know
where a man is employed, what his salary is, whom he knows, whom
he married, what money his wife had, who are his cousins, and
second cousins, etc., etc. These men generally have about a
hundred pounds a year to live on, and they spend their whole time
and talents in the amassing of this style of knowledge, which
they reduce--or raise--to the standard of a science.

During the latter part of the conversation the black-haired young
man had become very impatient. He stared out of the window, and
fidgeted, and evidently longed for the end of the journey. He was
very absent; he would appear to listen-and heard nothing; and he
would laugh of a sudden, evidently with no idea of what he was
laughing about.

"Excuse me," said the red-nosed man to the young fellow with the
bundle, rather suddenly; "whom have I the honour to be talking
to?"

"Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Muishkin," replied the latter, with
perfect readiness.

"Prince Muishkin? Lef Nicolaievitch? H'm! I don't know, I'm sure!
I may say I have never heard of such a person," said the clerk,
thoughtfully. "At least, the name, I admit, is historical.
Karamsin must mention the family name, of course, in his history-
-but as an individual--one never hears of any Prince Muishkin
nowadays."

"Of course not," replied the prince; "there are none, except
myself. I believe I am the last and only one. As to my
forefathers, they have always been a poor lot; my own father was
a sublieutenant in the army. I don't know how Mrs. Epanchin comes
into the Muishkin family, but she is descended from the Princess
Muishkin, and she, too, is the last of her line."

"And did you learn science and all that, with your professor over
there?" asked the black-haired passenger.

"Oh yes--I did learn a little, but--"

"I've never learned anything whatever," said the other.

"Oh, but I learned very little, you know!" added the prince, as
though excusing himself. "They could not teach me very much on
account of my illness. "

"Do you know the Rogojins?" asked his questioner, abruptly.

"No, I don't--not at all! I hardly know anyone in Russia. Why, is
that your name?"

"Yes, I am Rogojin, Parfen Rogojin."

"Parfen Rogojin? dear me--then don't you belong to those very
Rogojins, perhaps--" began the clerk, with a very perceptible
increase of civility in his tone.

"Yes--those very ones," interrupted Rogojin, impatiently, and
with scant courtesy. I may remark that he had not once taken any
notice of the blotchy-faced passenger, and had hitherto addressed
all his remarks direct to the prince.

"Dear me--is it possible?" observed the clerk, while his face
assumed an expression of great deference and servility--if not of
absolute alarm: "what, a son of that very Semen Rogojin--
hereditary honourable citizen--who died a month or so ago and
left two million and a half of roubles?"

"And how do YOU know that he left two million and a half of
roubles?" asked Rogojin, disdainfully, and no deigning so much as
to look at the other. "However, it's true enough that my father
died a month ago, and that here am I returning from Pskoff, a
month after, with hardly a boot to my foot. They've treated me like
a dog! I've been ill of fever at Pskoff the whole time, and not a
line, nor farthing of money, have I received from my mother or my
confounded brother!"

"And now you'll have a million roubles, at least--goodness
gracious me!" exclaimed the clerk, rubbing his hands.

"Five weeks since, I was just like yourself," continued Rogojin,
addressing the prince, "with nothing but a bundle and the clothes
I wore. I ran away from my father and came to Pskoff to my aunt's
house, where I caved in at once with fever, and he went and died
while I was away. All honour to my respected father's memory--but
he uncommonly nearly killed me, all the same. Give you my word,
prince, if I hadn't cut and run then, when I did, he'd have
murdered me like a dog."

"I suppose you angered him somehow?" asked the prince, looking at
the millionaire with considerable curiosity But though there may
have been something remarkable in the fact that this man was heir
to millions of roubles there was something about him which
surprised and interested the prince more than that. Rogojin, too,
seemed to have taken up the conversation with unusual alacrity it
appeared that he was still in a considerable state of excitement,
if not absolutely feverish, and was in real need of someone to
talk to for the mere sake of talking, as safety-valve to his
agitation.

As for his red-nosed neighbour, the latter--since the information
as to the identity of Rogojin--hung over him, seemed to be living
on the honey of his words and in the breath of his nostrils,
catching at every syllable as though it were a pearl of great
price.

"Oh, yes; I angered him--I certainly did anger him," replied
Rogojin. "But what puts me out so is my brother. Of course my
mother couldn't do anything--she's too old--and whatever brother
Senka says is law for her! But why couldn't he let me know? He
sent a telegram, they say. What's the good of a telegram? It
frightened my aunt so that she sent it back to the office
unopened, and there it's been ever since! It's only thanks to
Konief that I heard at all; he wrote me all about it. He says my
brother cut off the gold tassels from my father's coffin, at
night because they're worth a lot of money!' says he. Why, I can
get him sent off to Siberia for that alone, if I like; it's
sacrilege. Here, you--scarecrow!" he added, addressing the clerk
at his side, "is it sacrilege or not, by law?'

"Sacrilege, certainly--certainly sacrilege," said the latter.

"And it's Siberia for sacrilege, isn't it?"

"Undoubtedly so; Siberia, of course!"

"They will think that I'm still ill," continued Rogojin to the
prince, "but I sloped off quietly, seedy as I was, took the train
and came away. Aha, brother Senka, you'll have to open your gates
and let me in, my boy! I know he told tales about me to my
father--I know that well enough but I certainly did rile my
father about Nastasia Philipovna that's very sure, and that was
my own doing."

"Nastasia Philipovna?" said the clerk, as though trying to think
out something.

"Come, you know nothing about HER," said Rogojin, impatiently.

"And supposing I do know something?" observed the other,
triumphantly.

"Bosh! there are plenty of Nastasia Philipovnas. And what an
impertinent beast you are!" he added angrily. "I thought some
creature like you would hang on to me as soon as I got hold of my
money. "

"Oh, but I do know, as it happens," said the clerk in an
aggravating manner. "Lebedeff knows all about her. You are
pleased to reproach me, your excellency, but what if I prove that
I am right after all? Nastasia Phillpovna's family name is
Barashkoff--I know, you see-and she is a very well known lady,
indeed, and comes of a good family, too. She is connected with
one Totski, Afanasy Ivanovitch, a man of considerable property, a
director of companies, and so on, and a great friend of General
Epanchin, who is interested in the same matters as he is."

"My eyes!" said Rogojin, really surprised at last. "The devil
take the fellow, how does he know that?"

"Why, he knows everything--Lebedeff knows everything! I was a
month or two with Lihachof after his father died, your
excellency, and while he was knocking about--he's in the debtor's
prison now--I was with him, and he couldn't do a thing without
Lebedeff; and I got to know Nastasia Philipovna and several
people at that time."

"Nastasia Philipovna? Why, you don't mean to say that she and
Lihachof--" cried Rogojin, turning quite pale.

"No, no, no, no, no! Nothing of the sort, I assure you!" said
Lebedeff, hastily. "Oh dear no, not for the world! Totski's the
only man with any chance there. Oh, no! He takes her to his box
at the opera at the French theatre of an evening, and the
officers and people all look at her and say, 'By Jove, there's
the famous Nastasia Philipovna!' but no one ever gets any further
than that, for there is nothing more to say."

"Yes, it's quite true," said Rogojin, frowning gloomily; "so
Zaleshoff told me. I was walking about the Nefsky one fine day,
prince, in my father's old coat, when she suddenly came out of a
shop and stepped into her carriage. I swear I was all of a blaze
at once. Then I met Zaleshoff--looking like a hair-dresser's
assistant, got up as fine as I don't know who, while I looked
like a tinker. 'Don't flatter yourself, my boy,' said he; 'she's
not for such as you; she's a princess, she is, and her name is
Nastasia Philipovna Barashkoff, and she lives with Totski, who
wishes to get rid of her because he's growing rather old--fifty-
five or so--and wants to marry a certain beauty, the loveliest
woman in all Petersburg.' And then he told me that I could see
Nastasia Philipovna at the opera-house that evening, if I liked,
and described which was her box. Well, I'd like to see my father
allowing any of us to go to the theatre; he'd sooner have killed
us, any day. However, I went for an hour or so and saw Nastasia
Philipovna, and I never slept a wink all night after. Next
morning my father happened to give me two government loan bonds
to sell, worth nearly five thousand roubles each. 'Sell them,'
said he, 'and then take seven thousand five hundred roubles to
the office, give them to the cashier, and bring me back the rest
of the ten thousand, without looking in anywhere on the way; look
sharp, I shall be waiting for you.' Well, I sold the bonds, but I
didn't take the seven thousand roubles to the office; I went
straight to the English shop and chose a pair of earrings, with a
diamond the size of a nut in each. They cost four hundred roubles
more than I had, so I gave my name, and they trusted me. With the
earrings I went at once to Zaleshoff's. 'Come on!' I said, 'come
on to Nastasia Philipovna's,' and off we went without more ado. I
tell you I hadn't a notion of what was about me or before me or
below my feet all the way; I saw nothing whatever. We went
straight into her drawing-room, and then she came out to us.

"I didn't say right out who I was, but Zaleshoff said: 'From
Parfen Rogojin, in memory of his first meeting with you
yesterday; be so kind as to accept these!'

"She opened the parcel, looked at the earrings, and laughed.

"'Thank your friend Mr. Rogojin for his kind attention,' says
she, and bowed and went off. Why didn't I die there on the spot?
The worst of it all was, though, that the beast Zaleshoff got all
the credit of it! I was short and abominably dressed, and stood
and stared in her face and never said a word, because I was shy,
like an ass! And there was he all in the fashion, pomaded and
dressed out, with a smart tie on, bowing and scraping; and I bet
anything she took him for me all the while!

"'Look here now,' I said, when we came out, 'none of your
interference here after this-do you understand?' He laughed: 'And
how are you going to settle up with your father?' says he. I
thought I might as well jump into the Neva at once without going
home first; but it struck me that I wouldn't, after all, and I
went home feeling like one of the damned."

"My goodness!" shivered the clerk. "And his father," he added,
for the prince's instruction, "and his father would have given a
man a ticket to the other world for ten roubles any day--not to
speak of ten thousand!"

The prince observed Rogojin with great curiosity; he seemed paler
than ever at this moment.

"What do you know about it?" cried the latter. "Well, my father
learned the whole story at once, and Zaleshoff blabbed it all
over the town besides. So he took me upstairs and locked me up,
and swore at me for an hour. 'This is only a foretaste,' says he;
'wait a bit till night comes, and I'll come back and talk to you
again.'

"Well, what do you think? The old fellow went straight off to
Nastasia Philipovna, touched the floor with his forehead, and
began blubbering and beseeching her on his knees to give him back
the diamonds. So after awhile she brought the box and flew out at
him. 'There,' she says, 'take your earrings, you wretched old
miser; although they are ten times dearer than their value to me
now that I know what it must have cost Parfen to get them! Give
Parfen my compliments,' she says, 'and thank him very much!'
Well, I meanwhile had borrowed twenty-five roubles from a friend,
and off I went to Pskoff to my aunt's. The old woman there
lectured me so that I left the house and went on a drinking tour
round the public-houses of the place. I was in a high fever when
I got to Pskoff, and by nightfall I was lying delirious in the
streets somewhere or other!"

"Oho! we'll make Nastasia Philipovna sing another song now!"
giggled Lebedeff, rubbing his hands with glee. "Hey, my boy,
we'll get her some proper earrings now! We'll get her such
earrings that--"

"Look here," cried Rogojin, seizing him fiercely by the arm,
"look here, if you so much as name Nastasia Philipovna again,
I'll tan your hide as sure as you sit there!"

"Aha! do--by all means! if you tan my hide you won't turn me away
from your society. You'll bind me to you, with your lash, for
ever. Ha, ha! here we are at the station, though."

Sure enough, the train was just steaming in as he spoke.

Though Rogojin had declared that he left Pskoff secretly, a large
collection of friends had assembled to greet him, and did so with
profuse waving of hats and shouting.

"Why, there's Zaleshoff here, too!" he muttered, gazing at the
scene with a sort of triumphant but unpleasant smile. Then he
suddenly turned to the prince: "Prince, I don't know why I have
taken a fancy to you; perhaps because I met you just when I did.
But no, it can't be that, for I met this fellow " (nodding at
Lebedeff) "too, and I have not taken a fancy to him by any means.
Come to see me, prince; we'll take off those gaiters of yours and
dress you up in a smart fur coat, the best we can buy. You shall
have a dress coat, best quality, white waistcoat, anything you
like, and your pocket shall be full of money. Come, and you shall
go with me to Nastasia Philipovna's. Now then will you come or
no?"

"Accept, accept, Prince Lef Nicolaievitch" said Lebedef solemnly;
"don't let it slip! Accept, quick!"

Prince Muishkin rose and stretched out his hand courteously,
while he replied with some cordiality:

"I will come with the greatest pleasure, and thank you very much
for taking a fancy to me. I dare say I may even come today if I
have time, for I tell you frankly that I like you very much too.
I liked you especially when you told us about the diamond
earrings; but I liked you before that as well, though you have
such a dark-clouded sort of face. Thanks very much for the offer
of clothes and a fur coat; I certainly shall require both clothes
and coat very soon. As for money, I have hardly a copeck about me
at this moment."

"You shall have lots of money; by the evening I shall have
plenty; so come along!"

"That's true enough, he'll have lots before evening!" put in
Lebedeff.

"But, look here, are you a great hand with the ladies? Let's know
that first?" asked Rogojin.

"Oh no, oh no! said the prince; "I couldn't, you know--my
illness--I hardly ever saw a soul."

"H'm! well--here, you fellow-you can come along with me now if
you like!" cried Rogojin to Lebedeff, and so they all left the
carriage.

Lebedeff had his desire. He went off with the noisy group of
Rogojin's friends towards the Voznesensky, while the prince's
route lay towards the Litaynaya. It was damp and wet. The prince
asked his way of passers-by, and finding that he was a couple of
miles or so from his destination, he determined to take a
droshky.
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II

General Epanchin lived in his own house near the Litaynaya.
Besides this large residence--five-sixths of which was let in
flats and lodgings-the general was owner of another enormous
house in the Sadovaya bringing in even more rent than the first.
Besides these houses he had a delightful little estate just out
of town, and some sort of factory in another part of the city.
General Epanchin, as everyone knew, had a good deal to do with
certain government monopolies; he was also a voice, and an
important one, in many rich public companies of various
descriptions; in fact, he enjoyed the reputation of being a well-
to-do man of busy habits, many ties, and affluent means. He had
made himself indispensable in several quarters, amongst others in
his department of the government; and yet it was a known fact
that Fedor Ivanovitch Epanchin was a man of no education
whatever, and had absolutely risen from the ranks.

This last fact could, of course, reflect nothing but credit upon
the general; and yet, though unquestionably a sagacious man, he
had his own little weaknesses-very excusable ones,--one of which
was a dislike to any allusion to the above circumstance. He was
undoubtedly clever. For instance, he made a point of never
asserting himself when he would gain more by keeping in the
background; and in consequence many exalted personages valued him
principally for his humility and simplicity, and because "he knew
his place." And yet if these good people could only have had a
peep into the mind of this excellent fellow who "knew his place"
so well! The fact is that, in spite of his knowledge of the world
and his really remarkable abilities, he always liked to appear to
be carrying out other people's ideas rather than his own. And
also, his luck seldom failed him, even at cards, for which he had
a passion that he did not attempt to conceal. He played for high
stakes, and moved, altogether, in very varied society.

As to age, General Epanchin was in the very prime of life; that
is, about fifty-five years of age,--the flowering time of
existence, when real enjoyment of life begins. His healthy
appearance, good colour, sound, though discoloured teeth, sturdy
figure, preoccupied air during business hours, and jolly good
humour during his game at cards in the evening, all bore witness
to his success in life, and combined to make existence a bed of
roses to his excellency. The general was lord of a flourishing
family, consisting of his wife and three grown-up daughters. He
had married young, while still a lieutenant, his wife being a
girl of about his own age, who possessed neither beauty nor
education, and who brought him no more than fifty souls of landed
property, which little estate served, however, as a nest-egg for
far more important accumulations. The general never regretted his
early marriage, or regarded it as a foolish youthful escapade;
and he so respected and feared his wife that he was very near
loving her. Mrs. Epanchin came of the princely stock of Muishkin,
which if not a brilliant, was, at all events, a decidedly ancient
family; and she was extremely proud of her descent.

With a few exceptions, the worthy couple had lived through their
long union very happily. While still young the wife had been able
to make important friends among the aristocracy, partly by virtue
of her family descent, and partly by her own exertions; while, in
after life, thanks to their wealth and to the position of her
husband in the service, she took her place among the higher
circles as by right.

During these last few years all three of the general's daughters-
Alexandra, Adelaida, and Aglaya--had grown up and matured. Of
course they were only Epanchins, but their mother's family was
noble; they might expect considerable fortunes; their father had
hopes of attaining to very high rank indeed in his country's
service-all of which was satisfactory. All three of the girls
were decidedly pretty, even the eldest, Alexandra, who was just
twenty-five years old. The middle daughter was now twenty-three,
while the youngest, Aglaya, was twenty. This youngest girl was
absolutely a beauty, and had begun of late to attract
considerable attention in society. But this was not all, for every
one of the three was clever, well educated, and accomplished.

It was a matter of general knowledge that the three girls were
very fond of one another, and supported each other in every way;
it was even said that the two elder ones had made certain
sacrifices for the sake of the idol of the household, Aglaya. In
society they not only disliked asserting themselves, but were
actually retiring. Certainly no one could blame them for being
too arrogant or haughty, and yet everybody was well aware that
they were proud and quite understood their own value. The eldest
was musical, while the second was a clever artist, which fact she
had concealed until lately. In a word, the world spoke well of
the girls; but they were not without their enemies, and
occasionally people talked with horror of the number of books
they had read.

They were in no hurry to marry. They liked good society, but were
not too keen about it. All this was the more remarkable, because
everyone was well aware of the hopes and aims of their parents.

It was about eleven o'clock in the forenoon when the prince rang
the bell at General Epanchin's door. The general lived on the
first floor or flat of the house, as modest a lodging as his
position permitted. A liveried servant opened the door, and the
prince was obliged to enter into long explanations with this
gentleman, who, from the first glance, looked at him and his
bundle with grave suspicion. At last, however, on the repeated
positive assurance that he really was Prince Muishkin, and must
absolutely see the general on business, the bewildered domestic
showed him into a little ante-chamber leading to a waiting-room
that adjoined the general's study, there handing him over to
another servant, whose duty it was to be in this ante-chamber
all the morning, and announce visitors to the general. This
second individual wore a dress coat, and was some forty years of
age; he was the general's special study servant, and well aware
of his own importance.

"Wait in the next room, please; and leave your bundle here," said
the door-keeper, as he sat down comfortably in his own easy-chair
in the ante-chamber. He looked at the prince in severe surprise
as the latter settled himself in another chair alongside, with
his bundle on his knees.

"If you don't mind, I would rather sit here with you," said the
prince; "I should prefer it to sitting in there."

"Oh, but you can't stay here. You are a visitor--a guest, so to
speak. Is it the general himself you wish to see?"

The man evidently could not take in the idea of such a shabby-
looking visitor, and had decided to ask once more.

"Yes--I have business--" began the prince.

"I do not ask you what your business may be, all I have to do is
to announce you; and unless the secretary comes in here I cannot
do that."

The man's suspicions seemed to increase more and more. The prince
was too unlike the usual run of daily visitors; and although the
general certainly did receive, on business, all sorts and
conditions of men, yet in spite of this fact the servant felt
great doubts on the subject of this particular visitor. The
presence of the secretary as an intermediary was, he judged,
essential in this case.

"Surely you--are from abroad?" he inquired at last, in a confused
sort of way. He had begun his sentence intending to say, "Surely
you are not Prince Muishkin, are you?"

"Yes, straight from the train! Did not you intend to say, 'Surely
you are not Prince Muishkin?' just now, but refrained out of
politeness ?"

"H'm!" grunted the astonished servant.

"I assure you I am not deceiving you; you shall not have to
answer for me. As to my being dressed like this, and carrying a
bundle, there's nothing surprising in that--the fact is, my
circumstances are not particularly rosy at this moment."

"H'm!--no, I'm not afraid of that, you see; I have to announce
you, that's all. The secretary will be out directly-that is,
unless you--yes, that's the rub--unless you--come, you must allow
me to ask you--you've not come to beg, have you?"

"Oh dear no, you can be perfectly easy on that score. I have
quite another matter on hand."

"You must excuse my asking, you know. Your appearance led me to
think--but just wait for the secretary; the general is busy now,
but the secretary is sure to come out."

"Oh--well, look here, if I have some time to wait, would you mind
telling me, is there any place about where I could have a smoke?
I have my pipe and tobacco with me."

"SMOKE?" said the man, in shocked but disdainful surprise,
blinking his eyes at the prince as though he could not believe
his senses." No, sir, you cannot smoke here, and I wonder you
are not ashamed of the very suggestion. Ha, ha! a cool idea that,
I declare!"

"Oh, I didn't mean in this room! I know I can't smoke here, of
course. I'd adjourn to some other room, wherever you like to show
me to. You see, I'm used to smoking a good deal, and now I
haven't had a puff for three hours; however, just as you like."

"Now how on earth am I to announce a man like that?" muttered the
servant. "In the first place, you've no right in here at all; you
ought to be in the waiting-room, because you're a sort of
visitor--a guest, in fact--and I shall catch it for this. Look
here, do you intend to take up you abode with us?" he added,
glancing once more at the prince's bundle, which evidently gave
him no peace.

"No, I don't think so. I don't think I should stay even if they
were to invite me. I've simply come to make their acquaintance,
and nothing more."

"Make their acquaintance?" asked the man, in amazement, and with
redoubled suspicion. "Then why did you say you had business with
the general?"

"Oh well, very little business. There is one little matter--some
advice I am going to ask him for; but my principal object is
simply to introduce myself, because I am Prince Muishkin, and
Madame Epanchin is the last of her branch of the house, and
besides herself and me there are no other Muishkins left."

"What--you're a relation then, are you?" asked the servant, so
bewildered that he began to feel quite alarmed.

"Well, hardly so. If you stretch a point, we are relations, of
course, but so distant that one cannot really take cognizance of
it. I once wrote to your mistress from abroad, but she did not
reply. However, I have thought it right to make acquaintance with
her on my arrival. I am telling you all this in order to ease
your mind, for I see you are still far from comfortable on my
account. All you have to do is to announce me as Prince Muishkin,
and the object of my visit will be plain enough. If I am
received--very good; if not, well, very good again. But they are
sure to receive me, I should think; Madame Epanchin will
naturally be curious to see the only remaining representative of
her family. She values her Muishkin descent very highly, if I am
rightly informed."

The prince's conversation was artless and confiding to a degree,
and the servant could not help feeling that as from visitor to
common serving-man this state of things was highly improper. His
conclusion was that one of two things must be the explanation--
either that this was a begging impostor, or that the prince, if
prince he were, was simply a fool, without the slightest
ambition; for a sensible prince with any ambition would certainly
not wait about in ante-rooms with servants, and talk of his own
private affairs like this. In either case, how was he to announce
this singular visitor?

"I really think I must request you to step into the next room!"
he said, with all the insistence he could muster.

"Why? If I had been sitting there now, I should not have had the
opportunity of making these personal explanations. I see you are
still uneasy about me and keep eyeing my cloak and bundle. Don't
you think you might go in yourself now, without waiting for the
secretary to come out?"

"No, no! I can't announce a visitor like yourself without the
secretary. Besides the general said he was not to be disturbed--
he is with the Colonel C--. Gavrila Ardalionovitch goes in
without announcing."

"Who may that be? a clerk?"

"What? Gavrila Ardalionovitch? Oh no; he belongs to one of the
companies. Look here, at all events put your bundle down, here."

"Yes, I will if I may; and--can I take off my cloak"

"Of course; you can't go in THERE with it on, anyhow."

The prince rose and took off his mantle, revealing a neat enough
morning costume--a little worn, but well made. He wore a steel
watch chain and from this chain there hung a silver Geneva watch.
Fool the prince might be, still, the general's servant felt that
it was not correct for him to continue to converse thus with a
visitor, in spite of the fact that the prince pleased him
somehow.

"And what time of day does the lady receive?" the latter asked,
reseating himself in his old place.

"Oh, that's not in my province! I believe she receives at any
time; it depends upon the visitors. The dressmaker goes in at
eleven. Gavrila Ardalionovitch is allowed much earlier than other
people, too; he is even admitted to early lunch now and then."

"It is much warmer in the rooms here than it is abroad at this
season," observed the prince; " but it is much warmer there out
of doors. As for the houses--a Russian can't live in them in the
winter until he gets accustomed to them."

"Don't they heat them at all?"

"Well, they do heat them a little; but the houses and stoves are
so different to ours."

"H'm! were you long away?"

"Four years! and I was in the same place nearly all the time,--in
one village."

"You must have forgotten Russia, hadn't you?"

"Yes, indeed I had--a good deal; and, would you believe it, I
often wonder at myself for not having forgotten how to speak
Russian? Even now, as I talk to you, I keep saying to myself 'how
well I am speaking it.' Perhaps that is partly why I am so
talkative this morning. I assure you, ever since yesterday
evening I have had the strongest desire to go on and on talking
Russian."

"H'm! yes; did you live in Petersburg in former years?"

This good flunkey, in spite of his conscientious scruples, really
could not resist continuing such a very genteel and agreeable
conversation.

"In Petersburg? Oh no! hardly at all, and now they say so much
is changed in the place that even those who did know it well are
obliged to relearn what they knew. They talk a good deal about
the new law courts, and changes there, don't they?"

"H'm! yes, that's true enough. Well now, how is the law over
there, do they administer it more justly than here?"

"Oh, I don't know about that! I've heard much that is good about
our legal administration, too. There is no capital punishment
here for one thing."

"Is there over there?"

"Yes--I saw an execution in France--at Lyons. Schneider took me
over with him to see it."

"What, did they hang the fellow?"

"No, they cut off people's heads in France."

"What did the fellow do?--yell?"

"Oh no--it's the work of an instant. They put a man inside a
frame and a sort of broad knife falls by machinery -they call the
thing a guillotine-it falls with fearful force and weight-the
head springs off so quickly that you can't wink your eye in
between. But all the preparations are so dreadful. When they
announce the sentence, you know, and prepare the criminal and tie
his hands, and cart him off to the scaffold--that's the fearful
part of the business. The people all crowd round--even women-
though they don't at all approve of women looking on."

"No, it's not a thing for women."

"Of course not--of course not!--bah! The criminal was a fine
intelligent fearless man; Le Gros was his name; and I may tell
you--believe it or not, as you like--that when that man stepped
upon the scaffold he CRIED, he did indeed,--he was as white as a
bit of paper. Isn't it a dreadful idea that he should have cried
--cried! Whoever heard of a grown man crying from fear--not a
child, but a man who never had cried before--a grown man of
forty-five years. Imagine what must have been going on in that
man's mind at such a moment; what dreadful convulsions his whole
spirit must have endured; it is an outrage on the soul that's
what it is. Because it is said 'thou shalt not kill,' is he to be
killed because he murdered some one else? No, it is not right,
it's an impossible theory. I assure you, I saw the sight a month
ago and it's dancing before my eyes to this moment. I dream of
it, often."

The prince had grown animated as he spoke, and a tinge of colour
suffused his pale face, though his way of talking was as quiet as
ever. The servant followed his words with sympathetic interest.
Clearly he was not at all anxious to bring the conversation to an
end. Who knows? Perhaps he too was a man of imagination and with
some capacity for thought.

"Well, at all events it is a good thing that there's no pain when
the poor fellow's head flies off," he remarked.

"Do you know, though," cried the prince warmly, "you made that
remark now, and everyone says the same thing, and the machine is
designed with the purpose of avoiding pain, this guillotine I
mean; but a thought came into my head then: what if it be a bad
plan after all? You may laugh at my idea, perhaps--but I could
not help its occurring to me all the same. Now with the rack and
tortures and so on--you suffer terrible pain of course; but then
your torture is bodily pain only (although no doubt you have
plenty of that) until you die. But HERE I should imagine the most
terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at
all--but the certain knowledge that in an hour,--then in ten
minutes, then in half a minute, then now--this very INSTANT--your
soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man--
and that this is certain, CERTAIN! That's the point--the
certainty of it. Just that instant when you place your head on
the block and hear the iron grate over your head--then--that
quarter of a second is the most awful of all.

"This is not my own fantastical opinion--many people have thought
the same; but I feel it so deeply that I'll tell you what I
think. I believe that to execute a man for murder is to punish
him immeasurably more dreadfully than is equivalent to his crime.
A murder by sentence is far more dreadful than a murder committed
by a criminal. The man who is attacked by robbers at night, in a
dark wood, or anywhere, undoubtedly hopes and hopes that he may
yet escape until the very moment of his death. There are plenty
of instances of a man running away, or imploring for mercy--at
all events hoping on in some degree--even after his throat was
cut. But in the case of an execution, that last hope--having
which it is so immeasurably less dreadful to die,--is taken away
from the wretch and CERTAINTY substituted in its place! There is
his sentence, and with it that terrible certainty that he cannot
possibly escape death--which, I consider, must be the most
dreadful anguish in the world. You may place a soldier before a
cannon's mouth in battle, and fire upon him--and he will still
hope. But read to that same soldier his death-sentence, and he
will either go mad or burst into tears. Who dares to say that any
man can suffer this without going mad? No, no! it is an abuse, a
shame, it is unnecessary--why should such a thing exist?
Doubtless there may be men who have been sentenced, who have
suffered this mental anguish for a while and then have been
reprieved; perhaps such men may have been able to relate their
feelings afterwards. Our Lord Christ spoke of this anguish and
dread. No! no! no! No man should be treated so, no man, no man!"

The servant, though of course he could not have expressed all
this as the prince did, still clearly entered into it and was
greatly conciliated, as was evident from the increased amiability
of his expression. "If you are really very anxious for a smoke,"
he remarked, "I think it might possibly be managed, if you are
very quick about it. You see they might come out and inquire for
you, and you wouldn't be on the spot. You see that door there? Go
in there and you'll find a little room on the right; you can
smoke there, only open the window, because I ought not to allow
it really, and--." But there was no time, after all.

A young fellow entered the ante-room at this moment, with a
bundle of papers in his hand. The footman hastened to help him
take off his overcoat. The new arrival glanced at the prince out
of the corners of his eyes.

"This gentleman declares, Gavrila Ardalionovitch," began the man,
confidentially and almost familiarly, "that he is Prince Muishkin
and a relative of Madame Epanchin's. He has just arrived from
abroad, with nothing but a bundle by way of luggage--."

The prince did not hear the rest, because at this point the
servant continued his communication in a whisper.

Gavrila Ardalionovitch listened attentively, and gazed at the
prince with great curiosity. At last he motioned the man aside
and stepped hurriedly towards the prince.

"Are you Prince Muishkin?" he asked, with the greatest courtesy
and amiability.

He was a remarkably handsome young fellow of some twenty-eight
summers, fair and of middle height; he wore a small beard, and
his face was most intelligent. Yet his smile, in spite of its
sweetness, was a little thin, if I may so call it, and showed his
teeth too evenly; his gaze though decidedly good-humoured and
ingenuous, was a trifle too inquisitive and intent to be
altogether agreeable.

"Probably when he is alone he looks quite different, and hardly
smiles at all!" thought the prince.

He explained about himself in a few words, very much the same as
he had told the footman and Rogojin beforehand.

Gavrila Ardalionovitch meanwhile seemed to be trying to recall
something.

"Was it not you, then, who sent a letter a year or less ago--from
Switzerland, I think it was--to Elizabetha Prokofievna (Mrs.
Epanchin)?"

"It was."

"Oh, then, of course they will remember who you are. You wish to
see the general? I'll tell him at once--he will be free in a
minute; but you--you had better wait in the ante-chamber,--hadn't
you? Why is he here?" he added, severely, to the man.

"I tell you, sir, he wished it himself!"

At this moment the study door opened, and a military man, with a
portfolio under his arm, came out talking loudly, and after
bidding good-bye to someone inside, took his departure.

"You there, Gania? cried a voice from the study, "come in here,
will you?"

Gavrila Ardalionovitch nodded to the prince and entered the room
hastily.

A couple of minutes later the door opened again and the affable
voice of Gania cried:

"Come in please, prince!"
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III

General Ivan Fedorovitch Epanchin was standing In the middle of
the room, and gazed with great curiosity at the prince as he
entered. He even advanced a couple of steps to meet him.

The prince came forward and introduced himself.

"Quite so," replied the general, "and what can I do for you?"

"Oh, I have no special business; my principal object was to make
your acquaintance. I should not like to disturb you. I do not
know your times and arrangements here, you see, but I have only
just arrived. I came straight from the station. I am come direct
from Switzerland."

The general very nearly smiled, but thought better of it and kept
his smile back. Then he reflected, blinked his eyes, stared at his guest
once more from head to foot; then abruptly motioned him to a
chair, sat down himself, and waited with some impatience for the
prince to speak.

Gania stood at his table in the far corner of the room, turning
over papers.

"I have not much time for making acquaintances, as a rule," said
the general, "but as, of course, you have your object in coming,
I--"

"I felt sure you would think I had some object in view when I
resolved to pay you this visit," the prince interrupted; "but I
give you my word, beyond the pleasure of making your acquaintance
I had no personal object whatever."

"The pleasure is, of course, mutual; but life is not all
pleasure, as you are aware. There is such a thing as business,
and I really do not see what possible reason there can be, or
what we have in common to--"

"Oh, there is no reason, of course, and I suppose there is
nothing in common between us, or very little; for if I am Prince
Muishkin, and your wife happens to be a member of my house, that
can hardly be called a 'reason.' I quite understand that. And yet
that was my whole motive for coming. You see I have not been in
Russia for four years, and knew very little about anything when I
left. I had been very ill for a long time, and I feel now the
need of a few good friends. In fact, I have a certain question
upon which I much need advice, and do not know whom to go to for
it. I thought of your family when I was passing through Berlin.
'They are almost relations,' I said to myself,' so I'll begin
with them; perhaps we may get on with each other, I with them and
they with me, if they are kind people;' and I have heard that you
are very kind people!"

"Oh, thank you, thank you, I'm sure," replied the general,
considerably taken aback. "May I ask where you have taken up your
quarters?"

"Nowhere, as yet."

"What, straight from the station to my house? And how about your
luggage?"

"I only had a small bundle, containing linen, with me, nothing
more. I can carry it in my hand, easily. There will be plenty of
time to take a room in some hotel by the evening."

"Oh, then you DO intend to take a room?"

"Of course."

"To judge from your words, you came straight to my house with the
intention of staying there."

"That could only have been on your invitation. I confess,
however, that I should not have stayed here even if you had
invited me, not for any particular reason, but because it is--
well, contrary to my practice and nature, somehow."

"Oh, indeed! Then it is perhaps as well that I neither DID invite
you, nor DO invite you now. Excuse me, prince, but we had better
make this matter clear, once for all. We have just agreed that
with regard to our relationship there is not much to be said,
though, of course, it would have been very delightful to us to
feel that such relationship did actually exist; therefore,
perhaps--"

"Therefore, perhaps I had better get up and go away?" said the
prince, laughing merrily as he rose from his place; just as
merrily as though the circumstances were by no means strained or
difficult. "And I give you my word, general, that though I know
nothing whatever of manners and customs of society, and how
people live and all that, yet I felt quite sure that this visit
of mine would end exactly as it has ended now. Oh, well, I
suppose it's all right; especially as my letter was not answered.
Well, good-bye, and forgive me for having disturbed you!"

The prince's expression was so good-natured at this moment, and
so entirely free from even a suspicion of unpleasant feeling was
the smile with which he looked at the general as he spoke, that
the latter suddenly paused, and appeared to gaze at his guest
from quite a new point of view, all in an instant.

"Do you know, prince," he said, in quite a different tone, "I do
not know you at all, yet, and after all, Elizabetha Prokofievna
would very likely be pleased to have a peep at a man of her own
name. Wait a little, if you don't mind, and if you have time to
spare?"

"Oh, I assure you I've lots of time, my time is entirely my own!"
And the prince immediately replaced his soft, round hat on the
table. "I confess, I thought Elizabetha Prokofievna would very
likely remember that I had written her a letter. Just now your
servant--outside there--was dreadfully suspicious that I had come
to beg of you. I noticed that! Probably he has very strict
instructions on that score; but I assure you I did not come to
beg. I came to make some friends. But I am rather bothered at
having disturbed you; that's all I care about.--"

"Look here, prince," said the general, with a cordial smile, "if
you really are the sort of man you appear to be, it may be a
source of great pleasure to us to make your better acquaintance;
but, you see, I am a very busy man, and have to be perpetually
sitting here and signing papers, or off to see his excellency, or
to my department, or somewhere; so that though I should be glad
to see more of people, nice people--you see, I--however, I am
sure you are so well brought up that you will see at once, and--
but how old are you, prince?"

"Twenty-six."

"No? I thought you very much younger."

"Yes, they say I have a 'young' face. As to disturbing you I
shall soon learn to avoid doing that, for I hate disturbing
people. Besides, you and I are so differently constituted, I
should think, that there must be very little in common between
us. Not that I will ever believe there is NOTHING in common
between any two people, as some declare is the case. I am sure
people make a great mistake in sorting each other into groups, by
appearances; but I am boring you, I see, you--"

"Just two words: have you any means at all? Or perhaps you may be
intending to undertake some sort of employment? Excuse my
questioning you, but--"

"Oh, my dear sir, I esteem and understand your kindness in
putting the question. No; at present I have no means whatever,
and no employment either, but I hope to find some. I was living
on other people abroad. Schneider, the professor who treated me
and taught me, too, in Switzerland, gave me just enough money for
my journey, so that now I have but a few copecks left. There
certainly is one question upon which I am anxious to have advice,
but--"

"Tell me, how do you intend to live now, and what are your
plans?" interrupted the general.

"I wish to work, somehow or other."

"Oh yes, but then, you see, you are a philosopher. Have you any
talents, or ability in any direction--that is, any that would
bring in money and bread? Excuse me again--"

"Oh, don't apologize. No, I don't think I have either talents or
special abilities of any kind; on the contrary. I have always
been an invalid and unable to learn much. As for bread, I should
think--"

The general interrupted once more with questions; while the
prince again replied with the narrative we have heard before. It
appeared that the general had known Pavlicheff; but why the
latter had taken an interest in the prince, that young gentleman
could not explain; probably by virtue of the old friendship with
his father, he thought.

The prince had been left an orphan when quite a little child, and
Pavlicheff had entrusted him to an old lady, a relative of his
own, living in the country, the child needing the fresh air and
exercise of country life. He was educated, first by a governess,
and afterwards by a tutor, but could not remember much about this
time of his life. His fits were so frequent then, that they made
almost an idiot of him (the prince used the expression "idiot"
himself). Pavlicheff had met Professor Schneider in Berlin, and
the latter had persuaded him to send the boy to Switzerland, to
Schneider's establishment there, for the cure of his epilepsy,
and, five years before this time, the prince was sent off. But
Pavlicheff had died two or three years since, and Schneider had
himself supported the young fellow, from that day to this, at his
own expense. Although he had not quite cured him, he had greatly
improved his condition; and now, at last, at the prince's own
desire, and because of a certain matter which came to the ears of
the latter, Schneider had despatched the young man to Russia.

The general was much astonished.

"Then you have no one, absolutely NO one in Russia?" he asked.

"No one, at present; but I hope to make friends; and then I have
a letter from--"

"At all events," put in the general, not listening to the news
about the letter, "at all events, you must have learned
SOMETHING, and your malady would not prevent your undertaking
some easy work, in one of the departments, for instance?

"Oh dear no, oh no! As for a situation, I should much like to
find one for I am anxious to discover what I really am fit for. I
have learned a good deal in the last four years, and, besides, I
read a great many Russian books."

"Russian books, indeed ? Then, of course, you can read and write
quite correctly?"

"Oh dear, yes!"

"Capital! And your handwriting?"

"Ah, there I am REALLY talented! I may say l am a real
caligraphist. Let me write you something, just to show you," said
the prince, with some excitement.

"With pleasure! In fact, it is very necessary. I like your
readiness, prince; in fact, I must say--I-I-like you very well,
altogether," said the general.

"What delightful writing materials you have here, such a lot of
pencils and things, and what beautiful paper! It's a charming
room altogether. I know that picture, it's a Swiss view. I'm sure
the artist painted it from nature, and that I have seen the very
place--"

"Quite likely, though I bought it here. Gania, give the prince
some paper. Here are pens and paper; now then, take this table.
What's this?" the general continued to Gania, who had that moment
taken a large photograph out of his portfolio, and shown it to
his senior. "Halloa! Nastasia Philipovna! Did she send it you
herself? Herself?" he inquired, with much curiosity and great
animation.

"She gave it me just now, when I called in to congratulate her. I
asked her for it long ago. I don't know whether she meant it for
a hint that I had come empty-handed, without a present for her
birthday, or what," added Gania, with an unpleasant smile.

"Oh, nonsense, nonsense," said the general, with decision. " What
extraordinary ideas you have, Gania! As if she would hint; that's
not her way at all. Besides, what could you give her, without
having thousands at your disposal? You might have given her your
portrait, however. Has she ever asked you for it?"

"No, not yet. Very likely she never will. I suppose you haven't
forgotten about tonight, have you, Ivan Fedorovitch? You were
one of those specially invited, you know."

"Oh no, I remember all right, and I shall go, of course. I should
think so! She's twenty-five years old today! And, you know,
Gania, you must be ready for great things; she has promised both
myself and Afanasy Ivanovitch that she will give a decided answer
tonight, yes or no. So be prepared!"

Gania suddenly became so ill at ease that his face grew paler
than ever.

"Are you sure she said that?" he asked, and his voice seemed to
quiver as he spoke.

"Yes, she promised. We both worried her so that she gave in; but
she wished us to tell you nothing about it until the day. "

The general watched Gania's confusion intently, and clearly did
not like it.

"Remember, Ivan Fedorovitch," said Gania, in great agitation,
"that I was to be free too, until her decision; and that even
then I was to have my 'yes or no' free."

"Why, don't you, aren't you--" began the general, in alarm.

"Oh, don't misunderstand--"

"But, my dear fellow, what are you doing, what do you mean?"

"Oh, I'm not rejecting her. I may have expressed myself badly,
but I didn't mean that."

"Reject her! I should think not!" said the general with
annoyance, and apparently not in the least anxious to conceal it.
"Why, my dear fellow, it's not a question of your rejecting her,
it is whether you are prepared to receive her consent joyfully,
and with proper satisfaction. How are things going on at home?"

"At home? Oh, I can do as I like there, of course; only my father
will make a fool of himself, as usual. He is rapidly becoming a
general nuisance. I don't ever talk to him now, but I hold him in
cheek, safe enough. I swear if it had not been for my mother, I
should have shown him the way out, long ago. My mother is always
crying, of course, and my sister sulks. I had to tell them at
last that I intended to be master of my own destiny, and that I
expect to be obeyed at home. At least, I gave my sister to
understand as much, and my mother was present."

"Well, I must say, I cannot understand it!" said the general,
shrugging his shoulders and dropping his hands. "You remember
your mother, Nina Alexandrovna, that day she came and sat here
and groaned-and when I asked her what was the matter, she says,
'Oh, it's such a DISHONOUR to us!' dishonour! Stuff and nonsense!
I should like to know who can reproach Nastasia Philipovna, or
who can say a word of any kind against her. Did she mean because
Nastasia had been living with Totski? What nonsense it is! You
would not let her come near your daughters, says Nina
Alexandrovna. What next, I wonder? I don't see how she can fail
to--to understand--"

"Her own position?" prompted Gania. "She does understand. Don't
be annoyed with her. I have warned her not to meddle in other
people's affairs. However, although there's comparative peace at
home at present, the storm will break if anything is finally
settled tonight."

The prince heard the whole of the foregoing conversation, as he
sat at the table, writing. He finished at last, and brought the
result of his labour to the general's desk.

"So this is Nastasia Philipovna," he said, looking attentively
and curiously at the portrait. "How wonderfully beautiful!" he
immediately added, with warmth. The picture was certainly that of
an unusually lovely woman. She was photographed in a black silk
dress of simple design, her hair was evidently dark and plainly
arranged, her eyes were deep and thoughtful, the expression of
her face passionate, but proud. She was rather thin, perhaps, and
a little pale. Both Gania and the general gazed at the prince in
amazement.

"How do you know it's Nastasia Philipovna?" asked the general;
"you surely don't know her already, do you? "

"Yes, I do! I have only been one day in Russia, but I have heard
of the great beauty!" And the prince proceeded to narrate his
meeting with Rogojin in the train and the whole of the latter's
story.

"There's news!" said the general in some excitement, after
listening to the story with engrossed attention.

"Oh, of course it's nothing but humbug!" cried Gania, a little
disturbed, however. "It's all humbug; the young merchant was
pleased to indulge in a little innocent recreation! I have heard
something of Rogojin!"

"Yes, so have I!" replied the general. "Nastasia Philipovna told
us all about the earrings that very day. But now it is quite a
different matter. You see the fellow really has a million of
roubles, and he is passionately in love. The whole story smells
of passion, and we all know what this class of gentry is capable
of when infatuated. I am much afraid of some disagreeable
scandal, I am indeed!"

"You are afraid of the million, I suppose," said Gania, grinning
and showing his teeth.

"And you are NOT, I presume, eh?"

"How did he strike you, prince?" asked Gania, suddenly. "Did he
seem to be a serious sort of a man, or just a common rowdy
fellow? What was your own opinion about the matter?"

While Gania put this question, a new idea suddenly flashed into
his brain, and blazed out, impatiently, in his eyes. The general,
who was really agitated and disturbed, looked at the prince too,
but did not seem to expect much from his reply.

"I really don't quite know how to tell you," replied the prince,
"but it certainly did seem to me that the man was full of
passion, and not, perhaps, quite healthy passion. He seemed to be
still far from well. Very likely he will be in bed again in a day
or two, especially if he lives fast."

"No! do you think so?" said the general, catching at the idea.

"Yes, I do think so!"

"Yes, but the sort of scandal I referred to may happen at any
moment. It may be this very evening," remarked Gania to the
general, with a smile.

"Of course; quite so. In that case it all depends upon what is
going on in her brain at this moment."

"You know the kind of person she is at times."

"How? What kind of person is she?" cried the general, arrived at
the limits of his patience. Look here, Gania, don't you go
annoying her tonight What you are to do is to be as agreeable
towards her as ever you can. Well, what are you smiling at? You
must understand, Gania, that I have no interest whatever in
speaking like this. Whichever way the question is settled, it
will be to my advantage. Nothing will move Totski from his
resolution, so I run no risk. If there is anything I desire, you
must know that it is your benefit only. Can't you trust me? You
are a sensible fellow, and I have been counting on you; for, in
this matter, that, that--"

"Yes, that's the chief thing," said Gania, helping the general
out of his difficulties again, and curling his lips in an
envenomed smile, which he did not attempt to conceal. He gazed
with his fevered eyes straight into those of the general, as
though he were anxious that the latter might read his thoughts.

The general grew purple with anger.

"Yes, of course it is the chief thing!" he cried, looking sharply
at Gania. "What a very curious man you are, Gania! You actually
seem to be GLAD to hear of this millionaire fellow's arrival-
just as though you wished for an excuse to get out of the whole
thing. This is an affair in which you ought to act honestly
with both sides, and give due warning, to avoid compromising
others. But, even now, there is still time. Do you understand me?
I wish to know whether you desire this arrangement or whether you
do not? If not, say so,--and-and welcome! No one is trying to
force you into the snare, Gavrila Ardalionovitch, if you see
a snare in the matter, at least."

"I do desire it," murmured Gania, softly but firmly, lowering his
eyes; and he relapsed into gloomy silence.

The general was satisfied. He had excited himself, and was
evidently now regretting that he had gone so far. He turned to
the prince, and suddenly the disagreeable thought of the latter's
presence struck him, and the certainty that he must have heard
every word of the conversation. But he felt at ease in another
moment; it only needed one glance at the prince to see that in
that quarter there was nothing to fear.

"Oh!" cried the general, catching sight of the prince's specimen
of caligraphy, which the latter had now handed him for
inspection. "Why, this is simply beautiful; look at that, Gania,
there's real talent there!"

On a sheet of thick writing-paper the prince had written in
medieval characters the legend:

"The gentle Abbot Pafnute signed this."

"There," explained the prince, with great delight and animation,
"there, that's the abbot's real signature--from a manuscript of
the fourteenth century. All these old abbots and bishops used to
write most beautifully, with such taste and so much care and
diligence. Have you no copy of Pogodin, general? If you had one I
could show you another type. Stop a bit--here you have the large
round writing common in France during the eighteenth century.
Some of the letters are shaped quite differently from those now
in use. It was the writing current then, and employed by public
writers generally. I copied this from one of them, and you can
see how good it is. Look at the well-rounded a and d. I have
tried to translate the French character into the Russian letters-
-a difficult thing to do, but I think I have succeeded fairly.
Here is a fine sentence, written in a good, original hand--'Zeal
triumphs over all.' That is the script of the Russian War Office.
That is how official documents addressed to important personages
should be written. The letters are round, the type black, and the
style somewhat remarkable. A stylist would not allow these
ornaments, or attempts at flourishes--just look at these
unfinished tails!--but it has distinction and really depicts the
soul of the writer. He would like to give play to his
imagination, and follow the inspiration of his genius, but a
soldier is only at ease in the guard-room, and the pen stops
half-way, a slave to discipline. How delightful! The first time
I met an example of this handwriting, I was positively
astonished, and where do you think I chanced to find it? In
Switzerland, of all places! Now that is an ordinary English hand.
It can hardly be improved, it is so refined and exquisite--almost
perfection. This is an example of another kind, a mixture of
styles. The copy was given me by a French commercial traveller.
It is founded on the English, but the downstrokes are a little
blacker, and more marked. Notice that the oval has some slight
modification--it is more rounded. This writing allows for
flourishes; now a flourish is a dangerous thing! Its use requires
such taste, but, if successful, what a distinction it gives to
the whole! It results in an incomparable type--one to fall in love
with!"

"Dear me! How you have gone into all the refinements and details
of the question! Why, my dear fellow, you are not a caligraphist,
you are an artist! Eh, Gania ?"

"Wonderful!" said Gania. "And he knows it too," he added, with a
sarcastic smile.

"You may smile,--but there's a career in this," said the general.
"You don't know what a great personage I shall show this to,
prince. Why, you can command a situation at thirty-five roubles
per month to start with. However, it's half-past twelve," he
concluded, looking at his watch; "so to business, prince, for I
must be setting to work and shall not see you again today. Sit
down a minute. I have told you that I cannot receive you myself
very often, but I should like to be of some assistance to you,
some small assistance, of a kind that would give you
satisfaction. I shall find you a place in one of the State
departments, an easy place--but you will require to be accurate.
Now, as to your plans--in the house, or rather in the family of
Gania here--my young friend, whom I hope you will know better--his
mother and sister have prepared two or three rooms for lodgers,
and let them to highly recommended young fellows, with board and
attendance. I am sure Nina Alexandrovna will take you in on my
recommendation. There you will be comfortable and well taken care
of; for I do not think, prince, that you are the sort of man to
be left to the mercy of Fate in a town like Petersburg. Nina
Alexandrovna, Gania's mother, and Varvara Alexandrovna, are
ladies for whom I have the highest possible esteem and respect.
Nina Alexandrovna is the wife of General Ardalion Alexandrovitch,
my old brother in arms, with whom, I regret to say, on account of
certain circumstances, I am no longer acquainted. I give you all
this information, prince, in order to make it clear to you that I
am personally recommending you to this family, and that in so
doing, I am more or less taking upon myself to answer for you.
The terms are most reasonable, and I trust that your salary will
very shortly prove amply sufficient for your expenditure. Of
course pocket-money is a necessity, if only a little; do not be
angry, prince, if I strongly recommend you to avoid carrying
money in your pocket. But as your purse is quite empty at the
present moment, you must allow me to press these twenty-five
roubles upon your acceptance, as something to begin with. Of
course we will settle this little matter another time, and if you
are the upright, honest man you look, I anticipate very little
trouble between us on that score. Taking so much interest in you
as you may perceive I do, I am not without my object, and you
shall know it in good time. You see, I am perfectly candid with
you. I hope, Gania, you have nothing to say against the prince's
taking up his abode in your house?"

"Oh, on the contrary! my mother will be very glad," said Gania,
courteously and kindly.

"I think only one of your rooms is engaged as yet, is it not?
That fellow Ferd-Ferd--"

"Ferdishenko."

"Yes--I don't like that Ferdishenko. I can't understand why
Nastasia Philipovna encourages him so. Is he really her cousin,
as he says?"

"Oh dear no, it's all a joke. No more cousin than I am."

"Well, what do you think of the arrangement, prince?"

"Thank you, general; you have behaved very kindly to me; all the
more so since I did not ask you to help me. I don't say that out
of pride. I certainly did not know where to lay my head tonight.
Rogojin asked me to come to his house, of course, but--"

"Rogojin? No, no, my good fellow. I should strongly recommend
you, paternally,--or, if you prefer it, as a friend,--to forget
all about Rogojin, and, in fact, to stick to the family into
which you are about to enter."

"Thank you," began the prince; "and since you are so very kind
there is just one matter which I--"

"You must really excuse me," interrupted the general, "but I
positively haven't another moment now. I shall just tell
Elizabetha Prokofievna about you, and if she wishes to receive
you at once--as I shall advise her--I strongly recommend you to
ingratiate yourself with her at the first opportunity, for my
wife may be of the greatest service to you in many ways. If she
cannot receive you now, you must be content to wait till another
time. Meanwhile you, Gania, just look over these accounts, will
you? We mustn't forget to finish off that matter--"

The general left the room, and the prince never succeeded in
broaching the business which he had on hand, though he had
endeavoured to do so four times.

Gania lit a cigarette and offered one to the prince. The
latter accepted the offer, but did not talk, being unwilling to
disturb Gania's work. He commenced to examine the study and its
contents. But Gania hardly so much as glanced at the papers lying
before him; he was absent and thoughtful, and his smile and
general appearance struck the prince still more disagreeably now
that the two were left alone together.

Suddenly Gania approached our hero who was at the moment standing
over Nastasia Philipovna's portrait, gazing at it.

"Do you admire that sort of woman, prince?" he asked, looking
intently at him. He seemed to have some special object in the
question.

"It's a wonderful face," said the prince, "and I feel sure that
her destiny is not by any means an ordinary, uneventful one. Her
face is smiling enough, but she must have suffered terribly--
hasn't she? Her eyes show it--those two bones there, the little
points under her eyes, just where the cheek begins. It's a proud
face too, terribly proud! And I--I can't say whether she is good
and kind, or not. Oh, if she be but good! That would make all
well!"

"And would you marry a woman like that, now?" continued Gania,
never taking his excited eyes off the prince's face.

"I cannot marry at all," said the latter. "I am an invalid."

"Would Rogojin marry her, do you think?"

"Why not? Certainly he would, I should think. He would marry her
tomorrow!--marry her tomorrow and murder her in a week!"

Hardly had the prince uttered the last word when Gania gave such
a fearful shudder that the prince almost cried out.

"What's the matter?" said he, seizing Gania's hand.

"Your highness! His excellency begs your presence in her
excellency's apartments!" announced the footman, appearing at the
door.

The prince immediately followed the man out of the room.
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IV

ALL three of the Miss Epanchins were fine, healthy girls, well-
grown, with good shoulders and busts, and strong--almost
masculine--hands; and, of course, with all the above attributes,
they enjoyed capital appetites, of which they were not in the
least ashamed.

Elizabetha Prokofievna sometimes informed the girls that they
were a little too candid in this matter, but in spite of their
outward deference to their mother these three young women, in
solemn conclave, had long agreed to modify the unquestioning
obedience which they had been in the habit of according to her;
and Mrs. General Epanchin had judged it better to say nothing
about it, though, of course, she was well aware of the fact.

It is true that her nature sometimes rebelled against these
dictates of reason, and that she grew yearly more capricious and
impatient; but having a respectful and well-disciplined husband
under her thumb at all times, she found it possible, as a rule,
to empty any little accumulations of spleen upon his head, and
therefore the harmony of the family was kept duly balanced, and
things went as smoothly as family matters can.

Mrs. Epanchin had a fair appetite herself, and generally took her
share of the capital mid-day lunch which was always served for
the girls, and which was nearly as good as a dinner. The young
ladies used to have a cup of coffee each before this meal, at ten
o'clock, while still in bed. This was a favourite and unalterable
arrangement with them. At half-past twelve, the table was laid in
the small dining-room, and occasionally the general himself
appeared at the family gathering, if he had time.

Besides tea and coffee, cheese, honey, butter, pan-cakes of
various kinds (the lady of the house loved these best), cutlets,
and so on, there was generally strong beef soup, and other
substantial delicacies.

On the particular morning on which our story has opened, the
family had assembled in the dining-room, and were waiting the
general's appearance, the latter having promised to come this
day. If he had been one moment late, he would have been sent for
at once; but he turned up punctually.

As he came forward to wish his wife good-morning and kiss her
hands, as his custom was, he observed something in her look which
boded ill. He thought he knew the reason, and had expected it,
but still, he was not altogether comfortable. His daughters
advanced to kiss him, too, and though they did not look exactly
angry, there was something strange in their expression as well.

The general was, owing to certain circumstances, a little
inclined to be too suspicious at home, and needlessly nervous;
but, as an experienced father and husband, he judged it better to
take measures at once to protect himself from any dangers there
might be in the air.

However, I hope I shall not interfere with the proper sequence of
my narrative too much, if I diverge for a moment at this point,
in order to explain the mutual relations between General
Epanchin's family and others acting a part in this history, at
the time when we take up the thread of their destiny. I have
already stated that the general, though he was a man of lowly
origin, and of poor education, was, for all that, an experienced
and talented husband and father. Among other things, he
considered it undesirable to hurry his daughters to the
matrimonial altar and to worry them too much with assurances of
his paternal wishes for their happiness, as is the custom among
parents of many grown-up daughters. He even succeeded in ranging
his wife on his side on this question, though he found the feat
very difficult to accomplish, because unnatural; but the
general's arguments were conclusive, and founded upon obvious
facts. The general considered that the girls' taste and good
sense should be allowed to develop and mature deliberately, and
that the parents' duty should merely be to keep watch, in order
that no strange or undesirable choice be made; but that the
selection once effected, both father and mother were bound from
that moment to enter heart and soul into the cause, and to see
that the matter progressed without hindrance until the altar
should be happily reached.

Besides this, it was clear that the Epanchins' position gained
each year, with geometrical accuracy, both as to financial
solidity and social weight; and, therefore, the longer the girls
waited, the better was their chance of making a brilliant match.

But again, amidst the incontrovertible facts just recorded, one
more, equally significant, rose up to confront the family; and
this was, that the eldest daughter, Alexandra, had imperceptibly
arrived at her twenty-fifth birthday. Almost at the same moment,
Afanasy Ivanovitch Totski, a man of immense wealth, high
connections, and good standing, announced his intention of
marrying. Afanasy Ivanovitch was a gentleman of fifty-five years
of age, artistically gifted, and of most refined tastes. He
wished to marry well, and, moreover, he was a keen admirer and
judge of beauty.

Now, since Totski had, of late, been upon terms of great
cordiality with Epanchin, which excellent relations were
intensified by the fact that they were, so to speak, partners in
several financial enterprises, it so happened that the former now
put in a friendly request to the general for counsel with regard
to the important step he meditated. Might he suggest, for
instance, such a thing as a marriage between himself and one of
the general's daughters?

Evidently the quiet, pleasant current of the family life of the
Epanchins was about to undergo a change.

The undoubted beauty of the family, par excellence, was the
youngest, Aglaya, as aforesaid. But Totski himself, though an
egotist of the extremest type, realized that he had no chance
there; Aglaya was clearly not for such as he.

Perhaps the sisterly love and friendship of the three girls had
more or less exaggerated Aglaya's chances of happiness. In their
opinion, the latter's destiny was not merely to be very happy;
she was to live in a heaven on earth. Aglaya's husband was to be
a compendium of all the virtues, and of all success, not to speak
of fabulous wealth. The two elder sisters had agreed that all was
to be sacrificed by them, if need be, for Aglaya's sake; her
dowry was to be colossal and unprecedented.

The general and his wife were aware of this agreement, and,
therefore, when Totski suggested himself for one of the sisters,
the parents made no doubt that one of the two elder girls would
probably accept the offer, since Totski would certainly make no
difficulty as to dowry. The general valued the proposal very
highly. He knew life, and realized what such an offer was worth.

The answer of the sisters to the communication was, if not
conclusive, at least consoling and hopeful. It made known that
the eldest, Alexandra, would very likely be disposed to listen to
a proposal.

Alexandra was a good-natured girl, though she had a will of her
own. She was intelligent and kind-hearted, and, if she were to
marry Totski, she would make him a good wife. She did not care
for a brilliant marriage; she was eminently a woman calculated to
soothe and sweeten the life of any man; decidedly pretty, if not
absolutely handsome. What better could Totski wish?

So the matter crept slowly forward. The general and Totski had
agreed to avoid any hasty and irrevocable step. Alexandra's
parents had not even begun to talk to their daughters freely upon
the subject, when suddenly, as it were, a dissonant chord was
struck amid the harmony of the proceedings. Mrs. Epanchin began
to show signs of discontent, and that was a serious matter. A
certain circumstance had crept in, a disagreeable and troublesome
factor, which threatened to overturn the whole business.

This circumstance had come into existence eighteen years before.
Close to an estate of Totski's, in one of the central provinces
of Russia, there lived, at that time, a poor gentleman whose
estate was of the wretchedest description. This gentleman was
noted in the district for his persistent ill-fortune; his name
was Barashkoff, and, as regards family and descent, he was vastly
superior to Totski, but his estate was mortgaged to the last
acre. One day, when he had ridden over to the town to see a
creditor, the chief peasant of his village followed him shortly
after, with the news that his house had been burnt down, and that
his wife had perished with it, but his children were safe.

Even Barashkoff, inured to the storms of evil fortune as he was,
could not stand this last stroke. He went mad and died shortly
after in the town hospital. His estate was sold for the
creditors; and the little girls--two of them, of seven and eight
years of age respectively,--were adopted by Totski, who undertook
their maintenance and education in the kindness of his heart.
They were brought up together with the children of his German
bailiff. Very soon, however, there was only one of them left-
Nastasia Philipovna--for the other little one died of whooping-
cough. Totski, who was living abroad at this time, very soon
forgot all about the child; but five years after, returning to
Russia, it struck him that he would like to look over his estate
and see how matters were going there, and, arrived at his
bailiff's house, he was not long in discovering that among the
children of the latter there now dwelt a most lovely little girl
of twelve, sweet and intelligent, and bright, and promising to
develop beauty of most unusual quality-as to which last Totski
was an undoubted authority.

He only stayed at his country scat a few days on this occasion,
but he had time to make his arrangements. Great changes took
place in the child's education; a good governess was engaged, a
Swiss lady of experience and culture. For four years this lady
resided in the house with little Nastia, and then the education
was considered complete. The governess took her departure, and
another lady came down to fetch Nastia, by Totski's instructions.
The child was now transported to another of Totski's estates in a
distant part of the country. Here she found a delightful little
house, just built, and prepared for her reception with great care
and taste; and here she took up her abode together with the lady
who had accompanied her from her old home. In the house there
were two experienced maids, musical instruments of all sorts, a
charming "young lady's library," pictures, paint-boxes, a lap-
dog, and everything to make life agreeable. Within a fortnight
Totski himself arrived, and from that time he appeared to have
taken a great fancy to this part of the world and came down each
summer, staying two and three months at a time. So passed four
years peacefully and happily, in charming surroundings.

At the end of that time, and about four months after Totski's
last visit (he had stayed but a fortnight on this occasion), a
report reached Nastasia Philipovna that he was about to be
married in St. Petersburg, to a rich, eminent, and lovely woman.
The report was only partially true, the marriage project being
only in an embryo condition; but a great change now came over
Nastasia Philipovna. She suddenly displayed unusual decision of
character; and without wasting time in thought, she left her
country home and came up to St. Petersburg, straight to Totski's
house, all alone.


The latter, amazed at her conduct, began to express his
displeasure; but he very soon became aware that he must change
his voice, style, and everything else, with this young lady; the
good old times were gone. An entirely new and different woman sat
before him, between whom and the girl he had left in the country
last July there seemed nothing in common.

In the first place, this new woman understood a good deal more
than was usual for young people of her age; so much indeed, that
Totski could not help wondering where she had picked up her
knowledge. Surely not from her "young lady's library"? It even
embraced legal matters, and the "world" in general, to a
considerable extent.

Her character was absolutely changed. No more of the girlish
alternations of timidity and petulance, the adorable naivete, the
reveries, the tears, the playfulness... It was an entirely new and
hitherto unknown being who now sat and laughed at him, and
informed him to his face that she had never had the faintest
feeling for him of any kind, except loathing and contempt--
contempt which had followed closely upon her sensations of
surprise and bewilderment after her first acquaintance with him.

This new woman gave him further to understand that though it was
absolutely the same to her whom he married, yet she had decided
to prevent this marriage--for no particular reason, but that she
chose to do so, and because she wished to amuse herself at his
expense for that it was "quite her turn to laugh a little now!"

Such were her words--very likely she did not give her real
reason for this eccentric conduct; but, at all events, that was
all the explanation she deigned to offer.

Meanwhile, Totski thought the matter over as well as his
scattered ideas would permit. His meditations lasted a fortnight,
however, and at the end of that time his resolution was taken.
The fact was, Totski was at that time a man of fifty years of
age; his position was solid and respectable; his place in society
had long been firmly fixed upon safe foundations; he loved
himself, his personal comforts, and his position better than all
the world, as every respectable gentleman should!

At the same time his grasp of things in general soon showed
Totski that he now had to deal with a being who was outside the
pale of the ordinary rules of traditional behaviour, and who
would not only threaten mischief but would undoubtedly carry it
out, and stop for no one.

There was evidently, he concluded, something at work here; some
storm of the mind, some paroxysm of romantic anger, goodness
knows against whom or what, some insatiable contempt--in a word,
something altogether absurd and impossible, but at the same time
most dangerous to be met with by any respectable person with a
position in society to keep up.

For a man of Totski's wealth and standing, it would, of course,
have been the simplest possible matter to take steps which would
rid him at once from all annoyance; while it was obviously
impossible for Nastasia Philipovna to harm him in any way, either
legally or by stirring up a scandal, for, in case of the latter
danger, he could so easily remove her to a sphere of safety.
However, these arguments would only hold good in case of Nastasia
acting as others might in such an emergency. She was much more
likely to overstep the bounds of reasonable conduct by some
extraordinary eccentricity.

Here the sound judgment of Totski stood him in good stead. He
realized that Nastasia Philipovna must be well aware that she
could do nothing by legal means to injure him, and that her
flashing eyes betrayed some entirely different intention.

Nastasia Philipovna was quite capable of ruining herself, and
even of perpetrating something which would send her to Siberia,
for the mere pleasure of injuring a man for whom she had
developed so inhuman a sense of loathing and contempt. He had
sufficient insight to understand that she valued nothing in the
world--herself least of all--and he made no attempt to conceal
the fact that he was a coward in some respects. For instance, if
he had been told that he would be stabbed at the altar, or
publicly insulted, he would undoubtedly have been frightened; but
not so much at the idea of being murdered, or wounded, or
insulted, as at the thought that if such things were to happen he
would be made to look ridiculous in the eyes of society.

He knew well that Nastasia thoroughly understood him and where to
wound him and how, and therefore, as the marriage was still only
in embryo, Totski decided to conciliate her by giving it up. His
decision was strengthened by the fact that Nastasia Philipovna
had curiously altered of late. It would be difficult to conceive
how different she was physically, at the present time, to the
girl of a few years ago. She was pretty then . . . but now! . . .
Totski laughed angrily when he thought how short-sighted he had
been. In days gone by he remembered how he had looked at her
beautiful eyes, how even then he had marvelled at their dark
mysterious depths, and at their wondering gaze which seemed to
seek an answer to some unknown riddle. Her complexion also had
altered. She was now exceedingly pale, but, curiously, this
change only made her more beautiful. Like most men of the world,
Totski had rather despised such a cheaply-bought conquest, but of
late years he had begun to think differently about it. It had
struck him as long ago as last spring that he ought to be finding
a good match for Nastasia; for instance, some respectable and
reasonable young fellow serving in a government office in another
part of the country. How maliciously Nastasia laughed at the idea
of such a thing, now!

However, it appeared to Totski that he might make use of her in
another way; and he determined to establish her in St.
Petersburg, surrounding her with all the comforts and luxuries
that his wealth could command. In this way he might gain glory in
certain circles.

Five years of this Petersburg life went by, and, of course,
during that time a great deal happened. Totski's position was
very uncomfortable; having "funked" once, he could not totally
regain his ease. He was afraid, he did not know why, but he was
simply afraid of Nastasia Philipovna. For the first two years or
so he had suspected that she wished to marry him herself, and
that only her vanity prevented her telling him so. He thought
that she wanted him to approach her with a humble proposal from
his own side, But to his great, and not entirely pleasurable
amazement, he discovered that this was by no means the case, and
that were he to offer himself he would be refused. He could not
understand such a state of things, and was obliged to conclude
that it was pride, the pride of an injured and imaginative woman,
which had gone to such lengths that it preferred to sit and nurse
its contempt and hatred in solitude rather than mount to heights
of hitherto unattainable splendour. To make matters worse, she
was quite impervious to mercenary considerations, and could not
be bribed in any way.

Finally, Totski took cunning means to try to break his chains and
be free. He tried to tempt her in various ways to lose her heart;
he invited princes, hussars, secretaries of embassies, poets,
novelists, even Socialists, to see her; but not one of them all
made the faintest impression upon Nastasia. It was as though she
had a pebble in place of a heart, as though her feelings and
affections were dried up and withered for ever.

She lived almost entirely alone; she read, she studied, she loved
music. Her principal acquaintances were poor women of various
grades, a couple of actresses, and the family of a poor
schoolteacher. Among these people she was much beloved.

She received four or five friends sometimes, of an evening.
Totski often came. Lately, too, General Epanchin had been enabled
with great difficulty to introduce himself into her circle. Gania
made her acquaintance also, and others were Ferdishenko, an ill-
bred, and would-be witty, young clerk, and Ptitsin, a money-
lender of modest and polished manners, who had risen from
poverty. In fact, Nastasia Philipovna's beauty became a thing
known to all the town; but not a single man could boast of
anything more than his own admiration for her; and this
reputation of hers, and her wit and culture and grace, all
confirmed Totski in the plan he had now prepared.

And it was at this moment that General Epanchin began to play so
large and important a part in the story.

When Totski had approached the general with his request for
friendly counsel as to a marriage with one of his daughters, he
had made a full and candid confession. He had said that he
intended to stop at no means to obtain his freedom; even if
Nastasia were to promise to leave him entirely alone in future,
he would not (he said) believe and trust her; words were not
enough for him; he must have solid guarantees of some sort. So he
and the general determined to try what an attempt to appeal to
her heart would effect. Having arrived at Nastasia's house one
day, with Epanchin, Totski immediately began to speak of the
intolerable torment of his position. He admitted that he was to
blame for all, but candidly confessed that he could not bring
himself to feel any remorse for his original guilt towards
herself, because he was a man of sensual passions which were
inborn and ineradicable, and that he had no power over himself in
this respect; but that he wished, seriously, to marry at last,
and that the whole fate of the most desirable social union which
he contemplated, was in her hands; in a word, he confided his all
to her generosity of heart.

General Epanchin took up his part and spoke in the character of
father of a family; he spoke sensibly, and without wasting words
over any attempt at sentimentality, he merely recorded his full
admission of her right to be the arbiter of Totski's destiny at
this moment. He then pointed out that the fate of his daughter,
and very likely of both his other daughters, now hung upon her
reply.

To Nastasia's question as to what they wished her to do, Totski
confessed that he had been so frightened by her, five years ago,
that he could never now be entirely comfortable until she herself
married. He immediately added that such a suggestion from him
would, of course, be absurd, unless accompanied by remarks of a
more pointed nature. He very well knew, he said, that a certain
young gentleman of good family, namely, Gavrila Ardalionovitch
Ivolgin, with whom she was acquainted, and whom she received at
her house, had long loved her passionately, and would give his
life for some response from her. The young fellow had confessed
this love of his to him (Totski) and had also admitted it in the
hearing of his benefactor, General Epanchin. Lastly, he could not
help being of opinion that Nastasia must be aware of Gania's love
for her, and if he (Totski) mistook not, she had looked with some
favour upon it, being often lonely, and rather tired of her
present life. Having remarked how difficult it was for him, of
all people, to speak to her of these matters, Totski concluded by
saying that he trusted Nastasia Philipovna would not look with
contempt upon him if he now expressed his sincere desire to
guarantee her future by a gift of seventy-five thousand roubles.
He added that the sum would have been left her all the same in
his will, and that therefore she must not consider the gift as in
any way an indemnification to her for anything, but that there
was no reason, after all, why a man should not be allowed to
entertain a natural desire to lighten his conscience, etc., etc.;
in fact, all that would naturally be said under the circumstances.
Totski was very eloquent all through, and, in conclusion, just
touched on the fact that not a soul in the world, not even
General Epanchin, had ever heard a word about the above
seventy-five thousand roubles, and that this was the first
time he had ever given expression to his intentions in respect
to them.

Nastasia Philipovna's reply to this long rigmarole astonished
both the friends considerably.

Not only was there no trace of her former irony, of her old
hatred and enmity, and of that dreadful laughter, the very
recollection of which sent a cold chill down Totski's back to
this very day; but she seemed charmed and really glad to have the
opportunity of talking seriously with him for once in a way. She
confessed that she had long wished to have a frank and free
conversation and to ask for friendly advice, but that pride had
hitherto prevented her; now, however, that the ice was broken,
nothing could be more welcome to her than this opportunity.

First, with a sad smile, and then with a twinkle of merriment in
her eyes, she admitted that such a storm as that of five years
ago was now quite out of the question. She said that she had long
since changed her views of things, and recognized that facts must
be taken into consideration in spite of the feelings of the
heart. What was done was done and ended, and she could not
understand why Totski should still feel alarmed.

She next turned to General Epanchin and observed, most
courteously, that she had long since known of his daughters, and
that she had heard none but good report; that she had learned to
think of them with deep and sincere respect. The idea alone that
she could in any way serve them, would be to her both a pride and
a source of real happiness.

It was true that she was lonely in her present life; Totski had
judged her thoughts aright. She longed to rise, if not to love,
at least to family life and new hopes and objects, but as to
Gavrila Ardalionovitch, she could not as yet say much. She
thought it must be the case that he loved her; she felt that she
too might learn to love him, if she could be sure of the firmness
of his attachment to herself; but he was very young, and it was a
difficult question to decide. What she specially liked about him
was that he worked, and supported his family by his toil.

She had heard that he was proud and ambitious; she had heard much
that was interesting of his mother and sister, she had heard of
them from Mr. Ptitsin, and would much like to make their
acquaintance, but--another question!--would they like to receive
her into their house? At all events, though she did not reject
the idea of this marriage, she desired not to be hurried. As for
the seventy-five thousand roubles, Mr. Totski need not have found
any difficulty or awkwardness about the matter; she quite
understood the value of money, and would, of course, accept the
gift. She thanked him for his delicacy, however, but saw no
reason why Gavrila Ardalionovitch should not know about it.

She would not marry the latter, she said, until she felt
persuaded that neither on his part nor on the part of his family
did there exist any sort of concealed suspicions as to herself.
She did not intend to ask forgiveness for anything in the past,
which fact she desired to be known. She did not consider herself
to blame for anything that had happened in former years, and she
thought that Gavrila Ardalionovitch should be informed as to the
relations which had existed between herself and Totski during the
last five years. If she accepted this money it was not to be
considered as indemnification for her misfortune as a young girl,
which had not been in any degree her own fault, but merely as
compensation for her ruined life.

She became so excited and agitated during all these explanations
and confessions that General Epanchin was highly gratified, and
considered the matter satisfactorily arranged once for all. But
the once bitten Totski was twice shy, and looked for hidden
snakes among the flowers. However, the special point to which the
two friends particularly trusted to bring about their object
(namely, Gania's attractiveness for Nastasia Philipovna), stood
out more and more prominently; the pourparlers had commenced, and
gradually even Totski began to believe in the possibility of
success.

Before long Nastasia and Gania had talked the matter over. Very
little was said--her modesty seemed to suffer under the infliction
of discussing such a question. But she recognized his love, on
the understanding that she bound herself to nothing whatever, and
that she reserved the right to say "no" up to the very hour of
the marriage ceremony. Gania was to have the same right of
refusal at the last moment.

It soon became clear to Gania, after scenes of wrath and
quarrellings at the domestic hearth, that his family were
seriously opposed to the match, and that Nastasia was aware of
this fact was equally evident. She said nothing about it, though
he daily expected her to do so.

There were several rumours afloat, before long, which upset
Totski's equanimity a good deal, but we will not now stop to
describe them; merely mentioning an instance or two. One was that
Nastasia had entered into close and secret relations with the
Epanchin girls--a most unlikely rumour; another was that Nastasia
had long satisfied herself of the fact that Gania was merely
marrying her for money, and that his nature was gloomy and
greedy, impatient and selfish, to an extraordinary degree; and
that although he had been keen enough in his desire to achieve a
conquest before, yet since the two friends had agreed to exploit
his passion for their own purposes, it was clear enough that he
had begun to consider the whole thing a nuisance and a nightmare.

In his heart passion and hate seemed to hold divided sway, and
although he had at last given his consent to marry the woman (as
he said), under the stress of circumstances, yet he promised
himself that he would "take it out of her," after marriage.

Nastasia seemed to Totski to have divined all this, and to be
preparing something on her own account, which frightened him to
such an extent that he did not dare communicate his views even to
the general. But at times he would pluck up his courage and be
full of hope and good spirits again, acting, in fact, as weak men
do act in such circumstances.

However, both the friends felt that the thing looked rosy indeed
when one day Nastasia informed them that she would give her final
answer on the evening of her birthday, which anniversary was due
in a very short time.

A strange rumour began to circulate, meanwhile; no less than that
the respectable and highly respected General Epanchin was himself
so fascinated by Nastasia Philipovna that his feeling for her
amounted almost to passion. What he thought to gain by Gania's
marriage to the girl it was difficult to imagine. Possibly he
counted on Gania's complaisance; for Totski had long suspected
that there existed some secret understanding between the general
and his secretary. At all events the fact was known that he had
prepared a magnificent present of pearls for Nastasia's birthday,
and that he was looking forward to the occasion when he should
present his gift with the greatest excitement and impatience. The
day before her birthday he was in a fever of agitation.

Mrs. Epanchin, long accustomed to her husband's infidelities, had
heard of the pearls, and the rumour excited her liveliest
curiosity and interest. The general remarked her suspicions, and
felt that a grand explanation must shortly take place--which fact
alarmed him much.

This is the reason why he was so unwilling to take lunch (on the
morning upon which we took up this narrative) with the rest of
his family. Before the prince's arrival he had made up his mind
to plead business, and "cut" the meal; which simply meant running
away.

He was particularly anxious that this one day should be passed--
especially the evening--without unpleasantness between himself
and his family; and just at the right moment the prince turned
up--"as though Heaven had sent him on purpose," said the general
to himself, as he left the study to seek out the wife of his
bosom.
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V

Mrs. General Epanchin was a proud woman by nature. What must her
feelings have been when she heard that Prince Muishkin, the last
of his and her line, had arrived in beggar's guise, a wretched
idiot, a recipient of charity--all of which details the general
gave out for greater effect! He was anxious to steal her interest
at the first swoop, so as to distract her thoughts from other
matters nearer home.

Mrs. Epanchin was in the habit of holding herself very straight,
and staring before her, without speaking, in moments of
excitement.

She was a fine woman of the same age as her husband, with a
slightly hooked nose, a high, narrow forehead, thick hair turning
a little grey, and a sallow complexion. Her eyes were grey and
wore a very curious expression at times. She believed them to be
most effective--a belief that nothing could alter.

"What, receive him! Now, at once?" asked Mrs. Epanchin, gazing
vaguely at her husband as he stood fidgeting before her.

"Oh, dear me, I assure you there is no need to stand on ceremony
with him," the general explained hastily. "He is quite a child,
not to say a pathetic-looking creature. He has fits of some sort,
and has just arrived from Switzerland, straight from the station,
dressed like a German and without a farthing in his pocket. I
gave him twenty-five roubles to go on with, and am going to find
him some easy place in one of the government offices. I should
like you to ply him well with the victuals, my dears, for I
should think he must be very hungry."

"You astonish me," said the lady, gazing as before. "Fits, and
hungry too! What sort of fits?"

"Oh, they don't come on frequently, besides, he's a regular
child, though he seems to be fairly educated. I should like you,
if possible, my dears," the general added, making slowly for the
door, "to put him through his paces a bit, and see what he is
good for. I think you should be kind to him; it is a good deed,
you know--however, just as you like, of course--but he is a sort
of relation, remember, and I thought it might interest you to see
the young fellow, seeing that this is so."

"Oh, of course, mamma, if we needn't stand on ceremony with him,
we must give the poor fellow something to eat after his journey;
especially as he has not the least idea where to go to," said
Alexandra, the eldest of the girls.

"Besides, he's quite a child; we can entertain him with a little
hide-and-seek, in case of need," said Adelaida.

"Hide-and-seek? What do you mean?" inquired Mrs. Epanchin.

"Oh, do stop pretending, mamma," cried Aglaya, in vexation. "Send
him up, father; mother allows."

The general rang the bell and gave orders that the prince should
be shown in.

"Only on condition that he has a napkin under his chin at lunch,
then," said Mrs. Epanchin, "and let Fedor, or Mavra, stand behind
him while he eats. Is he quiet when he has these fits? He doesn't
show violence, does he?"

"On the contrary, he seems to be very well brought up. His
manners are excellent--but here he is himself. Here you are,
prince--let me introduce you, the last of the Muishkins, a
relative of your own, my dear, or at least of the same name.
Receive him kindly, please. They'll bring in lunch directly,
prince; you must stop and have some, but you must excuse me. I'm
in a hurry, I must be off--"

"We all know where YOU must be off to!" said Mrs. Epanchin, in a
meaning voice.

"Yes, yes--I must hurry away, I'm late! Look here, dears, let him
write you something in your albums; you've no idea what a
wonderful caligraphist he is, wonderful talent! He has just
written out 'Abbot Pafnute signed this' for me. Well, au revoir!"

"Stop a minute; where are you off to? Who is this abbot?" cried
Mrs. Epanchin to her retreating husband in a tone of excited
annoyance.

"Yes, my dear, it was an old abbot of that name-I must be off to
see the count, he's waiting for me, I'm late--Good-bye! Au
revoir, prince!"--and the general bolted at full speed.

"Oh, yes--I know what count you're going to see!" remarked his
wife in a cutting manner, as she turned her angry eyes on the
prince. "Now then, what's all this about?--What abbot--Who's
Pafnute?" she added, brusquely.

"Mamma!" said Alexandra, shocked at her rudeness.

Aglaya stamped her foot.

"Nonsense! Let me alone!" said the angry mother. "Now then,
prince, sit down here, no, nearer, come nearer the light! I want
to have a good look at you. So, now then, who is this abbot?"

"Abbot Pafnute," said our friend, seriously and with deference.

"Pafnute, yes. And who was he?"

Mrs. Epanchin put these questions hastily and brusquely, and when
the prince answered she nodded her head sagely at each word he
said.

"The Abbot Pafnute lived in the fourteenth century," began the
prince; "he was in charge of one of the monasteries on the Volga,
about where our present Kostroma government lies. He went to
Oreol and helped in the great matters then going on in the
religious world; he signed an edict there, and I have seen a
print of his signature; it struck me, so I copied it. When the
general asked me, in his study, to write something for him, to
show my handwriting, I wrote 'The Abbot Pafnute signed this,' in
the exact handwriting of the abbot. The general liked it very
much, and that's why he recalled it just now. "

"Aglaya, make a note of 'Pafnute,' or we shall forget him. H'm!
and where is this signature?"

"I think it was left on the general's table."

"Let it be sent for at once!"

"Oh, I'll write you a new one in half a minute," said the prince,
"if you like!"

"Of course, mamma!" said Alexandra. "But let's have lunch now, we
are all hungry!"

"Yes; come along, prince," said the mother, "are you very
hungry?"

"Yes; I must say that I am pretty hungry, thanks very much."

"H'm! I like to see that you know your manners; and you are by no
means such a person as the general thought fit to describe you.
Come along; you sit here, opposite to me," she continued, "I wish
to be able to see your face. Alexandra, Adelaida, look after the
prince! He doesn't seem so very ill, does he? I don't think he
requires a napkin under his chin, after all; are you accustomed
to having one on, prince?"

"Formerly, when I was seven years old or so. I believe I wore
one; but now I usually hold my napkin on my knee when I eat."

"Of course, of course! And about your fits?"

"Fits?" asked the prince, slightly surprised. "I very seldom have
fits nowadays. I don't know how it may be here, though; they say
the climate may be bad for me. "

"He talks very well, you know!" said Mrs. Epanchin, who still
continued to nod at each word the prince spoke. "I really did not
expect it at all; in fact, I suppose it was all stuff and
nonsense on the general's part, as usual. Eat away, prince, and
tell me where you were born, and where you were brought up. I
wish to know all about you, you interest me very much!"

The prince expressed his thanks once more, and eating heartily
the while, recommenced the narrative of his life in Switzerland,
all of which we have heard before. Mrs. Epanchin became more and
more pleased with her guest; the girls, too, listened with
considerable attention. In talking over the question of
relationship it turned out that the prince was very well up in
the matter and knew his pedigree off by heart. It was found that
scarcely any connection existed between himself and Mrs.
Epanchin, but the talk, and the opportunity of conversing about
her family tree, gratified the latter exceedingly, and she rose
from the table in great good humour.

"Let's all go to my boudoir," she said, "and they shall bring
some coffee in there. That's the room where we all assemble and
busy ourselves as we like best," she explained. "Alexandra, my
eldest, here, plays the piano, or reads or sews; Adelaida paints
landscapes and portraits (but never finishes any); and Aglaya
sits and does nothing. I don't work too much, either. Here we
are, now; sit down, prince, near the fire and talk to us. I want
to hear you relate something. I wish to make sure of you first
and then tell my old friend, Princess Bielokonski, about you. I
wish you to know all the good people and to interest them. Now
then, begin!"

"Mamma, it's rather a strange order, that!" said Adelaida, who
was fussing among her paints and paint-brushes at the easel.
Aglaya and Alexandra had settled themselves with folded hands on
a sofa, evidently meaning to be listeners. The prince felt that
the general attention was concentrated upon himself.

"I should refuse to say a word if I were ordered to tell a story
like that!" observed Aglaya.

"Why? what's there strange about it? He has a tongue. Why
shouldn't he tell us something? I want to judge whether he is a
good story-teller; anything you like, prince-how you liked
Switzerland, what was your first impression, anything. You'll
see, he'll begin directly and tell us all about it beautifully."

"The impression was forcible--" the prince began.

"There, you see, girls," said the impatient lady, "he has begun,
you see."

"Well, then, LET him talk, mamma," said Alexandra. "This prince
is a great humbug and by no means an idiot," she whispered to
Aglaya.

"Oh, I saw that at once," replied the latter. "I don't think it
at all nice of him to play a part. What does he wish to gain by
it, I wonder?"

"My first impression was a very strong one," repeated the prince.
"When they took me away from Russia, I remember I passed through
many German towns and looked out of the windows, but did not
trouble so much as to ask questions about them. This was after a
long series of fits. I always used to fall into a sort of torpid
condition after such a series, and lost my memory almost
entirely; and though I was not altogether without reason at such
times, yet I had no logical power of thought. This would continue
for three or four days, and then I would recover myself again. I
remember my melancholy was intolerable; I felt inclined to cry; I
sat and wondered and wondered uncomfortably; the consciousness
that everything was strange weighed terribly upon me; I could
understand that it was all foreign and strange. I recollect I
awoke from this state for the first time at Basle, one evening;
the bray of a donkey aroused me, a donkey in the town market. I
saw the donkey and was extremely pleased with it, and from that
moment my head seemed to clear."

"A donkey? How strange! Yet it is not strange. Anyone of us might
fall in love with a donkey! It happened in mythological times,"
said Madame Epanchin, looking wrathfully at her daughters, who
had begun to laugh. "Go on, prince."

"Since that evening I have been specially fond of donkeys. I
began to ask questions about them, for I had never seen one
before; and I at once came to the conclusion that this must be
one of the most useful of animals--strong, willing, patient,
cheap; and, thanks to this donkey, I began to like the whole
country I was travelling through; and my melancholy passed away."

"All this is very strange and interesting," said Mrs. Epanchin.
"Now let's leave the donkey and go on to other matters. What are
you laughing at, Aglaya? and you too, Adelaida? The prince told
us his experiences very cleverly; he saw the donkey himself, and
what have you ever seen? YOU have never been abroad."

"I have seen a donkey though, mamma!" said Aglaya.

"And I've heard one!" said Adelaida. All three of the girls
laughed out loud, and the prince laughed with them.

"Well, it's too bad of you," said mamma. "You must forgive them,
prince; they are good girls. I am very fond of them, though I
often have to be scolding them; they are all as silly and mad as
march hares."

"Oh, why shouldn't they laugh?" said the prince. " I shouldn't
have let the chance go by in their place, I know. But I stick up
for the donkey, all the same; he's a patient, good-natured
fellow."

"Are you a patient man, prince? I ask out of curiosity," said
Mrs. Epanchin.

All laughed again.

"Oh, that wretched donkey again, I see!" cried the lady. "I
assure you, prince, I was not guilty of the least--"

"Insinuation? Oh! I assure you, I take your word for it." And the
prince continued laughing merrily.

"I must say it's very nice of you to laugh. I see you really are
a kind-hearted fellow," said Mrs. Epanchin.

"I'm not always kind, though."

"I am kind myself, and ALWAYS kind too, if you please!" she
retorted, unexpectedly; "and that is my chief fault, for one
ought not to be always kind. I am often angry with these girls
and their father; but the worst of it is, I am always kindest
when I am cross. I was very angry just before you came, and
Aglaya there read me a lesson--thanks, Aglaya, dear--come and
kiss me--there--that's enough" she added, as Aglaya came forward
and kissed her lips and then her hand. "Now then, go on, prince.
Perhaps you can think of something more exciting than about the
donkey, eh?"

"I must say, again, I can't understand how you can expect anyone
to tell you stories straight away, so," said Adelaida. "I know I
never could!"

"Yes, but the prince can, because he is clever--cleverer than you
are by ten or twenty times, if you like. There, that's so,
prince; and seriously, let's drop the donkey now--what else did
you see abroad, besides the donkey?"

"Yes, but the prince told us about the donkey very cleverly, all
the same," said Alexandra. "I have always been most interested to
hear how people go mad and get well again, and that sort of
thing. Especially when it happens suddenly."

"Quite so, quite so!" cried Mrs. Epanchin, delighted. "I see you
CAN be sensible now and then, Alexandra. You were speaking of
Switzerland, prince?"

"Yes. We came to Lucerne, and I was taken out in a boat. I felt
how lovely it was, but the loveliness weighed upon me somehow or
other, and made me feel melancholy."

"Why?" asked Alexandra.

"I don't know; I always feel like that when I look at the
beauties of nature for the first time; but then, I was ill at
that time, of course!"

"Oh, but I should like to see it!" said Adelaida; "and I don't
know WHEN we shall ever go abroad. I've been two years looking
out for a good subject for a picture. I've done all I know. 'The
North and South I know by heart,' as our poet observes. Do help
me to a subject, prince."

"Oh, but I know nothing about painting. It seems to me one only
has to look, and paint what one sees."

"But I don't know HOW to see!"

"Nonsense, what rubbish you talk!" the mother struck in. "Not
know how to see! Open your eyes and look! If you can't see here,
you won't see abroad either. Tell us what you saw yourself,
prince!"

"Yes, that's better," said Adelaida; "the prince learned to see
abroad."

"Oh, I hardly know! You see, I only went to restore my health. I
don't know whether I learned to see, exactly. I was very happy,
however, nearly all the time."

"Happy! you can be happy?" cried Aglaya. "Then how can you say
you did not learn to see? I should think you could teach us to
see!"

"Oh! DO teach us," laughed Adelaida.

"Oh! I can't do that," said the prince, laughing too. "I lived
almost all the while in one little Swiss village; what can I
teach you? At first I was only just not absolutely dull; then my
health began to improve--then every day became dearer and more
precious to me, and the longer I stayed, the dearer became the
time to me; so much so that I could not help observing it; but
why this was so, it would be difficult to say."

"So that you didn't care to go away anywhere else?"

"Well, at first I did; I was restless; I didn't know however I
should manage to support life--you know there are such moments,
especially in solitude. There was a waterfall near us, such a
lovely thin streak of water, like a thread but white and moving.
It fell from a great height, but it looked quite low, and it was
half a mile away, though it did not seem fifty paces. I loved to
listen to it at night, but it was then that I became so restless.
Sometimes I went and climbed the mountain and stood there in the
midst of the tall pines, all alone in the terrible silence, with
our little village in the distance, and the sky so blue, and the
sun so bright, and an old ruined castle on the mountain-side, far
away. I used to watch the line where earth and sky met, and longed
to go and seek there the key of all mysteries, thinking that
I might find there a new life, perhaps some great city where life
should be grander and richer--and then it struck me that life may
be grand enough even in a prison."

"I read that last most praiseworthy thought in my manual, when I
was twelve years old," said Aglaya.

"All this is pure philosophy," said Adelaida. "You are a
philosopher, prince, and have come here to instruct us in your
views."

"Perhaps you are right," said the prince, smiling. "I think I am
a philosopher, perhaps, and who knows, perhaps I do wish to teach
my views of things to those I meet with?"

"Your philosophy is rather like that of an old woman we know, who
is rich and yet does nothing but try how little she can spend.
She talks of nothing but money all day. Your great philosophical
idea of a grand life in a prison and your four happy years in
that Swiss village are like this, rather," said Aglaya.

"As to life in a prison, of course there may be two opinions,"
said the prince. "I once heard the story of a man who lived
twelve years in a prison--I heard it from the man himself. He was
one of the persons under treatment with my professor; he had
fits, and attacks of melancholy, then he would weep, and once he
tried to commit suicide. HIS life in prison was sad enough; his
only acquaintances were spiders and a tree that grew outside his
grating-but I think I had better tell you of another man I met
last year. There was a very strange feature in this case, strange
because of its extremely rare occurrence. This man had once been
brought to the scaffold in company with several others, and had
had the sentence of death by shooting passed upon him for some
political crime. Twenty minutes later he had been reprieved and
some other punishment substituted; but the interval between the
two sentences, twenty minutes, or at least a quarter of an hour,
had been passed in the certainty that within a few minutes he
must die. I was very anxious to hear him speak of his impressions
during that dreadful time, and I several times inquired of him as
to what he thought and felt. He remembered everything with the
most accurate and extraordinary distinctness, and declared that
he would never forget a single iota of the experience.

"About twenty paces from the scaffold, where he had stood to hear
the sentence, were three posts, fixed in the ground, to which to
fasten the criminals (of whom there were several). The first
three criminals were taken to the posts, dressed in long white
tunics, with white caps drawn over their faces, so that they
could not see the rifles pointed at them. Then a group of
soldiers took their stand opposite to each post. My friend was
the eighth on the list, and therefore he would have been among
the third lot to go up. A priest went about among them with a
cross: and there was about five minutes of time left for him to
live.

"He said that those five minutes seemed to him to be a most
interminable period, an enormous wealth of time; he seemed to be
living, in these minutes, so many lives that there was no need as
yet to think of that last moment, so that he made several
arrangements, dividing up the time into portions--one for saying
farewell to his companions, two minutes for that; then a couple
more for thinking over his own life and career and all about
himself; and another minute for a last look around. He remembered
having divided his time like this quite well. While saying good-
bye to his friends he recollected asking one of them some very
usual everyday question, and being much interested in the answer.
Then having bade farewell, he embarked upon those two minutes
which he had allotted to looking into himself; he knew
beforehand what he was going to think about. He wished to put it
to himself as quickly and clearly as possible, that here was he,
a living, thinking man, and that in three minutes he would be
nobody; or if somebody or something, then what and where? He
thought he would decide this question once for all in these last
three minutes. A little way off there stood a church, and its
gilded spire glittered in the sun. He remembered staring
stubbornly at this spire, and at the rays of light sparkling from
it. He could not tear his eyes from these rays of light; he got
the idea that these rays were his new nature, and that in three
minutes he would become one of them, amalgamated somehow with
them.

"The repugnance to what must ensue almost immediately, and the
uncertainty, were dreadful, he said; but worst of all was the
idea, 'What should I do if I were not to die now? What if I were
to return to life again? What an eternity of days, and all mine!
How I should grudge and count up every minute of it, so as to
waste not a single instant!' He said that this thought weighed so
upon him and became such a terrible burden upon his brain that he
could not bear it, and wished they would shoot him quickly and
have done with it."

The prince paused and all waited, expecting him to go on again
and finish the story.

"Is that all?" asked Aglaya.

"All? Yes," said the prince, emerging from a momentary reverie.

"And why did you tell us this?"

"Oh, I happened to recall it, that's all! It fitted into the
conversation--"

"You probably wish to deduce, prince," said Alexandra, "that
moments of time cannot be reckoned by money value, and that
sometimes five minutes are worth priceless treasures. All this is
very praiseworthy; but may I ask about this friend of yours, who
told you the terrible experience of his life? He was reprieved,
you say; in other words, they did restore to him that 'eternity
of days.' What did he do with these riches of time? Did he keep
careful account of his minutes?"

"Oh no, he didn't! I asked him myself. He said that he had not
lived a bit as he had intended, and had wasted many, and many a
minute."

"Very well, then there's an experiment, and the thing is proved;
one cannot live and count each moment; say what you like, but one
CANNOT."

"That is true," said the prince, "I have thought so myself. And
yet, why shouldn't one do it?"

"You think, then, that you could live more wisely than other
people?" said Aglaya.

"I have had that idea."

"And you have it still?"

"Yes--I have it still," the prince replied.

He had contemplated Aglaya until now, with a pleasant though
rather timid smile, but as the last words fell from his lips he
began to laugh, and looked at her merrily.

"You are not very modest!" said she.

"But how brave you are!" said he. "You are laughing, and I--
that man's tale impressed me so much, that I dreamt of it
afterwards; yes, I dreamt of those five minutes . . ."

He looked at his listeners again with that same serious,
searching expression.

"You are not angry with me?" he asked suddenly, and with a kind
of nervous hurry, although he looked them straight in the face.

"Why should we be angry?" they cried.

"Only because I seem to be giving you a lecture, all the time!"

At this they laughed heartily.

"Please don't be angry with me," continued the prince.  "I know
very well that I have seen less of life than other people, and
have less knowledge of it. I must appear to speak strangely
sometimes . . ."

He said the last words nervously.

"You say you have been happy, and that proves you have lived, not
less, but more than other people. Why make all these excuses?"
interrupted Aglaya in a mocking tone of voice. "Besides, you need
not mind about lecturing us; you have nothing to boast of. With
your quietism, one could live happily for a hundred years at
least. One might show you the execution of a felon, or show you
one's little finger. You could draw a moral from either, and be
quite satisfied. That sort of existence is easy enough."

"I can't understand why you always fly into a temper," said Mrs.
Epanchin, who had been listening to the conversation and
examining the faces of the speakers in turn. "I do not understand
what you mean. What has your little finger to do with it? The
prince talks well, though he is not amusing. He began all right,
but now he seems sad."

"Never mind, mamma! Prince, I wish you had seen an execution,"
said Aglaya. "I should like to ask you a question about that, if
you had."

"I have seen an execution," said the prince.

"You have!" cried Aglaya. "I might have guessed it. That's a
fitting crown to the rest of the story. If you have seen an
execution, how can you say you lived happily all the while?"

"But is there capital punishment where you were?" asked Adelaida.

"I saw it at Lyons. Schneider took us there, and as soon as we
arrived we came in for that."

"Well, and did you like it very much? Was it very edifying and
instructive?" asked Aglaya.

"No, I didn't like it at all, and was ill after seeing it; but I
confess I stared as though my eyes were fixed to the sight. I
could not tear them away."

"I, too, should have been unable to tear my eyes away," said
Aglaya.

"They do not at all approve of women going to see an execution
there. The women who do go are condemned for it afterwards in the
newspapers."

"That is, by contending that it is not a sight for women they
admit that it is a sight for men. I congratulate them on the
deduction. I suppose you quite agree with them, prince?"

"Tell us about the execution," put in Adelaida.

"I would much rather not, just now," said the prince, a little
disturbed and frowning slightly;

" You don't seem to want to tell us," said Aglaya, with a mocking
air.

" No,--the thing is, I was telling all about the execution a
little while ago, and--"

"Whom did you tell about it?"

"The man-servant, while I was waiting to see the general."

"Our man-servant?" exclaimed several voices at once.

"Yes, the one who waits in the entrance hall, a greyish, red-
faced man--"

"The prince is clearly a democrat," remarked Aglaya.

"Well, if you could tell Aleksey about it, surely you can tell us
too."

"I do so want to hear about it," repeated Adelaida.

"Just now, I confess," began the prince, with more animation,
"when you asked me for a subject for a picture, I confess I had
serious thoughts of giving you one. I thought of asking you to
draw the face of a criminal, one minute before the fall of the
guillotine, while the wretched man is still standing on the
scaffold, preparatory to placing his neck on the block."

"What, his face? only his face?" asked Adelaida. "That would be a
strange subject indeed. And what sort of a picture would that
make?"

"Oh, why not?" the prince insisted, with some warmth. "When I was
in Basle I saw a picture very much in that style--I should like
to tell you about it; I will some time or other; it struck me
very forcibly."

"Oh, you shall tell us about the Basle picture another time; now
we must have all about the execution," said Adelaida. "Tell us
about that face as; it appeared to your imagination-how should it
be drawn?--just the face alone, do you mean?"

"It was just a minute before the execution," began the prince,
readily, carried away by the recollection and evidently
forgetting everything else in a moment; "just at the instant when
he stepped off the ladder on to the scaffold. He happened to look
in my direction: I saw his eyes and understood all, at once--but
how am I to describe it? I do so wish you or somebody else could
draw it, you, if possible. I thought at the time what a picture
it would make. You must imagine all that went before, of course,
all--all. He had lived in the prison for some time and had not
expected that the execution would take place for at least a week
yet--he had counted on all the formalities and so on taking
time; but it so happened that his papers had been got ready
quickly. At five o'clock in the morning he was asleep--it was
October, and at five in the morning it was cold and dark. The
governor of the prison comes in on tip-toe and touches the
sleeping man's shoulder gently. He starts up. 'What is it?' he
says. 'The execution is fixed for ten o'clock.' He was only just
awake, and would not believe at first, but began to argue that
his papers would not be out for a week, and so on. When he was
wide awake and realized the truth, he became very silent and
argued no more--so they say; but after a bit he said: 'It comes
very hard on one so suddenly' and then he was silent again and
said nothing.

"The three or four hours went by, of course, in necessary
preparations--the priest, breakfast, (coffee, meat, and some
wine they gave him; doesn't it seem ridiculous?) And yet I
believe these people give them a good breakfast out of pure
kindness of heart, and believe that they are doing a good action.
Then he is dressed, and then begins the procession through the
town to the scaffold. I think he, too, must feel that he has an
age to live still while they cart him along. Probably he thought,
on the way, 'Oh, I have a long, long time yet. Three streets of
life yet! When we've passed this street there'll be that other
one; and then that one where the baker's shop is on the right;
and when shall we get there? It's ages, ages!' Around him are
crowds shouting, yelling--ten thousand faces, twenty thousand
eyes. All this has to be endured, and especially the thought:
'Here are ten thousand men, and not one of them is going to be
executed, and yet I am to die.' Well, all that is preparatory.

"At the scaffold there is a ladder, and just there he burst into
tears--and this was a strong man, and a terribly wicked one, they
say! There was a priest with him the whole time, talking; even in
the cart as they drove along, he talked and talked. Probably the
other heard nothing; he would begin to listen now and then, and
at the third word or so he had forgotten all about it.

"At last he began to mount the steps; his legs were tied, so that
he had to take very small steps. The priest, who seemed to be a
wise man, had stopped talking now, and only held the cross for
the wretched fellow to kiss. At the foot of the ladder he had
been pale enough; but when he set foot on the scaffold at the
top, his face suddenly became the colour of paper, positively
like white notepaper. His legs must have become suddenly feeble
and helpless, and he felt a choking in his throat--you know the
sudden feeling one has in moments of terrible fear, when one does
not lose one's wits, but is absolutely powerless to move? If some
dreadful thing were suddenly to happen; if a house were just
about to fall on one;--don't you know how one would long to sit
down and shut one's eyes and wait, and wait? Well, when this
terrible feeling came over him, the priest quickly pressed the
cross to his lips, without a word--a little silver cross it was-
and he kept on pressing it to the man's lips every second. And
whenever the cross touched his lips, the eyes would open for a
moment, and the legs moved once, and he kissed the cross
greedily, hurriedly--just as though he were anxious to catch hold
of something in case of its being useful to him afterwards,
though he could hardly have had any connected religious thoughts
at the time. And so up to the very block.

"How strange that criminals seldom swoon at such a moment! On the
contrary, the brain is especially active, and works incessantly--
probably hard, hard, hard--like an engine at full pressure. I
imagine that various thoughts must beat loud and fast through his
head--all unfinished ones, and strange, funny thoughts, very
likely!--like this, for instance: 'That man is looking at me, and
he has a wart on his forehead! and the executioner has burst one
of his buttons, and the lowest one is all rusty!' And meanwhile
he notices and remembers everything. There is one point that
cannot be forgotten, round which everything else dances and turns
about; and because of this point he cannot faint, and this lasts
until the very final quarter of a second, when the wretched neck
is on the block and the victim listens and waits and KNOWS--
that's the point, he KNOWS that he is just NOW about to die, and
listens for the rasp of the iron over his head. If I lay there, I
should certainly listen for that grating sound, and hear it, too!
There would probably be but the tenth part of an instant left to
hear it in, but one would certainly hear it. And imagine, some
people declare that when the head flies off it is CONSCIOUS of
having flown off! Just imagine what a thing to realize! Fancy if
consciousness were to last for even five seconds!

"Draw the scaffold so that only the top step of the ladder comes
in clearly. The criminal must be just stepping on to it, his face
as white as note-paper. The priest is holding the cross to his
blue lips, and the criminal kisses it, and knows and sees and
understands everything. The cross and the head--there's your
picture; the priest and the executioner, with his two assistants,
and a few heads and eyes below. Those might come in as
subordinate accessories--a sort of mist. There's a picture for
you." The prince paused, and looked around.

"Certainly that isn't much like quietism," murmured Alexandra,
half to herself.

"Now tell us about your love affairs," said Adelaida, after a
moment's pause.

The prince gazed at her in amazement.

"You know," Adelaida continued, "you owe us a description of the
Basle picture; but first I wish to hear how you fell in love.
Don't deny the fact, for you did, of course. Besides, you stop
philosophizing when you are telling about anything."

"Why are you ashamed of your stories the moment after you have
told them?" asked Aglaya, suddenly.

"How silly you are!" said Mrs. Epanchin, looking indignantly
towards the last speaker.

"Yes, that wasn't a clever remark," said Alexandra.

"Don't listen to her, prince," said Mrs. Epanchin; "she says that
sort of thing out of mischief. Don't think anything of their
nonsense, it means nothing. They love to chaff, but they like
you. I can see it in their faces--I know their faces."

"I know their faces, too," said the prince, with a peculiar
stress on the words.

"How so?" asked Adelaida, with curiosity.

"What do YOU know about our faces?" exclaimed the other two, in
chorus.

But the prince was silent and serious. All awaited his reply.

"I'll tell you afterwards," he said quietly.

"Ah, you want to arouse our curiosity!" said Aglaya. "And how
terribly solemn you are about it!"

"Very well," interrupted Adelaida, "then if you can read faces so
well, you must have been in love. Come now; I've guessed--let's
have the secret!"

"I have not been in love," said the prince, as quietly and
seriously as before. "I have been happy in another way."

"How, how?"

"Well, I'll tell you," said the prince, apparently in a deep
reverie.
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VI

"Here you all are," began the prince, "settling yourselves down
to listen to me with so much curiosity, that if I do not satisfy
you you will probably be angry with me. No, no! I'm only
joking!" he added, hastily, with a smile.

"Well, then--they were all children there, and I was always among
children and only with children. They were the children of the
village in which I lived, and they went to the school there--all
of them. I did not teach them, oh no; there was a master for
that, one Jules Thibaut. I may have taught them some things, but
I was among them just as an outsider, and I passed all four years
of my life there among them. I wished for nothing better; I used
to tell them everything and hid nothing from them. Their fathers
and relations were very angry with me, because the children could
do nothing without me at last, and used to throng after me at all
times. The schoolmaster was my greatest enemy in the end! I had
many enemies, and all because of the children. Even Schneider
reproached me. What were they afraid of? One can tell a child
everything, anything. I have often been struck by the fact that
parents know their children so little. They should not conceal so
much from them. How well even little children understand that
their parents conceal things from them, because they consider
them too young to understand! Children are capable of giving
advice in the most important matters. How can one deceive these
dear little birds, when they look at one so sweetly and
confidingly? I call them birds because there is nothing in the
world better than birds!

"However, most of the people were angry with me about one and the
same thing; but Thibaut simply was jealous of me. At first he had
wagged his head and wondered how it was that the children
understood what I told them so well, and could not learn from
him; and he laughed like anything when I replied that neither he
nor I could teach them very much, but that THEY might teach us a
good deal.

"How he could hate me and tell scandalous stories about me,
living among children as he did, is what I cannot understand.
Children soothe and heal the wounded heart. I remember there was
one poor fellow at our professor's who was being treated for
madness, and you have no idea what those children did for
him, eventually. I don't think he was mad, but only terribly
unhappy. But I'll tell you all about him another day. Now I must
get on with this story.

"The children did not love me at first; I was such a sickly,
awkward kind of a fellow then--and I know I am ugly. Besides, I
was a foreigner. The children used to laugh at me, at first; and
they even went so far as to throw stones at me, when they saw me
kiss Marie. I only kissed her once in my life--no, no, don't
laugh!" The prince hastened to suppress the smiles of his
audience at this point. "It was not a matter of LOVE at all! If
only you knew what a miserable creature she was, you would have
pitied her, just as I did. She belonged to our village. Her
mother was an old, old woman, and they used to sell string and
thread, and soap and tobacco, out of the window of their little
house, and lived on the pittance they gained by this trade. The
old woman was ill and very old, and could hardly move. Marie was
her daughter, a girl of twenty, weak and thin and consumptive;
but still she did heavy work at the houses around, day by day.
Well, one fine day a commercial traveller betrayed her and
carried her off; and a week later he deserted her. She came home
dirty, draggled, and shoeless; she had walked for a whole week
without shoes; she had slept in the fields, and caught a terrible
cold; her feet were swollen and sore, and her hands torn and
scratched all over. She never had been pretty even before; but
her eyes were quiet, innocent, kind eyes.

"She was very quiet always--and I remember once, when she had
suddenly begun singing at her work, everyone said, 'Marie tried
to sing today!' and she got so chaffed that she was silent for
ever after. She had been treated kindly in the place before; but
when she came back now--ill and shunned and miserable--not one of
them all had the slightest sympathy for her. Cruel people! Oh,
what hazy understandings they have on such matters! Her mother
was the first to show the way. She received her wrathfully,
unkindly, and with contempt. 'You have disgraced me,' she said.
She was the first to cast her into ignominy; but when they all
heard that Marie had returned to the village, they ran out to see
her and crowded into the little cottage--old men, children, women,
girls--such a hurrying, stamping, greedy crowd. Marie was
lying on the floor at the old woman's feet, hungry, torn,
draggled, crying, miserable.

"When everyone crowded into the room she hid her face in her
dishevelled hair and lay cowering on the floor. Everyone looked
at her as though she were a piece of dirt off the road. The old
men scolded and condemned, and the young ones laughed at her. The
women condemned her too, and looked at her contemptuously, just
as though she were some loathsome insect.

"Her mother allowed all this to go on, and nodded her head and
encouraged them. The old woman was very ill at that time, and
knew she was dying (she really did die a couple of months later),
and though she felt the end approaching she never thought of
forgiving her daughter, to the very day of her death. She would
not even speak to her. She made her sleep on straw in a shed, and
hardly gave her food enough to support life.

"Marie was very gentle to her mother, and nursed her, and did
everything for her; but the old woman accepted all her services
without a word and never showed her the slightest kindness. Marie
bore all this; and I could see when I got to know her that she
thought it quite right and fitting, considering herself the
lowest and meanest of creatures.

"When the old woman took to her bed finally, the other old women
in the village sat with her by turns, as the custom is there; and
then Marie was quite driven out of the house. They gave her no
food at all, and she could not get any work in the village; none
would employ her. The men seemed to consider her no longer a
woman, they said such dreadful things to her. Sometimes on
Sundays, if they were drunk enough, they used to throw her a
penny or two, into the mud, and Marie would silently pick up the
money. She had began to spit blood at that time.

"At last her rags became so tattered and torn that she was
ashamed of appearing in the village any longer. The children used
to pelt her with mud; so she begged to be taken on as assistant
cowherd, but the cowherd would not have her. Then she took to
helping him without leave; and he saw how valuable her assistance
was to him, and did not drive her away again; on the contrary, he
occasionally gave her the remnants of his dinner, bread and
cheese. He considered that he was being very kind. When the
mother died, the village parson was not ashamed to hold Marie up
to public derision and shame. Marie was standing at the coffin's
head, in all her rags, crying.

"A crowd of people had collected to see how she would cry. The
parson, a young fellow ambitious of becoming a great preacher,
began his sermon and pointed to Marie. 'There,' he said, 'there
is the cause of the death of this venerable woman'--(which was a
lie, because she had been ill for at least two years)--'there she
stands before you, and dares not lift her eyes from the ground,
because she knows that the finger of God is upon her. Look at her
tatters and rags--the badge of those who lose their virtue. Who
is she? her daughter!' and so on to the end.

"And just fancy, this infamy pleased them, all of them, nearly.
Only the children had altered--for then they were all on my side
and had learned to love Marie.

"This is how it was: I had wished to do something for Marie; I
longed to give her some money, but I never had a farthing while I
was there. But I had a little diamond pin, and this I sold to a
travelling pedlar; he gave me eight francs for it--it was worth
at least forty.

"I long sought to meet Marie alone; and at last I did meet her,
on the hillside beyond the village. I gave her the eight francs
and asked her to take care of the money because I could get no
more; and then I kissed her and said that she was not to suppose
I kissed her with any evil motives or because I was in love with
her, for that I did so solely out of pity for her, and because
from the first I had not accounted her as guilty so much as
unfortunate. I longed to console and encourage her somehow, and
to assure her that she was not the low, base thing which she and
others strove to make out; but I don't think she understood me.
She stood before me, dreadfully ashamed of herself, and with
downcast eyes; and when I had finished she kissed my hand. I
would have kissed hers, but she drew it away. Just at this moment
the whole troop of children saw us. (I found out afterwards that
they had long kept a watch upon me.) They all began whistling and
clapping their hands, and laughing at us. Marie ran away at once;
and when I tried to talk to them, they threw stones at me. All
the village heard of it the same day, and Marie's position became
worse than ever. The children would not let her pass now in the
streets, but annoyed her and threw dirt at her more than before.
They used to run after her--she racing away with her poor feeble
lungs panting and gasping, and they pelting her and shouting
abuse at her.

"Once I had to interfere by force; and after that I took to
speaking to them every day and whenever I could. Occasionally
they stopped and listened; but they teased Marie all the same.

"I told them how unhappy Marie was, and after a while they
stopped their abuse of her, and let her go by silently. Little by
little we got into the way of conversing together, the children
and I. I concealed nothing from them, I told them all. They
listened very attentively and soon began to be sorry for Marie.
At last some of them took to saying 'Good-morning' to her,
kindly, when they met her. It is the custom there to salute
anyone you meet with 'Good-morning' whether acquainted or not. I
can imagine how astonished Marie was at these first greetings
from the children.

"Once two little girls got hold of some food and took it to her,
and came back and told me. They said she had burst into tears,
and that they loved her very much now. Very soon after that they
all became fond of Marie, and at the same time they began to
develop the greatest affection for myself. They often came to me
and begged me to tell them stories. I think I must have told
stories well, for they did so love to hear them. At last I took
to reading up interesting things on purpose to pass them on to
the little ones, and this went on for all the rest of my time
there, three years. Later, when everyone--even Schneider--was
angry with me for hiding nothing from the children, I pointed out
how foolish it was, for they always knew things, only they learnt
them in a way that soiled their minds but not so from me. One has
only to remember one's own childhood to admit the truth of this.
But nobody was convinced. . . It was two weeks before her
mother died that I had kissed Marie; and when the clergyman
preached that sermon the children were all on my side.

"When I told them what a shame it was of the parson to talk as he
had done, and explained my reason, they were so angry that some
of them went and broke his windows with stones. Of course I
stopped them, for that was not right, but all the village heard
of it, and how I caught it for spoiling the children! Everyone
discovered now that the little ones had taken to being fond of
Marie, and their parents were terribly alarmed; but Marie was so
happy. The children were forbidden to meet her; but they used to
run out of the village to the herd and take her food and things;
and sometimes just ran off there and kissed her, and said, 'Je
vous aime, Marie!' and then trotted back again. They imagined
that I was in love with Marie, and this was the only point on
which I did not undeceive them, for they got such enjoyment out of
it. And what delicacy and tenderness they showed!

"In the evening I used to walk to the waterfall. There was a spot
there which was quite closed in and hidden from view by large
trees; and to this spot the children used to come to me. They
could not bear that their dear Leon should love a poor girl
without shoes to her feet and dressed all in rags and tatters.
So, would you believe it, they actually clubbed together,
somehow, and bought her shoes and stockings, and some linen, and
even a dress! I can't understand how they managed it, but they
did it, all together. When I asked them about it they only
laughed and shouted, and the little girls clapped their hands and
kissed me. I sometimes went to see Marie secretly, too. She had
become very ill, and could hardly walk. She still went with the
herd, but could not help the herdsman any longer. She used to sit
on a stone near, and wait there almost motionless all day, till
the herd went home. Her consumption was so advanced, and she was
so weak, that she used to sit with closed eyes, breathing
heavily. Her face was as thin as a skeleton's, and sweat used to
stand on her white brow in large drops. I always found her
sitting just like that. I used to come up quietly to look at her;
but Marie would hear me, open her eyes, and tremble violently as
she kissed my hands. I did not take my hand away because it made
her happy to have it, and so she would sit and cry quietly.
Sometimes she tried to speak; but it was very difficult to
understand her. She was almost like a madwoman, with excitement
and ecstasy, whenever I came. Occasionally the children came with
me; when they did so, they would stand some way off and keep
guard over us, so as to tell me if anybody came near. This was a
great pleasure to them.

"When we left her, Marie used to relapse at once into her old
condition, and sit with closed eyes and motionless limbs. One day
she could not go out at all, and remained at home all alone in
the empty hut; but the children very soon became aware of the
fact, and nearly all of them visited her that day as she lay
alone and helpless in her miserable bed.

"For two days the children looked after her, and then, when the
village people got to know that Marie was really dying, some of
the old women came and took it in turns to sit by her and look
after her a bit. I think they began to be a little sorry for her
in the village at last; at all events they did not interfere with
the children any more, on her account.

"Marie lay in a state of uncomfortable delirium the whole while;
she coughed dreadfully. The old women would not let the children
stay in the room; but they all collected outside the window each
morning, if only for a moment, and shouted 'Bon jour, notre
bonne Marie!' and Marie no sooner caught sight of, or heard them,
and she became quite animated at once, and, in spite of the old
women, would try to sit up and nod her head and smile at them,
and thank them. The little ones used to bring her nice things and
sweets to eat, but she could hardly touch anything. Thanks to
them, I assure you, the girl died almost perfectly happy. She
almost forgot her misery, and seemed to accept their love as a
sort of symbol of pardon for her offence, though she never ceased
to consider herself a dreadful sinner. They used to flutter at
her window just like little birds, calling out: 'Nous t'aimons,
Marie!'

"She died very soon; I had thought she would live much longer.
The day before her death I went to see her for the last time,
just before sunset. I think she recognized me, for she pressed my
hand.

"Next morning they came and told me that Marie was dead. The
children could not be restrained now; they went and covered her
coffin with flowers, and put a wreath of lovely blossoms on her
head. The pastor did not throw any more shameful words at the
poor dead woman; but there were very few people at the funeral.
However, when it came to carrying the coffin, all the children
rushed up, to carry it themselves. Of course they could not do it
alone, but they insisted on helping, and walked alongside and
behind, crying.

"They have planted roses all round her grave, and every year they
look alter the flowers and make Marie's resting-place as
beautiful as they can. I was in ill odour after all this with the
parents of the children, and especially with the parson and
schoolmaster. Schneider was obliged to promise that I should not
meet them and talk to them; but we conversed from a distance by
signs, and they used to write me sweet little notes. Afterwards I
came closer than ever to those little souls, but even then it was
very dear to me, to have them so fond of me.

"Schneider said that I did the children great harm by my
pernicious 'system'; what nonsense that was! And what did he mean
by my system? He said afterwards that he believed I was a child
myself--just before I came away. 'You have the form and face of an
adult' he said, 'but as regards soul, and character, and perhaps
even intelligence, you are a child in the completest sense of the
word, and always will be, if you live to be sixty.' I laughed
very much, for of course that is nonsense. But it is a fact that
I do not care to be among grown-up people and much prefer the
society of children. However kind people may be to me, I never
feel quite at home with them, and am always glad to get back to
my little companions. Now my companions have always been
children, not because I was a child myself once, but because
young things attract me. On one of the first days of my stay in
Switzerland, I was strolling about alone and miserable, when I
came upon the children rushing noisily out of school, with their
slates and bags, and books, their games, their laughter and
shouts--and my soul went out to them. I stopped and laughed
happily as I watched their little feet moving so quickly. Girls
and boys, laughing and crying; for as they went home many of them
found time to fight and make peace, to weep and play. I forgot my
troubles in looking at them. And then, all those three years, I
tried to understand why men should be for ever tormenting
themselves. I lived the life of a child there, and thought I
should never leave the little village; indeed, I was far from
thinking that I should ever return to Russia. But at last I
recognized the fact that Schneider could not keep me any longer.
And then something so important happened, that Schneider himself
urged me to depart. I am going to see now if can get good advice
about it. Perhaps my lot in life will be changed; but that is not
the principal thing. The principal thing is the entire change
that has already come over me. I left many things behind me--too
many. They have gone. On the journey I said to myself, 'I am
going into the world of men. I don't know much, perhaps, but a
new life has begun for me.' I made up my mind to be honest, and
steadfast in accomplishing my task. Perhaps I shall meet with
troubles and many disappointments, but I have made up my mind to
be polite and sincere to everyone; more cannot be asked of me.
People may consider me a child if they like. I am often called an
idiot, and at one time I certainly was so ill that I was nearly
as bad as an idiot; but I am not an idiot now. How can I possibly
be so when I know myself that I am considered one?

"When I received a letter from those dear little souls, while
passing through Berlin, I only then realized how much I loved
them. It was very, very painful, getting that first little
letter. How melancholy they had been when they saw me off! For a
month before, they had been talking of my departure and sorrowing
over it; and at the waterfall, of an evening, when we parted for
the night, they would hug me so tight and kiss me so warmly, far
more so than before. And every now and then they would turn up
one by one when I was alone, just to give me a kiss and a hug, to
show their love for me. The whole flock went with me to the
station, which was about a mile from the village, and every now
and then one of them would stop to throw his arms round me, and
all the little girls had tears in their voices, though they tried
hard not to cry. As the train steamed out of the station, I saw
them all standing on the platform waving to me and crying
'Hurrah!' till they were lost in the distance.

"I assure you, when I came in here just now and saw your kind
faces (I can read faces well) my heart felt light for the first
time since that moment of parting. I think I must be one of those
who are born to be in luck, for one does not often meet with
people whom one feels he can love from the first sight of their
faces; and yet, no sooner do I step out of the railway carriage
than I happen upon you!

"I know it is more or less a shamefaced thing to speak of one's
feelings before others; and yet here am I talking like this
to you, and am not a bit ashamed or shy. I am an unsociable
sort of fellow and shall very likely not come to see you again
for some time; but don't think the worse of me for that. It is
not that I do not value your society; and you must never suppose
that I have taken offence at anything.

"You asked me about your faces, and what I could read in them; I
will tell you with the greatest pleasure. You, Adelaida Ivanovna,
have a very happy face; it is the most sympathetic of the three.
Not to speak of your natural beauty, one can look at your face
and say to one's self, 'She has the face of a kind sister.' You
are simple and merry, but you can see into another's heart very
quickly. That's what I read in your face.

"You too, Alexandra Ivanovna, have a very lovely face; but I
think you may have some secret sorrow. Your heart is undoubtedly
a kind, good one, but you are not merry. There is a certain
suspicion of 'shadow' in your face, like in that of Holbein's
Madonna in Dresden. So much for your face. Have I guessed right?

"As for your face, Lizabetha Prokofievna, I not only think, but
am perfectly SURE, that you are an absolute child--in all, in
all, mind, both good and bad-and in spite of your years. Don't be
angry with me for saying so; you know what my feelings for
children are. And do not suppose that I am so candid out of pure
simplicity of soul. Oh dear no, it is by no means the case!
Perhaps I have my own very profound object in view."
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VII

When the prince ceased speaking all were gazing merrily at him--
even Aglaya; but Lizabetha Prokofievna looked the jolliest of
all.

"Well!" she cried, "we HAVE 'put him through his paces,' with a
vengeance! My dears, you imagined, I believe, that you were about
to patronize this young gentleman, like some poor protege picked
up somewhere, and taken under your magnificent protection. What
fools we were, and what a specially big fool is your father! Well
done, prince! I assure you the general actually asked me to put
you through your paces, and examine you. As to what you said
about my face, you are absolutely correct in your judgment. I am
a child, and know it. I knew it long before you said so; you have
expressed my own thoughts. I think your nature and mine must be
extremely alike, and I am very glad of it. We are like two drops
of water, only you are a man and I a woman, and I've not been to
Switzerland, and that is all the difference between us."

"Don't be in a hurry, mother; the prince says that he has some
motive behind his simplicity," cried Aglaya.

"Yes, yes, so he does," laughed the others.

"Oh, don't you begin bantering him," said mamma. "He is probably
a good deal cleverer than all three of you girls put together. We
shall see. Only you haven't told us anything about Aglaya yet,
prince; and Aglaya and I are both waiting to hear."

"I cannot say anything at present. I'll tell you afterwards."

"Why? Her face is clear enough, isn't it?"

"Oh yes, of course. You are very beautiful, Aglaya Ivanovna, so
beautiful that one is afraid to look at you."

"Is that all? What about her character?" persisted Mrs. Epanchin.

"It is difficult to judge when such beauty is concerned. I have
not prepared my judgment. Beauty is a riddle."

"That means that you have set Aglaya a riddle!" said Adelaida.
"Guess it, Aglaya! But she's pretty, prince, isn't she?"

"Most wonderfully so," said the latter, warmly, gazing at Aglaya
with admiration. "Almost as lovely as Nastasia Philipovna, but
quite a different type."

All present exchanged looks of surprise.

"As lovely as WHO?" said Mrs. Epanchin. "As NASTASIA PHILIPOVNA?
Where have you seen Nastasia Philipovna? What Nastasia
Philipovna?"

"Gavrila Ardalionovitch showed the general her portrait just
now."

"How so? Did he bring the portrait for my husband?"

"Only to show it. Nastasia Philipovna gave it to Gavrila
Ardalionovitch today, and the latter brought it here to show to
the general."

"I must see it!" cried Mrs. Epanchin. "Where is the portrait? If
she gave it to him, he must have it; and he is still in the
study. He never leaves before four o'clock on Wednesdays. Send
for Gavrila Ardalionovitch at once. No, I don't long to see HIM
so much. Look here, dear prince, BE so kind, will you? Just step
to the study and fetch this portrait! Say we want to look at it.
Please do this for me, will you?"

"He is a nice fellow, but a little too simple," said Adelaida, as
the prince left the room.

"He is, indeed," said Alexandra; "almost laughably so at times."

Neither one nor the other seemed to give expression to her full
thoughts.

"He got out of it very neatly about our faces, though," said
Aglaya. He flattered us all round, even mamma."

"Nonsense" cried the latter. "He did not flatter me. It was I who
found his appreciation flattering. I think you are a great deal
more foolish than he is. He is simple, of course, but also very
knowing. Just like myself."

"How stupid of me to speak of the portrait," thought the prince
as he entered the study, with a feeling of guilt at his heart,
"and yet, perhaps I was right after all." He had an idea,
unformed as yet, but a strange idea.

Gavrila Ardalionovitch was still sitting in the study, buried in
a mass of papers. He looked as though he did not take his salary
from the public company, whose servant he was, for a sinecure.

He grew very wroth and confused when the prince asked for the
portrait, and explained how it came about that he had spoken of
it.

"Oh, curse it all," he said; "what on earth must you go blabbing
for? You know nothing about the thing, and yet--idiot!" he added,
muttering the last word to himself in irrepressible rage.

"I am very sorry; I was not thinking at the time. I merely said
that Aglaya was almost as beautiful as Nastasia Philipovna."

Gania asked for further details; and the prince once more
repeated the conversation. Gania looked at him with ironical
contempt the while.

"Nastasia Philipovna," he began, and there paused; he was clearly
much agitated and annoyed. The prince reminded him of the
portrait.

"Listen, prince," said Gania, as though an idea had just struck
him, "I wish to ask you a great favour, and yet I really don't
know--"

He paused again, he was trying to make up his mind to something,
and was turning the matter over. The prince waited quietly. Once
more Gania fixed him with intent and questioning eyes.

"Prince," he began again, "they are rather angry with me, in
there, owing to a circumstance which I need not explain, so that
I do not care to go in at present without an invitation. I
particularly wish to speak to Aglaya, but I have written a few
words in case I shall not have the chance of seeing her" (here
the prince observed a small note in his hand), "and I do not know
how to get my communication to her. Don't you think you could
undertake to give it to her at once, but only to her, mind, and
so that no one else should see you give it? It isn't much of a
secret, but still--Well, will you do it?"

"I don't quite like it," replied the prince.

"Oh, but it is absolutely necessary for me," Gania entreated.
"Believe me, if it were not so, I would not ask you; how else am
I to get it to her? It is most important, dreadfully important!"

Gania was evidently much alarmed at the idea that the prince
would not consent to take his note, and he looked at him now with
an expression of absolute entreaty.

"Well, I will take it then."

"But mind, nobody is to see!" cried the delighted Gania "And of
course I may rely on your word of honour, eh?"

"I won't show it to anyone," said the prince.

"The letter is not sealed--" continued Gania, and paused in
confusion.

"Oh, I won't read it," said the prince, quite simply.

He took up the portrait, and went out of the room.

Gania, left alone, clutched his head with his hands.

"One word from her," he said, "one word from her, and I may yet be
free."

He could not settle himself to his papers again, for agitation
and excitement, but began walking up and down the room from
corner to corner.

The prince walked along, musing. He did not like his commission,
and disliked the idea of Gania sending a note to Aglaya at all; but
when he was two rooms distant from the drawing-room, where they
all were, he stopped a though recalling something; went to the
window, nearer the light, and began to examine the portrait in
his hand.

He longed to solve the mystery of something in the face Nastasia
Philipovna, something which had struck him as he looked at the
portrait for the first time; the impression had not left him. It
was partly the fact of her marvellous beauty that struck him, and
partly something else. There was a suggestion of immense pride
and disdain in the face almost of hatred, and at the same time
something confiding and very full of simplicity. The contrast
aroused a deep sympathy in his heart as he looked at the lovely
face. The blinding loveliness of it was almost intolerable, this
pale thin face with its flaming eyes; it was a strange beauty.

The prince gazed at it for a minute or two, then glanced around
him, and hurriedly raised the portrait to his lips. When, a
minute after, he reached the drawing-room door, his face was
quite composed. But just as he reached the door he met Aglaya
coming out alone.

"Gavrila Ardalionovitch begged me to give you this," he said,
handing her the note.

Aglaya stopped, took the letter, and gazed strangely into the
prince's eyes. There was no confusion in her face; a little
surprise, perhaps, but that was all. By her look she seemed
merely to challenge the prince to an explanation as to how he and
Gania happened to be connected in this matter. But her expression
was perfectly cool and quiet, and even condescending.

So they stood for a moment or two, confronting one another. At
length a faint smile passed over her face, and she passed by him
without a word.

Mrs. Epanchin examined the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna for
some little while, holding it critically at arm's length.

"Yes, she is pretty," she said at last, "even very pretty. I have
seen her twice, but only at a distance. So you admire this kind
of beauty, do you?" she asked the prince, suddenly.

"Yes, I do--this kind."

"Do you mean especially this kind?"

"Yes, especially this kind."

"Why?"

"There is much suffering in this face," murmured the prince, more
as though talking to himself than answering the question.

"I think you are wandering a little, prince," Mrs. Epanchin
decided, after a lengthened survey of his face; and she tossed
the portrait on to the table, haughtily.

Alexandra took it, and Adelaida came up, and both the girls
examined the photograph. Just then Aglaya entered the room.

"What a power!" cried Adelaida suddenly, as she earnestly
examined the portrait over her sister's shoulder.

"Whom? What power?" asked her mother, crossly.

"Such beauty is real power," said Adelaida. "With such beauty as
that one might overthrow the world." She returned to her easel
thoughtfully.

Aglaya merely glanced at the portrait--frowned, and put out her
underlip; then went and sat down on the sofa with folded hands.
Mrs. Epanchin rang the bell.

"Ask Gavrila Ardalionovitch to step this way," said she to the
man who answered.

"Mamma!" cried Alexandra, significantly.

"I shall just say two words to him, that's all," said her mother,
silencing all objection by her manner; she was evidently
seriously put out. "You see, prince, it is all secrets with us,
just now--all secrets. It seems to be the etiquette of the house,
for some reason or, other. Stupid nonsense, and in a matter
which ought to be approached with all candour and open-
heartedness. There is a marriage being talked of, and I don't
like this marriage--"

"Mamma, what are you saying?" said Alexandra again, hurriedly.

"Well, what, my dear girl? As if you can possibly like it
yourself? The heart is the great thing, and the rest is all
rubbish--though one must have sense as well. Perhaps sense is
really the great thing. Don't smile like that, Aglaya. I don't
contradict myself. A fool with a heart and no brains is just as
unhappy as a fool with brains and no heart. I am one and you are
the other, and therefore both of us suffer, both of us are
unhappy."

"Why are you so unhappy, mother?" asked Adelaida, who alone of
all the company seemed to have preserved her good temper and
spirits up to now.

"In the first place, because of my carefully brought-up
daughters," said Mrs. Epanchin, cuttingly; "and as that is the
best reason I can give you we need not bother about any other at
present. Enough of words, now! We shall see how both of you (I
don't count Aglaya) will manage your business, and whether you,
most revered Alexandra Ivanovna, will be happy with your fine
mate."

"Ah!" she added, as Gania suddenly entered the room, "here's
another marrying subject. How do you do?" she continued, in
response to Gania's bow; but she did not invite him to sit down.
"You are going to be married?"

"Married? how--what marriage?" murmured Gania, overwhelmed with
confusion.

"Are you about to take a wife? I ask,--if you prefer that
expression."

"No, no I-I--no!" said Gania, bringing out his lie with a tell-
tale blush of shame. He glanced keenly at Aglaya, who was sitting
some way off, and dropped his eyes immediately.

Aglaya gazed coldly, intently, and composedly at him, without
taking her eyes off his face, and watched his confusion.

"No? You say no, do you?" continued the pitiless Mrs. General.
"Very well, I shall remember that you told me this Wednesday
morning, in answer to my question, that you are not going to be
married. What day is it, Wednesday, isn't it?"

"Yes, I think so!" said Adelaida.

"You never know the day of the week; what's the day of the
month?"

"Twenty-seventh!" said Gania.

"Twenty-seventh; very well. Good-bye now; you have a good deal to
do, I'm sure, and I must dress and go out. Take your portrait.
Give my respects to your unfortunate mother, Nina Alexandrovna.
Au revoir, dear prince, come in and see us often, do; and I shall
tell old Princess Bielokonski about you. I shall go and see her
on purpose. And listen, my dear boy, I feel sure that God has
sent you to Petersburg from Switzerland on purpose for me. Maybe
you will have other things to do, besides, but you are sent
chiefly for my sake, I feel sure of it. God sent you to me! Au
revoir! Alexandra, come with me, my dear."

Mrs. Epanchin left the room.

Gania--confused, annoyed, furious--took up his portrait, and
turned to the prince with a nasty smile on his face.

"Prince," he said, "I am just going home. If you have not changed
your mind as to living with us, perhaps you would like to come
with me. You don't know the address, I believe?"

"Wait a minute, prince," said Aglaya, suddenly rising from her
seat, "do write something in my album first, will you? Father
says you are a most talented caligraphist; I'll bring you my book
in a minute." She left the room.

"Well, au revoir, prince," said Adelaida, "I must be going too."
She pressed the prince's hand warmly, and gave him a friendly
smile as she left the room. She did not so much as look at Gania.

"This is your doing, prince," said Gania, turning on the latter
so soon as the others were all out of the room. "This is your
doing, sir! YOU have been telling them that I am going to be
married!" He said this in a hurried whisper, his eyes flashing
with rage and his face ablaze. "You shameless tattler!"

"I assure you, you are under a delusion," said the prince, calmly
and politely. "I did not even know that you were to be married."

"You heard me talking about it, the general and me. You heard me
say that everything was to be settled today at Nastasia
Philipovna's, and you went and blurted it out here. You lie if
you deny it. Who else could have told them Devil take it, sir,
who could have told them except yourself? Didn't the old woman as
good as hint as much to me?"

"If she hinted to you who told her you must know best, of course;
but I never said a word about it."

"Did you give my note? Is there an answer?" interrupted Gania,
impatiently.

But at this moment Aglaya came back, and the prince had no time
to reply.

"There, prince," said she, "there's my album. Now choose a page
and write me something, will you? There's a pen, a new one; do
you mind a steel one? I have heard that you caligraphists don't
like steel pens."

Conversing with the prince, Aglaya did not even seem to notice
that Gania was in the room. But while the prince was getting his
pen ready, finding a page, and making his preparations to write,
Gania came up to the fireplace where Aglaya was standing, to the
right of the prince, and in trembling, broken accents said,
almost in her ear:

"One word, just one word from you, and I'm saved."

The prince turned sharply round and looked at both of them.
Gania's face was full of real despair; he seemed to have said the
words almost unconsciously and on the impulse of the moment.

Aglaya gazed at him for some seconds with precisely the same
composure and calm astonishment as she had shown a little while
before, when the prince handed her the note, and it appeared that
this calm surprise and seemingly absolute incomprehension of what
was said to her, were more terribly overwhelming to Gania than
even the most plainly expressed disdain would have been.

"What shall I write?" asked the prince.

"I'll dictate to you," said Aglaya, coming up to the table. "Now
then, are you ready? Write, 'I never condescend to bargain!' Now
put your name and the date. Let me see it."

The prince handed her the album.

"Capital! How beautifully you have written it! Thanks so much. Au
revoir, prince. Wait a minute,"; she added, "I want to give you
something for a keepsake. Come with me this way, will you?"

The prince followed her. Arrived at the dining-room, she stopped.

"Read this," she said, handing him Gania's note.

The prince took it from her hand, but gazed at her in
bewilderment.

"Oh! I KNOW you haven't read it, and that you could never be that
man's accomplice. Read it, I wish you to read it."

The letter had evidently been written in a hurry:

"My fate is to be decided today" (it ran), "you know how. This
day I must give my word irrevocably. I have no right to ask your
help, and I dare not allow myself to indulge in any hopes; but
once you said just one word, and that word lighted up the night
of my life, and became the beacon of my days. Say one more such
word, and save me from utter ruin. Only tell me, 'break off the
whole thing!' and I will do so this very day. Oh! what can it
cost you to say just this one word? In doing so you will but be
giving me a sign of your sympathy for me, and of your pity; only
this, only this; nothing more, NOTHING. I dare not indulge in any
hope, because I am unworthy of it. But if you say but this word,
I will take up my cross again with joy, and return once more to
my battle with poverty. I shall meet the storm and be glad of it;
I shall rise up with renewed strength.

"Send me back then this one word of sympathy, only sympathy, I
swear to you; and oh! do not be angry with the audacity of
despair, with the drowning man who has dared to make this last
effort to save himself from perishing beneath the waters.

"G.L."

"This man assures me," said Aglaya, scornfully, when the prince
had finished reading the letter, "that the words 'break off
everything' do not commit me to anything whatever; and himself
gives me a written guarantee to that effect, in this letter.
Observe how ingenuously he underlines certain words, and how
crudely he glosses over his hidden thoughts. He must know that if
he 'broke off everything,' FIRST, by himself, and without telling
me a word about it or having the slightest hope on my account,
that in that case I should perhaps be able to change my opinion
of him, and even accept his--friendship. He must know that, but
his soul is such a wretched thing. He knows it and cannot make up
his mind; he knows it and yet asks for guarantees. He cannot
bring himself to TRUST, he wants me to give him hopes of myself
before he lets go of his hundred thousand roubles. As to the
'former word' which he declares 'lighted up the night of his
life,' he is simply an impudent liar; I merely pitied him once.
But he is audacious and shameless. He immediately began to hope,
at that very moment. I saw it. He has tried to catch me ever
since; he is still fishing for me. Well, enough of this. Take the
letter and give it back to him, as soon as you have left our
house; not before, of course."

"And what shall I tell him by way of answer?"

"Nothing--of course! That's the best answer. Is it the case that
you are going to live in his house?"

"Yes, your father kindly recommended me to him."

"Then look out for him, I warn you! He won't forgive you easily,
for taking back the letter."

Aglaya pressed the prince's hand and left the room. Her face was
serious and frowning; she did not even smile as she nodded good-
bye to him at the door.

"I'll just get my parcel and we'll go," said the prince to Gania,
as he re-entered the drawing-room. Gania stamped his foot with
impatience. His face looked dark and gloomy with rage.

At last they left the house behind them, the prince carrying his
bundle.

"The answer--quick--the answer!" said Gania, the instant they
were outside. "What did she say? Did you give the letter?" The
prince silently held out the note. Gania was struck motionless
with amazement.

"How, what? my letter?" he cried. "He never delivered it! I might
have guessed it, oh! curse him! Of course she did not understand
what I meant, naturally! Why-why-WHY didn't you give her the note,
you--"

"Excuse me; I was able to deliver it almost immediately after
receiving your commission, and I gave it, too, just as you asked
me to. It has come into my hands now because Aglaya Ivanovna has
just returned it to me."

"How? When?"

"As soon as I finished writing in her album for her, and when she
asked me to come out of the room with her (you heard?), we went
into the dining-room, and she gave me your letter to read, and
then told me to return it."

"To READ?" cried Gania, almost at the top of his voice; "to READ,
and you read it?"

And again he stood like a log in the middle of the pavement; so
amazed that his mouth remained open after the last word had left
it.

"Yes, I have just read it."

"And she gave it you to read herself--HERSELF?"

"Yes, herself; and you may believe me when I tell you that I
would not have read it for anything without her permission."

Gania was silent for a minute or two, as though thinking out some
problem. Suddenly he cried:

"It's impossible, she cannot have given it to you to read! You
are lying. You read it yourself!"

"I am telling you the truth," said the prince in his former
composed tone of voice; "and believe me, I am extremely sorry
that the circumstance should have made such an unpleasant
impression upon you!"

"But, you wretched man, at least she must have said something?
There must be SOME answer from her!"

"Yes, of course, she did say something!"

"Out with it then, damn it! Out with it at once!" and Gania
stamped his foot twice on the pavement.

"As soon as I had finished reading it, she told me that you were
fishing for her; that you wished to compromise her so far as to
receive some hopes from her, trusting to which hopes you might
break with the prospect of receiving a hundred thousand roubles.
She said that if you had done this without bargaining with her,
if you had broken with the money prospects without trying to
force a guarantee out of her first, she might have been your
friend. That's all, I think. Oh no, when I asked her what I was
to say, as I took the letter, she replied that 'no answer is the
best answer.' I think that was it. Forgive me if I do not use her
exact expressions. I tell you the sense as I understood it
myself."

Ungovernable rage and madness took entire possession of Gania,
and his fury burst out without the least attempt at restraint.

"Oh! that's it, is it!" he yelled. "She throws my letters out of
the window, does she! Oh! and she does not condescend to bargain,
while I DO, eh? We shall see, we shall see! I shall pay her out
for this."

He twisted himself about with rage, and grew paler and paler; he
shook his fist. So the pair walked along a few steps. Gania did
not stand on ceremony with the prince; he behaved just as though
he were alone in his room. He clearly counted the latter as a
nonentity. But suddenly he seemed to have an idea, and
recollected himself.

"But how was it?" he asked, "how was it that you (idiot that you
are)," he added to himself, "were so very confidential a couple
of hours after your first meeting with these people? How was
that, eh?"

Up to this moment jealousy had not been one of his torments; now
it suddenly gnawed at his heart.

"That is a thing I cannot undertake to explain," replied the
prince. Gania looked at him with angry contempt.

"Oh! I suppose the present she wished to make to you, when she
took you into the dining-room, was her confidence, eh?"

"I suppose that was it; I cannot explain it otherwise?"

"But why, WHY? Devil take it, what did you do in there? Why did
they fancy you? Look here, can't you remember exactly what you
said to them, from the very beginning? Can't you remember?"

"Oh, we talked of a great many things. When first I went in we
began to speak of Switzerland."

"Oh, the devil take Switzerland!"

"Then about executions."

"Executions?"

"Yes--at least about one. Then I told the whole three years'
story of my life, and the history of a poor peasant girl--"

"Oh, damn the peasant girl! go on, go on!" said Gania,
impatiently.

"Then how Schneider told me about my childish nature, and--"

"Oh, CURSE Schneider and his dirty opinions! Go on."

"Then I began to talk about faces, at least about the EXPRESSIONS
of faces, and said that Aglaya Ivanovna was nearly as lovely as
Nastasia Philipovna. It was then I blurted out about the
portrait--"

"But you didn't repeat what you heard in the study? You didn't
repeat that--eh?"

"No, I tell you I did NOT."

"Then how did they--look here! Did Aglaya show my letter to the
old lady?"

"Oh, there I can give you my fullest assurance that she did NOT.
I was there all the while--she had no time to do it!"

"But perhaps you may not have observed it, oh, you damned idiot,
you!" he shouted, quite beside himself with fury. "You can't even
describe what went on."

Gania having once descended to abuse, and receiving no check,
very soon knew no bounds or limit to his licence, as is often the
way in such cases. His rage so blinded him that he had not even
been able to detect that this "idiot," whom he was abusing to
such an extent, was very far from being slow of comprehension,
and had a way of taking in an impression, and afterwards giving
it out again, which was very un-idiotic indeed. But something a
little unforeseen now occurred.

"I think I ought to tell you, Gavrila Ardalionovitch," said the
prince, suddenly, "that though I once was so ill that I really
was little better than an idiot, yet now I am almost recovered,
and that, therefore, it is not altogether pleasant to be called
an idiot to my face. Of course your anger is excusable,
considering the treatment you have just experienced; but I must
remind you that you have twice abused me rather rudely. I do not
like this sort of thing, and especially so at the first time of
meeting a man, and, therefore, as we happen to be at this moment
standing at a crossroad, don't you think we had better part, you
to the left, homewards, and I to the right, here? I have twenty-
five roubles, and I shall easily find a lodging."

Gania was much confused, and blushed for shame "Do forgive me,
prince!" he cried, suddenly changing his abusive tone for one of
great courtesy. "For Heaven's sake, forgive me! You see what a
miserable plight I am in, but you hardly know anything of the
facts of the case as yet. If you did, I am sure you would forgive
me, at least partially. Of course it was inexcusable of me, I
know, but--"

"Oh, dear me, I really do not require such profuse apologies,"
replied the prince, hastily. "I quite understand how unpleasant
your position is, and that is what made you abuse me. So
come along to your house, after all. I shall be delighted--"

"I am not going to let him go like this," thought Gania, glancing
angrily at the prince as they walked along. " The fellow has
sucked everything out of me, and now he takes off his mask--
there's something more than appears, here we shall see. It shall
all be as clear as water by tonight, everything!"

But by this time they had reached Gania's house.
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VIII

The flat occupied by Gania and his family was on the third floor
of the house. It was reached by a clean light staircase, and
consisted of seven rooms, a nice enough lodging, and one would
have thought a little too good for a clerk on two thousand
roubles a year. But it was designed to accommodate a few lodgers
on board terms, and had beer) taken a few months since, much to
the disgust of Gania, at the urgent request of his mother and his
sister, Varvara Ardalionovna, who longed to do something to
increase the family income a little, and fixed their hopes upon
letting lodgings. Gania frowned upon the idea. He thought it
infra dig, and did not quite like appearing in society
afterwards--that society in which he had been accustomed to pose
up to now as a young man of rather brilliant prospects. All these
concessions and rebuffs of fortune, of late, had wounded his
spirit severely, and his temper had become extremely irritable,
his wrath being generally quite out of proportion to the cause.
But if he had made up his mind to put up with this sort of life
for a while, it was only on the plain understanding with his
inner self that he would very soon change it all, and have things
as he chose again. Yet the very means by which he hoped to make
this change threatened to involve him in even greater
difficulties than he had had before.

The flat was divided by a passage which led straight out of the
entrance-hall. Along one side of this corridor lay the three
rooms which were designed for the accommodation of the "highly
recommended" lodgers. Besides these three rooms there was
another small one at the end of the passage, close to the
kitchen, which was allotted to General Ivolgin, the nominal
master of the house, who slept on a wide sofa, and was obliged
to pass into and out of his room through the kitchen, and up
or down the back stairs. Colia, Gania's young brother, a
school-boy of thirteen, shared this room with his father.
He, too, had to sleep on an old sofa, a narrow, uncomfortable
thing with a torn rug over it; his chief duty being to look
after his father, who needed to be watched more and more
every day.

The prince was given the middle room of the three, the first
being occupied by one Ferdishenko, while the third was empty.

But Gania first conducted the prince to the family apartments.
These consisted of a "salon," which became the dining-room when
required; a drawing-room, which was only a drawing-room in the
morning, and became Gania's study in the evening, and his bedroom
at night; and lastly Nina Alexandrovna's and Varvara's bedroom, a
small, close chamber which they shared together.

In a word, the whole place was confined, and a "tight fit" for
the party. Gania used to grind his teeth with rage over the state
of affairs; though he was anxious to be dutiful and polite to his
mother. However, it was very soon apparent to anyone coming into
the house, that Gania was the tyrant of the family.

Nina Alexandrovna and her daughter were both seated in the
drawing-room, engaged in knitting, and talking to a visitor, Ivan
Petrovitch Ptitsin.

The lady of the house appeared to be a woman of about fifty years
of age, thin-faced, and with black lines under the eves. She
looked ill and rather sad; but her face was a pleasant one for
all that; and from the first word that fell from her lips, any
stranger would at once conclude that she was of a serious and
particularly sincere nature. In spite of her sorrowful
expression, she gave the idea of possessing considerable firmness
and decision.

Her dress was modest and simple to a degree, dark and elderly in
style; but both her face and appearance gave evidence that she
had seen better days.

Varvara was a girl of some twenty-three summers, of middle
height, thin, but possessing a face which, without being actually
beautiful, had the rare quality of charm, and might fascinate
even to the extent of passionate regard.

She was very like her mother: she even dressed like her, which
proved that she had no taste for smart clothes. The expression of
her grey eyes was merry and gentle, when it was not, as lately,
too full of thought and anxiety. The same decision and firmness
was to be observed in her face as in her mother's, but her
strength seemed to be more vigorous than that of Nina
Alexandrovna. She was subject to outbursts of temper, of which
even her brother was a little afraid.

The present visitor, Ptitsin, was also afraid of her. This was a
young fellow of something under thirty, dressed plainly, but
neatly. His manners were good, but rather ponderously so. His
dark beard bore evidence to the fact that he was not in any
government employ. He could speak well, but preferred silence. On
the whole he made a decidedly agreeable impression. He was
clearly attracted by Varvara, and made no secret of his feelings.
She trusted him in a friendly way, but had not shown him any
decided encouragement as yet, which fact did not quell his ardour
in the least.

Nina Alexandrovna was very fond of him, and had grown quite
confidential with him of late. Ptitsin, as was well known, was
engaged in the business of lending out money on good security,
and at a good rate of interest. He was a great friend of Gania's.

After a formal introduction by Gania (who greeted his mother very
shortly, took no notice of his sister, and immediately marched
Ptitsin out of the room), Nina Alexandrovna addressed a few kind
words to the prince and forthwith requested Colia, who had just
appeared at the door, to show him to the " middle room."

Colia was a nice-looking boy. His expression was simple and
confiding, and his manners were very polite and engaging.

"Where's your luggage?" he asked, as he led the prince away to
his room.

"I had a bundle; it's in the entrance hall."

"I'll bring it you directly. We only have a cook and one maid, so
I have to help as much as I can. Varia looks after things,
generally, and loses her temper over it. Gania says you have only
just arrived from Switzerland? "

"Yes."

"Is it jolly there?"

"Very."

"Mountains?"

"Yes."

"I'll go and get your bundle."

Here Varvara joined them.

"The maid shall bring your bed-linen directly. Have you a
portmanteau?"

"No; a bundle--your brother has just gone to the hall for it."

"There's nothing there except this," said Colia, returning at
this moment. "Where did you put it?"

"Oh! but that's all I have," said the prince, taking it.

"Ah! I thought perhaps Ferdishenko had taken it."

"Don't talk nonsense," said Varia, severely. She seemed put out,
and was only just polite with the prince.

"Oho!" laughed the boy, "you can be nicer than that to ME, you
know--I'm not Ptitsin!"

"You ought to be whipped, Colia, you silly boy. If you want
anything" (to the prince) "please apply to the servant. We dine
at half-past four. You can take your dinner with us, or have it
in your room, just as you please. Come along, Colia, don't
disturb the prince."

At the door they met Gania coming in.

"Is father in?" he asked. Colia whispered something in his ear
and went out.

"Just a couple of words, prince, if you'll excuse me. Don't blab
over THERE about what you may see here, or in this house as to
all that about Aglaya and me, you know. Things are not altogether
pleasant in this establishment--devil take it all! You'll see. At
all events keep your tongue to yourself for TODAY."

"I assure you I 'blabbed' a great deal less than you seem to
suppose," said the prince, with some annoyance. Clearly the
relations between Gania and himself were by no means improving.

"Oh I well; I caught it quite hot enough today, thanks to you.
However, I forgive you."

"I think you might fairly remember that I was not in any way
bound, I had no reason to be silent about that portrait. You
never asked me not to mention it."

"Pfu! what a wretched room this is--dark, and the window looking
into the yard. Your coming to our house is, in no respect,
opportune. However, it's not MY affair. I don't keep the
lodgings."

Ptitsin here looked in and beckoned to Gania, who hastily left
the room, in spite of the fact that he had evidently wished to
say something more and had only made the remark about the room to
gain time. The prince had hardly had time to wash and tidy
himself a little when the door opened once more, and another
figure appeared.

This was a gentleman of about thirty, tall, broadshouldered, and
red-haired; his face was red, too, and he possessed a pair of
thick lips, a wide nose, small eyes, rather bloodshot, and with
an ironical expression in them; as though he were perpetually
winking at someone. His whole appearance gave one the idea of
impudence; his dress was shabby.

He opened the door just enough to let his head in. His head
remained so placed for a few seconds while he quietly scrutinized
the room; the door then opened enough to admit his body; but
still he did not enter. He stood on the threshold and examined
the prince carefully. At last he gave the door a final shove,
entered, approached the prince, took his hand and seated himself
and the owner of the room on two chairs side by side.

"Ferdishenko," he said, gazing intently and inquiringly into the
prince's eyes.

"Very well, what next?" said the latter, almost laughing in his
face.

"A lodger here," continued the other, staring as before.

"Do you wish to make acquaintance?" asked the prince.

"Ah!" said the visitor, passing his fingers through his hair and
sighing. He then looked over to the other side of the room and
around it. "Got any money?" he asked, suddenly.

"Not much."

"How much?"

"Twenty-five roubles."

"Let's see it."

The prince took his banknote out and showed it to Ferdishenko.
The latter unfolded it and looked at it; then he turned it round
and examined the other side; then he held it up to the light.

"How strange that it should have browned so," he said,
reflectively. "These twenty-five rouble notes brown in a most
extraordinary way, while other notes often grow paler. Take it."

The prince took his note. Ferdishenko rose.

"I came here to warn you," he said. "In the first place, don't
lend me any money, for I shall certainly ask you to."

"Very well."

"Shall you pay here?"

"Yes, I intend to."

"Oh! I DON'T intend to. Thanks. I live here, next door to you;
you noticed a room, did you? Don't come to me very often; I shall
see you here quite often enough. Have you seen the general?"

"No."

"Nor heard him?"

"No; of course not."

"Well, you'll both hear and see him soon; he even tries to borrow
money from me. Avis au lecteur. Good-bye; do you think a man can
possibly live with a name like Ferdishenko?"

"Why not?"

"Good-bye."

And so he departed. The prince found out afterwards that this
gentleman made it his business to amaze people with his
originality and wit, but that it did not as a rule "come off." He
even produced a bad impression on some people, which grieved him
sorely; but he did not change his ways for all that.

As he went out of the prince's room, he collided with yet another
visitor coming in. Ferdishenko took the opportunity of making
several warning gestures to the prince from behind the new
arrival's back, and left the room in conscious pride.

This next arrival was a tall red-faced man of about fifty-five,
with greyish hair and whiskers, and large eyes which stood out of
their sockets. His appearance would have been distinguished had
it not been that he gave the idea of being rather dirty. He was
dressed in an old coat, and he smelled of vodka when he came
near. His walk was effective, and he clearly did his best to
appear dignified, and to impress people by his manner.

This gentleman now approached the prince slowly, and with a most
courteous smile; silently took his hand and held it in his own,
as he examined the prince's features as though searching for
familiar traits therein.

"'Tis he, 'tis he!" he said at last, quietly, but with much
solemnity. "As though he were alive once more. I heard the
familiar name-the dear familiar name--and, oh. I how it reminded
me of the irrevocable past--Prince Muishkin, I believe ?"

"Exactly so."

"General Ivolgin--retired and unfortunate. May I ask your
Christian and generic names?"

"Lef Nicolaievitch."

"So, so--the son of my old, I may say my childhood's friend,
Nicolai Petrovitch."

"My father's name was Nicolai Lvovitch."

"Lvovitch," repeated the general without the slightest haste, and
with perfect confidence, just as though he had not committed
himself the least in the world, but merely made a little slip of
the tongue. He sat down, and taking the prince's hand, drew him
to a seat next to himself.

"I carried you in my arms as a baby," he observed.

"Really?" asked the prince. "Why, it's twenty years since my
father died."

"Yes, yes--twenty years and three months. We were educated
together; I went straight into the army, and he--"

"My father went into the army, too. He was a sub-lieutenant in
the Vasiliefsky regiment."

"No, sir--in the Bielomirsky; he changed into the latter shortly
before his death. I was at his bedside when he died, and gave him
my blessing for eternity. Your mother--" The general paused, as
though overcome with emotion.

"She died a few months later, from a cold," said the prince.

"Oh, not cold--believe an old man--not from a cold, but from
grief for her prince. Oh--your mother, your mother! heigh-ho!
Youth--youth! Your father and I--old friends as we were--nearly
murdered each other for her sake."

The prince began to be a little incredulous.

"I was passionately in love with her when she was engaged--
engaged to my friend. The prince noticed the fact and was
furious. He came and woke me at seven o'clock one morning. I rise
and dress in amazement; silence on both sides. I understand it
all. He takes a couple of pistols out of his pocket--across a
handkerchief--without witnesses. Why invite witnesses when both
of us would be walking in eternity in a couple of minutes? The
pistols are loaded; we stretch the handkerchief and stand
opposite one another. We aim the pistols at each other's hearts.
Suddenly tears start to our eyes, our hands shake; we weep, we
embrace--the battle is one of self-sacrifice now! The prince
shouts, 'She is yours;' I cry, 'She is yours--' in a word, in a
word--You've come to live with us, hey?"

"Yes--yes--for a while, I think," stammered the prince.

"Prince, mother begs you to come to her," said Colia, appearing
at the door.

The prince rose to go, but the general once more laid his hand in
a friendly manner on his shoulder, and dragged him down on to the
sofa.

"As the true friend of your father, I wish to say a few words to
you," he began. "I have suffered--there was a catastrophe. I
suffered without a trial; I had no trial. Nina Alexandrovna my
wife, is an excellent woman, so is my daughter Varvara. We have
to let lodgings because we are poor--a dreadful, unheard-of come-
down for us--for me, who should have been a governor-general; but
we are very glad to have YOU, at all events. Meanwhile there is a
tragedy in the house."

The prince looked inquiringly at the other.

"Yes, a marriage is being arranged--a marriage between a
questionable woman and a young fellow who might be a flunkey.
They wish to bring this woman into the house where my wife and
daughter reside, but while I live and breathe she shall never
enter my doors. I shall lie at the threshold, and she shall
trample me underfoot if she does. I hardly talk to Gania now, and
avoid him as much as I can. I warn you of this beforehand, but
you cannot fail to observe it. But you are the son of my old
friend, and I hope--"

"Prince, be so kind as to come to me for a moment in the drawing-
room," said Nina Alexandrovna herself, appearing at the door.

"Imagine, my dear," cried the general, "it turns out that I have
nursed the prince on my knee in the old days." His wife looked
searchingly at him, and glanced at the prince, but said nothing.
The prince rose and followed her; but hardly had they reached the
drawing-room, and Nina Alexandrovna had begun to talk hurriedly,
when in came the general. She immediately relapsed into silence.
The master of the house may have observed this, but at all events
he did not take any notice of it; he was in high good humour.

"A son of my old friend, dear," he cried; "surely you must
remember Prince Nicolai Lvovitch? You saw him at--at Tver."

"I don't remember any Nicolai Lvovitch, Was that your father?"
she inquired of the prince.

"Yes, but he died at Elizabethgrad, not at Tver," said the
prince, rather timidly. "So Pavlicheff told me."

"No, Tver," insisted the general; "he removed just before his
death. You were very small and cannot remember; and Pavlicheff,
though an excellent fellow, may have made a mistake."

"You knew Pavlicheff then?"

"Oh, yes--a wonderful fellow; but I was present myself. I gave
him my blessing."

"My father was just about to be tried when he died," said the
prince, "although I never knew of what he was accused. He died in
hospital."

"Oh! it was the Kolpakoff business, and of course he would have
been acquitted."

"Yes? Do you know that for a fact?" asked the prince, whose
curiosity was aroused by the general's words.

"I should think so indeed!" cried the latter. "The court-martial
came to no decision. It was a mysterious, an impossible business,
one might say! Captain Larionoff, commander of the company, had
died; his command was handed over to the prince for the moment.
Very well. This soldier, Kolpakoff, stole some leather from one
of his comrades, intending to sell it, and spent the money on
drink. Well! The prince--you understand that what follows took
place in the presence of the sergeant-major, and a corporal--the
prince rated Kolpakoff soundly, and threatened to have him
flogged. Well, Kolpakoff went back to the barracks, lay down on a
camp bedstead, and in a quarter of an hour was dead: you quite
understand? It was, as I said, a strange, almost impossible,
affair. In due course Kolpakoff was buried; the prince wrote his
report, the deceased's name was removed from the roll. All as it
should be, is it not? But exactly three months later at the
inspection of the brigade, the man Kolpakoff was found in the
third company of the second battalion of infantry, Novozemlianski
division, just as if nothing had happened!"

"What?" said the prince, much astonished.

"It did not occur--it's a mistake!" said Nina Alexandrovna
quickly, looking, at the prince rather anxiously. "Mon mari se
trompe," she added, speaking in French.

"My dear, 'se trompe' is easily said. Do you remember any case at
all like it? Everybody was at their wits' end. I should be the
first to say 'qu'on se trompe,' but unfortunately I was an eye-
witness, and was also on the commission of inquiry. Everything
proved that it was really he, the very same soldier Kolpakoff who
had been given the usual military funeral to the sound of the
drum. It is of course a most curious case--nearly an impossible
one. I recognize that ... but--"

"Father, your dinner is ready," said Varvara at this point,
putting her head in at the door.

"Very glad, I'm particularly hungry. Yes, yes, a strange
coincidence--almost a psychological--"

"Your soup'll be cold; do come."

"Coming, coming " said the general. "Son of my old friend--" he
was heard muttering as he went down the passage.

"You will have to excuse very much in my husband, if you stay
with us," said Nina Alexandrovna; "but he will not disturb you
often. He dines alone. Everyone has his little peculiarities, you
know, and some people perhaps have more than those who are most
pointed at and laughed at. One thing I must beg of you-if my
husband applies to you for payment for board and lodging, tell
him that you have already paid me. Of course anything paid by you
to the general would be as fully settled as if paid to me, so far
as you are concerned; but I wish it to be so, if you please, for
convenience' sake. What is it, Varia?"

Varia had quietly entered the room, and was holding out the
portrait of Nastasia Philipovna to her mother.

Nina Alexandrovna started, and examined the photograph intently,
gazing at it long and sadly. At last she looked up inquiringly at
Varia.

"It's a present from herself to him," said Varia; "the question
is to be finally decided this evening."

"This evening!" repeated her mother in a tone of despair, but
softly, as though to herself. "Then it's all settled, of course,
and there's no hope left to us. She has anticipated her answer by
the present of her portrait. Did he show it you himself?" she
added, in some surprise.

"You know we have hardly spoken to each other for a whole month.
Ptitsin told me all about it; and the photo was lying under the
table, and I picked it up."

"Prince," asked Nina Alexandrovna, "I wanted to inquire whether
you have known my son long? I think he said that you had only
arrived today from somewhere."

The prince gave a short narrative of what we have heard before,
leaving out the greater part. The two ladies listened intently.

"I did not ask about Gania out of curiosity," said the elder, at
last. "I wish to know how much you know about him, because he
said just now that we need not stand on ceremony with you. What,
exactly, does that mean?"

At this moment Gania and Ptitsin entered the room together, and
Nina Alexandrovna immediately became silent again. The prince
remained seated next to her, but Varia moved to the other end of
the room; the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna remained lying as
before on the work-table. Gania observed it there, and with a
frown of annoyance snatched it up and threw it across to his
writing-table, which stood at the other end of the room.

"Is it today, Gania?" asked Nina Alexandrovna, at last.

"Is what today?" cried the former. Then suddenly recollecting
himself, he turned sharply on the prince. "Oh," he growled, "I
see, you are here, that explains it! Is it a disease, or what,
that you can't hold your tongue? Look here, understand once for
all, prince--"

"I am to blame in this, Gania--no one else," said Ptitsin.

Gania glanced inquiringly at the speaker.

"It's better so, you know, Gania--especially as, from one point
of view, the matter may be considered as settled," said Ptitsin;
and sitting down a little way from the table he began to study a
paper covered with pencil writing.

Gania stood and frowned, he expected a family scene. He never
thought of apologizing to the prince, however.

"If it's all settled, Gania, then of course Mr. Ptitsin is
right," said Nina Alexandrovna. "Don't frown. You need not worry
yourself, Gania; I shall ask you no questions. You need not tell
me anything you don't like. I assure you I have quite submitted
to your will." She said all this, knitting away the while as
though perfectly calm and composed.

Gania was surprised, but cautiously kept silence and looked at
his mother, hoping that she would express herself more clearly.
Nina Alexandrovna observed his cautiousness and added, with a
bitter smile:

"You are still suspicious, I see, and do not believe me; but you
may be quite at your ease. There shall be no more tears, nor
questions--not from my side, at all events. All I wish is that
you may be happy, you know that. I have submitted to my fate; but
my heart will always be with you, whether we remain united, or
whether we part. Of course I only answer for myself--you can
hardly expect your sister--"

"My sister again," cried Gania, looking at her with contempt and
almost hate. "Look here, mother, I have already given you my word
that I shall always respect you fully and absolutely, and so
shall everyone else in this house, be it who it may, who shall
cross this threshold."

Gania was so much relieved that he gazed at his mother almost
affectionately.

"I was not at all afraid for myself, Gania, as you know well. It
was not for my own sake that I have been so anxious and worried
all this time! They say it is all to be settled to-day. What is
to be settled?"

"She has promised to tell me tonight at her own house whether
she consents or not," replied Gania.

"We have been silent on this subject for three weeks," said his
mother, "and it was better so; and now I will only ask you one
question. How can she give her consent and make you a present of
her portrait when you do not love her? How can such a--such a--"

"Practised hand--eh?"

"I was not going to express myself so. But how could you so blind
her?"

Nina Alexandrovna's question betrayed intense annoyance. Gania
waited a moment and then said, without taking the trouble to
conceal the irony of his tone:

"There you are, mother, you are always like that. You begin by
promising that there are to be no reproaches or insinuations or
questions, and here you are beginning them at once. We had better
drop the subject--we had, really. I shall never leave you,
mother; any other man would cut and run from such a sister as
this. See how she is looking at me at this moment! Besides, how
do you know that I am blinding Nastasia Philipovna? As for Varia,
I don't care--she can do just as she pleases. There, that's quite
enough!"

Gania's irritation increased with every word he uttered, as he
walked up and down the room. These conversations always touched
the family sores before long.

"I have said already that the moment she comes in I go out, and I
shall keep my word," remarked Varia.

"Out of obstinacy" shouted Gania. "You haven't married, either,
thanks to your obstinacy. Oh, you needn't frown at me, Varvara!
You can go at once for all I care; I am sick enough of your
company. What, you are going to leave us are you, too?" he cried,
turning to the prince, who was rising from his chair.

Gania's voice was full of the most uncontrolled and
uncontrollable irritation.

The prince turned at the door to say something, but perceiving in
Gania's expression that there was but that one drop wanting to
make the cup overflow, he changed his mind and left the room
without a word. A few minutes later he was aware from the noisy
voices in the drawing room, that the conversation had become more
quarrelsome than ever after his departure.

He crossed the salon and the entrance-hall, so as to pass down
the corridor into his own room. As he came near the front door he
heard someone outside vainly endeavouring to ring the bell, which
was evidently broken, and only shook a little, without emitting
any sound.

The prince took down the chain and opened the door. He started
back in amazement--for there stood Nastasia Philipovna. He knew
her at once from her photograph. Her eyes blazed with anger as
she looked at him. She quickly pushed by him into the hall,
shouldering him out of her way, and said, furiously, as she threw
off her fur cloak:

"If you are too lazy to mend your bell, you should at least wait
in the hall to let people in when they rattle the bell handle.
There, now, you've dropped my fur cloak--dummy!"

Sure enough the cloak was lying on the ground. Nastasia had
thrown it off her towards the prince, expecting him to catch it,
but the prince had missed it.

"Now then--announce me, quick!"

The prince wanted to say something, but was so confused and
astonished that he could not. However, he moved off towards the
drawing-room with the cloak over his arm.

"Now then, where are you taking my cloak to? Ha, ha, ha! Are you
mad?"

The prince turned and came back, more confused than ever. When
she burst out laughing, he smiled, but his tongue could not form
a word as yet. At first, when he had opened the door and saw her
standing before him, he had become as pale as death; but now the
red blood had rushed back to his cheeks in a torrent.

"Why, what an idiot it is!" cried Nastasia, stamping her foot
with irritation. "Go on, do! Whom are you going to announce?"

"Nastasia Philipovna," murmured the prince.

"And how do you know that?" she asked him, sharply.

"I have never seen you before!"

"Go on, announce me--what's that noise?"

"They are quarrelling," said the prince, and entered the drawing-
room, just as matters in there had almost reached a crisis. Nina
Alexandrovna had forgotten that she had "submitted to
everything!" She was defending Varia. Ptitsin was taking her
part, too. Not that Varia was afraid of standing up for herself.
She was by no means that sort of a girl; but her brother was
becoming ruder and more intolerable every moment. Her usual
practice in such cases as the present was to say nothing, but
stare at him, without taking her eyes off his face for an
instant. This manoeuvre, as she well knew, could drive Gania
distracted.

Just at this moment the door opened and the prince entered,
announcing:

"Nastasia Philipovna!"
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