“So, so--the son of my old, I may say my childhood’s friend, Nicolai Petrovitch.”
“You are certainly mistaken; I do not even understand you. What else?”
“Lef Nicolaievitch was a ward of Nicolai Andreevitch Pavlicheff, after the death of his own parents,” he remarked, meeting Ivan Petrovitch’s eye.
“What? At your house?” she asked, but without much surprise. “He was alive yesterday evening, wasn’t he? How could you sleep here after that?” she cried, growing suddenly animated.
“Why should I be offended?”

“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.”

As to the evening party at the Epanchins’ at which Princess Bielokonski was to be present, Varia had reported with accuracy; though she had perhaps expressed herself too strongly.
“No, sir, Kapitoshka--not Eroshka. I mean, Kapiton Alexeyevitch--retired major--married Maria Petrovna Lu--Lu--he was my friend and companion--Lutugoff--from our earliest beginnings. I closed his eyes for him--he was killed. Kapiton Eropegoff never existed! tfu!”
“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.” 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.

“Don’t shuffle! Say plainly that you think that I am quite wrong, without any ‘somewhat’! Why ‘somewhat’?”

“Alexandra Michailovna out, too! How disappointing! Would you believe it, I am always so unfortunate! May I most respectfully ask you to present my compliments to Alexandra Michailovna, and remind her... tell her, that with my whole heart I wish for her what she wished for herself on Thursday evening, while she was listening to Chopin’s Ballade. She will remember. I wish it with all sincerity. General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin!”

Another guest was an elderly, important-looking gentleman, a distant relative of Lizabetha Prokofievna’s. This gentleman was rich, held a good position, was a great talker, and had the reputation of being “one of the dissatisfied,” though not belonging to the dangerous sections of that class. He had the manners, to some extent, of the English aristocracy, and some of their tastes (especially in the matter of under-done roast beef, harness, men-servants, etc.). He was a great friend of the dignitary’s, and Lizabetha Prokofievna, for some reason or other, had got hold of the idea that this worthy intended at no distant date to offer the advantages of his hand and heart to Alexandra.
“No, no, no!” cried the prince, with unspeakable sadness.
“That is so,” observed Lebedeff quietly; “cowardly and base.”

There is nothing so annoying as to be fairly rich, of a fairly good family, pleasing presence, average education, to be “not stupid,” kind-hearted, and yet to have no talent at all, no originality, not a single idea of one’s own--to be, in fact, “just like everyone else.”

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? Impossible! To Nastasia Philipovna? Nonsense!” cried the prince.

He looked at the address on the letter once more. Oh, he was not in the least degree alarmed about Aglaya writing such a letter; he could trust her. What he did not like about it was that he could not trust Gania.

“Ah, Gania knows nothing about it? It seems there are many things that Gania does not know,” exclaimed the prince, as he considered Colia’s last words.

This injunction had to be repeated several times before the man could be persuaded to move. Even then he turned back at the door, came as far as the middle of the room, and there went through his mysterious motions designed to convey the suggestion that the prince should open the letter. He did not dare put his suggestion into words again.

“Not at all. I am only proving that you are glad about the letter. Why conceal your real feelings? You always like to do it.”

To a commonplace man of limited intellect, for instance, nothing is simpler than to imagine himself an original character, and to revel in that belief without the slightest misgiving.
“So I am really a princess,” she whispered to herself, ironically, and glancing accidentally at Daria Alexeyevna’s face, she burst out laughing.
“Hey! that’s it! You stumped up your money for nothing, and we believe in those fellows, here!” remarked the black-haired individual, sarcastically.

At that moment Colia appeared on the terrace; he announced that Lizabetha Prokofievna and her three daughters were close behind him.

“You should search your room and all the cupboards again,” said the prince, after a moment or two of silent reflection.

“Only quite lately. His sister has been working like a rat to clear the way for him all the winter.”
“Then it must be one of the guests.”
“It’s loaded all right,” said Keller, examining the pistol, “but--”
If, loving a woman above everything in the world, or at least having a foretaste of the possibility of such love for her, one were suddenly to behold her on a chain, behind bars and under the lash of a keeper, one would feel something like what the poor prince now felt.
“Oh, _curse_ Schneider and his dirty opinions! Go on.”

Her father, mother, and sisters came into the room and were much struck with the last words, which they just caught as they entered--“absurdity which of course meant nothing”--and still more so with the emphasis with which Aglaya had spoken.

The prince blushed and broke off, without finishing what he meant to say.
Evgenie takes this much to heart, and he has a heart, as is proved by the fact that he receives and even answers letters from Colia. But besides this, another trait in his character has become apparent, and as it is a good trait we will make haste to reveal it. After each visit to Schneider’s establishment, Evgenie Pavlovitch writes another letter, besides that to Colia, giving the most minute particulars concerning the invalid’s condition. In these letters is to be detected, and in each one more than the last, a growing feeling of friendship and sympathy.
III.
“Excellency,” he said, impulsively, “if you want a reliable man for the night, I am ready to sacrifice myself for my friend--such a soul as he has! I have long thought him a great man, excellency! My article showed my lack of education, but when he criticizes he scatters pearls!”
The prince begged him to take a chair.
“I meant to say--I only meant to say,” said the prince, faltering, “I merely meant to explain to Aglaya Ivanovna--to have the honour to explain, as it were--that I had no intention--never had--to ask the honour of her hand. I assure you I am not guilty, Aglaya Ivanovna, I am not, indeed. I never did wish to--I never thought of it at all--and never shall--you’ll see it yourself--you may be quite assured of it. Some wicked person has been maligning me to you; but it’s all right. Don’t worry about it.”
VIII.
The prince gazed and gazed, and felt that the more he gazed the more death-like became the silence. Suddenly a fly awoke somewhere, buzzed across the room, and settled on the pillow. The prince shuddered.
“Very well.”
“_Au revoir_, then!” said Aglaya, holding out her hand to the prince.
“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?”
“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.
The prince regarded him attentively, but said nothing.
“What sort of hope?”
“Nastasia Philipovna, I can’t; my hands won’t obey me,” said Ferdishenko, astounded and helpless with bewilderment.

“I’ll die before I invite you! I shall forget your very name! I’ve forgotten it already!”

“‘Write, oh, write a letter to the Empress Josephine!’ I cried, sobbing. Napoleon started, reflected, and said, ‘You remind me of a third heart which loves me. Thank you, my friend;’ and then and there he sat down and wrote that letter to Josephine, with which Constant was sent off next day.”

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.

Next day, she took it out, and put it into a large book, as she usually did with papers which she wanted to be able to find easily. She laughed when, about a week later, she happened to notice the name of the book, and saw that it was Don Quixote, but it would be difficult to say exactly why.
“And yet you flush up as red as a rosebud! Come--it’s all right. I’m not going to laugh at you. Do you know she is a very virtuous woman? Believe it or not, as you like. You think she and Totski--not a bit of it, not a bit of it! Not for ever so long! _Au revoir!_”
“I am to blame in this, Gania--no one else,” said Ptitsin. “Oh,” cried the prince, “I have often thought that! Why, I know of a murder, for the sake of a watch. It’s in all the papers now. But if some writer had invented it, all the critics would have jumped down his throat and said the thing was too improbable for anything. And yet you read it in the paper, and you can’t help thinking that out of these strange disclosures is to be gained the full knowledge of Russian life and character. You said that well, general; it is so true,” concluded the prince, warmly, delighted to have found a refuge from the fiery blushes which had covered his face. “Of course I looked there,--of course I did! Very much so! I looked and scrambled about, and felt for it, and wouldn’t believe it was not there, and looked again and again. It is always so in such cases. One longs and expects to find a lost article; one sees it is not there, and the place is as bare as one’s palm; and yet one returns and looks again and again, fifteen or twenty times, likely enough!”

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.

“I knew it was all a joke!” cried Adelaida. “I felt it ever since--since the hedgehog.”
“Did you go before Lizabetha Prokofievna in your present condition?” inquired the prince.
“If I wish! That’s good, I must say! Do you think I am deceived as to the flagrant impropriety of my conduct? I am quite aware that his money is his own, and that my action--is much like an attempt at extortion. But you-you don’t know what life is! If people don’t learn by experience, they never understand. They must be taught. My intentions are perfectly honest; on my conscience he will lose nothing, and I will pay back the money with interest. Added to which he has had the moral satisfaction of seeing me disgraced. What does he want more? and what is he good for if he never helps anyone? Look what he does himself! just ask him about his dealings with others, how he deceives people! How did he manage to buy this house? You may cut off my head if he has not let you in for something--and if he is not trying to cheat you again. You are smiling. You don’t believe me?”
“Yes, very much. Is he one of your school-fellows?”

Lizabetha Prokofievna’s face brightened up, too; so did that of General Epanchin.

“Yesterday morning the prince came to see me. Among other things he asked me to come down to his villa. I knew he would come and persuade me to this step, and that he would adduce the argument that it would be easier for me to die ‘among people and green trees,’--as he expressed it. But today he did not say ‘die,’ he said ‘live.’ It is pretty much the same to me, in my position, which he says. When I asked him why he made such a point of his ‘green trees,’ he told me, to my astonishment, that he had heard that last time I was in Pavlofsk I had said that I had come ‘to have a last look at the trees.’
“You hear how he slanders me, prince,” said Lebedeff, almost beside himself with rage. “I may be a drunkard, an evil-doer, a thief, but at least I can say one thing for myself. He does not know--how should he, mocker that he is?--that when he came into the world it was I who washed him, and dressed him in his swathing-bands, for my sister Anisia had lost her husband, and was in great poverty. I was very little better off than she, but I sat up night after night with her, and nursed both mother and child; I used to go downstairs and steal wood for them from the house-porter. How often did I sing him to sleep when I was half dead with hunger! In short, I was more than a father to him, and now--now he jeers at me! Even if I did cross myself, and pray for the repose of the soul of the Comtesse du Barry, what does it matter? Three days ago, for the first time in my life, I read her biography in an historical dictionary. Do you know who she was? You there!” addressing his nephew. “Speak! do you know?”
And so the conclusion of the matter was that it would be far better to take it quietly, and wait coolly to see what would turn up. But, alas! peace did not reign for more than ten minutes. The first blow dealt to its power was in certain news communicated to Lizabetha Prokofievna as to events which had happened during her trip to see the princess. (This trip had taken place the day after that on which the prince had turned up at the Epanchins at nearly one o’clock at night, thinking it was nine.) So saying, she reseated herself; a strange smile played on her lips. She sat quite still, but watched the door in a fever of impatience.
Seeing that the prince was considerably struck by the fact that he had twice seized this knife out of his hand, Rogojin caught it up with some irritation, put it inside the book, and threw the latter across to another table.
The prince hastened to apologize, very properly, for yesterday’s mishap with the vase, and for the scene generally.
“I’ve covered her with oilcloth--best American oilcloth, and put the sheet over that, and four jars of disinfectant, on account of the smell--as they did at Moscow--you remember? And she’s lying so still; you shall see, in the morning, when it’s light. What! can’t you get up?” asked Rogojin, seeing the other was trembling so that he could not rise from his seat.
“Don’t remind me of what I have done or said. Don’t! I am very much ashamed of myself, I--”
“I think you are unfair towards me,” he said. “There is nothing wrong in the thoughts I ascribe to Hippolyte; they are only natural. But of course I don’t know for certain what he thought. Perhaps he thought nothing, but simply longed to see human faces once more, and to hear human praise and feel human affection. Who knows? Only it all came out wrong, somehow. Some people have luck, and everything comes out right with them; others have none, and never a thing turns out fortunately.”

“Not for anything!” cried the other; “no, no, no!”

“Ah! Lef Nicolaievitch, it’s you, is it? Where are you off to now?” he asked, oblivious of the fact that the prince had not showed the least sign of moving. “Come along with me; I want to say a word or two to you.”

“Did you get my hedgehog?” she inquired, firmly and almost angrily.

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.

“I have told you already, that I will not go away until I have got what I ask. Why are you smiling, prince? You look as if you disapproved of me.”
At this moment, Lizabetha Prokofievna rose swiftly from her seat, beckoned her companions, and left the place almost at a run.
He immediately judged from the faces of his daughters and Prince S. that there was a thunderstorm brewing, and he himself already bore evidences of unusual perturbation of mind.
“Has my father asked you for money?” asked Gania, suddenly.
“Meek! What do you mean?”
Alexandra and Adelaida came in almost immediately, and looked inquiringly at the prince and their mother.
The shrill tones of Hippolyte interrupted him. “What right have you... by what right do you demand us to submit this matter, about Burdovsky... to the judgment of your friends? We know only too well what the judgment of your friends will be!...”
“I see you are ashamed of me, Evgenie Pavlovitch; you are blushing for me; that’s a sign of a good heart. Don’t be afraid; I shall go away directly.”
“No, but you--”

Aglaya rushed quickly up to him, and was just in time to receive him in her arms, and to hear with dread and horror that awful, wild cry as he fell writhing to the ground.

“What are you doing, then?” cried Evgenie, in horror. “You must be marrying her solely out of _fear_, then! I can’t make head or tail of it, prince. Perhaps you don’t even love her?” The prince thought he knew what Gania meant by “such a moment.”

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.

Muishkin, who was but a couple of steps away, had time to spring forward and seize the officer’s arms from behind.
“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--”

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

“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.

“He guessed quite right. I am not that sort of woman,” she whispered hurriedly, flushing red all over. Then she turned again and left the room so quickly that no one could imagine what she had come back for. All they saw was that she said something to Nina Alexandrovna in a hurried whisper, and seemed to kiss her hand. Varia, however, both saw and heard all, and watched Nastasia out of the room with an expression of wonder.

“Oh, no, it is not the point, not a bit. It makes no difference, my marrying her--it means nothing.”
“Look here,” said Lizabetha Prokofievna, turning round suddenly; “we are passing his house. Whatever Aglaya may think, and in spite of anything that may happen, he is not a stranger to us; besides which, he is ill and in misfortune. I, for one, shall call in and see him. Let anyone follow me who cares to.”
“Yes--no--half a candle--an end, you know--no, it was a whole candle; it’s all the same. Be quiet, can’t you! He brought a box of matches too, if you like, and then lighted the candle and held his finger in it for half an hour and more!--There! Can’t that be?”
“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!_’
“I did not rise from my bed, and I don’t know how long I lay with my eyes open, thinking. I don’t know what I thought about, nor how I fell asleep or became insensible; but I awoke next morning after nine o’clock when they knocked at my door. My general orders are that if I don’t open the door and call, by nine o’clock, Matreona is to come and bring my tea. When I now opened the door to her, the thought suddenly struck me--how could he have come in, since the door was locked? I made inquiries and found that Rogojin himself could not possibly have come in, because all our doors were locked for the night.
But now another circumstance occurred, which changed all the plans once more, and again the intended journey was put off, much to the delight of the general and his spouse.