“No, I tell you I did _not_.”
Prince S---- made the acquaintance of the general’s family, and Adelaida, the second girl, made a great impression upon him. Towards the spring he proposed to her, and she accepted him. The general and his wife were delighted. The journey abroad was put off, and the wedding was fixed for a day not very distant. “I don’t mean that I am going to leave your house,” he continued, still gasping and coughing. “On the contrary, I thought it absolutely necessary to come and see you; otherwise I should not have troubled you. I am off there, you know, and this time I believe, seriously, that I am off! It’s all over. I did not come here for sympathy, believe me. I lay down this morning at ten o’clock with the intention of not rising again before that time; but I thought it over and rose just once more in order to come here; from which you may deduce that I had some reason for wishing to come.”
At last Varvara Ardalionovna came in search of her brother, and remained for a few minutes. Without Muishkin’s asking her, she informed him that Evgenie Pavlovitch was spending the day in Petersburg, and perhaps would remain there over tomorrow; and that her husband had also gone to town, probably in connection with Evgenie Pavlovitch’s affairs.
“I have heard of you, and I think read of you in the newspapers.”
“Well, take care you don’t tell him to his face that you have found the purse. Simply let him see that it is no longer in the lining of your coat, and form his own conclusions.”
“Who said that, Colia?”
“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?”
“I have a couple of words to say to you,” he began, “and those on a very important matter; let’s go aside for a minute or two.”
“Well--that’ll do; now leave me.”
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.
The woman’s face changed; she lost her suspicious expression.
“A slap in the face? From whom? And so early in the morning?” The occurrence at the Vauxhall had filled both mother and daughters with something like horror. In their excitement Lizabetha Prokofievna and the girls were nearly running all the way home. “My dear good Prince Lef Nicolaievitch,” began the general again, suddenly, “both I and Lizabetha Prokofievna--(who has begun to respect you once more, and me through you, goodness knows why!)--we both love you very sincerely, and esteem you, in spite of any appearances to the contrary. But you’ll admit what a riddle it must have been for us when that calm, cold, little spitfire, Aglaya--(for she stood up to her mother and answered her questions with inexpressible contempt, and mine still more so, because, like a fool, I thought it my duty to assert myself as head of the family)--when Aglaya stood up of a sudden and informed us that ‘that madwoman’ (strangely enough, she used exactly the same expression as you did) ‘has taken it into her head to marry me to Prince Lef Nicolaievitch, and therefore is doing her best to choke Evgenie Pavlovitch off, and rid the house of him.’ That’s what she said. She would not give the slightest explanation; she burst out laughing, banged the door, and went away. We all stood there with our mouths open. Well, I was told afterwards of your little passage with Aglaya this afternoon, and--and--dear prince--you are a good, sensible fellow, don’t be angry if I speak out--she is laughing at you, my boy! She is enjoying herself like a child, at your expense, and therefore, since she is a child, don’t be angry with her, and don’t think anything of it. I assure you, she is simply making a fool of you, just as she does with one and all of us out of pure lack of something better to do. Well--good-bye! You know our feelings, don’t you--our sincere feelings for yourself? They are unalterable, you know, dear boy, under all circumstances, but--Well, here we part; I must go down to the right. Rarely have I sat so uncomfortably in my saddle, as they say, as I now sit. And people talk of the charms of a country holiday!”
“Well, why have I worried him, for five years, and never let him go free? Is he worth it? He is only just what he ought to be--nothing particular. He thinks I am to blame, too. He gave me my education, kept me like a countess. Money--my word! What a lot of money he spent over me! And he tried to find me an honest husband first, and then this Gania, here. And what do you think? All these five years I did not live with him, and yet I took his money, and considered I was quite justified.
Ptitsin listened and smiled, then turned as if to get his hat; but if he had intended to leave, he changed his mind. Before the others had risen from the table, Gania had suddenly left off drinking, and pushed away his glass, a dark shadow seemed to come over his face. When they all rose, he went and sat down by Rogojin. It might have been believed that quite friendly relations existed between them. Rogojin, who had also seemed on the point of going away now sat motionless, his head bent, seeming to have forgotten his intention. He had drunk no wine, and appeared absorbed in reflection. From time to time he raised his eyes, and examined everyone present; one might have imagined that he was expecting something very important to himself, and that he had decided to wait for it. The prince had taken two or three glasses of champagne, and seemed cheerful. As he rose he noticed Evgenie Pavlovitch, and, remembering the appointment he had made with him, smiled pleasantly. Evgenie Pavlovitch made a sign with his head towards Hippolyte, whom he was attentively watching. The invalid was fast asleep, stretched out on the sofa.

“But could anyone possibly eat sixty monks?” objected the scoffing listeners.

“I never thought of such a thing for a moment,” said the prince, with disgust.

“No, no, no!” cried the prince, with unspeakable sadness.
“But all the common herd judge differently; in the town, at the meetings, in the villas, at the band, in the inns and the billiard-rooms, the coming event has only to be mentioned and there are shouts and cries from everybody. I have even heard talk of getting up a ‘charivari’ under the windows on the wedding-night. So if ‘you have need of the pistol’ of an honest man, prince, I am ready to fire half a dozen shots even before you rise from your nuptial couch!”

“Well, at all events, they were consulting together at the time. Of course it was the idea of an eagle, and must have originated with Napoleon; but the other project was good too--it was the ‘Conseil du lion!’ as Napoleon called it. This project consisted in a proposal to occupy the Kremlin with the whole army; to arm and fortify it scientifically, to kill as many horses as could be got, and salt their flesh, and spend the winter there; and in spring to fight their way out. Napoleon liked the idea--it attracted him. We rode round the Kremlin walls every day, and Napoleon used to give orders where they were to be patched, where built up, where pulled down and so on. All was decided at last. They were alone together--those two and myself.

“As to the article,” said Hippolyte in his croaking voice, “I have told you already that we none of us approve of it! There is the writer,” he added, pointing to the boxer, who sat beside him. “I quite admit that he has written it in his old regimental manner, with an equal disregard for style and decency. I know he is a cross between a fool and an adventurer; I make no bones about telling him so to his face every day. But after all he is half justified; publicity is the lawful right of every man; consequently, Burdovsky is not excepted. Let him answer for his own blunders. As to the objection which I made just now in the name of all, to the presence of your friends, I think I ought to explain, gentlemen, that I only did so to assert our rights, though we really wished to have witnesses; we had agreed unanimously upon the point before we came in. We do not care who your witnesses may be, or whether they are your friends or not. As they cannot fail to recognize Burdovsky’s right (seeing that it is mathematically demonstrable), it is just as well that the witnesses should be your friends. The truth will only be more plainly evident.”

“Heaven forbid!” he answered, with a forced smile. “But I am more than ever struck by your eccentricity, Lizabetha Prokofievna. I admit that I told you of Lebedeff’s duplicity, on purpose. I knew the effect it would have on you,--on you alone, for the prince will forgive him. He has probably forgiven him already, and is racking his brains to find some excuse for him--is not that the truth, prince?”

“Yes, here in my chest. I received them at the siege of Kars, and I feel them in bad weather now. And as to the third of our trio, Epanchin, of course after that little affair with the poodle in the railway carriage, it was all _up_ between us.”

“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.”

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

“Then I read it,” said Hippolyte, in the tone of one bowing to the fiat of destiny. He could not have grown paler if a verdict of death had suddenly been presented to him.

She went on talking and chatting without a pause, with occasional little bursts of laughter between.

“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?” He lifted the curtain, paused--and turned to the prince. “Go in,” he said, motioning him to pass behind the curtain. Muishkin went in. The prince watched the whole scene, silent and dejected.
“What I expected has happened! But I am sorry, you poor fellow, that you should have had to suffer for it,” he murmured, with a most charming smile.
Hippolyte was very ill, and looked as though he could not long survive. He was tearful at first, but grew more and more sarcastic and malicious as the interview proceeded.
Vainly trying to comfort himself with these reflections, the prince reached the Ismailofsky barracks more dead than alive.
She took her glass, and vowed she would empty it three times that evening. She was hysterical, and laughed aloud every other minute with no apparent reason--the next moment relapsing into gloom and thoughtfulness.
The words were spoken in a grave tone, and even somewhat shyly.
Aglaya observed it, and trembled with anger.
She was, above all distressed by the idea that her daughters might grow up “eccentric,” like herself; she believed that no other society girls were like them. “They are growing into Nihilists!” she repeated over and over again. For years she had tormented herself with this idea, and with the question: “Why don’t they get married?” “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. “Why do you look at me like that, prince?” she asked suddenly, breaking off her merry conversation and laughter with those about her. “I’m afraid of you! You look as though you were just going to put out your hand and touch my face to see if it’s real! Doesn’t he, Evgenie Pavlovitch--doesn’t he look like that?”
She went on her knees before him--there in the open road--like a madwoman. He retreated a step, but she caught his hand and kissed it, and, just as in his dream, the tears were sparkling on her long, beautiful lashes.
“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.

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

“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 check, 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.”

“‘Camellias!’ I said, ‘father, save me, save me, let me have some camellias!’ He was a tall, grey old man--a terrible-looking old gentleman. ‘Not a bit of it,’ he says. ‘I won’t.’ Down I went on my knees. ‘Don’t say so, don’t--think what you’re doing!’ I cried; ‘it’s a matter of life and death!’ ‘If that’s the case, take them,’ says he. So up I get, and cut such a bouquet of red camellias! He had a whole greenhouse full of them--lovely ones. The old fellow sighs. I pull out a hundred roubles. ‘No, no!’ says he, ‘don’t insult me that way.’ ‘Oh, if that’s the case, give it to the village hospital,’ I say. ‘Ah,’ he says, ‘that’s quite a different matter; that’s good of you and generous. I’ll pay it in there for you with pleasure.’ I liked that old fellow, Russian to the core, _de la vraie souche_. I went home in raptures, but took another road in order to avoid Peter. Immediately on arriving I sent up the bouquet for Anfisa to see when she awoke.
“I don’t know in the least; I wasn’t present when the joke was made. It _is_ a joke. I suppose, and that’s all.” “There is plenty of room here.”
The prince certainly had darted a rather piercing look at her, and now observed that she had begun to blush violently. At such moments, the more Aglaya blushed, the angrier she grew with herself; and this was clearly expressed in her eyes, which flashed like fire. As a rule, she vented her wrath on her unfortunate companion, be it who it might. She was very conscious of her own shyness, and was not nearly so talkative as her sisters for this reason--in fact, at times she was much too quiet. When, therefore, she was bound to talk, especially at such delicate moments as this, she invariably did so with an air of haughty defiance. She always knew beforehand when she was going to blush, long before the blush came.

X.

“H’m! yes; did you live in Petersburg in former years?”
“Yes--I have it still,” the prince replied.

“Not like this! Nothing like the spectacle you have just given us, sir,” answered Lizabetha Prokofievna, with a sort of hysterical rage. “Leave me alone, will you?” she cried violently to those around her, who were trying to keep her quiet. “No, Evgenie Pavlovitch, if, as you said yourself just now, a lawyer said in open court that he found it quite natural that a man should murder six people because he was in misery, the world must be coming to an end. I had not heard of it before. Now I understand everything. And this stutterer, won’t he turn out a murderer?” she cried, pointing to Burdovsky, who was staring at her with stupefaction. “I bet he will! He will have none of your money, possibly, he will refuse it because his conscience will not allow him to accept it, but he will go murdering you by night and walking off with your cashbox, with a clear conscience! He does not call it a dishonest action but ‘the impulse of a noble despair’; ‘a negation’; or the devil knows what! Bah! everything is upside down, everyone walks head downwards. A young girl, brought up at home, suddenly jumps into a cab in the middle of the street, saying: ‘Good-bye, mother, I married Karlitch, or Ivanitch, the other day!’ And you think it quite right? You call such conduct estimable and natural? The ‘woman question’? Look here,” she continued, pointing to Colia, “the other day that whippersnapper told me that this was the whole meaning of the ‘woman question.’ But even supposing that your mother is a fool, you are none the less, bound to treat her with humanity. Why did you come here tonight so insolently? ‘Give us our rights, but don’t dare to speak in our presence. Show us every mark of deepest respect, while we treat you like the scum of the earth.’ The miscreants have written a tissue of calumny in their article, and these are the men who seek for truth, and do battle for the right! ‘We do not beseech, we demand, you will get no thanks from us, because you will be acting to satisfy your own conscience!’ What morality! But, good heavens! if you declare that the prince’s generosity will, excite no gratitude in you, he might answer that he is not, bound to be grateful to Pavlicheff, who also was only satisfying his own conscience. But you counted on the prince’s, gratitude towards Pavlicheff; you never lent him any money; he owes you nothing; then what were you counting upon if not on his gratitude? And if you appeal to that sentiment in others, why should you expect to be exempted from it? They are mad! They say society is savage and inhuman because it despises a young girl who has been seduced. But if you call society inhuman you imply that the young girl is made to suffer by its censure. How then, can you hold her up to the scorn of society in the newspapers without realizing that you are making her suffering, still greater? Madmen! Vain fools! They don’t believe in God, they don’t believe in Christ! But you are so eaten up by pride and vanity, that you will end by devouring each other--that is my prophecy! Is not this absurd? Is it not monstrous chaos? And after all this, that shameless creature will go and beg their pardon! Are there many people like you? What are you smiling at? Because I am not ashamed to disgrace myself before you?--Yes, I am disgraced--it can’t be helped now! But don’t you jeer at me, you scum!” (this was aimed at Hippolyte). “He is almost at his last gasp, yet he corrupts others. You have got hold of this lad--” (she pointed to Colia); “you, have turned his head, you have taught him to be an atheist, you don’t believe in God, and you are not too old to be whipped, sir! A plague upon you! And so, Prince Lef Nicolaievitch, you will call on them tomorrow, will you?” she asked the prince breathlessly, for the second time.

“She’s mad--quite!” said Alexandra.
“And won’t you be ashamed when they tell you, afterwards, that your wife lived at Totski’s expense so many years?”

“Oh, if you could know all!”

“If two months since I had been called upon to leave my room and the view of Meyer’s wall opposite, I verily believe I should have been sorry. But now I have no such feeling, and yet I am leaving this room and Meyer’s brick wall _for ever_. So that my conclusion, that it is not worth while indulging in grief, or any other emotion, for a fortnight, has proved stronger than my very nature, and has taken over the direction of my feelings. But is it so? Is it the case that my nature is conquered entirely? If I were to be put on the rack now, I should certainly cry out. I should not say that it is not worth while to yell and feel pain because I have but a fortnight to live.
“Yes, I think I can.”

Everybody laughed, and Lebedeff got up abruptly.

She went on talking and chatting without a pause, with occasional little bursts of laughter between. “Oh! that’s enough in all conscience! Pray for whom you choose, and the devil take them and you! We have a scholar here; you did not know that, prince?” he continued, with a sneer. “He reads all sorts of books and memoirs now.”
“Yes, I have a little more,” said Evgenie Pavlovitch, with a smile. “It seems to me that all you and your friends have said, Mr. Terentieff, and all you have just put forward with such undeniable talent, may be summed up in the triumph of right above all, independent of everything else, to the exclusion of everything else; perhaps even before having discovered what constitutes the right. I may be mistaken?”
What was this universe? What was this grand, eternal pageant to which he had yearned from his childhood up, and in which he could never take part? Every morning the same magnificent sun; every morning the same rainbow in the waterfall; every evening the same glow on the snow-mountains.