“I suppose you will go to the sufferer’s bedside now?” he added.

“Then within his distant castle, Home returned, he dreamed his days-- Silent, sad,--and when death took him He was mad, the legend says.”

She gazed attentively at him.

“Then for a day and a half I neither slept, nor ate, nor drank, and would not leave her. I knelt at her feet: ‘I shall die here,’ I said, ‘if you don’t forgive me; and if you have me turned out, I shall drown myself; because, what should I be without you now?’ She was like a madwoman all that day; now she would cry; now she would threaten me with a knife; now she would abuse me. She called in Zaleshoff and Keller, and showed me to them, shamed me in their presence. ‘Let’s all go to the theatre,’ she says, ‘and leave him here if he won’t go--it’s not my business. They’ll give you some tea, Parfen Semeonovitch, while I am away, for you must be hungry.’ She came back from the theatre alone. ‘Those cowards wouldn’t come,’ she said. ‘They are afraid of you, and tried to frighten me, too. “He won’t go away as he came,” they said, “he’ll cut your throat--see if he doesn’t.” Now, I shall go to my bedroom, and I shall not even lock my door, just to show you how much I am afraid of you. You must be shown that once for all. Did you have tea?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘and I don’t intend to.’ ‘Ha, ha! you are playing off your pride against your stomach! That sort of heroism doesn’t sit well on you,’ she said.

“I think I understand, Lukian Timofeyovitch: you were not sure that I should come. You did not think I should start at the first word from you, and you merely wrote to relieve your conscience. However, you see now that I have come, and I have had enough of trickery. Give up serving, or trying to serve, two masters. Rogojin has been here these three weeks. Have you managed to sell her to him as you did before? Tell me the truth.”

The young fellow accompanying the general was about twenty-eight, tall, and well built, with a handsome and clever face, and bright black eyes, full of fun and intelligence.

“It’s good business,” said Ptitsin, at last, folding the letter and handing it back to the prince. “You will receive, without the slightest trouble, by the last will and testament of your aunt, a very large sum of money indeed.”

“That has been seen already,” continued Lebedeff, not deigning to notice the interruption. “Malthus was a friend of humanity, but, with ill-founded moral principles, the friend of humanity is the devourer of humanity, without mentioning his pride; for, touch the vanity of one of these numberless philanthropists, and to avenge his self-esteem, he will be ready at once to set fire to the whole globe; and to tell the truth, we are all more or less like that. I, perhaps, might be the first to set a light to the fuel, and then run away. But, again, I must repeat, that is not the question.”

He had fallen in an epileptic fit.

“Oh! so he kept his word--there’s a man for you! Well, sit down, please--take that chair. I shall have something to say to you presently. Who are all these with you? The same party? Let them come in and sit down. There’s room on that sofa, there are some chairs and there’s another sofa! Well, why don’t they sit down?”

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

“The prince is clearly a democrat,” remarked Aglaya.

“Oh, but it’s only the simple tale of an old soldier who saw the French enter Moscow. Some of his remarks were wonderfully interesting. Remarks of an eye-witness are always valuable, whoever he be, don’t you think so?”

“How dreadfully you look at me, Parfen!” said the prince, with a feeling of dread.

“Oh, my goodness! Just listen to that! ‘Better not come,’ when the party is on purpose for him! Good Lord! What a delightful thing it is to have to do with such a--such a stupid as you are!”

“But why should they suppose that I despise generals?” Gania thought sarcastically to himself.

“Get out of this, you drunken beast!” cried Gania, who was red and white by turns.

The letter had evidently been written in a hurry:

“That officer, eh!--that young officer--don’t you remember that fellow at the band? Eh? Ha, ha, ha! Didn’t she whip him smartly, eh?”

“H’m! and you think there was something of this sort here, do you? Dear me--a very remarkable comparison, you know! But you must have observed, my dear Ptitsin, that I did all I possibly could. I could do no more than I did. And you must admit that there are some rare qualities in this woman. I felt I could not speak in that Bedlam, or I should have been tempted to cry out, when she reproached me, that she herself was my best justification. Such a woman could make anyone forget all reason--everything! Even that moujik, Rogojin, you saw, brought her a hundred thousand roubles! Of course, all that happened tonight was ephemeral, fantastic, unseemly--yet it lacked neither colour nor originality. My God! What might not have been made of such a character combined with such beauty! Yet in spite of all efforts--in spite of all education, even--all those gifts are wasted! She is an uncut diamond.... I have often said so.”

“Oh! I didn’t say it because I _doubt_ the fact, you know. (Ha, ha.) How could I doubt such a thing? (Ha, ha, ha.) I made the remark because--because Nicolai Andreevitch Pavlicheff was such a splendid man, don’t you see! Such a high-souled man, he really was, I assure you.”

“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.

“With the greatest respect... and... and veneration,” replied Lebedeff, making extraordinary grimaces.

The general, who had been talking to his chief up to this moment, had observed the prince’s solitude and silence, and was anxious to draw him into the conversation, and so introduce him again to the notice of some of the important personages.

Poor Colia cried himself, and kissed the old man’s hands

“Gavrila Ardalionovitch Ivolgin,” said Nastasia, firmly and evenly.

Evgenie Pavlovitch, who went abroad at this time, intending to live a long while on the continent, being, as he often said, quite superfluous in Russia, visits his sick friend at Schneider’s every few months.

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.

“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.”

Keller suddenly left his seat, and approached Lizabetha Prokofievna.

“I have heard of you, and I think read of you in the newspapers.”

“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!”

“Of what? Apologizing, eh? And where on earth did I get the idea that you were an idiot? You always observe what other people pass by unnoticed; one could talk sense to you, but--”

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

“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.

“Didn’t I tell you the truth now, when I said you were in love?” he said, coming up to Muishkin of his own accord, and stopping him.

Lebedeff assumed an air of dignity. It was true enough that he was sometimes naive to a degree in his curiosity; but he was also an excessively cunning gentleman, and the prince was almost converting him into an enemy by his repeated rebuffs. The prince did not snub Lebedeff’s curiosity, however, because he felt any contempt for him; but simply because the subject was too delicate to talk about. Only a few days before he had looked upon his own dreams almost as crimes. But Lebedeff considered the refusal as caused by personal dislike to himself, and was hurt accordingly. Indeed, there was at this moment a piece of news, most interesting to the prince, which Lebedeff knew and even had wished to tell him, but which he now kept obstinately to himself.

“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!”

“You are very unfair to me, and to that unfortunate woman of whom you spoke just now in such dreadful terms, Aglaya.”

“I knew it was bound to be so.” Then he added quickly:

Ivan Fedorovitch held out his hand to Muishkin, but ran after his wife, who was leaving with every sign of violent indignation, before he had time to shake it. Adelaida, her fiance, and Alexandra, said good-bye to their host with sincere friendliness. Evgenie Pavlovitch did the same, and he alone seemed in good spirits.

“Yes, he went at seven o’clock. He came into the room on his way out; I was watching just then. He said he was going to spend ‘the rest of the night’ at Wilkin’s; there’s a tipsy fellow, a friend of his, of that name. Well, I’m off. Oh, here’s Lebedeff himself! The prince wants to go to sleep, Lukian Timofeyovitch, so you may just go away again.”

“Ladies are exempted if they like.”

“I have heard many things of the kind about you...they delighted me... I have learned to hold you in the highest esteem,” continued Hippolyte.

The prince took his note. Ferdishenko rose.

“Naturally, all this--”

“I tell you, sir, he wished it himself!”

“Bravo! That’s frank, at any rate!” shouted Ferdishenko, and there was general laughter.

“Wait,” interrupted the prince. “I asked both the porter and the woman whether Nastasia Philipovna had spent last night in the house; so they knew--”

Nastasia Philipovna was ready. She rose from her seat, looked into the glass and remarked, as Keller told the tale afterwards, that she was “as pale as a corpse.” She then bent her head reverently, before the ikon in the corner, and left the room.

Despair overmastered his soul; he would not go on, he would go back to his hotel; he even turned and went the other way; but a moment after he changed his mind again and went on in the old direction.

“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.

*****

“Of course it is a lunatic asylum!” repeated Aglaya sharply, but her words were overpowered by other voices. Everybody was talking loudly, making remarks and comments; some discussed the affair gravely, others laughed. Ivan Fedorovitch Epanchin was extremely indignant. He stood waiting for his wife with an air of offended dignity. Lebedeff’s nephew took up the word again.

“Be quiet, Ivan Fedorovitch! Leave me alone!” cried Mrs. Epanchin. “Why do you offer me your arm now? You had not sense enough to take me away before. You are my husband, you are a father, it was your duty to drag me away by force, if in my folly I refused to obey you and go quietly. You might at least have thought of your daughters. We can find our way out now without your help. Here is shame enough for a year! Wait a moment ‘till I thank the prince! Thank you, prince, for the entertainment you have given us! It was most amusing to hear these young men... It is vile, vile! A chaos, a scandal, worse than a nightmare! Is it possible that there can be many such people on earth? Be quiet, Aglaya! Be quiet, Alexandra! It is none of your business! Don’t fuss round me like that, Evgenie Pavlovitch; you exasperate me! So, my dear,” she cried, addressing the prince, “you go so far as to beg their pardon! He says, ‘Forgive me for offering you a fortune.’ And you, you mountebank, what are you laughing at?” she cried, turning suddenly on Lebedeff’s nephew. “‘We refuse ten thousand roubles; we do not beseech, we demand!’ As if he did not know that this idiot will call on them tomorrow to renew his offers of money and friendship. You will, won’t you? You will? Come, will you, or won’t you?”

“Besides,” said Colia, “it is quite unusual, almost improper, for people in our position to take any interest in literature. Ask Evgenie Pavlovitch if I am not right. It is much more fashionable to drive a waggonette with red wheels.”

“Hush! hush! Gavrila Ardalionovitch!” cried Muishkin in dismay, but it was too late.

“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 remember--I remember it all!” he cried. “I was captain then. You were such a lovely little thing--Nina Alexandrovna!--Gania, listen! I was received then by General Epanchin.”

“Do you know anything about Gavrila Ardalionovitch?” she asked at last.

“Well, turn him out!”

“What! don’t you know about it yet? He doesn’t know--imagine that! Why, he’s shot himself. Your uncle shot himself this very morning. I was told at two this afternoon. Half the town must know it by now. They say there are three hundred and fifty thousand roubles, government money, missing; some say five hundred thousand. And I was under the impression that he would leave you a fortune! He’s whistled it all away. A most depraved old gentleman, really! Well, ta, ta!--bonne chance! Surely you intend to be off there, don’t you? Ha, ha! You’ve retired from the army in good time, I see! Plain clothes! Well done, sly rogue! Nonsense! I see--you knew it all before--I dare say you knew all about it yesterday-”

“Yes!”

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.

“Oh, trust _him_ for that!” said Adelaida. “Evgenie Pavlovitch turns everything and everybody he can lay hold of to ridicule. You should hear the things he says sometimes, apparently in perfect seriousness.”

At last he was wide awake.

“How so? Did he bring the portrait for my husband?”

“She’s mad--she’s mad!” was the cry.

“I don’t know whether I did or not,” said Rogojin, drily, seeming to be a little astonished at the question, and not quite taking it in.

“Shall I see you home?” asked the prince, rising from his seat, but suddenly stopping short as he remembered Aglaya’s prohibition against leaving the house. Hippolyte laughed.

“But, you wretched man, at least she must have said something? There must be _some_ answer from her!”

“What are you staring at me like that for?” he muttered. “Sit down.”

Burdovsky alone sat silent and motionless.

“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.”

“Yes, I hear.”

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.

The poor general had merely made the remark about having carried Aglaya in his arms because he always did so begin a conversation with young people. But it happened that this time he had really hit upon the truth, though he had himself entirely forgotten the fact. But when Adelaida and Aglaya recalled the episode of the pigeon, his mind became filled with memories, and it is impossible to describe how this poor old man, usually half drunk, was moved by the recollection.

“Ah, yes--you were going away just now, and I thought to myself: ‘I shall never see these people again--never again! This is the last time I shall see the trees, too. I shall see nothing after this but the red brick wall of Meyer’s house opposite my window. Tell them about it--try to tell them,’ I thought. ‘Here is a beautiful young girl--you are a dead man; make them understand that. Tell them that a dead man may say anything--and Mrs. Grundy will not be angry--ha-ha! You are not laughing?” He looked anxiously around. “But you know I get so many queer ideas, lying there in bed. I have grown convinced that nature is full of mockery--you called me an atheist just now, but you know this nature... why are you laughing again? You are very cruel!” he added suddenly, regarding them all with mournful reproach. “I have not corrupted Colia,” he concluded in a different and very serious tone, as if remembering something again.

“Don’t apologize,” said Nastasia, laughing; “you spoil the whole originality of the thing. I think what they say about you must be true, that you are so original.--So you think me perfection, do you?”

Lizabetha Prokofievna, when she saw poor Muishkin, in his enfeebled and humiliated condition, had wept bitterly. Apparently all was forgiven him.

“To Ekaterinhof,” replied Lebedeff. Rogojin simply stood staring, with trembling lips, not daring to believe his ears. He was stunned, as though from a blow on the head.

Every time that Aglaya showed temper (and this was very often), there was so much childish pouting, such “school-girlishness,” as it were, in her apparent wrath, that it was impossible to avoid smiling at her, to her own unutterable indignation. On these occasions she would say, “How can they, how _dare_ they laugh at me?”

“Ah, yes--you were going away just now, and I thought to myself: ‘I shall never see these people again--never again! This is the last time I shall see the trees, too. I shall see nothing after this but the red brick wall of Meyer’s house opposite my window. Tell them about it--try to tell them,’ I thought. ‘Here is a beautiful young girl--you are a dead man; make them understand that. Tell them that a dead man may say anything--and Mrs. Grundy will not be angry--ha-ha! You are not laughing?” He looked anxiously around. “But you know I get so many queer ideas, lying there in bed. I have grown convinced that nature is full of mockery--you called me an atheist just now, but you know this nature... why are you laughing again? You are very cruel!” he added suddenly, regarding them all with mournful reproach. “I have not corrupted Colia,” he concluded in a different and very serious tone, as if remembering something again.

“Yes,” said Muishkin, with some surprise.

“Come--you haven’t told us much!” said Aglaya, after waiting some five seconds. “Very well, I am ready to drop the hedgehog, if you like; but I am anxious to be able to clear up this accumulation of misunderstandings. Allow me to ask you, prince,--I wish to hear from you, personally--are you making me an offer, or not?”

“Were you to blame, or not?”

“Good-morning! My head whirls so; I didn’t sleep all night. I should like to have a nap now.”

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.

“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.

“But he interested me too much, and all that day I was under the influence of strange thoughts connected with him, and I determined to return his visit the next day.

The prince sat down on a chair, and watched him in alarm. Half an hour went by.

“Yes--I dare say it is all as you say; I dare say you are quite right,” muttered the prince once more. “She is very sensitive and easily put out, of course; but still, she...”

“Final explanation: I die, not in the least because I am unable to support these next three weeks. Oh no, I should find strength enough, and if I wished it I could obtain consolation from the thought of the injury that is done me. But I am not a French poet, and I do not desire such consolation. And finally, nature has so limited my capacity for work or activity of any kind, in allotting me but three weeks of time, that suicide is about the only thing left that I can begin and end in the time of my own free will.

They were evidently on quite familiar terms. In Moscow they had had many occasions of meeting; indeed, some few of those meetings were but too vividly impressed upon their memories. They had not met now, however, for three months.

Colia Ivolgin, for some time after the prince’s departure, continued his old life. That is, he went to school, looked after his father, helped Varia in the house, and ran her errands, and went frequently to see his friend, Hippolyte.

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

“Well, take her! It’s Fate! She’s yours. I surrender her.... Remember Rogojin!” And pushing the prince from him, without looking back at him, he hurriedly entered his own flat, and banged the door.

“What’s the good of tormenting him like this?” cried the prince.

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.

“Laissez-le dire! He is trembling all over,” said the old man, in a warning whisper.