“What--what sort of opinion, Aglaya Ivanovna?”

“Quite so, I see; because, you know, little mistakes have occurred now and then. There was a case--”

“Proletarians and scions of nobility! An episode of the brigandage of today and every day! Progress! Reform! Justice!”

Among all the incidents of the day, one recurred to his mind to the exclusion of the rest; although now that his self-control was regained, and he was no longer under the influence of a nightmare, he was able to think of it calmly. It concerned the knife on Rogojin’s table. “Why should not Rogojin have as many knives on his table as he chooses?” thought the prince, wondering at his suspicions, as he had done when he found himself looking into the cutler’s window. “What could it have to do with me?” he said to himself again, and stopped as if rooted to the ground by a kind of paralysis of limb such as attacks people under the stress of some humiliating recollection.

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.

The prince took a droshky. It struck him as he drove on that he ought to have begun by coming here, since it was most improbable that Rogojin should have taken Nastasia to his own house last night. He remembered that the porter said she very rarely came at all, so that it was still less likely that she would have gone there so late at night.

“He led up to this on purpose. He took the trouble of writing all that so that people should come and grab him by the arm,” observed Rogojin. “Good-night, prince. What a time we’ve sat here, my very bones ache!”

Suddenly Rogojin burst into a loud abrupt laugh, as though he had quite forgotten that they must speak in whispers.

“Philosophy is necessary, sir--very necessary--in our day. It is too much neglected. As for me, much esteemed prince, I am sensible of having experienced the honour of your confidence in a certain matter up to a certain point, but never beyond that point. I do not for a moment complain--”

The prince was watching his guest, if not with much surprise, at all events with great attention and curiosity.

“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.”

It so happened that Prince S---- introduced a distant relation of his own into the Epanchin family--one Evgenie Pavlovitch, a young officer of about twenty-eight years of age, whose conquests among the ladies in Moscow had been proverbial. This young gentleman no sooner set eyes on Aglaya than he became a frequent visitor at the house. He was witty, well-educated, and extremely wealthy, as the general very soon discovered. His past reputation was the only thing against him.

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 deny nothing, but you must confess that your article--”

“Where have you dropped from?” cried the prince.

The prince gazed at her in amazement.

“I dare say it is; but that’s no affair of mine. Now then, assure me truly as before Heaven, are you lying to me or not?”

“Evgenie Pavlovitch,” he said, with strange excitement and seizing the latter’s hand in his own, “be assured that I esteem you as a generous and honourable man, in spite of everything. Be assured of that.”

“And you allowed it?”

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.

“Yes, I brought him down from town just after you had left the house.”

“What then?”

“Yes, through an agent. My own name doesn’t appear. I have a large family, you see, and at a small percentage--”

“Well, what am I to do? What do you advise me? I cannot go on receiving these letters, you know.”

“Shall we shut the door, and lock it, or not?”

“We’re all ready,” said several of his friends. “The troikas [Sledges drawn by three horses abreast.] are at the door, bells and all.”

“Capital! And your handwriting?”

“Oh, what a queen she is!” he ejaculated, every other minute, throwing out the remark for anyone who liked to catch it. “That’s the sort of woman for me! Which of you would think of doing a thing like that, you blackguards, eh?” he yelled. He was hopelessly and wildly beside himself with ecstasy.

“Yes, sir--on that very spot.” The prince gazed strangely at Lebedeff. “And the general?” he asked, abruptly.

“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?”

On reaching the table, he placed upon it a strange-looking object, which he had carried with him into the drawing-room. This was a paper packet, some six or seven inches thick, and eight or nine in length, wrapped in an old newspaper, and tied round three or four times with string.

XIII.

“What, these waggons may coldly exclude?” repeated someone.

“Thank you for the lesson, general,” said Hippolyte, with unexpected gravity, regarding him thoughtfully.

“You must make allowances,” murmured Varia.

“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.

“Lef Nicolaievitch!” cried Parfen, before he had reached the next landing. “Have you got that cross you bought from the soldier with you?”

Rogojin looked intently at him again, as before.

“I seemed to imagine you exactly as you are--I seemed to have seen you somewhere.”

“This was still smaller than the other, so cramped that I could scarcely turn round; a narrow single bed at one side took up nearly all the room. Besides the bed there were only three common chairs, and a wretched old kitchen-table standing before a small sofa. One could hardly squeeze through between the table and the bed.

“So do I, so do I! This moment, if I could! I’d give every farthing I have to do it.”

Aglaya then lost her temper, and began to say such awful things to the prince that he laughed no more, but grew dreadfully pale, especially when she said that she should not remain in the house with him, and that he ought to be ashamed of coming to their house at all, especially at night, “_after all that had happened._”

“What did she send? Whom? Was it that boy? Was it a message?--quick!”

“At the table stood a man in his shirt sleeves; he had thrown off his coat; it lay upon the bed; and he was unfolding a blue paper parcel in which were a couple of pounds of bread, and some little sausages.

“Yes, they’ll be awfully annoyed if they don’t see it.”

“I was much surprised, and looked at him expectantly.

“Let go of it!” said Parfen, seizing from the prince’s hand a knife which the latter had at that moment taken up from the table, where it lay beside the history. Parfen replaced it where it had been.

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

(Lizabetha Prokofievna felt that this might be the case, and she didn’t like it; though very probably she could not have put the idea into words.)

“‘Do you know what has suddenly come into my head?’ said I, suddenly--leaning further and further over the rail.

“I want to go and look after my country estates. You advised me to do that yourself,” was the reply. “And then I wish to go abroad.”

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.

Little by little a sort of inspiration, however, began to stir within him, ready to spring into life at the right moment. When he did begin to speak, it was accidentally, in response to a question, and apparently without any special object.

“It’s hot weather, you see,” continued Rogojin, as he lay down on the cushions beside Muishkin, “and, naturally, there will be a smell. I daren’t open the window. My mother has some beautiful flowers in pots; they have a delicious scent; I thought of fetching them in, but that old servant will find out, she’s very inquisitive.”

“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.

“Surely not you?” cried the prince.

XI.

“You don’t know all, you see; I tell you there are things--and besides, I’m sure that she is persuaded that I love her to distraction, and I give you my word I have a strong suspicion that she loves me, too--in her own way, of course. She thinks she will be able to make a sort of slave of me all my life; but I shall prepare a little surprise for her. I don’t know whether I ought to be confidential with you, prince; but, I assure you, you are the only decent fellow I have come across. I have not spoken so sincerely as I am doing at this moment for years. There are uncommonly few honest people about, prince; there isn’t one honester than Ptitsin, he’s the best of the lot. Are you laughing? You don’t know, perhaps, that blackguards like honest people, and being one myself I like you. _Why_ am I a blackguard? Tell me honestly, now. They all call me a blackguard because of her, and I have got into the way of thinking myself one. That’s what is so bad about the business.”

The old lady, Rogojin’s mother, is still alive, and remembers her favourite son Parfen sometimes, but not clearly. God spared her the knowledge of this dreadful calamity which had overtaken her house.

No one had expected this.

“What brutes they all are!” he whispered to the prince. Whenever he addressed him he lowered his voice.

The prince gave him his hand and congratulated him upon “looking so well.”

Half an hour after the Epanchins had gone, Hippolyte arrived, so tired that, almost unconscious, he sank into a chair, and broke into such a fit of coughing that he could not stop. He coughed till the blood came. His eyes glittered, and two red spots on his cheeks grew brighter and brighter. The prince murmured something to him, but Hippolyte only signed that he must be left alone for a while, and sat silent. At last he came to himself.

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.

Gania looked more intently at her.

“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.’

“I seemed to imagine you exactly as you are--I seemed to have seen you somewhere.”

“It would be very pleasant,” returned the prince. “But we must see. I am really rather worried just now. What! are we there already? Is that the house? What a long flight of steps! And there’s a porter! Well, Colia I don’t know what will come of it all.”

There was a question to be decided--most important, but most difficult; so much so, that Mrs. Epanchin did not even see how to put it into words. Would the prince do or not? Was all this good or bad? If good (which might be the case, of course), _why_ good? If bad (which was hardly doubtful), _wherein_, especially, bad? Even the general, the paterfamilias, though astonished at first, suddenly declared that, “upon his honour, he really believed he had fancied something of the kind, after all. At first, it seemed a new idea, and then, somehow, it looked as familiar as possible.” His wife frowned him down there. This was in the morning; but in the evening, alone with his wife, he had given tongue again.

Lebedeff’s face brightened.

“Oh, aren’t you ashamed of yourself--aren’t you ashamed? Are you really the sort of woman you are trying to represent yourself to be? Is it possible?” The prince was now addressing Nastasia, in a tone of reproach, which evidently came from his very heart.

“We have evidence. In the first place, his mysterious disappearance at seven o’clock, or even earlier.”

At Pavlofsk, on weekdays, the public is more select than it is on Sundays and Saturdays, when the townsfolk come down to walk about and enjoy the park.

“Bah! you wish to hear a man tell of his worst actions, and you expect the story to come out goody-goody! One’s worst actions always are mean. We shall see what the general has to say for himself now. All is not gold that glitters, you know; and because a man keeps his carriage he need not be specially virtuous, I assure you, all sorts of people keep carriages. And by what means?”

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

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.

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

But just now all the gloom and darkness had fled, his heart felt full of joy and hope, there was no such thing as doubt. And yes, he hadn’t seen her for so long; he really must see her. He wished he could meet Rogojin; he would take his hand, and they would go to her together. His heart was pure, he was no rival of Parfen’s. Tomorrow, he would go and tell him that he had seen her. Why, he had only come for the sole purpose of seeing her, all the way from Moscow! Perhaps she might be here still, who knows? She might not have gone away to Pavlofsk yet.

“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.”

“What! a fraud? What, he is not Pavlicheff’s son? Impossible!”

Muishkin was told of the princess’s visit three days beforehand, but nothing was said to him about the party until the night before it was to take place.

“Thoroughly honest, quite so, prince, thoroughly honest!” said Lebedeff, with flashing eyes. “And only you, prince, could have found so very appropriate an expression. I honour you for it, prince. Very well, that’s settled; I shall find the purse now and not tomorrow. Here, I find it and take it out before your eyes! And the money is all right. Take it, prince, and keep it till tomorrow, will you? Tomorrow or next day I’ll take it back again. I think, prince, that the night after its disappearance it was buried under a bush in the garden. So I believe--what do you think of that?”

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.

“Look here--I’ll write a letter--take a letter for me!”

“Was Nastasia Philipovna with him?”

There was much more of this delirious wandering in the letters--one of them was very long.

He only stayed at his country seat 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.

The wedding was fixed for eight o’clock in the evening. Nastasia Philipovna was ready at seven. From six o’clock groups of people began to gather at Nastasia’s house, at the prince’s, and at the church door, but more especially at the former place. The church began to fill at seven.

He shivered all over as he lay; he was in high fever again.

“Whoever _can_ suffer is worthy to suffer, I should think. Aglaya Ivanovna wished to see you, after she had read your confession, but--”

“General, remember the siege of Kars! And you, gentlemen, I assure you my anecdote is the naked truth. I may remark that reality, although it is governed by invariable law, has at times a resemblance to falsehood. In fact, the truer a thing is the less true it sounds.”

“Yes, but what am I to do, Lebedeff? What steps am I to take? I am ready.”

“To tell the truth, she has not.”

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

“A special case--accidental, of course!” cried Alexandra and Adelaida.

“Too hospitable?”

“And why not? Why, the last time I simply told straight off about how I stole three roubles.”

This apparition was too much for Gania. Vain and ambitious almost to morbidness, he had had much to put up with in the last two months, and was seeking feverishly for some means of enabling himself to lead a more presentable kind of existence. At home, he now adopted an attitude of absolute cynicism, but he could not keep this up before Nastasia Philipovna, although he had sworn to make her pay after marriage for all he suffered now. He was experiencing a last humiliation, the bitterest of all, at this moment--the humiliation of blushing for his own kindred in his own house. A question flashed through his mind as to whether the game was really worth the candle.

“Why don’t you say something?” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, stamping her foot.