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.

“No, it’s not a thing for women.”

“What do you think about it, prince?” asked Evgenie, taking no notice of the last remark, and observing Muishkin’s serious eyes fixed upon his face. “What do you think--was it a special or a usual case--the rule, or an exception? I confess I put the question especially for you.”

“No! That is, I understand how it’s done, of course, but I have never done it.”

“But whatever she may say, remember that she does not believe it herself,--remember that she will believe nothing but that she is a guilty creature.

“H’m! she is as stupid as a fool! A veritable ‘wet hen’! Nothing excites her; and yet she is not happy; some days it makes one miserable only to look at her! Why is she unhappy, I wonder?” At times Lizabetha Prokofievna put this question to her husband, and as usual she spoke in the threatening tone of one who demands an immediate answer. Ivan Fedorovitch would frown, shrug his shoulders, and at last give his opinion: “She needs a husband!”

It was quite dark now, and Muishkin could not see her face clearly, but a minute or two later, when he and the general had left the villa, he suddenly flushed up, and squeezed his right hand tightly.

“Oh, of course! Naturally the sight impressed him, and proved to him that not _all_ the aristocracy had left Moscow; that at least some nobles and their children had remained behind.”

However, when he did master the fact, it acted upon him as a tonic by completely distracting his attention. He went at once to Nina Alexandrovna’s, whither the general had been carried, and stayed there until the evening. He could do no good, but there are people whom to have near one is a blessing at such times. Colia was in an almost hysterical state; he cried continuously, but was running about all day, all the same; fetching doctors, of whom he collected three; going to the chemist’s, and so on.

“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.

“You suspect him?”

“Be quiet, you can talk afterwards! What was the letter about? Why are you blushing?”

“It is not like her, you say? My friend, that’s absurd. Perhaps such an act would horrify her, if she were with you, but it is quite different where I am concerned. She looks on me as vermin. Her affair with Keller was simply to make a laughing-stock of me. You don’t know what a fool she made of me in Moscow; and the money I spent over her! The money! the money!”

“The sun is rising,” he cried, seeing the gilded tops of the trees, and pointing to them as to a miracle. “See, it is rising now!”

In spite of his shyness and agitation, he could not help being greatly interested in the conversation. A special characteristic of his was the naive candour with which he always listened to arguments which interested him, and with which he answered any questions put to him on the subject at issue. In the very expression of his face this naivete was unmistakably evident, this disbelief in the insincerity of others, and unsuspecting disregard of irony or humour in their words.

It is impossible to describe Aglaya’s irritation. She flared up, and said some indignant words about “all these silly insinuations.” She added that “she had no intentions as yet of replacing anybody’s mistress.”

“The night before the ball I met Peter, looking radiant. ‘What is it?’ I ask. ‘I’ve found them, Eureka!’ ‘No! where, where?’ ‘At Ekshaisk (a little town fifteen miles off) there’s a rich old merchant, who keeps a lot of canaries, has no children, and he and his wife are devoted to flowers. He’s got some camellias.’ ‘And what if he won’t let you have them?’ ‘I’ll go on my knees and implore till I get them. I won’t go away.’ ‘When shall you start?’ ‘Tomorrow morning at five o’clock.’ ‘Go on,’ I said, ‘and good luck to you.’

“Oh, I forgive him with all my heart; you may tell him so if you like,” laughed Evgenie.

The prince handed her the album.

He took her hand and seated her on the bench; then sat down beside her and reflected.

“I hinted nothing to him about my ‘final conviction,’ but it appeared to me that he had guessed it from my words. He remained silent--he is a terribly silent man. I remarked to him, as I rose to depart, that, in spite of the contrast and the wide differences between us two, les extremites se touchent [‘extremes meet,’ as I explained to him in Russian); so that maybe he was not so far from my final conviction as appeared.

“What of that? People will say anything,” said Rogojin drily.

The general wandered on in this disconnected way for a long time; it was clear that he was much disturbed by some circumstance which he could make nothing of.

“They are Nihilists, are they not?”

“Oh, wouldn’t he just!”

But he had no time to say another word before Aglaya’s terrible look bereft him of speech. In that look was embodied so dreadful a suffering and so deadly a hatred, that he gave a cry and flew to her; but it was too late.

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

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

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve been half an hour here with him, and he--”

“That was a psychological phenomenon, not an action,” remarked Totski.

“Yes, it’s a droll situation; I really don’t know what advice to give you,” replied Evgenie, laughing. Hippolyte gazed steadfastly at him, but said nothing. To look at him one might have supposed that he was unconscious at intervals.

A man, whose face it was difficult to see in the gloom, approached the bench, and sat down beside him. The prince peered into his face, and recognized the livid features of Rogojin.

“It was a silly affair--I was an ensign at the time. You know ensigns--their blood is boiling water, their circumstances generally penurious. Well, I had a servant Nikifor who used to do everything for me in my quarters, economized and managed for me, and even laid hands on anything he could find (belonging to other people), in order to augment our household goods; but a faithful, honest fellow all the same.

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.

“Why?” asked Alexandra.

“We were not asked, you see. We were made different, with different tastes and feelings, without being consulted. You say you love her with pity. I have no pity for her. She hates me--that’s the plain truth of the matter. I dream of her every night, and always that she is laughing at me with another man. And so she does laugh at me. She thinks no more of marrying me than if she were changing her shoe. Would you believe it, I haven’t seen her for five days, and I daren’t go near her. She asks me what I come for, as if she were not content with having disgraced me--”

“Oh, but I’m quite well now, thank you, and very glad to make your acquaintance. Prince S. has often spoken to me about you,” said Muishkin, and for an instant the two men looked intently into one another’s eyes.

“And you can marry her now, Parfen! What will come of it all?” said the prince, with dread in his voice.

“Send Feodor or Alexey up by the very first train to buy a copy, then.--Aglaya, come here--kiss me, dear, you recited beautifully! but,” she added in a whisper, “if you were sincere I am sorry for you. If it was a joke, I do not approve of the feelings which prompted you to do it, and in any case you would have done far better not to recite it at all. Do you understand?--Now come along, young woman; we’ve sat here too long. I’ll speak to you about this another time.”

“Laugh away! She said exactly the same, almost word for word, when she saw my father’s portrait. It’s remarkable how entirely you and she are at one now-a-days.”

“Tell me, why didn’t you put me right when I made such a dreadful mistake just now?” continued the latter, examining the prince from head to foot without the slightest ceremony. She awaited the answer as though convinced that it would be so foolish that she must inevitably fail to restrain her laughter over it.

“Yes.”

“You are _afraid_ of it?”

Hippolyte paused, and looked at him intently and with great gratification. He then turned his gaze upon Varia, bowed, and went out, without adding another word.

“Yes.”

“Well, she isn’t the first in the world, nor the last,” said another.

“I really don’t absolutely know myself; I know my feeling was very sincere. I had moments at that time full of life and hope.”

“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!”

“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.

“Yes, I did; I am thinking of it.”

“‘Oh, don’t mind me,’ I said. ‘Dr. B---- saw me last week’ (I lugged him in again), ‘and my hash is quite settled; pardon me--’ I took hold of the door-handle again. I was on the point of opening the door and leaving my grateful but confused medical friend to himself and his shame, when my damnable cough got hold of me again.

“Yes, and look what you have come to now!” interrupted Mrs. Epanchin. “However, I see you have not quite drunk your better feelings away. But you’ve broken your wife’s heart, sir--and instead of looking after your children, you have spent your time in public-houses and debtors’ prisons! Go away, my friend, stand in some corner and weep, and bemoan your fallen dignity, and perhaps God will forgive you yet! Go, go! I’m serious! There’s nothing so favourable for repentance as to think of the past with feelings of remorse!”

“What? Pavlicheff’s son!” cried the prince, much perturbed. “I know... I know--but I entrusted this matter to Gavrila Ardalionovitch. He told me...”

“No, no; it’s all right, come in,” said Parfen, recollecting himself.

There was a moment, during this long, wretched walk back from the Petersburg Side, when the prince felt an irresistible desire to go straight to Rogojin’s, wait for him, embrace him with tears of shame and contrition, and tell him of his distrust, and finish with it--once for all.

The Epanchin family, or at least the more serious members of it, were sometimes grieved because they seemed so unlike the rest of the world. They were not quite certain, but had at times a strong suspicion that things did not happen to them as they did to other people. Others led a quiet, uneventful life, while they were subject to continual upheavals. Others kept on the rails without difficulty; they ran off at the slightest obstacle. Other houses were governed by a timid routine; theirs was somehow different. Perhaps Lizabetha Prokofievna was alone in making these fretful observations; the girls, though not wanting in intelligence, were still young; the general was intelligent, too, but narrow, and in any difficulty he was content to say, “H’m!” and leave the matter to his wife. Consequently, on her fell the responsibility. It was not that they distinguished themselves as a family by any particular originality, or that their excursions off the track led to any breach of the proprieties. Oh no.

“Bravo, prince!” cried Ferdishenko, delighted.

“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!”

“Why, it would be a game to cry over--not to laugh at!” said the actress.

“I did not feel much remorse either then or afterwards; but I would not repeat the performance--believe it or not as you please. There--that’s all.”

“You never know the day of the week; what’s the day of the month?”

“I like your sister very much.”

“And it’s Siberia for sacrilege, isn’t it?”

“Who said that, Colia?”

“I have only retired for a time,” said he, laughing. “For a few months; at most for a year.”

“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.”

“What, it’s still there then, is it? Ever since the day before yesterday?”

He could not say how long he sat there. It grew late and became quite dark.

“Do you know why I have just told you these lies?” She appealed to the prince, of a sudden, with the most childlike candour, and with the laugh still trembling on her lips. “Because when one tells a lie, if one insists on something unusual and eccentric--something too ‘out of the way’ for anything, you know--the more impossible the thing is, the more plausible does the lie sound. I’ve noticed this. But I managed it badly; I didn’t know how to work it.” She suddenly frowned again at this point as though at some sudden unpleasant recollection.

“Confess that you are pleased to have read it.”

“Take fifty roubles for your cloak?” he shouted, holding the money out to the girl. Before the astonished young woman could collect her scattered senses, he pushed the money into her hand, seized the mantle, and threw it and the handkerchief over Nastasia’s head and shoulders. The latter’s wedding-array would have attracted too much attention, and it was not until some time later that the girl understood why her old cloak and kerchief had been bought at such a price.

“I confess I came here with an object. I wished to persuade Nastasia to go abroad for her health; she requires it. Both mind and body need a change badly. I did not intend to take her abroad myself. I was going to arrange for her to go without me. Now I tell you honestly, Parfen, if it is true that all is made up between you, I will not so much as set eyes upon her, and I will never even come to see you again.

“There is not one of them all who is worthy of these words of yours,” continued Aglaya. “Not one of them is worth your little finger, not one of them has heart or head to compare with yours! You are more honest than all, and better, nobler, kinder, wiser than all. There are some here who are unworthy to bend and pick up the handkerchief you have just dropped. Why do you humiliate yourself like this, and place yourself lower than these people? Why do you debase yourself before them? Why have you no pride?”

“Oh, let her alone, I entreat you!” cried the prince. “What can you do in this dark, gloomy mystery? Let her alone, and I’ll use all my power to prevent her writing you any more letters.”

“My goodness--surely she is not in love with such a--surely she isn’t mad!” groaned Mrs. Epanchin, under her breath.

“Yes... from you it is quite natural.”

“When I entered the yard I thought I saw a man going along on the far side of it; but it was so dark I could not make out his figure.

“Why, how strange!” he ejaculated. “You didn’t answer me seriously, surely, did you?”

“However--admit the fact! Admit that without such perpetual devouring of one another the world cannot continue to exist, or could never have been organized--I am ever ready to confess that I cannot understand why this is so--but I’ll tell you what I _do_ know, for certain. If I have once been given to understand and realize that I _am_--what does it matter to me that the world is organized on a system full of errors and that otherwise it cannot be organized at all? Who will or can judge me after this? Say what you like--the thing is impossible and unjust!

The prince rose again, as if he would leave.

“And everyone of them shows his rags, his toil-worn hands, and yells in his wrath: ‘Here are we, working like cattle all our lives, and always as hungry as dogs, and there are others who do not work, and are fat and rich!’ The eternal refrain! And side by side with them trots along some wretched fellow who has known better days, doing light porter’s work from morn to night for a living, always blubbering and saying that ‘his wife died because he had no money to buy medicine with,’ and his children dying of cold and hunger, and his eldest daughter gone to the bad, and so on. Oh! I have no pity and no patience for these fools of people. Why can’t they be Rothschilds? Whose fault is it that a man has not got millions of money like Rothschild? If he has life, all this must be in his power! Whose fault is it that he does not know how to live his life?

The prince reflected a little, but very soon he replied, with absolute conviction in his tone, though he still spoke somewhat shyly and timidly:

“I have not got a ten-rouble note,” said the prince; “but here is a twenty-five. Change it and give me back the fifteen, or I shall be left without a farthing myself.”

“Yes, it’s off our hands--off _yours_, I should say.”

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.

“It’s true then, Lebedeff, that you advertise to lend money on gold or silver articles?”

However, one and all of the party realized that something important had happened, and that, perhaps fortunately enough, something which had hitherto been enveloped in the obscurity of guess-work had now begun to come forth a little from the mists. In spite of Prince S.’s assurances and explanations, Evgenie Pavlovitch’s real character and position were at last coming to light. He was publicly convicted of intimacy with “that creature.” So thought Lizabetha Prokofievna and her two elder daughters.

The prince rose from his seat, and Lebedeff, surprised to see his guest preparing to go so soon, remarked: “You are not interested?” in a respectful tone.

Lebedeff strained his eyes and ears to take in what the prince was saying. The latter was frowning more and more, and walking excitedly up and down, trying not to look at Lebedeff.

“What sort of a face was I to draw? I couldn’t draw a mask.”

“It is madness--it is merely another proof of her insanity!” said the prince, and his lips trembled.

“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?”

“It’s so dark,” he said.

“Nastasia Philipovna!” lamented Lebedeff again, straining towards the fireplace; but Rogojin dragged him away, and pushed him to the rear once more.

“You won’t? Very well. I shall be as short as possible, for my part. Two or three times to-day I have had the word ‘hospitality’ pushed down my throat; this is not fair. In inviting me here you yourself entrapped me for your own use; you thought I wished to revenge myself upon the prince. You heard that Aglaya Ivanovna had been kind to me and read my confession. Making sure that I should give myself up to your interests, you hoped that you might get some assistance out of me. I will not go into details. I don’t ask either admission or confirmation of this from yourself; I am quite content to leave you to your conscience, and to feel that we understand one another capitally.”

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.

“A--a moral one?” asked the prince, involuntarily.

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.

It was said that Gania managed to make a fool of himself even on this occasion; for, finding himself alone with Aglaya for a minute or two when Varia had gone to the Epanchins’, he had thought it a fitting opportunity to make a declaration of his love, and on hearing this Aglaya, in spite of her state of mind at the time, had suddenly burst out laughing, and had put a strange question to him. She asked him whether he would consent to hold his finger to a lighted candle in proof of his devotion! Gania--it was said--looked so comically bewildered that Aglaya had almost laughed herself into hysterics, and had rushed out of the room and upstairs,--where her parents had found her.

“Meek! What do you mean?”