Part 10 out of 15
looked at the beast well; it was brown in colour and had a shell;
it was a crawling kind of reptile, about eight inches long, and
narrowed down from the head, which was about a couple of fingers
in width, to the end of the tail, which came to a fine point. Out
of its trunk, about a couple of inches below its head, came two
legs at an angle of forty-five degrees, each about three inches
long, so that the beast looked like a trident from above. It had
eight hard needle-like whiskers coming out from different parts
of its body; it went along like a snake, bending its body about
in spite of the shell it wore, and its motion was very quick and
very horrible to look at. I was dreadfully afraid it would sting
me; somebody had told me, I thought, that it was venomous; but
what tormented me most of all was the wondering and wondering as
to who had sent it into my room, and what was the mystery which I
felt it contained.
"It hid itself under the cupboard and under the chest of drawers,
and crawled into the corners. I sat on a chair and kept my legs
tucked under me. Then the beast crawled quietly across the room
and disappeared somewhere near my chair. I looked about for it in
terror, but I still hoped that as my feet were safely tucked away
it would not be able to touch me.
"Suddenly I heard behind me, and about on a level with my head, a
sort of rattling sound. I turned sharp round and saw that the
brute had crawled up the wall as high as the level of my face,
and that its horrible tail, which was moving incredibly fast from
side to side, was actually touching my hair! I jumped up--and it
disappeared. I did not dare lie down on my bed for fear it should
creep under my pillow. My mother came into the room, and some
friends of hers. They began to hunt for the reptile and were more
composed than I was; they did not seem to be afraid of it. But
they did not understand as I did.
"Suddenly the monster reappeared; it crawled slowly across the
room and made for the door, as though with some fixed intention,
and with a slow movement that was more horrible than ever.
"Then my mother opened the door and called my dog, Norma. Norma
was a great Newfoundland, and died five years ago.
"She sprang forward and stood still in front of the reptile as if
she had been turned to stone. The beast stopped too, but its tail
and claws still moved about. I believe animals are incapable of
feeling supernatural fright--if I have been rightly informed,--but
at this moment there appeared to me to be something more than
ordinary about Norma's terror, as though it must be supernatural;
and as though she felt, just as I did myself, that this reptile
was connected with some mysterious secret, some fatal omen.
"Norma backed slowly and carefully away from the brute, which
followed her, creeping deliberately after her as though it
intended to make a sudden dart and sting her.
"In spite of Norma's terror she looked furious, though she
trembled in all her limbs. At length she slowly bared her
terrible teeth, opened her great red jaws, hesitated--took
courage, and seized the beast in her mouth. It seemed to try to
dart out of her jaws twice, but Norma caught at it and half
swallowed it as it was escaping. The shell cracked in her teeth;
and the tail and legs stuck out of her mouth and shook about in a
horrible manner. Suddenly Norma gave a piteous whine; the reptile
had bitten her tongue. She opened her mouth wide with the pain,
and I saw the beast lying across her tongue, and out of its body,
which was almost bitten in two, came a hideous white-looking
substance, oozing out into Norma's mouth; it was of the
consistency of a crushed black-beetle. just then I awoke and the
prince entered the room."
"Gentlemen!" said Hippolyte, breaking off here, "I have not done
yet, but it seems to me that I have written down a great deal
here that is unnecessary,--this dream--"
"You have indeed!" said Gania.
"There is too much about myself, I know, but--" As Hippolyte said
this his face wore a tired, pained look, and he wiped the sweat
off his brow.
"Yes," said Lebedeff, "you certainly think a great deal too much
"Well--gentlemen--I do not force anyone to listen! If any of you
are unwilling to sit it out, please go away, by all means!"
"He turns people out of a house that isn't his own," muttered
"Suppose we all go away?" said Ferdishenko suddenly.
Hippolyte clutched his manuscript, and gazing at the last speaker
with glittering eyes, said: "You don't like me at all!" A few
laughed at this, but not all.
"Hippolyte," said the prince, "give me the papers, and go to bed
like a sensible fellow. We'll have a good talk tomorrow, but you
really mustn't go on with this reading; it is not good for you!"
"How can I? How can I?" cried Hippolyte, looking at him in
amazement. "Gentlemen! I was a fool! I won't break off again.
Listen, everyone who wants to!"
He gulped down some water out of a glass standing near, bent over
the table, in order to hide his face from the audience, and
"The idea that it is not worth while living for a few weeks took
possession of me a month ago, when I was told that I had four
weeks to live, but only partially so at that time. The idea quite
overmastered me three days since, that evening at Pavlofsk. The
first time that I felt really impressed with this thought was on
the terrace at the prince's, at the very moment when I had taken
it into my head to make a last trial of life. I wanted to see
people and trees (I believe I said so myself), I got excited, I
maintained Burdovsky's rights, 'my neighbour!'--I dreamt that one
and all would open their arms, and embrace me, that there would
be an indescribable exchange of forgiveness between us all! In a
word, I behaved like a fool, and then, at that very same instant,
I felt my 'last conviction.' I ask myself now how I could have
waited six months for that conviction! I knew that I had a
disease that spares no one, and I really had no illusions; but
the more I realized my condition, the more I clung to life; I
wanted to live at any price. I confess I might well have resented
that blind, deaf fate, which, with no apparent reason, seemed to
have decided to crush me like a fly; but why did I not stop at
resentment? Why did I begin to live, knowing that it was not
worthwhile to begin? Why did I attempt to do what I knew to be
an impossibility? And yet I could not even read a book to the
end; I had given up reading. What is the good of reading, what is
the good of learning anything, for just six months? That thought
has made me throw aside a book more than once.
"Yes, that wall of Meyer's could tell a tale if it liked. There
was no spot on its dirty surface that I did not know by heart.
Accursed wall! and yet it is dearer to me than all the Pavlofsk
trees!--That is--it WOULD be dearer if it were not all the same
to me, now!
"I remember now with what hungry interest I began to watch the
lives of other people--interest that I had never felt before! I
used to wait for Colia's arrival impatiently, for I was so ill
myself, then, that I could not leave the house. I so threw myself
into every little detail of news, and took so much interest in
every report and rumour, that I believe I became a regular
gossip! I could not understand, among other things, how all these
people--with so much life in and before them--do not become RICH--
and I don't understand it now. I remember being told of a poor
wretch I once knew, who had died of hunger. I was almost beside
myself with rage! I believe if I could have resuscitated him I
would have done so for the sole purpose of murdering him!
"Occasionally I was so much better that I could go out; but the
streets used to put me in such a rage that I would lock myself up
for days rather than go out, even if I were well enough to do so!
I could not bear to see all those preoccupied, anxious-looking
creatures continuously surging along the streets past me! Why are
they always anxious? What is the meaning of their eternal care
and worry? It is their wickedness, their perpetual detestable
malice--that's what it is--they are all full of malice, malice!
"Whose fault is it that they are all miserable, that they don't
know how to live, though they have fifty or sixty years of life
before them? Why did that fool allow himself to die of hunger
with sixty years of unlived life before him?
"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?
"Oh! it's all the same to me now--NOW! But at that time I would
soak my pillow at night with tears of mortification, and tear at
my blanket in my rage and fury. Oh, how I longed at that time to
be turned out--ME, eighteen years old, poor, half-clothed, turned
out into the street, quite alone, without lodging, without work,
without a crust of bread, without relations, without a single
acquaintance, in some large town--hungry, beaten (if you like),
but in good health--and THEN I would show them--
"What would I show them?
"Oh, don't think that I have no sense of my own humiliation! I
have suffered already in reading so far. Which of you all does
not think me a fool at this moment--a young fool who knows
nothing of life--forgetting that to live as I have lived these
last six months is to live longer than grey-haired old men. Well,
let them laugh, and say it is all nonsense, if they please. They
may say it is all fairy-tales, if they like; and I have spent
whole nights telling myself fairy-tales. I remember them all. But
how can I tell fairy-tales now? The time for them is over. They
amused me when I found that there was not even time for me to
learn the Greek grammar, as I wanted to do. 'I shall die before I
get to the syntax,' I thought at the first page--and threw the
book under the table. It is there still, for I forbade anyone to
pick it up.
"If this 'Explanation' gets into anybody's hands, and they have
patience to read it through, they may consider me a madman, or a
schoolboy, or, more likely, a man condemned to die, who thought
it only natural to conclude that all men, excepting himself,
esteem life far too lightly, live it far too carelessly and
lazily, and are, therefore, one and all, unworthy of it. Well, I
affirm that my reader is wrong again, for my convictions have
nothing to do with my sentence of death. Ask them, ask any one of
them, or all of them, what they mean by happiness! Oh, you may be
perfectly sure that if Columbus was happy, it was not after he
had discovered America, but when he was discovering it! You may
be quite sure that he reached the culminating point of his
happiness three days before he saw the New World with his actual
eves, when his mutinous sailors wanted to tack about, and return
to Europe! What did the New World matter after all? Columbus had
hardly seen it when he died, and in reality he was entirely
ignorant of what he had discovered. The important thing is life--
life and nothing else! What is any 'discovery' whatever compared
with the incessant, eternal discovery of life?
"But what is the use of talking? I'm afraid all this is so
commonplace that my confession will be taken for a schoolboy
exercise--the work of some ambitious lad writing in the hope of
his work 'seeing the light'; or perhaps my readers will say that
'I had perhaps something to say, but did not know how to express
"Let me add to this that in every idea emanating from genius, or
even in every serious human idea--born in the human brain--there
always remains something--some sediment--which cannot be expressed
to others, though one wrote volumes and lectured upon it for
five-and-thirty years. There is always a something, a remnant,
which will never come out from your brain, but will remain there
with you, and you alone, for ever and ever, and you will die,
perhaps, without having imparted what may be the very essence of
your idea to a single living soul.
"So that if I cannot now impart all that has tormented me for
the last six months, at all events you will understand that,
having reached my 'last convictions,' I must have paid a very
dear price for them. That is what I wished, for reasons of my
own, to make a point of in this my 'Explanation.'
"But let me resume.
"I WILL not deceive you. 'Reality' got me so entrapped in its
meshes now and again during the past six months, that I forgot my
'sentence' (or perhaps I did not wish to think of it), and
actually busied myself with affairs.
"A word as to my circumstances. When, eight months since, I
became very ill, I threw up all my old connections and dropped
all my old companions. As I was always a gloomy, morose sort of
individual, my friends easily forgot me; of course, they would
have forgotten me all the same, without that excuse. My position
at home was solitary enough. Five months ago I separated myself
entirely from the family, and no one dared enter my room except
at stated times, to clean and tidy it, and so on, and to bring me
my meals. My mother dared not disobey me; she kept the children
quiet, for my sake, and beat them if they dared to make any noise
and disturb me. I so often complained of them that I should think
they must be very fond, indeed, of me by this time. I think I
must have tormented 'my faithful Colia' (as I called him) a
good deal too. He tormented me of late; I could see that he
always bore my tempers as though he had determined to 'spare the
poor invalid.' This annoyed me, naturally. He seemed to have
taken it into his head to imitate the prince in Christian
meekness! Surikoff, who lived above us, annoyed me, too. He was
so miserably poor, and I used to prove to him that he had no one
to blame but himself for his poverty. I used to be so angry that
I think I frightened him eventually, for he stopped coming to see
me. He was a most meek and humble fellow, was Surikoff. (N.B.--
They say that meekness is a great power. I must ask the prince
about this, for the expression is his.) But I remember one day in
March, when I went up to his lodgings to see whether it was true
that one of his children had been starved and frozen to death, I
began to hold forth to him about his poverty being his own fault,
and, in the course of my remarks, I accidentally smiled at the
corpse of his child. Well, the poor wretch's lips began to
tremble, and he caught me by the shoulder, and pushed me to the
door. 'Go out,' he said, in a whisper. I went out, of course, and
I declare I LIKED it. I liked it at the very moment when I was
turned out. But his words filled me with a strange sort of
feeling of disdainful pity for him whenever I thought of them--a
feeling which I did not in the least desire to entertain. At the
very moment of the insult (for I admit that I did insult him,
though I did not mean to), this man could not lose his temper.
His lips had trembled, but I swear it was not with rage. He had
taken me by the arm, and said, 'Go out,' without the least anger.
There was dignity, a great deal of dignity, about him, and it was
so inconsistent with the look of him that, I assure you, it was
quite comical. But there was no anger. Perhaps he merely began to
despise me at that moment.
"Since that time he has always taken off his hat to me on the
stairs, whenever I met him, which is a thing he never did before;
but he always gets away from me as quickly as he can, as though
he felt confused. If he did despise me, he despised me 'meekly,'
after his own fashion.
"I dare say he only took his hat off out of fear, as it were, to
the son of his creditor; for he always owed my mother money. I
thought of having an explanation with him, but I knew that if I
did, he would begin to apologize in a minute or two, so I decided
to let him alone.
"Just about that time, that is, the middle of March, I suddenly
felt very much better; this continued for a couple of weeks. I
used to go out at dusk. I like the dusk, especially in March,
when the night frost begins to harden the day's puddles, and the
gas is burning.
"Well, one night in the Shestilavochnaya, a man passed me with a
paper parcel under his arm. I did not take stock of him very
carefully, but he seemed to be dressed in some shabby summer
dust-coat, much too light for the season. When he was opposite
the lamp-post, some ten yards away, I observed something fall out
of his pocket. I hurried forward to pick it up, just in time, for
an old wretch in a long kaftan rushed up too. He did not dispute
the matter, but glanced at what was in my hand and disappeared.
"It was a large old-fashioned pocket-book, stuffed full; but I
guessed, at a glance, that it had anything in the world inside
it, except money.
"The owner was now some forty yards ahead of me, and was very
soon lost in the crowd. I ran after him, and began calling out;
but as I knew nothing to say excepting 'hey!' he did not turn
round. Suddenly he turned into the gate of a house to the left;
and when I darted in after him, the gateway was so dark that I
could see nothing whatever. It was one of those large houses
built in small tenements, of which there must have been at least
"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
"I crossed to that corner and found a dirty dark staircase. I
heard a man mounting up above me, some way higher than I was, and
thinking I should catch him before his door would be opened to
him, I rushed after him. I heard a door open and shut on the
fifth storey, as I panted along; the stairs were narrow, and the
steps innumerable, but at last I reached the door I thought the
right one. Some moments passed before I found the bell and got it
"An old peasant woman opened the door; she was busy lighting the
'samovar' in a tiny kitchen. She listened silently to my
questions, did not understand a word, of course, and opened
another door leading into a little bit of a room, low and
scarcely furnished at all, but with a large, wide bed in it, hung
with curtains. On this bed lay one Terentich, as the woman called
him, drunk, it appeared to me. On the table was an end of candle
in an iron candlestick, and a half-bottle of vodka, nearly
finished. Terentich muttered something to me, and signed towards
the next room. The old woman had disappeared, so there was
nothing for me to do but to open the door indicated. I did so,
and entered the next room.
"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
"On the table, as in the other room, burned a tallow candle-end
in an iron candlestick; and on the bed there whined a baby of
scarcely three weeks old. A pale-looking woman was dressing the
child, probably the mother; she looked as though she had not as
yet got over the trouble of childbirth, she seemed so weak and
was so carelessly dressed. Another child, a little girl of about
three years old, lay on the sofa, covered over with what looked
like a man's old dress-coat.
"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
"On the table along with these things were a few old bits of
black bread, and some tea in a pot. From under the bed there
protruded an open portmanteau full of bundles of rags. In a word,
the confusion and untidiness of the room were indescribable.
"It appeared to me, at the first glance, that both the man and
the woman were respectable people, but brought to that pitch of
poverty where untidiness seems to get the better of every effort
to cope with it, till at last they take a sort of bitter
satisfaction in it. When I entered the room, the man, who had
entered but a moment before me, and was still unpacking his
parcels, was saying something to his wife in an excited manner.
The news was apparently bad, as usual, for the woman began
whimpering. The man's face seemed tome to be refined and even
pleasant. He was dark-complexioned, and about twenty-eight years
of age; he wore black whiskers, and his lip and chin were shaved.
He looked morose, but with a sort of pride of expression. A
curious scene followed.
"There are people who find satisfaction in their own touchy
feelings, especially when they have just taken the deepest
offence; at such moments they feel that they would rather be
offended than not. These easily-ignited natures, if they are
wise, are always full of remorse afterwards, when they reflect
that they have been ten times as angry as they need have been.
"The gentleman before me gazed at me for some seconds in
amazement, and his wife in terror; as though there was something
alarmingly extraordinary in the fact that anyone could come to
see them. But suddenly he fell upon me almost with fury; I had
had no time to mutter more than a couple of words; but he had
doubtless observed that I was decently dressed and, therefore,
took deep offence because I had dared enter his den so
unceremoniously, and spy out the squalor and untidiness of it.
"Of course he was delighted to get hold of someone upon whom to
vent his rage against things in general.
"For a moment I thought he would assault me; he grew so pale that
he looked like a woman about to have hysterics; his wife was
"'How dare you come in so? Be off!' he shouted, trembling all
over with rage and scarcely able to articulate the words.
Suddenly, however, he observed his pocketbook in my hand.
"'I think you dropped this,' I remarked, as quietly and drily as
I could. (I thought it best to treat him so.) For some while he
stood before me in downright terror, and seemed unable to
understand. He then suddenly grabbed at his side-pocket, opened
his mouth in alarm, and beat his forehead with his hand.
"'My God!' he cried, 'where did you find it? How?' I explained in
as few words as I could, and as drily as possible, how I had seen
it and picked it up; how I had run after him, and called out to
him, and how I had followed him upstairs and groped my way to his
"'Gracious Heaven!' he cried, 'all our papers are in it! My dear
sir, you little know what you have done for us. I should have
"I had taken hold of the door-handle meanwhile, intending to
leave the room without reply; but I was panting with my run
upstairs, and my exhaustion came to a climax in a violent fit of
coughing, so bad that I could hardly stand.
"I saw how the man dashed about the room to find me an empty
chair, how he kicked the rags off a chair which was covered up by
them, brought it to me, and helped me to sit down; but my cough
went on for another three minutes or so. When I came to myself he
was sitting by me on another chair, which he had also cleared of
the rubbish by throwing it all over the floor, and was watching
"'I'm afraid you are ill?' he remarked, in the tone which doctors
use when they address a patient. 'I am myself a medical man' (he
did not say 'doctor'), with which words he waved his hands
towards the room and its contents as though in protest at his
present condition. 'I see that you--'
"'I'm in consumption,' I said laconically, rising from my seat.
He jumped up, too.
"'Perhaps you are exaggerating--if you were to take proper
"He was terribly confused and did not seem able to collect his
scattered senses; the pocket-book was still in his left hand.
"'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.
"My doctor insisted on my sitting down again to get my breath. He
now said something to his wife who, without leaving her place,
addressed a few words of gratitude and courtesy to me. She seemed
very shy over it, and her sickly face flushed up with confusion.
I remained, but with the air of a man who knows he is intruding
and is anxious to get away. The doctor's remorse at last seemed
to need a vent, I could see.
"'If I--' he began, breaking off abruptly every other moment, and
starting another sentence. 'I-I am so very grateful to you, and I
am so much to blame in your eyes, I feel sure, I--you see--' (he
pointed to the room again) 'at this moment I am in such a
"'Oh!' I said, 'there's nothing to see; it's quite a clear case--
you've lost your post and have come up to make explanations and
get another, if you can!'
"'How do you know that?' he asked in amazement.
"'Oh, it was evident at the first glance,' I said ironically, but
not intentionally so. 'There are lots of people who come up from
the provinces full of hope, and run about town, and have to live
as best they can.'
"He began to talk at once excitedly and with trembling lips; he
began complaining and telling me his story. He interested me, I
confess; I sat there nearly an hour. His story was a very
ordinary one. He had been a provincial doctor; he had a civil
appointment, and had no sooner taken it up than intrigues began.
Even his wife was dragged into these. He was proud, and flew into
a passion; there was a change of local government which acted in
favour of his opponents; his position was undermined, complaints
were made against him; he lost his post and came up to Petersburg
with his last remaining money, in order to appeal to higher
authorities. Of course nobody would listen to him for a long
time; he would come and tell his story one day and be refused
promptly; another day he would be fed on false promises; again he
would be treated harshly; then he would be told to sign some
documents; then he would sign the paper and hand it in, and they
would refuse to receive it, and tell him to file a formal
petition. In a word he had been driven about from office to
office for five months and had spent every farthing he had; his
wife's last rags had just been pawned; and meanwhile a child had
been born to them and--and today I have a final refusal to my
petition, and I have hardly a crumb of bread left--I have nothing
left; my wife has had a baby lately--and I-I--'
"He sprang up from his chair and turned away. His wife was crying
in the corner; the child had begun to moan again. I pulled out my
note-book and began writing in it. When I had finished and rose
from my chair he was standing before me with an expression of
"'I have jotted down your name,' I told him, 'and all the rest of
it--the place you served at, the district, the date, and all. I
have a friend, Bachmatoff, whose uncle is a councillor of state
and has to do with these matters, one Peter Matveyevitch
"'Peter Matveyevitch Bachmatoff!' he cried, trembling all over
with excitement. 'Why, nearly everything depends on that very
"It is very curious, this story of the medical man, and my visit,
and the happy termination to which I contributed by accident!
Everything fitted in, as in a novel. I told the poor people not
to put much hope in me, because I was but a poor schoolboy myself--
(I am not really, but I humiliated myself as much as possible in
order to make them less hopeful)--but that I would go at once
to the Vassili Ostroff and see my friend; and that as I knew
for certain that his uncle adored him, and was absolutely devoted
to him as the last hope and branch of the family, perhaps the old
man might do something to oblige his nephew.
"'If only they would allow me to explain all to his excellency!
If I could but be permitted to tell my tale to him!" he cried,
trembling with feverish agitation, and his eyes flashing with
excitement. I repeated once more that I could not hold out much
hope--that it would probably end in smoke, and if I did not turn
up next morning they must make up their minds that there was no
more to be done in the matter.
"They showed me out with bows and every kind of respect; they
seemed quite beside themselves. I shall never forget the
expression of their faces!
"I took a droshky and drove over to the Vassili Ostroff at once.
For some years I had been at enmity with this young Bachmatoff,
at school. We considered him an aristocrat; at all events I
called him one. He used to dress smartly, and always drove to
school in a private trap. He was a good companion, and was always
merry and jolly, sometimes even witty, though he was not very
intellectual, in spite of the fact that he was always top of the
class; I myself was never top in anything! All his companions
were very fond of him, excepting myself. He had several times
during those years come up to me and tried to make friends; but I
had always turned sulkily away and refused to have anything to do
with him. I had not seen him for a whole year now; he was at the
university. When, at nine o'clock, or so, this evening, I arrived
and was shown up to him with great ceremony, he first received me
with astonishment, and not too affably, but he soon cheered up,
and suddenly gazed intently at me and burst out laughing.
"'Why, what on earth can have possessed you to come and see ME,
Terentieff?' he cried, with his usual pleasant, sometimes
audacious, but never offensive familiarity, which I liked in
reality, but for which I also detested him. 'Why what's the
matter?' he cried in alarm. 'Are you ill?'
"That confounded cough of mine had come on again; I fell into a
chair, and with difficulty recovered my breath. 'It's all right,
it's only consumption' I said. 'I have come to you with a
"He sat down in amazement, and I lost no time in telling him the
medical man's history; and explained that he, with the influence
which he possessed over his uncle, might do some good to the poor
"'I'll do it--I'll do it, of course!' he said. 'I shall attack my
uncle about it tomorrow morning, and I'm very glad you told me
the story. But how was it that you thought of coming to me about
"'So much depends upon your uncle,' I said. 'And besides we have
always been enemies, Bachmatoff; and as you are a generous sort
of fellow, I thought you would not refuse my request because I
was your enemy!' I added with irony.
"'Like Napoleon going to England, eh?' cried he, laughing. 'I'll
do it though--of course, and at once, if I can!' he added, seeing
that I rose seriously from my chair at this point.
"And sure enough the matter ended as satisfactorily as possible.
A month or so later my medical friend was appointed to another
post. He got his travelling expenses paid, and something to help
him to start life with once more. I think Bachmatoff must have
persuaded the doctor to accept a loan from himself. I saw
Bachmatoff two or three times, about this period, the third time
being when he gave a farewell dinner to the doctor and his wife
before their departure, a champagne dinner.
"Bachmatoff saw me home after the dinner and we crossed the
Nicolai bridge. We were both a little drunk. He told me of his
joy, the joyful feeling of having done a good action; he said
that it was all thanks to myself that he could feel this
satisfaction; and held forth about the foolishness of the theory
that individual charity is useless
"I, too, was burning to have my say!
"'In Moscow,' I said, 'there was an old state counsellor, a civil
general, who, all his life, had been in the habit of visiting the
prisons and speaking to criminals. Every party of convicts on its
way to Siberia knew beforehand that on the Vorobeef Hills the
"old general" would pay them a visit. He did all he undertook
seriously and devotedly. He would walk down the rows of the
unfortunate prisoners, stop before each individual and ask after
his needs--he never sermonized them; he spoke kindly to them--he gave
them money; he brought them all sorts of necessaries for the
journey, and gave them devotional books, choosing those who could
read, under the firm conviction that they would read to those who
could not, as they went along.
"'He scarcely ever talked about the particular crimes of any of
them, but listened if any volunteered information on that point.
All the convicts were equal for him, and he made no distinction.
He spoke to all as to brothers, and every one of them looked upon
him as a father. When he observed among the exiles some poor
woman with a child, he would always come forward and fondle the
little one, and make it laugh. He continued these acts of mercy
up to his very death; and by that time all the criminals, all
over Russia and Siberia, knew him!
"'A man I knew who had been to Siberia and returned, told me that
he himself had been a witness of how the very most hardened
criminals remembered the old general, though, in point of fact,
he could never, of course, have distributed more than a few pence
to each member of a party. Their recollection of him was not
sentimental or particularly devoted. Some wretch, for instance,
who had been a murderer--cutting the throat of a dozen fellow-
creatures, for instance; or stabbing six little children for his
own amusement (there have been such men!)--would perhaps, without
rhyme or reason, suddenly give a sigh and say, "I wonder whether
that old general is alive still!" Although perhaps he had not
thought of mentioning him for a dozen years before! How can one
say what seed of good may have been dropped into his soul, never
"I continued in that strain for a long while, pointing out to
Bachmatoff how impossible it is to follow up the effects of any
isolated good deed one may do, in all its influences and subtle
workings upon the heart and after-actions of others.
"'And to think that you are to be cut off from life!' remarked
Bachmatoff, in a tone of reproach, as though he would like to
find someone to pitch into on my account.
"We were leaning over the balustrade of the bridge, looking into
the Neva at this moment.
"'Do you know what has suddenly come into my head?' said I,
suddenly--leaning further and further over the rail.
"'Surely not to throw yourself into the river?' cried Bachmatoff
in alarm. Perhaps he read my thought in my face.
"'No, not yet. At present nothing but the following
consideration. You see I have some two or three months left me to
live--perhaps four; well, supposing that when I have but a month
or two more, I take a fancy for some "good deed" that needs both
trouble and time, like this business of our doctor friend, for
instance: why, I shall have to give up the idea of it and take to
something else--some LITTLE good deed, MORE WITHIN MY MEANS, eh?
Isn't that an amusing idea!'
"Poor Bachmatoff was much impressed--painfully so. He took me all
the way home; not attempting to console me, but behaving with the
greatest delicacy. On taking leave he pressed my hand warmly and
asked permission to come and see me. I replied that if he came to
me as a 'comforter,' so to speak (for he would be in that
capacity whether he spoke to me in a soothing manner or only kept
silence, as I pointed out to him), he would but remind me each
time of my approaching death! He shrugged his shoulders, but
quite agreed with me; and we parted better friends than I had
"But that evening and that night were sown the first seeds of my
'last conviction.' I seized greedily on my new idea; I thirstily
drank in all its different aspects (I did not sleep a wink that
night!), and the deeper I went into it the more my being seemed
to merge itself in it, and the more alarmed I became. A dreadful
terror came over me at last, and did not leave me all next day.
"Sometimes, thinking over this, I became quite numb with the
terror of it; and I might well have deduced from this fact, that
my 'last conviction' was eating into my being too fast and too
seriously, and would undoubtedly come to its climax before long.
And for the climax I needed greater determination than I yet
"However, within three weeks my determination was taken, owing to
a very strange circumstance.
"Here on my paper, I make a note of all the figures and dates
that come into my explanation. Of course, it is all the same to
me, but just now--and perhaps only at this moment--I desire that
all those who are to judge of my action should see clearly out of
how logical a sequence of deductions has at length proceeded my
"I have said above that the determination needed by me for the
accomplishment of my final resolve, came to hand not through any
sequence of causes, but thanks to a certain strange circumstance
which had perhaps no connection whatever with the matter at
issue. Ten days ago Rogojin called upon me about certain business
of his own with which I have nothing to do at present. I had
never seen Rogojin before, but had often heard about him.
"I gave him all the information he needed, and he very soon took
his departure; so that, since he only came for the purpose of
gaining the information, the matter might have been expected to
"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.
"Rogojin was evidently by no means pleased to see me, and hinted,
delicately, that he saw no reason why our acquaintance should
continue. For all that, however, I spent a very interesting hour,
and so, I dare say, did he. There was so great a contrast between
us that I am sure we must both have felt it; anyhow, I felt it
acutely. Here was I, with my days numbered, and he, a man in the
full vigour of life, living in the present, without the slightest
thought for 'final convictions,' or numbers, or days, or, in
fact, for anything but that which-which--well, which he was mad
about, if he will excuse me the expression--as a feeble author who
cannot express his ideas properly.
"In spite of his lack of amiability, I could not help seeing, in
Rogojin a man of intellect and sense; and although, perhaps,
there was little in the outside world which was of. interest to
him, still he was clearly a man with eyes to see.
"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.
"His only reply to this was a sour grimace. He rose and looked
for my cap, and placed it in my hand, and led me out of the
house--that dreadful gloomy house of his--to all appearances, of
course, as though I were leaving of my own accord, and he were
simply seeing me to the door out of politeness. His house
impressed me much; it is like a burial-ground, he seems to like
it, which is, however, quite natural. Such a full life as he
leads is so overflowing with absorbing interests that he has
little need of assistance from his surroundings.
"The visit to Rogojin exhausted me terribly. Besides, I had felt
ill since the morning; and by evening I was so weak that I took
to my bed, and was in high fever at intervals, and even
delirious. Colia sat with me until eleven o'clock.
"Yet I remember all he talked about, and every word we said,
though whenever my eyes closed for a moment I could picture
nothing but the image of Surikoff just in the act of finding a
million roubles. He could not make up his mind what to do with
the money, and tore his hair over it. He trembled with fear that
somebody would rob him, and at last he decided to bury it in the
ground. I persuaded him that, instead of putting it all away
uselessly underground, he had better melt it down and make a
golden coffin out of it for his starved child, and then dig up
the little one and put her into the golden coffin. Surikoff
accepted this suggestion, I thought, with tears of gratitude, and
immediately commenced to carry out my design.
"I thought I spat on the ground and left him in disgust. Colia
told me, when I quite recovered my senses, that I had not been
asleep for a moment, but that I had spoken to him about Surikoff
the whole while.
"At moments I was in a state of dreadful weakness and misery, so
that Colia was greatly disturbed when he left me.
"When I arose to lock the door after him, I suddenly called to
mind a picture I had noticed at Rogojin's in one of his gloomiest
rooms, over the door. He had pointed it out to me himself as we
walked past it, and I believe I must have stood a good five
minutes in front of it. There was nothing artistic about it, but
the picture made me feel strangely uncomfortable. It represented
Christ just taken down from the cross. It seems to me that
painters as a rule represent the Saviour, both on the cross and
taken down from it, with great beauty still upon His face. This
marvellous beauty they strive to preserve even in His moments of
deepest agony and passion. But there was no such beauty in
Rogojin's picture. This was the presentment of a poor mangled
body which had evidently suffered unbearable anguish even before
its crucifixion, full of wounds and bruises, marks of the
violence of soldiers and people, and of the bitterness of the
moment when He had fallen with the cross--all this combined with
the anguish of the actual crucifixion.
"The face was depicted as though still suffering; as though the
body, only just dead, was still almost quivering with agony. The
picture was one of pure nature, for the face was not beautified
by the artist, but was left as it would naturally be, whosoever
the sufferer, after such anguish.
"I know that the earliest Christian faith taught that the Saviour
suffered actually and not figuratively, and that nature was
allowed her own way even while His body was on the cross.
"It is strange to look on this dreadful picture of the mangled
corpse of the Saviour, and to put this question to oneself:
'Supposing that the disciples, the future apostles, the women who
had followed Him and stood by the cross, all of whom believed in
and worshipped Him--supposing that they saw this tortured body,
this face so mangled and bleeding and bruised (and they MUST have
so seen it)--how could they have gazed upon the dreadful sight
and yet have believed that He would rise again?'
"The thought steps in, whether one likes it or no, that death is
so terrible and so powerful, that even He who conquered it in His
miracles during life was unable to triumph over it at the last.
He who called to Lazarus, 'Lazarus, come forth!' and the dead
man lived--He was now Himself a prey to nature and death. Nature
appears to one, looking at this picture, as some huge,
implacable, dumb monster; or still better--a stranger simile--some
enormous mechanical engine of modern days which has seized and
crushed and swallowed up a great and invaluable Being, a Being
worth nature and all her laws, worth the whole earth, which was
perhaps created merely for the sake of the advent of that Being.
"This blind, dumb, implacable, eternal, unreasoning force is well
shown in the picture, and the absolute subordination of all men
and things to it is so well expressed that the idea unconsciously
arises in the mind of anyone who looks at it. All those faithful
people who were gazing at the cross and its mutilated occupant
must have suffered agony of mind that evening; for they must have
felt that all their hopes and almost all their faith had been
shattered at a blow. They must have separated in terror and dread that
night, though each perhaps carried away with him one great
thought which was never eradicated from his mind for ever
afterwards. If this great Teacher of theirs could have seen
Himself after the Crucifixion, how could He have consented to
mount the Cross and to die as He did? This thought also comes
into the mind of the man who gazes at this picture. I thought of
all this by snatches probably between my attacks of delirium--for
an hour and a half or so before Colia's departure.
"Can there be an appearance of that which has no form? And yet it
seemed to me, at certain moments, that I beheld in some strange
and impossible form, that dark, dumb, irresistibly powerful,
"I thought someone led me by the hand and showed me, by the light
of a candle, a huge, loathsome insect, which he assured me was
that very force, that very almighty, dumb, irresistible Power,
and laughed at the indignation with which I received this
information. In my room they always light the little lamp before
my icon for the night; it gives a feeble flicker of light, but it
is strong enough to see by dimly, and if you sit just under it
you can even read by it. I think it was about twelve or a little
past that night. I had not slept a wink, and was lying with my
eyes wide open, when suddenly the door opened, and in came
"He entered, and shut the door behind him. Then he silently gazed
at me and went quickly to the corner of the room where the lamp
was burning and sat down underneath it.
"I was much surprised, and looked at him expectantly.
"Rogojin only leaned his elbow on the table and silently stared
at me. So passed two or three minutes, and I recollect that his
silence hurt and offended me very much. Why did he not speak?
"That his arrival at this time of night struck me as more or less
strange may possibly be the case; but I remember I was by no
means amazed at it. On the contrary, though I had not actually
told him my thought in the morning, yet I know he understood it;
and this thought was of such a character that it would not be
anything very remarkable, if one were to come for further talk
about it at any hour of night, however late.
"I thought he must have come for this purpose.
"In the morning we had parted not the best of friends; I remember
he looked at me with disagreeable sarcasm once or twice; and this
same look I observed in his eyes now--which was the cause of the
annoyance I felt.
"I did not for a moment suspect that I was delirious and that
this Rogojin was but the result of fever and excitement. I had
not the slightest idea of such a theory at first.
"Meanwhile he continued to sit and stare jeeringly at me.
"I angrily turned round in bed and made up my mind that I would
not say a word unless he did; so I rested silently on my pillow
determined to remain dumb, if it were to last till morning. I
felt resolved that he should speak first. Probably twenty minutes
or so passed in this way. Suddenly the idea struck me--what if
this is an apparition and not Rogojin himself?
"Neither during my illness nor at any previous time had I ever
seen an apparition;--but I had always thought, both when I was a
little boy, and even now, that if I were to see one I should die
on the spot--though I don't believe in ghosts. And yet NOW, when
the idea struck me that this was a ghost and not Rogojin at all,
I was not in the least alarmed. Nay--the thought actually
irritated me. Strangely enough, the decision of the question as
to whether this were a ghost or Rogojin did not, for some reason
or other, interest me nearly so much as it ought to have done;--I
think I began to muse about something altogether different. For
instance, I began to wonder why Rogojin, who had been in
dressing--gown and slippers when I saw him at home, had now put on
a dress-coat and white waistcoat and tie? I also thought to
myself, I remember--'if this is a ghost, and I am not afraid of
it, why don't I approach it and verify my suspicions? Perhaps I
am afraid--' And no sooner did this last idea enter my head than
an icy blast blew over me; I felt a chill down my backbone and my
"At this very moment, as though divining my thoughts, Rogojin
raised his head from his arm and began to part his lips as though
he were going to laugh--but he continued to stare at me as
persistently as before.
"I felt so furious with him at this moment that I longed to rush
at him; but as I had sworn that he should speak first, I
continued to lie still--and the more willingly, as I was still by
no means satisfied as to whether it really was Rogojin or not.
"I cannot remember how long this lasted; I cannot recollect,
either, whether consciousness forsook me at intervals, or not.
But at last Rogojin rose, staring at me as intently as ever, but
not smiling any longer,--and walking very softly, almost on tip-
toes, to the door, he opened it, went out, and shut it behind
"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.
"Well, this strange circumstance--which I have described with so
much detail--was the ultimate cause which led me to taking my
final determination. So that no logic, or logical deductions, had
anything to do with my resolve;--it was simply a matter of
"It was impossible for me to go on living when life was full of
such detestable, strange, tormenting forms. This ghost had
humiliated me;--nor could I bear to be subordinate to that dark,
horrible force which was embodied in the form of the loathsome
insect. It was only towards evening, when I had quite made up my
mind on this point, that I began to feel easier.
"I HAD a small pocket pistol. I had procured it while still a
boy, at that droll age when the stories of duels and highwaymen
begin to delight one, and when one imagines oneself nobly
standing fire at some future day, in a duel.
"There were a couple of old bullets in the bag which contained
the pistol, and powder enough in an old flask for two or three
"The pistol was a wretched thing, very crooked and wouldn't carry
farther than fifteen paces at the most. However, it would send
your skull flying well enough if you pressed the muzzle of it
against your temple.
"I determined to die at Pavlofsk at sunrise, in the park--so as
to make no commotion in the house.
"This 'explanation' will make the matter clear enough to the
police. Students of psychology, and anyone else who likes, may
make what they please of it. I should not like this paper,
however, to be made public. I request the prince to keep a copy
himself, and to give a copy to Aglaya Ivanovna Epanchin. This is
my last will and testament. As for my skeleton, I bequeath it to
the Medical Academy for the benefit of science.
"I recognize no jurisdiction over myself, and I know that I am
now beyond the power of laws and judges.
"A little while ago a very amusing idea struck me. What if I were
now to commit some terrible crime--murder ten fellow-creatures,
for instance, or anything else that is thought most shocking and
dreadful in this world--what a dilemma my judges would be in,
with a criminal who only has a fortnight to live in any case, now
that the rack and other forms of torture are abolished! Why, I
should die comfortably in their own hospital--in a warm, clean
room, with an attentive doctor--probably much more comfortably
than I should at home.
"I don't understand why people in my position do not oftener
indulge in such ideas--if only for a joke! Perhaps they do! Who
knows! There are plenty of merry souls among us!
"But though I do not recognize any jurisdiction over myself,
still I know that I shall be judged, when I am nothing but a
voiceless lump of clay; therefore I do not wish to go before I
have left a word of reply--the reply of a free man--not one
forced to justify himself--oh no! I have no need to ask
forgiveness of anyone. I wish to say a word merely because I
happen to desire it of my own free will.
"Here, in the first place, comes a strange thought!
"Who, in the name of what Law, would think of disputing my full
personal right over the fortnight of life left to me? What
jurisdiction can be brought to bear upon the case? Who would wish
me, not only to be sentenced, but to endure the sentence to the
end? Surely there exists no man who would wish such a thing--why
should anyone desire it? For the sake of morality? Well, I can
understand that if I were to make an attempt upon my own life
while in the enjoyment of full health and vigour--my life which
might have been 'useful,' etc., etc.--morality might reproach me,
according to the old routine, for disposing of my life without
permission--or whatever its tenet may be. But now, NOW, when my
sentence is out and my days numbered! How can morality have need
of my last breaths, and why should I die listening to the
consolations offered by the prince, who, without doubt, would not
omit to demonstrate that death is actually a benefactor to me?
(Christians like him always end up with that--it is their pet
theory.) And what do they want with their ridiculous 'Pavlofsk
trees'? To sweeten my last hours? Cannot they understand that the
more I forget myself, the more I let myself become attached to
these last illusions of life and love, by means of which they try
to hide from me Meyer's wall, and all that is so plainly written
on it--the more unhappy they make me? What is the use of all your
nature to me--all your parks and trees, your sunsets and
sunrises, your blue skies and your self-satisfied faces--when all
this wealth of beauty and happiness begins with the fact that it
accounts me--only me--one too many! What is the good of all this
beauty and glory to me, when every second, every moment, I cannot
but be aware that this little fly which buzzes around my head in
the sun's rays--even this little fly is a sharer and participator
in all the glory of the universe, and knows its place and is
happy in it;--while I--only I, am an outcast, and have been blind
to the fact hitherto, thanks to my simplicity! Oh! I know well
how the prince and others would like me, instead of indulging in
all these wicked words of my own, to sing, to the glory and
triumph of morality, that well-known verse of Gilbert's:
"'0, puissent voir longtemps votre beaute sacree
Tant d'amis, sourds a mes adieux!
Qu'ils meurent pleins de jours, que leur mort soit pleuree,
Qu'un ami leur ferme les yeux!'
"But believe me, believe me, my simple-hearted friends, that in
this highly moral verse, in this academical blessing to the world
in general in the French language, is hidden the intensest gall
and bitterness; but so well concealed is the venom, that I dare
say the poet actually persuaded himself that his words were full
of the tears of pardon and peace, instead of the bitterness of
disappointment and malice, and so died in the delusion.
"Do you know there is a limit of ignominy, beyond which man's
consciousness of shame cannot go, and after which begins
satisfaction in shame? Well, of course humility is a great force
in that sense, I admit that--though not in the sense in which
religion accounts humility to be strength!
"Religion!--I admit eternal life--and perhaps I always did admit
"Admitted that consciousness is called into existence by the will
of a Higher Power; admitted that this consciousness looks out
upon the world and says 'I am;' and admitted that the Higher
Power wills that the consciousness so called into existence, be
suddenly extinguished (for so--for some unexplained reason--it is
and must be)--still there comes the eternal question--why must I
be humble through all this? Is it not enough that I am devoured,
without my being expected to bless the power that devours me?
Surely--surely I need not suppose that Somebody--there--will be
offended because I do not wish to live out the fortnight allowed
me? I don't believe it.
"It is much simpler, and far more likely, to believe that my
death is needed--the death of an insignificant atom--in order to
fulfil the general harmony of the universe--in order to make even
some plus or minus in the sum of existence. Just as every day the
death of numbers of beings is necessary because without their
annihilation the rest cannot live on--(although we must admit
that the idea is not a particularly grand one in itself!)
"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!
"And meanwhile I have never been able, in spite of my great
desire to do so, to persuade myself that there is no future
existence, and no Providence.
"The fact of the matter is that all this DOES exist, but that we
know absolutely nothing about the future life and its laws!
"But it is so difficult, and even impossible to understand, that
surely I am not to be blamed because I could not fathom the
"Of course I know they say that one must be obedient, and of
course, too, the prince is one of those who say so: that one must
be obedient without questions, out of pure goodness of heart, and
that for my worthy conduct in this matter I shall meet with
reward in another world. We degrade God when we attribute our own
ideas to Him, out of annoyance that we cannot fathom His ways.
"Again, I repeat, I cannot be blamed because I am unable to
understand that which it is not given to mankind to fathom. Why
am I to be judged because I could not comprehend the Will and
Laws of Providence? No, we had better drop religion.
"And enough of this. By the time I have got so far in the reading
of my document the sun will be up and the huge force of his rays
will be acting upon the living world. So be it. I shall die
gazing straight at the great Fountain of life and power; I do not
want this life!
"If I had had the power to prevent my own birth I should
certainly never have consented to accept existence under such
ridiculous conditions. However, I have the power to end my
existence, although I do but give back days that are already
numbered. It is an insignificant gift, and my revolt is equally
"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
"Perhaps then I am anxious to take advantage of my last chance of
doing something for myself. A protest is sometimes no small
The explanation was finished; Hippolyte paused at last.
There is, in extreme cases, a final stage of cynical candour when
a nervous man, excited, and beside himself with emotion, will be
afraid of nothing and ready for any sort of scandal, nay, glad of
it. The extraordinary, almost unnatural, tension of the nerves
which upheld Hippolyte up to this point, had now arrived at this
final stage. This poor feeble boy of eighteen--exhausted by
disease--looked for all the world as weak and frail as a leaflet
torn from its parent tree and trembling in the breeze; but no
sooner had his eye swept over his audience, for the first time
during the whole of the last hour, than the most contemptuous,
the most haughty expression of repugnance lighted up his face. He
defied them all, as it were. But his hearers were indignant, too;
they rose to their feet with annoyance. Fatigue, the wine
consumed, the strain of listening so long, all added to the
disagreeable impression which the reading had made upon them.
Suddenly Hippolyte jumped up as though he had been shot.
"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
"Well, what then? Did you suppose it wasn't going to rise?" asked
"It's going to be atrociously hot again all day," said Gania,
with an air of annoyance, taking his hat. "A month of this... Are
you coming home, Ptitsin?" Hippolyte listened to this in
amazement, almost amounting to stupefaction. Suddenly he became
deadly pale and shuddered.
"You manage your composure too awkwardly. I see you wish to
insult me," he cried to Gania. "You--you are a cur!" He looked at
Gania with an expression of malice.
"What on earth is the matter with the boy? What phenomenal
feeble-mindedness!" exclaimed Ferdishenko.
"Oh, he's simply a fool," said Gania.
Hippolyte braced himself up a little.
"I understand, gentlemen," he began, trembling as before, and
stumbling over every word," that I have deserved your resentment,
and--and am sorry that I should have troubled you with this
raving nonsense" (pointing to his article),"or rather, I am sorry
that I have not troubled you enough." He smiled feebly. "Have I
troubled you, Evgenie Pavlovitch?" He suddenly turned on Evgenie
with this question. "Tell me now, have I troubled you or not?"
"Well, it was a little drawn out, perhaps; but--"
"Come, speak out! Don't lie, for once in your life--speak out!"
continued Hippolyte, quivering with agitation.
"Oh, my good sir, I assure you it's entirely the same to me.
Please leave me in peace," said Evgenie, angrily, turning his
back on him.
"Good-night, prince," said Ptitsin, approaching his host.
"What are you thinking of? Don't go, he'll blow his brains out in
a minute!" cried Vera Lebedeff, rushing up to Hippolyte and
catching hold of his hands in a torment of alarm. "What are you
thinking of? He said he would blow his brains out at sunrise."
"Oh, he won't shoot himself!" cried several voices,
"Gentlemen, you'd better look out," cried Colia, also seizing
Hippolyte by the hand. "Just look at him! Prince, what are you
thinking of?" Vera and Colia, and Keller, and Burdovsky were all
crowding round Hippolyte now and holding him down.
"He has the right--the right--"-murmured Burdovsky. "Excuse me,
prince, but what are your arrangements?" asked Lebedeff, tipsy
and exasperated, going up to Muishkin.
"What do you mean by 'arrangements'?"
"No, no, excuse me! I'm master of this house, though I do not
wish to lack respect towards you. You are master of the house
too, in a way; but I can't allow this sort of thing--"
"He won't shoot himself; the boy is only playing the fool," said
General Ivolgin, suddenly and unexpectedly, with indignation.
"I know he won't, I know he won't, general; but I--I'm master
"Listen, Mr. Terentieff," said Ptitsin, who had bidden the prince
good-night, and was now holding out his hand to Hippolyte; "I
think you remark in that manuscript of yours, that you bequeath
your skeleton to the Academy. Are you referring to your own
skeleton--I mean, your very bones?"
"Yes, my bones, I--"
"Quite so, I see; because, you know, little mistakes have
occurred now and then. There was a case--"
Why do you tease him?" cried the prince, suddenly.
"You've moved him to tears," added Ferdishenko. But Hippolyte was
by no means weeping. He was about to move from his place, when
his four guards rushed at him and seized him once more. There was
a laugh at this.
"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!"
"If you really intended to shoot yourself, Terentieff," said
Evgenie Pavlovitch, laughing, "if I were you, after all these
compliments, I should just not shoot myself in order to vex them
"They are very anxious to see me blow my brains out," said
"Yes, they'll be awfully annoyed if they don't see it."
"Then you think they won't see it?"
"I am not trying to egg you on. On the contrary, I think it very
likely that you may shoot yourself; but the principal thing is to
keep cool," said Evgenie with a drawl, and with great
"I only now perceive what a terrible mistake I made in reading
this article to them," said Hippolyte, suddenly, addressing
Evgenie, and looking at him with an expression of trust and
confidence, as though he were applying to a friend for counsel.
"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.
"Excuse me," said Lebedeff, "but did you observe the young
gentleman's style? 'I'll go and blow my brains out in the park,'
says he,' so as not to disturb anyone.' He thinks he won't
disturb anybody if he goes three yards away, into the park, and
blows his brains out there."
"Gentlemen--" began the prince.
"No, no, excuse me, most revered prince," Lebedeff interrupted,
excitedly. "Since you must have observed yourself that this is no
joke, and since at least half your guests must also have
concluded that after all that has been said this youth MUST blow
his brains out for honour's sake--I--as master of this house, and
before these witnesses, now call upon you to take steps."
"Yes, but what am I to do, Lebedeff? What steps am I to take? I
"I'll tell you. In the first place he must immediately deliver up
the pistol which he boasted of, with all its appurtenances. If he
does this I shall consent to his being allowed to spend the night
in this house--considering his feeble state of health, and of
course conditionally upon his being under proper supervision. But
tomorrow he must go elsewhere. Excuse me, prince! Should he
refuse to deliver up his weapon, then I shall instantly seize one
of his arms and General Ivolgin the other, and we shall hold him
until the police arrive and take the matter into their own hands.
Mr. Ferdishenko will kindly fetch them."
At this there was a dreadful noise; Lebedeff danced about in his
excitement; Ferdishenko prepared to go for the police; Gania
frantically insisted that it was all nonsense, "for nobody was
going to shoot themselves." Evgenie Pavlovitch said nothing.
"Prince," whispered Hippolyte, suddenly, his eyes all ablaze,
"you don't suppose that I did not foresee all this hatred?" He
looked at the prince as though he expected him to reply, for a
moment. "Enough!" he added at length, and addressing the whole
company, he cried: "It's all my fault, gentlemen! Lebedeff,
here's the key," (he took out a small bunch of keys); "this one,
the last but one--Colia will show you--Colia, where's Colia?" he
cried, looking straight at Colia and not seeing him. "Yes, he'll
show you; he packed the bag with me this morning. Take him up,
Colia; my bag is upstairs in the prince's study, under the table.
Here's the key, and in the little case you'll find my pistol and
the powder, and all. Colia packed it himself, Mr. Lebedeff; he'll
show you; but it's on condition that tomorrow morning, when I
leave for Petersburg, you will give me back my pistol, do you
hear? I do this for the prince's sake, not yours."
"Capital, that's much better!" cried Lebedeff, and seizing the
key he made off in haste.
Colia stopped a moment as though he wished to say something; but
Lebedeff dragged him away.
Hippolyte looked around at the laughing guests. The prince
observed that his teeth were chattering as though in a violent
attack of ague.
"What brutes they all are!" he whispered to the prince. Whenever
he addressed him he lowered his voice.
"Let them alone, you're too weak now--"
Yes, directly; I'll go away directly. I'll--"
Suddenly he embraced Muishkin.
"Perhaps you think I am mad, eh?" he asked him, laughing very
"No, but you--"
"Directly, directly! Stand still a moment, I wish to look in your
eyes; don't speak--stand so--let me look at you! I am bidding
farewell to mankind."
He stood so for ten seconds, gazing at the prince, motionless,
deadly pale, his temples wet with perspiration; he held the
prince's hand in a strange grip, as though afraid to let him go.
"Hippolyte, Hippolyte, what is the matter with you?" cried
"Directly! There, that's enough. I'll lie down directly. I must
drink to the sun's health. I wish to--I insist upon it! Let go!"
He seized a glass from the table, broke away from the prince, and
in a moment had reached the terrace steps.
The prince made after him, but it so happened that at this moment
Evgenie Pavlovitch stretched out his hand to say good-night. The
next instant there was a general outcry, and then followed a few
moments of indescribable excitement.
Reaching the steps, Hippolyte had paused, holding the glass in
his left hand while he put his right hand into his coat pocket.
Keller insisted afterwards that he had held his right hand in his
pocket all the while, when he was speaking to the prince, and
that he had held the latter's shoulder with his left hand only.
This circumstance, Keller affirmed, had led him to feel some
suspicion from the first. However this may be, Keller ran after
Hippolyte, but he was too late.
He caught sight of something flashing in Hippolyte's right hand,
and saw that it was a pistol. He rushed at him, but at that very
instant Hippolyte raised the pistol to his temple and pulled the
trigger. There followed a sharp metallic click, but no report.
When Keller seized the would-be suicide, the latter fell forward
into his arms, probably actually believing that he was shot.
Keller had hold of the pistol now. Hippolyte was immediately
placed in a chair, while the whole company thronged around
excitedly, talking and asking each other questions. Every one of
them had heard the snap of the trigger, and yet they saw a live
and apparently unharmed man before them.
Hippolyte himself sat quite unconscious of what was going on, and
gazed around with a senseless expression.
Lebedeff and Colia came rushing up at this moment.
"What is it?" someone asked, breathlessly--"A misfire?"
"Perhaps it wasn't loaded," said several voices.
"It's loaded all right," said Keller, examining the pistol, "but--"
"What! did it miss fire?"
"There was no cap in it," Keller announced.
It would be difficult to describe the pitiable scene that now
followed. The first sensation of alarm soon gave place to
amusement; some burst out laughing loud and heartily, and seemed
to find a malicious satisfaction in the joke. Poor Hippolyte
sobbed hysterically; he wrung his hands; he approached everyone
in turn--even Ferdishenko--and took them by both hands, and swore
solemnly that he had forgotten--absolutely forgotten--
"accidentally, and not on purpose,"--to put a cap in--that he
"had ten of them, at least, in his pocket." He pulled them out
and showed them to everyone; he protested that he had not liked
to put one in beforehand for fear of an accidental explosion in
his pocket. That he had thought he would have lots of time to put
it in afterwards--when required--and, that, in the heat of the
moment, he had forgotten all about it. He threw himself upon the
prince, then on Evgenie Pavlovitch. He entreated Keller to give
him back the pistol, and he'd soon show them all that "his
honour--his honour,"--but he was "dishonoured, now, for ever!"
He fell senseless at last--and was carried into the prince's
Lebedeff, now quite sobered down, sent for a doctor; and he and
his daughter, with Burdovsky and General Ivolgin, remained by the
sick man's couch.
When he was carried away unconscious, Keller stood in the middle
of the room, and made the following declaration to the company in
general, in a loud tone of voice, with emphasis upon each word.
"Gentlemen, if any one of you casts any doubt again, before me,
upon Hippolyte's good faith, or hints that the cap was forgotten
intentionally, or suggests that this unhappy boy was acting a
part before us, I beg to announce that the person so speaking
shall account to me for his words."
No one replied.
The company departed very quickly, in a mass. Ptitsin, Gania, and
Rogojin went away together.
The prince was much astonished that Evgenie Pavlovitch changed
his mind, and took his departure without the conversation he had
"Why, you wished to have a talk with me when the others left?" he
"Quite so," said Evgenie, sitting down suddenly beside him, "but
I have changed my mind for the time being. I confess, I am too
disturbed, and so, I think, are you; and the matter as to which I
wished to consult you is too serious to tackle with one's mind
even a little disturbed; too serious both for myself and for you.
You see, prince, for once in my life I wish to perform an
absolutely honest action, that is, an action with no ulterior
motive; and I think I am hardly in a condition to talk of it just
at this moment, and--and--well, we'll discuss it another time.
Perhaps the matter may gain in clearness if we wait for two or
three days--just the two or three days which I must spend in
Here he rose again from his chair, so that it seemed strange that
he should have thought it worth while to sit down at all.
The prince thought, too, that he looked vexed and annoyed, and
not nearly so friendly towards himself as he had been earlier in
"I suppose you will go to the sufferer's bedside now?" he added.
"Yes, I am afraid..." began the prince.
"Oh, you needn't fear! He'll live another six weeks all right.
Very likely he will recover altogether; but I strongly advise you
to pack him off tomorrow."
"I think I may have offended him by saying nothing just now. I am
afraid he may suspect that I doubted his good faith,--about
shooting himself, you know. What do you think, Evgenie
"Not a bit of it! You are much too good to him; you shouldn't
care a hang about what he thinks. I have heard of such things
before, but never came across, till tonight, a man who would
actually shoot himself in order to gain a vulgar notoriety, or
blow out his brains for spite, if he finds that people don't care
to pat him on the back for his sanguinary intentions. But what
astonishes me more than anything is the fellow's candid
confession of weakness. You'd better get rid of him tomorrow, in
"Do you think he will make another attempt?"
"Oh no, not he, not now! But you have to be very careful with
this sort of gentleman. Crime is too often the last resource of
these petty nonentities. This young fellow is quite capable of
cutting the throats of ten people, simply for a lark, as he told
us in his 'explanation.' I assure you those confounded words of
his will not let me sleep."
"I think you disturb yourself too much."
"What an extraordinary person you are, prince! Do you mean to say
that you doubt the fact that he is capable of murdering ten men?"
"I daren't say, one way or the other; all this is very strange--
"Well, as you like, just as you like," said Evgenie Pavlovitch,
irritably. "Only you are such a plucky fellow, take care you
don't get included among the ten victims!"
"Oh, he is much more likely not to kill anyone at all," said the
prince, gazing thoughtfully at Evgenie. The latter laughed
"Well, au revoir! Did you observe that he 'willed' a copy of his
confession to Aglaya Ivanovna?"
"Yes, I did; I am thinking of it."
"In connection with 'the ten,' eh?" laughed Evgenie, as he left
An hour later, towards four o'clock, the prince went into the
park. He had endeavoured to fall asleep, but could not, owing to
the painful beating of his heart.
He had left things quiet and peaceful; the invalid was fast
asleep, and the doctor, who had been called in, had stated that
there was no special danger. Lebedeff, Colia, and Burdovsky were
lying down in the sick-room, ready to take it in turns to watch.
There was nothing to fear, therefore, at home.
But the prince's mental perturbation increased every moment. He
wandered about the park, looking absently around him, and paused
in astonishment when he suddenly found himself in the empty space
with the rows of chairs round it, near the Vauxhall. The look of
the place struck him as dreadful now: so he turned round and went
by the path which he had followed with the Epanchins on the way
to the band, until he reached the green bench which Aglaya had
pointed out for their rendezvous. He sat down on it and suddenly
burst into a loud fit of laughter, immediately followed by a
feeling of irritation. His disturbance of mind continued; he felt
that he must go away somewhere, anywhere.
Above his head some little bird sang out, of a sudden; he began
to peer about for it among the leaves. Suddenly the bird darted
out of the tree and away, and instantly he thought of the "fly
buzzing about in the sun's rays" that Hippolyte had talked of;
how that it knew its place and was a participator in the
universal life, while he alone was an "outcast." This picture had
impressed him at the time, and he meditated upon it now. An old,
forgotten memory awoke in his brain, and suddenly burst into
clearness and light. It was a recollection of Switzerland, during
the first year of his cure, the very first months. At that time
he had been pretty nearly an idiot still; he could not speak
properly, and had difficulty in understanding when others spoke
to him. He climbed the mountain-side, one sunny morning, and
wandered long and aimlessly with a certain thought in his brain,
which would not become clear. Above him was the blazing sky,
below, the lake; all around was the horizon, clear and infinite.
He looked out upon this, long and anxiously. He remembered how he
had stretched out his arms towards the beautiful, boundless blue
of the horizon, and wept, and wept. What had so tormented him was
the idea that he was a stranger to all this, that he was outside
this glorious festival.
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.
Every little fly that buzzed in the sun's rays was a singer in
the universal chorus, "knew its place, and was happy in it.
"Every blade of grass grew and was happy. Everything knew its
path and loved it, went forth with a song and returned with a
song; only he knew nothing, understood nothing, neither men nor
words, nor any of nature's voices; he was a stranger and an
Oh, he could not then speak these words, or express all he felt!
He had been tormented dumbly; but now it appeared to him that he
must have said these very words--even then--and that Hippolyte
must have taken his picture of the little fly from his tears and
words of that time.
He was sure of it, and his heart beat excitedly at the thought,
he knew not why.
He fell asleep on the bench; but his mental disquiet continued
through his slumbers.
Just before he dozed off, the idea of Hippolyte murdering ten men
flitted through his brain, and he smiled at the absurdity of such
Around him all was quiet; only the flutter and whisper of the
leaves broke the silence, but broke it only to cause it to appear
yet more deep and still.
He dreamed many dreams as he sat there, and all were full of
disquiet, so that he shuddered every moment.
At length a woman seemed to approach him. He knew her, oh! he
knew her only too well. He could always name her and recognize her
anywhere; but, strange, she seemed to have quite a different face
from hers, as he had known it, and he felt a tormenting desire to
be able to say she was not the same woman. In the face before him
there was such dreadful remorse and horror that he thought she
must be a criminal, that she must have just committed some awful
Tears were trembling on her white cheek. She beckoned him, but
placed her finger on her lip as though to warn him that he must
follow her very quietly. His heart froze within him. He wouldn't,
he COULDN'T confess her to be a criminal, and yet he felt that
something dreadful would happen the next moment, something which
would blast his whole life.
She seemed to wish to show him something, not far off, in the
He rose from his seat in order to follow her, when a bright,
clear peal of laughter rang out by his side. He felt somebody's
hand suddenly in his own, seized it, pressed it hard, and awoke.
Before him stood Aglaya, laughing aloud.
SHE laughed, but she was rather angry too.
"He's asleep! You were asleep," she said, with contemptuous
"Is it really you?" muttered the prince, not quite himself as
yet, and recognizing her with a start of amazement. "Oh yes, of
course," he added, "this is our rendezvous. I fell asleep here."
"So I saw."
"Did no one awake me besides yourself? Was there no one else
here? I thought there was another woman."
"There was another woman here?"
At last he was wide awake.
"It was a dream, of course," he said, musingly. "Strange that I
should have a dream like that at such a moment. Sit down--"
He took her hand and seated her on the bench; then sat down
beside her and reflected.
Aglaya did not begin the conversation, but contented herself with
watching her companion intently.
He looked back at her, but at times it was clear that he did not
see her and was not thinking of her.
Aglaya began to flush up.
"Oh yes!" cried the prince, starting. "Hippolyte's suicide--"
"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.
"Oh, but he didn't kill himself; the pistol didn't go off."
Aglaya insisted on hearing the whole story. She hurried the
prince along, but interrupted him with all sorts of questions,
nearly all of which were irrelevant. Among other things, she
seemed greatly interested in every word that Evgenie Pavlovitch
had said, and made the prince repeat that part of the story over
and over again.
"Well, that'll do; we must be quick," she concluded, after
hearing all. "We have only an hour here, till eight; I must be
home by then without fail, so that they may not find out that I
came and sat here with you; but I've come on business. I have a
great deal to say to you. But you have bowled me over
considerably with your news. As to Hippolyte, I think his pistol
was bound not to go off; it was more consistent with the whole
affair. Are you sure he really wished to blow his brains out, and
that there was no humbug about the matter?"
"No humbug at all."
"Very likely. So he wrote that you were to bring me a copy of his
confession, did he? Why didn't you bring it?"
"Why, he didn't die! I'll ask him for it, if you like."
"Bring it by all means; you needn't ask him. He will be
delighted, you may be sure; for, in all probability, he shot at
himself simply in order that I might read his confession. Don't
laugh at what I say, please, Lef Nicolaievitch, because it may
very well be the case."
"I'm not laughing. I am convinced, myself, that that may have
been partly the reason.
"You are convinced? You don't really mean to say you think that
honestly?" asked Aglaya, extremely surprised.
She put her questions very quickly and talked fast, every now and
then forgetting what she had begun to say, and not finishing her
sentence. She seemed to be impatient to warn the prince about
something or other. She was in a state of unusual excitement, and
though she put on a brave and even defiant air, she seemed to be
rather alarmed. She was dressed very simply, but this suited her
well. She continually trembled and blushed, and she sat on the
very edge of the seat.
The fact that the prince confirmed her idea, about Hippolyte
shooting himself that she might read his confession, surprised
"Of course," added the prince, "he wished us all to applaud his
"How do you mean--applaud?"
"Well--how am I to explain? He was very anxious that we should
all come around him, and say we were so sorry for him, and that
we loved him very much, and all that; and that we hoped he
wouldn't kill himself, but remain alive. Very likely he thought
more of you than the rest of us, because he mentioned you at such
a moment, though perhaps he did not know himself that he had you
in his mind's eye."
"I don't understand you. How could he have me in view, and not be
aware of it himself? And yet, I don't know--perhaps I do. Do you
know I have intended to poison myself at least thirty times--ever
since I was thirteen or so--and to write to my parents before I
did it? I used to think how nice it would be to lie in my coffin,
and have them all weeping over me and saying it was all their
fault for being so cruel, and all that--what are you smiling at?"
she added, knitting her brow. "What do YOU think of when you go
mooning about alone? I suppose you imagine yourself a field-
marshal, and think you have conquered Napoleon?"
"Well, I really have thought something of the sort now and then,
especially when just dozing off," laughed the prince. "Only it is
the Austrians whom I conquer--not Napoleon."
"I don't wish to joke with you, Lef Nicolaievitch. I shall see
Hippolyte myself. Tell him so. As for you, I think you are
behaving very badly, because it is not right to judge a man's
soul as you are judging Hippolyte's. You have no gentleness, but
only justice--so you are unjust."
The prince reflected.
"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."
"I suppose you have felt that in your own case," said Aglaya.
"Yes, I have," replied the prince, quite unsuspicious of any
irony in the remark.
"H'm--well, at all events, I shouldn't have fallen asleep here,
in your place. It wasn't nice of you, that. I suppose you fall
asleep wherever you sit down?"
"But I didn't sleep a wink all night. I walked and walked about,
and went to where the music was--"
"Where they played last night. Then I found this bench and sat
down, and thought and thought--and at last I fell fast asleep."
"Oh, is that it? That makes a difference, perhaps. What did you
go to the bandstand for?"
"I don't know; I---"
"Very well--afterwards. You are always interrupting me. What
woman was it you were dreaming about?"
"It was--about--you saw her--"
"Quite so; I understand. I understand quite well. You are very--
Well, how did she appear to you? What did she look like? No, I
don't want to know anything about her," said Aglaya, angrily;
"don't interrupt me--"
She paused a moment as though getting breath, or trying to master
her feeling of annoyance.
"Look here; this is what I called you here for. I wish to make
you a--to ask you to be my friend. What do you stare at me like
that for?" she added, almost angrily.
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.
"Perhaps you do not wish to accept my proposition?" she asked,
gazing haughtily at the prince.
"Oh yes, I do; but it is so unnecessary. I mean, I did not think
you need make such a proposition," said the prince, looking
"What did you suppose, then? Why did you think I invited you out
here? I suppose you think me a 'little fool,' as they all call me
"I didn't know they called you a fool. I certainly don't think
"You don't think me one! Oh, dear me!--that's very clever of you;
you put it so neatly, too."
"In my opinion, you are far from a fool sometimes--in fact, you
are very intelligent. You said a very clever thing just now about
my being unjust because I had ONLY justice. I shall remember
that, and think about it."
Aglaya blushed with pleasure. All these changes in her expression
came about so naturally and so rapidly--they delighted the
prince; he watched her, and laughed.
"Listen," she began again; "I have long waited to tell you all
this, ever since the time when you sent me that letter--even
before that. Half of what I have to say you heard yesterday. I
consider you the most honest and upright of men--more honest and
upright than any other man; and if anybody says that your mind
is--is sometimes affected, you know--it is unfair. I always say
so and uphold it, because even if your surface mind be a little
affected (of course you will not feel angry with me for talking
so--I am speaking from a higher point of view) yet your real mind
is far better than all theirs put together. Such a mind as they
have never even DREAMED of; because really, there are TWO minds--
the kind that matters, and the kind that doesn't matter. Isn't it
"May be! may be so!" said the prince, faintly; his heart was
"I knew you would not misunderstand me," she said, triumphantly.
"Prince S. and Evgenie Pavlovitch and Alexandra don't understand
anything about these two kinds of mind, but, just fancy, mamma
"You are very like Lizabetha Prokofievna."
"What! surely not?" said Aglaya.
"Yes, you are, indeed."
"Thank you; I am glad to be like mamma," she said, thoughtfully.
"You respect her very much, don't you?" she added, quite
unconscious of the naiveness of the question.
"VERY much; and I am so glad that you have realized the fact."
"I am very glad, too, because she is often laughed at by people.
But listen to the chief point. I have long thought over the
matter, and at last I have chosen you. I don't wish people to
laugh at me; I don't wish people to think me a 'little fool.' I
don't want to be chaffed. I felt all this of a sudden, and I
refused Evgenie Pavlovitch flatly, because I am not going to be
forever thrown at people's heads to be married. I want--I want--
well, I'll tell you, I wish to run away from home, and I have
chosen you to help me."
"Run away from home?" cried the prince.
"Yes--yes--yes! Run away from home!" she repeated, in a transport
of rage. "I won't, I won't be made to blush every minute by them
all! I don't want to blush before Prince S. or Evgenie
Pavlovitch, or anyone, and therefore I have chosen you. I shall
tell you everything, EVERYTHING, even the most important things
of all, whenever I like, and you are to hide nothing from me on
your side. I want to speak to at least one person, as I would to
myself. They have suddenly begun to say that I am waiting for
you, and in love with you. They began this before you arrived
here, and so I didn't show them the letter, and now they all say
it, every one of them. I want to be brave, and be afraid of
nobody. I don't want to go to their balls and things--I want to
do good. I have long desired to run away, for I have been kept
shut up for twenty years, and they are always trying to marry me
off. I wanted to run away when I was fourteen years old--I was a
little fool then, I know--but now I have worked it all out, and I
have waited for you to tell me about foreign countries. I have
never seen a single Gothic cathedral. I must go to Rome; I must
see all the museums; I must study in Paris. All this last year I
have been preparing and reading forbidden books. Alexandra and
Adelaida are allowed to read anything they like, but I mayn't. I
don't want to quarrel with my sisters, but I told my parents long
ago that I wish to change my social position. I have decided to
take up teaching, and I count on you because you said you loved
children. Can we go in for education together--if not at once,
then afterwards? We could do good together. I won't be a
general's daughter any more! Tell me, are you a very learned
"Oh no; not at all."
"Oh-h-h! I'm sorry for that. I thought you were. I wonder why I
always thought so--but at all events you'll help me, won't you?
Because I've chosen you, you know."
"Aglaya Ivanovna, it's absurd."
But I will, I WILL run away!" she cried--and her eyes flashed
again with anger--"and if you don't agree I shall go and marry
Gavrila Ardalionovitch! I won't be considered a horrible girl,
and accused of goodness knows what."
"Are you out of your mind?" cried the prince, almost starting
from his seat. "What do they accuse you of? Who accuses you?"
"At home, everybody, mother, my sisters, Prince S., even that
detestable Colia! If they don't say it, they think it. I told