Part 11 out of 15
them all so to their faces. I told mother and father and
everybody. Mamma was ill all the day after it, and next day
father and Alexandra told me that I didn't understand what
nonsense I was talking. I informed them that they little knew me--
I was not a small child--I understood every word in the language--
that I had read a couple of Paul de Kok's novels two years since
on purpose, so as to know all about everything. No sooner did
mamma hear me say this than she nearly fainted!"
A strange thought passed through the prince's brain; he gazed
intently at Aglaya and smiled.
He could not believe that this was the same haughty young girl
who had once so proudly shown him Gania's letter. He could not
understand how that proud and austere beauty could show herself
to be such an utter child--a child who probably did not even now
understand some words.
"Have you always lived at home, Aglaya Ivanovna?" he asked. "I
mean, have you never been to school, or college, or anything?"
"No--never--nowhere! I've been at home all my life, corked up in
a bottle; and they expect me to be married straight out of it.
What are you laughing at again? I observe that you, too, have
taken to laughing at me, and range yourself on their side against
me," she added, frowning angrily. "Don't irritate me--I'm bad
enough without that--I don't know what I am doing sometimes. I am
persuaded that you came here today in the full belief that I am
in love with you, and that I arranged this meeting because of
that," she cried, with annoyance.
"I admit I was afraid that that was the case, yesterday,"
blundered the prince (he was rather confused), "but today I am
quite convinced that "
"How?" cried Aglaya--and her lower lip trembled violently. "You
were AFRAID that I--you dared to think that I--good gracious! you
suspected, perhaps, that I sent for you to come here in order to
catch you in a trap, so that they should find us here together,
and make you marry me--"
"Aglaya Ivanovna, aren't you ashamed of saying such a thing? How
could such a horrible idea enter your sweet, innocent heart? I am
certain you don't believe a word of what you say, and probably
you don't even know what you are talking about."
Aglaya sat with her eyes on the ground; she seemed to have
alarmed even herself by what she had said.
"No, I'm not; I'm not a bit ashamed!" she murmured. "And how do
you know my heart is innocent? And how dared you send me a love--
letter that time?"
"LOVE-LETTER? My letter a love-letter? That letter was the most
respectful of letters; it went straight from my heart, at what
was perhaps the most painful moment of my life! I thought of you
at the time as a kind of light. I--"
"Well, very well, very well!" she said, but quite in a different
tone. She was remorseful now, and bent forward to touch his
shoulder, though still trying not to look him in the face, as if
the more persuasively to beg him not to be angry with her. "Very
well," she continued, looking thoroughly ashamed of herself, "I
feel that I said a very foolish thing. I only did it just to try
you. Take it as unsaid, and if I offended you, forgive me. Don't
look straight at me like that, please; turn your head away. You
called it a 'horrible idea'; I only said it to shock you. Very
often I am myself afraid of saying what I intend to say, and out
it comes all the same. You have just told me that you wrote that
letter at the most painful moment of your life. I know what
moment that was!" she added softly, looking at the ground again.
"Oh, if you could know all!"
"I DO know all!" she cried, with another burst of indignation.
"You were living in the same house as that horrible woman with
whom you ran away." She did not blush as she said this; on the
contrary, she grew pale, and started from her seat, apparently
oblivious of what she did, and immediately sat down again. Her
lip continued to tremble for a long time.
There was silence for a moment. The prince was taken aback by the
suddenness of this last reply, and did not know to what he should
"I don't love you a bit!" she said suddenly, just as though the
words had exploded from her mouth.
The prince did not answer, and there was silence again. "I love
Gavrila Ardalionovitch," she said, quickly; but hardly audibly,
and with her head bent lower than ever.
"That is NOT true," said the prince, in an equally low voice.
"What! I tell stories, do I? It is true! I gave him my promise a
couple of days ago on this very seat."
The prince was startled, and reflected for a moment.
"It is not true," he repeated, decidedly; "you have just invented
"You are wonderfully polite. You know he is greatly improved. He
loves me better than his life. He let his hand burn before my
very eyes in order to prove to me that he loved me better than
"He burned his hand!"
"Yes, believe it or not! It's all the same to me!"
The prince sat silent once more. Aglaya did not seem to be
joking; she was too angry for that.
"What! he brought a candle with him to this place? That is, if
the episode happened here; otherwise I can't "
"Yes, a candle! What's there improbable about that?"
"A whole one, and in a candlestick?"
"Yes--no-half a candle--an end, you know--no, it was a whole
candle; it's all the same. Be quiet, can't you! He brought a box
of matches too, if you like, and then lighted the candle and held
his finger in it for half an hour and more!--There! Can't that
"I saw him yesterday, and his fingers were all right!"
Aglaya suddenly burst out laughing, as simply as a child.
"Do you know why I have just told you these lies?" She appealed
to the prince, of a sudden, with the most childlike candour, and
with the laugh still trembling on her lips. "Because when one
tells a lie, if one insists on something unusual and eccentric--
something too 'out of the way'' for anything, you know--the more
impossible the thing is, the more plausible does the lie sound.
I've noticed this. But I managed it badly; I didn't know how to
work it." She suddenly frowned again at this point as though at
some sudden unpleasant recollection.
"If"--she began, looking seriously and even sadly at him-- "if
when I read you all that about the 'poor knight,' I wished to-to
praise you for one thing--I also wished to show you that I knew
all--and did not approve of your conduct."
"You are very unfair to me, and to that unfortunate woman of whom
you spoke just now in such dreadful terms, Aglaya."
"Because I know all, all--and that is why I speak so. I know very
well how you--half a year since--offered her your hand before
everybody. Don't interrupt me. You see, I am merely stating facts
without any comment upon them. After that she ran away with
Rogojin. Then you lived with her at some village or town, and she
ran away from you." (Aglaya blushed dreadfully.) "Then she
returned to Rogojin again, who loves her like a madman. Then you
--like a wise man as you are--came back here after her as soon as
ever you heard that she had returned to Petersburg. Yesterday
evening you sprang forward to protect her, and just now you
dreamed about her. You see, I know all. You did come back here
for her, for her--now didn't you?"
"Yes--for her!" said the prince softly and sadly, and bending his
head down, quite unconscious of the fact that Aglaya was gazing
at him with eyes which burned like live coals. "I came to find
out something--I don't believe in her future happiness as
Rogojin's wife, although--in a word, I did not know how to help
her or what to do for her--but I came, on the chance."
He glanced at Aglaya, who was listening with a look of hatred on
"If you came without knowing why, I suppose you love her very
much indeed!" she said at last.
"No," said the prince, "no, I do not love her. Oh! if you only
knew with what horror I recall the time I spent with her!"
A shudder seemed to sweep over his whole body at the
"Tell me about it," said Aglaya.
"There is nothing which you might not hear. Why I should wish to
tell you, and only you, this experience of mine, I really cannot
say; perhaps it really is because I love you very much. This
unhappy woman is persuaded that she is the most hopeless, fallen
creature in the world. Oh, do not condemn her! Do not cast stones
at her! She has suffered too much already in the consciousness of
her own undeserved shame.
"And she is not guilty--oh God!--Every moment she bemoans and
bewails herself, and cries out that she does not admit any guilt,
that she is the victim of circumstances--the victim of a wicked
"But whatever she may say, remember that she does not believe it
herself,--remember that she will believe nothing but that she is
a guilty creature.
"When I tried to rid her soul of this gloomy fallacy, she
suffered so terribly that my heart will never be quite at peace
so long as I can remember that dreadful time!--Do you know why
she left me? Simply to prove to me what is not true--that she is
base. But the worst of it is, she did not realize herself that
that was all she wanted to prove by her departure! She went away
in response to some inner prompting to do something disgraceful,
in order that she might say to herself--'There--you've done a new
act of shame--you degraded creature!'
"Oh, Aglaya--perhaps you cannot understand all this. Try to
realize that in the perpetual admission of guilt she probably
finds some dreadful unnatural satisfaction--as though she were
revenging herself upon someone.
"Now and then I was able to persuade her almost to see light
around her again; but she would soon fall, once more, into her
old tormenting delusions, and would go so far as to reproach me
for placing myself on a pedestal above her (I never had an idea
of such a thing!), and informed me, in reply to my proposal of
marriage, that she 'did not want condescending sympathy or help
from anybody.' You saw her last night. You don't suppose she can
be happy among such people as those--you cannot suppose that such
society is fit for her? You have no idea how well-educated she
is, and what an intellect she has! She astonished me sometimes."
"And you preached her sermons there, did you?"
"Oh no," continued the prince thoughtfully, not noticing Aglaya's
mocking tone, "I was almost always silent there. I often wished
to speak, but I really did not know what to say. In some cases it
is best to say nothing, I think. I loved her, yes, I loved her
very much indeed; but afterwards--afterwards she guessed all."
"What did she guess?"
"That I only PITIED her--and--and loved her no longer!"
"How do you know that? How do you know that she is not really in
love with that--that rich cad--the man she eloped with?"
"Oh no! I know she only laughs at him; she has made a fool of him
"Has she never laughed at you?"
"No--in anger, perhaps. Oh yes! she reproached me dreadfully in
anger; and suffered herself, too! But afterwards--oh! don't
remind me--don't remind me of that!"
He hid his face in his hands.
"Are you aware that she writes to me almost every day?"
"So that is true, is it?" cried the prince, greatly agitated.
"I had heard a report of it, but would not believe it."
"Whom did you hear it from?" asked Aglaya, alarmed. "Rogojin said
something about it yesterday, but nothing definite."
"Yesterday! Morning or evening? Before the music or after?"
"After--it was about twelve o'clock."
"Ah! Well, if it was Rogojin--but do you know what she writes to
"I should not be surprised by anything. She is mad!"
"There are the letters." (Aglaya took three letters out of her
pocket and threw them down before the prince.) "For a whole week
she has been entreating and worrying and persuading me to marry
you. She--well, she is clever, though she may be mad--much
cleverer than I am, as you say. Well, she writes that she is in
love with me herself, and tries to see me every day, if only from
a distance. She writes that you love me, and that she has long
known it and seen it, and that you and she talked about me--
there. She wishes to see you happy, and she says that she is
certain only I can ensure you the happiness you deserve. She
writes such strange, wild letters--I haven't shown them to
anyone. Now, do you know what all this means? Can you guess
"It is madness--it is merely another proof of her insanity!" said
the prince, and his lips trembled.
"You are crying, aren't you?"
"No, Aglaya. No, I'm not crying." The prince looked at her.
"Well, what am I to do? What do you advise me? I cannot go on
receiving these letters, you know."
"Oh, let her alone, I entreat you!" cried the prince. What can
you do in this dark, gloomy mystery? Let her alone, and I'll use
all my power to prevent her writing you any more letters."
"If so, you are a heartless man!" cried Aglaya. As if you can't
see that it is not myself she loves, but you, you, and only you!
Surely you have not remarked everything else in her, and only not
THIS? Do you know what these letters mean? They mean jealousy,
sir--nothing but pure jealousy! She--do you think she will ever
really marry this Rogojin, as she says here she will? She would
take her own life the day after you and I were married."
The prince shuddered; his heart seemed to freeze within him. He
gazed at Aglaya in wonderment; it was difficult for him to
realize that this child was also a woman.
"God knows, Aglaya, that to restore her peace of mind and make
her happy I would willingly give up my life. But I cannot love
her, and she knows that."
"Oh, make a sacrifice of yourself! That sort of thing becomes you
well, you know. Why not do it? And don't call me 'Aglaya'; you
have done it several times lately. You are bound, it is your DUTY
to 'raise' her; you must go off somewhere again to soothe and
pacify her. Why, you love her, you know!"
"I cannot sacrifice myself so, though I admit I did wish to do so
once. Who knows, perhaps I still wish to! But I know for CERTAIN,
that if she married me it would be her ruin; I know this and
therefore I leave her alone. I ought to go to see her today; now
I shall probably not go. She is proud, she would never forgive me
the nature of the love I bear her, and we should both be ruined.
This may be unnatural, I don't know; but everything seems
unnatural. You say she loves me, as if this were LOVE! As if she
could love ME, after what I have been through! No, no, it is not
"How pale you have grown!" cried Aglaya in alarm.
Oh, it's nothing. I haven't slept, that's all, and I'm rather
tired. I--we certainly did talk about you, Aglaya."
"Oh, indeed, it is true then! YOU COULD ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT ME
WITH HER; and--and how could you have been fond of me when you
had only seen me once?"
"I don't know. Perhaps it was that I seemed to come upon light in
the midst of my gloom. I told you the truth when I said I did not
know why I thought of you before all others. Of course it was all
a sort of dream, a dream amidst the horrors of reality.
Afterwards I began to work. I did not intend to come back here
for two or three years--"
"Then you came for her sake?" Aglaya's voice trembled.
"Yes, I came for her sake."
There was a moment or two of gloomy silence. Aglaya rose from her
"If you say," she began in shaky tones, "if you say that this
woman of yours is mad--at all events I have nothing to do with
her insane fancies. Kindly take these three letters, Lef
Nicolaievitch, and throw them back to her, from me. And if she
dares," cried Aglaya suddenly, much louder than before, "if she
dares so much as write me one word again, tell her I shall tell
my father, and that she shall be taken to a lunatic asylum."
The prince jumped up in alarm at Aglaya's sudden wrath, and a
mist seemed to come before his eyes.
"You cannot really feel like that! You don't mean what you say.
It is not true," he murmured.
"It IS true, it IS true," cried Aglaya, almost beside herself
"What's true? What's all this? What's true?" said an alarmed
voice just beside them.
Before them stood Lizabetha Prokofievna.
"Why, it's true that I am going to marry Gavrila Ardalionovitch,
that I love him and intend to elope with him tomorrow," cried
Aglaya, turning upon her mother. "Do you hear? Is your curiosity
satisfied? Are you pleased with what you have heard?"
Aglaya rushed away homewards with these words.
"H'm! well, YOU are not going away just yet, my friend, at all
events," said Lizabetha, stopping the prince. "Kindly step home
with me, and let me have a little explanation of the mystery.
Nice goings on, these! I haven't slept a wink all night as it
The prince followed her.
ARRIVED at her house, Lizabetha Prokofievna paused in the first
room. She could go no farther, and subsided on to a couch quite
exhausted; too feeble to remember so much as to ask the prince to
take a seat. This was a large reception-room, full of flowers,
and with a glass door leading into the garden.
Alexandra and Adelaida came in almost immediately, and looked
inquiringly at the prince and their mother.
The girls generally rose at about nine in the morning in the
country; Aglaya, of late, had been in the habit of getting up
rather earlier and having a walk in the garden, but not at seven
o'clock; about eight or a little later was her usual time.
Lizabetha Prokofievna, who really had not slept all night, rose
at about eight on purpose to meet Aglaya in the garden and walk
with her; but she could not find her either in the garden or in
her own room.
This agitated the old lady considerably; and she awoke her other
daughters. Next, she learned from the maid that Aglaya had gone
into the park before seven o'clock. The sisters made a joke of
Aglaya's last freak, and told their mother that if she went into
the park to look for her, Aglaya would probably be very angry
with her, and that she was pretty sure to be sitting reading on
the green bench that she had talked of two or three days since,
and about which she had nearly quarrelled with Prince S., who did
not see anything particularly lovely in it.
Arrived at the rendezvous of the prince and her daughter, and
hearing the strange words of the latter, Lizabetha Prokofievna
had been dreadfully alarmed, for many reasons. However, now that
she had dragged the prince home with her, she began to feel a
little frightened at what she had undertaken. Why should not
Aglaya meet the prince in the park and have a talk with him, even
if such a meeting should be by appointment?
"Don't suppose, prince," she began, bracing herself up for the
effort, "don't suppose that I have brought you here to ask
questions. After last night, I assure you, I am not so
exceedingly anxious to see you at all; I could have postponed the
pleasure for a long while." She paused.
"But at the same time you would be very glad to know how I
happened to meet Aglaya Ivanovna this morning?" The prince
finished her speech for her with the utmost composure.
"Well, what then? Supposing I should like to know?" cried
Lizabetha Prokofievna, blushing. "I'm sure I am not afraid of
plain speaking. I'm not offending anyone, and I never wish to,
"Pardon me, it is no offence to wish to know this; you are her
mother. We met at the green bench this morning, punctually at
seven o'clock,--according to an agreement made by Aglaya Ivanovna
with myself yesterday. She said that she wished to see me and
speak to me about something important. We met and conversed for
an hour about matters concerning Aglaya Ivanovna herself, and
"Of course it is all, my friend. I don't doubt you for a moment,"
said Lizabetha Prokofievna with dignity.
"Well done, prince, capital!" cried Aglaya, who entered the room
at this moment. "Thank you for assuming that I would not demean
myself with lies. Come, is that enough, mamma, or do you intend
to put any more questions?"
"You know I have never needed to blush before you, up to this
day, though perhaps you would have been glad enough to make me,"
said Lizabetha Prokofievna,--with majesty. "Good-bye, prince;
forgive me for bothering you. I trust you will rest assured of my
unalterable esteem for you."
The prince made his bows and retired at once. Alexandra and
Adelaida smiled and whispered to each other, while Lizabetha
Prokofievna glared severely at them. "We are only laughing at the
prince's beautiful bows, mamma," said Adelaida. "Sometimes he
bows just like a meal-sack, but to-day he was like--like Evgenie
"It is the HEART which is the best teacher of refinement and
dignity, not the dancing-master," said her mother, sententiously,
and departed upstairs to her own room, not so much as glancing at
When the prince reached home, about nine o'clock, he found Vera
Lebedeff and the maid on the verandah. They were both busy trying
to tidy up the place after last night's disorderly party.
"Thank goodness, we've just managed to finish it before you came
in!" said Vera, joyfully.
"Good-morning! My head whirls so; I didn't sleep all night. I
should like to have a nap now."
"Here, on the verandah? Very well, I'll tell them all not to come
and wake you. Papa has gone out somewhere."
The servant left the room. Vera was about to follow her, but
returned and approached the prince with a preoccupied air.
"Prince!" she said, "have pity on that poor boy; don't turn him
"Not for the world; he shall do just as he likes."
"He won't do any harm now; and--and don't be too severe with
"Oh dear no! Why--"
"And--and you won't LAUGH at him? That's the chief thing."
"Oh no! Never."
"How foolish I am to speak of such things to a man like you,"
said Vera, blushing. "Though you DO look tired," she added, half
turning away," your eyes are so splendid at this moment--so full
"Really?" asked the prince, gleefully, and he laughed in delight.
But Vera, simple-minded little girl that she was (just like a
boy, in fact), here became dreadfully confused, of a sudden, and
ran hastily out of the room, laughing and blushing.
"What a dear little thing she is," thought the prince, and
immediately forgot all about her.
He walked to the far end of the verandah, where the sofa stood,
with a table in front of it. Here he sat down and covered his
face with his hands, and so remained for ten minutes. Suddenly he
put his hand in his coat-pocket and hurriedly produced three
But the door opened again, and out came Colia.
The prince actually felt glad that he had been interrupted,--and
might return the letters to his pocket. He was glad of the
"Well," said Colia, plunging in medias res, as he always did,
"here's a go! What do you think of Hippolyte now? Don't respect
him any longer, eh?"
"Why not? But look here, Colia, I'm tired; besides, the subject
is too melancholy to begin upon again. How is he, though?"
"Asleep--he'll sleep for a couple of hours yet. I quite
understand--you haven't slept--you walked about the park, I know.
Agitation--excitement--all that sort of thing--quite natural,
"How do you know I walked in the park and didn't sleep at home?"
"Vera just told me. She tried to persuade me not to come, but I
couldn't help myself, just for one minute. I have been having my
turn at the bedside for the last two hours; Kostia Lebedeff is
there now. Burdovsky has gone. Now, lie down, prince, make
yourself comfortable, and sleep well! I'm awfully impressed, you
"Naturally, all this--"
"No, no, I mean with the 'explanation,' especially that part of
it where he talks about Providence and a future life. There is a
gigantic thought there."
The prince gazed affectionately at Colia, who, of course, had
come in solely for the purpose of talking about this "gigantic
"But it is not any one particular thought, only; it is the
general circumstances of the case. If Voltaire had written this
now, or Rousseau, I should have just read it and thought it
remarkable, but should not have been so IMPRESSED by it. But a
man who knows for certain that he has but ten minutes to live and
can talk like that--why--it's--it's PRIDE, that is! It is really
a most extraordinary, exalted assertion of personal dignity,
it's--it's DEFIANT! What a GIGANTIC strength of will, eh? And to
accuse a fellow like that of not putting in the cap on purpose;
it's base and mean! You know he deceived us last night, the
cunning rascal. I never packed his bag for him, and I never saw
his pistol. He packed it himself. But he put me off my guard like
that, you see. Vera says you are going to let him stay on; I
swear there's no danger, especially as we are always with him."
"Who was by him at night?"
"I, and Burdovsky, and Kostia Lebedeff. Keller stayed a little
while, and then went over to Lebedeff's to sleep. Ferdishenko
slept at Lebedeff's, too; but he went away at seven o'clock. My
father is always at Lebedeff's; but he has gone out just now. I
dare say Lebedeff will be coming in here directly; he has been
looking for you; I don't know what he wants. Shall we let him in
or not, if you are asleep? I'm going to have a nap, too. By-the-
by, such a curious thing happened. Burdovsky woke me at seven,
and I met my father just outside the room, so drunk, he didn't
even know me. He stood before me like a log, and when he
recovered himself, asked hurriedly how Hippolyte was. 'Yes,' he
said, when I told him, 'that's all very well, but I REALLY came
to warn you that you must be very careful what you say before
Ferdishenko.' Do you follow me, prince?"
"Yes. Is it really so? However, it's all the same to us, of
"Of course it is; we are not a secret society; and that being the
case, it is all the more curious that the general should have
been on his way to wake me up in order to tell me this."
"Ferdishenko has gone, you say?"
"Yes, he went at seven o'clock. He came into the room on his way
out; I was watching just then. He said he was going to spend 'the
rest of the night' at Wilkin's; there's a tipsy fellow, a friend
of his, of that name. Well, I'm off. Oh, here's Lebedeff himself!
The prince wants to go to sleep, Lukian Timofeyovitch, so you may
just go away again."
"One moment, my dear prince, just one. I must absolutely speak to
you about something which is most grave," said Lebedeff,
mysteriously and solemnly, entering the room with a bow and
looking extremely important. He had but just returned, and
carried his hat in his hand. He looked preoccupied and most
The prince begged him to take a chair.
"I hear you have called twice; I suppose you are still worried
about yesterday's affair."
"What, about that boy, you mean? Oh dear no, yesterday my ideas
were a little--well--mixed. Today, I assure you, I shall not
oppose in the slightest degree any suggestions it may please you
"What's up with you this morning, Lebedeff? You look so important
and dignified, and you choose your words so carefully," said the
"Nicolai Ardalionovitch!" said Lebedeff, in a most amiable tone
of voice, addressing the boy. "As I have a communication to make
to the prince which concerns only myself--"
"Of course, of course, not my affair. All right," said Colia, and
away he went.
"I love that boy for his perception," said Lebedeff, looking
after him. "My dear prince," he continued, "I have had a terrible
misfortune, either last night or early this morning. I cannot
tell the exact time."
"What is it?"
"I have lost four hundred roubles out of my side pocket! They're
gone!" said Lebedeff, with a sour smile.
"You've lost four hundred roubles? Oh! I'm sorry for that."
"Yes, it is serious for a poor man who lives by his toil."
"Of course, of course! How was it?"
"Oh, the wine is to blame, of course. I confess to you, prince,
as I would to Providence itself. Yesterday I received four
hundred roubles from a debtor at about five in the afternoon, and
came down here by train. I had my purse in my pocket. When I
changed, I put the money into the pocket of my plain clothes,
intending to keep it by me, as I expected to have an applicant
for it in the evening."
"It's true then, Lebedeff, that you advertise to lend money on
gold or silver articles?"
"Yes, through an agent. My own name doesn't appear. I have a
large family, you see, and at a small percentage--"
"Quite so, quite so. I only asked for information--excuse the
question. Go on."
"Well, meanwhile that sick boy was brought here, and those guests
came in, and we had tea, and--well, we made merry--to my ruin!
Hearing of your birthday afterwards, and excited with the
circumstances of the evening, I ran upstairs and changed my plain
clothes once more for my uniform [Civil Service clerks in Russia
wear uniform.]--you must have noticed I had my uniform on all the
evening? Well, I forgot the money in the pocket of my old coat--
you know when God will ruin a man he first of all bereaves him of
his senses--and it was only this morning at half-past seven that
I woke up and grabbed at my coat pocket, first thing. The pocket
was empty--the purse gone, and not a trace to be found!"
"Dear me! This is very unpleasant!"
"Unpleasant! Indeed it is. You have found a very appropriate
expression," said Lebedeff, politely, but with sarcasm.
"But what's to be done? It's a serious matter," said the prince,
thoughtfully. "Don't you think you may have dropped it out of
your pocket whilst intoxicated?"
"Certainly. Anything is possible when one is intoxicated, as you
neatly express it, prince. But consider--if I, intoxicated or
not, dropped an object out of my pocket on to the ground, that
object ought to remain on the ground. Where is the object, then?"
"Didn't you put it away in some drawer, perhaps?"
"I've looked everywhere, and turned out everything."
"I confess this disturbs me a good deal. Someone must have picked
it up, then."
"Or taken it out of my pocket--two alternatives."
"It is very distressing, because WHO--? That's the question!"
"Most undoubtedly, excellent prince, you have hit it--that is the
very question. How wonderfully you express the exact situation in
a few words!"
"Come, come, Lebedeff, no sarcasm! It's a serious--"
"Sarcasm!" cried Lebedeff, wringing his hands.
"All right, all right, I'm not angry. I'm only put out about
this. Whom do you suspect?"
"That is a very difficult and complicated question. I cannot
suspect the servant, for she was in the kitchen the whole
evening, nor do I suspect any of my children."
"I should think not. Go on."
"Then it must be one of the guests."
"Is such a thing possible?"
"Absolutely and utterly impossible--and yet, so it must be. But
one thing I am sure of, if it be a theft, it was committed, not
in the evening when we were all together, but either at night or
early in the morning; therefore, by one of those who slept here.
Burdovsky and Colia I except, of course. They did not even come
into my room."
"Yes, or even if they had! But who did sleep with you?" "Four of
us, including myself, in two rooms. The general, myself, Keller,
and Ferdishenko. One of us four it must have been. I don't
suspect myself, though such cases have been known."
"Oh! DO go on, Lebedeff! Don't drag it out so."
"Well, there are three left, then--Keller firstly. He is a
drunkard to begin with, and a liberal (in the sense of other
people's pockets), otherwise with more of the ancient knight
about him than of the modern liberal. He was with the sick man at
first, but came over afterwards because there was no place to lie
down in the room and the floor was so hard."
"You suspect him?"
"I DID suspect him. When I woke up at half-past seven and tore my
hair in despair for my loss and carelessness, I awoke the
general, who was sleeping the sleep of innocence near me. Taking
into consideration the sudden disappearance of Ferdishenko, which
was suspicious in itself, we decided to search Keller, who was
lying there sleeping like a top. Well, we searched his clothes
thoroughly, and not a farthing did we find; in fact, his pockets
all had holes in them. We found a dirty handkerchief, and a love-
letter from some scullery-maid. The general decided that he was
innocent. We awoke him for further inquiries, and had the
greatest difficulty in making him understand what was up. He
opened his mouth and stared--he looked so stupid and so absurdly
innocent. It wasn't Keller."
"Oh, I'm so glad!" said the prince, joyfully. "I was so afraid."
"Afraid! Then you had some grounds for supposing he might be the
culprit?" said Lebedeff, frowning.
"Oh no--not a bit! It was foolish of me to say I was afraid!
Don't repeat it please, Lebedeff, don't tell anyone I said that!"
"My dear prince! your words lie in the lowest depth of my heart--
it is their tomb!" said Lebedeff, solemnly, pressing his hat to
the region of his heart.
"Thanks; very well. Then I suppose it's Ferdishenko; that is, I
mean, you suspect Ferdishenko?"
"Whom else?" said Lebedeff, softly, gazing intently into the
prince s face.
"Of course--quite so, whom else? But what are the proofs?"
"We have evidence. In the first place, his mysterious
disappearance at seven o'clock, or even earlier."
"I know, Colia told me that he had said he was off to--I forget
the name, some friend of his, to finish the night."
"H'm! then Colia has spoken to you already?"
"Not about the theft."
"He does not know of it; I have kept it a secret. Very well,
Ferdishenko went off to Wilkin's. That is not so curious in
itself, but here the evidence opens out further. He left his
address, you see, when he went. Now prince, consider, why did he
leave his address? Why do you suppose he went out of his way to
tell Colia that he had gone to Wilkin's? Who cared to know that
he was going to Wilkin's? No, no! prince, this is finesse,
thieves' finesse! This is as good as saying, 'There, how can I be
a thief when I leave my address? I'm not concealing my movements
as a thief would.' Do you understand, prince?"
"Oh yes, but that is not enough."
"Second proof. The scent turns out to be false, and the address
given is a sham. An hour after--that is at about eight, I went to
Wilkin's myself, and there was no trace of Ferdishenko. The maid
did tell me, certainly, that an hour or so since someone had been
hammering at the door, and had smashed the bell; she said she
would not open the door because she didn't want to wake her
master; probably she was too lazy to get up herself. Such
phenomena are met with occasionally!"
"But is that all your evidence? It is not enough!"
"Well, prince, whom are we to suspect, then? Consider!" said
Lebedeff with almost servile amiability, smiling at the prince.
There was a look of cunning in his eyes, however.
"You should search your room and all the cupboards again," said
the prince, after a moment or two of silent reflection.
"But I have done so, my dear prince!" said Lebedeff, more sweetly
"H'm! why must you needs go up and change your coat like that?"
asked the prince, banging the table with his fist, in annoyance.
"Oh, don't be so worried on my account, prince! I assure you I am
not worth it! At least, not I alone. But I see you are suffering
on behalf of the criminal too, for wretched Ferdishenko, in
"Of course you have given me a disagreeable enough thing to think
about," said the prince, irritably, "but what are you going to
do, since you are so sure it was Ferdishenko?"
"But who else COULD it be, my very dear prince?" repeated
Lebedeff, as sweet as sugar again. "If you don't wish me to
suspect Mr. Burdovsky?"
"Of course not."
"Nor the general? Ha, ha, ha!"
"Nonsense!" said the prince, angrily, turning round upon him.
"Quite so, nonsense! Ha, ha, ha! dear me! He did amuse me, did
the general! We went off on the hot scent to Wilkin's together,
you know; but I must first observe that the general was even more
thunderstruck than I myself this morning, when I awoke him after
discovering the theft; so much so that his very face changed--he
grew red and then pale, and at length flew into a paroxysm of
such noble wrath that I assure you I was quite surprised! He is a
most generous-hearted man! He tells lies by the thousands, I
know, but it is merely a weakness; he is a man of the highest
feelings; a simple-minded man too, and a man who carries the
conviction of innocence in his very appearance. I love that man,
sir; I may have told you so before; it is a weakness of mine.
Well--he suddenly stopped in the middle of the road, opened out
his coat and bared his breast. "Search me," he says, "you
searched Keller; why don't you search me too? It is only fair!"
says he. And all the while his legs and hands were trembling with
anger, and he as white as a sheet all over! So I said to him,
"Nonsense, general; if anybody but yourself had said that to me,
I'd have taken my head, my own head, and put it on a large dish
and carried it round to anyone who suspected you; and I should
have said: 'There, you see that head? It's my head, and I'll go
bail with that head for him! Yes, and walk through the fire for
him, too. There,' says I, 'that's how I'd answer for you,
general!' Then he embraced me, in the middle of the street, and
hugged me so tight (crying over me all the while) that I coughed
fit to choke! 'You are the one friend left to me amid all my
misfortunes,' says he. Oh, he's a man of sentiment, that! He went
on to tell me a story of how he had been accused, or suspected,
of stealing five hundred thousand roubles once, as a young man;
and how, the very next day, he had rushed into a burning, blazing
house and saved the very count who suspected him, and Nina
Alexandrovna (who was then a young girl), from a fiery death. The
count embraced him, and that was how he came to marry Nina
Alexandrovna, he said. As for the money, it was found among the
ruins next day in an English iron box with a secret lock; it had
got under the floor somehow, and if it had not been for the fire
it would never have been found! The whole thing is, of course, an
absolute fabrication, though when he spoke of Nina Alexandrovna
he wept! She's a grand woman, is Nina Alexandrovna, though she is
very angry with me!"
"Are you acquainted with her?"
"Well, hardly at all. I wish I were, if only for the sake of
justifying myself in her eyes. Nina Alexandrovna has a grudge
against me for, as she thinks, encouraging her husband in
drinking; whereas in reality I not only do not encourage him, but
I actually keep him out of harm's way, and out of bad company.
Besides, he's my friend, prince, so that I shall not lose sight
of him, again. Where he goes, I go. He's quite given up visiting
the captain's widow, though sometimes he thinks sadly of her,
especially in the morning, when he's putting on his boots. I
don't know why it's at that time. But he has no money, and it's
no use his going to see her without. Has he borrowed any money
from you, prince?"
"No, he has not."
"Ah, he's ashamed to! He MEANT to ask you, I know, for he said
so. I suppose he thinks that as you gave him some once (you
remember), you would probably refuse if he asked you again."
"Do you ever give him money?"
"Prince! Money! Why I would give that man not only my money, but
my very life, if he wanted it. Well, perhaps that's exaggeration;
not life, we'll say, but some illness, a boil or a bad cough, or
anything of that sort, I would stand with pleasure, for his sake;
for I consider him a great man fallen--money, indeed!"
"H'm, then you DO give him money?"
"N-no, I have never given him money, and he knows well that I
will never give him any; because I am anxious to keep him out of
intemperate ways. He is going to town with me now; for you must
know I am off to Petersburg after Ferdishenko, while the scent is
hot; I'm certain he is there. I shall let the general go one way,
while I go the other; we have so arranged matters in order to pop
out upon Ferdishenko, you see, from different sides. But I am
going to follow that naughty old general and catch him, I know
where, at a certain widow's house; for I think it will be a good
lesson, to put him to shame by catching him with the widow."
"Oh, Lebedeff, don't, don't make any scandal about it!" said the
prince, much agitated, and speaking in a low voice.
"Not for the world, not for the world! I merely wish to make him
ashamed of himself. Oh, prince, great though this misfortune be
to myself, I cannot help thinking of his morals! I have a great
favour to ask of you, esteemed prince; I confess that it is the
chief object of my visit. You know the Ivolgins, you have even
lived in their house; so if you would lend me your help, honoured
prince, in the general's own interest and for his good."
Lebedeff clasped his hands in supplication.
"What help do you want from me? You may be certain that I am most
anxious to understand you, Lebedeff."
"I felt sure of that, or I should not have come to you. We might
manage it with the help of Nina Alexandrovna, so that he might be
closely watched in his own house. Unfortunately I am not on
terms ... otherwise ... but Nicolai Ardalionovitch, who
adores you with all his youthful soul, might help, too."
"No, no! Heaven forbid that we should bring Nina Alexandrovna
into this business! Or Colia, either. But perhaps I have not yet
quite understood you, Lebedeff?"
Lebedeff made an impatient movement.
"But there is nothing to understand! Sympathy and tenderness,
that is all--that is all our poor invalid requires! You will
permit me to consider him an invalid?"
"Yes, it shows delicacy and intelligence on your part."
"I will explain my idea by a practical example, to make it
clearer. You know the sort of man he is. At present his only
failing is that he is crazy about that captain's widow, and he
cannot go to her without money, and I mean to catch him at her
house today--for his own good; but supposing it was not only the
widow, but that he had committed a real crime, or at least some
very dishonourable action (of which he is, of course, incapable),
I repeat that even in that case, if he were treated with what I
may call generous tenderness, one could get at the whole truth,
for he is very soft-hearted! Believe me, he would betray himself
before five days were out; he would burst into tears, and make a
clean breast of the matter; especially if managed with tact, and
if you and his family watched his every step, so to speak. Oh, my
dear prince," Lebedeff added most emphatically, "I do not
positively assert that he has ... I am ready, as the saying is,
to shed my last drop of blood for him this instant; but you will
admit that debauchery, drunkenness, and the captain's widow, all
these together may lead him very far."
"I am, of course, quite ready to add my efforts to yours in such
a case," said the prince, rising; "but I confess, Lebedeff, that
I am terribly perplexed. Tell me, do you still think ...
plainly, you say yourself that you suspect Mr. Ferdishenko?"
Lebedeff clasped his hands once more.
"Why, who else could I possibly suspect? Who else, most outspoken
prince?" he replied, with an unctuous smile.
Muishkin frowned, and rose from his seat.
"You see, Lebedeff, a mistake here would be a dreadful thing.
This Ferdishenko, I would not say a word against him, of course;
but, who knows? Perhaps it really was he? I mean he really does
seem to be a more likely man than... than any other."
Lebedeff strained his eyes and ears to take in what the prince
was saying. The latter was frowning more and more, and walking
excitedly up and down, trying not to look at Lebedeff.
"You see," he said, "I was given to understand that Ferdishenko
was that sort of man,--that one can't say everything before him.
One has to take care not to say too much, you understand? I say
this to prove that he really is, so to speak, more likely to have
done this than anyone else, eh? You understand? The important
thing is, not to make a mistake."
"And who told you this about Ferdishenko?"
"Oh, I was told. Of course I don't altogether believe it. I am
very sorry that I should have had to say this, because I assure
you I don't believe it myself; it is all nonsense, of course. It
was stupid of me to say anything about it."
"You see, it is very important, it is most important to know
where you got this report from," said Lebedeff, excitedly. He had
risen from his seat, and was trying to keep step with the prince,
running after him, up and down. "Because look here, prince, I
don't mind telling you now that as we were going along to
Wilkin's this morning, after telling me what you know about the
fire, and saving the count and all that, the general was pleased
to drop certain hints to the same effect about Ferdishenko, but
so vaguely and clumsily that I thought better to put a few
questions to him on the matter, with the result that I found the
whole thing was an invention of his excellency's own mind. Of
course, he only lies with the best intentions; still, he lies.
But, such being the case, where could you have heard the same
report? It was the inspiration of the moment with him, you
understand, so who could have told YOU? It is an important
question, you see!"
"It was Colia told me, and his father told HIM at about six this
morning. They met at the threshold, when Colia was leaving the
room for something or other." The prince told Lebedeff all that
Colia had made known to himself, in detail.
"There now, that's what we may call SCENT!" said Lebedeff,
rubbing his hands and laughing silently. "I thought it must be
so, you see. The general interrupted his innocent slumbers, at
six o'clock, in order to go and wake his beloved son, and warn
him of the dreadful danger of companionship with Ferdishenko.
Dear me! what a dreadfully dangerous man Ferdishenko must be, and
what touching paternal solicitude, on the part of his
excellency, ha! ha! ha!"
"Listen, Lebedeff," began the prince, quite overwhelmed; "DO act
quietly--don't make a scandal, Lebedeff, I ask you--I entreat
you! No one must know--NO ONE, mind! In that case only, I will
"Be assured, most honourable, most worthy of princes--be assured
that the whole matter shall be buried within my heart!" cried
Lebedeff, in a paroxysm of exaltation. "I'd give every drop of my
blood... Illustrious prince, I am a poor wretch in soul and
spirit, but ask the veriest scoundrel whether he would prefer to
deal with one like himself, or with a noble-hearted man like you,
and there is no doubt as to his choice! He'll answer that he
prefers the noble-hearted man--and there you have the triumph of
virtue! Au revoir, honoured prince! You and I together--softly!
THE prince understood at last why he shivered with dread every
time he thought of the three letters in his pocket, and why he
had put off reading them until the evening.
When he fell into a heavy sleep on the sofa on the verandah,
without having had the courage to open a single one of the three
envelopes, he again dreamed a painful dream, and once more that
poor, "sinful" woman appeared to him. Again she gazed at him with
tears sparkling on her long lashes, and beckoned him after her;
and again he awoke, as before, with the picture of her face
He longed to get up and go to her at once--but he COULD NOT. At
length, almost in despair, he unfolded the letters, and began to
These letters, too, were like a dream. We sometimes have strange,
impossible dreams, contrary to all the laws of nature. When we
awake we remember them and wonder at their strangeness. You
remember, perhaps, that you were in full possession of your
reason during this succession of fantastic images; even that you
acted with extraordinary logic and cunning while surrounded by
murderers who hid their intentions and made great demonstrations
of friendship, while waiting for an opportunity to cut your
throat. You remember how you escaped them by some ingenious
stratagem; then you doubted if they were really deceived, or
whether they were only pretending not to know your hiding-place;
then you thought of another plan and hoodwinked them once again.
You remember all this quite clearly, but how is it that your
reason calmly accepted all the manifest absurdities and
impossibilities that crowded into your dream? One of the
murderers suddenly changed into a woman before your very eyes;
then the woman was transformed into a hideous, cunning little
dwarf; and you believed it, and accepted it all almost as a
matter of course--while at the same time your intelligence seemed
unusually keen, and accomplished miracles of cunning, sagacity,
and logic! Why is it that when you awake to the world of
realities you nearly always feel, sometimes very vividly, that
the vanished dream has carried with it some enigma which you have
failed to solve? You smile at the extravagance of your dream, and
yet you feel that this tissue of absurdity contained some real
idea, something that belongs to your true life,--something that
exists, and has always existed, in your heart. You search your
dream for some prophecy that you were expecting. It has left a
deep impression upon you, joyful or cruel, but what it means, or
what has been predicted to you in it, you can neither understand
The reading of these letters produced some such effect upon the
prince. He felt, before he even opened the envelopes, that the
very fact of their existence was like a nightmare. How could she
ever have made up her mind to write to her? he asked himself. How
could she write about that at all? And how could such a wild idea
have entered her head? And yet, the strangest part of the matter
was, that while he read the letters, he himself almost believed
in the possibility, and even in the justification, of the idea he
had thought so wild. Of course it was a mad dream, a nightmare,
and yet there was something cruelly real about it. For hours he
was haunted by what he had read. Several passages returned again
and again to his mind, and as he brooded over them, he felt
inclined to say to himself that he had foreseen and known all
that was written here; it even seemed to him that he had read the
whole of this some time or other, long, long ago; and all that
had tormented and grieved him up to now was to be found in these
old, long since read, letters.
"When you open this letter" (so the first began), "look first at
the signature. The signature will tell you all, so that I need
explain nothing, nor attempt to justify myself. Were I in any way
on a footing with you, you might be offended at my audacity; but
who am I, and who are you? We are at such extremes, and I am so
far removed from you, that I could not offend you if I wished to
Farther on, in another place, she wrote: "Do not consider my
words as the sickly ecstasies of a diseased mind, but you are, in
my opinion--perfection! I have seen you--I see you every day. I
do not judge you; I have not weighed you in the scales of Reason
and found you Perfection--it is simply an article of faith. But I
must confess one sin against you--I love you. One should not love
perfection. One should only look on it as perfection--yet I am in
love with you. Though love equalizes, do not fear. I have not
lowered you to my level, even in my most secret thoughts. I have
written 'Do not fear,' as if you could fear. I would kiss your
footprints if I could; but, oh! I am not putting myself on a
level with you!--Look at the signature--quick, look at the
"However, observe" (she wrote in another of the letters), "that
although I couple you with him, yet I have not once asked you
whether you love him. He fell in love with you, though he saw you
but once. He spoke of you as of 'the light.' These are his own
words--I heard him use them. But I understood without his saying
it that you were all that light is to him. I lived near him for a
whole month, and I understood then that you, too, must love him.
I think of you and him as one."
"What was the matter yesterday?" (she wrote on another sheet). "I
passed by you, and you seemed to me to BLUSH. Perhaps it was only
my fancy. If I were to bring you to the most loathsome den, and
show you the revelation of undisguised vice--you should not
blush. You can never feel the sense of personal affront. You may
hate all who are mean, or base, or unworthy--but not for
yourself--only for those whom they wrong. No one can wrong YOU.
Do you know, I think you ought to love me--for you are the same
in my eyes as in his-you are as light. An angel cannot hate,
perhaps cannot love, either. I often ask myself--is it possible
to love everybody? Indeed it is not; it is not in nature.
Abstract love of humanity is nearly always love of self. But you
are different. You cannot help loving all, since you can compare
with none, and are above all personal offence or anger. Oh! how
bitter it would be to me to know that you felt anger or shame on
my account, for that would be your fall--you would become
comparable at once with such as me.
"Yesterday, after seeing you, I went home and thought out a
"Artists always draw the Saviour as an actor in one of the Gospel
stories. I should do differently. I should represent Christ
alone--the disciples did leave Him alone occasionally. I should
paint one little child left with Him. This child has been playing
about near Him, and had probably just been telling the Saviour
something in its pretty baby prattle. Christ had listened to it,
but was now musing--one hand reposing on the child's bright head.
His eyes have a far-away expression. Thought, great as the
Universe, is in them--His face is sad. The little one leans its
elbow upon Christ's knee, and with its cheek resting on its hand,
gazes up at Him, pondering as children sometimes do ponder. The
sun is setting. There you have my picture.
"You are innocent--and in your innocence lies all your
perfection--oh, remember that! What is my passion to you?--you
are mine now; I shall be near you all my life--I shall not live
At length, in the last letter of all, he found:
"For Heaven's sake, don't misunderstand me! Do not think that I
humiliate myself by writing thus to you, or that I belong to that
class of people who take a satisfaction in humiliating
themselves--from pride. I have my consolation, though it would be
difficult to explain it--but I do not humiliate myself.
"Why do I wish to unite you two? For your sakes or my own? For my
own sake, naturally. All the problems of my life would thus be
solved; I have thought so for a long time. I know that once when
your sister Adelaida saw my portrait she said that such beauty
could overthrow the world. But I have renounced the world. You
think it strange that I should say so, for you saw me decked with
lace and diamonds, in the company of drunkards and wastrels. Take
no notice of that; I know that I have almost ceased to exist. God
knows what it is dwelling within me now--it is not myself. I can
see it every day in two dreadful eyes which are always looking at
me, even when not present. These eyes are silent now, they say
nothing; but I know their secret. His house is gloomy, and there
is a secret in it. I am convinced that in some box he has a razor
hidden, tied round with silk, just like the one that Moscow
murderer had. This man also lived with his mother, and had a
razor hidden away, tied round with white silk, and with this
razor he intended to cut a throat.
"All the while I was in their house I felt sure that somewhere
beneath the floor there was hidden away some dreadful corpse,
wrapped in oil-cloth, perhaps buried there by his father, who
knows? Just as in the Moscow case. I could have shown you the
"He is always silent, but I know well that he loves me so much
that he must hate me. My wedding and yours are to be on the same
day; so I have arranged with him. I have no secrets from him. I
would kill him from very fright, but he will kill me first. He
has just burst out laughing, and says that I am raving. He knows
I am writing to you."
There was much more of this delirious wandering in the letters--
one of them was very long.
At last the prince came out of the dark, gloomy park, in which he
had wandered about for hours just as yesterday. The bright night
seemed to him to be lighter than ever. "It must be quite early,"
he thought. (He had forgotten his watch.) There was a sound of
distant music somewhere. "Ah," he thought, "the Vauxhall! They
won't be there today, of course!" At this moment he noticed that
he was close to their house; he had felt that he must gravitate
to this spot eventually, and, with a beating heart, he mounted
the verandah steps.
No one met him; the verandah was empty, and nearly pitch dark. He
opened the door into the room, but it, too, was dark and empty.
He stood in the middle of the room in perplexity. Suddenly the
door opened, and in came Alexandra, candle in hand. Seeing the
prince she stopped before him in surprise, looking at him
It was clear that she had been merely passing through the room
from door to door, and had not had the remotest notion that she
would meet anyone.
"How did you come here?" she asked, at last.
"Mamma is not very well, nor is Aglaya. Adelaida has gone to bed,
and I am just going. We were alone the whole evening. Father and
Prince S. have gone to town."
"I have come to you--now--to--"
"Do you know what time it is?"
"Half-past twelve. We are always in bed by one."
"I-I thought it was half-past nine!"
"Never mind!" she laughed, "but why didn't you come earlier?
Perhaps you were expected!"
"I thought" he stammered, making for the door.
"Au revoir! I shall amuse them all with this story tomorrow!"
He walked along the road towards his own house. His heart was
beating, his thoughts were confused, everything around seemed to
be part of a dream.
And suddenly, just as twice already he had awaked from sleep with
the same vision, that very apparition now seemed to rise up
before him. The woman appeared to step out from the park, and
stand in the path in front of him, as though she had been waiting
for him there.
He shuddered and stopped; she seized his hand and pressed it
No, this was no apparition!
There she stood at last, face to face with him, for the first
time since their parting.
She said something, but he looked silently back at her. His heart
ached with anguish. Oh! never would he banish the recollection of
this meeting with her, and he never remembered it but with the
same pain and agony of mind.
She went on her knees before him--there in the open road--like a
madwoman. He retreated a step, but she caught his hand and kissed
it, and, just as in his dream, the tears were sparkling on her
long, beautiful lashes.
"Get up!" he said, in a frightened whisper, raising her. "Get up
"Are you happy--are you happy?" she asked. "Say this one word.
Are you happy now? Today, this moment? Have you just been with
her? What did she say?"
She did not rise from her knees; she would not listen to him; she
put her questions hurriedly, as though she were pursued.
"I am going away tomorrow, as you bade me--I won't write--so
that this is the last time I shall see you, the last time! This
is really the LAST TIME!"
"Oh, be calm--be calm! Get up!" he entreated, in despair.
She gazed thirstily at him and clutched his hands.
"Good-bye!" she said at last, and rose and left him, very
The prince noticed that Rogojin had suddenly appeared at her
side, and had taken her arm and was leading her away.
"Wait a minute, prince," shouted the latter, as he went. "I shall
be back in five minutes."
He reappeared in five minutes as he had said. The prince was
waiting for him.
"I've put her in the carriage," he said; "it has been waiting
round the corner there since ten o'clock. She expected that you
would be with THEM all the evening. I told her exactly what you
wrote me. She won't write to the girl any more, she promises; and
tomorrow she will be off, as you wish. She desired to see you
for the last time, although you refused, so we've been sitting
and waiting on that bench till you should pass on your way home."
"Did she bring you with her of her own accord?"
"Of course she did!" said Rogojin, showing his teeth; "and I saw
for myself what I knew before. You've read her letters, I
"Did you read them?" asked the prince, struck by the thought.
"Of course--she showed them to me herself. You are thinking of
the razor, eh? Ha, ha, ha!"
"Oh, she is mad!" cried the prince, wringing his hands. "Who
knows? Perhaps she is not so mad after all," said Rogojin,
softly, as though thinking aloud.
The prince made no reply.
"Well, good-bye," said Rogojin. "I'm off tomorrow too, you know.
Remember me kindly! By-the-by," he added, turning round sharply
again, "did you answer her question just now? Are you happy, or
"No, no, no!" cried the prince, with unspeakable sadness.
"Ha, ha! I never supposed you would say 'yes,'" cried Rogojin,
And he disappeared, without looking round again.
A WEEK had elapsed since the rendezvous of our two friends on the
green bench in the park, when, one fine morning at about half-
past ten o'clock, Varvara Ardalionovna, otherwise Mrs. Ptitsin,
who had been out to visit a friend, returned home in a state of
considerable mental depression.
There are certain people of whom it is difficult to say anything
which will at once throw them into relief--in other words,
describe them graphically in their typical characteristics. These
are they who are generally known as "commonplace people," and this
class comprises, of course, the immense majority of mankind.
Authors, as a rule, attempt to select and portray types rarely
met with in their entirety, but these types are nevertheless more
real than real life itself.
"Podkoleosin" [A character in Gogol's comedy, The Wedding.] was
perhaps an exaggeration, but he was by no means a non-existent
character; on the contrary, how many intelligent people, after
hearing of this Podkoleosin from Gogol, immediately began to find
that scores of their friends were exactly like him! They knew,
perhaps, before Gogol told them, that their friends were like
Podkoleosin, but they did not know what name to give them. In
real life, young fellows seldom jump out of the window just
before their weddings, because such a feat, not to speak of its
other aspects, must be a decidedly unpleasant mode of escape; and
yet there are plenty of bridegrooms, intelligent fellows too, who
would be ready to confess themselves Podkoleosins in the depths
of their consciousness, just before marriage. Nor does every
husband feel bound to repeat at every step, "Tu l'as voulu,
Georges Dandin!" like another typical personage; and yet how many
millions and billions of Georges Dandins there are in real life
who feel inclined to utter this soul-drawn cry after their
honeymoon, if not the day after the wedding! Therefore, without
entering into any more serious examination of the question, I
will content myself with remarking that in real life typical
characters are "watered down," so to speak; and all these Dandins
and Podkoleosins actually exist among us every day, but in a
diluted form. I will just add, however, that Georges Dandin might
have existed exactly as Moliere presented him, and probably does
exist now and then, though rarely; and so I will end this
scientific examination, which is beginning to look like a
newspaper criticism. But for all this, the question remains,--
what are the novelists to do with commonplace people, and how are
they to be presented to the reader in such a form as to be in the
least degree interesting? They cannot be left out altogether, for
commonplace people meet one at every turn of life, and to leave
them out would be to destroy the whole reality and probability of
the story. To fill a novel with typical characters only, or with
merely strange and uncommon people, would render the book unreal
and improbable, and would very likely destroy the interest. In my
opinion, the duty of the novelist is to seek out points of
interest and instruction even in the characters of commonplace
For instance, when the whole essence of an ordinary person's
nature lies in his perpetual and unchangeable commonplaceness;
and when in spite of all his endeavours to do something out of
the common, this person ends, eventually, by remaining in his
unbroken line of routine--. I think such an individual really
does become a type of his own--a type of commonplaceness which
will not for the world, if it can help it, be contented, but
strains and yearns to be something original and independent,
without the slightest possibility of being so. To this class of
commonplace people belong several characters in this novel;--
characters which--I admit--I have not drawn very vividly up to
now for my reader's benefit.
Such were, for instance, Varvara Ardalionovna Ptitsin, her
husband, and her brother, Gania.
There is nothing so annoying as to be fairly rich, of a fairly
good family, pleasing presence, average education, to be "not
stupid," kind-hearted, and yet to have no talent at all, no
originality, not a single idea of one's own--to be, in fact,
"just like everyone else."
Of such people there are countless numbers in this world--far
more even than appear. They can be divided into two classes as
all men can--that is, those of limited intellect, and those who
are much cleverer. The former of these classes is the happier.
To a commonplace man of limited intellect, for instance, nothing
is simpler than to imagine himself an original character, and to
revel in that belief without the slightest misgiving.
Many of our young women have thought fit to cut their hair short,
put on blue spectacles, and call themselves Nihilists. By doing
this they have been able to persuade themselves, without further
trouble, that they have acquired new convictions of their own.
Some men have but felt some little qualm of kindness towards
their fellow-men, and the fact has been quite enough to persuade
them that they stand alone in the van of enlightenment and that
no one has such humanitarian feelings as they. Others have but to
read an idea of somebody else's, and they can immediately
assimilate it and believe that it was a child of their own brain.
The "impudence of ignorance," if I may use the expression, is
developed to a wonderful extent in such cases;--unlikely as it
appears, it is met with at every turn.
This confidence of a stupid man in his own talents has been
wonderfully depicted by Gogol in the amazing character of
Pirogoff. Pirogoff has not the slightest doubt of his own
genius,--nay, of his SUPERIORITY of genius,--so certain is he of
it that he never questions it. How many Pirogoffs have there not
been among our writers--scholars--propagandists? I say "have
been," but indeed there are plenty of them at this very day.
Our friend, Gania, belonged to the other class--to the "much
cleverer" persons, though he was from head to foot permeated and
saturated with the longing to be original. This class, as I have
said above, is far less happy. For the "clever commonplace"
person, though he may possibly imagine himself a man of genius
and originality, none the less has within his heart the deathless
worm of suspicion and doubt; and this doubt sometimes brings a
clever man to despair. (As a rule, however, nothing tragic
happens;--his liver becomes a little damaged in the course of
time, nothing more serious. Such men do not give up their
aspirations after originality without a severe struggle,--and
there have been men who, though good fellows in themselves, and
even benefactors to humanity, have sunk to the level of base
criminals for the sake of originality.
Gania was a beginner, as it were, upon this road. A deep and
unchangeable consciousness of his own lack of talent, combined
with a vast longing to be able to persuade himself that he was
original, had rankled in his heart, even from childhood.
He seemed to have been born with overwrought nerves, and in his
passionate desire to excel, he was often led to the brink of some
rash step; and yet, having resolved upon such a step, when the
moment arrived, he invariably proved too sensible to take it. He
was ready, in the same way, to do a base action in order to
obtain his wished-for object; and yet, when the moment came to do
it, he found that he was too honest for any great baseness. (Not
that he objected to acts of petty meanness--he was always ready
for THEM.) He looked with hate and loathing on the poverty and
downfall of his family, and treated his mother with haughty
contempt, although he knew that his whole future depended on her
character and reputation.
Aglaya had simply frightened him; yet he did not give up all
thoughts of her--though he never seriously hoped that she would
condescend to him. At the time of his "adventure" with Nastasia
Philipovna he had come to the conclusion that money was his only
hope--money should do all for him.
At the moment when he lost Aglaya, and after the scene with
Nastasia, he had felt so low in his own eyes that he actually
brought the money back to the prince. Of this returning of the
money given to him by a madwoman who had received it from a
madman, he had often repented since--though he never ceased to be
proud of his action. During the short time that Muishkin remained
in Petersburg Gania had had time to come to hate him for his
sympathy, though the prince told him that it was "not everyone
who would have acted so nobly" as to return the money. He had
long pondered, too, over his relations with Aglaya, and had
persuaded himself that with such a strange, childish, innocent
character as hers, things might have ended very differently.
Remorse then seized him; he threw up his post, and buried himself
in self-torment and reproach.
He lived at Ptitsin's, and openly showed contempt for the latter,
though he always listened to his advice, and was sensible enough
to ask for it when he wanted it. Gavrila Ardalionovitch was angry
with Ptitsin because the latter did not care to become a
Rothschild. "If you are to be a Jew," he said, "do it properly--
squeeze people right and left, show some character; be the King
of the Jews while you are about it."
Ptitsin was quiet and not easily offended--he only laughed. But
on one occasion he explained seriously to Gania that he was no
Jew, that he did nothing dishonest, that he could not help the
market price of money, that, thanks to his accurate habits, he
had already a good footing and was respected, and that his
business was flourishing.
"I shan't ever be a Rothschild, and there is no reason why I
should," he added, smiling; "but I shall have a house in the
Liteynaya, perhaps two, and that will be enough for me." "Who
knows but what I may have three!" he concluded to himself; but
this dream, cherished inwardly, he never confided to a soul.
Nature loves and favours such people. Ptitsin will certainly have
his reward, not three houses, but four, precisely because from
childhood up he had realized that he would never be a Rothschild.
That will be the limit of Ptitsin's fortune, and, come what may,
he will never have more than four houses.
Varvara Ardalionovna was not like her brother. She too, had
passionate desires, but they were persistent rather than
impetuous. Her plans were as wise as her methods of carrying them
out. No doubt she also belonged to the category of ordinary
people who dream of being original, but she soon discovered that
she had not a grain of true originality, and she did not let it
trouble her too much. Perhaps a certain kind of pride came to her
help. She made her first concession to the demands of practical
life with great resolution when she consented to marry Ptitsin.
However, when she married she did not say to herself, "Never mind
a mean action if it leads to the end in view," as her brother
would certainly have said in such a case; it is quite probable
that he may have said it when he expressed his elder-brotherly
satisfaction at her decision. Far from this; Varvara Ardalionovna
did not marry until she felt convinced that her future husband
was unassuming, agreeable, almost cultured, and that nothing on
earth would tempt him to a really dishonourable deed. As to small
meannesses, such trifles did not trouble her. Indeed, who is free
from them? It is absurd to expect the ideal! Besides, she knew
that her marriage would provide a refuge for all her family.
Seeing Gania unhappy, she was anxious to help him, in spite of
their former disputes and misunderstandings. Ptitsin, in a
friendly way, would press his brother-in-law to enter the army.
"You know," he said sometimes, jokingly, "you despise generals
and generaldom, but you will see that 'they' will all end by
being generals in their turn. You will see it if you live long
"But why should they suppose that I despise generals?" Gania
thought sarcastically to himself.
To serve her brother's interests, Varvara Ardalionovna was
constantly at the Epanchins' house, helped by the fact that in
childhood she and Gania had played with General Ivan
Fedorovitch's daughters. It would have been inconsistent with her
character if in these visits she had been pursuing a chimera; her
project was not chimerical at all; she was building on a firm
basis--on her knowledge of the character of the Epanchin family,
especially Aglaya, whom she studied closely. All Varvara's
efforts were directed towards bringing Aglaya and Gania together.
Perhaps she achieved some result; perhaps, also, she made the
mistake of depending too much upon her brother, and expecting
more from him than he would ever be capable of giving. However
this may be, her manoeuvres were skilful enough. For weeks at a
time she would never mention Gania. Her attitude was modest but
dignified, and she was always extremely truthful and sincere.
Examining the depths of her conscience, she found nothing to
reproach herself with, and this still further strengthened her in
her designs. But Varvara Ardalionovna sometimes remarked that she
felt spiteful; that there was a good deal of vanity in her,
perhaps even of wounded vanity. She noticed this at certain times
more than at others, and especially after her visits to the
Today, as I have said, she returned from their house with a
heavy feeling of dejection. There was a sensation of bitterness,
a sort of mocking contempt, mingled with it.
Arrived at her own house, Varia heard a considerable commotion
going on in the upper storey, and distinguished the voices of her
father and brother. On entering the salon she found Gania pacing
up and down at frantic speed, pale with rage and almost tearing
his hair. She frowned, and subsided on to the sofa with a tired
air, and without taking the trouble to remove her hat. She very
well knew that if she kept quiet and asked her brother nothing
about his reason for tearing up and down the room, his wrath
would fall upon her head. So she hastened to put the question:
"The old story, eh?"
"Old story? No! Heaven knows what's up now--I don't! Father has
simply gone mad; mother's in floods of tears. Upon my word,
Varia, I must kick him out of the house; or else go myself," he
added, probably remembering that he could not well turn people
out of a house which was not his own.
"You must make allowances," murmured Varia.
"Make allowances? For whom? Him--the old blackguard? No, no,
Varia--that won't do! It won't do, I tell you! And look at the
swagger of the man! He's all to blame himself, and yet he puts on
so much 'side' that you'd think--my word!--'It's too much
trouble to go through the gate, you must break the fence for me!'
That's the sort of air he puts on; but what's the matter with
you, Varia? What a curious expression you have!"
"I'm all right," said Varia, in a tone that sounded as though she
were all wrong.
Gania looked more intently at her.
"You've been THERE?" he asked, suddenly.
"Did you find out anything?"
"Nothing unexpected. I discovered that it's all true. My husband
was wiser than either of us. Just as he suspected from the
beginning, so it has fallen out. Where is he?"
"Out. Well--what has happened?--go on."
"The prince is formally engaged to her--that's settled. The elder
sisters told me about it. Aglaya has agreed. They don't attempt
to conceal it any longer; you know how mysterious and secret they
have all been up to now. Adelaida's wedding is put off again, so
that both can be married on one day. Isn't that delightfully
romantic? Somebody ought to write a poem on it. Sit down and
write an ode instead of tearing up and down like that. This
evening Princess Bielokonski is to arrive; she comes just in
time--they have a party tonight. He is to be presented to old
Bielokonski, though I believe he knows her already; probably the
engagement will be openly announced. They are only afraid that he
may knock something down, or trip over something when he comes
into the room. It would be just like him."
Gania listened attentively, but to his sister's astonishment he
was by no means so impressed by this news (which should, she
thought, have been so important to him) as she had expected.
"Well, it was clear enough all along," he said, after a moment's
reflection. "So that's the end," he added, with a disagreeable
smile, continuing to walk up and down the room, but much slower
than before, and glancing slyly into his sister's face.
"It's a good thing that you take it philosophically, at all
events," said Varia. "I'm really very glad of it."
"Yes, it's off our hands--off YOURS, I should say."
"I think I have served you faithfully. I never even asked you
what happiness you expected to find with Aglaya."
"Did I ever expect to find happiness with Aglaya?"
"Come, come, don't overdo your philosophy. Of course you did. Now
it's all over, and a good thing, too; pair of fools that we have
been! I confess I have never been able to look at it seriously. I
busied myself in it for your sake, thinking that there was no
knowing what might happen with a funny girl like that to deal
with. There were ninety to one chances against it. To this moment
I can't make out why you wished for it."
"H'm! now, I suppose, you and your husband will never weary of
egging me on to work again. You'll begin your lectures about
perseverance and strength of will, and all that. I know it all by
heart," said Gania, laughing.
"He's got some new idea in his head," thought Varia. "Are they
pleased over there--the parents?" asked Gania, suddenly.
"N--no, I don't think they are. You can judge for yourself. I
think the general is pleased enough; her mother is a little
uneasy. She always loathed the idea of the prince as a HUSBAND;
everybody knows that."
"Of course, naturally. The bridegroom is an impossible and
ridiculous one. I mean, has SHE given her formal consent?"
"She has not said 'no,' up to now, and that's all. It was sure to
be so with her. You know what she is like. You know how absurdly
shy she is. You remember how she used to hide in a cupboard as a
child, so as to avoid seeing visitors, for hours at a time. She
is just the same now; but, do you know, I think there is
something serious in the matter, even from her side; I feel it,
somehow. She laughs at the prince, they say, from morn to night
in order to hide her real feelings; but you may be sure she finds
occasion to say something or other to him on the sly, for he
himself is in a state of radiant happiness. He walks in the
clouds; they say he is extremely funny just now; I heard it from
themselves. They seemed to be laughing at me in their sleeves--
those elder girls--I don't know why."
Gania had begun to frown, and probably Varia added this last
sentence in order to probe his thought. However, at this moment,
the noise began again upstairs.
"I'll turn him out!" shouted Gania, glad of the opportunity of
venting his vexation. "I shall just turn him out--we can't have
"Yes, and then he'll go about the place and disgrace us as he did
"How 'as he did yesterday'? What do you mean? What did he do
yesterday?" asked Gania, in alarm.
"Why, goodness me, don't you know?" Varia stopped short.
"What? You don't mean to say that he went there yesterday!" cried
Gania, flushing red with shame and anger. "Good heavens, Varia!
Speak! You have just been there. WAS he there or not, QUICK?" And
Gania rushed for the door. Varia followed and caught him by both
"What are you doing? Where are you going to? You can't let him go
now; if you do he'll go and do something worse."
"What did he do there? What did he say?" "They couldn't tell me
themselves; they couldn't make head or tail of it; but he
frightened them all. He came to see the general, who was not at
home; so he asked for Lizabetha Prokofievna. First of all, he
begged her for some place, or situation, for work of some kind,
and then he began to complain about US, about me and my husband,
and you, especially YOU; he said a lot of things."
"Oh! couldn't you find out?" muttered Gania, trembling
"No--nothing more than that. Why, they couldn't understand him
themselves; and very likely didn't tell me all."
Gania seized his head with both hands and tottered to the window;
Varia sat down at the other window.
"Funny girl, Aglaya," she observed, after a pause. "When she left
me she said, 'Give my special and personal respects to your
parents; I shall certainly find an opportunity to see your father
one day,' and so serious over it. She's a strange creature."
"Wasn't she joking? She was speaking sarcastically!" "Not a bit of
it; that's just the strange part of it."
"Does she know about father, do you think--or not?"
"That they do NOT know about it in the house is quite certain,
the rest of them, I mean; but you have given me an idea. Aglaya
perhaps knows. She alone, though, if anyone; for the sisters were
as astonished as I was to hear her speak so seriously. If she
knows, the prince must have told her."
"Oh! it's not a great matter to guess who told her. A thief! A
thief in our family, and the head of the family, too!"
"Oh! nonsense!" cried Varia, angrily. "That was nothing but a
drunkard's tale. Nonsense! Why, who invented the whole thing--
Lebedeff and the prince--a pretty pair! Both were probably
"Father is a drunkard and a thief; I am a beggar, and the husband
of my sister is a usurer," continued Gania, bitterly. "There was
a pretty list of advantages with which to enchant the heart of
"That same husband of your sister, the usurer--"
"Feeds me? Go on. Don't stand on ceremony, pray."
"Don't lose your temper. You are just like a schoolboy. You think
that all this sort of thing would harm you in Aglaya's eyes, do
you? You little know her character. She is capable of refusing
the most brilliant party, and running away and starving in a
garret with some wretched student; that's the sort of girl she
is. You never could or did understand how interesting you would
have seen in her eyes if you had come firmly and proudly through
our misfortunes. The prince has simply caught her with hook and
line; firstly, because he never thought of fishing for her, and
secondly, because he is an idiot in the eyes of most people. It's
quite enough for her that by accepting him she puts her family
out and annoys them all round--that's what she likes. You don't
understand these things."
"We shall see whether I understand or no!" said Gania,
enigmatically. "But I shouldn't like her to know all about
father, all the same. I thought the prince would manage to hold
his tongue about this, at least. He prevented Lebedeff spreading
the news--he wouldn't even tell me all when I asked him--"
"Then you must see that he is not responsible. What does it
matter to you now, in any case? What are you hoping for still? If
you HAVE a hope left, it is that your suffering air may soften
her heart towards you."
"Oh, she would funk a scandal like anyone else. You are all
tarred with one brush!"
"What! AGLAYA would have funked? You are a chicken-hearted
fellow, Gania!" said Varia, looking at her brother with contempt.
"Not one of us is worth much. Aglaya may be a wild sort of a
girl, but she is far nobler than any of us, a thousand times
"Well--come! there's nothing to get cross about," said Gania.
"All I'm afraid of is--mother. I'm afraid this scandal about
father may come to her ears; perhaps it has already. I am
"It undoubtedly has already!" observed Gania.
Varia had risen from her place and had started to go upstairs to
her mother; but at this observation of Gania's she turned and
gazed at him attentively.
"Who could have told her?"
"Hippolyte, probably. He would think it the most delightful
amusement in the world to tell her of it the instant he moved
over here; I haven't a doubt of it."
"But how could he know anything of it? Tell me that. Lebedeff and
the prince determined to tell no one--even Colia knows nothing."
"What, Hippolyte? He found it out himself, of course. Why, you
have no idea what a cunning little animal he is; dirty little
gossip! He has the most extraordinary nose for smelling out other
people's secrets, or anything approaching to scandal. Believe it
or not, but I'm pretty sure he has got round Aglaya. If he
hasn't, he soon will. Rogojin is intimate with him, too. How the
prince doesn't notice it, I can't understand. The little wretch
considers me his enemy now and does his best to catch me
tripping. What on earth does it matter to him, when he's dying?
However, you'll see; I shall catch HIM tripping yet, and not he
"Why did you get him over here, if you hate him so? And is it
really worth your while to try to score off him?"
"Why, it was yourself who advised me to bring him over!"
"I thought he might be useful. You know he is in love with Aglaya
himself, now, and has written to her; he has even written to
"Oh! he's not dangerous there!" cried Gania, laughing angrily.
"However, I believe there is something of that sort in the air;
he is very likely to be in love, for he is a mere boy. But he
won't write anonymous letters to the old lady; that would be too
audacious a thing for him to attempt; but I dare swear the very
first thing he did was to show me up to Aglaya as a base deceiver
and intriguer. I confess I was fool enough to attempt something
through him at first. I thought he would throw himself into my
service out of revengeful feelings towards the prince, the sly
little beast! But I know him better now. As for the theft, he may
have heard of it from the widow in Petersburg, for if the old man
committed himself to such an act, he can have done it for no
other object but to give the money to her. Hippolyte said to me,
without any prelude, that the general had promised the widow four
hundred roubles. Of course I understood, and the little wretch
looked at me with a nasty sort of satisfaction. I know him; you
may depend upon it he went and told mother too, for the pleasure
of wounding her. And why doesn't he die, I should like to know?
He undertook to die within three weeks, and here he is getting
fatter. His cough is better, too. It was only yesterday that he
said that was the second day he hadn't coughed blood."
"Well, turn him out!"
"I don't HATE, I despise him," said Gania, grandly. "Well, I do
hate him, if you like!" he added, with a sudden access of rage,
"and I'll tell him so to his face, even when he's dying! If you
had but read his confession--good Lord! what refinement of
impudence! Oh, but I'd have liked to whip him then and there,
like a schoolboy, just to see how surprised he would have been!
Now he hates everybody because he--Oh, I say, what on earth are
they doing there! Listen to that noise! I really can't stand this
any longer. Ptitsin!" he cried, as the latter entered the room,
"what in the name of goodness are we coming to? Listen to that--"
But the noise came rapidly nearer, the door burst open, and old
General Ivolgin, raging, furious, purple-faced, and trembling
with anger, rushed in. He was followed by Nina Alexandrovna,
Colia, and behind the rest, Hippolyte.
HIPPOLYTE had now been five days at the Ptitsins'. His flitting
from the prince's to these new quarters had been brought about
quite naturally and without many words. He did not quarrel with
the prince--in fact, they seemed to part as friends. Gania, who
had been hostile enough on that eventful evening, had himself
come to see him a couple of days later, probably in obedience to
some sudden impulse. For some reason or other, Rogojin too had
begun to visit the sick boy. The prince thought it might be
better for him to move away from his (the prince's) house.
Hippolyte informed him, as he took his leave, that Ptitsin "had
been kind enough to offer him a corner," and did not say a word
about Gania, though Gania had procured his invitation, and
himself came to fetch him away. Gania noticed this at the time,
and put it to Hippolyte's debit on account.
Gania was right when he told his sister that Hippolyte was
getting better; that he was better was clear at the first glance.
He entered the room now last of all, deliberately, and with a
disagreeable smile on his lips.
Nina Alexandrovna came in, looking frightened. She had changed
much since we last saw her, half a year ago, and had grown thin
and pale. Colia looked worried and perplexed. He could not
understand the vagaries of the general, and knew nothing of the
last achievement of that worthy, which had caused so much
commotion in the house. But he could see that his father had of
late changed very much, and that he had begun to behave in so
extraordinary a fashion both at home and abroad that he was not
like the same man. What perplexed and disturbed him as much as
anything was that his father had entirely given up drinking
during the last few days. Colia knew that he had quarrelled with
both Lebedeff and the prince, and had just bought a small bottle
of vodka and brought it home for his father.
"Really, mother," he had assured Nina Alexandrovna upstairs,
"really you had better let him drink. He has not had a drop for
three days; he must be suffering agonies--The general now entered
the room, threw the door wide open, and stood on the threshold
trembling with indignation.
"Look here, my dear sir," he began, addressing Ptitsin in a very
loud tone of voice; "if you have really made up your mind to
sacrifice an old man--your father too or at all events father of
your wife--an old man who has served his emperor--to a wretched
little atheist like this, all I can say is, sir, my foot shall
cease to tread your floors. Make your choice, sir; make your
choice quickly, if you please! Me or this--screw! Yes, screw,