Part 12 out of 15
sir; I said it accidentally, but let the word stand--this screw,
for he screws and drills himself into my soul--"
"Hadn't you better say corkscrew?" said Hippolyte.
"No, sir, NOT corkscrew. I am a general, not a bottle, sir. Make
your choice, sir--me or him."
Here Colia handed him a chair, and he subsided into it,
breathless with rage.
"Hadn't you better--better--take a nap?" murmured the stupefied
"A nap?" shrieked the general. "I am not drunk, sir; you insult
me! I see," he continued, rising, "I see that all are against me
here. Enough--I go; but know, sirs--know that--"
He was not allowed to finish his sentence. Somebody pushed him
back into his chair, and begged him to be calm. Nina Alexandrovna
trembled, and cried quietly. Gania retired to the window in
"But what have I done? What is his grievance?" asked Hippolyte,
"What have you done, indeed?" put in Nina Alexandrovna. "You
ought to be ashamed of yourself, teasing an old man like that--
and in your position, too."
"And pray what IS my position, madame? I have the greatest
respect for you, personally; but--"
"He's a little screw," cried the general; "he drills holes my
heart and soul. He wishes me to be a pervert to atheism. Know,
you young greenhorn, that I was covered with honours before ever
you were born; and you are nothing better than a wretched little
worm, torn in two with coughing, and dying slowly of your own
malice and unbelief. What did Gavrila bring you over here for?
They're all against me, even to my own son--all against me."
"Oh, come--nonsense!" cried Gania; "if you did not go shaming us
all over the town, things might be better for all parties."
"What--shame you? I?--what do you mean, you young calf? I shame
you? I can only do you honour, sir; I cannot shame you."
He jumped up from his chair in a fit of uncontrollable rage.
Gania was very angry too.
"Honour, indeed!" said the latter, with contempt.
"What do you say, sir?" growled the general, taking a step
"I say that I have but to open my mouth, and you--"
Gania began, but did not finish. The two--father and son--stood
before one another, both unspeakably agitated, especially Gania.
"Gania, Gania, reflect!" cried his mother, hurriedly.
"It's all nonsense on both sides," snapped out Varia. "Let them
"It's only for mother's sake that I spare him," said Gania,
"Speak!" said the general, beside himself with rage and
excitement; "speak--under the penalty of a father's curse
"Oh, father's curse be hanged--you don't frighten me that way!"
said Gania. "Whose fault is it that you have been as mad as a
March hare all this week? It is just a week--you see, I count the
days. Take care now; don't provoke me too much, or I'll tell all.
Why did you go to the Epanchins' yesterday--tell me that? And you
call yourself an old man, too, with grey hair, and father of a
family! H'm--nice sort of a father."
"Be quiet, Gania," cried Colia. "Shut up, you fool!"
"Yes, but how have I offended him?" repeated Hippolyte, still
in the same jeering voice. " Why does he call me a screw? You all
heard it. He came to me himself and began telling me about some
Captain Eropegoff. I don't wish for your company, general. I
always avoided you--you know that. What have I to do with
Captain Eropegoff? All I did was to express my opinion that
probably Captain Eropegoff never existed at all!"
"Of course he never existed!" Gania interrupted.
But the general only stood stupefied and gazed around in a dazed
way. Gania's speech had impressed him, with its terrible candour.
For the first moment or two he could find no words to answer him,
and it was only when Hippolyte burst out laughing, and said:
"There, you see! Even your own son supports my statement that
there never was such a person as Captain Eropegoff!" that the old
fellow muttered confusedly:
"Kapiton Eropegoff--not Captain Eropegoff!--Kapiton--major
"Kapiton didn't exist either!" persisted Gania, maliciously.
"What? Didn't exist?" cried the poor general, and a deep blush
suffused his face.
"That'll do, Gania!" cried Varia and Ptitsin.
"Shut up, Gania!" said Colia.
But this intercession seemed to rekindle the general.
"What did you mean, sir, that he didn't exist? Explain yourself,"
he repeated, angrily.
"Because he DIDN'T exist--never could and never did--there! You'd
better drop the subject, I warn you!"
"And this is my son--my own son--whom I--oh, gracious Heaven!
Eropegoff--Eroshka Eropegoff didn't exist!"
"Ha, ha! it's Eroshka now," laughed Hippolyte.
"No, sir, Kapitoshka--not Eroshka. I mean, Kapiton Alexeyevitch--
retired major--married Maria Petrovna Lu--Lu--he was my friend
and companion--Lutugoff--from our earliest beginnings. I closed
his eyes for him--he was killed. Kapiton Eropegoff never existed!
The general shouted in his fury; but it was to be concluded that
his wrath was not kindled by the expressed doubt as to Kapiton's
existence. This was his scapegoat; but his excitement was caused
by something quite different. As a rule he would have merely
shouted down the doubt as to Kapiton, told a long yarn about his
friend, and eventually retired upstairs to his room. But today,
in the strange uncertainty of human nature, it seemed to require
but so small an offence as this to make his cup to overflow. The
old man grew purple in the face, he raised his hands. "Enough of
this!" he yelled. "My curse--away, out of the house I go! Colia,
bring my bag away!" He left the room hastily and in a paroxysm of
His wife, Colia, and Ptitsin ran out after him.
"What have you done now?" said Varia to Gania. "He'll probably be
making off THERE again! What a disgrace it all is!"
"Well, he shouldn't steal," cried Gania, panting with fury. And
just at this moment his eye met Hippolyte's.
"As for you, sir," he cried, "you should at least remember that
you are in a strange house and--receiving hospitality; you should
not take the opportunity of tormenting an old man, sir, who is
too evidently out of his mind."
Hippolyte looked furious, but he restrained himself.
"I don't quite agree with you that your father is out of his
mind," he observed, quietly. "On the contrary, I cannot help
thinking he has been less demented of late. Don't you think so?
He has grown so cunning and careful, and weighs his words so
deliberately; he spoke to me about that Kapiton fellow with an
object, you know! Just fancy--he wanted me to--"
"Oh, devil take what he wanted you to do! Don't try to be too
cunning with me, young man!" shouted Gania. "If you are aware of
the real reason for my father's present condition (and you have
kept such an excellent spying watch during these last few days
that you are sure to be aware of it)--you had no right whatever
to torment the--unfortunate man, and to worry my mother by your
exaggerations of the affair; because the whole business is
nonsense--simply a drunken freak, and nothing more, quite
unproved by any evidence, and I don't believe that much of it!"
(he snapped his fingers). "But you must needs spy and watch over
us all, because you are a-a--"
"Screw!" laughed Hippolyte.
"Because you are a humbug, sir; and thought fit to worry people
for half an hour, and tried to frighten them into believing that
you would shoot yourself with your little empty pistol,
pirouetting about and playing at suicide! I gave you hospitality,
you have fattened on it, your cough has left you, and you repay
"Excuse me--two words! I am Varvara Ardalionovna's guest, not
yours; YOU have extended no hospitality to me. On the contrary,
if I am not mistaken, I believe you are yourself indebted to Mr.
Ptitsin's hospitality. Four days ago I begged my mother to come
down here and find lodgings, because I certainly do feel better
here, though I am not fat, nor have I ceased to cough. I am
today informed that my room is ready for me; therefore, having
thanked your sister and mother for their kindness to me, I intend
to leave the house this evening. I beg your pardon--I interrupted
you--I think you were about to add something?"
"Oh--if that is the state of affairs--" began Gania.
"Excuse me--I will take a seat," interrupted Hippolyte once more,
sitting down deliberately; "for I am not strong yet. Now then, I
am ready to hear you. Especially as this is the last chance we
shall have of a talk, and very likely the last meeting we shall
ever have at all."
Gania felt a little guilty.
"I assure you I did not mean to reckon up debits and credits," he
began, "and if you--"
"I don't understand your condescension," said Hippolyte. "As for
me, I promised myself, on the first day of my arrival in this
house, that I would have the satisfaction of settling accounts
with you in a very thorough manner before I said good-bye to you.
I intend to perform this operation now, if you like; after you,
though, of course."
"May I ask you to be so good as to leave this room?"
"You'd better speak out. You'll be sorry afterwards if you
"Hippolyte, stop, please! It's so dreadfully undignified," said
"Well, only for the sake of a lady," said Hippolyte, laughing. "I
am ready to put off the reckoning, but only put it off, Varvara
Ardalionovna, because an explanation between your brother and
myself has become an absolute necessity, and I could not think of
leaving the house without clearing up all misunderstandings
"In a word, you are a wretched little scandal-monger," cried
Gania, "and you cannot go away without a scandal!"
"You see," said Hippolyte, coolly, " you can't restrain yourself.
You'll be dreadfully sorry afterwards if you don't speak out now.
Come, you shall have the first say. I'll wait."
Gania was silent and merely looked contemptuously at him.
"You won't? Very well. I shall be as short as possible, for my
part. Two or three times to-day I have had the word 'hospitality'
pushed down my throat; this is not fair. In inviting me here you
yourself entrapped me for your own use; you thought I wished to
revenge myself upon the prince. You heard that Aglaya Ivanovna
had been kind to me and read my confession. Making sure that I
should give myself up to your interests, you hoped that you might
get some assistance out of me. I will not go into details. I
don't ask either admission or confirmation of this from yourself;
I am quite content to leave you to your conscience, and to feel
that we understand one another capitally."
"What a history you are weaving out of the most ordinary
circumstances!" cried Varia.
"I told you the fellow was nothing but a scandalmonger," said
"Excuse me, Varia Ardalionovna, I will proceed. I can, of course,
neither love nor respect the prince, though he is a good-hearted
fellow, if a little queer. But there is no need whatever for me
to hate him. I quite understood your brother when he first
offered me aid against the prince, though I did not show it; I
knew well that your brother was making a ridiculous mistake in
me. I am ready to spare him, however, even now; but solely out of
respect for yourself, Varvara Ardalionovna.
"Having now shown you that I am not quite such a fool as I look,
and that I have to be fished for with a rod and line for a good
long while before I am caught, I will proceed to explain why I
specially wished to make your brother look a fool. That my motive
power is hate, I do not attempt to conceal. I have felt that
before dying (and I am dying, however much fatter I may appear to
you), I must absolutely make a fool of, at least, one of that
class of men which has dogged me all my life, which I hate so
cordially, and which is so prominently represented by your much
esteemed brother. I should not enjoy paradise nearly so much
without having done this first. I hate you, Gavrila
Ardalionovitch, solely (this may seem curious to you, but I
repeat)--solely because you are the type, and incarnation, and
head, and crown of the most impudent, the most self-satisfied,
the most vulgar and detestable form of commonplaceness. You are
ordinary of the ordinary; you have no chance of ever fathering
the pettiest idea of your own. And yet you are as jealous and
conceited as you can possibly be; you consider yourself a great
genius; of this you are persuaded, although there are dark
moments of doubt and rage, when even this fact seems uncertain.
There are spots of darkness on your horizon, though they will
disappear when you become completely stupid. But a long and
chequered path lies before you, and of this I am glad. In the
first place you will never gain a certain person."
"Come, come! This is intolerable! You had better stop, you little
mischief-making wretch!" cried Varia. Gania had grown very pale;
he trembled, but said nothing.
Hippolyte paused, and looked at him intently and with great
gratification. He then turned his gaze upon Varia, bowed, and
went out, without adding another word.
Gania might justly complain of the hardness with which fate
treated him. Varia dared not speak to him for a long while, as he
strode past her, backwards and forwards. At last he went and
stood at the window, looking out, with his back turned towards
her. There was a fearful row going on upstairs again.
"Are you off?" said Gania, suddenly, remarking that she had risen
and was about to leave the room. "Wait a moment--look at this."
He approached the table and laid a small sheet of paper before
her. It looked like a little note.
"Good heavens!" cried Varia, raising her hands.
This was the note:
"GAVRILA ARDOLIONOVITCH,--persuaded of your kindness of heart, I
have determined to ask your advice on a matter of great
importance to myself. I should like to meet you tomorrow morning
at seven o'clock by the green bench in the park. It is not far
from our house. Varvara Ardalionovna, who must accompany you,
knows the place well.
"What on earth is one to make of a girl like that?" said Varia.
Gania, little as he felt inclined for swagger at this moment,
could not avoid showing his triumph, especially just after such
humiliating remarks as those of Hippolyte. A smile of self-
satisfaction beamed on his face, and Varia too was brimming over
"And this is the very day that they were to announce the
engagement! What will she do next?"
"What do you suppose she wants to talk about tomorrow?" asked
"Oh, THAT'S all the same! The chief thing is that she wants to
see you after six months' absence. Look here, Gania, this is a
SERIOUS business. Don't swagger again and lose the game--play
carefully, but don't funk, do you understand? As if she could
possibly avoid seeing what I have been working for all this last
six months! And just imagine, I was there this morning and not a
word of this! I was there, you know, on the sly. The old lady did
not know, or she would have kicked me out. I ran some risk for
you, you see. I did so want to find out, at all hazards."
Here there was a frantic noise upstairs once more; several people
seemed to be rushing downstairs at once.
"Now, Gania," cried Varia, frightened, "we can't let him go out!
We can't afford to have a breath of scandal about the town at
this moment. Run after him and beg his pardon--quick."
But the father of the family was out in the road already. Colia
was carrying his bag for him; Nina Alexandrovna stood and cried
on the doorstep; she wanted to run after the general, but Ptitsin
kept her back.
"You will only excite him more," he said. "He has nowhere else to
go to--he'll be back here in half an hour. I've talked it all
over with Colia; let him play the fool a bit, it will do him
"What are you up to? Where are you off to? You've nowhere to go
to, you know," cried Gania, out of the window.
"Come back, father; the neighbours will hear!" cried Varia.
The general stopped, turned round, raised his hands and remarked:
"My curse be upon this house!"
"Which observation should always be made in as theatrical a tone
as possible," muttered Gania, shutting the window with a bang.
The neighbours undoubtedly did hear. Varia rushed out of the
No sooner had his sister left him alone, than Gania took the note
out of his pocket, kissed it, and pirouetted around.
As a general rule, old General Ivolgin's paroxysms ended in
smoke. He had before this experienced fits of sudden fury, but
not very often, because he was really a man of peaceful and
kindly disposition. He had tried hundreds of times to overcome
the dissolute habits which he had contracted of late years. He
would suddenly remember that he was "a father," would be
reconciled with his wife, and shed genuine tears. His feeling for
Nina Alexandrovna amounted almost to adoration; she had pardoned
so much in silence, and loved him still in spite of the state of
degradation into which he had fallen. But the general's struggles
with his own weakness never lasted very long. He was, in his way,
an impetuous man, and a quiet life of repentance in the bosom of
his family soon became insupportable to him. In the end he
rebelled, and flew into rages which he regretted, perhaps, even
as he gave way to them, but which were beyond his control. He
picked quarrels with everyone, began to hold forth eloquently,
exacted unlimited respect, and at last disappeared from the
house, and sometimes did not return for a long time. He had given
up interfering in the affairs of his family for two years now,
and knew nothing about them but what he gathered from hearsay.
But on this occasion there was something more serious than usual.
Everyone seemed to know something, but to be afraid to talk about
The general had turned up in the bosom of his family two or three
days before, but not, as usual, with the olive branch of peace in
his hand, not in the garb of penitence--in which he was usually
clad on such occasions--but, on the contrary, in an uncommonly
bad temper. He had arrived in a quarrelsome mood, pitching into
everyone he came across, and talking about all sorts and kinds of
subjects in the most unexpected manner, so that it was impossible
to discover what it was that was really putting him out. At
moments he would be apparently quite bright and happy; but as a
rule he would sit moody and thoughtful. He would abruptly
commence to hold forth about the Epanchins, about Lebedeff, or
the prince, and equally abruptly would stop short and refuse to
speak another word, answering all further questions with a stupid
smile, unconscious that he was smiling, or that he had been asked
a question. The whole of the previous night he had spent tossing
about and groaning, and poor Nina Alexandrovna had been busy
making cold compresses and warm fomentations and so on, without
being very clear how to apply them. He had fallen asleep after a
while, but not for long, and had awaked in a state of violent
hypochondria which had ended in his quarrel with Hippolyte, and
the solemn cursing of Ptitsin's establishment generally. It was
also observed during those two or three days that he was in a
state of morbid self-esteem, and was specially touchy on all
points of honour. Colia insisted, in discussing the matter with
his mother, that all this was but the outcome of abstinence from
drink, or perhaps of pining after Lebedeff, with whom up to this
time the general had been upon terms of the greatest friendship;
but with whom, for some reason or other, he had quarrelled a few
days since, parting from him in great wrath. There had also been
a scene with the prince. Colia had asked an explanation of the
latter, but had been forced to conclude that he was not told the
If Hippolyte and Nina Alexandrovna had, as Gania suspected, had
some special conversation about the general's actions, it was
strange that the malicious youth, whom Gania had called a
scandal-monger to his face, had not allowed himself a similar
satisfaction with Colia.
The fact is that probably Hippolyte was not quite so black as
Gania painted him; and it was hardly likely that he had informed
Nina Alexandrovna of certain events, of which we know, for the
mere pleasure of giving her pain. We must never forget that human
motives are generally far more complicated than we are apt to
suppose, and that we can very rarely accurately describe the
motives of another. It is much better for the writer, as a rule,
to content himself with the bare statement of events; and we
shall take this line with regard to the catastrophe recorded
above, and shall state the remaining events connected with the
general's trouble shortly, because we feel that we have already
given to this secondary character in our story more attention
than we originally intended.
The course of events had marched in the following order. When
Lebedeff returned, in company with the general, after their
expedition to town a few days since, for the purpose of
investigation, he brought the prince no information whatever. If
the latter had not himself been occupied with other thoughts and
impressions at the time, he must have observed that Lebedeff not
only was very uncommunicative, but even appeared anxious to avoid
When the prince did give the matter a little attention, he
recalled the fact that during these days he had always found
Lebedeff to be in radiantly good spirits, when they happened to
meet; and further, that the general and Lebedeff were always
together. The two friends did not seem ever to be parted for a
Occasionally the prince heard loud talking and laughing upstairs,
and once he detected the sound of a jolly soldier's song going on
above, and recognized the unmistakable bass of the general's
voice. But the sudden outbreak of song did not last; and for an
hour afterwards the animated sound of apparently drunken
conversation continued to be heard from above. At length there
was the clearest evidence of a grand mutual embracing, and
someone burst into tears. Shortly after this, however, there was
a violent but short-lived quarrel, with loud talking on both
All these days Colia had been in a state of great mental
preoccupation. Muishkin was usually out all day, and only came
home late at night. On his return he was invariably informed that
Colia had been looking for him. However, when they did meet,
Colia never had anything particular to tell him, excepting that
he was highly dissatisfied with the general and his present
condition of mind and behaviour.
"They drag each other about the place," he said, and get drunk
together at the pub close by here, and quarrel in the street
on the way home, and embrace one another after it, and don't seem
to part for a moment."
When the prince pointed out that there was nothing new about
that, for that they had always behaved in this manner together,
Colia did not know what to say; in fact he could not explain what
it was that specially worried him, just now, about his father.
On the morning following the bacchanalian songs and quarrels
recorded above, as the prince stepped out of the house at about
eleven o'clock, the general suddenly appeared before him, much
"I have long sought the honour and opportunity of meeting you--
much-esteemed Lef Nicolaievitch," he murmured, pressing the
prince's hand very hard, almost painfully so; "long--very long."
The prince begged him to step in and sit down.
"No--I will not sit down,--I am keeping you, I see,--another
time!--I think I may be permitted to congratulate you upon the
realization of your heart's best wishes, is it not so?"
"What best wishes?"
The prince blushed. He thought, as so many in his position do,
that nobody had seen, heard, noticed, or understood anything.
"Oh--be easy, sir, be easy! I shall not wound your tenderest
feelings. I've been through it all myself, and I know well how
unpleasant it is when an outsider sticks his nose in where he is
not wanted. I experience this every morning. I came to speak to
you about another matter, though, an important matter. A very
important matter, prince."
The latter requested him to take a seat once more, and sat down
"Well--just for one second, then. The fact is, I came for advice.
Of course I live now without any very practical objects in life;
but, being full of self-respect, in which quality the ordinary
Russian is so deficient as a rule, and of activity, I am
desirous, in a word, prince, of placing myself and my wife and
children in a position of--in fact, I want advice."
The prince commended his aspirations with warmth.
"Quite so--quite so! But this is all mere nonsense. I came here
to speak of something quite different, something very important,
prince. And I have determined to come to you as to a man in whose
sincerity and nobility of feeling I can trust like--like--are you
surprised at my words, prince?"
The prince was watching his guest, if not with much surprise, at
all events with great attention and curiosity.
The old man was very pale; every now and then his lips trembled,
and his hands seemed unable to rest quietly, but continually
moved from place to place. He had twice already jumped up from
his chair and sat down again without being in the least aware of
it. He would take up a hook from the table and open it--talking
all the while,--look at the heading of a chapter, shut it and put
it back again, seizing another immediately, but holding it
unopened in his hand, and waving it in the air as he spoke.
"But enough!" he cried, suddenly. "I see I have been boring you
"Not in the least--not in the least, I assure you. On the
contrary, I am listening most attentively, and am anxious to
"Prince, I wish to place myself in a respectable position--I wish
to esteem myself--and to--"
"My dear sir, a man of such noble aspirations is worthy of all
esteem by virtue of those aspirations alone."
The prince brought out his "copy-book sentence" in the firm
belief that it would produce a good effect. He felt instinctively
that some such well-sounding humbug, brought out at the proper
moment, would soothe the old man's feelings, and would be
specially acceptable to such a man in such a position. At all
hazards, his guest must be despatched with heart relieved and
spirit comforted; that was the problem before the prince at this
The phrase flattered the general, touched him, and pleased him
mightily. He immediately changed his tone, and started off on a
long and solemn explanation. But listen as he would, the prince
could make neither head nor tail of it.
The general spoke hotly and quickly for ten minutes; he spoke as
though his words could not keep pace with his crowding thoughts.
Tears stood in his eyes, and yet his speech was nothing but a
collection of disconnected sentences, without beginning and
without end--a string of unexpected words and unexpected
sentiments--colliding with one another, and jumping over one
another, as they burst from his lips.
"Enough!" he concluded at last, "you understand me, and that is
the great thing. A heart like yours cannot help understanding the
sufferings of another. Prince, you are the ideal of generosity;
what are other men beside yourself? But you are young--accept my
blessing! My principal object is to beg you to fix an hour for a
most important conversation--that is my great hope, prince. My
heart needs but a little friendship and sympathy, and yet I
cannot always find means to satisfy it."
"But why not now? I am ready to listen, and--"
"No, no--prince, not now! Now is a dream! And it is too, too
important! It is to be the hour of Fate to me--MY OWN hour. Our
interview is not to be broken in upon by every chance comer,
every impertinent guest--and there are plenty of such stupid,
impertinent fellows"--(he bent over and whispered mysteriously,
with a funny, frightened look on his face)--"who are unworthy to
tie your shoe, prince. I don't say MINE, mind--you will
understand me, prince. Only YOU understand me, prince--no one
else. HE doesn't understand me, he is absolutely--ABSOLUTELY
unable to sympathize. The first qualification for understanding
another is Heart."
The prince was rather alarmed at all this, and was obliged to end
by appointing the same hour of the following day for the
interview desired. The general left him much comforted and far
less agitated than when he had arrived.
At seven in the evening, the prince sent to request Lebedeff to
pay him a visit. Lebedeff came at once, and "esteemed it an
honour," as he observed, the instant he entered the room. He
acted as though there had never been the slightest suspicion of
the fact that he had systematically avoided the prince for the
last three days.
He sat down on the edge of his chair, smiling and making faces,
and rubbing his hands, and looking as though he were in delighted
expectation of hearing some important communication, which had
been long guessed by all.
The prince was instantly covered with confusion; for it appeared
to be plain that everyone expected something of him--that
everyone looked at him as though anxious to congratulate him, and
greeted him with hints, and smiles, and knowing looks.
Keller, for instance, had run into the house three times of late,
"just for a moment," and each time with the air of desiring to
offer his congratulations. Colia, too, in spite of his
melancholy, had once or twice begun sentences in much the same
strain of suggestion or insinuation.
The prince, however, immediately began, with some show of
annoyance, to question Lebedeff categorically, as to the
general's present condition, and his opinion thereon. He
described the morning's interview in a few words.
"Everyone has his worries, prince, especially in these strange
and troublous times of ours," Lebedeff replied, drily, and with
the air of a man disappointed of his reasonable expectations.
"Dear me, what a philosopher you are!" laughed the prince.
Philosophy is necessary, sir--very necessary--in our day. It is
too much neglected. As for me, much esteemed prince, I am
sensible of having experienced the honour of your confidence in a
certain matter up to a certain point, but never beyond that
point. I do not for a moment complain--"
"Lebedeff, you seem to be angry for some reason!" said the
"Not the least bit in the world, esteemed and revered prince! Not
the least bit in the world!" cried Lebedeff, solemnly, with his
hand upon his heart. "On the contrary, I am too painfully aware
that neither by my position in the world, nor by my gifts of
intellect and heart, nor by my riches, nor by any former conduct
of mine, have I in any way deserved your confidence, which is far
above my highest aspirations and hopes. Oh no, prince; I may
serve you, but only as your humble slave! I am not angry, oh no!
Not angry; pained perhaps, but nothing more.
"My dear Lebedeff, I--"
"Oh, nothing more, nothing more! I was saying to myself but now...
'I am quite unworthy of friendly relations with him,' say I;
'but perhaps as landlord of this house I may, at some future date,
in his good time, receive information as to certain imminent and
much to be desired changes--'"
So saying Lebedeff fixed the prince with his sharp little eyes,
still in hope that he would get his curiosity satisfied.
The prince looked back at him in amazement.
"I don't understand what you are driving at!" he cried, almost
angrily, "and, and--what an intriguer you are, Lebedeff!" he
added, bursting into a fit of genuine laughter.
Lebedeff followed suit at once, and it was clear from his radiant
face that he considered his prospects of satisfaction immensely
"And do you know," the prince continued, "I am amazed at your
naive ways, Lebedeff! Don't he angry with me--not only yours,
everybody else's also! You are waiting to hear something from me
at this very moment with such simplicity that I declare I feel
quite ashamed of myself for having nothing whatever to tell you.
I swear to you solemnly, that there is nothing to tell. There!
Can you take that in?" The prince laughed again.
Lebedeff assumed an air of dignity. It was true enough that he
was sometimes naive to a degree in his curiosity; but he was also
an excessively cunning gentleman, and the prince was almost
converting him into an enemy by his repeated rebuffs. The prince
did not snub Lebedeff's curiosity, however, because he felt any
contempt for him; but simply because the subject was too delicate
to talk about. Only a few days before he had looked upon his own
dreams almost as crimes. But Lebedeff considered the refusal as
caused by personal dislike to himself, and was hurt accordingly.
Indeed, there was at this moment a piece of news, most
interesting to the prince, which Lebedeff knew and even had
wished to tell him, but which he now kept obstinately to himself.
"And what can I do for you, esteemed prince? Since I am told you
sent for me just now," he said, after a few moments' silence.
"Oh, it was about the general," began the prince, waking abruptly
from the fit of musing which he too had indulged in "and-and
about the theft you told me of."
"That is--er--about--what theft?"
"Oh come! just as if you didn't understand, Lukian Timofeyovitch!
What are you up to? I can't make you out! The money, the money,
sir! The four hundred roubles that you lost that day. You came
and told me about it one morning, and then went off to
Petersburg. There, NOW do you understand?"
"Oh--h--h! You mean the four hundred roubles!" said Lebedeff,
dragging the words out, just as though it had only just dawned
upon him what the prince was talking about. "Thanks very much,
prince, for your kind interest--you do me too much honour. I
found the money, long ago!"
"You found it? Thank God for that!"
"Your exclamation proves the generous sympathy of your nature,
prince; for four hundred roubles--to a struggling family man like
myself--is no small matter!"
"I didn't mean that; at least, of course, I'm glad for your sake,
too," added the prince, correcting himself, " but--how did you
"Very simply indeed! I found it under the chair upon which my
coat had hung; so that it is clear the purse simply fell out of
the pocket and on to the floor!"
"Under the chair? Impossible! Why, you told me yourself that you
had searched every corner of the room? How could you not have
looked in the most likely place of all?"
"Of course I looked there,--of course I did! Very much so! I
looked and scrambled about, and felt for it, and wouldn't believe
it was not there, and looked again and again. It is always so in
such cases. One longs and expects to find a lost article; one
sees it is not there, and the place is as hare as one's palm; and
yet one returns and looks again and again, fifteen or twenty
times, likely enough!"
"Oh, quite so, of course. But how was it in your case?--I don't
quite understand," said the bewildered prince. "You say it wasn't
there at first, and that you searched the place thoroughly, and
yet it turned up on that very spot!"
"Yes, sir--on that very spot." The prince gazed strangely at
Lebedeff. "And the general?" he asked, abruptly.
"The--the general? How do you mean, the general?" said Lebedeff,
dubiously, as though he had not taken in the drift of the
"Oh, good heavens! I mean, what did the general say when the
purse turned up under the chair? You and he had searched for it
together there, hadn't you?"
"Quite so--together! But the second time I thought better to say
nothing about finding it. I found it alone."
"But--why in the world--and the money? Was it all there?"
"I opened the purse and counted it myself; right to a single
"I think you might have come and told me," said the prince,
"Oh--I didn't like to disturb you, prince, in the midst of your
private and doubtless most interesting personal reflections.
Besides, I wanted to appear, myself, to have found nothing. I
took the purse, and opened it, and counted the money, and shut it
and put it down again under the chair."
"What in the world for?"
"Oh, just out of curiosity," said Lebedeff, rubbing his hands and
"What, it's still there then, is it? Ever since the day before
"Oh no! You see, I was half in hopes the general might find it.
Because if I found it, why should not he too observe an object
lying before his very eyes? I moved the chair several times so as
to expose the purse to view, but the general never saw it. He is
very absent just now, evidently. He talks and laughs and tells
stories, and suddenly flies into a rage with me, goodness knows
"Well, but--have you taken the purse away now?"
"No, it disappeared from under the chair in the night."
"Where is it now, then?"
"Here," laughed Lebedeff, at last, rising to his full height and
looking pleasantly at the prince, "here, in the lining of my
coat. Look, you can feel it for yourself, if you like!"
Sure enough there was something sticking out of the front of the
coat--something large. It certainly felt as though it might well
be the purse fallen through a hole in the pocket into the lining.
"I took it out and had a look at it; it's all right. I've let it
slip back into the lining now, as you see, and so I have been
walking about ever since yesterday morning; it knocks against my
legs when I walk along."
"H'm! and you take no notice of it?"
"Quite so, I take no notice of it. Ha, ha! and think of this,
prince, my pockets are always strong and whole, and yet, here in
one night, is a huge hole. I know the phenomenon is unworthy of
your notice; but such is the case. I examined the hole, and I
declare it actually looks as though it had been made with a pen-
knife, a most improbable contingency."
"Ah, very angry all day, sir; all yesterday and all today. He
shows decided bacchanalian predilections at one time, and at
another is tearful and sensitive, but at any moment he is liable
to paroxysms of such rage that I assure you, prince, I am quite
alarmed. I am not a military man, you know. Yesterday we were
sitting together in the tavern, and the lining of my coat was--
quite accidentally, of course--sticking out right in front. The
general squinted at it, and flew into a rage. He never looks me
quite in the face now, unless he is very drunk or maudlin; but
yesterday he looked at me in such a way that a shiver went all
down my back. I intend to find the purse tomorrow; but till then
I am going to have another night of it with him."
"What's the good of tormenting him like this?" cried the prince.
"I don't torment him, prince, I don't indeed!" cried Lebedeff,
hotly. "I love him, my dear sir, I esteem him; and believe it or
not, I love him all the better for this business, yes--and value
Lebedeff said this so seriously that the prince quite lost his
temper with him.
"Nonsense! love him and torment him so! Why, by the very fact
that he put the purse prominently before you, first under the
chair and then in your lining, he shows that he does not wish to
deceive you, but is anxious to beg your forgiveness in this
artless way. Do you hear? He is asking your pardon. He confides
in the delicacy of your feelings, and in your friendship for him.
And you can allow yourself to humiliate so thoroughly honest a
"Thoroughly honest, quite so, prince, thoroughly honest!" said
Lebedeff, with flashing eyes. "And only you, prince, could have
found so very appropriate an expression. I honour you for it,
prince. Very well, that's settled; I shall find the purse now and
not tomorrow. Here, I find it and take it out before your eyes!
And the money is all right. Take it, prince, and keep it till
tomorrow, will you? Tomorrow or next day I'll take it back again.
I think, prince, that the night after its disappearance it was
buried under a bush in the garden. So I believe--what do you
think of that?"
"Well, take care you don't tell him to his face that you have
found the purse. Simply let him see that it is no longer in the
lining of your coat, and form his own conclusions."
"Do you think so? Had I not just better tell him I have found it,
and pretend I never guessed where it was?"
"No, I don't think so," said the prince, thoughtfully; "it's too
late for that--that would be dangerous now. No, no! Better say
nothing about it. Be nice with him, you know, but don't show him
--oh, YOU know well enough--"
"I know, prince, of course I know, but I'm afraid I shall not
carry it out; for to do so one needs a heart like your own. He is
so very irritable just now, and so proud. At one moment he will
embrace me, and the next he flies out at me and sneers at me, and
then I stick the lining forward on purpose. Well, au revoir,
prince, I see I am keeping you, and boring you, too, interfering
with your most interesting private reflections."
"Now, do be careful! Secrecy, as before!"
"Oh, silence isn't the word! Softly, softly!"
But in spite of this conclusion to the episode, the prince
remained as puzzled as ever, if not more so. He awaited next
morning's interview with the general most impatiently.
THE time appointed was twelve o'clock, and the prince, returning
home unexpectedly late, found the general waiting for him. At the
first glance, he saw that the latter was displeased, perhaps
because he had been kept waiting. The prince apologized, and
quickly took a seat. He seemed strangely timid before the general
this morning, for some reason, and felt as though his visitor
were some piece of china which he was afraid of breaking.
On scrutinizing him, the prince soon saw that the general was
quite a different man from what he had been the day before; he
looked like one who had come to some momentous resolve. His
calmness, however, was more apparent than real. He was courteous,
but there was a suggestion of injured innocence in his manner.
"I've brought your book back," he began, indicating a book lying
on the table. "Much obliged to you for lending it to me."
"Ah, yes. Well, did you read it, general? It's curious, isn't
it?" said the prince, delighted to be able to open up
conversation upon an outside subject.
"Curious enough, yes, but crude, and of course dreadful nonsense;
probably the man lies in every other sentence."
The general spoke with considerable confidence, and dragged his
words out with a conceited drawl.
"Oh, but it's only the simple tale of an old soldier who saw the
French enter Moscow. Some of his remarks were wonderfully
interesting. Remarks of an eye-witness are always valuable,
whoever he be, don't you think so
"Had I been the publisher I should not have printed it. As to the
evidence of eye-witnesses, in these days people prefer impudent
lies to the stories of men of worth and long service. I know of
some notes of the year 1812, which--I have determined, prince, to
leave this house, Mr. Lebedeff's house."
The general looked significantly at his host.
"Of course you have your own lodging at Pavlofsk at--at your
daughter's house," began the prince, quite at a loss what to say.
He suddenly recollected that the general had come for advice on a
most important matter, affecting his destiny.
"At my wife's; in other words, at my own place, my daughter's
"I beg your pardon, I--"
"I leave Lebedeff's house, my dear prince, because I have
quarrelled with this person. I broke with him last night, and am
very sorry that I did not do so before. I expect respect, prince,
even from those to whom I give my heart, so to speak. Prince, I
have often given away my heart, and am nearly always deceived.
This person was quite unworthy of the gift."
"There is much that might be improved in him," said the prince,
moderately, "but he has some qualities which--though amid them
one cannot but discern a cunning nature--reveal what is often a
The prince's tone was so natural and respectful that the general
could not possibly suspect him of any insincerity.
"Oh, that he possesses good traits, I was the first to show, when
I very nearly made him a present of my friendship. I am not
dependent upon his hospitality, and upon his house; I have my own
family. I do not attempt to justify my own weakness. I have drunk
with this man, and perhaps I deplore the fact now, but I did not
take him up for the sake of drink alone (excuse the crudeness of
the expression, prince); I did not make friends with him for that
alone. I was attracted by his good qualities; but when the fellow
declares that he was a child in 1812, and had his left leg cut
off, and buried in the Vagarkoff cemetery, in Moscow, such a
cock-and-bull story amounts to disrespect, my dear sir, to--to
"Oh, he was very likely joking; he said it for fun."
"I quite understand you. You mean that an innocent lie for the
sake of a good joke is harmless, and does not offend the human
heart. Some people lie, if you like to put it so, out of pure
friendship, in order to amuse their fellows; but when a man makes
use of extravagance in order to show his disrespect and to make
clear how the intimacy bores him, it is time for a man of honour
to break off the said intimacy., and to teach the offender his
The general flushed with indignation as he spoke.
"Oh, but Lebedeff cannot have been in Moscow in 1812. He is much
too young; it is all nonsense."
"Very well, but even if we admit that he was alive in 1812, can
one believe that a French chasseur pointed a cannon at him for a
lark, and shot his left leg off? He says he picked his own leg up
and took it away and buried it in the cemetery. He swore he had a
stone put up over it with the inscription: 'Here lies the leg of
Collegiate Secretary Lebedeff,' and on the other side, 'Rest,
beloved ashes, till the morn of joy,' and that he has a service
read over it every year (which is simply sacrilege), and goes to
Moscow once a year on purpose. He invites me to Moscow in order
to prove his assertion, and show me his leg's tomb, and the very
cannon that shot him; he says it's the eleventh from the gate of
the Kremlin, an old-fashioned falconet taken from the French
"And, meanwhile both his legs are still on his body," said the
prince, laughing. "I assure you, it is only an innocent joke, and
you need not be angry about it."
"Excuse me--wait a minute--he says that the leg we see is a
wooden one, made by Tchernosvitoff."
"They do say one can dance with those!"
"Quite so, quite so; and he swears that his wife never found out
that one of his legs was wooden all the while they were married.
When I showed him the ridiculousness of all this, he said, 'Well,
if you were one of Napoleon's pages in 1812, you might let me
bury my leg in the Moscow cemetery.'
"Why, did you say--" began the prince, and paused in confusion.
The general gazed at his host disdainfully.
"Oh, go on," he said, "finish your sentence, by all means. Say
how odd it appears to you that a man fallen to such a depth of
humiliation as I, can ever have been the actual eye-witness of
great events. Go on, I don't mind! Has he found time to tell you
scandal about me?"
"No, I've heard nothing of this from Lebedeff, if you mean
"H'm; I thought differently. You see, we were talking over this
period of history. I was criticizing a current report of
something which then happened, and having been myself an eye-
witness of the occurrence--you are smiling, prince--you are
looking at my face as if--"
"Oh no! not at all--I--"
"I am rather young-looking, I know; but I am actually older than
I appear to be. I was ten or eleven in the year 1812. I don't
know my age exactly, but it has always been a weakness of mine to
make it out less than it really is.
"I assure you, general, I do not in the least doubt your
statement. One of our living autobiographers states that when he
was a small baby in Moscow in 1812 the French soldiers fed him
"Well, there you see!" said the general, condescendingly. "There
is nothing whatever unusual about my tale. Truth very often
appears to be impossible. I was a page--it sounds strange, I dare
say. Had I been fifteen years old I should probably have been
terribly frightened when the French arrived, as my mother was
(who had been too slow about clearing out of Moscow); but as I
was only just ten I was not in the least alarmed, and rushed
through the crowd to the very door of the palace when Napoleon
alighted from his horse."
"Undoubtedly, at ten years old you would not have felt the sense
of fear, as you say," blurted out the prince, horribly
uncomfortable in the sensation that he was just about to blush.
"Of course; and it all happened so easily and naturally. And yet,
were a novelist to describe the episode, he would put in all
kinds of impossible and incredible details."
"Oh," cried the prince, "I have often thought that! Why, I know
of a murder, for the sake of a watch. It's in all the papers now.
But if some writer had invented it, all the critics would have
jumped down his throat and said the thing was too improbable for
anything. And yet you read it in the paper, and you can't help
thinking that out of these strange disclosures is to be gained
the full knowledge of Russian life and character. You said that
well, general; it is so true," concluded the prince, warmly,
delighted to have found a refuge from the fiery blushes which had
covered his face.
"Yes, it's quite true, isn't it?" cried the general, his eyes
sparkling with gratification. "A small boy, a child, would
naturally realize no danger; he would shove his way through the
crowds to see the shine and glitter of the uniforms, and
especially the great man of whom everyone was speaking, for at
that time all the world had been talking of no one but this man
for some years past. The world was full of his name; I--so to
speak--drew it in with my mother's milk. Napoleon, passing a
couple of paces from me, caught sight of me accidentally. I was
very well dressed, and being all alone, in that crowd, as you
will easily imagine...
"Oh, of course! Naturally the sight impressed him, and proved to
him that not ALL the aristocracy had left Moscow; that at least
some nobles and their children had remained behind."
Just so just so! He wanted to win over the aristocracy! When his
eagle eye fell on me, mine probably flashed back in response.'
Voila un garcon bien eveille! Qui est ton pere?' I immediately
replied, almost panting with excitement, 'A general, who died on
the battle-fields of his country! "Le fils d'un boyard et d'un
brave, pardessus le marche. J'aime les boyards. M'aimes-tu,
petit?' To this keen question I replied as keenly, 'The Russian
heart can recognize a great man even in the bitter enemy of his
country.' At least, I don't remember the exact words, you know,
but the idea was as I say. Napoleon was struck; he thought a
minute and then said to his suite: 'I like that boy's pride; if
all Russians think like this child', then he didn't finish, hut
went on and entered the palace. I instantly mixed with his suite,
and followed him. I was already in high favour. I remember when
he came into the first hall, the emperor stopped before a
portrait of the Empress Katherine, and after a thoughtful glance
remarked, 'That was a great woman,' and passed on.
"Well, in a couple of days I was known all over the palace and
the Kremlin as 'le petit boyard.' I only went home to sleep. They
were nearly out of their minds about me at home. A couple of days
after this, Napoleon's page, De Bazancour, died; he had not been
able to stand the trials of the campaign. Napoleon remembered me;
I was taken away without explanation; the dead page's uniform was
tried on me, and when I was taken before the emperor, dressed in
it, he nodded his head to me, and I was told that I was appointed
to the vacant post of page.
"Well, I was glad enough, for I had long felt the greatest
sympathy for this man; and then the pretty uniform and all that--
only a child, you know--and so on. It was a dark green dress coat
with gold buttons--red facings, white trousers, and a white silk
waistcoat--silk stockings, shoes with buckles, and top-boots if I
were riding out with his majesty or with the suite.
"Though the position of all of us at that time was not
particularly brilliant, and the poverty was dreadful all round,
yet the etiquette at court was strictly preserved, and the more
strictly in proportion to the growth of the forebodings of
"Quite so, quite so, of course!" murmured the poor prince, who
didn't know where to look. "Your memoirs would be most
The general was, of course, repeating what he had told Lebedeff
the night before, and thus brought it out glibly enough, but here
he looked suspiciously at the prince out of the corners of his
"My memoirs!" he began, with redoubled pride and dignity. "Write
my memoirs? The idea has not tempted me. And yet, if you please,
my memoirs have long been written, but they shall not see the
light until dust returns to dust. Then, I doubt not, they will be
translated into all languages, not of course on account of their
actual literary merit, but because of the great events of which I
was the actual witness, though but a child at the time. As a
child, I was able to penetrate into the secrecy of the great
man's private room. At nights I have heard the groans and
wailings of this 'giant in distress.' He could feel no shame in
weeping before such a mere child as I was, though I understood
even then that the reason for his suffering was the silence of
the Emperor Alexander."
"Yes, of course; he had written letters to the latter with
proposals of peace, had he not?" put in the prince.
"We did not know the details of his proposals, but he wrote
letter after letter, all day and every day. He was dreadfully
agitated. Sometimes at night I would throw myself upon his breast
with tears (Oh, how I loved that man!). 'Ask forgiveness, Oh, ask
forgiveness of the Emperor Alexander!' I would cry. I should have
said, of course, 'Make peace with Alexander,' but as a child I
expressed my idea in the naive way recorded. 'Oh, my child,' he
would say (he loved to talk to me and seemed to forget my tender
years), 'Oh, my child, I am ready to kiss Alexander's feet, but I
hate and abominate the King of Prussia and the Austrian Emperor,
and--and--but you know nothing of politics, my child.' He would
pull up, remembering whom he was speaking to, but his eyes would
sparkle for a long while after this. Well now, if I were to
describe all this, and I have seen greater events than these, all
these critical gentlemen of the press and political parties--Oh,
no thanks! I'm their very humble servant, but no thanks!"
"Quite so--parties--you are very right," said the prince. "I was
reading a book about Napoleon and the Waterloo campaign only the
other day, by Charasse, in which the author does not attempt to
conceal his joy at Napoleon's discomfiture at every page. Well
now, I don't like that; it smells of 'party,' you know. You are
quite right. And were you much occupied with your service under
The general was in ecstasies, for the prince's remarks, made, as
they evidently were, in all seriousness and simplicity, quite
dissipated the last relics of his suspicion.
"I know Charasse's book! Oh! I was so angry with his work! I
wrote to him and said--I forget what, at this moment. You ask
whether I was very busy under the Emperor? Oh no! I was called
'page,' but hardly took my duty seriously. Besides, Napoleon very
soon lost hope of conciliating the Russians, and he would have
forgotten all about me had he not loved me--for personal reasons--
I don't mind saying so now. My heart was greatly drawn to him,
too. My duties were light. I merely had to be at the palace
occasionally to escort the Emperor out riding, and that was about
all. I rode very fairly well. He used to have a ride before
dinner, and his suite on those occasions were generally Davoust,
myself, and Roustan."
"Constant?" said the prince, suddenly, and quite involuntarily.
"No; Constant was away then, taking a letter to the Empress
Josephine. Instead of him there were always a couple of
orderlies--and that was all, excepting, of course, the generals
and marshals whom Napoleon always took with him for the
inspection of various localities, and for the sake of
consultation generally. I remember there was one--Davoust--nearly
always with him--a big man with spectacles. They used to argue
and quarrel sometimes. Once they were in the Emperor's study
together--just those two and myself--I was unobserved--and they
argued, and the Emperor seemed to be agreeing to something under
protest. Suddenly his eye fell on me and an idea seemed to flash
"'Child,' he said, abruptly. 'If I were to recognize the Russian
orthodox religion and emancipate the serfs, do you think Russia
would come over to me?'"
"'Never!' I cried, indignantly."
"The Emperor was much struck."
"'In the flashing eyes of this patriotic child I read and accept
the fiat of the Russian people. Enough, Davoust, it is mere
phantasy on our part. Come, let's hear your other project.'"
"'Yes, but that was a great idea," said the prince, clearly
interested. "You ascribe it to Davoust, do you?"
"Well, at all events, they were consulting together at the time.
Of course it was the idea of an eagle, and must have originated
with Napoleon; but the other project was good too--it was the
'Conseil du lion!' as Napoleon called it. This project consisted
in a proposal to occupy the Kremlin with the whole army; to arm
and fortify it scientifically, to kill as many horses as could be
got, and salt their flesh, and spend the winter there; and in
spring to fight their way out. Napoleon liked the idea--it
attracted him. We rode round the Kremlin walls every day, and
Napoleon used to give orders where they were to be patched, where
built up, where pulled down and so on. All was decided at last.
They were alone together--those two and myself.
"Napoleon was walking up and down with folded arms. I could not
take my eyes off his face--my heart beat loudly and painfully.
"'I'm off,' said Davoust. 'Where to?' asked Napoleon.
"'To salt horse-flesh,' said Davoust. Napoleon shuddered--his
fate was being decided.
"'Child,' he addressed me suddenly, 'what do you think of our
plan?' Of course he only applied to me as a sort of toss-up, you
know. I turned to Davoust and addressed my reply to him. I said,
as though inspired:
"'Escape, general! Go home!--'
"The project was abandoned; Davoust shrugged his shoulders and
went out, whispering to himself--'Bah, il devient superstitieux!'
Next morning the order to retreat was given."
"All this is most interesting," said the prince, very softly, "if
it really was so--that is, I mean--" he hastened to correct
"Oh, my dear prince," cried the general, who was now so
intoxicated with his own narrative that he probably could not
have pulled up at the most patent indiscretion.
"You say, if it really was so!' There was more--much more, I
assure you! These are merely a few little political acts. I tell
you I was the eye-witness of the nightly sorrow and groanings of
the great man, and of that no one can speak but myself. Towards
the end he wept no more, though he continued to emit an
occasional groan; but his face grew more overcast day by day, as
though Eternity were wrapping its gloomy mantle about him.
Occasionally we passed whole hours of silence together at night,
Roustan snoring in the next room--that fellow slept like a pig.
'But he's loyal to me and my dynasty,' said Napoleon of him.
"Sometimes it was very painful to me, and once he caught me with
tears in my eyes. He looked at me kindly. 'You are sorry for me,'
he said, 'you, my child, and perhaps one other child--my son,
the King of Rome--may grieve for me. All the rest hate me; and my
brothers are the first to betray me in misfortune.' I sobbed and
threw myself into his arms. He could not resist me--he burst into
tears, and our tears mingled as we folded each other in a close
"'Write, oh, write a letter to the Empress Josephine!' I cried,
sobbing. Napoleon started, reflected, and said, 'You remind me of
a third heart which loves me. Thank you, my friend;' and then and
there he sat down and wrote that letter to Josephine, with which
Constant was sent off next day."
"You did a good action," said the prince, "for in the midst of
his angry feelings you insinuated a kind thought into his heart."
"Just so, prince, just so. How well you bring out that fact!
Because your own heart is good!" cried the ecstatic old
gentleman, and, strangely enough, real tears glistened in his
eyes." Yes, prince, it was a wonderful spectacle. And, do you
know, I all but went off to Paris, and should assuredly have
shared his solitary exile with him; but, alas, our destinies were
otherwise ordered! We parted, he to his island, where I am sure
he thought of the weeping child who had embraced him so
affectionately at parting in Moscow; and I was sent off to the
cadet corps, where I found nothing but roughness and harsh
discipline. Alas, my happy days were done!
"'I do not wish to deprive your mother of you, and, therefore, I
will not ask you to go with me,' he said, the morning of his
departure, 'but I should like to do something for you.' He was
mounting his horse as he spoke. 'Write something in my sister's
album for me,' I said rather timidly, for he was in a state of
great dejection at the moment. He turned, called for a pen, took
the album. 'How old is your sister?' he asked, holding the pen in
his hand. 'Three years old,' I said. 'Ah, petite fille alors!'
and he wrote in the album:
'Ne mentes jamais!
NAPOLEON (votre ami sincere).'
"Such advice, and at such a moment, you must allow, prince, was--"
"Yes, quite so; very remarkable."
"This page of the album, framed in gold, hung on the wall of my
sister's drawing-room all her life, in the most conspicuous place,
till the day of her death; where it is now, I really don't know.
Heavens! it's two o'clock! HOW I have kept you, prince! It is
really most unpardonable of me.
The general rose.
"Oh, not in the least," said the prince. " On the contrary, I
have been so much interested, I'm really very much obliged to
"Prince,", said the general, pressing his hand, and looking at
him with flashing eyes, and an expression as though he were under
the influence of a sudden thought which had come upon him with
stunning force. "Prince, you are so kind, so simple-minded, that
sometimes I really feel sorry for you! I gaze at you with a
feeling of real affection. Oh, Heaven bless you! May your life
blossom and fructify in love. Mine is over. Forgive me, forgive
He left the room quickly, covering his face with his hands.
The prince could not doubt the sincerity of his agitation. He
understood, too, that the old man had left the room intoxicated
with his own success. The general belonged to that class of
liars, who, in spite of their transports of lying, invariably
suspect that they are not believed. On this occasion, when he
recovered from his exaltation, he would probably suspect Muishkin
of pitying him, and feel insulted.
"Have I been acting rightly in allowing him to develop such vast
resources of imagination?" the prince asked himself. But his
answer was a fit of violent laughter which lasted ten whole
minutes. He tried to reproach himself for the laughing fit, but
eventually concluded that he needn't do so, since in spite of it
he was truly sorry for the old man. The same evening he received
a strange letter, short but decided. The general informed him
that they must part for ever; that he was grateful, but that even
from him he could not accept "signs of sympathy which were
humiliating to the dignity of a man already miserable enough."
When the prince heard that the old man had gone to Nina
Alexandrovna, though, he felt almost easy on his account.
We have seen, however, that the general paid a visit to Lizabetha
Prokofievna and caused trouble there, the final upshot being that
he frightened Mrs. Epanchin, and angered her by bitter hints as
to his son Gania.
He had been turned out in disgrace, eventually, and this was the
cause of his bad night and quarrelsome day, which ended in his
sudden departure into the street in a condition approaching
insanity, as recorded before.
Colia did not understand the position. He tried severity with his
father, as they stood in the street after the latter had cursed
the household, hoping to bring him round that way.
"Well, where are we to go to now, father?" he asked. "You don't
want to go to the prince's; you have quarrelled with Lebedeff;
you have no money; I never have any; and here we are in the
middle of the road, in a nice sort of mess."
"Better to be of a mess than in a mess! I remember making a joke
something like that at the mess in eighteen hundred and forty--
forty--I forget. 'Where is my youth, where is my golden youth?'
Who was it said that, Colia?"
"It was Gogol, in Dead Souls, father," cried Colia, glancing at
him in some alarm.
"'Dead Souls,' yes, of course, dead. When I die, Colia, you must
engrave on my tomb:
"'Here lies a Dead Soul,
Shame pursues me.'
"Who said that, Colia?"
"I don't know, father."
"There was no Eropegoff? Eroshka Eropegoff?" he cried, suddenly,
stopping in the road in a frenzy. "No Eropegoff! And my own son
to say it! Eropegoff was in the place of a brother to me for
eleven months. I fought a duel for him. He was married
afterwards, and then killed on the field of battle. The bullet
struck the cross on my breast and glanced off straight into his
temple. 'I'll never forget you,' he cried, and expired. I served
my country well and honestly, Colia, but shame, shame has pursued
me! You and Nina will come to my grave, Colia; poor Nina, I
always used to call her Nina in the old days, and how she
loved.... Nina, Nina, oh, Nina. What have I ever done to deserve
your forgiveness and long-suffering? Oh, Colia, your mother has an
angelic spirit, an angelic spirit, Colia!"
"I know that, father. Look here, dear old father, come back home!
Let's go back to mother. Look, she ran after us when we came out.
What have you stopped her for, just as though you didn't take in
what I said? Why are you crying, father?"
Poor Colia cried himself, and kissed the old man's hands
"You kiss my hands, MINE?"
"Yes, yes, yours, yours! What is there to surprise anyone in that?
Come, come, you mustn't go on like this, crying in the middle of
the road; and you a general too, a military man! Come, let's go
"God bless you, dear boy, for being respectful to a disgraced
man. Yes, to a poor disgraced old fellow, your father. You shall
have such a son yourself; le roi de Rome. Oh, curses on this
"Come, come, what does all this mean?" cried Colia beside himself
at last. "What is it? What has happened to you? Why don't you
wish to come back home? Why have you gone out of your mind, like
"I'll explain it, I'll explain all to you. Don't shout! You shall
hear. Le roi de Rome. Oh, I am sad, I am melancholy!
"'Nurse, where is your tomb?'"
"Who said that, Colia?"
"I don't know, I don't know who said it. Come home at once; come
on! I'll punch Gania's head myself, if you like--only come. Oh,
where are you off to again?" The general was dragging him away
towards the door a house near. He sat down on the step, still
holding Colia by the hand.
"Bend down--bend down your ear. I'll tell you all--disgrace--bend
down, I'll tell you in your ear."
"What are you dreaming of?" said poor, frightened Colia, stooping
down towards the old man, all the same.
"Le roi de Rome," whispered the general, trembling all over.
"What? What DO you mean? What roi de Rome?"
"I-I," the general continued to whisper, clinging more and more
tightly to the boy's shoulder. "I--wish--to tell you--all--Maria-
Colia broke loose, seized his father by the shoulders, and stared
into his eyes with frenzied gaze. The old man had grown livid--
his lips were shaking, convulsions were passing over his
features. Suddenly he leant over and began to sink slowly into
"He's got a stroke!" cried Colia, loudly, realizing what was the
matter at last.
IN point of fact, Varia had rather exaggerated the certainty of
her news as to the prince's betrothal to Aglaya. Very likely,
with the perspicacity of her sex, she gave out as an accomplished
fact what she felt was pretty sure to become a fact in a few
days. Perhaps she could not resist the satisfaction of pouring
one last drop of bitterness into her brother Gania's cup, in
spite of her love for him. At all events, she had been unable to
obtain any definite news from the Epanchin girls--the most she
could get out of them being hints and surmises, and so on.
Perhaps Aglaya's sisters had merely been pumping Varia for news
while pretending to impart information; or perhaps, again, they
had been unable to resist the feminine gratification of teasing a
friend--for, after all this time, they could scarcely have helped
divining the aim of her frequent visits.
On the other hand, the prince, although he had told Lebedeff,--as
we know, that nothing had happened, and that he had nothing to
impart,--the prince may have been in error. Something strange
seemed to have happened, without anything definite having
actually happened. Varia had guessed that with her true feminine
How or why it came about that everyone at the Epanchins' became
imbued with one conviction--that something very important had
happened to Aglaya, and that her fate was in process of
settlement--it would be very difficult to explain. But no sooner
had this idea taken root, than all at once declared that they had
seen and observed it long ago; that they had remarked it at the
time of the "poor knight" joke, and even before, though they had
been unwilling to believe in such nonsense.
So said the sisters. Of course, Lizabetha Prokofievna had
foreseen it long before the rest; her "heart had been sore" for a
long while, she declared, and it was now so sore that she
appeared to be quite overwhelmed, and the very thought of the
prince became distasteful to her.
There was a question to be decided--most important, but most
difficult; so much so, that Mrs. Epanchin did not even see how to
put it into words. Would the prince do or not? Was all this good
or bad? If good (which might be the case, of course), WHY good?
If bad (which was hardly doubtful), WHEREIN, especially, bad?
Even the general, the paterfamilias, though astonished at first,
suddenly declared that, "upon his honour, he really believed he
had fancied something of the kind, after all. At first, it seemed
a new idea, and then, somehow, it looked as familiar as
possible." His wife frowned him down there. This was in the
morning; but in the evening, alone with his wife, he had given
"Well, really, you know"--(silence)--"of course, you know all
this is very strange, if true, which I cannot deny; but"--
(silence).--" But, on the other hand, if one looks things in the
face, you know--upon my honour, the prince is a rare good fellow--
and--and--and--well, his name, you know--your family name--all
this looks well, and perpetuates the name and title and all that--
which at this moment is not standing so high as it might--from
one point of view--don't you know? The world, the world is the
world, of course--and people will talk--and--and--the prince has
property, you know--if it is not very large--and then he--he--"
(Continued silence, and collapse of the general.)
Hearing these words from her husband, Lizabetha Prokofievna was
driven beside herself.
According to her opinion, the whole thing had been one huge,
fantastical, absurd, unpardonable mistake. "First of all, this
prince is an idiot, and, secondly, he is a fool--knows nothing of
the world, and has no place in it. Whom can he be shown to? Where
can you take him to? What will old Bielokonski say? We never
thought of such a husband as THAT for our Aglaya!"
Of course, the last argument was the chief one. The maternal
heart trembled with indignation to think of such an absurdity,
although in that heart there rose another voice, which said: "And
WHY is not the prince such a husband as you would have desired
for Aglaya?" It was this voice which annoyed Lizabetha
Prokofievna more than anything else.
For some reason or other, the sisters liked the idea of the
prince. They did not even consider it very strange; in a word,
they might be expected at any moment to range themselves strongly
on his side. But both of them decided to say nothing either way.
It had always been noticed in the family that the stronger Mrs.
Epanchin's opposition was to any project, the nearer she was, in
reality, to giving in.
Alexandra, however, found it difficult to keep absolute silence
on the subject. Long since holding, as she did, the post of
"confidential adviser to mamma," she was now perpetually called
in council, and asked her opinion, and especially her assistance,
in order to recollect "how on earth all this happened?" Why did
no one see it? Why did no one say anything about it? What did all
that wretched "poor knight" joke mean? Why was she, Lizabetha
Prokofievna, driven to think, and foresee, and worry for
everybody, while they all sucked their thumbs, and counted the
crows in the garden, and did nothing? At first, Alexandra had
been very careful, and had merely replied that perhaps her
father's remark was not so far out: that, in the eyes of the
world, probably the choice of the prince as a husband for one of
the Epanchin girls would be considered a very wise one. Warming
up, however, she added that the prince was by no means a fool,
and never had been; and that as to "place in the world," no one
knew what the position of a respectable person in Russia would
imply in a few years--whether it would depend on successes in the
government service, on the old system, or what.
To all this her mother replied that Alexandra was a freethinker,
and that all this was due to that "cursed woman's rights
Half an hour after this conversation, she went off to town, and
thence to the Kammenny Ostrof, ["Stone Island," a suburb and park
of St. Petersburg] to see Princess Bielokonski, who had just
arrived from Moscow on a short visit. The princess was Aglaya's
"Old Bielokonski"listened to all the fevered and despairing
lamentations of Lizabetha Prokofievna without the least emotion;
the tears of this sorrowful mother did not evoke answering sighs--
in fact, she laughed at her. She was a dreadful old despot, this
princess; she could not allow equality in anything, not even in
friendship of the oldest standing, and she insisted on treating
Mrs. Epanchin as her protegee, as she had been thirty-five years
ago. She could never put up with the independence and energy of
Lizabetha's character. She observed that, as usual, the whole
family had gone much too far ahead, and had converted a fly into
an elephant; that, so far as she had heard their story, she was
persuaded that nothing of any seriousness had occurred; that it
would surely be better to wait until something DID happen; that
the prince, in her opinion, was a very decent young fellow,
though perhaps a little eccentric, through illness, and not quite
as weighty in the world as one could wish. The worst feature was,
she said, Nastasia Philipovna.
Lizabetha Prokofievna well understood that the old lady was angry
at the failure of Evgenie Pavlovitch--her own recommendation. She
returned home to Pavlofsk in a worse humour than when she left,
and of course everybody in the house suffered. She pitched into
everyone, because, she declared, they had 'gone mad.' Why were
things always mismanaged in her house? Why had everybody been in
such a frantic hurry in this matter? So far as she could see,
nothing whatever had happened. Surely they had better wait and
see what was to happen, instead of making mountains out of
And so the conclusion of the matter was that it would be far
better to take it quietly, and wait coolly to see what would turn
up. But, alas! peace did not reign for more than ten minutes. The
first blow dealt to its power was in certain news communicated to
Lizabetha Prokofievna as to events which bad happened during her
trip to see the princess. (This trip had taken place the day
after that on which the prince had turned up at the Epanchins at
nearly one o'clock at night, thinking it was nine.)
The sisters replied candidly and fully enough to their mother's
impatient questions on her return. They said, in the first place,
that nothing particular had happened since her departure; that
the prince had been, and that Aglaya had kept him waiting a long
while before she appeared--half an hour, at least; that she had
then come in, and immediately asked the prince to have a game of
chess; that the prince did not know the game, and Aglaya had
beaten him easily; that she had been in a wonderfully merry mood,
and had laughed at the prince, and chaffed him so unmercifully
that one was quite sorry to see his wretched expression.
She had then asked him to play cards--the game called "little
fools." At this game the tables were turned completely, for the
prince had shown himself a master at it. Aglaya had cheated and
changed cards, and stolen others, in the most bare-faced way,
but, in spite of everything the prince had beaten her hopelessly
five times running, and she had been left "little fool" each
Aglaya then lost her temper, and began to say such awful things
to the prince that he laughed no more, but grew dreadfully pale,
especially when she said that she should not remain in the house
with him, and that he ought to be ashamed of coming to their
house at all, especially at night, "AFTER ALL THAT HAD HAPPENED."
So saying, she had left the room, banging the door after her, and
the prince went off, looking as though he were on his way to a
funeral, in spite of all their attempts at consolation.
Suddenly, a quarter of an hour after the prince's departure,
Aglaya had rushed out of her room in such a hurry that she had
not even wiped her eyes, which were full of tears. She came back
because Colia had brought a hedgehog. Everybody came in to see
the hedgehog. In answer to their questions Colia explained that
the hedgehog was not his, and that he had left another boy,
Kostia Lebedeff, waiting for him outside. Kostia was too shy to
come in, because he was carrying a hatchet; they had bought the
hedgehog and the hatchet from a peasant whom they had met on the
road. He had offered to sell them the hedgehog, and they had paid
fifty copecks for it; and the hatchet had so taken their fancy
that they had made up their minds to buy it of their own accord.
On hearing this, Aglaya urged Colia to sell her the hedgehog; she
even called him "dear Colia," in trying to coax him. He refused
for a long time, but at last he could hold out no more, and went
to fetch Kostia Lebedeff. The latter appeared, carrying his
hatchet, and covered with confusion. Then it came out that the
hedgehog was not theirs, but the property of a schoolmate, one
Petroff, who had given them some money to buy Schlosser's History
for him, from another schoolfellow who at that moment was driven
to raising money by the sale of his books. Colia and Kostia were
about to make this purchase for their friend when chance brought
the hedgehog to their notice, and they had succumbed to the
temptation of buying it. They were now taking Petroff the
hedgehog and hatchet which they had bought with his money,
instead of Schiosser's History. But Aglaya so entreated them that
at last they consented to sell her the hedgehog. As soon as she
had got possession of it, she put it in a wicker basket with
Colia's help, and covered it with a napkin. Then she said to
Colia: "Go and take this hedgehog to the prince from me, and ask
him to accept it as a token of my profound respect." Colia
joyfully promised to do the errand, but he demanded explanations.
"What does the hedgehog mean? What is the meaning of such a
present?" Aglaya replied that it was none of his business. " I am
sure that there is some allegory about it," Colia persisted.
Aglaya grew angry, and called him "a silly boy." "If I did not
respect all women in your person," replied Colia, "and if my own
principles would permit it, I would soon prove to you, that I
know how to answer such an insult!" But, in the end, Colia went
off with the hedgehog in great delight, followed by Kostia
Lebedeff. Aglaya's annoyance was soon over, and seeing that Colia
was swinging the hedgehog's basket violently to and fro, she
called out to him from the verandah, as if they had never
quarrelled: "Colia, dear, please take care not to drop him!"
Colia appeared to have no grudge against her, either, for he
stopped, and answered most cordially: "No, I will not drop him!
Don't be afraid, Aglaya Ivanovna!" After which he went on his
way. Aglaya burst out laughing and ran up to her room, highly
delighted. Her good spirits lasted the whole day.
All this filled poor Lizabetha's mind with chaotic confusion.
What on earth did it all mean? The most disturbing feature was
the hedgehog. What was the symbolic signification of a hedgehog?
What did they understand by it? What underlay it? Was it a
Poor General Epanchin "put his foot in it" by answering the above
questions in his own way. He said there was no cryptic message at
all. As for the hedgehog, it was just a hedgehog, which meant
nothing--unless, indeed, it was a pledge of friendship,--the sign
of forgetting of offences and so on. At all events, it was a
joke, and, of course, a most pardonable and innocent one.
We may as well remark that the general had guessed perfectly
The prince, returning home from the interview with Aglaya, had
sat gloomy and depressed for half an hour. He was almost in
despair when Colia arrived with the hedgehog.
Then the sky cleared in a moment. The prince seemed to arise from
the dead; he asked Colia all about it, made him repeat the story
over and over again, and laughed and shook hands with the boys in
It seemed clear to the prince that Aglaya forgave him, and that
he might go there again this very evening; and in his eyes that
was not only the main thing, but everything in the world.
"What children we are still, Colia!" he cried at last,
enthusiastically,--"and how delightful it is that we can be
"Simply--my dear prince,--simply she is in love with you,--that's
the whole of the secret!" replied Colia, with authority.
The prince blushed, but this time he said nothing. Colia burst
out laughing and clapped his hands. A minute later the prince
laughed too, and from this moment until the evening he looked at
his watch every other minute to see how much time he had to wait
before evening came.
But the situation was becoming rapidly critical.
Mrs. Epanchin could bear her suspense no longer, and in spite of
the opposition of husband and daughters, she sent for Aglaya,
determined to get a straightforward answer out of her, once for
"Otherwise," she observed hysterically, "I shall die before
It was only now that everyone realized to what a ridiculous dead-
lock the whole matter had been brought. Excepting feigned
surprise, indignation, laughter, and jeering--both at the prince
and at everyone who asked her questions,--nothing could be got
out of Aglaya.
Lizabetha Prokofievna went to bed and only rose again in time for
tea, when the prince might be expected.
She awaited him in trembling agitation; and when he at last
arrived she nearly went off into hysterics.
Muishkin himself came in very timidly. He seemed to feel his way,
and looked in each person's eyes in a questioning way,--for
Aglaya was absent, which fact alarmed him at once.
This evening there were no strangers present--no one but the
immediate members of the family. Prince S. was still in town,
occupied with the affairs of Evgenie Pavlovitch's uncle.
"I wish at least HE would come and say something!" complained
poor Lizabetha Prokofievna.
The general sat still with a most preoccupied air. The sisters
were looking very serious and did not speak a word, and Lizabetha
Prokofievna did not know how to commence the conversation.
At length she plunged into an energetic and hostile criticism of
railways, and glared at the prince defiantly.
Alas Aglaya still did not come--and the prince was quite lost. He
had the greatest difficulty in expressing his opinion that
railways were most useful institutions,--and in the middle of his
speech Adelaida laughed, which threw him into a still worse state
At this moment in marched Aglaya, as calm and collected as could
be. She gave the prince a ceremonious bow and solemnly took up a
prominent position near the big round table. She looked at the
All present realized that the moment for the settlement of
perplexities had arrived.
"Did you get my hedgehog?" she inquired, firmly and almost
Yes, I got it," said the prince, blushing.
"Tell us now, at once, what you made of the present? I must have
you answer this question for mother's sake; she needs pacifying,
and so do all the rest of the family!"
"Look here, Aglaya--" began the general.
"This--this is going beyond all limits!" said Lizabetha
Prokofievna, suddenly alarmed.
"It is not in the least beyond all limits, mamma!" said her
daughter, firmly. "I sent the prince a hedgehog this morning, and
I wish to hear his opinion of it. Go on, prince."
"What--what sort of opinion, Aglaya Ivanovna?"
"About the hedgehog."
"That is--I suppose you wish to know how I received the hedgehog,
Aglaya Ivanovna,--or, I should say, how I regarded your sending
him to me? In that case, I may tell you--in a word--that I--in
He paused, breathless.
"Come--you haven't told us much!" said Aglaya, after waiting some
five seconds. "Very well, I am ready to drop the hedgehog, if you
like; but I am anxious to be able to clear up this accumulation
of misunderstandings. Allow me to ask you, prince,--I wish to
hear from you, personally--are you making me an offer, or not?"
"Gracious heavens!" exclaimed Lizabetha Prokofievna. The prince
started. The general stiffened in his chair; the sisters frowned.
"Don't deceive me now, prince--tell the truth. All these people
persecute me with astounding questions--about you. Is there any
ground for all these questions, or not? Come!"
"I have not asked you to marry me yet, Aglaya Ivanovna," said the
prince, becoming suddenly animated; "but you know yourself how
much I love you and trust you."
"No--I asked you this--answer this! Do you intend to ask for my
band, or not?"
"Yes--I do ask for it!" said the prince, more dead than alive
There was a general stir in the room.
"No--no--my dear girl," began the general. "You cannot proceed
like this, Aglaya, if that's how the matter stands. It's
impossible. Prince, forgive it, my dear fellow, but--Lizabetha
Prokofievna!"--he appealed to his spouse for help--"you must
"Not I--not I! I retire from all responsibility," said Lizabetha
Prokofievna, with a wave of the hand.
"Allow me to speak, please, mamma," said Aglaya. "I think I ought
to have something to say in the matter. An important moment of my
destiny is about to be decided"--(this is how Aglaya expressed
herself)--"and I wish to find out how the matter stands, for my
own sake, though I am glad you are all here. Allow me to ask you,
prince, since you cherish those intentions, how you consider that
you will provide for my happiness?"
"I--I don't quite know how to answer your question, Aglaya
Ivanovna. What is there to say to such a question? And--and must
"I think you are rather overwhelmed and out of breath. Have a
little rest, and try to recover yourself. Take a glass of water,
or--but they'll give you some tea directly."
"I love you, Aglaya Ivanovna,--I love you very much. I love only
you--and--please don't jest about it, for I do love you very
"Well, this matter is important. We are not children--we must look
into it thoroughly. Now then, kindly tell me--what does your
fortune consist of?"
"No--Aglaya--come, enough of this, you mustn't behave like this,"
said her father, in dismay.
"It's disgraceful," said Lizabetha Prokofievna in a loud whisper.
"She's mad--quite!" said Alexandra.
"Fortune--money--do you mean?" asked the prince in some surprise.
"I have now--let's see--I have a hundred and thirty-five thousand
roubles," said the prince, blushing violently.
"Is that all, really?" said Aglaya, candidly, without the
slightest show of confusion. "However, it's not so bad,
especially if managed with economy. Do you intend to serve?"
"I--I intended to try for a certificate as private tutor."
"Very good. That would increase our income nicely. Have you any
intention of being a Kammer-junker?"
"A Kammer-junker? I had not thought of it, but--"
But here the two sisters could restrain themselves no longer, and
both of them burst into irrepressible laughter.
Adelaida had long since detected in Aglaya's features the
gathering signs of an approaching storm of laughter, which she
restrained with amazing self-control.
Aglaya looked menacingly at her laughing sisters, but could not
contain herself any longer, and the next minute she too had burst
into an irrepressible, and almost hysterical, fit of mirth. At
length she jumped up, and ran out of the room.
"I knew it was all a joke!" cried Adelaida. "I felt it ever
since--since the hedgehog."
"No, no! I cannot allow this,--this is a little too much," cried
Lizabetha Prokofievna, exploding with rage, and she rose from her
seat and followed Aglaya out of the room as quickly as she could.
The two sisters hurriedly went after her.
The prince and the general were the only two persons left in the
"It's--it's really--now could you have imagined anything like it,
Lef Nicolaievitch?" cried the general. He was evidently so much
agitated that he hardly knew what he wished to say. "Seriously
now, seriously I mean--"
"I only see that Aglaya Ivanovna is laughing at me," said the
poor prince, sadly.
"Wait a bit, my boy, I'll just go--you stay here, you know. But
do just explain, if you can, Lef Nicolaievitch, how in the world
has all this come about? And what does it all mean? You must
understand, my dear fellow; I am a father, you see, and I ought
to be allowed to understand the matter--do explain, I beg you!"
"I love Aglaya Ivanovna--she knows it,--and I think she must have
long known it."