Part 13 out of 15
The general shrugged his shoulders.
"Strange--it's strange," he said, "and you love her very much?"
"Yes, very much."
"Well--it's all most strange to me. That is--my dear fellow, it
is such a surprise--such a blow--that... You see, it is not
your financial position (though I should not object if you were a
bit richer)--I am thinking of my daughter's happiness, of course,
and the thing is--are you able to give her the happiness she
deserves? And then--is all this a joke on her part, or is she in
earnest? I don't mean on your side, but on hers."
At this moment Alexandra's voice was heard outside the door,
calling out "Papa!"
"Wait for me here, my boy--will you? Just wait and think it all
over, and I'll come back directly," he said hurriedly, and made
off with what looked like the rapidity of alarm in response to
He found the mother and daughter locked in one another's arms,
mingling their tears.
These were the tears of joy and peace and reconciliation. Aglaya
was kissing her mother's lips and cheeks and hands; they were
hugging each other in the most ardent way.
"There, look at her now--Ivan Fedorovitch! Here she is--all of
her! This is our REAL Aglaya at last!" said Lizabetha
Aglaya raised her happy, tearful face from her mother's breast,
glanced at her father, and burst out laughing. She sprang at him
and hugged him too, and kissed him over and over again. She then
rushed back to her mother and hid her face in the maternal bosom,
and there indulged in more tears. Her mother covered her with a
corner of her shawl.
"Oh, you cruel little girl! How will you treat us all next, I
wonder?" she said, but she spoke with a ring of joy in her voice,
and as though she breathed at last without the oppression which
she had felt so long.
"Cruel?" sobbed Aglaya. "Yes, I AM cruel, and worthless, and
spoiled--tell father so,--oh, here he is--I forgot Father,
listen!" She laughed through her tears.
"My darling, my little idol," cried the general, kissing and
fondling her hands (Aglaya did not draw them away); "so you love
this young man, do you?"
"No, no, no, can't BEAR him, I can't BEAR your young man!" cried
Aglaya, raising her head. "And if you dare say that ONCE more,
papa--I'm serious, you know, I'm,--do you hear me--I'm serious!"
She certainly did seem to be serious enough. She had flushed up
all over and her eyes were blazing.
The general felt troubled and remained silent, while Lizabetha
Prokofievna telegraphed to him from behind Aglaya to ask no
"If that's the case, darling--then, of course, you shall do
exactly as you like. He is waiting alone downstairs. Hadn't I
better hint to him gently that he can go?" The general
telegraphed to Lizabetha Prokofievna in his turn.
"No, no, you needn't do anything of the sort; you mustn't hint
gently at all. I'll go down myself directly. I wish to apologize
to this young man, because I hurt his feelings."
"Yes, SERIOUSLY," said the general, gravely.
"Well, you'd better stay here, all of you, for a little, and I'll
go down to him alone to begin with. I'll just go in and then you
can follow me almost at once. That's the best way."
She had almost reached the door when she turned round again.
"I shall laugh--I know I shall; I shall die of laughing," she
However, she turned and ran down to the prince as fast as her
feet could carry her.
"Well, what does it all mean? What do you make of it?" asked the
general of his spouse, hurriedly.
"I hardly dare say," said Lizabetha, as hurriedly, "but I think
it's as plain as anything can be."
"I think so too, as clear as day; she loves him."
"Loves him? She is head over ears in love, that's what she is,"
put in Alexandra.
"Well, God bless her, God bless her, if such is her destiny,"
said Lizabetha, crossing herself devoutly.
"H'm destiny it is," said the general, "and there's no getting
out of destiny."
With these words they all moved off towards the drawing-room,
where another surprise awaited them. Aglaya had not only not
laughed, as she had feared, but had gone to the prince rather
timidly, and said to him:
"Forgive a silly, horrid, spoilt girl"--(she took his hand here)--
"and be quite assured that we all of us esteem you beyond all
words. And if I dared to turn your beautiful, admirable
simplicity to ridicule, forgive me as you would a little child
its mischief. Forgive me all my absurdity of just now, which, of
course, meant nothing, and could not have the slightest
consequence." She spoke these words with great emphasis.
Her father, mother, and sisters came into the room and were much
struck with the last words, which they just caught as they
entered--"absurdity which of course meant nothing"--and still
more so with the emphasis with which Aglaya had spoken.
They exchanged glances questioningly, but the prince did not seem
to have understood the meaning of Aglaya's words; he was in the
highest heaven of delight.
"Why do you speak so?" he murmured. "Why do you ask my
He wished to add that he was unworthy of being asked for
forgiveness by her, but paused. Perhaps he did understand
Aglaya's sentence about "absurdity which meant nothing," and like
the strange fellow that he was, rejoiced in the words.
Undoubtedly the fact that he might now come and see Aglaya as
much as he pleased again was quite enough to make him perfectly
happy; that he might come and speak to her, and see her, and sit
by her, and walk with her--who knows, but that all this was quite
enough to satisfy him for the whole of his life, and that he
would desire no more to the end of time?
(Lizabetha Prokofievna felt that this might be the case, and she
didn't like it; though very probably she could not have put the
idea into words.)
It would be difficult to describe the animation and high spirits
which distinguished the prince for the rest of the evening.
He was so happy that "it made one feel happy to look at him," as
Aglaya's sisters expressed it afterwards. He talked, and told
stories just as he had done once before, and never since, namely
on the very first morning of his acquaintance with the Epanchins,
six months ago. Since his return to Petersburg from Moscow, he
had been remarkably silent, and had told Prince S. on one
occasion, before everyone, that he did not think himself
justified in degrading any thought by his unworthy words.
But this evening he did nearly all the talking himself, and told
stories by the dozen, while he answered all questions put to him
clearly, gladly, and with any amount of detail.
There was nothing, however, of love-making in his talk. His ideas
were all of the most serious kind; some were even mystical and
He aired his own views on various matters, some of his most
private opinions and observations, many of which would have
seemed rather funny, so his hearers agreed afterwards, had they
not been so well expressed.
The general liked serious subjects of conversation; but both he
and Lizabetha Prokofievna felt that they were having a little too
much of a good thing tonight, and as the evening advanced, they
both grew more or less melancholy; but towards night, the prince
fell to telling funny stories, and was always the first to burst
out laughing himself, which he invariably did so joyously and
simply that the rest laughed just as much at him as at his
As for Aglaya, she hardly said a word all the evening; but she
listened with all her ears to Lef Nicolaievitch's talk, and
scarcely took her eyes off him.
"She looked at him, and stared and stared, and hung on every word
he said," said Lizabetha afterwards, to her husband, "and yet,
tell her that she loves him, and she is furious!"
"What's to be done? It's fate," said the general, shrugging his
shoulders, and, for a long while after, he continued to repeat:
"It's fate, it's fate!"
We may add that to a business man like General Epanchin the
present position of affairs was most unsatisfactory. He hated the
uncertainty in which they had been, perforce, left. However, he
decided to say no more about it, and merely to look on, and take
his time and tune from Lizabetha Prokofievna.
The happy state in which the family had spent the evening, as
just recorded, was not of very long duration. Next day Aglaya
quarrelled with the prince again, and so she continued to behave
for the next few days. For whole hours at a time she ridiculed
and chaffed the wretched man, and made him almost a laughing-
It is true that they used to sit in the little summer-house
together for an hour or two at a time, very often, but it was
observed that on these occasions the prince would read the paper,
or some book, aloud to Aglaya.
"Do you know," Aglaya said to him once, interrupting the reading,
"I've remarked that you are dreadfully badly educated. You never
know anything thoroughly, if one asks you; neither anyone's name,
nor dates, nor about treaties and so on. It's a great pity, you
"I told you I had not had much of an education," replied the
"How am I to respect you, if that's the case? Read on now. No--
don't! Stop reading!"
And once more, that same evening, Aglaya mystified them all.
Prince S. had returned, and Aglaya was particularly amiable to
him, and asked a great deal after Evgenie Pavlovitch. (Muishkin
had not come in as yet.)
Suddenly Prince S. hinted something about "a new and approaching
change in the family." He was led to this remark by a
communication inadvertently made to him by Lizabetha Prokofievna,
that Adelaida's marriage must be postponed a little longer, in
order that the two weddings might come off together.
It is impossible to describe Aglaya's irritation. She flared up,
and said some indignant words about "all these silly
insinuations." She added that "she had no intentions as yet of
replacing anybody's mistress."
These words painfully impressed the whole party; but especially
her parents. Lizabetha Prokofievna summoned a secret council of
two, and insisted upon the general's demanding from the prince a
full explanation of his relations with Nastasia Philipovna. The
general argued that it was only a whim of Aglaya's; and that, had
not Prince S. unfortunately made that remark, which had confused
the child and made her blush, she never would have said what she
did; and that he was sure Aglaya knew well that anything she
might have heard of the prince and Nastasia Philipovna was merely
the fabrication of malicious tongues, and that the woman was
going to marry Rogojin. He insisted that the prince had nothing
whatever to do with Nastasia Philipovna, so far as any liaison
was concerned; and, if the truth were to be told about it, he
added, never had had.
Meanwhile nothing put the prince out, and he continued to be in
the seventh heaven of bliss. Of course he could not fail to
observe some impatience and ill-temper in Aglaya now and then;
but he believed in something else, and nothing could now shake
his conviction. Besides, Aglaya's frowns never lasted long; they
disappeared of themselves.
Perhaps he was too easy in his mind. So thought Hippolyte, at all
events, who met him in the park one day.
"Didn't I tell you the truth now, when I said you were in love?"
he said, coming up to Muishkin of his own accord, and stopping
The prince gave him his hand and congratulated him upon "looking
Hippolyte himself seemed to be hopeful about his state of health,
as is often the case with consumptives.
He had approached the prince with the intention of talking
sarcastically about his happy expression of face, but very soon
forgot his intention and began to talk about himself. He began
complaining about everything, disconnectedly and endlessly, as
was his wont.
"You wouldn't believe," he concluded, "how irritating they all
are there. They are such wretchedly small, vain, egotistical,
COMMONPLACE people! Would you believe it, they invited me there
under the express condition that I should die quickly, and they
are all as wild as possible with me for not having died yet, and
for being, on the contrary, a good deal better! Isn't it a
comedy? I don't mind betting that you don't believe me!"
The prince said nothing.
"I sometimes think of coming over to you again," said Hippolyte,
carelessly. "So you DON'T think them capable of inviting a man on
the condition that he is to look sharp and die?"
"I certainly thought they invited you with quite other views."
"Ho, ho! you are not nearly so simple as they try to make you
out! This is not the time for it, or I would tell you a thing or
two about that beauty, Gania, and his hopes. You are being
undermined, pitilessly undermined, and--and it is really
melancholy to see you so calm about it. But alas! it's your
nature--you can't help it!"
"My word! what a thing to be melancholy about! Why, do you think
I should be any happier if I were to feel disturbed about the
excavations you tell me of?"
"It is better to be unhappy and know the worst, than to be happy
in a fool's paradise! I suppose you don't believe that you have a
rival in that quarter?"
"Your insinuations as to rivalry are rather cynical, Hippolyte.
I'm sorry to say I have no right to answer you! As for Gania, I
put it to you, CAN any man have a happy mind after passing
through what he has had to suffer? I think that is the best way
to look at it. He will change yet, he has lots of time before
him, and life is rich; besides--besides..." the prince
hesitated. "As to being undermined, I don't know what in the
world you are driving at, Hippolyte. I think we had better drop
"Very well, we'll drop it for a while. You can't look at anything
but in your exalted, generous way. You must put out your finger
and touch a thing before you'll believe it, eh? Ha! ha! ha! I
suppose you despise me dreadfully, prince, eh? What do you
"Why? Because you have suffered more than we have?"
"No; because I am unworthy of my sufferings, if you like!"
"Whoever CAN suffer is worthy to suffer, I should think. Aglaya
Ivanovna wished to see you, after she had read your confession,
"She postponed the pleasure--I see--I quite understand!" said
Hippolyte, hurriedly, as though he wished to banish the subject.
"I hear--they tell me--that you read her all that nonsense aloud?
Stupid @ bosh it was--written in delirium. And I can't understand
how anyone can be so I won't say CRUEL, because the word would be
humiliating to myself, but we'll say childishly vain and
revengeful, as to REPROACH me with this confession, and use it as
a weapon against me. Don't be afraid, I'm not referring to
"Oh, but I'm sorry you repudiate the confession, Hippolyte--it is
sincere; and, do you know, even the absurd parts of it--and these
are many" (here Hippolyte frowned savagely) "are, as it were,
redeemed by suffering--for it must have cost you something to
admit what you there say--great torture, perhaps, for all I know.
Your motive must have been a very noble one all through. Whatever
may have appeared to the contrary, I give you my word, I see this
more plainly every day. I do not judge you; I merely say this to
have it off my mind, and I am only sorry that I did not say it
Hippolyte flushed hotly. He had thought at first that the prince
was "humbugging" him; but on looking at his face he saw that he
was absolutely serious, and had no thought of any deception.
Hippolyte beamed with gratification.
"And yet I must die," he said, and almost added: "a man like me @
"And imagine how that Gania annoys me! He has developed the idea
--or pretends to believe--that in all probability three or four
others who heard my confession will die before I do. There's an
idea for you--and all this by way of CONSOLING me! Ha! ha! ha! In
the first place they haven't died yet; and in the second, if they
DID die--all of them--what would be the satisfaction to me in
that? He judges me by himself. But he goes further, he actually
pitches into me because, as he declares, 'any decent fellow'
would die quietly, and that 'all this' is mere egotism on my
part. He doesn't see what refinement of egotism it is on his own
part--and at the same time, what ox-like coarseness! Have you
ever read of the death of one Stepan Gleboff, in the eighteenth
century? I read of it yesterday by chance."
"Who was he?"
He was impaled on a stake in the time of Peter."
"I know, I know! He lay there fifteen hours in the hard frost,
and died with the most extraordinary fortitude--I know--what of
"Only that God gives that sort of dying to some, and not to
others. Perhaps you think, though, that I could not die like
"Not at all!" said the prince, blushing. "I was only going to
say that you--not that you could not be like Gleboff--but that
you would have been more like @
"I guess what you mean--I should be an Osterman, not a Gleboff--
eh? Is that what you meant?"
"What Osterman?" asked the prince in some surprise.
"Why, Osterman--the diplomatist. Peter's Osterman," muttered
Hippolyte, confused. There was a moment's pause of mutual
Oh, no, no!" said the prince at last, "that was not what I was
going to say--oh no! I don't think you would ever have been like
Hippolyte frowned gloomily.
"I'll tell you why I draw the conclusion," explained the prince,
evidently desirous of clearing up the matter a little. "Because,
though I often think over the men of those times, I cannot for
the life of me imagine them to be like ourselves. It really
appears to me that they were of another race altogether than
ourselves of today. At that time people seemed to stick so to
one idea; now, they are more nervous, more sensitive, more
enlightened--people of two or three ideas at once--as it were.
The man of today is a broader man, so to speak--and I declare I
believe that is what prevents him from being so self-contained
and independent a being as his brother of those earlier days. Of
course my remark was only made under this impression, and not in
the least @
"I quite understand. You are trying to comfort me for the
naiveness with which you disagreed with me--eh? Ha! ha! ha! You
are a regular child, prince! However, I cannot help seeing that
you always treat me like--like a fragile china cup. Never mind,
never mind, I'm not a bit angry! At all events we have had a very
funny talk. Do you know, all things considered, I should like to
be something better than Osterman! I wouldn't take the trouble to
rise from the dead to be an Osterman. However, I see I must make
arrangements to die soon, or I myself--. Well--leave me now! Au
revoir. Look here--before you go, just give me your opinion: how
do you think I ought to die, now? I mean--the best, the most
virtuous way? Tell me!"
"You should pass us by and forgive us our happiness," said the
prince in a low voice.
"Ha! ha! ha! I thought so. I thought I should hear something like
that. Well, you are--you really are--oh dear me! Eloquence,
As to the evening party at the Epanchins' at which Princess
Bielokonski was to be present, Varia had reported with accuracy;
though she had perhaps expressed herself too strongly.
The thing was decided in a hurry and with a certain amount of
quite unnecessary excitement, doubtless because "nothing could be
done in this house like anywhere else."
The impatience of Lizabetha Prokofievna "to get things settled"
explained a good deal, as well as the anxiety of both parents for
the happiness of their beloved daughter. Besides, Princess
Bielokonski was going away soon, and they hoped that she would
take an interest in the prince. They were anxious that he should
enter society under the auspices of this lady, whose patronage
was the best of recommendations for any young man.
Even if there seems something strange about the match, the
general and his wife said to each other, the "world" will accept
Aglaya's fiance without any question if he is under the patronage
of the princess. In any case, the prince would have to be "shown"
sooner or later; that is, introduced into society, of which he
had, so far, not the least idea. Moreover, it was only a question
of a small gathering of a few intimate friends. Besides Princess
Bielokonski, only one other lady was expected, the wife of a high
dignitary. Evgenie Pavlovitch, who was to escort the princess,
was the only young man.
Muishkin was told of the princess's visit three days beforehand,
but nothing was said to him about the party until the night
before it was to take place.
He could not help observing the excited and agitated condition of
all members of the family, and from certain hints dropped in
conversation he gathered that they were all anxious as to the
impression he should make upon the princess. But the Epanchins,
one and all, believed that Muishkin, in his simplicity of mind,
was quite incapable of realizing that they could be feeling any
anxiety on his account, and for this reason they all looked at
him with dread and uneasiness.
In point of fact, he did attach marvellously little importance to
the approaching event. He was occupied with altogether different
thoughts. Aglaya was growing hourly more capricious and gloomy,
and this distressed him. When they told him that Evgenie
Pavlovitch was expected, he evinced great delight, and said that
he had long wished to see him--and somehow these words did not
Aglaya left the room in a fit of irritation, and it was not until
late in the evening, past eleven, when the prince was taking his
departure, that she said a word or two to him, privately, as she
accompanied him as far as the front door.
"I should like you," she said, "not to come here tomorrow until
evening, when the guests are all assembled. You know there are to
be guests, don't you?"
She spoke impatiently and with severity; this was the first
allusion she had made to the party of tomorrow.
She hated the idea of it, everyone saw that; and she would
probably have liked to quarrel about it with her parents, but
pride and modesty prevented her from broaching the subject.
The prince jumped to the conclusion that Aglaya, too, was nervous
about him, and the impression he would make, and that she did not
like to admit her anxiety; and this thought alarmed him.
"Yes, I am invited," he replied.
She was evidently in difficulties as to how best to go on. "May I
speak of something serious to you, for once in my life?" she
asked, angrily. She was irritated at she knew not what, and could
not restrain her wrath.
"Of course you may; I am very glad to listen," replied Muishkin.
Aglaya was silent a moment and then began again with evident
dislike of her subject:
"I do not wish to quarrel with them about this; in some things
they won't be reasonable. I always did feel a loathing for the
laws which seem to guide mamma's conduct at times. I don't speak
of father, for he cannot be expected to be anything but what he
is. Mother is a noble-minded woman, I know; you try to suggest
anything mean to her, and you'll see! But she is such a slave to
these miserable creatures! I don't mean old Bielokonski alone.
She is a contemptible old thing, but she is able to twist people
round her little finger, and I admire that in her, at all events!
How mean it all is, and how foolish! We were always middle-class,
thoroughly middle-class, people. Why should we attempt to climb
into the giddy heights of the fashionable world? My sisters are
all for it. It's Prince S. they have to thank for poisoning their
minds. Why are you so glad that Evgenie Pavlovitch is coming?"
"Listen to me, Aglaya," said the prince, "I do believe you are
nervous lest I shall make a fool of myself tomorrow at your
"Nervous about you?" Aglaya blushed. "Why should I be nervous
about you? What would it matter to me if you were to make ever
such a fool of yourself? How can you say such a thing? What do
you mean by 'making a fool of yourself'? What a vulgar
expression! I suppose you intend to talk in that sort of way
tomorrow evening? Look up a few more such expressions in your
dictionary; do, you'll make a grand effect! I'm sorry that you
seem to be able to come into a room as gracefully as you do;
where did you learn the art? Do you think you can drink a cup of
tea decently, when you know everybody is looking at you, on
purpose to see how you do it?"
"Yes, I think I can."
"Can you? I'm sorry for it then, for I should have had a good
laugh at you otherwise. Do break SOMETHING at least, in the
drawing-room! Upset the Chinese vase, won't you? It's a valuable
one; DO break it. Mamma values it, and she'll go out of her
mind--it was a present. She'll cry before everyone, you'll see! Wave
your hand about, you know, as you always do, and just smash it.
Sit down near it on purpose."
"On the contrary, I shall sit as far from it as I can. Thanks for
"Ha, ha! Then you are afraid you WILL wave your arms about! I
wouldn't mind betting that you'll talk about some lofty subject,
something serious and learned. How delightful, how tactful that
"I should think it would be very foolish indeed, unless it
happened to come in appropriately."
"Look here, once for all," cried Aglaya, boiling over, "if I hear
you talking about capital punishment, or the economical condition
of Russia, or about Beauty redeeming the world, or anything of
that sort, I'll--well, of course I shall laugh and seem very
pleased, but I warn you beforehand, don't look me in the face
again! I'm serious now, mind, this time I AM REALLY serious." She
certainly did say this very seriously, so much so, that she
looked quite different from what she usually was, and the prince
could not help noticing the fact. She did not seem to be joking
in the slightest degree.
"Well, you've put me into such a fright that I shall certainly
make a fool of myself, and very likely break something too. I
wasn't a bit alarmed before, but now I'm as nervous as can be."
"Then don't speak at all. Sit still and don't talk."
"Oh, I can't do that, you know! I shall say something foolish out
of pure 'funk,' and break something for the same excellent
reason; I know I shall. Perhaps I shall slip and fall on the
slippery floor; I've done that before now, you know. I shall
dream of it all night now. Why did you say anything about it?"
Aglaya looked blackly at him.
"Do you know what, I had better not come at all tomorrow! I'll
plead sick-list and stay away," said the prince, with decision.
Aglaya stamped her foot, and grew quite pale with anger.
Oh, my goodness! Just listen to that! 'Better not come,' when the
party is on purpose for him! Good Lord! What a delightful thing
it is to have to do with such a--such a stupid as you are!"
"Well, I'll come, I'll come," interrupted the prince, hastily,
"and I'll give you my word of honour that I will sit the whole
evening and not say a word."
"I believe that's the best thing you can do. You said you'd
'plead sick-list' just now; where in the world do you get hold of
such expressions? Why do you talk to me like this? Are you trying
to irritate me, or what?"
"Forgive me, it's a schoolboy expression. I won't do it again. I
know quite well, I see it, that you are anxious on my account
(now, don't be angry), and it makes me very happy to see it. You
wouldn't believe how frightened I am of misbehaving somehow, and
how glad I am of your instructions. But all this panic is simply
nonsense, you know, Aglaya! I give you my word it is; I am so
pleased that you are such a child, such a dear good child. How
CHARMING you can be if you like, Aglaya."
Aglaya wanted to be angry, of course, but suddenly some quite
unexpected feeling seized upon her heart, all in a moment.
"And you won't reproach me for all these rude words of mine--some
day--afterwards?" she asked, of a sudden.
"What an idea! Of course not. And what are you blushing for
again? And there comes that frown once more! You've taken to
looking too gloomy sometimes, Aglaya, much more than you used to.
I know why it is."
"Be quiet, do be quiet!"
"No, no, I had much better speak out. I have long wished to say
it, and HAVE said it, but that's not enough, for you didn't
believe me. Between us two there stands a being who--"
"Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet, be quiet!" Aglaya struck in,
suddenly, seizing his hand in hers, and gazing at him almost in
At this moment she was called by someone. She broke loose from
him with an air of relief and ran away.
The prince was in a fever all night. It was strange, but he had
suffered from fever for several nights in succession. On this
particular night, while in semi-delirium, he had an idea: what if
on the morrow he were to have a fit before everybody? The thought
seemed to freeze his blood within him. All night he fancied
himself in some extraordinary society of strange persons. The
worst of it was that he was talking nonsense; he knew that he
ought not to speak at all, and yet he talked the whole time; he
seemed to be trying to persuade them all to something. Evgenie
and Hippolyte were among the guests, and appeared to be great
He awoke towards nine o'clock with a headache, full of confused
ideas and strange impressions. For some reason or other he felt
most anxious to see Rogojin, to see and talk to him, but what he
wished to say he could not tell. Next, he determined to go and
see Hippolyte. His mind was in a confused state, so much so that
the incidents of the morning seemed to be imperfectly realized,
though acutely felt.
One of these incidents was a visit from Lebedeff. Lebedeff came
rather early--before ten--but he was tipsy already. Though the
prince was not in an observant condition, yet he could not avoid
seeing that for at least three days--ever since General Ivolgin
had left the house Lebedeff had been behaving very badly. He
looked untidy and dirty at all times of the day, and it was said
that he had begun to rage about in his own house, and that his
temper was very bad. As soon as he arrived this morning, he began
to hold forth, beating his breast and apparently blaming himself
"I've--I've had a reward for my meanness--I've had a slap in the
face," he concluded, tragically.
"A slap in the face? From whom? And so early in the morning?"
"Early?" said Lebedeff, sarcastically. "Time counts for nothing,
even in physical chastisement; but my slap in the face was not
physical, it was moral."
He suddenly took a seat, very unceremoniously, and began his
story. It was very disconnected; the prince frowned, and wished
he could get away; but suddenly a few words struck him. He sat
stiff with wonder--Lebedeff said some extraordinary things.
In the first place he began about some letter; the name of Aglaya
Ivanovna came in. Then suddenly he broke off and began to accuse
the prince of something; he was apparently offended with him. At
first he declared that the prince had trusted him with his
confidences as to "a certain person" (Nastasia Philipovna), but
that of late his friendship had been thrust back into his bosom,
and his innocent question as to "approaching family changes" had
been curtly put aside, which Lebedeff declared, with tipsy tears,
he could not bear; especially as he knew so much already both
from Rogojin and Nastasia Philipovna and her friend, and from
Varvara Ardalionovna, and even from Aglaya Ivanovna, through his
daughter Vera. "And who told Lizabetha Prokofievna something in
secret, by letter? Who told her all about the movements of a
certain person called Nastasia Philipovna? Who was the anonymous
person, eh? Tell me!"
"Surely not you?" cried the prince.
"Just so," said Lebedeff, with dignity; "and only this very
morning I have sent up a letter to the noble lady, stating that I
have a matter of great importance to communicate. She received
the letter; I know she got it; and she received ME, too."
"Have you just seen Lizabetha Prokofievna?" asked the prince,
scarcely believing his ears.
"Yes, I saw her, and got the said slap in the face as mentioned.
She chucked the letter back to me unopened, and kicked me out of
the house, morally, not physically, although not far off it."
"What letter do you mean she returned unopened?"
"What! didn't I tell you? Ha, ha, ha! I thought I had. Why, I
received a letter, you know, to be handed over--"From whom? To
But it was difficult, if not impossible, to extract anything from
Lebedeff. All the prince could gather was, that the letter had
been received very early, and had a request written on the
outside that it might be sent on to the address given.
"Just as before, sir, just as before! To a certain person, and
from a certain hand. The individual's name who wrote the letter
is to be represented by the letter A.--"
"What? Impossible! To Nastasia Philipovna? Nonsense!" cried the
"It was, I assure you, and if not to her then to Rogojin, which
is the same thing. Mr. Hippolyte has had letters, too, and all
from the individual whose name begins with an A.," smirked
Lebedeff, with a hideous grin.
As he kept jumping from subject to subject, and forgetting what
he had begun to talk about, the prince said nothing, but waited,
to give him time.
It was all very vague. Who had taken the letters, if letters
there were? Probably Vera--and how could Lebedeff have got them?
In all probability, he had managed to steal the present letter
from Vera, and had himself gone over to Lizabetha Prokofievna
with some idea in his head. So the prince concluded at last.
"You are mad!" he cried, indignantly.
"Not quite, esteemed prince," replied Lebedeff, with some
acerbity. "I confess I thought of doing you the service of
handing the letter over to yourself, but I decided that it would
pay me better to deliver it up to the noble lady aforesaid, as I
had informed her of everything hitherto by anonymous letters; so
when I sent her up a note from myself, with the letter, you know,
in order to fix a meeting for eight o'clock this morning, I
signed it 'your secret correspondent.' They let me in at once--
very quickly--by the back door, and the noble lady received me."
"Well? Go on."
"Oh, well, when I saw her she almost punched my head, as I say;
in fact so nearly that one might almost say she did punch my
head. She threw the letter in my face; she seemed to reflect
first, as if she would have liked to keep it, but thought better
of it and threw it in my face instead. 'If anybody can have been
such a fool as to trust a man like you to deliver the letter,'
says she,' take it and deliver it! 'Hey! she was grandly
indignant. A fierce, fiery lady that, sir!"
"Where's the letter now?"
"Oh, I've still got it, here!"
And he handed the prince the very letter from Aglaya to Gania,
which the latter showed with so much triumph to his Sister at a
"This letter cannot be allowed to remain in your hands."
"It's for you--for you! I've brought it you on purpose!" cried
Lebedeff, excitedly. "Why, I'm yours again now, heart and hand,
your slave; there was but a momentary pause in the flow of my
love and esteem for you. Mea culpa, mea culpa! as the Pope of
"This letter should be sent on at once," said the prince,
disturbed. "I'll hand it over myself."
"Wouldn't it be better, esteemed prince, wouldn't it be better--
to--don't you know--"
Lebedeff made a strange and very expressive grimace; he twisted
about in his chair, and did something, apparently symbolical,
with his hands.
"What do you mean?" said the prince.
"Why, open it, for the time being, don't you know?" he said, most
confidentially and mysteriously.
The prince jumped up so furiously that Lebedeff ran towards the
door; having gained which strategic position, however, he stopped
and looked back to see if he might hope for pardon.
"Oh, Lebedeff, Lebedeff! Can a man really sink to such depths of
meanness?" said the prince, sadly.
Lebedeff's face brightened.
"Oh, I'm a mean wretch--a mean wretch!" he said, approaching the
prince once more, and beating his breast, with tears in his eyes.
"It's abominable dishonesty, you know!"
"Dishonesty--it is, it is! That's the very word!"
"What in the world induces you to act so? You are nothing but a
spy. Why did you write anonymously to worry so noble and generous
a lady? Why should not Aglaya Ivanovna write a note to whomever
she pleases? What did you mean to complain of today? What did
you expect to get by it? What made you go at all?"
"Pure amiable curiosity,--I assure you--desire to do a service.
That's all. Now I'm entirely yours again, your slave; hang me if
"Did you go before Lizabetha Prokofievna in your present
condition?" inquired the prince.
"No--oh no, fresher--more the correct card. I only became this
like after the humiliation I suffered there,
"Well--that'll do; now leave me."
This injunction had to be repeated several times before the man
could be persuaded to move. Even then he turned back at the door,
came as far as the middle of the room, and there went through his
mysterious motions designed to convey the suggestion that the
prince should open the letter. He did not dare put his suggestion
into words again.
After this performance, he smiled sweetly and left the room on
All this had been very painful to listen to. One fact stood out
certain and clear, and that was that poor Aglaya must be in a
state of great distress and indecision and mental torment ("from
jealousy," the prince whispered to himself). Undoubtedly in this
inexperienced, but hot and proud little head, there were all
sorts of plans forming, wild and impossible plans, maybe; and the
idea of this so frightened the prince that he could not make up
his mind what to do. Something must be done, that was clear.
He looked at the address on the letter once more. Oh, he was not
in the least degree alarmed about Aglaya writing such a letter;
he could trust her. What he did not like about it was that he
could not trust Gania.
However, he made up his mind that he would himself take the note
and deliver it. Indeed, he went so far as to leave the house and
walk up the road, but changed his mind when he had nearly reached
Ptitsin's door. However, he there luckily met Colia, and
commissioned him to deliver the letter to his brother as if
direct from Aglaya. Colia asked no questions but simply delivered
it, and Gania consequently had no suspicion that it had passed
through so many hands.
Arrived home again, the prince sent for Vera Lebedeff and told
her as much as was necessary, in order to relieve her mind, for
she had been in a dreadful state of anxiety since she had missed
the letter. She heard with horror that her father had taken it.
Muishkin learned from her that she had on several occasions
performed secret missions both for Aglaya and for Rogojin,
without, however, having had the slightest idea that in so doing
she might injure the prince in any way.
The latter, with one thing and another, was now so disturbed and
confused, that when, a couple of hours or so later, a message
came from Colia that the general was ill, he could hardly take
the news in.
However, when he did master the fact, it acted upon him as a
tonic by completely distracting his attention. He went at once to
Nina Alexandrovna's, whither the general had been carried, and
stayed there until the evening. He could do no good, but there
are people whom to have near one is a blessing at such times.
Colia was in an almost hysterical state; he cried continuously,
but was running about all day, all the same; fetching doctors, of
whom he collected three; going to the chemist's, and so on.
The general was brought round to some extent, but the doctors
declared that he could not be said to be out of danger. Varia and
Nina Alexandrovna never left the sick man's bedside; Gania was
excited and distressed, but would not go upstairs, and seemed
afraid to look at the patient. He wrung his hands when the prince
spoke to him, and said that "such a misfortune at such a moment"
The prince thought he knew what Gania meant by "such a moment."
Hippolyte was not in the house. Lebedeff turned up late in the
afternoon; he had been asleep ever since his interview with the
prince in the morning. He was quite sober now, and cried with
real sincerity over the sick general--mourning for him as though
he were his own brother. He blamed himself aloud, but did not
explain why. He repeated over and over again to Nina Alexandrovna
that he alone was to blame--no one else--but that he had acted
out of "pure amiable curiosity," and that "the deceased," as he
insisted upon calling the still living general, had been the
greatest of geniuses.
He laid much stress on the genius of the sufferer, as if this
idea must be one of immense solace in the present crisis.
Nina Alexandrovna--seeing his sincerity of feeling--said at last,
and without the faintest suspicion of reproach in her voice:
"Come, come--don't cry! God will forgive you!"
Lebedeff was so impressed by these words, and the tone in which
they were spoken, that he could not leave Nina Alexandrovna all
the evening--in fact, for several days. Till the general's death,
indeed, he spent almost all his time at his side.
Twice during the day a messenger came to Nina Alexandrovna from
the Epanchins to inquire after the invalid.
When--late in the evening--the prince made his appearance in
Lizabetha Prokofievna's drawing-room, he found it full of guests.
Mrs. Epanchin questioned him very fully about the general as soon
as he appeared; and when old Princess Bielokonski wished to know
"who this general was, and who was Nina Alexandrovna," she
proceeded to explain in a manner which pleased the prince very
He himself, when relating the circumstances of the general's
illness to Lizabetha Prokofievna, "spoke beautifully," as
Aglaya's sisters declared afterwards--"modestly, quietly, without
gestures or too many words, and with great dignity." He had
entered the room with propriety and grace, and he was perfectly
dressed; he not only did not "fall down on the slippery floor,"
as he had expressed it, but evidently made a very favourable
impression upon the assembled guests.
As for his own impression on entering the room and taking his
seat, he instantly remarked that the company was not in the least
such as Aglaya's words had led him to fear, and as he had dreamed
of--in nightmare form--all night.
This was the first time in his life that he had seen a little
corner of what was generally known by the terrible name of
"society." He had long thirsted, for reasons of his own, to
penetrate the mysteries of the magic circle, and, therefore, this
assemblage was of the greatest possible interest to him.
His first impression was one of fascination. Somehow or other he
felt that all these people must have been born on purpose to be
together! It seemed to him that the Epanchins were not having a
party at all; that these people must have been here always, and
that he himself was one of them--returned among them after a long
absence, but one of them, naturally and indisputably.
It never struck him that all this refined simplicity and nobility
and wit and personal dignity might possibly be no more than an
exquisite artistic polish. The majority of the guests--who were
somewhat empty-headed, after all, in spite of their aristocratic
bearing--never guessed, in their self-satisfied composure, that
much of their superiority was mere veneer, which indeed they had
adopted unconsciously and by inheritance.
The prince would never so much as suspect such a thing in the
delight of his first impression.
He saw, for instance, that one important dignitary, old enough to
be his grandfather, broke off his own conversation in order to
listen to HIM--a young and inexperienced man; and not only
listened, but seemed to attach value to his opinion, and was kind
and amiable, and yet they were strangers and had never seen each
other before. Perhaps what most appealed to the prince's
impressionability was the refinement of the old man's courtesy
towards him. Perhaps the soil of his susceptible nature was
really predisposed to receive a pleasant impression.
Meanwhile all these people-though friends of the family and of
each other to a certain extent--were very far from being such
intimate friends of the family and of each other as the prince
concluded. There were some present who never would think of
considering the Epanchins their equals. There were even some who
hated one another cordially. For instance, old Princess
Bielokonski had all her life despised the wife of the
"dignitary," while the latter was very far from loving Lizabetha
Prokofievna. The dignitary himself had been General Epanchin's
protector from his youth up; and the general considered him so
majestic a personage that he would have felt a hearty contempt
for himself if he had even for one moment allowed himself to pose
as the great man's equal, or to think of him--in his fear and
reverence-as anything less than an Olympic God! There were others
present who had not met for years, and who had no feeling
whatever for each other, unless it were dislike; and yet they met
tonight as though they had seen each other but yesterday in some
friendly and intimate assembly of kindred spirits.
It was not a large party, however. Besides Princess Bielokonski
and the old dignitary (who was really a great man) and his wife,
there was an old military general--a count or baron with a German
name, a man reputed to possess great knowledge and administrative
ability. He was one of those Olympian administrators who know
everything except Russia, pronounce a word of extraordinary
wisdom, admired by all, about once in five years, and, after
being an eternity in the service, generally die full of honour
and riches, though they have never done anything great, and have
even been hostile to all greatness. This general was Ivan
Fedorovitch's immediate superior in the service; and it pleased
the latter to look upon him also as a patron. On the other hand,
the great man did not at all consider himself Epanchin's patron.
He was always very cool to him, while taking advantage of his
ready services, and would instantly have put another in his place
if there had been the slightest reason for the change.
Another guest was an elderly, important-looking gentleman, a
distant relative of Lizabetha Prokofievna's. This gentleman was
rich, held a good position, was a great talker, and had the
reputation of being "one of the dissatisfied," though not
belonging to the dangerous sections of that class. He had the
manners, to some extent, of the English aristocracy, and some of
their tastes (especially in the matter of under-done roast beef,
harness, men-servants, etc.). He was a great friend of the
dignitary's, and Lizabetha Prokofievna, for some reason or other,
had got hold of the idea that this worthy intended at no distant
date to offer the advantages of his hand and heart to Alexandra.
Besides the elevated and more solid individuals enumerated, there
were present a few younger though not less elegant guests.
Besides Prince S. and Evgenie Pavlovitch, we must name the
eminent and fascinating Prince N.--once the vanquisher of female
hearts all over Europe. This gentleman was no longer in the first
bloom of youth--he was forty-five, but still very handsome. He
was well off, and lived, as a rule, abroad, and was noted as a
good teller of stories. Then came a few guests belonging to a
lower stratum of society--people who, like the Epanchins
themselves, moved only occasionally in this exalted sphere. The
Epanchins liked to draft among their more elevated guests a few
picked representatives of this lower stratum, and Lizabetha
Prokofievna received much praise for this practice, which proved,
her friends said, that she was a woman of tact. The Epanchins
prided themselves upon the good opinion people held of them.
One of the representatives of the middle-class present today was
a colonel of engineers, a very serious man and a great friend of
Prince S., who had introduced him to the Epanchins. He was
extremely silent in society, and displayed on the forefinger of
his right hand a large ring, probably bestowed upon him for
services of some sort. There was also a poet, German by name, but
a Russian poet; very presentable, and even handsome-the sort of
man one could bring into society with impunity. This gentleman
belonged to a German family of decidedly bourgeois origin, but he
had a knack of acquiring the patronage of "big-wigs," and of
retaining their favour. He had translated some great German poem
into Russian verse, and claimed to have been a friend of a famous
Russian poet, since dead. (It is strange how great a multitude of
literary people there are who have had the advantages of
friendship with some great man of their own profession who is,
unfortunately, dead.) The dignitary's wife had introduced this
worthy to the Epanchins. This lady posed as the patroness of
literary people, and she certainly had succeeded in obtaining
pensions for a few of them, thanks to her influence with those in
authority on such matters. She was a lady of weight in her own
way. Her age was about forty-five, so that she was a very young
wife for such an elderly husband as the dignitary. She had been a
beauty in her day and still loved, as many ladies of forty-five
do love, to dress a little too smartly. Her intellect was nothing
to boast of, and her literary knowledge very doubtful. Literary
patronage was, however, with her as much a mania as was the love
of gorgeous clothes. Many books and translations were dedicated
to her by her proteges, and a few of these talented individuals
had published some of their own letters to her, upon very weighty
This, then, was the society that the prince accepted at once as
true coin, as pure gold without alloy.
It so happened, however, that on this particular evening all
these good people were in excellent humour and highly pleased
with themselves. Every one of them felt that they were doing the
Epanchins the greatest possible honour by their presence. But
alas! the prince never suspected any such subtleties! For
instance, he had no suspicion of the fact that the Epanchins,
having in their mind so important a step as the marriage of their
daughter, would never think of presuming to take it without
having previously "shown off" the proposed husband to the
dignitary--the recognized patron of the family. The latter, too,
though he would probably have received news of a great disaster
to the Epanchin family with perfect composure, would nevertheless
have considered it a personal offence if they had dared to marry
their daughter without his advice, or we might almost say, his
The amiable and undoubtedly witty Prince N. could not but feel
that he was as a sun, risen for one night only to shine upon the
Epanchin drawing-room. He accounted them immeasurably his
inferiors, and it was this feeling which caused his special
amiability and delightful ease and grace towards them. He knew
very well that he must tell some story this evening for the
edification of the company, and led up to it with the inspiration
of anticipatory triumph.
The prince, when he heard the story afterwards, felt that he had
never yet come across so wonderful a humorist, or such remarkable
brilliancy as was shown by this man; and yet if he had only known
it, this story was the oldest, stalest, and most worn-out yarn,
and every drawing-room in town was sick to death of it. It was
only in the innocent Epanchin household that it passed for a new
and brilliant tale--as a sudden and striking reminiscence of a
splendid and talented man.
Even the German poet, though as amiable as possible, felt that he
was doing the house the greatest of honours by his presence in
But the prince only looked at the bright side; he did not turn
the coat and see the shabby lining.
Aglaya had not foreseen that particular calamity. She herself
looked wonderfully beautiful this evening. All three sisters were
dressed very tastefully, and their hair was done with special
Aglaya sat next to Evgenie Pavlovitch, and laughed and talked to
him with an unusual display of friendliness. Evgenie himself
behaved rather more sedately than usual, probably out of respect
to the dignitary. Evgenie had been known in society for a long
while. He had appeared at the Epanchins' today with crape on his
hat, and Princess Bielokonski had commended this action on his
part. Not every society man would have worn crape for "such an
uncle." Lizabetha Prokofievna had liked it also, but was too
preoccupied to take much notice. The prince remarked that Aglaya
looked attentively at him two or three times, and seemed to be
satisfied with his behaviour.
Little by little he became very happy indeed. All his late
anxieties and apprehensions (after his conversation with
Lebedeff) now appeared like so many bad dreams--impossible, and
He did not speak much, only answering such questions as were put
to him, and gradually settled down into unbroken silence,
listening to what went on, and steeped in perfect satisfaction
Little by little a sort of inspiration, however, began to stir
within him, ready to spring into life at the right moment. When
he did begin to speak, it was accidentally, in response to a
question, and apparently without any special object.
WHILE he feasted his eyes upon Aglaya, as she talked merrily with
Evgenie and Prince N., suddenly the old anglomaniac, who was
talking to the dignitary in another corner of the room,
apparently telling him a story about something or other--suddenly
this gentleman pronounced the name of "Nicolai Andreevitch
Pavlicheff" aloud. The prince quickly turned towards him, and
The conversation had been on the subject of land, and the present
disorders, and there must have been something amusing said, for
the old man had begun to laugh at his companion's heated
The latter was describing in eloquent words how, in consequence
of recent legislation, he was obliged to sell a beautiful estate
in the N. province, not because he wanted ready money--in
fact, he was obliged to sell it at half its value. "To avoid
another lawsuit about the Pavlicheff estate, I ran away," he
said. "With a few more inheritances of that kind I should soon be
At this point General Epanchin, noticing how interested Muishkin
had become in the conversation, said to him, in a low tone:
"That gentleman--Ivan Petrovitch--is a relation of your late
friend, Mr. Pavlicheff. You wanted to find some of his relations,
did you not?"
The general, who had been talking to his chief up to this moment,
had observed the prince's solitude and silence, and was anxious
to draw him into the conversation, and so introduce him again to
the notice of some of the important personages.
"Lef Nicolaievitch was a ward of Nicolai Andreevitch Pavlicheff,
after the death of his own parents," he remarked, meeting Ivan
"Very happy to meet him, I'm sure," remarked the latter. "I
remember Lef Nicolaievitch well. When General Epanchin introduced
us just now, I recognized you at once, prince. You are very
little changed, though I saw you last as a child of some ten or
eleven years old. There was something in your features, I
"You saw me as a child!" exclaimed the prince, with surprise.
"Oh! yes, long ago," continued Ivan Petrovitch, "while you were
living with my cousin at Zlatoverhoff. You don't remember me? No,
I dare say you don't; you had some malady at the time, I
remember. It was so serious that I was surprised--"
"No; I remember nothing!" said the prince. A few more words of
explanation followed, words which were spoken without the
smallest excitement by his companion, but which evoked the
greatest agitation in the prince; and it was discovered that two
old ladies to whose care the prince had been left by Pavlicheff,
and who lived at Zlatoverhoff, were also relations of Ivan
The latter had no idea and could give no information as to why
Pavlicheff had taken so great an interest in the little prince,
"In point of fact I don't think I thought much about it," said
the old fellow. He seemed to have a wonderfully good memory,
however, for he told the prince all about the two old ladies,
Pavlicheff's cousins, who had taken care of him, and whom, he
declared, he had taken to task for being too severe with the
prince as a small sickly boy--the elder sister, at least; the
younger had been kind, he recollected. They both now lived in
another province, on a small estate left to them by Pavlicheff.
The prince listened to all this with eyes sparkling with emotion
He declared with unusual warmth that he would never forgive
himself for having travelled about in the central provinces
during these last six months without having hunted up his two old
He declared, further, that he had intended to go every day, but
had always been prevented by circumstances; but that now he would
promise himself the pleasure--however far it was, he would find
them out. And so Ivan Petrovitch REALLY knew Natalia Nikitishna!-
-what a saintly nature was hers!--and Martha Nikitishna! Ivan
Petrovitch must excuse him, but really he was not quite fair on
dear old Martha. She was severe, perhaps; but then what else
could she be with such a little idiot as he was then? (Ha, ha.)
He really was an idiot then, Ivan Petrovitch must know, though he
might not believe it. (Ha, ha.) So he had really seen him there!
Good heavens! And was he really and truly and actually a cousin
"I assure you of it," laughed Ivan Petrovitch, gazing amusedly at
"Oh! I didn't say it because I DOUBT the fact, you know. (Ha,
ha.) How could I doubt such a thing? (Ha, ha, ha.) I made the
remark because--because Nicolai Andreevitch Pavlicheff was such a
splendid man, don't you see! Such a high-souled man, he really
was, I assure you."
The prince did not exactly pant for breath, but he "seemed almost
to CHOKE out of pure simplicity and goodness of heart," as
Adelaida expressed it, on talking the party over with her fiance,
the Prince S., next morning.
"But, my goodness me," laughed Ivan Petrovitch, "why can't I be
cousin to even a splendid man?"
"Oh, dear!" cried the prince, confused, trying to hurry his words
out, and growing more and more eager every moment: "I've gone and
said another stupid thing. I don't know what to say. I--I didn't
mean that, you know--I--I--he really was such a splendid man,
The prince trembled all over. Why was he so agitated? Why had he
flown into such transports of delight without any apparent
reason? He had far outshot the measure of joy and emotion
consistent with the occasion. Why this was it would be difficult
He seemed to feel warmly and deeply grateful to someone for
something or other--perhaps to Ivan Petrovitch; but likely enough
to all the guests, individually, and collectively. He was much
Ivan Petrovitch began to stare at him with some surprise; the
dignitary, too, looked at him with considerable attention;
Princess Bielokonski glared at him angrily, and compressed her
lips. Prince N., Evgenie, Prince S., and the girls, all broke off
their own conversations and listened. Aglaya seemed a little
startled; as for Lizabetha Prokofievna, her heart sank within
This was odd of Lizabetha Prokofievna and her daughters. They had
themselves decided that it would be better if the prince did not
talk all the evening. Yet seeing him sitting silent and alone,
but perfectly happy, they had been on the point of exerting
themselves to draw him into one of the groups of talkers around
the room. Now that he was in the midst of a talk they became more
than ever anxious and perturbed.
"That he was a splendid man is perfectly true; you are quite
right," repeated Ivan Petrovitch, but seriously this time. "He
was a fine and a worthy fellow--worthy, one may say, of the
highest respect," he added, more and more seriously at each
pause; " and it is agreeable to see, on your part, such--"
"Wasn't it this same Pavlicheff about whom there was a strange
story in connection with some abbot? I don't remember who the
abbot was, but I remember at one time everybody was talking about
it," remarked the old dignitary.
"Yes--Abbot Gurot, a Jesuit," said Ivan Petrovitch. "Yes, that's
the sort of thing our best men are apt to do. A man of rank, too,
and rich--a man who, if he had continued to serve, might have
done anything; and then to throw up the service and everything
else in order to go over to Roman Catholicism and turn Jesuit--
openly, too--almost triumphantly. By Jove! it was positively a
mercy that he died when he did--it was indeed--everyone said so
at the time."
The prince was beside himself.
"Pavlicheff?--Pavlicheff turned Roman Catholic? Impossible!" he
cried, in horror.
"H'm! impossible is rather a strong word," said Ivan Petrovitch.
"You must allow, my dear prince... However, of course you
value the memory of the deceased so very highly; and he certainly
was the kindest of men; to which fact, by the way, I ascribe,
more than to anything else, the success of the abbot in
influencing his religious convictions. But you may ask me, if you
please, how much trouble and worry I, personally, had over that
business, and especially with this same Gurot! Would you believe
it," he continued, addressing the dignitary, "they actually tried
to put in a claim under the deceased's will, and I had to resort
to the very strongest measures in order to bring them to their
senses? I assure you they knew their cue, did these gentlemen--
wonderful! Thank goodness all this was in Moscow, and I got the
Court, you know, to help me, and we soon brought them to their
"You wouldn't believe how you have pained and astonished me,"
cried the prince.
"Very sorry; but in point of fact, you know, it was all nonsense
and would have ended in smoke, as usual--I'm sure of that. Last
year,"--he turned to the old man again,--"Countess K. joined some
Roman Convent abroad. Our people never seem to be able to offer
any resistance so soon as they get into the hands of these--
"That is all thanks to our lassitude, I think," replied the old
man, with authority. "And then their way of preaching; they have
a skilful manner of doing it! And they know how to startle one,
too. I got quite a fright myself in '32, in Vienna, I assure you;
but I didn't cave in to them, I ran away instead, ha, ha!"
"Come, come, I've always heard that you ran away with the
beautiful Countess Levitsky that time--throwing up everything in
order to do it--and not from the Jesuits at all," said Princess
"Well, yes--but we call it from the Jesuits, you know; it comes
to the same thing," laughed the old fellow, delighted with the
"You seem to be very religious," he continued, kindly, addressing
the prince," which is a thing one meets so seldom nowadays among
The prince was listening open-mouthed, and still in a condition
of excited agitation. The old man was evidently interested in
him, and anxious to study him more closely.
"Pavlicheff was a man of bright intellect and a good Christian, a
sincere Christian," said the prince, suddenly. "How could he
possibly embrace a faith which is unchristian? Roman Catholicism
is, so to speak, simply the same thing as unchristianity," he
added with flashing eyes, which seemed to take in everybody in
"Come, that's a little TOO strong, isn't it?" murmured the old
man, glancing at General Epanchin in surprise.
"How do you make out that the Roman Catholic religion is
UNCHRISTIAN? What is it, then?" asked Ivan Petrovitch, turning to
"It is not a Christian religion, in the first place," said the
latter, in extreme agitation, quite out of proportion to the
necessity of the moment. "And in the second place, Roman
Catholicism is, in my opinion, worse than Atheism itself. Yes--
that is my opinion. Atheism only preaches a negation, but
Romanism goes further; it preaches a disfigured, distorted
Christ--it preaches Anti-Christ--I assure you, I swear it! This
is my own personal conviction, and it has long distressed me. The
Roman Catholic believes that the Church on earth cannot stand
without universal temporal Power. He cries 'non possumus!' In my
opinion the Roman Catholic religion is not a faith at all, but
simply a continuation of the Roman Empire, and everything is
subordinated to this idea--beginning with faith. The Pope has
seized territories and an earthly throne, and has held them with
the sword. And so the thing has gone on, only that to the sword
they have added lying, intrigue, deceit, fanaticism,
superstition, swindling;--they have played fast and loose with
the most sacred and sincere feelings of men;--they have exchanged
everything--everything for money, for base earthly POWER! And is
this not the teaching of Anti-Christ? How could the upshot of all
this be other than Atheism? Atheism is the child of Roman
Catholicism--it proceeded from these Romans themselves, though
perhaps they would not believe it. It grew and fattened on hatred
of its parents; it is the progeny of their lies and spiritual
feebleness. Atheism! In our country it is only among the upper
classes that you find unbelievers; men who have lost the root or
spirit of their faith; but abroad whole masses of the people are
beginning to profess unbelief--at first because of the darkness
and lies by which they were surrounded; but now out of
fanaticism, out of loathing for the Church and Christianity!"
The prince paused to get breath. He had spoken with extraordinary
rapidity, and was very pale.
All present interchanged glances, but at last the old dignitary
burst out laughing frankly. Prince N. took out his eye-glass to
have a good look at the speaker. The German poet came out of his
corner and crept nearer to the table, with a spiteful smile.
"You exaggerate the matter very much," said Ivan Petrovitch, with
rather a bored air. "There are, in the foreign Churches, many
representatives of their faith who are worthy of respect and
"Oh, but I did not speak of individual representatives. I was
merely talking about Roman Catholicism, and its essence--of Rome
itself. A Church can never entirely disappear; I never hinted at
"Agreed that all this may be true; but we need not discuss a
subject which belongs to the domain of theology."
"Oh, no; oh, no! Not to theology alone, I assure you! Why,
Socialism is the progeny of Romanism and of the Romanistic
spirit. It and its brother Atheism proceed from Despair in
opposition to Catholicism. It seeks to replace in itself the
moral power of religion, in order to appease the spiritual thirst
of parched humanity and save it; not by Christ, but by force.
'Don't dare to believe in God, don't dare to possess any
individuality, any property! Fraternite ou la Mort; two million
heads. 'By their works ye shall know them'--we are told. And we
must not suppose that all this is harmless and without danger to
ourselves. Oh, no; we must resist, and quickly, quickly! We must
let out Christ shine forth upon the Western nations, our Christ
whom we have preserved intact, and whom they have never known.
Not as slaves, allowing ourselves to be caught by the hooks of
the Jesuits, but carrying our Russian civilization to THEM, we
must stand before them, not letting it be said among us that
their preaching is 'skilful,' as someone expressed it just now."
"But excuse me, excuse me;" cried Ivan Petrovitch considerably
disturbed, and looking around uneasily. "Your ideas are, of
course, most praiseworthy, and in the highest degree patriotic;
but you exaggerate the matter terribly. It would be better if we
dropped the subject."
"No, sir, I do not exaggerate, I understate the matter, if
anything, undoubtedly understate it; simply because I cannot
express myself as I should like, but--"
The prince was silent. He sat straight up in his chair and gazed
fervently at Ivan Petrovitch.
"It seems to me that you have been too painfully impressed by the
news of what happened to your good benefactor," said the old
dignitary, kindly, and with the utmost calmness of demeanour.
"You are excitable, perhaps as the result of your solitary life.
If you would make up your mind to live more among your fellows in
society, I trust, I am sure, that the world would be glad to
welcome you, as a remarkable young man; and you would soon find
yourself able to look at things more calmly. You would see that
all these things are much simpler than you think; and, besides,
these rare cases come about, in my opinion, from ennui and from
"Exactly, exactly! That is a true thought!" cried the prince.
"From ennui, from our ennui but not from satiety! Oh, no, you are
wrong there! Say from THIRST if you like; the thirst of fever!
And please do not suppose that this is so small a matter that we
may have a laugh at it and dismiss it; we must be able to foresee
our disasters and arm against them. We Russians no sooner arrive
at the brink of the water, and realize that we are really at the
brink, than we are so delighted with the outlook that in we
plunge and swim to the farthest point we can see. Why is this?
You say you are surprised at Pavlicheff's action; you ascribe it
to madness, to kindness of heart, and what not, but it is not so.
"Our Russian intensity not only astonishes ourselves; all Europe
wonders at our conduct in such cases! For, if one of us goes over
to Roman Catholicism, he is sure to become a Jesuit at once, and
a rabid one into the bargain. If one of us becomes an Atheist, he
must needs begin to insist on the prohibition of faith in God by
force, that is, by the sword. Why is this? Why does he then
exceed all bounds at once? Because he has found land at last, the
fatherland that he sought in vain before; and, because his soul
is rejoiced to find it, he throws himself upon it and kisses it!
Oh, it is not from vanity alone, it is not from feelings of
vanity that Russians become Atheists and Jesuits! But from
spiritual thirst, from anguish of longing for higher things, for
dry firm land, for foothold on a fatherland which they never
believed in because they never knew it. It is easier for a
Russian to become an Atheist, than for any other nationality in
the world. And not only does a Russian 'become an Atheist,' but
he actually BELIEVES IN Atheism, just as though he had found a
new faith, not perceiving that he has pinned his faith to a
negation. Such is our anguish of thirst! 'Whoso has no country
has no God.' That is not my own expression; it is the expression
of a merchant, one of the Old Believers, whom I once met while
travelling. He did not say exactly these words. I think his
"'Whoso forsakes his country forsakes his God.'
"But let these thirsty Russian souls find, like Columbus'
discoverers, a new world; let them find the Russian world, let
them search and discover all the gold and treasure that lies hid
in the bosom of their own land! Show them the restitution of lost
humanity, in the future, by Russian thought alone, and by means
of the God and of the Christ of our Russian faith, and you will
see how mighty and just and wise and good a giant will rise up
before the eyes of the astonished and frightened world;
astonished because they expect nothing but the sword from us,
because they think they will get nothing out of us but barbarism.
This has been the case up to now, and the longer matters go on as
they are now proceeding, the more clear will be the truth of what
I say; and I--"
But at this moment something happened which put a most unexpected
end to the orator's speech. All this heated tirade, this outflow
of passionate words and ecstatic ideas which seemed to hustle and
tumble over each other as they fell from his lips, bore evidence
of some unusually disturbed mental condition in the young fellow
who had "boiled over" in such a remarkable manner, without any
Of those who were present, such as knew the prince listened to
his outburst in a state of alarm, some with a feeling of
mortification. It was so unlike his usual timid self-constraint;
so inconsistent with his usual taste and tact, and with his
instinctive feeling for the higher proprieties. They could not
understand the origin of the outburst; it could not be simply the
news of Pavlicheff's perversion. By the ladies the prince was
regarded as little better than a lunatic, and Princess
Bielokonski admitted afterwards that "in another minute she would
The two old gentlemen looked quite alarmed. The old general
(Epanchin's chief) sat and glared at the prince in severe
displeasure. The colonel sat immovable. Even the German poet grew
a little pale, though he wore his usual artificial smile as he
looked around to see what the others would do.
In point of fact it is quite possible that the matter would have
ended in a very commonplace and natural way in a few minutes. The
undoubtedly astonished, but now more collected, General Epanchin
had several times endeavoured to interrupt the prince, and not
having succeeded he was now preparing to take firmer and more
vigorous measures to attain his end. In another minute or two he
would probably have made up his mind to lead the prince quietly
out of the room, on the plea of his being ill (and it was more
than likely that the general was right in his belief that the
prince WAS actually ill), but it so happened that destiny had
something different in store.
At the beginning of the evening, when the prince first came into
the room, he had sat down as far as possible from the Chinese
vase which Aglaya had spoken of the day before.
Will it be believed that, after Aglaya's alarming words, an
ineradicable conviction had taken possession of his mind that,
however he might try to avoid this vase next day, he must
certainly break it? But so it was.
During the evening other impressions began to awaken in his mind,
as we have seen, and he forgot his presentiment. But when
Pavlicheff was mentioned and the general introduced him to Ivan
Petrovitch, he had changed his place, and went over nearer to the
table; when, it so happened, he took the chair nearest to the
beautiful vase, which stood on a pedestal behind him, just about
on a level with his elbow.
As he spoke his last words he had risen suddenly from his seat
with a wave of his arm, and there was a general cry of horror.
The huge vase swayed backwards and forwards; it seemed to be
uncertain whether or no to topple over on to the head of one of
the old men, but eventually determined to go the other way, and
came crashing over towards the German poet, who darted out of the
way in terror.
The crash, the cry, the sight of the fragments of valuable china
covering the carpet, the alarm of the company--what all this
meant to the poor prince it would be difficult to convey to the
mind of the reader, or for him to imagine.
But one very curious fact was that all the shame and vexation and
mortification which he felt over the accident were less powerful
than the deep impression of the almost supernatural truth of his
premonition. He stood still in alarm--in almost superstitious
alarm, for a moment; then all mists seemed to clear away from his
eyes; he was conscious of nothing but light and joy and ecstasy;
his breath came and went; but the moment passed. Thank God it was
not that! He drew a long breath and looked around.
For some minutes he did not seem to comprehend the excitement
around him; that is, he comprehended it and saw everything, but
he stood aside, as it were, like someone invisible in a fairy
tale, as though he had nothing to do with what was going on,
though it pleased him to take an interest in it.
He saw them gather up the broken bits of china; he heard the loud
talking of the guests and observed how pale Aglaya looked, and
how very strangely she was gazing at him. There was no hatred in
her expression, and no anger whatever. It was full of alarm for
him, and sympathy and affection, while she looked around at the
others with flashing, angry eyes. His heart filled with a sweet
pain as he gazed at her.
At length he observed, to his amazement, that all had taken their
seats again, and were laughing and talking as though nothing had
happened. Another minute and the laughter grew louder--they were
laughing at him, at his dumb stupor--laughing kindly and merrily.
Several of them spoke to him, and spoke so kindly and cordially,
especially Lizabetha Prokofievna--she was saying the kindest
possible things to him.
Suddenly he became aware that General Epanchin was tapping him on
the shoulder; Ivan Petrovitch was laughing too, but still more
kind and sympathizing was the old dignitary. He took the prince
by the hand and pressed it warmly; then he patted it, and quietly
urged him to recollect himself--speaking to him exactly as he
would have spoken to a little frightened child, which pleased the
prince wonderfully; and next seated him beside himself.
The prince gazed into his face with pleasure, but still seemed to
have no power to speak. His breath failed him. The old man's face
pleased him greatly.
"Do you really forgive me?" he said at last. "And--and Lizabetha
Prokofievna too?" The laugh increased, tears came into the
prince's eyes, he could not believe in all this kindness--he was
"The vase certainly was a very beautiful one. I remember it here
for fifteen years--yes, quite that!" remarked Ivan Petrovitch.
"Oh, what a dreadful calamity! A wretched vase smashed, and a man
half dead with remorse about it," said Lizabetha Prokofievna,
loudly. "What made you so dreadfully startled, Lef
Nicolaievitch?" she added, a little timidly. "Come, my dear boy!
cheer up. You really alarm me, taking the accident so to heart."
"Do you forgive me all--ALL, besides the vase, I mean?" said the
prince, rising from his seat once more, but the old gentleman
caught his hand and drew him down again--he seemed unwilling to
let him go.
"C'est tres-curieux et c'est tres-serieux," he whispered across
the table to Ivan Petrovitch, rather loudly. Probably the prince
"So that I have not offended any of you? You will not believe how
happy I am to be able to think so. It is as it should be. As if I
COULD offend anyone here! I should offend you again by even
suggesting such a thing."
"Calm yourself, my dear fellow. You are exaggerating again; you
really have no occasion to be so grateful to us. It is a feeling
which does you great credit, but an exaggeration, for all that."
"I am not exactly thanking you, I am only feeling a growing
admiration for you--it makes me happy to look at you. I dare say
I am speaking very foolishly, but I must speak--I must explain,
if it be out of nothing better than self-respect."
All he said and did was abrupt, confused, feverish--very likely
the words he spoke, as often as not, were not those he wished to
say. He seemed to inquire whether he MIGHT speak. His eyes
lighted on Princess Bielokonski.
"All right, my friend, talk away, talk away!" she remarked. "Only
don't lose your breath; you were in such a hurry when you began,
and look what you've come to now! Don't be afraid of speaking--
all these ladies and gentlemen have seen far stranger people than
yourself; you don't astonish THEM. You are nothing out-of-the-way
remarkable, you know. You've done nothing but break a vase, and
give us all a fright."
The prince listened, smiling.
"Wasn't it you," he said, suddenly turning to the old gentleman,
"who saved the student Porkunoff and a clerk called Shoabrin from
being sent to Siberia, two or three months since?"
The old dignitary blushed a little, and murmured that the prince
had better not excite himself further.
"And I have heard of YOU," continued the prince, addressing Ivan
Petrovitch, "that when some of your villagers were burned out you
gave them wood to build up their houses again, though they were
no longer your serfs and had behaved badly towards you."
"Oh, come, come! You are exaggerating," said Ivan Petrovitch,
beaming with satisfaction, all the same. He was right, however,
in this instance, for the report had reached the prince's ears in
an incorrect form.
"And you, princess," he went on, addressing Princess Bielokonski,
"was it not you who received me in Moscow, six months since, as
kindly as though I had been your own son, in response to a letter
from Lizabetha Prokofievna; and gave me one piece of advice,
again as to your own son, which I shall never forget? Do you
"What are you making such a fuss about?" said the old lady, with
annoyance. "You are a good fellow, but very silly. One gives you
a halfpenny, and you are as grateful as though one had saved your
life. You think this is praiseworthy on your part, but it is not
--it is not, indeed."
She seemed to be very angry, but suddenly burst out laughing,
Lizabetha Prokofievna's face brightened up, too; so did that of
"I told you Lef Nicolaievitch was a man--a man--if only he would
not be in such a hurry, as the princess remarked," said the
latter, with delight.
Aglaya alone seemed sad and depressed; her face was flushed,
perhaps with indignation.
"He really is very charming," whispered the old dignitary to Ivan
"I came into this room with anguish in my heart," continued the
prince, with ever-growing agitation, speaking quicker and
quicker, and with increasing strangeness. "I--I was afraid of you
all, and afraid of myself. I was most afraid of myself. When I
returned to Petersburg, I promised myself to make a point of
seeing our greatest men, and members of our oldest families--the
old families like my own. I am now among princes like myself, am
I not? I wished to know you, and it was necessary, very, very
necessary. I had always heard so much that was evil said of you
all--more evil than good; as to how small and petty were your
interests, how absurd your habits, how shallow your education,
and so on. There is so much written and said about you! I came
here today with anxious curiosity; I wished to see for myself
and form my own convictions as to whether it were true that the
whole of this upper stratum of Russian society is WORTHLESS, has
outlived its time, has existed too long, and is only fit to die--
and yet is dying with petty, spiteful warring against that which
is destined to supersede it and take its place--hindering the
Coming Men, and knowing not that itself is in a dying condition.
I did not fully believe in this view even before, for there never
was such a class among us--excepting perhaps at court, by
accident--or by uniform; but now there is not even that, is
there? It has vanished, has it not?"
"No, not a bit of it," said Ivan Petrovitch, with a sarcastic
"Good Lord, he's off again!" said Princess Bielokonski,
"Laissez-le dire! He is trembling all over," said the old man, in
a warning whisper.
The prince certainly was beside himself.
"Well? What have I seen?" he continued. "I have seen men of
graceful simplicity of intellect; I have seen an old man who is
not above speaking kindly and even LISTENING to a boy like
myself; I see before me persons who can understand, who can
forgive--kind, good Russian hearts--hearts almost as kind and
cordial as I met abroad. Imagine how delighted I must have been,
and how surprised! Oh, let me express this feeling! I have so
often heard, and I have even believed, that in society there was
nothing but empty forms, and that reality had vanished; but I now
see for myself that this can never be the case HERE, among us--it
may be the order elsewhere, but not in Russia. Surely you are not
all Jesuits and deceivers! I heard Prince N.'s story just now.
Was it not simple-minded, spontaneous humour? Could such words
come from the lips of a man who is dead?--a man whose heart and
talents are dried up? Could dead men and women have treated me so
kindly as you have all been treating me to-day? Is there not
material for the future in all this--for hope? Can such people
fail to UNDERSTAND? Can such men fall away from reality?"
"Once more let us beg you to be calm, my dear boy. We'll talk of
all this another time--I shall do so with the greatest pleasure,
for one," said the old dignitary, with a smile.
Ivan Petrovitch grunted and twisted round in his chair. General
Epanchin moved nervously. The latter's chief had started a
conversation with the wife of the dignitary, and took no notice
whatever of the prince, but the old lady very often glanced at
him, and listened to what he was saying.
"No, I had better speak," continued the prince, with a new
outburst of feverish emotion, and turning towards the old man
with an air of confidential trustfulness." Yesterday, Aglaya
Ivanovna forbade me to talk, and even specified the particular
subjects I must not touch upon--she knows well enough that I am
odd when I get upon these matters. I am nearly twenty-seven years
old, and yet I know I am little better than a child. I have no
right to express my ideas, and said so long ago. Only in Moscow,
with Rogojin, did I ever speak absolutely freely! He and I read
Pushkin together--all his works. Rogojin knew nothing of
Pushkin, had not even heard his name. I am always afraid of
spoiling a great Thought or Idea by my absurd manner. I have no
eloquence, I know. I always make the wrong gestures--
inappropriate gestures--and therefore I degrade the Thought, and
raise a laugh instead of doing my subject justice. I have no
sense of proportion either, and that is the chief thing. I know
it would be much better if I were always to sit still and say
nothing. When I do so, I appear to be quite a sensible sort of a
person, and what's more, I think about things. But now I must
speak; it is better that I should. I began to speak because you
looked so kindly at me; you have such a beautiful face. I
promised Aglaya Ivanovna yesterday that I would not speak all the
"Really?" said the old man, smiling.
"But, at times, I can't help thinking that I am. wrong in feeling
so about it, you know. Sincerity is more important than
elocution, isn't it?"
"I want to explain all to you--everything--everything! I know you
think me Utopian, don't you--an idealist? Oh, no! I'm not,
indeed--my ideas are all so simple. You don't believe me? You are
smiling. Do you know, I am sometimes very wicked--for I lose my
faith? This evening as I came here, I thought to myself, 'What
shall I talk about? How am I to begin, so that they may be able
to understand partially, at all events?' How afraid I was--
dreadfully afraid! And yet, how COULD I be afraid--was it not
shameful of me? Was I afraid of finding a bottomless abyss of
empty selfishness? Ah! that's why I am so happy at this moment,
because I find there is no bottomless abyss at all--but good,
healthy material, full of life.
"It is not such a very dreadful circumstance that we are odd
people, is it? For we really are odd, you know--careless,
reckless, easily wearied of anything. We don't look thoroughly
into matters--don't care to understand things. We are all like
this--you and I, and all of them! Why, here are you, now--you are
not a bit angry with me for calling you odd,' are you? And, if
so, surely there is good material in you? Do you know, I
sometimes think it is a good thing to be odd. We can forgive one
another more easily, and be more humble. No one can begin by
being perfect--there is much one cannot understand in life at
first. In order to attain to perfection, one must begin by
failing to understand much. And if we take in knowledge too
quickly, we very likely are not taking it in at all. I say all
this to you--you who by this time understand so much--and
doubtless have failed to understand so much, also. I am not
afraid of you any longer. You are not angry that a mere boy
should say such words to you, are you? Of course not! You know
how to forget and to forgive. You are laughing, Ivan Petrovitch?
You think I am a champion of other classes of people--that I am
THEIR advocate, a democrat, and an orator of Equality?" The
prince laughed hysterically; he had several times burst into
these little, short nervous laughs. "Oh, no--it is for you, for
myself, and for all of us together, that I am alarmed. I am a
prince of an old family myself, and I am sitting among my peers;
and I am talking like this in the hope of saving us all; in the
hope that our class will not disappear altogether--into the
darkness--unguessing its danger--blaming everything around it,
and losing ground every day. Why should we disappear and give
place to others, when we may still, if we choose, remain in the
front rank and lead the battle? Let us be servants, that we may
become lords in due season!"
He tried to get upon his feet again, but the old man still
restrained him, gazing at him with increasing perturbation as he
"Listen--I know it is best not to speak! It is best simply to
give a good example--simply to begin the work. I have done this--
I have begun, and--and--oh! CAN anyone be unhappy, really? Oh!
what does grief matter--what does misfortune matter, if one knows
how to be happy? Do you know, I cannot understand how anyone can
pass by a green tree, and not feel happy only to look at it! How
anyone can talk to a man and not feel happy in loving him! Oh, it
is my own fault that I cannot express myself well enough! But
there are lovely things at every step I take--things which even
the most miserable man must recognize as beautiful. Look at a
little child--look at God's day-dawn--look at the grass growing--
look at the eyes that love you, as they gaze back into your
He had risen, and was speaking standing up. The old gentleman was
looking at him now in unconcealed alarm. Lizabetha Prokofievna
wrung her hands. "Oh, my God!" she cried. She had guessed the
state of the case before anyone else.
Aglaya rushed quickly up to him, and was just in time to receive
him in her arms, and to hear with dread and horror that awful,
wild cry as he fell writhing to the ground.
There he lay on the carpet, and someone quickly placed a cushion
under his head.
No one had expected this.
In a quarter of an hour or so Prince N. and Evgenie Pavlovitch
and the old dignitary were hard at work endeavouring to restore
the harmony of the evening, but it was of no avail, and very soon
after the guests separated and went their ways.
A great deal of sympathy was expressed; a considerable amount of
advice was volunteered; Ivan Petrovitch expressed his opinion
that the young man was "a Slavophile, or something of that sort";
but that it was not a dangerous development. The old dignitary
True enough, most of the guests, next day and the day after, were
not in very good humour. Ivan Petrovitch was a little offended,
but not seriously so. General Epanchin's chief was rather cool
towards him for some while after the occurrence. The old
dignitary, as patron of the family, took the opportunity of
murmuring some kind of admonition to the general, and added, in
flattering terms, that he was most interested in Aglaya's future.
He was a man who really did possess a kind heart, although his
interest in the prince, in the earlier part of the evening, was
due, among other reasons, to the latter's connection with
Nastasia Philipovna, according to popular report. He had heard a
good deal of this story here and there, and was greatly
interested in it, so much so that he longed to ask further
questions about it.
Princess Bielokonski, as she drove away on this eventful evening,
took occasion to say to Lizabetha Prokofievna:
"Well--he's a good match--and a bad one; and if you want my
opinion, more bad than good. You can see for yourself the man is
Lizabetha therefore decided that the prince was impossible as a
husband for Aglaya; and during the ensuing night she made a vow
that never while she lived should he marry Aglaya. With this
resolve firmly impressed upon her mind, she awoke next day; but
during the morning, after her early lunch, she fell into a
condition of remarkable inconsistency.
In reply to a very guarded question of her sisters', Aglaya had
answered coldly, but exceedingly haughtily:
"I have never given him my word at all, nor have I ever counted
him as my future husband--never in my life. He is just as little
to me as all the rest."
Lizabetha Prokofievna suddenly flared up.
"I did not expect that of you, Aglaya," she said. "He is an
impossible husband for you,--I know it; and thank God that we
agree upon that point; but I did not expect to hear such words
from you. I thought I should hear a very different tone from you.
I would have turned out everyone who was in the room last night
and kept him,--that's the sort of man he is, in my opinion!"
Here she suddenly paused, afraid of what she had just said. But
she little knew how unfair she was to her daughter at that
moment. It was all settled in Aglaya's mind. She was only waiting
for the hour that would bring the matter to a final climax; and
every hint, every careless probing of her wound, did but further
lacerate her heart.
THIS same morning dawned for the prince pregnant with no less
painful presentiments,--which fact his physical state was, of
course, quite enough to account for; but he was so indefinably
melancholy,--his sadness could not attach itself to anything in
particular, and this tormented him more than anything else. Of
course certain facts stood before him, clear and painful, but his