Part 2 out of 15
When Totski had approached the general with his request for
friendly counsel as to a marriage with one of his daughters, he
had made a full and candid confession. He had said that he
intended to stop at no means to obtain his freedom; even if
Nastasia were to promise to leave him entirely alone in future,
he would not (he said) believe and trust her; words were not
enough for him; he must have solid guarantees of some sort. So he
and the general determined to try what an attempt to appeal to
her heart would effect. Having arrived at Nastasia's house one
day, with Epanchin, Totski immediately began to speak of the
intolerable torment of his position. He admitted that he was to
blame for all, but candidly confessed that he could not bring
himself to feel any remorse for his original guilt towards
herself, because he was a man of sensual passions which were
inborn and ineradicable, and that he had no power over himself in
this respect; but that he wished, seriously, to marry at last,
and that the whole fate of the most desirable social union which
he contemplated, was in her hands; in a word, he confided his all
to her generosity of heart.
General Epanchin took up his part and spoke in the character of
father of a family; he spoke sensibly, and without wasting words
over any attempt at sentimentality, he merely recorded his full
admission of her right to be the arbiter of Totski's destiny at
this moment. He then pointed out that the fate of his daughter,
and very likely of both his other daughters, now hung upon her
To Nastasia's question as to what they wished her to do, Totski
confessed that he had been so frightened by her, five years ago,
that he could never now be entirely comfortable until she herself
married. He immediately added that such a suggestion from him
would, of course, be absurd, unless accompanied by remarks of a
more pointed nature. He very well knew, he said, that a certain
young gentleman of good family, namely, Gavrila Ardalionovitch
Ivolgin, with whom she was acquainted, and whom she received at
her house, had long loved her passionately, and would give his
life for some response from her. The young fellow had confessed
this love of his to him (Totski) and had also admitted it in the
hearing of his benefactor, General Epanchin. Lastly, he could not
help being of opinion that Nastasia must be aware of Gania's love
for her, and if he (Totski) mistook not, she had looked with some
favour upon it, being often lonely, and rather tired of her
present life. Having remarked how difficult it was for him, of
all people, to speak to her of these matters, Totski concluded by
saying that he trusted Nastasia Philipovna would not look with
contempt upon him if he now expressed his sincere desire to
guarantee her future by a gift of seventy-five thousand roubles.
He added that the sum would have been left her all the same in
his will, and that therefore she must not consider the gift as in
any way an indemnification to her for anything, but that there
was no reason, after all, why a man should not be allowed to
entertain a natural desire to lighten his conscience, etc., etc.;
in fact, all that would naturally be said under the circumstances.
Totski was very eloquent all through, and, in conclusion, just
touched on the fact that not a soul in the world, not even
General Epanchin, had ever heard a word about the above
seventy-five thousand roubles, and that this was the first
time he had ever given expression to his intentions in respect
Nastasia Philipovna's reply to this long rigmarole astonished
both the friends considerably.
Not only was there no trace of her former irony, of her old
hatred and enmity, and of that dreadful laughter, the very
recollection of which sent a cold chill down Totski's back to
this very day; but she seemed charmed and really glad to have the
opportunity of talking seriously with him for once in a way. She
confessed that she had long wished to have a frank and free
conversation and to ask for friendly advice, but that pride had
hitherto prevented her; now, however, that the ice was broken,
nothing could be more welcome to her than this opportunity.
First, with a sad smile, and then with a twinkle of merriment in
her eyes, she admitted that such a storm as that of five years
ago was now quite out of the question. She said that she had long
since changed her views of things, and recognized that facts must
be taken into consideration in spite of the feelings of the
heart. What was done was done and ended, and she could not
understand why Totski should still feel alarmed.
She next turned to General Epanchin and observed, most
courteously, that she had long since known of his daughters, and
that she had heard none but good report; that she had learned to
think of them with deep and sincere respect. The idea alone that
she could in any way serve them, would be to her both a pride and
a source of real happiness.
It was true that she was lonely in her present life; Totski had
judged her thoughts aright. She longed to rise, if not to love,
at least to family life and new hopes and objects, but as to
Gavrila Ardalionovitch, she could not as yet say much. She
thought it must be the case that he loved her; she felt that she
too might learn to love him, if she could be sure of the firmness
of his attachment to herself; but he was very young, and it was a
difficult question to decide. What she specially liked about him
was that he worked, and supported his family by his toil.
She had heard that he was proud and ambitious; she had heard much
that was interesting of his mother and sister, she had heard of
them from Mr. Ptitsin, and would much like to make their
acquaintance, but--another question!--would they like to receive
her into their house? At all events, though she did not reject
the idea of this marriage, she desired not to be hurried. As for
the seventy-five thousand roubles, Mr. Totski need not have found
any difficulty or awkwardness about the matter; she quite
understood the value of money, and would, of course, accept the
gift. She thanked him for his delicacy, however, but saw no
reason why Gavrila Ardalionovitch should not know about it.
She would not marry the latter, she said, until she felt
persuaded that neither on his part nor on the part of his family
did there exist any sort of concealed suspicions as to herself.
She did not intend to ask forgiveness for anything in the past,
which fact she desired to be known. She did not consider herself
to blame for anything that had happened in former years, and she
thought that Gavrila Ardalionovitch should be informed as to the
relations which had existed between herself and Totski during the
last five years. If she accepted this money it was not to be
considered as indemnification for her misfortune as a young girl,
which had not been in any degree her own fault, but merely as
compensation for her ruined life.
She became so excited and agitated during all these explanations
and confessions that General Epanchin was highly gratified, and
considered the matter satisfactorily arranged once for all. But
the once bitten Totski was twice shy, and looked for hidden
snakes among the flowers. However, the special point to which the
two friends particularly trusted to bring about their object
(namely, Gania's attractiveness for Nastasia Philipovna), stood
out more and more prominently; the pourparlers had commenced, and
gradually even Totski began to believe in the possibility of
Before long Nastasia and Gania had talked the matter over. Very
little was said--her modesty seemed to suffer under the infliction
of discussing such a question. But she recognized his love, on
the understanding that she bound herself to nothing whatever, and
that she reserved the right to say "no" up to the very hour of
the marriage ceremony. Gania was to have the same right of
refusal at the last moment.
It soon became clear to Gania, after scenes of wrath and
quarrellings at the domestic hearth, that his family were
seriously opposed to the match, and that Nastasia was aware of
this fact was equally evident. She said nothing about it, though
he daily expected her to do so.
There were several rumours afloat, before long, which upset
Totski's equanimity a good deal, but we will not now stop to
describe them; merely mentioning an instance or two. One was that
Nastasia had entered into close and secret relations with the
Epanchin girls--a most unlikely rumour; another was that Nastasia
had long satisfied herself of the fact that Gania was merely
marrying her for money, and that his nature was gloomy and
greedy, impatient and selfish, to an extraordinary degree; and
that although he had been keen enough in his desire to achieve a
conquest before, yet since the two friends had agreed to exploit
his passion for their own purposes, it was clear enough that he
had begun to consider the whole thing a nuisance and a nightmare.
In his heart passion and hate seemed to hold divided sway, and
although he had at last given his consent to marry the woman (as
he said), under the stress of circumstances, yet he promised
himself that he would "take it out of her," after marriage.
Nastasia seemed to Totski to have divined all this, and to be
preparing something on her own account, which frightened him to
such an extent that he did not dare communicate his views even to
the general. But at times he would pluck up his courage and be
full of hope and good spirits again, acting, in fact, as weak men
do act in such circumstances.
However, both the friends felt that the thing looked rosy indeed
when one day Nastasia informed them that she would give her final
answer on the evening of her birthday, which anniversary was due
in a very short time.
A strange rumour began to circulate, meanwhile; no less than that
the respectable and highly respected General Epanchin was himself
so fascinated by Nastasia Philipovna that his feeling for her
amounted almost to passion. What he thought to gain by Gania's
marriage to the girl it was difficult to imagine. Possibly he
counted on Gania's complaisance; for Totski had long suspected
that there existed some secret understanding between the general
and his secretary. At all events the fact was known that he had
prepared a magnificent present of pearls for Nastasia's birthday,
and that he was looking forward to the occasion when he should
present his gift with the greatest excitement and impatience. The
day before her birthday he was in a fever of agitation.
Mrs. Epanchin, long accustomed to her husband's infidelities, had
heard of the pearls, and the rumour excited her liveliest
curiosity and interest. The general remarked her suspicions, and
felt that a grand explanation must shortly take place--which fact
alarmed him much.
This is the reason why he was so unwilling to take lunch (on the
morning upon which we took up this narrative) with the rest of
his family. Before the prince's arrival he had made up his mind
to plead business, and "cut" the meal; which simply meant running
He was particularly anxious that this one day should be passed--
especially the evening--without unpleasantness between himself
and his family; and just at the right moment the prince turned
up--"as though Heaven had sent him on purpose," said the general
to himself, as he left the study to seek out the wife of his
Mrs. General Epanchin was a proud woman by nature. What must her
feelings have been when she heard that Prince Muishkin, the last
of his and her line, had arrived in beggar's guise, a wretched
idiot, a recipient of charity--all of which details the general
gave out for greater effect! He was anxious to steal her interest
at the first swoop, so as to distract her thoughts from other
matters nearer home.
Mrs. Epanchin was in the habit of holding herself very straight,
and staring before her, without speaking, in moments of
She was a fine woman of the same age as her husband, with a
slightly hooked nose, a high, narrow forehead, thick hair turning
a little grey, and a sallow complexion. Her eyes were grey and
wore a very curious expression at times. She believed them to be
most effective--a belief that nothing could alter.
"What, receive him! Now, at once?" asked Mrs. Epanchin, gazing
vaguely at her husband as he stood fidgeting before her.
"Oh, dear me, I assure you there is no need to stand on ceremony
with him," the general explained hastily. "He is quite a child,
not to say a pathetic-looking creature. He has fits of some sort,
and has just arrived from Switzerland, straight from the station,
dressed like a German and without a farthing in his pocket. I
gave him twenty-five roubles to go on with, and am going to find
him some easy place in one of the government offices. I should
like you to ply him well with the victuals, my dears, for I
should think he must be very hungry."
"You astonish me," said the lady, gazing as before. "Fits, and
hungry too! What sort of fits?"
"Oh, they don't come on frequently, besides, he's a regular
child, though he seems to be fairly educated. I should like you,
if possible, my dears," the general added, making slowly for the
door, "to put him through his paces a bit, and see what he is
good for. I think you should be kind to him; it is a good deed,
you know--however, just as you like, of course--but he is a sort
of relation, remember, and I thought it might interest you to see
the young fellow, seeing that this is so."
"Oh, of course, mamma, if we needn't stand on ceremony with him,
we must give the poor fellow something to eat after his journey;
especially as he has not the least idea where to go to," said
Alexandra, the eldest of the girls.
"Besides, he's quite a child; we can entertain him with a little
hide-and-seek, in case of need," said Adelaida.
"Hide-and-seek? What do you mean?" inquired Mrs. Epanchin.
"Oh, do stop pretending, mamma," cried Aglaya, in vexation. "Send
him up, father; mother allows."
The general rang the bell and gave orders that the prince should
be shown in.
"Only on condition that he has a napkin under his chin at lunch,
then," said Mrs. Epanchin, "and let Fedor, or Mavra, stand behind
him while he eats. Is he quiet when he has these fits? He doesn't
show violence, does he?"
"On the contrary, he seems to be very well brought up. His
manners are excellent--but here he is himself. Here you are,
prince--let me introduce you, the last of the Muishkins, a
relative of your own, my dear, or at least of the same name.
Receive him kindly, please. They'll bring in lunch directly,
prince; you must stop and have some, but you must excuse me. I'm
in a hurry, I must be off--"
"We all know where YOU must be off to!" said Mrs. Epanchin, in a
"Yes, yes--I must hurry away, I'm late! Look here, dears, let him
write you something in your albums; you've no idea what a
wonderful caligraphist he is, wonderful talent! He has just
written out 'Abbot Pafnute signed this' for me. Well, au revoir!"
"Stop a minute; where are you off to? Who is this abbot?" cried
Mrs. Epanchin to her retreating husband in a tone of excited
"Yes, my dear, it was an old abbot of that name-I must be off to
see the count, he's waiting for me, I'm late--Good-bye! Au
revoir, prince!"--and the general bolted at full speed.
"Oh, yes--I know what count you're going to see!" remarked his
wife in a cutting manner, as she turned her angry eyes on the
prince. "Now then, what's all this about?--What abbot--Who's
Pafnute?" she added, brusquely.
"Mamma!" said Alexandra, shocked at her rudeness.
Aglaya stamped her foot.
"Nonsense! Let me alone!" said the angry mother. "Now then,
prince, sit down here, no, nearer, come nearer the light! I want
to have a good look at you. So, now then, who is this abbot?"
"Abbot Pafnute," said our friend, seriously and with deference.
"Pafnute, yes. And who was he?"
Mrs. Epanchin put these questions hastily and brusquely, and when
the prince answered she nodded her head sagely at each word he
"The Abbot Pafnute lived in the fourteenth century," began the
prince; "he was in charge of one of the monasteries on the Volga,
about where our present Kostroma government lies. He went to
Oreol and helped in the great matters then going on in the
religious world; he signed an edict there, and I have seen a
print of his signature; it struck me, so I copied it. When the
general asked me, in his study, to write something for him, to
show my handwriting, I wrote 'The Abbot Pafnute signed this,' in
the exact handwriting of the abbot. The general liked it very
much, and that's why he recalled it just now. "
"Aglaya, make a note of 'Pafnute,' or we shall forget him. H'm!
and where is this signature?"
"I think it was left on the general's table."
"Let it be sent for at once!"
"Oh, I'll write you a new one in half a minute," said the prince,
"if you like!"
"Of course, mamma!" said Alexandra. "But let's have lunch now, we
are all hungry!"
"Yes; come along, prince," said the mother, "are you very
"Yes; I must say that I am pretty hungry, thanks very much."
"H'm! I like to see that you know your manners; and you are by no
means such a person as the general thought fit to describe you.
Come along; you sit here, opposite to me," she continued, "I wish
to be able to see your face. Alexandra, Adelaida, look after the
prince! He doesn't seem so very ill, does he? I don't think he
requires a napkin under his chin, after all; are you accustomed
to having one on, prince?"
"Formerly, when I was seven years old or so. I believe I wore
one; but now I usually hold my napkin on my knee when I eat."
"Of course, of course! And about your fits?"
"Fits?" asked the prince, slightly surprised. "I very seldom have
fits nowadays. I don't know how it may be here, though; they say
the climate may be bad for me. "
"He talks very well, you know!" said Mrs. Epanchin, who still
continued to nod at each word the prince spoke. "I really did not
expect it at all; in fact, I suppose it was all stuff and
nonsense on the general's part, as usual. Eat away, prince, and
tell me where you were born, and where you were brought up. I
wish to know all about you, you interest me very much!"
The prince expressed his thanks once more, and eating heartily
the while, recommenced the narrative of his life in Switzerland,
all of which we have heard before. Mrs. Epanchin became more and
more pleased with her guest; the girls, too, listened with
considerable attention. In talking over the question of
relationship it turned out that the prince was very well up in
the matter and knew his pedigree off by heart. It was found that
scarcely any connection existed between himself and Mrs.
Epanchin, but the talk, and the opportunity of conversing about
her family tree, gratified the latter exceedingly, and she rose
from the table in great good humour.
"Let's all go to my boudoir," she said, "and they shall bring
some coffee in there. That's the room where we all assemble and
busy ourselves as we like best," she explained. "Alexandra, my
eldest, here, plays the piano, or reads or sews; Adelaida paints
landscapes and portraits (but never finishes any); and Aglaya
sits and does nothing. I don't work too much, either. Here we
are, now; sit down, prince, near the fire and talk to us. I want
to hear you relate something. I wish to make sure of you first
and then tell my old friend, Princess Bielokonski, about you. I
wish you to know all the good people and to interest them. Now
"Mamma, it's rather a strange order, that!" said Adelaida, who
was fussing among her paints and paint-brushes at the easel.
Aglaya and Alexandra had settled themselves with folded hands on
a sofa, evidently meaning to be listeners. The prince felt that
the general attention was concentrated upon himself.
"I should refuse to say a word if I were ordered to tell a story
like that!" observed Aglaya.
"Why? what's there strange about it? He has a tongue. Why
shouldn't he tell us something? I want to judge whether he is a
good story-teller; anything you like, prince-how you liked
Switzerland, what was your first impression, anything. You'll
see, he'll begin directly and tell us all about it beautifully."
"The impression was forcible--" the prince began.
"There, you see, girls," said the impatient lady, "he has begun,
"Well, then, LET him talk, mamma," said Alexandra. "This prince
is a great humbug and by no means an idiot," she whispered to
"Oh, I saw that at once," replied the latter. "I don't think it
at all nice of him to play a part. What does he wish to gain by
it, I wonder?"
"My first impression was a very strong one," repeated the prince.
"When they took me away from Russia, I remember I passed through
many German towns and looked out of the windows, but did not
trouble so much as to ask questions about them. This was after a
long series of fits. I always used to fall into a sort of torpid
condition after such a series, and lost my memory almost
entirely; and though I was not altogether without reason at such
times, yet I had no logical power of thought. This would continue
for three or four days, and then I would recover myself again. I
remember my melancholy was intolerable; I felt inclined to cry; I
sat and wondered and wondered uncomfortably; the consciousness
that everything was strange weighed terribly upon me; I could
understand that it was all foreign and strange. I recollect I
awoke from this state for the first time at Basle, one evening;
the bray of a donkey aroused me, a donkey in the town market. I
saw the donkey and was extremely pleased with it, and from that
moment my head seemed to clear."
"A donkey? How strange! Yet it is not strange. Anyone of us might
fall in love with a donkey! It happened in mythological times,"
said Madame Epanchin, looking wrathfully at her daughters, who
had begun to laugh. "Go on, prince."
"Since that evening I have been specially fond of donkeys. I
began to ask questions about them, for I had never seen one
before; and I at once came to the conclusion that this must be
one of the most useful of animals--strong, willing, patient,
cheap; and, thanks to this donkey, I began to like the whole
country I was travelling through; and my melancholy passed away."
"All this is very strange and interesting," said Mrs. Epanchin.
"Now let's leave the donkey and go on to other matters. What are
you laughing at, Aglaya? and you too, Adelaida? The prince told
us his experiences very cleverly; he saw the donkey himself, and
what have you ever seen? YOU have never been abroad."
"I have seen a donkey though, mamma!" said Aglaya.
"And I've heard one!" said Adelaida. All three of the girls
laughed out loud, and the prince laughed with them.
"Well, it's too bad of you," said mamma. "You must forgive them,
prince; they are good girls. I am very fond of them, though I
often have to be scolding them; they are all as silly and mad as
"Oh, why shouldn't they laugh?" said the prince. " I shouldn't
have let the chance go by in their place, I know. But I stick up
for the donkey, all the same; he's a patient, good-natured
"Are you a patient man, prince? I ask out of curiosity," said
All laughed again.
"Oh, that wretched donkey again, I see!" cried the lady. "I
assure you, prince, I was not guilty of the least--"
"Insinuation? Oh! I assure you, I take your word for it." And the
prince continued laughing merrily.
"I must say it's very nice of you to laugh. I see you really are
a kind-hearted fellow," said Mrs. Epanchin.
"I'm not always kind, though."
"I am kind myself, and ALWAYS kind too, if you please!" she
retorted, unexpectedly; "and that is my chief fault, for one
ought not to be always kind. I am often angry with these girls
and their father; but the worst of it is, I am always kindest
when I am cross. I was very angry just before you came, and
Aglaya there read me a lesson--thanks, Aglaya, dear--come and
kiss me--there--that's enough" she added, as Aglaya came forward
and kissed her lips and then her hand. "Now then, go on, prince.
Perhaps you can think of something more exciting than about the
"I must say, again, I can't understand how you can expect anyone
to tell you stories straight away, so," said Adelaida. "I know I
"Yes, but the prince can, because he is clever--cleverer than you
are by ten or twenty times, if you like. There, that's so,
prince; and seriously, let's drop the donkey now--what else did
you see abroad, besides the donkey?"
"Yes, but the prince told us about the donkey very cleverly, all
the same," said Alexandra. "I have always been most interested to
hear how people go mad and get well again, and that sort of
thing. Especially when it happens suddenly."
"Quite so, quite so!" cried Mrs. Epanchin, delighted. "I see you
CAN be sensible now and then, Alexandra. You were speaking of
"Yes. We came to Lucerne, and I was taken out in a boat. I felt
how lovely it was, but the loveliness weighed upon me somehow or
other, and made me feel melancholy."
"Why?" asked Alexandra.
"I don't know; I always feel like that when I look at the
beauties of nature for the first time; but then, I was ill at
that time, of course!"
"Oh, but I should like to see it!" said Adelaida; "and I don't
know WHEN we shall ever go abroad. I've been two years looking
out for a good subject for a picture. I've done all I know. 'The
North and South I know by heart,' as our poet observes. Do help
me to a subject, prince."
"Oh, but I know nothing about painting. It seems to me one only
has to look, and paint what one sees."
"But I don't know HOW to see!"
"Nonsense, what rubbish you talk!" the mother struck in. "Not
know how to see! Open your eyes and look! If you can't see here,
you won't see abroad either. Tell us what you saw yourself,
"Yes, that's better," said Adelaida; "the prince learned to see
"Oh, I hardly know! You see, I only went to restore my health. I
don't know whether I learned to see, exactly. I was very happy,
however, nearly all the time."
"Happy! you can be happy?" cried Aglaya. "Then how can you say
you did not learn to see? I should think you could teach us to
"Oh! DO teach us," laughed Adelaida.
"Oh! I can't do that," said the prince, laughing too. "I lived
almost all the while in one little Swiss village; what can I
teach you? At first I was only just not absolutely dull; then my
health began to improve--then every day became dearer and more
precious to me, and the longer I stayed, the dearer became the
time to me; so much so that I could not help observing it; but
why this was so, it would be difficult to say."
"So that you didn't care to go away anywhere else?"
"Well, at first I did; I was restless; I didn't know however I
should manage to support life--you know there are such moments,
especially in solitude. There was a waterfall near us, such a
lovely thin streak of water, like a thread but white and moving.
It fell from a great height, but it looked quite low, and it was
half a mile away, though it did not seem fifty paces. I loved to
listen to it at night, but it was then that I became so restless.
Sometimes I went and climbed the mountain and stood there in the
midst of the tall pines, all alone in the terrible silence, with
our little village in the distance, and the sky so blue, and the
sun so bright, and an old ruined castle on the mountain-side, far
away. I used to watch the line where earth and sky met, and longed
to go and seek there the key of all mysteries, thinking that
I might find there a new life, perhaps some great city where life
should be grander and richer--and then it struck me that life may
be grand enough even in a prison."
"I read that last most praiseworthy thought in my manual, when I
was twelve years old," said Aglaya.
"All this is pure philosophy," said Adelaida. "You are a
philosopher, prince, and have come here to instruct us in your
"Perhaps you are right," said the prince, smiling. "I think I am
a philosopher, perhaps, and who knows, perhaps I do wish to teach
my views of things to those I meet with?"
"Your philosophy is rather like that of an old woman we know, who
is rich and yet does nothing but try how little she can spend.
She talks of nothing but money all day. Your great philosophical
idea of a grand life in a prison and your four happy years in
that Swiss village are like this, rather," said Aglaya.
"As to life in a prison, of course there may be two opinions,"
said the prince. "I once heard the story of a man who lived
twelve years in a prison--I heard it from the man himself. He was
one of the persons under treatment with my professor; he had
fits, and attacks of melancholy, then he would weep, and once he
tried to commit suicide. HIS life in prison was sad enough; his
only acquaintances were spiders and a tree that grew outside his
grating-but I think I had better tell you of another man I met
last year. There was a very strange feature in this case, strange
because of its extremely rare occurrence. This man had once been
brought to the scaffold in company with several others, and had
had the sentence of death by shooting passed upon him for some
political crime. Twenty minutes later he had been reprieved and
some other punishment substituted; but the interval between the
two sentences, twenty minutes, or at least a quarter of an hour,
had been passed in the certainty that within a few minutes he
must die. I was very anxious to hear him speak of his impressions
during that dreadful time, and I several times inquired of him as
to what he thought and felt. He remembered everything with the
most accurate and extraordinary distinctness, and declared that
he would never forget a single iota of the experience.
"About twenty paces from the scaffold, where he had stood to hear
the sentence, were three posts, fixed in the ground, to which to
fasten the criminals (of whom there were several). The first
three criminals were taken to the posts, dressed in long white
tunics, with white caps drawn over their faces, so that they
could not see the rifles pointed at them. Then a group of
soldiers took their stand opposite to each post. My friend was
the eighth on the list, and therefore he would have been among
the third lot to go up. A priest went about among them with a
cross: and there was about five minutes of time left for him to
"He said that those five minutes seemed to him to be a most
interminable period, an enormous wealth of time; he seemed to be
living, in these minutes, so many lives that there was no need as
yet to think of that last moment, so that he made several
arrangements, dividing up the time into portions--one for saying
farewell to his companions, two minutes for that; then a couple
more for thinking over his own life and career and all about
himself; and another minute for a last look around. He remembered
having divided his time like this quite well. While saying good-
bye to his friends he recollected asking one of them some very
usual everyday question, and being much interested in the answer.
Then having bade farewell, he embarked upon those two minutes
which he had allotted to looking into himself; he knew
beforehand what he was going to think about. He wished to put it
to himself as quickly and clearly as possible, that here was he,
a living, thinking man, and that in three minutes he would be
nobody; or if somebody or something, then what and where? He
thought he would decide this question once for all in these last
three minutes. A little way off there stood a church, and its
gilded spire glittered in the sun. He remembered staring
stubbornly at this spire, and at the rays of light sparkling from
it. He could not tear his eyes from these rays of light; he got
the idea that these rays were his new nature, and that in three
minutes he would become one of them, amalgamated somehow with
"The repugnance to what must ensue almost immediately, and the
uncertainty, were dreadful, he said; but worst of all was the
idea, 'What should I do if I were not to die now? What if I were
to return to life again? What an eternity of days, and all mine!
How I should grudge and count up every minute of it, so as to
waste not a single instant!' He said that this thought weighed so
upon him and became such a terrible burden upon his brain that he
could not bear it, and wished they would shoot him quickly and
have done with it."
The prince paused and all waited, expecting him to go on again
and finish the story.
"Is that all?" asked Aglaya.
"All? Yes," said the prince, emerging from a momentary reverie.
"And why did you tell us this?"
"Oh, I happened to recall it, that's all! It fitted into the
"You probably wish to deduce, prince," said Alexandra, "that
moments of time cannot be reckoned by money value, and that
sometimes five minutes are worth priceless treasures. All this is
very praiseworthy; but may I ask about this friend of yours, who
told you the terrible experience of his life? He was reprieved,
you say; in other words, they did restore to him that 'eternity
of days.' What did he do with these riches of time? Did he keep
careful account of his minutes?"
"Oh no, he didn't! I asked him myself. He said that he had not
lived a bit as he had intended, and had wasted many, and many a
"Very well, then there's an experiment, and the thing is proved;
one cannot live and count each moment; say what you like, but one
"That is true," said the prince, "I have thought so myself. And
yet, why shouldn't one do it?"
"You think, then, that you could live more wisely than other
people?" said Aglaya.
"I have had that idea."
"And you have it still?"
"Yes--I have it still," the prince replied.
He had contemplated Aglaya until now, with a pleasant though
rather timid smile, but as the last words fell from his lips he
began to laugh, and looked at her merrily.
"You are not very modest!" said she.
"But how brave you are!" said he. "You are laughing, and I--
that man's tale impressed me so much, that I dreamt of it
afterwards; yes, I dreamt of those five minutes . . ."
He looked at his listeners again with that same serious,
"You are not angry with me?" he asked suddenly, and with a kind
of nervous hurry, although he looked them straight in the face.
"Why should we be angry?" they cried.
"Only because I seem to be giving you a lecture, all the time!"
At this they laughed heartily.
"Please don't be angry with me," continued the prince. "I know
very well that I have seen less of life than other people, and
have less knowledge of it. I must appear to speak strangely
sometimes . . ."
He said the last words nervously.
"You say you have been happy, and that proves you have lived, not
less, but more than other people. Why make all these excuses?"
interrupted Aglaya in a mocking tone of voice. "Besides, you need
not mind about lecturing us; you have nothing to boast of. With
your quietism, one could live happily for a hundred years at
least. One might show you the execution of a felon, or show you
one's little finger. You could draw a moral from either, and be
quite satisfied. That sort of existence is easy enough."
"I can't understand why you always fly into a temper," said Mrs.
Epanchin, who had been listening to the conversation and
examining the faces of the speakers in turn. "I do not understand
what you mean. What has your little finger to do with it? The
prince talks well, though he is not amusing. He began all right,
but now he seems sad."
"Never mind, mamma! Prince, I wish you had seen an execution,"
said Aglaya. "I should like to ask you a question about that, if
"I have seen an execution," said the prince.
"You have!" cried Aglaya. "I might have guessed it. That's a
fitting crown to the rest of the story. If you have seen an
execution, how can you say you lived happily all the while?"
"But is there capital punishment where you were?" asked Adelaida.
"I saw it at Lyons. Schneider took us there, and as soon as we
arrived we came in for that."
"Well, and did you like it very much? Was it very edifying and
instructive?" asked Aglaya.
"No, I didn't like it at all, and was ill after seeing it; but I
confess I stared as though my eyes were fixed to the sight. I
could not tear them away."
"I, too, should have been unable to tear my eyes away," said
"They do not at all approve of women going to see an execution
there. The women who do go are condemned for it afterwards in the
"That is, by contending that it is not a sight for women they
admit that it is a sight for men. I congratulate them on the
deduction. I suppose you quite agree with them, prince?"
"Tell us about the execution," put in Adelaida.
"I would much rather not, just now," said the prince, a little
disturbed and frowning slightly;
" You don't seem to want to tell us," said Aglaya, with a mocking
" No,--the thing is, I was telling all about the execution a
little while ago, and--"
"Whom did you tell about it?"
"The man-servant, while I was waiting to see the general."
"Our man-servant?" exclaimed several voices at once.
"Yes, the one who waits in the entrance hall, a greyish, red-
"The prince is clearly a democrat," remarked Aglaya.
"Well, if you could tell Aleksey about it, surely you can tell us
"I do so want to hear about it," repeated Adelaida.
"Just now, I confess," began the prince, with more animation,
"when you asked me for a subject for a picture, I confess I had
serious thoughts of giving you one. I thought of asking you to
draw the face of a criminal, one minute before the fall of the
guillotine, while the wretched man is still standing on the
scaffold, preparatory to placing his neck on the block."
"What, his face? only his face?" asked Adelaida. "That would be a
strange subject indeed. And what sort of a picture would that
"Oh, why not?" the prince insisted, with some warmth. "When I was
in Basle I saw a picture very much in that style--I should like
to tell you about it; I will some time or other; it struck me
"Oh, you shall tell us about the Basle picture another time; now
we must have all about the execution," said Adelaida. "Tell us
about that face as; it appeared to your imagination-how should it
be drawn?--just the face alone, do you mean?"
"It was just a minute before the execution," began the prince,
readily, carried away by the recollection and evidently
forgetting everything else in a moment; "just at the instant when
he stepped off the ladder on to the scaffold. He happened to look
in my direction: I saw his eyes and understood all, at once--but
how am I to describe it? I do so wish you or somebody else could
draw it, you, if possible. I thought at the time what a picture
it would make. You must imagine all that went before, of course,
all--all. He had lived in the prison for some time and had not
expected that the execution would take place for at least a week
yet--he had counted on all the formalities and so on taking
time; but it so happened that his papers had been got ready
quickly. At five o'clock in the morning he was asleep--it was
October, and at five in the morning it was cold and dark. The
governor of the prison comes in on tip-toe and touches the
sleeping man's shoulder gently. He starts up. 'What is it?' he
says. 'The execution is fixed for ten o'clock.' He was only just
awake, and would not believe at first, but began to argue that
his papers would not be out for a week, and so on. When he was
wide awake and realized the truth, he became very silent and
argued no more--so they say; but after a bit he said: 'It comes
very hard on one so suddenly' and then he was silent again and
"The three or four hours went by, of course, in necessary
preparations--the priest, breakfast, (coffee, meat, and some
wine they gave him; doesn't it seem ridiculous?) And yet I
believe these people give them a good breakfast out of pure
kindness of heart, and believe that they are doing a good action.
Then he is dressed, and then begins the procession through the
town to the scaffold. I think he, too, must feel that he has an
age to live still while they cart him along. Probably he thought,
on the way, 'Oh, I have a long, long time yet. Three streets of
life yet! When we've passed this street there'll be that other
one; and then that one where the baker's shop is on the right;
and when shall we get there? It's ages, ages!' Around him are
crowds shouting, yelling--ten thousand faces, twenty thousand
eyes. All this has to be endured, and especially the thought:
'Here are ten thousand men, and not one of them is going to be
executed, and yet I am to die.' Well, all that is preparatory.
"At the scaffold there is a ladder, and just there he burst into
tears--and this was a strong man, and a terribly wicked one, they
say! There was a priest with him the whole time, talking; even in
the cart as they drove along, he talked and talked. Probably the
other heard nothing; he would begin to listen now and then, and
at the third word or so he had forgotten all about it.
"At last he began to mount the steps; his legs were tied, so that
he had to take very small steps. The priest, who seemed to be a
wise man, had stopped talking now, and only held the cross for
the wretched fellow to kiss. At the foot of the ladder he had
been pale enough; but when he set foot on the scaffold at the
top, his face suddenly became the colour of paper, positively
like white notepaper. His legs must have become suddenly feeble
and helpless, and he felt a choking in his throat--you know the
sudden feeling one has in moments of terrible fear, when one does
not lose one's wits, but is absolutely powerless to move? If some
dreadful thing were suddenly to happen; if a house were just
about to fall on one;--don't you know how one would long to sit
down and shut one's eyes and wait, and wait? Well, when this
terrible feeling came over him, the priest quickly pressed the
cross to his lips, without a word--a little silver cross it was-
and he kept on pressing it to the man's lips every second. And
whenever the cross touched his lips, the eyes would open for a
moment, and the legs moved once, and he kissed the cross
greedily, hurriedly--just as though he were anxious to catch hold
of something in case of its being useful to him afterwards,
though he could hardly have had any connected religious thoughts
at the time. And so up to the very block.
"How strange that criminals seldom swoon at such a moment! On the
contrary, the brain is especially active, and works incessantly--
probably hard, hard, hard--like an engine at full pressure. I
imagine that various thoughts must beat loud and fast through his
head--all unfinished ones, and strange, funny thoughts, very
likely!--like this, for instance: 'That man is looking at me, and
he has a wart on his forehead! and the executioner has burst one
of his buttons, and the lowest one is all rusty!' And meanwhile
he notices and remembers everything. There is one point that
cannot be forgotten, round which everything else dances and turns
about; and because of this point he cannot faint, and this lasts
until the very final quarter of a second, when the wretched neck
is on the block and the victim listens and waits and KNOWS--
that's the point, he KNOWS that he is just NOW about to die, and
listens for the rasp of the iron over his head. If I lay there, I
should certainly listen for that grating sound, and hear it, too!
There would probably be but the tenth part of an instant left to
hear it in, but one would certainly hear it. And imagine, some
people declare that when the head flies off it is CONSCIOUS of
having flown off! Just imagine what a thing to realize! Fancy if
consciousness were to last for even five seconds!
"Draw the scaffold so that only the top step of the ladder comes
in clearly. The criminal must be just stepping on to it, his face
as white as note-paper. The priest is holding the cross to his
blue lips, and the criminal kisses it, and knows and sees and
understands everything. The cross and the head--there's your
picture; the priest and the executioner, with his two assistants,
and a few heads and eyes below. Those might come in as
subordinate accessories--a sort of mist. There's a picture for
you." The prince paused, and looked around.
"Certainly that isn't much like quietism," murmured Alexandra,
half to herself.
"Now tell us about your love affairs," said Adelaida, after a
The prince gazed at her in amazement.
"You know," Adelaida continued, "you owe us a description of the
Basle picture; but first I wish to hear how you fell in love.
Don't deny the fact, for you did, of course. Besides, you stop
philosophizing when you are telling about anything."
"Why are you ashamed of your stories the moment after you have
told them?" asked Aglaya, suddenly.
"How silly you are!" said Mrs. Epanchin, looking indignantly
towards the last speaker.
"Yes, that wasn't a clever remark," said Alexandra.
"Don't listen to her, prince," said Mrs. Epanchin; "she says that
sort of thing out of mischief. Don't think anything of their
nonsense, it means nothing. They love to chaff, but they like
you. I can see it in their faces--I know their faces."
"I know their faces, too," said the prince, with a peculiar
stress on the words.
"How so?" asked Adelaida, with curiosity.
"What do YOU know about our faces?" exclaimed the other two, in
But the prince was silent and serious. All awaited his reply.
"I'll tell you afterwards," he said quietly.
"Ah, you want to arouse our curiosity!" said Aglaya. "And how
terribly solemn you are about it!"
"Very well," interrupted Adelaida, "then if you can read faces so
well, you must have been in love. Come now; I've guessed--let's
have the secret!"
"I have not been in love," said the prince, as quietly and
seriously as before. "I have been happy in another way."
"Well, I'll tell you," said the prince, apparently in a deep
"Here you all are," began the prince, "settling yourselves down
to listen to me with so much curiosity, that if I do not satisfy
you you will probably be angry with me. No, no! I'm only
joking!" he added, hastily, with a smile.
"Well, then--they were all children there, and I was always among
children and only with children. They were the children of the
village in which I lived, and they went to the school there--all
of them. I did not teach them, oh no; there was a master for
that, one Jules Thibaut. I may have taught them some things, but
I was among them just as an outsider, and I passed all four years
of my life there among them. I wished for nothing better; I used
to tell them everything and hid nothing from them. Their fathers
and relations were very angry with me, because the children could
do nothing without me at last, and used to throng after me at all
times. The schoolmaster was my greatest enemy in the end! I had
many enemies, and all because of the children. Even Schneider
reproached me. What were they afraid of? One can tell a child
everything, anything. I have often been struck by the fact that
parents know their children so little. They should not conceal so
much from them. How well even little children understand that
their parents conceal things from them, because they consider
them too young to understand! Children are capable of giving
advice in the most important matters. How can one deceive these
dear little birds, when they look at one so sweetly and
confidingly? I call them birds because there is nothing in the
world better than birds!
"However, most of the people were angry with me about one and the
same thing; but Thibaut simply was jealous of me. At first he had
wagged his head and wondered how it was that the children
understood what I told them so well, and could not learn from
him; and he laughed like anything when I replied that neither he
nor I could teach them very much, but that THEY might teach us a
"How he could hate me and tell scandalous stories about me,
living among children as he did, is what I cannot understand.
Children soothe and heal the wounded heart. I remember there was
one poor fellow at our professor's who was being treated for
madness, and you have no idea what those children did for
him, eventually. I don't think he was mad, but only terribly
unhappy. But I'll tell you all about him another day. Now I must
get on with this story.
"The children did not love me at first; I was such a sickly,
awkward kind of a fellow then--and I know I am ugly. Besides, I
was a foreigner. The children used to laugh at me, at first; and
they even went so far as to throw stones at me, when they saw me
kiss Marie. I only kissed her once in my life--no, no, don't
laugh!" The prince hastened to suppress the smiles of his
audience at this point. "It was not a matter of LOVE at all! If
only you knew what a miserable creature she was, you would have
pitied her, just as I did. She belonged to our village. Her
mother was an old, old woman, and they used to sell string and
thread, and soap and tobacco, out of the window of their little
house, and lived on the pittance they gained by this trade. The
old woman was ill and very old, and could hardly move. Marie was
her daughter, a girl of twenty, weak and thin and consumptive;
but still she did heavy work at the houses around, day by day.
Well, one fine day a commercial traveller betrayed her and
carried her off; and a week later he deserted her. She came home
dirty, draggled, and shoeless; she had walked for a whole week
without shoes; she had slept in the fields, and caught a terrible
cold; her feet were swollen and sore, and her hands torn and
scratched all over. She never had been pretty even before; but
her eyes were quiet, innocent, kind eyes.
"She was very quiet always--and I remember once, when she had
suddenly begun singing at her work, everyone said, 'Marie tried
to sing today!' and she got so chaffed that she was silent for
ever after. She had been treated kindly in the place before; but
when she came back now--ill and shunned and miserable--not one of
them all had the slightest sympathy for her. Cruel people! Oh,
what hazy understandings they have on such matters! Her mother
was the first to show the way. She received her wrathfully,
unkindly, and with contempt. 'You have disgraced me,' she said.
She was the first to cast her into ignominy; but when they all
heard that Marie had returned to the village, they ran out to see
her and crowded into the little cottage--old men, children, women,
girls--such a hurrying, stamping, greedy crowd. Marie was
lying on the floor at the old woman's feet, hungry, torn,
draggled, crying, miserable.
"When everyone crowded into the room she hid her face in her
dishevelled hair and lay cowering on the floor. Everyone looked
at her as though she were a piece of dirt off the road. The old
men scolded and condemned, and the young ones laughed at her. The
women condemned her too, and looked at her contemptuously, just
as though she were some loathsome insect.
"Her mother allowed all this to go on, and nodded her head and
encouraged them. The old woman was very ill at that time, and
knew she was dying (she really did die a couple of months later),
and though she felt the end approaching she never thought of
forgiving her daughter, to the very day of her death. She would
not even speak to her. She made her sleep on straw in a shed, and
hardly gave her food enough to support life.
"Marie was very gentle to her mother, and nursed her, and did
everything for her; but the old woman accepted all her services
without a word and never showed her the slightest kindness. Marie
bore all this; and I could see when I got to know her that she
thought it quite right and fitting, considering herself the
lowest and meanest of creatures.
"When the old woman took to her bed finally, the other old women
in the village sat with her by turns, as the custom is there; and
then Marie was quite driven out of the house. They gave her no
food at all, and she could not get any work in the village; none
would employ her. The men seemed to consider her no longer a
woman, they said such dreadful things to her. Sometimes on
Sundays, if they were drunk enough, they used to throw her a
penny or two, into the mud, and Marie would silently pick up the
money. She had began to spit blood at that time.
"At last her rags became so tattered and torn that she was
ashamed of appearing in the village any longer. The children used
to pelt her with mud; so she begged to be taken on as assistant
cowherd, but the cowherd would not have her. Then she took to
helping him without leave; and he saw how valuable her assistance
was to him, and did not drive her away again; on the contrary, he
occasionally gave her the remnants of his dinner, bread and
cheese. He considered that he was being very kind. When the
mother died, the village parson was not ashamed to hold Marie up
to public derision and shame. Marie was standing at the coffin's
head, in all her rags, crying.
"A crowd of people had collected to see how she would cry. The
parson, a young fellow ambitious of becoming a great preacher,
began his sermon and pointed to Marie. 'There,' he said, 'there
is the cause of the death of this venerable woman'--(which was a
lie, because she had been ill for at least two years)--'there she
stands before you, and dares not lift her eyes from the ground,
because she knows that the finger of God is upon her. Look at her
tatters and rags--the badge of those who lose their virtue. Who
is she? her daughter!' and so on to the end.
"And just fancy, this infamy pleased them, all of them, nearly.
Only the children had altered--for then they were all on my side
and had learned to love Marie.
"This is how it was: I had wished to do something for Marie; I
longed to give her some money, but I never had a farthing while I
was there. But I had a little diamond pin, and this I sold to a
travelling pedlar; he gave me eight francs for it--it was worth
at least forty.
"I long sought to meet Marie alone; and at last I did meet her,
on the hillside beyond the village. I gave her the eight francs
and asked her to take care of the money because I could get no
more; and then I kissed her and said that she was not to suppose
I kissed her with any evil motives or because I was in love with
her, for that I did so solely out of pity for her, and because
from the first I had not accounted her as guilty so much as
unfortunate. I longed to console and encourage her somehow, and
to assure her that she was not the low, base thing which she and
others strove to make out; but I don't think she understood me.
She stood before me, dreadfully ashamed of herself, and with
downcast eyes; and when I had finished she kissed my hand. I
would have kissed hers, but she drew it away. Just at this moment
the whole troop of children saw us. (I found out afterwards that
they had long kept a watch upon me.) They all began whistling and
clapping their hands, and laughing at us. Marie ran away at once;
and when I tried to talk to them, they threw stones at me. All
the village heard of it the same day, and Marie's position became
worse than ever. The children would not let her pass now in the
streets, but annoyed her and threw dirt at her more than before.
They used to run after her--she racing away with her poor feeble
lungs panting and gasping, and they pelting her and shouting
abuse at her.
"Once I had to interfere by force; and after that I took to
speaking to them every day and whenever I could. Occasionally
they stopped and listened; but they teased Marie all the same.
"I told them how unhappy Marie was, and after a while they
stopped their abuse of her, and let her go by silently. Little by
little we got into the way of conversing together, the children
and I. I concealed nothing from them, I told them all. They
listened very attentively and soon began to be sorry for Marie.
At last some of them took to saying 'Good-morning' to her,
kindly, when they met her. It is the custom there to salute
anyone you meet with 'Good-morning' whether acquainted or not. I
can imagine how astonished Marie was at these first greetings
from the children.
"Once two little girls got hold of some food and took it to her,
and came back and told me. They said she had burst into tears,
and that they loved her very much now. Very soon after that they
all became fond of Marie, and at the same time they began to
develop the greatest affection for myself. They often came to me
and begged me to tell them stories. I think I must have told
stories well, for they did so love to hear them. At last I took
to reading up interesting things on purpose to pass them on to
the little ones, and this went on for all the rest of my time
there, three years. Later, when everyone--even Schneider--was
angry with me for hiding nothing from the children, I pointed out
how foolish it was, for they always knew things, only they learnt
them in a way that soiled their minds but not so from me. One has
only to remember one's own childhood to admit the truth of this.
But nobody was convinced. . . It was two weeks before her
mother died that I had kissed Marie; and when the clergyman
preached that sermon the children were all on my side.
"When I told them what a shame it was of the parson to talk as he
had done, and explained my reason, they were so angry that some
of them went and broke his windows with stones. Of course I
stopped them, for that was not right, but all the village heard
of it, and how I caught it for spoiling the children! Everyone
discovered now that the little ones had taken to being fond of
Marie, and their parents were terribly alarmed; but Marie was so
happy. The children were forbidden to meet her; but they used to
run out of the village to the herd and take her food and things;
and sometimes just ran off there and kissed her, and said, 'Je
vous aime, Marie!' and then trotted back again. They imagined
that I was in love with Marie, and this was the only point on
which I did not undeceive them, for they got such enjoyment out of
it. And what delicacy and tenderness they showed!
"In the evening I used to walk to the waterfall. There was a spot
there which was quite closed in and hidden from view by large
trees; and to this spot the children used to come to me. They
could not bear that their dear Leon should love a poor girl
without shoes to her feet and dressed all in rags and tatters.
So, would you believe it, they actually clubbed together,
somehow, and bought her shoes and stockings, and some linen, and
even a dress! I can't understand how they managed it, but they
did it, all together. When I asked them about it they only
laughed and shouted, and the little girls clapped their hands and
kissed me. I sometimes went to see Marie secretly, too. She had
become very ill, and could hardly walk. She still went with the
herd, but could not help the herdsman any longer. She used to sit
on a stone near, and wait there almost motionless all day, till
the herd went home. Her consumption was so advanced, and she was
so weak, that she used to sit with closed eyes, breathing
heavily. Her face was as thin as a skeleton's, and sweat used to
stand on her white brow in large drops. I always found her
sitting just like that. I used to come up quietly to look at her;
but Marie would hear me, open her eyes, and tremble violently as
she kissed my hands. I did not take my hand away because it made
her happy to have it, and so she would sit and cry quietly.
Sometimes she tried to speak; but it was very difficult to
understand her. She was almost like a madwoman, with excitement
and ecstasy, whenever I came. Occasionally the children came with
me; when they did so, they would stand some way off and keep
guard over us, so as to tell me if anybody came near. This was a
great pleasure to them.
"When we left her, Marie used to relapse at once into her old
condition, and sit with closed eyes and motionless limbs. One day
she could not go out at all, and remained at home all alone in
the empty hut; but the children very soon became aware of the
fact, and nearly all of them visited her that day as she lay
alone and helpless in her miserable bed.
"For two days the children looked after her, and then, when the
village people got to know that Marie was really dying, some of
the old women came and took it in turns to sit by her and look
after her a bit. I think they began to be a little sorry for her
in the village at last; at all events they did not interfere with
the children any more, on her account.
"Marie lay in a state of uncomfortable delirium the whole while;
she coughed dreadfully. The old women would not let the children
stay in the room; but they all collected outside the window each
morning, if only for a moment, and shouted 'Bon jour, notre
bonne Marie!' and Marie no sooner caught sight of, or heard them,
and she became quite animated at once, and, in spite of the old
women, would try to sit up and nod her head and smile at them,
and thank them. The little ones used to bring her nice things and
sweets to eat, but she could hardly touch anything. Thanks to
them, I assure you, the girl died almost perfectly happy. She
almost forgot her misery, and seemed to accept their love as a
sort of symbol of pardon for her offence, though she never ceased
to consider herself a dreadful sinner. They used to flutter at
her window just like little birds, calling out: 'Nous t'aimons,
"She died very soon; I had thought she would live much longer.
The day before her death I went to see her for the last time,
just before sunset. I think she recognized me, for she pressed my
"Next morning they came and told me that Marie was dead. The
children could not be restrained now; they went and covered her
coffin with flowers, and put a wreath of lovely blossoms on her
head. The pastor did not throw any more shameful words at the
poor dead woman; but there were very few people at the funeral.
However, when it came to carrying the coffin, all the children
rushed up, to carry it themselves. Of course they could not do it
alone, but they insisted on helping, and walked alongside and
"They have planted roses all round her grave, and every year they
look alter the flowers and make Marie's resting-place as
beautiful as they can. I was in ill odour after all this with the
parents of the children, and especially with the parson and
schoolmaster. Schneider was obliged to promise that I should not
meet them and talk to them; but we conversed from a distance by
signs, and they used to write me sweet little notes. Afterwards I
came closer than ever to those little souls, but even then it was
very dear to me, to have them so fond of me.
"Schneider said that I did the children great harm by my
pernicious 'system'; what nonsense that was! And what did he mean
by my system? He said afterwards that he believed I was a child
myself--just before I came away. 'You have the form and face of an
adult' he said, 'but as regards soul, and character, and perhaps
even intelligence, you are a child in the completest sense of the
word, and always will be, if you live to be sixty.' I laughed
very much, for of course that is nonsense. But it is a fact that
I do not care to be among grown-up people and much prefer the
society of children. However kind people may be to me, I never
feel quite at home with them, and am always glad to get back to
my little companions. Now my companions have always been
children, not because I was a child myself once, but because
young things attract me. On one of the first days of my stay in
Switzerland, I was strolling about alone and miserable, when I
came upon the children rushing noisily out of school, with their
slates and bags, and books, their games, their laughter and
shouts--and my soul went out to them. I stopped and laughed
happily as I watched their little feet moving so quickly. Girls
and boys, laughing and crying; for as they went home many of them
found time to fight and make peace, to weep and play. I forgot my
troubles in looking at them. And then, all those three years, I
tried to understand why men should be for ever tormenting
themselves. I lived the life of a child there, and thought I
should never leave the little village; indeed, I was far from
thinking that I should ever return to Russia. But at last I
recognized the fact that Schneider could not keep me any longer.
And then something so important happened, that Schneider himself
urged me to depart. I am going to see now if can get good advice
about it. Perhaps my lot in life will be changed; but that is not
the principal thing. The principal thing is the entire change
that has already come over me. I left many things behind me--too
many. They have gone. On the journey I said to myself, 'I am
going into the world of men. I don't know much, perhaps, but a
new life has begun for me.' I made up my mind to be honest, and
steadfast in accomplishing my task. Perhaps I shall meet with
troubles and many disappointments, but I have made up my mind to
be polite and sincere to everyone; more cannot be asked of me.
People may consider me a child if they like. I am often called an
idiot, and at one time I certainly was so ill that I was nearly
as bad as an idiot; but I am not an idiot now. How can I possibly
be so when I know myself that I am considered one?
"When I received a letter from those dear little souls, while
passing through Berlin, I only then realized how much I loved
them. It was very, very painful, getting that first little
letter. How melancholy they had been when they saw me off! For a
month before, they had been talking of my departure and sorrowing
over it; and at the waterfall, of an evening, when we parted for
the night, they would hug me so tight and kiss me so warmly, far
more so than before. And every now and then they would turn up
one by one when I was alone, just to give me a kiss and a hug, to
show their love for me. The whole flock went with me to the
station, which was about a mile from the village, and every now
and then one of them would stop to throw his arms round me, and
all the little girls had tears in their voices, though they tried
hard not to cry. As the train steamed out of the station, I saw
them all standing on the platform waving to me and crying
'Hurrah!' till they were lost in the distance.
"I assure you, when I came in here just now and saw your kind
faces (I can read faces well) my heart felt light for the first
time since that moment of parting. I think I must be one of those
who are born to be in luck, for one does not often meet with
people whom one feels he can love from the first sight of their
faces; and yet, no sooner do I step out of the railway carriage
than I happen upon you!
"I know it is more or less a shamefaced thing to speak of one's
feelings before others; and yet here am I talking like this
to you, and am not a bit ashamed or shy. I am an unsociable
sort of fellow and shall very likely not come to see you again
for some time; but don't think the worse of me for that. It is
not that I do not value your society; and you must never suppose
that I have taken offence at anything.
"You asked me about your faces, and what I could read in them; I
will tell you with the greatest pleasure. You, Adelaida Ivanovna,
have a very happy face; it is the most sympathetic of the three.
Not to speak of your natural beauty, one can look at your face
and say to one's self, 'She has the face of a kind sister.' You
are simple and merry, but you can see into another's heart very
quickly. That's what I read in your face.
"You too, Alexandra Ivanovna, have a very lovely face; but I
think you may have some secret sorrow. Your heart is undoubtedly
a kind, good one, but you are not merry. There is a certain
suspicion of 'shadow' in your face, like in that of Holbein's
Madonna in Dresden. So much for your face. Have I guessed right?
"As for your face, Lizabetha Prokofievna, I not only think, but
am perfectly SURE, that you are an absolute child--in all, in
all, mind, both good and bad-and in spite of your years. Don't be
angry with me for saying so; you know what my feelings for
children are. And do not suppose that I am so candid out of pure
simplicity of soul. Oh dear no, it is by no means the case!
Perhaps I have my own very profound object in view."
When the prince ceased speaking all were gazing merrily at him--
even Aglaya; but Lizabetha Prokofievna looked the jolliest of
"Well!" she cried, "we HAVE 'put him through his paces,' with a
vengeance! My dears, you imagined, I believe, that you were about
to patronize this young gentleman, like some poor protege picked
up somewhere, and taken under your magnificent protection. What
fools we were, and what a specially big fool is your father! Well
done, prince! I assure you the general actually asked me to put
you through your paces, and examine you. As to what you said
about my face, you are absolutely correct in your judgment. I am
a child, and know it. I knew it long before you said so; you have
expressed my own thoughts. I think your nature and mine must be
extremely alike, and I am very glad of it. We are like two drops
of water, only you are a man and I a woman, and I've not been to
Switzerland, and that is all the difference between us."
"Don't be in a hurry, mother; the prince says that he has some
motive behind his simplicity," cried Aglaya.
"Yes, yes, so he does," laughed the others.
"Oh, don't you begin bantering him," said mamma. "He is probably
a good deal cleverer than all three of you girls put together. We
shall see. Only you haven't told us anything about Aglaya yet,
prince; and Aglaya and I are both waiting to hear."
"I cannot say anything at present. I'll tell you afterwards."
"Why? Her face is clear enough, isn't it?"
"Oh yes, of course. You are very beautiful, Aglaya Ivanovna, so
beautiful that one is afraid to look at you."
"Is that all? What about her character?" persisted Mrs. Epanchin.
"It is difficult to judge when such beauty is concerned. I have
not prepared my judgment. Beauty is a riddle."
"That means that you have set Aglaya a riddle!" said Adelaida.
"Guess it, Aglaya! But she's pretty, prince, isn't she?"
"Most wonderfully so," said the latter, warmly, gazing at Aglaya
with admiration. "Almost as lovely as Nastasia Philipovna, but
quite a different type."
All present exchanged looks of surprise.
"As lovely as WHO?" said Mrs. Epanchin. "As NASTASIA PHILIPOVNA?
Where have you seen Nastasia Philipovna? What Nastasia
"Gavrila Ardalionovitch showed the general her portrait just
"How so? Did he bring the portrait for my husband?"
"Only to show it. Nastasia Philipovna gave it to Gavrila
Ardalionovitch today, and the latter brought it here to show to
"I must see it!" cried Mrs. Epanchin. "Where is the portrait? If
she gave it to him, he must have it; and he is still in the
study. He never leaves before four o'clock on Wednesdays. Send
for Gavrila Ardalionovitch at once. No, I don't long to see HIM
so much. Look here, dear prince, BE so kind, will you? Just step
to the study and fetch this portrait! Say we want to look at it.
Please do this for me, will you?"
"He is a nice fellow, but a little too simple," said Adelaida, as
the prince left the room.
"He is, indeed," said Alexandra; "almost laughably so at times."
Neither one nor the other seemed to give expression to her full
"He got out of it very neatly about our faces, though," said
Aglaya. He flattered us all round, even mamma."
"Nonsense" cried the latter. "He did not flatter me. It was I who
found his appreciation flattering. I think you are a great deal
more foolish than he is. He is simple, of course, but also very
knowing. Just like myself."
"How stupid of me to speak of the portrait," thought the prince
as he entered the study, with a feeling of guilt at his heart,
"and yet, perhaps I was right after all." He had an idea,
unformed as yet, but a strange idea.
Gavrila Ardalionovitch was still sitting in the study, buried in
a mass of papers. He looked as though he did not take his salary
from the public company, whose servant he was, for a sinecure.
He grew very wroth and confused when the prince asked for the
portrait, and explained how it came about that he had spoken of
"Oh, curse it all," he said; "what on earth must you go blabbing
for? You know nothing about the thing, and yet--idiot!" he added,
muttering the last word to himself in irrepressible rage.
"I am very sorry; I was not thinking at the time. I merely said
that Aglaya was almost as beautiful as Nastasia Philipovna."
Gania asked for further details; and the prince once more
repeated the conversation. Gania looked at him with ironical
contempt the while.
"Nastasia Philipovna," he began, and there paused; he was clearly
much agitated and annoyed. The prince reminded him of the
"Listen, prince," said Gania, as though an idea had just struck
him, "I wish to ask you a great favour, and yet I really don't
He paused again, he was trying to make up his mind to something,
and was turning the matter over. The prince waited quietly. Once
more Gania fixed him with intent and questioning eyes.
"Prince," he began again, "they are rather angry with me, in
there, owing to a circumstance which I need not explain, so that
I do not care to go in at present without an invitation. I
particularly wish to speak to Aglaya, but I have written a few
words in case I shall not have the chance of seeing her" (here
the prince observed a small note in his hand), "and I do not know
how to get my communication to her. Don't you think you could
undertake to give it to her at once, but only to her, mind, and
so that no one else should see you give it? It isn't much of a
secret, but still--Well, will you do it?"
"I don't quite like it," replied the prince.
"Oh, but it is absolutely necessary for me," Gania entreated.
"Believe me, if it were not so, I would not ask you; how else am
I to get it to her? It is most important, dreadfully important!"
Gania was evidently much alarmed at the idea that the prince
would not consent to take his note, and he looked at him now with
an expression of absolute entreaty.
"Well, I will take it then."
"But mind, nobody is to see!" cried the delighted Gania "And of
course I may rely on your word of honour, eh?"
"I won't show it to anyone," said the prince.
"The letter is not sealed--" continued Gania, and paused in
"Oh, I won't read it," said the prince, quite simply.
He took up the portrait, and went out of the room.
Gania, left alone, clutched his head with his hands.
"One word from her," he said, "one word from her, and I may yet be
He could not settle himself to his papers again, for agitation
and excitement, but began walking up and down the room from
corner to corner.
The prince walked along, musing. He did not like his commission,
and disliked the idea of Gania sending a note to Aglaya at all; but
when he was two rooms distant from the drawing-room, where they
all were, he stopped a though recalling something; went to the
window, nearer the light, and began to examine the portrait in
He longed to solve the mystery of something in the face Nastasia
Philipovna, something which had struck him as he looked at the
portrait for the first time; the impression had not left him. It
was partly the fact of her marvellous beauty that struck him, and
partly something else. There was a suggestion of immense pride
and disdain in the face almost of hatred, and at the same time
something confiding and very full of simplicity. The contrast
aroused a deep sympathy in his heart as he looked at the lovely
face. The blinding loveliness of it was almost intolerable, this
pale thin face with its flaming eyes; it was a strange beauty.
The prince gazed at it for a minute or two, then glanced around
him, and hurriedly raised the portrait to his lips. When, a
minute after, he reached the drawing-room door, his face was
quite composed. But just as he reached the door he met Aglaya
coming out alone.
"Gavrila Ardalionovitch begged me to give you this," he said,
handing her the note.
Aglaya stopped, took the letter, and gazed strangely into the
prince's eyes. There was no confusion in her face; a little
surprise, perhaps, but that was all. By her look she seemed
merely to challenge the prince to an explanation as to how he and
Gania happened to be connected in this matter. But her expression
was perfectly cool and quiet, and even condescending.
So they stood for a moment or two, confronting one another. At
length a faint smile passed over her face, and she passed by him
without a word.
Mrs. Epanchin examined the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna for
some little while, holding it critically at arm's length.
"Yes, she is pretty," she said at last, "even very pretty. I have
seen her twice, but only at a distance. So you admire this kind
of beauty, do you?" she asked the prince, suddenly.
"Yes, I do--this kind."
"Do you mean especially this kind?"
"Yes, especially this kind."
"There is much suffering in this face," murmured the prince, more
as though talking to himself than answering the question.
"I think you are wandering a little, prince," Mrs. Epanchin
decided, after a lengthened survey of his face; and she tossed
the portrait on to the table, haughtily.
Alexandra took it, and Adelaida came up, and both the girls
examined the photograph. Just then Aglaya entered the room.
"What a power!" cried Adelaida suddenly, as she earnestly
examined the portrait over her sister's shoulder.
"Whom? What power?" asked her mother, crossly.
"Such beauty is real power," said Adelaida. "With such beauty as
that one might overthrow the world." She returned to her easel
Aglaya merely glanced at the portrait--frowned, and put out her
underlip; then went and sat down on the sofa with folded hands.
Mrs. Epanchin rang the bell.
"Ask Gavrila Ardalionovitch to step this way," said she to the
man who answered.
"Mamma!" cried Alexandra, significantly.
"I shall just say two words to him, that's all," said her mother,
silencing all objection by her manner; she was evidently
seriously put out. "You see, prince, it is all secrets with us,
just now--all secrets. It seems to be the etiquette of the house,
for some reason or, other. Stupid nonsense, and in a matter
which ought to be approached with all candour and open-
heartedness. There is a marriage being talked of, and I don't
like this marriage--"
"Mamma, what are you saying?" said Alexandra again, hurriedly.
"Well, what, my dear girl? As if you can possibly like it
yourself? The heart is the great thing, and the rest is all
rubbish--though one must have sense as well. Perhaps sense is
really the great thing. Don't smile like that, Aglaya. I don't
contradict myself. A fool with a heart and no brains is just as
unhappy as a fool with brains and no heart. I am one and you are
the other, and therefore both of us suffer, both of us are
"Why are you so unhappy, mother?" asked Adelaida, who alone of
all the company seemed to have preserved her good temper and
spirits up to now.
"In the first place, because of my carefully brought-up
daughters," said Mrs. Epanchin, cuttingly; "and as that is the
best reason I can give you we need not bother about any other at
present. Enough of words, now! We shall see how both of you (I
don't count Aglaya) will manage your business, and whether you,
most revered Alexandra Ivanovna, will be happy with your fine
"Ah!" she added, as Gania suddenly entered the room, "here's
another marrying subject. How do you do?" she continued, in
response to Gania's bow; but she did not invite him to sit down.
"You are going to be married?"
"Married? how--what marriage?" murmured Gania, overwhelmed with
"Are you about to take a wife? I ask,--if you prefer that
"No, no I-I--no!" said Gania, bringing out his lie with a tell-
tale blush of shame. He glanced keenly at Aglaya, who was sitting
some way off, and dropped his eyes immediately.
Aglaya gazed coldly, intently, and composedly at him, without
taking her eyes off his face, and watched his confusion.
"No? You say no, do you?" continued the pitiless Mrs. General.
"Very well, I shall remember that you told me this Wednesday
morning, in answer to my question, that you are not going to be
married. What day is it, Wednesday, isn't it?"
"Yes, I think so!" said Adelaida.
"You never know the day of the week; what's the day of the
"Twenty-seventh!" said Gania.
"Twenty-seventh; very well. Good-bye now; you have a good deal to
do, I'm sure, and I must dress and go out. Take your portrait.
Give my respects to your unfortunate mother, Nina Alexandrovna.
Au revoir, dear prince, come in and see us often, do; and I shall
tell old Princess Bielokonski about you. I shall go and see her
on purpose. And listen, my dear boy, I feel sure that God has
sent you to Petersburg from Switzerland on purpose for me. Maybe
you will have other things to do, besides, but you are sent
chiefly for my sake, I feel sure of it. God sent you to me! Au
revoir! Alexandra, come with me, my dear."
Mrs. Epanchin left the room.
Gania--confused, annoyed, furious--took up his portrait, and
turned to the prince with a nasty smile on his face.
"Prince," he said, "I am just going home. If you have not changed
your mind as to living with us, perhaps you would like to come
with me. You don't know the address, I believe?"
"Wait a minute, prince," said Aglaya, suddenly rising from her
seat, "do write something in my album first, will you? Father
says you are a most talented caligraphist; I'll bring you my book
in a minute." She left the room.
"Well, au revoir, prince," said Adelaida, "I must be going too."
She pressed the prince's hand warmly, and gave him a friendly
smile as she left the room. She did not so much as look at Gania.
"This is your doing, prince," said Gania, turning on the latter
so soon as the others were all out of the room. "This is your
doing, sir! YOU have been telling them that I am going to be
married!" He said this in a hurried whisper, his eyes flashing
with rage and his face ablaze. "You shameless tattler!"
"I assure you, you are under a delusion," said the prince, calmly
and politely. "I did not even know that you were to be married."
"You heard me talking about it, the general and me. You heard me
say that everything was to be settled today at Nastasia
Philipovna's, and you went and blurted it out here. You lie if
you deny it. Who else could have told them Devil take it, sir,
who could have told them except yourself? Didn't the old woman as
good as hint as much to me?"
"If she hinted to you who told her you must know best, of course;
but I never said a word about it."
"Did you give my note? Is there an answer?" interrupted Gania,
But at this moment Aglaya came back, and the prince had no time
"There, prince," said she, "there's my album. Now choose a page
and write me something, will you? There's a pen, a new one; do
you mind a steel one? I have heard that you caligraphists don't
like steel pens."
Conversing with the prince, Aglaya did not even seem to notice
that Gania was in the room. But while the prince was getting his
pen ready, finding a page, and making his preparations to write,
Gania came up to the fireplace where Aglaya was standing, to the
right of the prince, and in trembling, broken accents said,
almost in her ear:
"One word, just one word from you, and I'm saved."
The prince turned sharply round and looked at both of them.
Gania's face was full of real despair; he seemed to have said the
words almost unconsciously and on the impulse of the moment.
Aglaya gazed at him for some seconds with precisely the same
composure and calm astonishment as she had shown a little while
before, when the prince handed her the note, and it appeared that
this calm surprise and seemingly absolute incomprehension of what
was said to her, were more terribly overwhelming to Gania than
even the most plainly expressed disdain would have been.
"What shall I write?" asked the prince.
"I'll dictate to you," said Aglaya, coming up to the table. "Now
then, are you ready? Write, 'I never condescend to bargain!' Now
put your name and the date. Let me see it."
The prince handed her the album.
"Capital! How beautifully you have written it! Thanks so much. Au
revoir, prince. Wait a minute,"; she added, "I want to give you
something for a keepsake. Come with me this way, will you?"
The prince followed her. Arrived at the dining-room, she stopped.
"Read this," she said, handing him Gania's note.
The prince took it from her hand, but gazed at her in
"Oh! I KNOW you haven't read it, and that you could never be that
man's accomplice. Read it, I wish you to read it."
The letter had evidently been written in a hurry:
"My fate is to be decided today" (it ran), "you know how. This
day I must give my word irrevocably. I have no right to ask your
help, and I dare not allow myself to indulge in any hopes; but
once you said just one word, and that word lighted up the night
of my life, and became the beacon of my days. Say one more such
word, and save me from utter ruin. Only tell me, 'break off the
whole thing!' and I will do so this very day. Oh! what can it
cost you to say just this one word? In doing so you will but be
giving me a sign of your sympathy for me, and of your pity; only
this, only this; nothing more, NOTHING. I dare not indulge in any
hope, because I am unworthy of it. But if you say but this word,
I will take up my cross again with joy, and return once more to
my battle with poverty. I shall meet the storm and be glad of it;
I shall rise up with renewed strength.
"Send me back then this one word of sympathy, only sympathy, I
swear to you; and oh! do not be angry with the audacity of
despair, with the drowning man who has dared to make this last
effort to save himself from perishing beneath the waters.
"This man assures me," said Aglaya, scornfully, when the prince
had finished reading the letter, "that the words 'break off
everything' do not commit me to anything whatever; and himself
gives me a written guarantee to that effect, in this letter.
Observe how ingenuously he underlines certain words, and how
crudely he glosses over his hidden thoughts. He must know that if
he 'broke off everything,' FIRST, by himself, and without telling
me a word about it or having the slightest hope on my account,
that in that case I should perhaps be able to change my opinion
of him, and even accept his--friendship. He must know that, but
his soul is such a wretched thing. He knows it and cannot make up
his mind; he knows it and yet asks for guarantees. He cannot
bring himself to TRUST, he wants me to give him hopes of myself
before he lets go of his hundred thousand roubles. As to the
'former word' which he declares 'lighted up the night of his
life,' he is simply an impudent liar; I merely pitied him once.
But he is audacious and shameless. He immediately began to hope,
at that very moment. I saw it. He has tried to catch me ever
since; he is still fishing for me. Well, enough of this. Take the
letter and give it back to him, as soon as you have left our
house; not before, of course."
"And what shall I tell him by way of answer?"
"Nothing--of course! That's the best answer. Is it the case that
you are going to live in his house?"
"Yes, your father kindly recommended me to him."
"Then look out for him, I warn you! He won't forgive you easily,
for taking back the letter."
Aglaya pressed the prince's hand and left the room. Her face was
serious and frowning; she did not even smile as she nodded good-
bye to him at the door.
"I'll just get my parcel and we'll go," said the prince to Gania,
as he re-entered the drawing-room. Gania stamped his foot with
impatience. His face looked dark and gloomy with rage.
At last they left the house behind them, the prince carrying his
"The answer--quick--the answer!" said Gania, the instant they
were outside. "What did she say? Did you give the letter?" The
prince silently held out the note. Gania was struck motionless
"How, what? my letter?" he cried. "He never delivered it! I might
have guessed it, oh! curse him! Of course she did not understand
what I meant, naturally! Why-why-WHY didn't you give her the note,
"Excuse me; I was able to deliver it almost immediately after
receiving your commission, and I gave it, too, just as you asked
me to. It has come into my hands now because Aglaya Ivanovna has
just returned it to me."
"As soon as I finished writing in her album for her, and when she
asked me to come out of the room with her (you heard?), we went
into the dining-room, and she gave me your letter to read, and
then told me to return it."
"To READ?" cried Gania, almost at the top of his voice; "to READ,
and you read it?"
And again he stood like a log in the middle of the pavement; so
amazed that his mouth remained open after the last word had left
"Yes, I have just read it."
"And she gave it you to read herself--HERSELF?"
"Yes, herself; and you may believe me when I tell you that I
would not have read it for anything without her permission."
Gania was silent for a minute or two, as though thinking out some
problem. Suddenly he cried:
"It's impossible, she cannot have given it to you to read! You
are lying. You read it yourself!"
"I am telling you the truth," said the prince in his former
composed tone of voice; "and believe me, I am extremely sorry
that the circumstance should have made such an unpleasant
impression upon you!"
"But, you wretched man, at least she must have said something?
There must be SOME answer from her!"
"Yes, of course, she did say something!"
"Out with it then, damn it! Out with it at once!" and Gania
stamped his foot twice on the pavement.
"As soon as I had finished reading it, she told me that you were
fishing for her; that you wished to compromise her so far as to
receive some hopes from her, trusting to which hopes you might
break with the prospect of receiving a hundred thousand roubles.
She said that if you had done this without bargaining with her,
if you had broken with the money prospects without trying to
force a guarantee out of her first, she might have been your
friend. That's all, I think. Oh no, when I asked her what I was
to say, as I took the letter, she replied that 'no answer is the
best answer.' I think that was it. Forgive me if I do not use her
exact expressions. I tell you the sense as I understood it
Ungovernable rage and madness took entire possession of Gania,
and his fury burst out without the least attempt at restraint.
"Oh! that's it, is it!" he yelled. "She throws my letters out of
the window, does she! Oh! and she does not condescend to bargain,
while I DO, eh? We shall see, we shall see! I shall pay her out
He twisted himself about with rage, and grew paler and paler; he
shook his fist. So the pair walked along a few steps. Gania did
not stand on ceremony with the prince; he behaved just as though
he were alone in his room. He clearly counted the latter as a
nonentity. But suddenly he seemed to have an idea, and
"But how was it?" he asked, "how was it that you (idiot that you
are)," he added to himself, "were so very confidential a couple
of hours after your first meeting with these people? How was
Up to this moment jealousy had not been one of his torments; now
it suddenly gnawed at his heart.
"That is a thing I cannot undertake to explain," replied the
prince. Gania looked at him with angry contempt.
"Oh! I suppose the present she wished to make to you, when she
took you into the dining-room, was her confidence, eh?"
"I suppose that was it; I cannot explain it otherwise?"
"But why, WHY? Devil take it, what did you do in there? Why did
they fancy you? Look here, can't you remember exactly what you
said to them, from the very beginning? Can't you remember?"
"Oh, we talked of a great many things. When first I went in we
began to speak of Switzerland."
"Oh, the devil take Switzerland!"
"Then about executions."
"Yes--at least about one. Then I told the whole three years'
story of my life, and the history of a poor peasant girl--"
"Oh, damn the peasant girl! go on, go on!" said Gania,