Part 3 out of 15
"Then how Schneider told me about my childish nature, and--"
"Oh, CURSE Schneider and his dirty opinions! Go on."
"Then I began to talk about faces, at least about the EXPRESSIONS
of faces, and said that Aglaya Ivanovna was nearly as lovely as
Nastasia Philipovna. It was then I blurted out about the
"But you didn't repeat what you heard in the study? You didn't
"No, I tell you I did NOT."
"Then how did they--look here! Did Aglaya show my letter to the
"Oh, there I can give you my fullest assurance that she did NOT.
I was there all the while--she had no time to do it!"
"But perhaps you may not have observed it, oh, you damned idiot,
you!" he shouted, quite beside himself with fury. "You can't even
describe what went on."
Gania having once descended to abuse, and receiving no check,
very soon knew no bounds or limit to his licence, as is often the
way in such cases. His rage so blinded him that he had not even
been able to detect that this "idiot," whom he was abusing to
such an extent, was very far from being slow of comprehension,
and had a way of taking in an impression, and afterwards giving
it out again, which was very un-idiotic indeed. But something a
little unforeseen now occurred.
"I think I ought to tell you, Gavrila Ardalionovitch," said the
prince, suddenly, "that though I once was so ill that I really
was little better than an idiot, yet now I am almost recovered,
and that, therefore, it is not altogether pleasant to be called
an idiot to my face. Of course your anger is excusable,
considering the treatment you have just experienced; but I must
remind you that you have twice abused me rather rudely. I do not
like this sort of thing, and especially so at the first time of
meeting a man, and, therefore, as we happen to be at this moment
standing at a crossroad, don't you think we had better part, you
to the left, homewards, and I to the right, here? I have twenty-
five roubles, and I shall easily find a lodging."
Gania was much confused, and blushed for shame "Do forgive me,
prince!" he cried, suddenly changing his abusive tone for one of
great courtesy. "For Heaven's sake, forgive me! You see what a
miserable plight I am in, but you hardly know anything of the
facts of the case as yet. If you did, I am sure you would forgive
me, at least partially. Of course it was inexcusable of me, I
"Oh, dear me, I really do not require such profuse apologies,"
replied the prince, hastily. "I quite understand how unpleasant
your position is, and that is what made you abuse me. So
come along to your house, after all. I shall be delighted--"
"I am not going to let him go like this," thought Gania, glancing
angrily at the prince as they walked along. " The fellow has
sucked everything out of me, and now he takes off his mask--
there's something more than appears, here we shall see. It shall
all be as clear as water by tonight, everything!"
But by this time they had reached Gania's house.
The flat occupied by Gania and his family was on the third floor
of the house. It was reached by a clean light staircase, and
consisted of seven rooms, a nice enough lodging, and one would
have thought a little too good for a clerk on two thousand
roubles a year. But it was designed to accommodate a few lodgers
on board terms, and had beer) taken a few months since, much to
the disgust of Gania, at the urgent request of his mother and his
sister, Varvara Ardalionovna, who longed to do something to
increase the family income a little, and fixed their hopes upon
letting lodgings. Gania frowned upon the idea. He thought it
infra dig, and did not quite like appearing in society
afterwards--that society in which he had been accustomed to pose
up to now as a young man of rather brilliant prospects. All these
concessions and rebuffs of fortune, of late, had wounded his
spirit severely, and his temper had become extremely irritable,
his wrath being generally quite out of proportion to the cause.
But if he had made up his mind to put up with this sort of life
for a while, it was only on the plain understanding with his
inner self that he would very soon change it all, and have things
as he chose again. Yet the very means by which he hoped to make
this change threatened to involve him in even greater
difficulties than he had had before.
The flat was divided by a passage which led straight out of the
entrance-hall. Along one side of this corridor lay the three
rooms which were designed for the accommodation of the "highly
recommended" lodgers. Besides these three rooms there was
another small one at the end of the passage, close to the
kitchen, which was allotted to General Ivolgin, the nominal
master of the house, who slept on a wide sofa, and was obliged
to pass into and out of his room through the kitchen, and up
or down the back stairs. Colia, Gania's young brother, a
school-boy of thirteen, shared this room with his father.
He, too, had to sleep on an old sofa, a narrow, uncomfortable
thing with a torn rug over it; his chief duty being to look
after his father, who needed to be watched more and more
The prince was given the middle room of the three, the first
being occupied by one Ferdishenko, while the third was empty.
But Gania first conducted the prince to the family apartments.
These consisted of a "salon," which became the dining-room when
required; a drawing-room, which was only a drawing-room in the
morning, and became Gania's study in the evening, and his bedroom
at night; and lastly Nina Alexandrovna's and Varvara's bedroom, a
small, close chamber which they shared together.
In a word, the whole place was confined, and a "tight fit" for
the party. Gania used to grind his teeth with rage over the state
of affairs; though he was anxious to be dutiful and polite to his
mother. However, it was very soon apparent to anyone coming into
the house, that Gania was the tyrant of the family.
Nina Alexandrovna and her daughter were both seated in the
drawing-room, engaged in knitting, and talking to a visitor, Ivan
The lady of the house appeared to be a woman of about fifty years
of age, thin-faced, and with black lines under the eves. She
looked ill and rather sad; but her face was a pleasant one for
all that; and from the first word that fell from her lips, any
stranger would at once conclude that she was of a serious and
particularly sincere nature. In spite of her sorrowful
expression, she gave the idea of possessing considerable firmness
Her dress was modest and simple to a degree, dark and elderly in
style; but both her face and appearance gave evidence that she
had seen better days.
Varvara was a girl of some twenty-three summers, of middle
height, thin, but possessing a face which, without being actually
beautiful, had the rare quality of charm, and might fascinate
even to the extent of passionate regard.
She was very like her mother: she even dressed like her, which
proved that she had no taste for smart clothes. The expression of
her grey eyes was merry and gentle, when it was not, as lately,
too full of thought and anxiety. The same decision and firmness
was to be observed in her face as in her mother's, but her
strength seemed to be more vigorous than that of Nina
Alexandrovna. She was subject to outbursts of temper, of which
even her brother was a little afraid.
The present visitor, Ptitsin, was also afraid of her. This was a
young fellow of something under thirty, dressed plainly, but
neatly. His manners were good, but rather ponderously so. His
dark beard bore evidence to the fact that he was not in any
government employ. He could speak well, but preferred silence. On
the whole he made a decidedly agreeable impression. He was
clearly attracted by Varvara, and made no secret of his feelings.
She trusted him in a friendly way, but had not shown him any
decided encouragement as yet, which fact did not quell his ardour
in the least.
Nina Alexandrovna was very fond of him, and had grown quite
confidential with him of late. Ptitsin, as was well known, was
engaged in the business of lending out money on good security,
and at a good rate of interest. He was a great friend of Gania's.
After a formal introduction by Gania (who greeted his mother very
shortly, took no notice of his sister, and immediately marched
Ptitsin out of the room), Nina Alexandrovna addressed a few kind
words to the prince and forthwith requested Colia, who had just
appeared at the door, to show him to the " middle room."
Colia was a nice-looking boy. His expression was simple and
confiding, and his manners were very polite and engaging.
"Where's your luggage?" he asked, as he led the prince away to
"I had a bundle; it's in the entrance hall."
"I'll bring it you directly. We only have a cook and one maid, so
I have to help as much as I can. Varia looks after things,
generally, and loses her temper over it. Gania says you have only
just arrived from Switzerland? "
"Is it jolly there?"
"I'll go and get your bundle."
Here Varvara joined them.
"The maid shall bring your bed-linen directly. Have you a
"No; a bundle--your brother has just gone to the hall for it."
"There's nothing there except this," said Colia, returning at
this moment. "Where did you put it?"
"Oh! but that's all I have," said the prince, taking it.
"Ah! I thought perhaps Ferdishenko had taken it."
"Don't talk nonsense," said Varia, severely. She seemed put out,
and was only just polite with the prince.
"Oho!" laughed the boy, "you can be nicer than that to ME, you
know--I'm not Ptitsin!"
"You ought to be whipped, Colia, you silly boy. If you want
anything" (to the prince) "please apply to the servant. We dine
at half-past four. You can take your dinner with us, or have it
in your room, just as you please. Come along, Colia, don't
disturb the prince."
At the door they met Gania coming in.
"Is father in?" he asked. Colia whispered something in his ear
and went out.
"Just a couple of words, prince, if you'll excuse me. Don't blab
over THERE about what you may see here, or in this house as to
all that about Aglaya and me, you know. Things are not altogether
pleasant in this establishment--devil take it all! You'll see. At
all events keep your tongue to yourself for TODAY."
"I assure you I 'blabbed' a great deal less than you seem to
suppose," said the prince, with some annoyance. Clearly the
relations between Gania and himself were by no means improving.
"Oh I well; I caught it quite hot enough today, thanks to you.
However, I forgive you."
"I think you might fairly remember that I was not in any way
bound, I had no reason to be silent about that portrait. You
never asked me not to mention it."
"Pfu! what a wretched room this is--dark, and the window looking
into the yard. Your coming to our house is, in no respect,
opportune. However, it's not MY affair. I don't keep the
Ptitsin here looked in and beckoned to Gania, who hastily left
the room, in spite of the fact that he had evidently wished to
say something more and had only made the remark about the room to
gain time. The prince had hardly had time to wash and tidy
himself a little when the door opened once more, and another
This was a gentleman of about thirty, tall, broadshouldered, and
red-haired; his face was red, too, and he possessed a pair of
thick lips, a wide nose, small eyes, rather bloodshot, and with
an ironical expression in them; as though he were perpetually
winking at someone. His whole appearance gave one the idea of
impudence; his dress was shabby.
He opened the door just enough to let his head in. His head
remained so placed for a few seconds while he quietly scrutinized
the room; the door then opened enough to admit his body; but
still he did not enter. He stood on the threshold and examined
the prince carefully. At last he gave the door a final shove,
entered, approached the prince, took his hand and seated himself
and the owner of the room on two chairs side by side.
"Ferdishenko," he said, gazing intently and inquiringly into the
"Very well, what next?" said the latter, almost laughing in his
"A lodger here," continued the other, staring as before.
"Do you wish to make acquaintance?" asked the prince.
"Ah!" said the visitor, passing his fingers through his hair and
sighing. He then looked over to the other side of the room and
around it. "Got any money?" he asked, suddenly.
"Let's see it."
The prince took his banknote out and showed it to Ferdishenko.
The latter unfolded it and looked at it; then he turned it round
and examined the other side; then he held it up to the light.
"How strange that it should have browned so," he said,
reflectively. "These twenty-five rouble notes brown in a most
extraordinary way, while other notes often grow paler. Take it."
The prince took his note. Ferdishenko rose.
"I came here to warn you," he said. "In the first place, don't
lend me any money, for I shall certainly ask you to."
"Shall you pay here?"
"Yes, I intend to."
"Oh! I DON'T intend to. Thanks. I live here, next door to you;
you noticed a room, did you? Don't come to me very often; I shall
see you here quite often enough. Have you seen the general?"
"Nor heard him?"
"No; of course not."
"Well, you'll both hear and see him soon; he even tries to borrow
money from me. Avis au lecteur. Good-bye; do you think a man can
possibly live with a name like Ferdishenko?"
And so he departed. The prince found out afterwards that this
gentleman made it his business to amaze people with his
originality and wit, but that it did not as a rule "come off." He
even produced a bad impression on some people, which grieved him
sorely; but he did not change his ways for all that.
As he went out of the prince's room, he collided with yet another
visitor coming in. Ferdishenko took the opportunity of making
several warning gestures to the prince from behind the new
arrival's back, and left the room in conscious pride.
This next arrival was a tall red-faced man of about fifty-five,
with greyish hair and whiskers, and large eyes which stood out of
their sockets. His appearance would have been distinguished had
it not been that he gave the idea of being rather dirty. He was
dressed in an old coat, and he smelled of vodka when he came
near. His walk was effective, and he clearly did his best to
appear dignified, and to impress people by his manner.
This gentleman now approached the prince slowly, and with a most
courteous smile; silently took his hand and held it in his own,
as he examined the prince's features as though searching for
familiar traits therein.
"'Tis he, 'tis he!" he said at last, quietly, but with much
solemnity. "As though he were alive once more. I heard the
familiar name-the dear familiar name--and, oh. I how it reminded
me of the irrevocable past--Prince Muishkin, I believe ?"
"General Ivolgin--retired and unfortunate. May I ask your
Christian and generic names?"
"So, so--the son of my old, I may say my childhood's friend,
"My father's name was Nicolai Lvovitch."
"Lvovitch," repeated the general without the slightest haste, and
with perfect confidence, just as though he had not committed
himself the least in the world, but merely made a little slip of
the tongue. He sat down, and taking the prince's hand, drew him
to a seat next to himself.
"I carried you in my arms as a baby," he observed.
"Really?" asked the prince. "Why, it's twenty years since my
"Yes, yes--twenty years and three months. We were educated
together; I went straight into the army, and he--"
"My father went into the army, too. He was a sub-lieutenant in
the Vasiliefsky regiment."
"No, sir--in the Bielomirsky; he changed into the latter shortly
before his death. I was at his bedside when he died, and gave him
my blessing for eternity. Your mother--" The general paused, as
though overcome with emotion.
"She died a few months later, from a cold," said the prince.
"Oh, not cold--believe an old man--not from a cold, but from
grief for her prince. Oh--your mother, your mother! heigh-ho!
Youth--youth! Your father and I--old friends as we were--nearly
murdered each other for her sake."
The prince began to be a little incredulous.
"I was passionately in love with her when she was engaged--
engaged to my friend. The prince noticed the fact and was
furious. He came and woke me at seven o'clock one morning. I rise
and dress in amazement; silence on both sides. I understand it
all. He takes a couple of pistols out of his pocket--across a
handkerchief--without witnesses. Why invite witnesses when both
of us would be walking in eternity in a couple of minutes? The
pistols are loaded; we stretch the handkerchief and stand
opposite one another. We aim the pistols at each other's hearts.
Suddenly tears start to our eyes, our hands shake; we weep, we
embrace--the battle is one of self-sacrifice now! The prince
shouts, 'She is yours;' I cry, 'She is yours--' in a word, in a
word--You've come to live with us, hey?"
"Yes--yes--for a while, I think," stammered the prince.
"Prince, mother begs you to come to her," said Colia, appearing
at the door.
The prince rose to go, but the general once more laid his hand in
a friendly manner on his shoulder, and dragged him down on to the
"As the true friend of your father, I wish to say a few words to
you," he began. "I have suffered--there was a catastrophe. I
suffered without a trial; I had no trial. Nina Alexandrovna my
wife, is an excellent woman, so is my daughter Varvara. We have
to let lodgings because we are poor--a dreadful, unheard-of come-
down for us--for me, who should have been a governor-general; but
we are very glad to have YOU, at all events. Meanwhile there is a
tragedy in the house."
The prince looked inquiringly at the other.
"Yes, a marriage is being arranged--a marriage between a
questionable woman and a young fellow who might be a flunkey.
They wish to bring this woman into the house where my wife and
daughter reside, but while I live and breathe she shall never
enter my doors. I shall lie at the threshold, and she shall
trample me underfoot if she does. I hardly talk to Gania now, and
avoid him as much as I can. I warn you of this beforehand, but
you cannot fail to observe it. But you are the son of my old
friend, and I hope--"
"Prince, be so kind as to come to me for a moment in the drawing-
room," said Nina Alexandrovna herself, appearing at the door.
"Imagine, my dear," cried the general, "it turns out that I have
nursed the prince on my knee in the old days." His wife looked
searchingly at him, and glanced at the prince, but said nothing.
The prince rose and followed her; but hardly had they reached the
drawing-room, and Nina Alexandrovna had begun to talk hurriedly,
when in came the general. She immediately relapsed into silence.
The master of the house may have observed this, but at all events
he did not take any notice of it; he was in high good humour.
"A son of my old friend, dear," he cried; "surely you must
remember Prince Nicolai Lvovitch? You saw him at--at Tver."
"I don't remember any Nicolai Lvovitch, Was that your father?"
she inquired of the prince.
"Yes, but he died at Elizabethgrad, not at Tver," said the
prince, rather timidly. "So Pavlicheff told me."
"No, Tver," insisted the general; "he removed just before his
death. You were very small and cannot remember; and Pavlicheff,
though an excellent fellow, may have made a mistake."
"You knew Pavlicheff then?"
"Oh, yes--a wonderful fellow; but I was present myself. I gave
him my blessing."
"My father was just about to be tried when he died," said the
prince, "although I never knew of what he was accused. He died in
"Oh! it was the Kolpakoff business, and of course he would have
"Yes? Do you know that for a fact?" asked the prince, whose
curiosity was aroused by the general's words.
"I should think so indeed!" cried the latter. "The court-martial
came to no decision. It was a mysterious, an impossible business,
one might say! Captain Larionoff, commander of the company, had
died; his command was handed over to the prince for the moment.
Very well. This soldier, Kolpakoff, stole some leather from one
of his comrades, intending to sell it, and spent the money on
drink. Well! The prince--you understand that what follows took
place in the presence of the sergeant-major, and a corporal--the
prince rated Kolpakoff soundly, and threatened to have him
flogged. Well, Kolpakoff went back to the barracks, lay down on a
camp bedstead, and in a quarter of an hour was dead: you quite
understand? It was, as I said, a strange, almost impossible,
affair. In due course Kolpakoff was buried; the prince wrote his
report, the deceased's name was removed from the roll. All as it
should be, is it not? But exactly three months later at the
inspection of the brigade, the man Kolpakoff was found in the
third company of the second battalion of infantry, Novozemlianski
division, just as if nothing had happened!"
"What?" said the prince, much astonished.
"It did not occur--it's a mistake!" said Nina Alexandrovna
quickly, looking, at the prince rather anxiously. "Mon mari se
trompe," she added, speaking in French.
"My dear, 'se trompe' is easily said. Do you remember any case at
all like it? Everybody was at their wits' end. I should be the
first to say 'qu'on se trompe,' but unfortunately I was an eye-
witness, and was also on the commission of inquiry. Everything
proved that it was really he, the very same soldier Kolpakoff who
had been given the usual military funeral to the sound of the
drum. It is of course a most curious case--nearly an impossible
one. I recognize that ... but--"
"Father, your dinner is ready," said Varvara at this point,
putting her head in at the door.
"Very glad, I'm particularly hungry. Yes, yes, a strange
coincidence--almost a psychological--"
"Your soup'll be cold; do come."
"Coming, coming " said the general. "Son of my old friend--" he
was heard muttering as he went down the passage.
"You will have to excuse very much in my husband, if you stay
with us," said Nina Alexandrovna; "but he will not disturb you
often. He dines alone. Everyone has his little peculiarities, you
know, and some people perhaps have more than those who are most
pointed at and laughed at. One thing I must beg of you-if my
husband applies to you for payment for board and lodging, tell
him that you have already paid me. Of course anything paid by you
to the general would be as fully settled as if paid to me, so far
as you are concerned; but I wish it to be so, if you please, for
convenience' sake. What is it, Varia?"
Varia had quietly entered the room, and was holding out the
portrait of Nastasia Philipovna to her mother.
Nina Alexandrovna started, and examined the photograph intently,
gazing at it long and sadly. At last she looked up inquiringly at
"It's a present from herself to him," said Varia; "the question
is to be finally decided this evening."
"This evening!" repeated her mother in a tone of despair, but
softly, as though to herself. "Then it's all settled, of course,
and there's no hope left to us. She has anticipated her answer by
the present of her portrait. Did he show it you himself?" she
added, in some surprise.
"You know we have hardly spoken to each other for a whole month.
Ptitsin told me all about it; and the photo was lying under the
table, and I picked it up."
"Prince," asked Nina Alexandrovna, "I wanted to inquire whether
you have known my son long? I think he said that you had only
arrived today from somewhere."
The prince gave a short narrative of what we have heard before,
leaving out the greater part. The two ladies listened intently.
"I did not ask about Gania out of curiosity," said the elder, at
last. "I wish to know how much you know about him, because he
said just now that we need not stand on ceremony with you. What,
exactly, does that mean?"
At this moment Gania and Ptitsin entered the room together, and
Nina Alexandrovna immediately became silent again. The prince
remained seated next to her, but Varia moved to the other end of
the room; the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna remained lying as
before on the work-table. Gania observed it there, and with a
frown of annoyance snatched it up and threw it across to his
writing-table, which stood at the other end of the room.
"Is it today, Gania?" asked Nina Alexandrovna, at last.
"Is what today?" cried the former. Then suddenly recollecting
himself, he turned sharply on the prince. "Oh," he growled, "I
see, you are here, that explains it! Is it a disease, or what,
that you can't hold your tongue? Look here, understand once for
"I am to blame in this, Gania--no one else," said Ptitsin.
Gania glanced inquiringly at the speaker.
"It's better so, you know, Gania--especially as, from one point
of view, the matter may be considered as settled," said Ptitsin;
and sitting down a little way from the table he began to study a
paper covered with pencil writing.
Gania stood and frowned, he expected a family scene. He never
thought of apologizing to the prince, however.
"If it's all settled, Gania, then of course Mr. Ptitsin is
right," said Nina Alexandrovna. "Don't frown. You need not worry
yourself, Gania; I shall ask you no questions. You need not tell
me anything you don't like. I assure you I have quite submitted
to your will." She said all this, knitting away the while as
though perfectly calm and composed.
Gania was surprised, but cautiously kept silence and looked at
his mother, hoping that she would express herself more clearly.
Nina Alexandrovna observed his cautiousness and added, with a
"You are still suspicious, I see, and do not believe me; but you
may be quite at your ease. There shall be no more tears, nor
questions--not from my side, at all events. All I wish is that
you may be happy, you know that. I have submitted to my fate; but
my heart will always be with you, whether we remain united, or
whether we part. Of course I only answer for myself--you can
hardly expect your sister--"
"My sister again," cried Gania, looking at her with contempt and
almost hate. "Look here, mother, I have already given you my word
that I shall always respect you fully and absolutely, and so
shall everyone else in this house, be it who it may, who shall
cross this threshold."
Gania was so much relieved that he gazed at his mother almost
"I was not at all afraid for myself, Gania, as you know well. It
was not for my own sake that I have been so anxious and worried
all this time! They say it is all to be settled to-day. What is
to be settled?"
"She has promised to tell me tonight at her own house whether
she consents or not," replied Gania.
"We have been silent on this subject for three weeks," said his
mother, "and it was better so; and now I will only ask you one
question. How can she give her consent and make you a present of
her portrait when you do not love her? How can such a--such a--"
"I was not going to express myself so. But how could you so blind
Nina Alexandrovna's question betrayed intense annoyance. Gania
waited a moment and then said, without taking the trouble to
conceal the irony of his tone:
"There you are, mother, you are always like that. You begin by
promising that there are to be no reproaches or insinuations or
questions, and here you are beginning them at once. We had better
drop the subject--we had, really. I shall never leave you,
mother; any other man would cut and run from such a sister as
this. See how she is looking at me at this moment! Besides, how
do you know that I am blinding Nastasia Philipovna? As for Varia,
I don't care--she can do just as she pleases. There, that's quite
Gania's irritation increased with every word he uttered, as he
walked up and down the room. These conversations always touched
the family sores before long.
"I have said already that the moment she comes in I go out, and I
shall keep my word," remarked Varia.
"Out of obstinacy" shouted Gania. "You haven't married, either,
thanks to your obstinacy. Oh, you needn't frown at me, Varvara!
You can go at once for all I care; I am sick enough of your
company. What, you are going to leave us are you, too?" he cried,
turning to the prince, who was rising from his chair.
Gania's voice was full of the most uncontrolled and
The prince turned at the door to say something, but perceiving in
Gania's expression that there was but that one drop wanting to
make the cup overflow, he changed his mind and left the room
without a word. A few minutes later he was aware from the noisy
voices in the drawing room, that the conversation had become more
quarrelsome than ever after his departure.
He crossed the salon and the entrance-hall, so as to pass down
the corridor into his own room. As he came near the front door he
heard someone outside vainly endeavouring to ring the bell, which
was evidently broken, and only shook a little, without emitting
The prince took down the chain and opened the door. He started
back in amazement--for there stood Nastasia Philipovna. He knew
her at once from her photograph. Her eyes blazed with anger as
she looked at him. She quickly pushed by him into the hall,
shouldering him out of her way, and said, furiously, as she threw
off her fur cloak:
"If you are too lazy to mend your bell, you should at least wait
in the hall to let people in when they rattle the bell handle.
There, now, you've dropped my fur cloak--dummy!"
Sure enough the cloak was lying on the ground. Nastasia had
thrown it off her towards the prince, expecting him to catch it,
but the prince had missed it.
"Now then--announce me, quick!"
The prince wanted to say something, but was so confused and
astonished that he could not. However, he moved off towards the
drawing-room with the cloak over his arm.
"Now then, where are you taking my cloak to? Ha, ha, ha! Are you
The prince turned and came back, more confused than ever. When
she burst out laughing, he smiled, but his tongue could not form
a word as yet. At first, when he had opened the door and saw her
standing before him, he had become as pale as death; but now the
red blood had rushed back to his cheeks in a torrent.
"Why, what an idiot it is!" cried Nastasia, stamping her foot
with irritation. "Go on, do! Whom are you going to announce?"
"Nastasia Philipovna," murmured the prince.
"And how do you know that?" she asked him, sharply.
"I have never seen you before!"
"Go on, announce me--what's that noise?"
"They are quarrelling," said the prince, and entered the drawing-
room, just as matters in there had almost reached a crisis. Nina
Alexandrovna had forgotten that she had "submitted to
everything!" She was defending Varia. Ptitsin was taking her
part, too. Not that Varia was afraid of standing up for herself.
She was by no means that sort of a girl; but her brother was
becoming ruder and more intolerable every moment. Her usual
practice in such cases as the present was to say nothing, but
stare at him, without taking her eyes off his face for an
instant. This manoeuvre, as she well knew, could drive Gania
Just at this moment the door opened and the prince entered,
Silence immediately fell on the room; all looked at the prince as
though they neither understood, nor hoped to understand. Gania
was motionless with horror.
Nastasia's arrival was a most unexpected and overwhelming event
to all parties. In the first place, she had never been before. Up
to now she had been so haughty that she had never even asked
Gania to introduce her to his parents. Of late she had not so
much as mentioned them. Gania was partly glad of this; but still
he had put it to her debit in the account to be settled after
He would have borne anything from her rather than this visit. But
one thing seemed to him quite clear-her visit now, and the
present of her portrait on this particular day, pointed out
plainly enough which way she intended to make her decision!
The incredulous amazement with which all regarded the prince did
not last long, for Nastasia herself appeared at the door and
passed in, pushing by the prince again.
"At last I've stormed the citadel! Why do you tie up your bell?"
she said, merrily, as she pressed Gania's hand, the latter having
rushed up to her as soon as she made her appearance. "What are
you looking so upset about? Introduce me, please!"
The bewildered Gania introduced her first to Varia, and both
women, before shaking hands, exchanged looks of strange import.
Nastasia, however, smiled amiably; but Varia did not try to look
amiable, and kept her gloomy expression. She did not even
vouchsafe the usual courteous smile of etiquette. Gania darted a
terrible glance of wrath at her for this, but Nina Alexandrovna,
mended matters a little when Gania introduced her at last.
Hardly, however, had the old lady begun about her " highly
gratified feelings," and so on, when Nastasia left her, and
flounced into a chair by Gania's side in the corner by the
window, and cried: "Where's your study? and where are the--the
lodgers? You do take in lodgers, don't you?"
Gania looked dreadfully put out, and tried to say something in
reply, but Nastasia interrupted him:
"Why, where are you going to squeeze lodgers in here? Don't you
use a study? Does this sort of thing pay?" she added, turning to
"Well, it is troublesome, rather," said the latter; "but I
suppose it will 'pay' pretty well. We have only just begun,
Again Nastasia Philipovna did not hear the sentence out. She
glanced at Gania, and cried, laughing, "What a face! My goodness,
what a face you have on at this moment!"
Indeed, Gania did not look in the least like himself. His
bewilderment and his alarmed perplexity passed off, however, and
his lips now twitched with rage as he continued to stare evilly
at his laughing guest, while his countenance became absolutely
There was another witness, who, though standing at the door
motionless and bewildered himself, still managed to remark
Gania's death-like pallor, and the dreadful change that had come
over his face. This witness was the prince, who now advanced in
alarm and muttered to Gania:
"Drink some water, and don't look like that!"
It was clear that he came out with these words quite
spontaneously, on the spur of the moment. But his speech was
productive of much--for it appeared that all. Gania's rage now
overflowed upon the prince. He seized him by the shoulder and
gazed with an intensity of loathing and revenge at him, but said
nothing--as though his feelings were too strong to permit of
General agitation prevailed. Nina Alexandrovna gave a little cry
of anxiety; Ptitsin took a step forward in alarm; Colia and
Ferdishenko stood stock still at the door in amazement;--only
Varia remained coolly watching the scene from under her
eyelashes. She did not sit down, but stood by her mother with
folded hands. However, Gania recollected himself almost
immediately. He let go of the prince and burst out laughing.
"Why, are you a doctor, prince, or what?" he asked, as naturally
as possible. "I declare you quite frightened me! Nastasia
Philipovna, let me introduce this interesting character to you--
though I have only known him myself since the morning."
Nastasia gazed at the prince in bewilderment. "Prince? He a
Prince? Why, I took him for the footman, just now, and sent him
in to announce me! Ha, ha, ha, isn't that good!"
"Not bad that, not bad at all!" put in Ferdishenko, "se non e
"I rather think I pitched into you, too, didn't I? Forgive me--do!
Who is he, did you say? What prince? Muishkin?" she added,
"He is a lodger of ours," explained the latter.
"An idiot!"--the prince distinctly heard the word half whispered
from behind him. This was Ferdishenko's voluntary information for
"Tell me, why didn't you put me right when I made such a dreadful
mistake just now?" continued the latter, examining the prince
from head to foot without the slightest ceremony. She awaited the
answer as though convinced that it would be so foolish that she
must inevitably fail to restrain her laughter over it.
"I was astonished, seeing you so suddenly--" murmured the prince.
"How did you know who I was? Where had you seen me before? And
why were you so struck dumb at the sight of me? What was there so
overwhelming about me?"
"Oho! ho, ho, ho!" cried Ferdishenko. "NOW then, prince! My
word, what things I would say if I had such a chance as that! My
goodness, prince--go on!"
"So should I, in your place, I've no doubt!" laughed the prince
to Ferdishenko; then continued, addressing Nastasia: "Your
portrait struck me very forcibly this morning; then I was talking
about you to the Epanchins; and then, in the train, before I
reached Petersburg, Parfen Rogojin told me a good deal about you;
and at the very moment that I opened the door to you I happened
to be thinking of you, when--there you stood before me!"
"And how did you recognize me?"
"From the portrait!"
"I seemed to imagine you exactly as you are--I seemed to have
seen you somewhere."
"I seem to have seen your eyes somewhere; but it cannot be! I
have not seen you--I never was here before. I may have dreamed of
you, I don't know."
The prince said all this with manifest effort--in broken
sentences, and with many drawings of breath. He was evidently
much agitated. Nastasia Philipovna looked at him inquisitively,
but did not laugh.
"Bravo, prince!" cried Ferdishenko, delighted.
At this moment a loud voice from behind the group which hedged in
the prince and Nastasia Philipovna, divided the crowd, as it
were, and before them stood the head of the family, General
Ivolgin. He was dressed in evening clothes; his moustache was
This apparition was too much for Gania. Vain and ambitious almost
to morbidness, he had had much to put up with in the last two
months, and was seeking feverishly for some means of enabling
himself to lead a more presentable kind of existence. At home, he
now adopted an attitude of absolute cynicism, but he could not
keep this up before Nastasia Philipovna, although he had sworn to
make her pay after marriage for all he suffered now. He was
experiencing a last humiliation, the bitterest of all, at this
moment--the humiliation of blushing for his own kindred in his own
house. A question flashed through his mind as to whether the game
was really worth the candle.
For that had happened at this moment, which for two months had
been his nightmare; which had filled his soul with dread and
shame--the meeting between his father and Nastasia Philipovna. He
had often tried to imagine such an event, but had found the
picture too mortifying and exasperating, and had quietly dropped
it. Very likely he anticipated far worse things than was at all
necessary; it is often so with vain persons. He had long since
determined, therefore, to get his father out of the way,
anywhere, before his marriage, in order to avoid such a meeting;
but when Nastasia entered the room just now, he had been so
overwhelmed with astonishment, that he had not thought of his
father, and had made no arrangements to keep him out of the way.
And now it was too late--there he was, and got up, too, in a dress
coat and white tie, and Nastasia in the very humour to heap
ridicule on him and his family circle; of this last fact, he felt
quite persuaded. What else had she come for? There were his
mother and his sister sitting before her, and she seemed to have
forgotten their very existence already; and if she behaved like
that, he thought, she must have some object in view.
Ferdishenko led the general up to Nastasia Philipovna.
"Ardalion Alexandrovitch Ivolgin," said the smiling general, with
a low bow of great dignity, "an old soldier, unfortunate, and the
father of this family; but happy in the hope of including in that
family so exquisite--"
He did not finish his sentence, for at this moment Ferdishenko
pushed a chair up from behind, and the general, not very firm on
his legs, at this post-prandial hour, flopped into it backwards.
It was always a difficult thing to put this warrior to confusion,
and his sudden descent left him as composed as before. He had sat
down just opposite to Nastasia, whose fingers he now took, and
raised to his lips with great elegance, and much courtesy. The
general had once belonged to a very select circle of society, but
he had been turned out of it two or three years since on account
of certain weaknesses, in which he now indulged with all the less
restraint; but his good manners remained with him to this day, in
spite of all.
Nastasia Philipovna seemed delighted at the appearance of this
latest arrival, of whom she had of course heard a good deal by
"I have heard that my son--" began Ardalion Alexandrovitch.
"Your son, indeed! A nice papa you are! YOU might have come to
see me anyhow, without compromising anyone. Do you hide yourself,
or does your son hide you?"
"The children of the nineteenth century, and their parents--"
began the general, again.
"Nastasia Philipovna, will you excuse the general for a moment?
Someone is inquiring for him," said Nina Alexandrovna in a loud
voice, interrupting the conversation.
"Excuse him? Oh no, I have wished to see him too long for that.
Why, what business can he have? He has retired, hasn't he? You
won't leave me, general, will you?"
"I give you my word that he shall come and see you--but he--he
needs rest just now."
"General, they say you require rest," said Nastasia Philipovna,
with the melancholy face of a child whose toy is taken away.
Ardalion Alexandrovitch immediately did his best to make his
foolish position a great deal worse.
"My dear, my dear!" he said, solemnly and reproachfully, looking
at his wife, with one hand on his heart.
"Won't you leave the room, mamma?" asked Varia, aloud.
"No, Varia, I shall sit it out to the end."
Nastasia must have overheard both question and reply, but her
vivacity was not in the least damped. On the contrary, it seemed
to increase. She immediately overwhelmed the general once more
with questions, and within five minutes that gentleman was as
happy as a king, and holding forth at the top of his voice, amid
the laughter of almost all who heard him.
Colia jogged the prince's arm.
"Can't YOU get him out of the room, somehow? DO, please," and
tears of annoyance stood in the boy's eyes. "Curse that Gania!"
he muttered, between his teeth.
"Oh yes, I knew General Epanchin well," General Ivolgin was
saying at this moment; "he and Prince Nicolai Ivanovitch
Muishkin--whose son I have this day embraced after an absence of
twenty years--and I, were three inseparables. Alas one is in the
grave, torn to pieces by calumnies and bullets; another is now
before you, still battling with calumnies and bullets--"
"Bullets?" cried Nastasia.
"Yes, here in my chest. I received them at the siege of Kars, and
I feel them in bad weather now. And as to the third of our trio,
Epanchin, of course after that little affair with the poodle in
the railway carriage, it was all UP between us."
"Poodle? What was that? And in a railway carriage? Dear me," said
Nastasia, thoughtfully, as though trying to recall something to
"Oh, just a silly, little occurrence, really not worth telling,
about Princess Bielokonski's governess, Miss Smith, and--oh, it
is really not worth telling!"
"No, no, we must have it!" cried Nastasia merrily.
"Yes, of course," said Ferdishenko. "C'est du nouveau."
"Ardalion," said Nina Alexandrovitch, entreatingly.
"Papa, you are wanted!" cried Colia.
"Well, it is a silly little story, in a few words," began the
delighted general. "A couple of years ago, soon after the new
railway was opened, I had to go somewhere or other on business.
Well, I took a first-class ticket, sat down, and began to smoke,
or rather CONTINUED to smoke, for I had lighted up before. I was
alone in the carriage. Smoking is not allowed, but is not
prohibited either; it is half allowed--so to speak, winked at. I
had the window open."
"Suddenly, just before the whistle, in came two ladies with a
little poodle, and sat down opposite to me; not bad-looking
women; one was in light blue, the other in black silk. The
poodle, a beauty with a silver collar, lay on light blue's knee.
They looked haughtily about, and talked English together. I took
no notice, just went on smoking. I observed that the ladies were
getting angry--over my cigar, doubtless. One looked at me through
her tortoise-shell eyeglass.
"I took no notice, because they never said a word. If they didn't
like the cigar, why couldn't they say so? Not a word, not a hint!
Suddenly, and without the very slightest suspicion of warning,
'light blue' seizes my cigar from between my fingers, and,
wheugh! out of the window with it! Well, on flew the train, and I
sat bewildered, and the young woman, tall and fair, and rather
red in the face, too red, glared at me with flashing eyes.
"I didn't say a word, but with extreme courtesy, I may say with
most refined courtesy, I reached my finger and thumb over towards
the poodle, took it up delicately by the nape of the neck, and
chucked it out of the window, after the cigar. The train went
flying on, and the poodle's yells were lost in the distance."
"Oh, you naughty man!" cried Nastasia, laughing and clapping her
hands like a child.
"Bravo!" said Ferdishenko. Ptitsin laughed too, though he had
been very sorry to see the general appear. Even Colia laughed and
"And I was right, truly right," cried the general, with warmth
and solemnity, "for if cigars are forbidden in railway carriages,
poodles are much more so."
"Well, and what did the lady do?" asked Nastasia, impatiently.
" She--ah, that's where all the mischief of it lies!" replied
Ivolgin, frowning. "Without a word, as it were, of warning, she
slapped me on the cheek! An extraordinary woman!"
The general dropped his eyes, and elevated his brows; shrugged
his shoulders, tightened his lips, spread his hands, and remained
silent. At last he blurted out:
"I lost my head!"
"Did you hit her?"
"No, oh no!--there was a great flare-up, but I didn't hit her! I
had to struggle a little, purely to defend myself; but the very
devil was in the business. It turned out that 'light blue' was an
Englishwoman, governess or something, at Princess Bielokonski's,
and the other woman was one of the old-maid princesses
Bielokonski. Well, everybody knows what great friends the
princess and Mrs. Epanchin are, so there was a pretty kettle of
fish. All the Bielokonskis went into mourning for the poodle. Six
princesses in tears, and the Englishwoman shrieking!
"Of course I wrote an apology, and called, but they would not
receive either me or my apology, and the Epanchins cut me, too!"
"But wait," said Nastasia. "How is it that, five or six days
since, I read exactly the same story in the paper, as happening
between a Frenchman and an English girl? The cigar was snatched
away exactly as you describe, and the poodle was chucked out of
the window after it. The slapping came off, too, as in your case;
and the girl's dress was light blue!"
The general blushed dreadfully; Colia blushed too; and Ptitsin
turned hastily away. Ferdishenko was the only one who laughed as
gaily as before. As to Gania, I need not say that he was
miserable; he stood dumb and wretched and took no notice of
"I assure you," said the general, "that exactly the same thing
happened to myself!"
"I remembered there was some quarrel between father and Miss
Smith, the Bielokonski's governess," said Colia.
"How very curious, point for point the same anecdote, and
happening at different ends of Europe! Even the light blue dress
the same," continued the pitiless Nastasia. "I must really send
you the paper."
"You must observe," insisted the general, "that my experience was
two years earlier."
"Ah! that's it, no doubt!"
Nastasia Philipovna laughed hysterically.
"Father, will you hear a word from me outside!" said Gania, his
voice shaking with agitation, as he seized his father by the
shoulder. His eyes shone with a blaze of hatred.
At this moment there was a terrific bang at the front door,
almost enough to break it down. Some most unusual visitor must
have arrived. Colia ran to open.
THE entrance-hall suddenly became full of noise and people. To
judge from the sounds which penetrated to the drawing-room, a
number of people had already come in, and the stampede continued.
Several voices were talking and shouting at once; others were
talking and shouting on the stairs outside; it was evidently a
most extraordinary visit that was about to take place.
Everyone exchanged startled glances. Gania rushed out towards the
dining-room, but a number of men had already made their way in,
and met him.
"Ah! here he is, the Judas!" cried a voice which the prince
recognized at once. "How d'ye do, Gania, you old blackguard?"
"Yes, that's the man!" said another voice.
There was no room for doubt in the prince's mind: one of the
voices was Rogojin's, and the other Lebedeff's.
Gania stood at the door like a block and looked on in silence,
putting no obstacle in the way of their entrance, and ten or a
dozen men marched in behind Parfen Rogojin. They were a decidedly
mixed-looking collection, and some of them came in in their furs
and caps. None of them were quite drunk, but all appeared to De
They seemed to need each other's support, morally, before they
dared come in; not one of them would have entered alone but with
the rest each one was brave enough. Even Rogojin entered rather
cautiously at the head of his troop; but he was evidently
preoccupied. He appeared to be gloomy and morose, and had clearly
come with some end in view. All the rest were merely chorus,
brought in to support the chief character. Besides Lebedeff there
was the dandy Zalesheff, who came in without his coat and hat,
two or three others followed his example; the rest were more
uncouth. They included a couple of young merchants, a man in a
great-coat, a medical student, a little Pole, a small fat man who
laughed continuously, and an enormously tall stout one who
apparently put great faith in the strength of his fists. A couple
of "ladies" of some sort put their heads in at the front door,
but did not dare come any farther. Colia promptly banged the door
in their faces and locked it.
"Hallo, Gania, you blackguard! You didn't expect Rogojin, eh?"
said the latter, entering the drawing-room, and stopping before
But at this moment he saw, seated before him, Nastasia
Philipovna. He had not dreamed of meeting her here, evidently,
for her appearance produced a marvellous effect upon him. He grew
pale, and his lips became actually blue.
"I suppose it is true, then!" he muttered to himself, and his
face took on an expression of despair. "So that's the end of it!
Now you, sir, will you answer me or not?" he went on suddenly,
gazing at Gania with ineffable malice. "Now then, you--"
He panted, and could hardly speak for agitation. He advanced into
the room mechanically; but perceiving Nina Alexandrovna and Varia
he became more or less embarrassed, in spite of his excitement.
His followers entered after him, and all paused a moment at sight
of the ladies. Of course their modesty was not fated to be long-
lived, but for a moment they were abashed. Once let them begin to
shout, however, and nothing on earth should disconcert them.
"What, you here too, prince?" said Rogojin, absently, but a
little surprised all the same " Still in your gaiters, eh?" He
sighed, and forgot the prince next moment, and his wild eyes
wandered over to Nastasia again, as though attracted in that
direction by some magnetic force.
Nastasia looked at the new arrivals with great curiosity. Gania
recollected himself at last.
"Excuse me, sirs," he said, loudly, "but what does all this
mean?" He glared at the advancing crowd generally, but addressed
his remarks especially to their captain, Rogojin. "You are not in
a stable, gentlemen, though you may think it--my mother and
sister are present."
"Yes, I see your mother and sister," muttered Rogojin, through
his teeth; and Lebedeff seemed to feel himself called upon to
second the statement.
"At all events, I must request you to step into the salon," said
Gania, his rage rising quite out of proportion to his words, "and
then I shall inquire--"
"What, he doesn't know me!" said Rogojin, showing his teeth
disagreeably. "He doesn't recognize Rogojin!" He did not move an
"I have met you somewhere, I believe, but--"
"Met me somewhere, pfu! Why, it's only three months since I lost
two hundred roubles of my father's money to you, at cards. The
old fellow died before he found out. Ptitsin knows all about it.
Why, I've only to pull out a three-rouble note and show it to
you, and you'd crawl on your hands and knees to the other end of
the town for it; that's the sort of man you are. Why, I've come
now, at this moment, to buy you up! Oh, you needn't think that
because I wear these boots I have no money. I have lots of money,
my beauty,--enough to buy up you and all yours together. So I
shall, if I like to! I'll buy you up! I will!" he yelled,
apparently growing more and more intoxicated and excited." Oh,
Nastasia Philipovna! don't turn me out! Say one word, do! Are you
going to marry this man, or not?"
Rogojin asked his question like a lost soul appealing to some
divinity, with the reckless daring of one appointed to die, who
has nothing to lose.
He awaited the reply in deadly anxiety.
Nastasia Philipovna gazed at him with a haughty, ironical.
expression of face; but when she glanced at Nina Alexandrovna and
Varia, and from them to Gania, she changed her tone, all of a
"Certainly not; what are you thinking of? What could have induced
you to ask such a question?" she replied, quietly and seriously,
and even, apparently, with some astonishment.
"No? No?" shouted Rogojin, almost out of his mind with joy. "You
are not going to, after all? And they told me--oh, Nastasia
Philipovna--they said you had promised to marry him, HIM! As if
you COULD do it!--him--pooh! I don't mind saying it to everyone--
I'd buy him off for a hundred roubles, any day pfu! Give him a
thousand, or three if he likes, poor devil' and he'd cut and run
the day before his wedding, and leave his bride to me! Wouldn't
you, Gania, you blackguard? You'd take three thousand, wouldn't
you? Here's the money! Look, I've come on purpose to pay you off
and get your receipt, formally. I said I'd buy you up, and so I
"Get out of this, you drunken beast!" cried Gania, who was red
and white by turns.
Rogojin's troop, who were only waiting for an excuse, set up a
howl at this. Lebedeff stepped forward and whispered something in
"You're right, clerk," said the latter, "you're right, tipsy
spirit--you're right!--Nastasia Philipovna," he added, looking at
her like some lunatic, harmless generally, but suddenly wound up
to a pitch of audacity, "here are eighteen thousand roubles,
and--and you shall have more--." Here he threw a packet of bank-
notes tied up in white paper, on the table before her, not daring
to say all he wished to say.
"No-no-no!" muttered Lebedeff, clutching at his arm. He was
clearly aghast at the largeness of the sum, and thought a far
smaller amount should have been tried first.
"No, you fool--you don't know whom you are dealing with--and it
appears I am a fool, too!" said Parfen, trembling beneath the
flashing glance of Nastasia. "Oh, curse it all! What a fool I
was to listen to you!" he added, with profound melancholy.
Nastasia Philipovna, observing his woe-begone expression,
suddenly burst out laughing.
"Eighteen thousand roubles, for me? Why, you declare yourself a
fool at once," she said, with impudent familiarity, as she rose
from the sofa and prepared to go. Gania watched the whole scene
with a sinking of the heart.
"Forty thousand, then--forty thousand roubles instead of eighteen!
Ptitsin and another have promised to find me forty thousand
roubles by seven o'clock tonight. Forty thousand roubles--paid
down on the nail!"
The scene was growing more and more disgraceful; but Nastasia
Philipovna continued to laugh and did not go away. Nina
Alexandrovna and Varia had both risen from their places and were
waiting, in silent horror, to see what would happen. Varia's eyes
were all ablaze with anger; but the scene had a different effect
on Nina Alexandrovna. She paled and trembled, and looked more and
more like fainting every moment.
"Very well then, a HUNDRED thousand! a hundred thousand! paid
this very day. Ptitsin! find it for me. A good share shall stick
to your fingers--come!"
"You are mad!" said Ptitsin, coming up quickly and seizing him by
the hand. "You're drunk--the police will be sent for if you don't
look out. Think where you are."
"Yes, he's boasting like a drunkard," added Nastasia, as though
with the sole intention of goading him.
"I do NOT boast! You shall have a hundred thousand, this very
day. Ptitsin, get the money, you gay usurer! Take what you like
for it, but get it by the evening! I'll show that I'm in
earnest!" cried Rogojin, working himself up into a frenzy of
"Come, come; what's all this?" cried General Ivolgin, suddenly
and angrily, coming close up to Rogojin. The unexpectedness of
this sally on the part of the hitherto silent old man caused some
laughter among the intruders.
"Halloa! what's this now?" laughed Rogojin. "You come along with
me, old fellow! You shall have as much to drink as you like."
"Oh, it's too horrible!" cried poor Colia, sobbing with shame and
"Surely there must be someone among all of you here who will turn
this shameless creature out of the room?" cried Varia, suddenly.
She was shaking and trembling with rage.
"That's me, I suppose. I'm the shameless creature!" cried
Nastasia Philipovna, with amused indifference. "Dear me, and I
came--like a fool, as I am--to invite them over to my house for
the evening! Look how your sister treats me, Gavrila
For some moments Gania stood as if stunned or struck by
lightning, after his sister's speech. But seeing that Nastasia
Philipovna was really about to leave the room this time, he
sprang at Varia and seized her by the arm like a madman.
"What have you done?" he hissed, glaring at her as though he
would like to annihilate her on the spot. He was quite beside
himself, and could hardly articulate his words for rage.
"What have I done? Where are you dragging me to?"
"Do you wish me to beg pardon of this creature because she has
come here to insult our mother and disgrace the whole household,
you low, base wretch?" cried Varia, looking back at her brother
with proud defiance.
A few moments passed as they stood there face to face, Gania
still holding her wrist tightly. Varia struggled once--twice--to
get free; then could restrain herself no longer, and spat in his
"There's a girl for you!" cried Nastasia Philipovna. "Mr.
Ptitsin, I congratulate you on your choice."
Gania lost his head. Forgetful of everything he aimed a blow at
Varia, which would inevitably have laid her low, but suddenly
another hand caught his. Between him and Varia stood the prince.
"Enough--enough!" said the latter, with insistence, but all of a
tremble with excitement.
"Are you going to cross my path for ever, damn you!" cried Gania;
and, loosening his hold on Varia, he slapped the prince's face
with all his force.
Exclamations of horror arose on all sides. The prince grew pale
as death; he gazed into Gania's eyes with a strange, wild,
reproachful look; his lips trembled and vainly endeavoured to
form some words; then his mouth twisted into an incongruous
"Very well--never mind about me; but I shall not allow you to
strike her!" he said, at last, quietly. Then, suddenly, he could
bear it no longer, and covering his face with his hands, turned
to the wall, and murmured in broken accents:
"Oh! how ashamed you will be of this afterwards!"
Gania certainly did look dreadfully abashed. Colia rushed up to
comfort the prince, and after him crowded Varia, Rogojin and all,
even the general.
"It's nothing, it's nothing!" said the prince, and again he wore
the smile which was so inconsistent with the circumstances.
"Yes, he will be ashamed!" cried Rogojin. "You will be properly
ashamed of yourself for having injured such a--such a sheep" (he
could not find a better word). "Prince, my dear fellow, leave
this and come away with me. I'll show you how Rogojin shows his
affection for his friends."
Nastasia Philipovna was also much impressed, both with Gania's
action and with the prince's reply.
Her usually thoughtful, pale face, which all this while had been
so little in harmony with the jests and laughter which she had
seemed to put on for the occasion, was now evidently agitated by
new feelings, though she tried to conceal the fact and to look as
though she were as ready as ever for jesting and irony.
"I really think I must have seen him somewhere!" she murmured
"Oh, aren't you ashamed of yourself--aren't you ashamed? Are you
really the sort of woman you are trying to represent yourself to
be? Is it possible?" The prince was now addressing Nastasia, in a
tone of reproach, which evidently came from his very heart.
Nastasia Philipovna looked surprised, and smiled, but evidently
concealed something beneath her smile and with some confusion and
a glance at Gania she left the room.
However, she had not reached the outer hall when she turned
round, walked quickly up to Nina Alexandrovna, seized her hand
and lifted it to her lips.
"He guessed quite right. I am not that sort of woman," she
whispered hurriedly, flushing red all over. Then she turned again
and left the room so quickly that no one could imagine what she
had come back for. All they saw was that she said something to
Nina Alexandrovna in a hurried whisper, and seemed to kiss her
hand. Varia, however, both saw and heard all, and watched
Nastasia out of the room with an expression of wonder.
Gania recollected himself in time to rush after her in order to
show her out, but she had gone. He followed her to the stairs.
"Don't come with me," she cried, "Au revoir, till the evening--do
you hear? Au revoir!"
He returned thoughtful and confused; the riddle lay heavier than
ever on his soul. He was troubled about the prince, too, and so
bewildered that he did not even observe Rogojin's rowdy band
crowd past him and step on his toes, at the door as they went
out. They were all talking at once. Rogojin went ahead of the
others, talking to Ptitsin, and apparently insisting vehemently
upon something very important
"You've lost the game, Gania" he cried, as he passed the latter.
Gania gazed after him uneasily, but said nothing.
THE prince now left the room and shut himself up in his own
chamber. Colia followed him almost at once, anxious to do what he
could to console him. The poor boy seemed to be already so
attached to him that he could hardly leave him.
"You were quite right to go away!" he said. "The row will rage
there worse than ever now; and it's like this every day with us--
and all through that Nastasia Philipovna."
"You have so many sources of trouble here, Colia," said the
"Yes, indeed, and it is all our own fault. But I have a great
friend who is much worse off even than we are. Would you like to
"Yes, very much. Is he one of your school-fellows?"
"Well, not exactly. I will tell you all about him some day. . . .
What do you think of Nastasia Philipovna? She is beautiful, isn't
she? I had never seen her before, though I had a great wish to do
so. She fascinated me. I could forgive Gania if he were to marry
her for love, but for money! Oh dear! that is horrible!"
"Yes, your brother does not attract me much."
"I am not surprised at that. After what you ... But I do hate
that way of looking at things! Because some fool, or a rogue
pretending to be a fool, strikes a man, that man is to be
dishonoured for his whole life, unless he wipes out the disgrace
with blood, or makes his assailant beg forgiveness on his knees!
I think that so very absurd and tyrannical. Lermontoff's Bal
Masque is based on that idea--a stupid and unnatural one, in my
opinion; but he was hardly more than a child when he wrote it."
"I like your sister very much."
"Did you see how she spat in Gania's face! Varia is afraid of no
one. But you did not follow her example, and yet I am sure it was
not through cowardice. Here she comes! Speak of a wolf and you
see his tail! I felt sure that she would come. She is very
generous, though of course she has her faults."
Varia pounced upon her brother.
"This is not the place for you," said she. "Go to father. Is he
plaguing you, prince?"
"Not in the least; on the contrary, he interests me."
"Scolding as usual, Varia! It is the worst thing about her. After
all, I believe father may have started off with Rogojin. No doubt
he is sorry now. Perhaps I had better go and see what he is
doing," added Colia, running off.
"Thank God, I have got mother away, and put her to bed without
another scene! Gania is worried--and ashamed--not without reason!
What a spectacle! I have come to thank you once more, prince, and
to ask you if you knew Nastasia Philipovna before
"No, I have never known her."
"Then what did you mean, when you said straight out to her that
she was not really 'like that'? You guessed right, I fancy. It is
quite possible she was not herself at the moment, though I cannot
fathom her meaning. Evidently she meant to hurt and insult us. I
have heard curious tales about her before now, but if she came to
invite us to her house, why did she behave so to my mother?
Ptitsin knows her very well; he says he could not understand her
today. With Rogojin, too! No one with a spark of self-respect
could have talked like that in the house of her... Mother is
extremely vexed on your account, too...
"That is nothing!" said the prince, waving his hand.
"But how meek she was when you spoke to her!"
"Meek! What do you mean?"
"You told her it was a shame for her to behave so, and her manner
changed at once; she was like another person. You have some
influence over her, prince," added Varia, smiling a little.
The door opened at this point, and in came Gania most
He was not in the least disconcerted to see Varia there, but he
stood a moment at the door, and then approached the prince
"Prince," he said, with feeling, "I was a blackguard. Forgive
me!" His face gave evidence of suffering. The prince was
considerably amazed, and did not reply at once. "Oh, come,
forgive me, forgive me!" Gania insisted, rather impatiently. "If
you like, I'll kiss your hand. There!"
The prince was touched; he took Gania's hands, and embraced him
heartily, while each kissed the other.
"I never, never thought you were like that," said Muishkin,
drawing a deep breath. "I thought you--you weren't capable of--"
"Of what? Apologizing, eh? And where on earth did I get the idea
that you were an idiot? You always observe what other people pass
by unnoticed; one could talk sense to you, but--"
"Here is another to whom you should apologize," said the prince,
pointing to Varia.
"No, no! they are all enemies! I've tried them often enough,
believe me," and Gania turned his back on Varia with these words.
"But if I beg you to make it up?" said Varia.
"And you'll go to Nastasia Philipovna's this evening--"
"If you insist: but, judge for yourself, can I go, ought I to
"But she is not that sort of woman, I tell you!" said Gania,
angrily. "She was only acting."
"I know that--I know that; but what a part to play! And think
what she must take YOU for, Gania! I know she kissed mother's
hand, and all that, but she laughed at you, all the same. All
this is not good enough for seventy-five thousand roubles, my
dear boy. You are capable of honourable feelings still, and
that's why I am talking to you so. Oh! DO take care what you are
doing! Don't you know yourself that it will end badly, Gania?"
So saying, and in a state of violent agitation, Varia left the
"There, they are all like that," said Gania, laughing, "just as
if I do not know all about it much better than they do."
He sat down with these words, evidently intending to prolong his
"If you know it so well," said the prince a little timidly, "why
do you choose all this worry for the sake of the seventy-five
thousand, which, you confess, does not cover it?"
"I didn't mean that," said Gania; "but while we are upon the
subject, let me hear your opinion. Is all this worry worth
seventy-five thousand or not?
"Of course! And it would be a disgrace to marry so, eh?"
"A great disgrace."
"Oh, well, then you may know that I shall certainly do it, now. I
shall certainly marry her. I was not quite sure of myself before,
but now I am. Don't say a word: I know what you want to tell me--"
"No. I was only going to say that what surprises me most of all
is your extraordinary confidence."
"How so? What in?"
"That Nastasia Philipovna will accept you, and that the question
is as good as settled; and secondly, that even if she did, you
would be able to pocket the money. Of course, I know very little
about it, but that's my view. When a man marries for money it
often happens that the wife keeps the money in her own hands."
"Of course, you don't know all; but, I assure you, you needn't be
afraid, it won't be like that in our case. There are
circumstances," said Gania, rather excitedly. "And as to her
answer to me, there's no doubt about that. Why should you suppose
she will refuse me?"
"Oh, I only judge by what I see. Varvara Ardalionovna said just
"Oh she--they don't know anything about it! Nastasia was only
chaffing Rogojin. I was alarmed at first, but I have thought
better of it now; she was simply laughing at him. She looks on me
as a fool because I show that I meant her money, and doesn't
realize that there are other men who would deceive her in far
worse fashion. I'm not going to pretend anything, and you'll see
she'll marry me, all right. If she likes to live quietly, so she
shall; but if she gives me any of her nonsense, I shall leave her
at once, but I shall keep the money. I'm not going to look a
fool; that's the first thing, not to look a fool."
"But Nastasia Philipovna seems to me to be such a SENSIBLE woman,
and, as such, why should she run blindly into this business?
That's what puzzles me so," said the prince.
"You don't know all, you see; I tell you there are things--and
besides, I'm sure that she is persuaded that I love her to
distraction, and I give you my word I have a strong suspicion
that she loves me, too--in her own way, of course. She thinks she
will be able to make a sort of slave of me all my life; but I
shall prepare a little surprise for her. I don't know whether I
ought to be confidential with you, prince; but, I assure you, you
are the only decent fellow I have come across. I have not spoken
so sincerely as I am doing at this moment for years. There are
uncommonly few honest people about, prince; there isn't one
honester than Ptitsin, he's the best of the lot. Are you
laughing? You don't know, perhaps, that blackguards like honest
people, and being one myself I like you. WHY am I a blackguard?
Tell me honestly, now. They all call me a blackguard because of
her, and I have got into the way of thinking myself one. That's
what is so bad about the business."
"I for one shall never think you a blackguard again," said the
prince. "I confess I had a poor opinion of you at first, but I
have been so joyfully surprised about you just now; it's a good
lesson for me. I shall never judge again without a thorough
trial. I see now that you are riot only not a blackguard, but are
not even quite spoiled. I see that you are quite an ordinary man,
not original in the least degree, but rather weak."
Gania laughed sarcastically, but said nothing. The prince, seeing
that he did not quite like the last remark, blushed, and was
"Has my father asked you for money?" asked Gania, suddenly.
"Don't give it to him if he does. Fancy, he was a decent,
respectable man once! He was received in the best society; he was
not always the liar he is now. Of course, wine is at the bottom
of it all; but he is a good deal worse than an innocent liar now.
Do you know that he keeps a mistress? I can't understand how
mother is so long-sufferring. Did he tell you the story of the
siege of Kars? Or perhaps the one about his grey horse that
talked? He loves, to enlarge on these absurd histories." And
Gania burst into a fit of laughter. Suddenly he turned to the
prince and asked: "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I am surprised to see you laugh in that way, like a child. You
came to make friends with me again just now, and you said, 'I
will kiss your hand, if you like,' just as a child would have
said it. And then, all at once you are talking of this mad
project--of these seventy-five thousand roubles! It all seems so
absurd and impossible."
"Well, what conclusion have you reached?"
"That you are rushing madly into the undertaking, and that you
would do well to think it over again. It is more than possible
that Varvara Ardalionovna is right."
"Ah! now you begin to moralize! I know that I am only a child,
very well," replied Gania impatiently. "That is proved by my
having this conversation with you. It is not for money only,
prince, that I am rushing into this affair," he continued, hardly
master of his words, so closely had his vanity been touched. "If
I reckoned on that I should certainly be deceived, for I am still
too weak in mind and character. I am obeying a passion, an
impulse perhaps, because I have but one aim, one that overmasters
all else. You imagine that once I am in possession of these
seventy-five thousand roubles, I shall rush to buy a carriage...
No, I shall go on wearing the old overcoat I have worn for
three years, and I shall give up my club. I shall follow the
example of men who have made their fortunes. When Ptitsin was
seventeen he slept in the street, he sold pen-knives, and began
with a copeck; now he has sixty thousand roubles, but to get
them, what has he not done? Well, I shall be spared such a hard
beginning, and shall start with a little capital. In fifteen
years people will say, 'Look, that's Ivolgin, the king of the
Jews!' You say that I have no originality. Now mark this, prince--
there is nothing so offensive to a man of our time and race than
to be told that he is wanting in originality, that he is weak in
character, has no particular talent, and is, in short, an
ordinary person. You have not even done me the honour of looking
upon me as a rogue. Do you know, I could have knocked you down
for that just now! You wounded me more cruelly than Epanchin,
who thinks me capable of selling him my wife! Observe, it was a
perfectly gratuitous idea on his part, seeing there has never
been any discussion of it between us! This has exasperated me,
and I am determined to make a fortune! I will do it! Once I am
rich, I shall be a genius, an extremely original man. One of the
vilest and most hateful things connected with money is that it
can buy even talent; and will do so as long as the world lasts.
You will say that this is childish--or romantic. Well, that will
be all the better for me, but the thing shall be done. I will
carry it through. He laughs most, who laughs last. Why does
Epanchin insult me? Simply because, socially, I am a nobody.
However, enough for the present. Colia has put his nose in to
tell us dinner is ready, twice. I'm dining out. I shall come and
talk to you now and then; you shall be comfortable enough with
us. They are sure to make you one of the family. I think you and
I will either be great friends or enemies. Look here now,
supposing I had kissed your hand just now, as I offered to do in
all sincerity, should I have hated you for it afterwards?"
"Certainly, but not always. You would not have been able to keep
it up, and would have ended by forgiving me," said the prince,
after a pause for reflection, and with a pleasant smile.
"Oho, how careful one has to be with you, prince! Haven't you put
a drop of poison in that remark now, eh? By the way--ha, ha, ha!--
I forgot to ask, was I right in believing that you were a good
deal struck yourself with Nastasia Philipovna
"Are you in love with her?"
"And yet you flush up as red as a rosebud! Come--it's all right.
I'm not going to laugh at you. Do you know she is a very virtuous
woman? Believe it or not, as you like. You think she and Totski--
not a bit of it, not a bit of it! Not for ever so long! Au
Gania left the room in great good humour. The prince stayed
behind, and meditated alone for a few minutes. At length, Colia
popped his head in once more.
"I don't want any dinner, thanks, Colia. I had too good a lunch
at General Epanchin's."
Colia came into the room and gave the prince a note; it was from
the general and was carefully sealed up. It was clear from
Colia's face how painful it was to him to deliver the missive.
The prince read it, rose, and took his hat.
"It's only a couple of yards," said Colia, blushing.
"He's sitting there over his bottle--and how they can give him
credit, I cannot understand. Don't tell mother I brought you the
note, prince; I have sworn not to do it a thousand times, but I'm
always so sorry for him. Don't stand on ceremony, give him some
trifle, and let that end it."
"Come along, Colia, I want to see your father. I have an idea,"
said the prince.
Colia took the prince to a public-house in the Litaynaya, not far
off. In one of the side rooms there sat at a table--looking like
one of the regular guests of the establishment--Ardalion
Alexandrovitch, with a bottle before him, and a newspaper on his
knee. He was waiting for the prince, and no sooner did the latter
appear than he began a long harangue about something or other;
but so far gone was he that the prince could hardly understand a
"I have not got a ten-rouble note," said the prince; "but here is
a twenty-five. Change it and give me back the fifteen, or I shall
be left without a farthing myself."
"Oh, of course, of course; and you quite understand that I--"
"Yes; and I have another request to make, general. Have you ever
been at Nastasia Philipovna's?"
"I? I? Do you mean me? Often, my friend, often! I only pretended
I had not in order to avoid a painful subject. You saw today,
you were a witness, that I did all that a kind, an indulgent
father could do. Now a father of altogether another type shall
step into the scene. You shall see; the old soldier shall lay
bare this intrigue, or a shameless woman will force her way into
a respectable and noble family."
"Yes, quite so. I wished to ask you whether you could show me the
way to Nastasia Philipovna's tonight. I must go; I have business
with her; I was not invited but I was introduced. Anyhow I am
ready to trespass the laws of propriety if only I can get in
somehow or other."
"My dear young friend, you have hit on my very idea. It was not
for this rubbish I asked you to come over here" (he pocketed the
money, however, at this point), "it was to invite your alliance
in the campaign against Nastasia Philipovna tonight. How well it
sounds, 'General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin.' That'll fetch her,
I think, eh? Capital! We'll go at nine; there's time yet."
"Where does she live?"
"Oh, a long way off, near the Great Theatre, just in the square
there--It won't be a large party."
The general sat on and on. He had ordered a fresh bottle when the
prince arrived; this took him an hour to drink, and then he had
another, and another, during the consumption of which he told
pretty nearly the whole story of his life. The prince was in
despair. He felt that though he had but applied to this miserable
old drunkard because he saw no other way of getting to Nastasia
Philipovna's, yet he had been very wrong to put the slightest
confidence in such a man.
At last he rose and declared that he would wait no longer. The
general rose too, drank the last drops that he could squeeze out
of the bottle, and staggered into the street.
Muishkin began to despair. He could not imagine how he had been
so foolish as to trust this man. He only wanted one thing, and
that was to get to Nastasia Philipovna's, even at the cost of a
certain amount of impropriety. But now the scandal threatened to
be more than he had bargained for. By this time Ardalion
Alexandrovitch was quite intoxicated, and he kept his companion
listening while he discoursed eloquently and pathetically on
subjects of all kinds, interspersed with torrents of
recrimination against the members of his family. He insisted that
all his troubles were caused by their bad conduct, and time alone
would put an end to them.
At last they reached the Litaynaya. The thaw increased steadily,
a warm, unhealthy wind blew through the streets, vehicles
splashed through the mud, and the iron shoes of horses and mules
rang on the paving stones. Crowds of melancholy people plodded
wearily along the footpaths, with here and there a drunken man
"Do you see those brightly-lighted windows?" said the general.
"Many of my old comrades-in-arms live about here, and I, who
served longer, and suffered more than any of them, am walking on
foot to the house of a woman of rather questionable reputation!
A man, look you, who has thirteen bullets on his breast! ... You
don't believe it? Well, I can assure you it was entirely on my
account that Pirogoff telegraphed to Paris, and left Sebastopol
at the greatest risk during the siege. Nelaton, the Tuileries
surgeon, demanded a safe conduct, in the name of science, into
the besieged city in order to attend my wounds. The government
knows all about it. 'That's the Ivolgin with thirteen bullets in
him!' That's how they speak of me.... Do you see that house,
prince? One of my old friends lives on the first floor, with his
large family. In this and five other houses, three overlooking
Nevsky, two in the Morskaya, are all that remain of my personal
friends. Nina Alexandrovna gave them up long ago, but I keep in
touch with them still... I may say I find refreshment in this
little coterie, in thus meeting my old acquaintances and
subordinates, who worship me still, in spite of all. General
Sokolovitch (by the way, I have not called on him lately, or seen
Anna Fedorovna)... You know, my dear prince, when a person does
not receive company himself, he gives up going to other people's
houses involuntarily. And yet ... well ... you look as if you
didn't believe me.... Well now, why should I not present the son
of my old friend and companion to this delightful family--General
Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin? You will see a lovely girl--what am
I saying--a lovely girl? No, indeed, two, three! Ornaments of
this city and of society: beauty, education, culture--the woman
question--poetry--everything! Added to which is the fact that
each one will have a dot of at least eighty thousand roubles. No
bad thing, eh? ... In a word I absolutely must introduce you to
them: it is a duty, an obligation. General Ivolgin and Prince
"At once? Now? You must have forgotten ... " began the prince.
"No, I have forgotten nothing. Come! This is the house--up this
magnificent staircase. I am surprised not to see the porter, but
.... it is a holiday ... and the man has gone off ... Drunken
fool! Why have they not got rid of him? Sokolovitch owes all the
happiness he has had in the service and in his private life to
me, and me alone, but ... here we are."
The prince followed quietly, making no further objection for fear
of irritating the old man. At the same time he fervently hoped
that General Sokolovitch and his family would fade away like a
mirage in the desert, so that the visitors could escape, by
merely returning downstairs. But to his horror he saw that
General Ivolgin was quite familiar with the house, and really
seemed to have friends there. At every step he named some
topographical or biographical detail that left nothing to be
desired on the score of accuracy. When they arrived at last, on
the first floor, and the general turned to ring the bell to the
right, the prince decided to run away, but a curious incident
stopped him momentarily.
"You have made a mistake, general," said he. " The name on the
door is Koulakoff, and you were going to see General
"Koulakoff ... Koulakoff means nothing. This is Sokolovitch's
flat, and I am ringing at his door.... What do I care for
Koulakoff? ... Here comes someone to open."
In fact, the door opened directly, and the footman in formed the
visitors that the family were all away.
"What a pity! What a pity! It's just my luck!" repeated Ardalion
Alexandrovitch over and over again, in regretful tones. " When
your master and mistress return, my man, tell them that General
Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin desired to present themselves, and
that they were extremely sorry, excessively grieved ..."
Just then another person belonging to the household was seen at
the back of the hall. It was a woman of some forty years, dressed
in sombre colours, probably a housekeeper or a governess. Hearing
the names she came forward with a look of suspicion on her face.
"Marie Alexandrovna is not at home," said she, staring hard at
the general. "She has gone to her mother's, with Alexandra
"Alexandra Michailovna out, too! How disappointing! Would you
believe it, I am always so unfortunate! May I most respectfully
ask you to present my compliments to Alexandra Michailovna, and
remind her ... tell her, that with my whole heart I wish for
her what she wished for herself on Thursday evening, while she
was listening to Chopin's Ballade. She will remember. I wish it
with all sincerity. General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin!"
The woman's face changed; she lost her suspicious expression.