Part 5 out of 15
and crawled towards the fire.
"Away, out of the way!" cried Nastasia. "Make room, all of you!
Gania, what are you standing there for? Don't stand on ceremony.
Put in your hand! There's your whole happiness smouldering away,
But Gania had borne too much that day, and especially this
evening, and he was not prepared for this last, quite unexpected
The crowd parted on each side of him and he was left face to face
with Nastasia Philipovna, three paces from her. She stood by the
fire and waited, with her intent gaze fixed upon him.
Gania stood before her, in his evening clothes, holding his white
gloves and hat in his hand, speechless and motionless, with arms
folded and eyes fixed on the fire.
A silly, meaningless smile played on his white, death-like lips.
He could not take his eyes off the smouldering packet; but it
appeared that something new had come to birth in his soul--as
though he were vowing to himself that he would bear this trial.
He did not move from his place. In a few seconds it became
evident to all that he did not intend to rescue the money.
"Hey! look at it, it'll burn in another minute or two!" cried
Nastasia Philipovna. "You'll hang yourself afterwards, you know,
if it does! I'm not joking."
The fire, choked between a couple of smouldering pieces of wood,
had died down for the first few moments after the packet was
thrown upon it. But a little tongue of fire now began to lick the
paper from below, and soon, gathering courage, mounted the sides
of the parcel, and crept around it. In another moment, the whole
of it burst into flames, and the exclamations of woe and horror
"Nastasia Philipovna!" lamented Lebedeff again, straining towards
the fireplace; but Rogojin dragged him away, and pushed him to
the rear once more.
The whole of Regojin's being was concentrated in one rapturous
gaze of ecstasy. He could not take his eyes off Nastasia. He
stood drinking her in, as it were. He was in the seventh heaven
"Oh, what a queen she is!" he ejaculated, every other minute,
throwing out the remark for anyone who liked to catch it. "That's
the sort of woman for me! Which of you would think of doing a
thing like that, you blackguards, eh?" he yelled. He was
hopelessly and wildly beside himself with ecstasy.
The prince watched the whole scene, silent and dejected.
"I'll pull it out with my teeth for one thousand," said
"So would I," said another, from behind, "with pleasure. Devil
take the thing!" he added, in a tempest of despair, "it will all
be burnt up in a minute--It's burning, it's burning!"
"It's burning, it's burning!" cried all, thronging nearer and
nearer to the fire in their excitement.
"Gania, don't be a fool! I tell you for the last time."
"Get on, quick!" shrieked Ferdishenko, rushing wildly up to
Gania, and trying to drag him to the fire by the sleeve of his
coat. "Get it, you dummy, it's burning away fast! Oh--DAMN the
Gania hurled Ferdishenko from him; then he turned sharp round and
made for the door. But he had not gone a couple of steps when he
tottered and fell to the ground.
"He's fainted!" the cry went round.
"And the money's burning still," Lebedeff lamented.
"Burning for nothing," shouted others.
"Katia-Pasha! Bring him some water!" cried Nastasia Philipovna.
Then she took the tongs and fished out the packet.
Nearly the whole of the outer covering was burned away, but it
was soon evident that the contents were hardly touched. The
packet had been wrapped in a threefold covering of newspaper, and
the, notes were safe. All breathed more freely.
"Some dirty little thousand or so may be touched," said Lebedeff,
immensely relieved, "but there's very little harm done, after
"It's all his--the whole packet is for him, do you hear--all of
you?" cried Nastasia Philipovna, placing the packet by the side
of Gania. "He restrained himself, and didn't go after it; so his
self-respect is greater than his thirst for money. All right--
he'll come to directly--he must have the packet or he'll cut his
throat afterwards. There! He's coming to himself. General,
Totski, all of you, did you hear me? The money is all Gania's. I
give it to him, fully conscious of my action, as recompense for--
well, for anything he thinks best. Tell him so. Let it lie here
beside him. Off we go, Rogojin! Goodbye, prince. I have seen a
man for the first time in my life. Goodbye, Afanasy Ivanovitch--
The Rogojin gang followed their leader and Nastasia Philipovna to
the entrance-hall, laughing and shouting and whistling.
In the hall the servants were waiting, and handed her her fur
cloak. Martha, the cook, ran in from the kitchen. Nastasia kissed
them all round.
"Are you really throwing us all over, little mother? Where, where
are you going to? And on your birthday, too!" cried the four
girls, crying over her and kissing her hands.
"I am going out into the world, Katia; perhaps I shall be a
laundress. I don't know. No more of Afanasy Ivanovitch, anyhow.
Give him my respects. Don't think badly of me, girls."
The prince hurried down to the front gate where the party were
settling into the troikas, all the bells tinkling a merry
accompaniment the while. The general caught him up on the stairs:
"Prince, prince!" he cried, seizing hold of his arm, "recollect
yourself! Drop her, prince! You see what sort of a woman she is.
I am speaking to you like a father."
The prince glanced at him, but said nothing. He shook himself
free, and rushed on downstairs.
The general was just in time to see the prince take the first
sledge he could get, and, giving the order to Ekaterinhof, start
off in pursuit of the troikas. Then the general's fine grey horse
dragged that worthy home, with some new thoughts, and some new
hopes and calculations developing in his brain, and with the
pearls in his pocket, for he had not forgotten to bring them
along with him, being a man of business. Amid his new thoughts
and ideas there came, once or twice, the image of Nastasia
Philipovna. The general sighed.
"I'm sorry, really sorry," he muttered. "She's a ruined woman.
Mad! mad! However, the prince is not for Nastasia Philipovna
now,--perhaps it's as well."
Two more of Nastasia's guests, who walked a short distance
together, indulged in high moral sentiments of a similar nature.
"Do you know, Totski, this is all very like what they say goes on
among the Japanese?" said Ptitsin. "The offended party there,
they say, marches off to his insulter and says to him, 'You
insulted me, so I have come to rip myself open before your eyes;'
and with these words he does actually rip his stomach open before
his enemy, and considers, doubtless, that he is having all
possible and necessary satisfaction and revenge. There are
strange characters in the world, sir!"
"H'm! and you think there was something of this sort here, do
you? Dear me--a very remarkable comparison, you know! But you
must have observed, my dear Ptitsin, that I did all I possibly
could. I could do no more than I did. And you must admit that
there are some rare qualities in this woman. I felt I could not
speak in that Bedlam, or I should have been tempted to cry out,
when she reproached me, that she herself was my best
justification. Such a woman could make anyone forget all reason--
everything! Even that moujik, Rogojin, you saw, brought her a
hundred thousand roubles! Of course, all that happened tonight
was ephemeral, fantastic, unseemly--yet it lacked neither colour
nor originality. My God! What might not have been made of such a
character combined with such beauty! Yet in spite of all efforts
--in spite of all education, even--all those gifts are wasted! She
is an uncut diamond.... I have often said so."
And Afanasy Ivanovitch heaved a deep sigh.
Two days after the strange conclusion to Nastasia Philipovna's
birthday party, with the record of which we concluded the first
part of this story, Prince Muishkin hurriedly left St. Petersburg
for Moscow, in order to see after some business connected with
the receipt of his unexpected fortune.
It was said that there were other reasons for his hurried
departure; but as to this, and as to his movements in Moscow, and
as to his prolonged absence from St. Petersburg, we are able to
give very little information.
The prince was away for six months, and even those who were most
interested in his destiny were able to pick up very little news
about him all that while. True, certain rumours did reach his
friends, but these were both strange and rare, and each one
contradicted the last.
Of course the Epanchin family was much interested in his
movements, though he had not had time to bid them farewell before
his departure. The general, however, had had an opportunity of
seeing him once or twice since the eventful evening, and had
spoken very seriously with him; but though he had seen the
prince, as I say, he told his family nothing about the
circumstance. In fact, for a month or so after his departure it
was considered not the thing to mention the prince's name in the
Epanchin household. Only Mrs. Epanchin, at the commencement of
this period, had announced that she had been "cruelly mistaken in
the prince!" and a day or two after, she had added, evidently
alluding to him, but not mentioning his name, that it was an
unalterable characteristic of hers to be mistaken in people. Then
once more, ten days later, after some passage of arms with one of
her daughters, she had remarked sententiously. "We have had
enough of mistakes. I shall be more careful in future!" However,
it was impossible to avoid remarking that there was some sense of
oppression in the household--something unspoken, but felt;
something strained. All the members of the family wore frowning
looks. The general was unusually busy; his family hardly ever saw
As to the girls, nothing was said openly, at all events; and
probably very little in private. They were proud damsels, and
were not always perfectly confidential even among themselves. But
they understood each other thoroughly at the first word on all
occasions; very often at the first glance, so that there was no
need of much talking as a rule.
One fact, at least, would have been perfectly plain to an
outsider, had any such person been on the spot; and that was,
that the prince had made a very considerable impression upon the
family, in spite of the fact that he had but once been inside the
house, and then only for a short time. Of course, if analyzed,
this impression might have proved to be nothing more than a
feeling of curiosity; but be it what it might, there it
Little by little, the rumours spread about town became lost in a
maze of uncertainty. It was said that some foolish young prince,
name unknown, had suddenly come into possession of a gigantic
fortune, and had married a French ballet dancer. This was
contradicted, and the rumour circulated that it was a young
merchant who had come into the enormous fortune and married the
great ballet dancer, and that at the wedding the drunken young
fool had burned seventy thousand roubles at a candle out of pure
However, all these rumours soon died down, to which circumstance
certain facts largely contributed. For instance, the whole of the
Rogojin troop had departed, with him at their head, for Moscow.
This was exactly a week after a dreadful orgy at the Ekaterinhof
gardens, where Nastasia Philipovna had been present. It became
known that after this orgy Nastasia Philipovna had entirely
disappeared, and that she had since been traced to Moscow; so
that the exodus of the Rogojin band was found consistent with
There were rumours current as to Gania, too; but circumstances
soon contradicted these. He had fallen seriously ill, and his
illness precluded his appearance in society, and even at
business, for over a month. As soon as he had recovered, however,
he threw up his situation in the public company under General
Epanchin's direction, for some unknown reason, and the post was
given to another. He never went near the Epanchins' house at all,
and was exceedingly irritable and depressed.
Varvara Ardalionovna married Ptitsin this winter, and it was said
that the fact of Gania's retirement from business was the
ultimate cause of the marriage, since Gania was now not only
unable to support his family, but even required help himself.
We may mention that Gania was no longer mentioned in the Epanchin
household any more than the prince was; but that a certain
circumstance in connection with the fatal evening at Nastasia's
house became known to the general, and, in fact, to all the
family the very next day. This fact was that Gania had come home
that night, but had refused to go to bed. He had awaited the
prince's return from Ekaterinhof with feverish impatience.
On the latter's arrival, at six in the morning, Gania had gone to
him in his room, bringing with him the singed packet of money,
which he had insisted that the prince should return to Nastasia
Philipovna without delay. It was said that when Gania entered the
prince's room, he came with anything but friendly feelings, and
in a condition of despair and misery; but that after a short
conversation, he had stayed on for a couple of hours with him,
sobbing continuously and bitterly the whole time. They had parted
upon terms of cordial friendship.
The Epanchins heard about this, as well as about the episode at
Nastasia Philipovna's. It was strange, perhaps, that the facts
should become so quickly, and fairly accurately, known. As far as
Gania was concerned, it might have been supposed that the news
had come through Varvara Ardalionovna, who had suddenly become a
frequent visitor of the Epanchin girls, greatly to their mother's
surprise. But though Varvara had seen fit, for some reason, to
make friends with them, it was not likely that she would have
talked to them about her brother. She had plenty of pride, in
spite of the fact that in thus acting she was seeking intimacy
with people who had practically shown her brother the door. She
and the Epanchin girls had been acquainted in childhood, although
of late they had met but rarely. Even now Varvara hardly ever
appeared in the drawing-room, but would slip in by a back way.
Lizabetha Prokofievna, who disliked Varvara, although she had a
great respect for her mother, was much annoyed by this sudden
intimacy, and put it down to the general "contrariness" of her
daughters, who were "always on the lookout for some new way of
opposing her." Nevertheless, Varvara continued her visits.
A month after Muishkin's departure, Mrs. Epanchin received a
letter from her old friend Princess Bielokonski (who had lately
left for Moscow), which letter put her into the greatest good
humour. She did not divulge its contents either to her daughters
or the general, but her conduct towards the former became
affectionate in the extreme. She even made some sort of
confession to them, but they were unable to understand what it
was about. She actually relaxed towards the general a little--he
had been long disgraced--and though she managed to quarrel with
them all the next day, yet she soon came round, and from her
general behaviour it was to be concluded that she had bad good
news of some sort, which she would like, but could not make up
her mind, to disclose.
However, a week later she received another letter from the same
source, and at last resolved to speak.
She solemnly announced that she had heard from old Princess
Bielokonski, who had given her most comforting news about "that
queer young prince." Her friend had hunted him up, and found that
all was going well with him. He had since called in person upon
her, making an extremely favourable impression, for the princess
had received him each day since, and had introduced him into
several good houses.
The girls could see that their mother concealed a great deal from
them, and left out large pieces of the letter in reading it to
However, the ice was broken, and it suddenly became possible to
mention the prince's name again. And again it became evident how
very strong was the impression the young man had made in the
household by his one visit there. Mrs. Epanchin was surprised at
the effect which the news from Moscow had upon the girls, and
they were no less surprised that after solemnly remarking that
her most striking characteristic was "being mistaken in people"
she should have troubled to obtain for the prince the favour and
protection of so powerful an old lady as the Princess
Bielokonski. As soon as the ice was thus broken, the general lost
no time in showing that he, too, took the greatest interest in
the subject. He admitted that he was interested, but said that it
was merely in the business side of the question. It appeared
that, in the interests of the prince, he had made arrangements in
Moscow for a careful watch to be kept upon the prince's business
affairs, and especially upon Salaskin. All that had been said as
to the prince being an undoubted heir to a fortune turned out to
be perfectly true; but the fortune proved to be much smaller than
was at first reported. The estate was considerably encumbered
with debts; creditors turned up on all sides, and the prince, in
spite of all advice and entreaty, insisted upon managing all
matters of claim himself--which, of course, meant satisfying
everybody all round, although half the claims were absolutely
Mrs. Epanchin confirmed all this. She said the princess had
written to much the same effect, and added that there was no
curing a fool. But it was plain, from her expression of face, how
strongly she approved of this particular young fool's doings. In
conclusion, the general observed that his wife took as great an
interest in the prince as though he were her own son; and that
she had commenced to be especially affectionate towards Aglaya
was a self-evident fact.
All this caused the general to look grave and important. But,
alas! this agreeable state of affairs very soon changed once
A couple of weeks went by, and suddenly the general and his wife
were once more gloomy and silent, and the ice was as firm as
ever. The fact was, the general, who had heard first, how Nastasia
Philipovna had fled to Moscow and had been discovered there by
Rogojin; that she had then disappeared once more, and been
found again by Rogojin, and how after that she had almost
promised to marry him, now received news that she had once more
disappeared, almost on the very day fixed for her wedding, flying
somewhere into the interior of Russia this time, and that Prince
Muishkin had left all his affairs in the hands of Salaskin and
disappeared also--but whether he was with Nastasia, or had only
set off in search of her, was unknown.
Lizabetha Prokofievna received confirmatory news from the
princess--and alas, two months after the prince's first
departure from St. Petersburg, darkness and mystery once more
enveloped his whereabouts and actions, and in the Epanchin family
the ice of silence once more formed over the subject. Varia,
however, informed the girls of what had happened, she having
received the news from Ptitsin, who generally knew more than most
To make an end, we may say that there were many changes in the
Epanchin household in the spring, so that it was not difficult to
forget the prince, who sent no news of himself.
The Epanchin family had at last made up their minds to spend the
summer abroad, all except the general, who could not waste time
in "travelling for enjoyment," of course. This arrangement was
brought about by the persistence of the girls, who insisted that
they were never allowed to go abroad because their parents were
too anxious to marry them off. Perhaps their parents had at last
come to the conclusion that husbands might be found abroad, and
that a summer's travel might bear fruit. The marriage between
Alexandra and Totski had been broken off. Since the prince's
departure from St. Petersburg no more had been said about it; the
subject had been dropped without ceremony, much to the joy of
Mrs. General, who, announced that she was "ready to cross herself
with both hands" in gratitude for the escape. The general,
however, regretted Totski for a long while. "Such a fortune!" he
sighed, "and such a good, easy-going fellow!"
After a time it became known that Totski had married a French
marquise, and was to be carried off by her to Paris, and then to
"Oh, well," thought the general, "he's lost to us for good, now."
So the Epanchins prepared to depart for the summer.
But now another circumstance occurred, which changed all the
plans once more, and again the intended journey was put off, much
to the delight of the general and his spouse.
A certain Prince S-- arrived in St. Petersburg from Moscow, an
eminent and honourable young man. He was one of those active
persons who always find some good work with which to employ
themselves. Without forcing himself upon the public notice,
modest and unobtrusive, this young prince was concerned with much
that happened in the world in general.
He had served, at first, in one of the civil departments, had
then attended to matters connected with the local government of
provincial towns, and had of late been a corresponding member of
several important scientific societies. He was a man of excellent
family and solid means, about thirty-five years of age.
Prince S-- made the acquaintance of the general's family, and
Adelaida, the second girl, made a great impression upon him.
Towards the spring he proposed to her, and she accepted him. The
general and his wife were delighted. The journey abroad was put
off, and the wedding was fixed for a day not very distant.
The trip abroad might have been enjoyed later on by Mrs. Epanchin
and her two remaining daughters, but for another circumstance.
It so happened that Prince S-- introduced a distant relation of
his own into the Epanchin family--one Evgenie Pavlovitch, a young
officer of about twenty-eight years of age, whose conquests among
the ladies in Moscow had been proverbial. This young gentleman
no sooner set eyes on Aglaya than he became a frequent visitor at
the house. He was witty, well-educated, and extremely wealthy, as
the general very soon discovered. His past reputation was the
only thing against him.
Nothing was said; there were not even any hints dropped; but
still, it seemed better to the parents to say nothing more about
going abroad this season, at all events. Aglaya herself perhaps
was of a different opinion.
All this happened just before the second appearance of our hero
upon the scene.
By this time, to judge from appearances, poor Prince Muishkin had
been quite forgotten in St. Petersburg. If he had appeared
suddenly among his acquaintances, he would have been received as
one from the skies; but we must just glance at one more fact
before we conclude this preface.
Colia Ivolgin, for some time after the prince's departure,
continued his old life. That is, he went to school, looked after
his father, helped Varia in the house, and ran her errands, and
went frequently to see his friend, Hippolyte.
The lodgers had disappeared very quickly--Ferdishenko soon after
the events at Nastasia Philipovna's, while the prince went to
Moscow, as we know. Gania and his mother went to live with Varia
and Ptitsin immediately after the latter's wedding, while the
general was housed in a debtor's prison by reason of certain
IOU's given to the captain's widow under the impression that they
would never be formally used against him. This unkind action much
surprised poor Ardalion Alexandrovitch, the victim, as he called
himself, of an "unbounded trust in the nobility of the human
When he signed those notes of hand,he never dreamt that they would
be a source of future trouble. The event showed that he was mistaken.
"Trust in anyone after this! Have the least confidence in man or woman!"
he cried in bitter tones, as he sat with his new friends in prison, and
recounted to them his favourite stories of the siege of Kars, and
the resuscitated soldier. On the whole, he accommodated himself
very well to his new position. Ptitsin and Varia declared that he
was in the right place, and Gania was of the same opinion. The
only person who deplored his fate was poor Nina Alexandrovna, who
wept bitter tears over him, to the great surprise of her
household, and, though always in feeble health, made a point of
going to see him as often as possible.
Since the general's "mishap," as Colia called it, and the
marriage of his sister, the boy had quietly possessed himself of
far more freedom. His relations saw little of him, for he rarely
slept at home. He made many new friends; and was moreover, a
frequent visitor at the debtor's prison, to which he invariably
accompanied his mother. Varia, who used to be always correcting
him, never spoke to him now on the subject of his frequent
absences, and the whole household was surprised to see Gania, in
spite of his depression, on quite friendly terms with his
brother. This was something new, for Gania had been wont to look
upon Colia as a kind of errand-boy, treating him with contempt,
threatening to "pull his ears," and in general driving him almost
wild with irritation. It seemed now that Gania really needed his
brother, and the latter, for his part, felt as if he could
forgive Gania much since he had returned the hundred thousand
roubles offered to him by Nastasia Philipovna. Three months after
the departure of the prince, the Ivolgin family discovered that
Colia had made acquaintance with the Epanchins, and was on very
friendly terms with the daughters. Varia heard of it first,
though Colia had not asked her to introduce him. Little by little
the family grew quite fond of him. Madame Epanchin at first
looked on him with disdain, and received him coldly, but in a
short time he grew to please her, because, as she said, he "was
candid and no flatterer" -- a very true description. From the first
he put himself on an equality with his new friends, and though he
sometimes read newspapers and books to the mistress of the house,
it was simply because he liked to be useful.
One day, however, he and Lizabetha Prokofievna quarrelled
seriously about the "woman question," in the course of a lively
discussion on that burning subject. He told her that she was a
tyrant, and that he would never set foot in her house again. It
may seem incredible, but a day or two after, Madame Epanchin sent
a servant with a note begging him to return, and Colia, without
standing on his dignity, did so at once.
Aglaya was the only one of the family whose good graces he could
not gain, and who always spoke to him haughtily, but it so
happened that the boy one day succeeded in giving the proud
maiden a surprise.
It was about Easter, when, taking advantage of a momentary tete-
a-tete Colia handed Aglaya a letter, remarking that he "had
orders to deliver it to her privately." She stared at him in
amazement, but he did not wait to hear what she had to say, and
went out. Aglaya broke the seal, and read as follows:
"Once you did me the honour of giving me your confidence. Perhaps
you have quite forgotten me now! How is it that I am writing to
you? I do not know; but I am conscious of an irresistible desire
to remind you of my existence, especially you. How many times I
have needed all three of you; but only you have dwelt always in
my mind's eye. I need you--I need you very much. I will not write
about myself. I have nothing to tell you. But I long for you to
be happy. ARE you happy? That is all I wished to say to you--Your
"PR. L. MUISHKIN."
On reading this short and disconnected note, Aglaya suddenly
blushed all over, and became very thoughtful.
It would be difficult to describe her thoughts at that moment.
One of them was, "Shall I show it to anyone?" But she was ashamed
to show it. So she ended by hiding it in her table drawer, with a
very strange, ironical smile upon her lips.
Next day, she took it out, and put it into a large book, as she
usually did with papers which she wanted to be able to find
easily. She laughed when, about a week later, she happened to
notice the name of the book, and saw that it was Don Quixote, but
it would be difficult to say exactly why.
I cannot say, either, whether she showed the letter to her
But when she had read it herself once more, it suddenly struck
her that surely that conceited boy, Colia, had not been the one
chosen correspondent of the prince all this while. She determined
to ask him, and did so with an exaggerated show of carelessness.
He informed her haughtily that though he had given the prince his
permanent address when the latter left town, and had offered his
services, the prince had never before given him any commission to
perform, nor had he written until the following lines arrived,
with Aglaya's letter. Aglaya took the note, and read it.
"DEAR COLIA,--Please be so kind as to give the enclosed
sealed letter to Aglaya Ivanovna. Keep well--Ever your
loving, "PR. L. MUISHKIN."
"It seems absurd to trust a little pepper-box like you," said
Aglaya, as she returned the note, and walked past the "pepper-
box" with an expression of great contempt.
This was more than Colia could bear. He had actually borrowed
Gania's new green tie for the occasion, without saying why he
wanted it, in order to impress her. He was very deeply mortified.
IT was the beginning of June, and for a whole week the weather in
St. Petersburg had been magnificent. The Epanchins had a
luxurious country-house at Pavlofsk, [One of the fashionable
summer resorts near St. Petersburg.] and to this spot Mrs.
Epanchin determined to proceed without further delay. In a couple
of days all was ready, and the family had left town. A day or two
after this removal to Pavlofsk, Prince Muishkin arrived in St.
Petersburg by the morning train from Moscow. No one met him; but,
as he stepped out of the carriage, he suddenly became aware of
two strangely glowing eyes fixed upon him from among the crowd
that met the train. On endeavouring to re-discover the eyes, and
see to whom they belonged, he could find nothing to guide him. It
must have been a hallucination. But the disagreeable impression
remained, and without this, the prince was sad and thoughtful
already, and seemed to be much preoccupied.
His cab took him to a small and bad hotel near the Litaynaya.
Here he engaged a couple of rooms, dark and badly furnished. He
washed and changed, and hurriedly left the hotel again, as though
anxious to waste no time. Anyone who now saw him for the first
time since he left Petersburg would judge that he had improved
vastly so far as his exterior was concerned. His clothes
certainly were very different; they were more fashionable,
perhaps even too much so, and anyone inclined to mockery might
have found something to smile at in his appearance. But what is
there that people will not smile at?
The prince took a cab and drove to a street near the Nativity,
where he soon discovered the house he was seeking. It was a small
wooden villa, and he was struck by its attractive and clean
appearance; it stood in a pleasant little garden, full of
flowers. The windows looking on the street were open, and the
sound of a voice, reading aloud or making a speech, came through
them. It rose at times to a shout, and was interrupted
occasionally by bursts of laughter.
Prince Muishkin entered the court-yard, and ascended the steps. A
cook with her sleeves turned up to the elbows opened the door.
The visitor asked if Mr. Lebedeff were at home.
"He is in there," said she, pointing to the salon.
The room had a blue wall-paper, and was well, almost
pretentiously, furnished, with its round table, its divan, and
its bronze clock under a glass shade. There was a narrow pier-
glass against the wall, and a chandelier adorned with lustres
hung by a bronze chain from the ceiling.
When the prince entered, Lebedeff was standing in the middle of
the room, his back to the door. He was in his shirt-sleeves, on
account of the extreme heat, and he seemed to have just reached
the peroration of his speech, and was impressively beating his
His audience consisted of a youth of about fifteen years of age
with a clever face, who had a book in his hand, though he was not
reading; a young lady of twenty, in deep mourning, stood near him
with an infant in her arms; another girl of thirteen, also in
black, was laughing loudly, her mouth wide open; and on the sofa
lay a handsome young man, with black hair and eyes, and a
suspicion of beard and whiskers. He frequently interrupted the
speaker and argued with him, to the great delight of the others.
"Lukian Timofeyovitch! Lukian Timofeyovitch! Here's someone to
see you! Look here! . . . a gentleman to speak to you! . . .
Well, it's not my fault!" and the cook turned and went away red
Lebedeff started, and at sight of the prince stood like a statue
for a moment. Then he moved up to him with an ingratiating smile,
but stopped short again.
"Prince! ex-ex-excellency!" he stammered. Then suddenly he ran
towards the girl with the infant, a movement so unexpected by her
that she staggered and fell back, but next moment he was
threatening the other child, who was standing, still laughing, in
the doorway. She screamed, and ran towards the kitchen. Lebedeff
stamped his foot angrily; then, seeing the prince regarding him
with amazement, he murmured apologetically--"Pardon to show
respect! . . . he-he!"
" You are quite wrong . . ." began the prince.
"At once . . . at once . . . in one moment!"
He rushed like a whirlwind from the room, and Muishkin looked
inquiringly at the others.
They were all laughing, and the guest joined in the chorus.
"He has gone to get his coat," said the boy.
"How annoying!" exclaimed the prince. "I thought . . . Tell me,
is he . . ."
"You think he is drunk?" cried the young man on the sofa. " Not
in the least. He's only had three or four small glasses,
perhaps five; but what is that? The usual thing!"
As the prince opened his mouth to answer, he was interrupted by
the girl, whose sweet face wore an expression of absolute
"He never drinks much in the morning; if you have come to talk
business with him, do it now. It is the best time. He sometimes
comes back drunk in the evening; but just now he passes the
greater part of the evening in tears, and reads passages of Holy
Scripture aloud, because our mother died five weeks ago."
"No doubt he ran off because he did not know what to say to you,"
said the youth on the divan. "I bet he is trying to cheat you,
and is thinking how best to do it."
Just then Lebedeff returned, having put on his coat.
"Five weeks!" said he, wiping his eyes. "Only five weeks! Poor
"But why wear a coat in holes," asked the girl, "when your new
one is hanging behind the door? Did you not see it?"
"Hold your tongue, dragon-fly!" he scolded. "What a plague you
are!" He stamped his foot irritably, but she only laughed, and
"Are you trying to frighten me? I am not Tania, you know, and I
don't intend to run away. Look, you are waking Lubotchka, and she
will have convulsions again. Why do you shout like that?"
"Well, well! I won't again," said the master of the house his
anxiety getting the better of his temper. He went up to his
daughter, and looked at the child in her arms, anxiously making
the sign of the cross over her three times. "God bless her! God
bless her!" he cried with emotion. "This little creature is my
daughter Luboff," addressing the prince. "My wife, Helena, died--
at her birth; and this is my big daughter Vera, in mourning, as
you see; and this, this, oh, this pointing to the young man on
the divan . . .
"Well, go on! never mind me!" mocked the other. "Don't be
"Excellency! Have you read that account of the murder of the
Zemarin family, in the newspaper?" cried Lebedeff, all of a
"Yes," said Muishkin, with some surprise.
"Well, that is the murderer! It is he--in fact--"
"What do you mean?" asked the visitor.
"I am speaking allegorically, of course; but he will be the
murderer of a Zemarin family in the future. He is getting ready .
They all laughed, and the thought crossed the prince's mind that
perhaps Lebedeff was really trifling in this way because he
foresaw inconvenient questions, and wanted to gain time.
"He is a traitor! a conspirator!" shouted Lebedeff, who seemed to
have lost all control over himself. " A monster! a slanderer!
Ought I to treat him as a nephew, the son of my sister Anisia?"
"Oh! do be quiet! You must be drunk! He has taken it into his
head to play the lawyer, prince, and he practices speechifying,
and is always repeating his eloquent pleadings to his children.
And who do you think was his last client? An old woman who had
been robbed of five hundred roubles, her all, by some rogue of a
usurer, besought him to take up her case, instead of which he
defended the usurer himself, a Jew named Zeidler, because this
Jew promised to give him fifty roubles. . . ."
"It was to be fifty if I won the case, only five if I lost,"
interrupted Lebedeff, speaking in a low tone, a great contrast to
his earlier manner.
"Well! naturally he came to grief: the law is not administered as
it used to be, and he only got laughed at for his pains. But he
was much pleased with himself in spite of that. 'Most learned
judge!' said he, 'picture this unhappy man, crippled by age and
infirmities, who gains his living by honourable toil--picture him,
I repeat, robbed of his all, of his last mouthful; remember, I
entreat you, the words of that learned legislator, "Let mercy and
justice alike rule the courts of law."' Now, would you believe
it, excellency, every morning he recites this speech to us from
beginning to end, exactly as he spoke it before the magistrate.
To-day we have heard it for the fifth time. He was just starting
again when you arrived, so much does he admire it. He is now
preparing to undertake another case. I think, by the way, that
you are Prince Muishkin? Colia tells me you are the cleverest man
he has ever known. . . ."
"The cleverest in the world," interrupted his uncle hastily.
"I do not pay much attention to that opinion," continued the
young man calmly. "Colia is very fond of you, but he," pointing
to Lebedeff, "is flattering you. I can assure you I have no
intention of flattering you, or anyone else, but at least you
have some common-sense. Well, will you judge between us? Shall we
ask the prince to act as arbitrator?" he went on, addressing his
"I am so glad you chanced to come here, prince."
"I agree," said Lebedeff, firmly, looking round involuntarily at
his daughter, who had come nearer, and was listening attentively
to the conversation.
"What is it all about?" asked the prince, frowning. His head
ached, and he felt sure that Lebedeff was trying to cheat him in
some way, and only talking to put off the explanation that he had
"I will tell you all the story. I am his nephew; he did
speak the truth there, although he is generally telling lies. I
am at the University, and have not yet finished my course. I mean
to do so, and I shall, for I have a determined character. I must,
however, find something to do for the present, and therefore I
have got employment on the railway at twenty-four roubles a
month. I admit that my uncle has helped me once or twice before.
Well, I had twenty roubles in my pocket, and I gambled them away.
Can you believe that I should be so low, so base, as to lose
money in that way?"
"And the man who won it is a rogue, a rogue whom you ought not to
have paid!" cried Lebedeff.
"Yes, he is a rogue, but I was obliged to pay him," said the
young man. "As to his being a rogue, he is assuredly that, and I
am not saying it because he beat you. He is an ex-lieutenant,
prince, dismissed from the service, a teacher of boxing, and one
of Rogojin's followers. They are all lounging about the pavements
now that Rogojin has turned them off. Of course, the worst of it
is that, knowing he was a rascal, and a card-sharper, I none the
less played palki with him, and risked my last rouble. To tell
the truth, I thought to myself, 'If I lose, I will go to my
uncle, and I am sure he will not refuse to help me.' Now that was
base-cowardly and base!"
"That is so," observed Lebedeff quietly; "cowardly and base."
"Well, wait a bit, before you begin to triumph," said the nephew
viciously; for the words seemed to irritate him. "He is
delighted! I came to him here and told him everything: I acted
honourably, for I did not excuse myself. I spoke most severely of
my conduct, as everyone here can witness. But I must smarten
myself up before I take up my new post, for I am really like a
tramp. Just look at my boots! I cannot possibly appear like this,
and if I am not at the bureau at the time appointed, the job will
be given to someone else; and I shall have to try for another.
Now I only beg for fifteen roubles, and I give my word that I
will never ask him for anything again. I am also ready to promise
to repay my debt in three months' time, and I will keep my word,
even if I have to live on bread and water. My salary will amount
to seventy-five roubles in three months. The sum I now ask, added
to what I have borrowed already, will make a total of about
thirty-five roubles, so you see I shall have enough to pay him
and confound him! if he wants interest, he shall have that, too!
Haven't I always paid back the money he lent me before? Why
should he be so mean now? He grudges my having paid that
lieutenant; there can be no other reason! That's the kind he is--
a dog in the manger!"
"And he won't go away!" cried Lebedeff. "He has installed himself
here, and here he remains!"
"I have told you already, that I will not go away until I have
got what I ask. Why are you smiling, prince? You look as if you
disapproved of me."
"I am not smiling, but I really think you are in the wrong,
somewhat," replied Muishkin, reluctantly.
"Don't shuffle! Say plainly that you think that I am quite wrong,
without any 'somewhat'! Why 'somewhat'?"
"I will say you are quite wrong, if you wish."
"If I wish! That's good, I must say! Do you think I am deceived
as to the flagrant impropriety of my conduct? I am quite aware
that his money is his own, and that my action -As much like an
attempt at extortion. But you-you don't know what life is! If
people don't learn by experience, they never understand. They
must be taught. My intentions are perfectly honest; on my
conscience he will lose nothing, and I will pay back the money
with interest. Added to which he has had the moral satisfaction
of seeing me disgraced. What does he want more? and what is he
good for if he never helps anyone? Look what he does himself!
just ask him about his dealings with others, how he deceives
people! How did he manage to buy this house? You may cut off my
head if he has not let you in for something-and if he is not
trying to cheat you again. You are smiling. You don't believe
"It seems to me that all this has nothing to do with your
affairs," remarked the prince.
"I have lain here now for three days," cried the young man
without noticing, "and I have seen a lot! Fancy! he suspects his
daughter, that angel, that orphan, my cousin--he suspects her, and
every evening he searches her room, to see if she has a lover
hidden in it! He comes here too on tiptoe, creeping softly--oh,
so softly--and looks under the sofa--my bed, you know. He is mad
with suspicion, and sees a thief in every corner. He runs about
all night long; he was up at least seven times last night, to
satisfy himself that the windows and doors were barred, and to
peep into the oven. That man who appears in court for scoundrels,
rushes in here in the night and prays, lying prostrate, banging
his head on the ground by the half-hour--and for whom do you
think he prays? Who are the sinners figuring in his drunken
petitions? I have heard him with my own ears praying for the
repose of the soul of the Countess du Barry! Colia heard it too.
He is as mad as a March hare!"
"You hear how he slanders me, prince," said Lebedeff, almost
beside himself with rage. "I may be a drunkard, an evil-doer, a
thief, but at least I can say one thing for myself. He does not
know--how should he, mocker that he is?--that when he came into
the world it was I who washed him, and dressed him in his
swathing-bands, for my sister Anisia had lost her husband, and
was in great poverty. I was very little better off than she, but
I sat up night after night with her, and nursed both mother and
child; I used to go downstairs and steal wood for them from the
house-porter. How often did I sing him to sleep when I was half
dead with hunger! In short, I was more than a father to him, and
now--now he jeers at me! Even if I did cross myself, and pray for
the repose of the soul of the Comtesse du Barry, what does it
matter? Three days ago, for the first time in my life, I read her
biography in an historical dictionary. Do you know who she was?
You there!" addressing his nephew. "Speak! do you know?"
"Of course no one knows anything about her but you," muttered the
young man in a would-be jeering tone.
"She was a Countess who rose from shame to reign like a Queen. An
Empress wrote to her, with her own hand, as 'Ma chere cousine.'
At a lever-du-roi one morning (do you know what a lever-du-roi
was?)--a Cardinal, a Papal legate, offered to put on her
stockings; a high and holy person like that looked on it as an
honour! Did you know this? I see by your expression that you did
not! Well, how did she die? Answer!"
"Oh! do stop--you are too absurd!"
"This is how she died. After all this honour and glory, after
having been almost a Queen, she was guillotined by that butcher,
Samson. She was quite innocent, but it had to be done, for the
satisfaction of the fishwives of Paris. She was so terrified,
that she did not understand what was happening. But when Samson
seized her head, and pushed her under the knife with his foot,
she cried out: 'Wait a moment! wait a moment, monsieur!' Well,
because of that moment of bitter suffering, perhaps the Saviour
will pardon her other faults, for one cannot imagine a greater
agony. As I read the story my heart bled for her. And what does
it matter to you, little worm, if I implored the Divine mercy for
her, great sinner as she was, as I said my evening prayer? I
might have done it because I doubted if anyone had ever crossed
himself for her sake before. It may be that in the other world
she will rejoice to think that a sinner like herself has cried to
heaven for the salvation of her soul. Why are you laughing? You
believe nothing, atheist! And your story was not even correct! If
you had listened to what I was saying, you would have heard that
I did not only pray for the Comtesse du Barry. I said, 'Oh Lord!
give rest to the soul of that great sinner, the Comtesse du
Barry, and to all unhappy ones like her.' You see that is quite a
different thing, for how many sinners there are, how many women,
who have passed through the trials of this life, are now
suffering and groaning in purgatory! I prayed for you, too, in
spite of your insolence and impudence, also for your fellows, as
it seems that you claim to know how I pray. . ."
"Oh! that's enough in all conscience! Pray for whom you choose,
and the devil take them and you! We have a scholar here; you did
not know that, prince?" he continued, with a sneer. "He reads all
sorts of books and memoirs now."
"At any rate, your uncle has a kind heart," remarked the prince,
who really had to force himself to speak to the nephew, so much
did he dislike him.
"Oh, now you are going to praise him! He will be set up! He puts
his hand on his heart, and he is delighted! I never said he was a
man without heart, but he is a rascal--that's the pity of it. And
then, he is addicted to drink, and his mind is unhinged, like
that of most people who have taken more than is good for them for
years. He loves his children--oh, I know that well enough! He
respected my aunt, his late wife ... and he even has a sort of
affection for me. He has remembered me in his will."
"I shall leave you nothing!" exclaimed his uncle angrily.
"Listen to me, Lebedeff," said the prince in a decided voice,
turning his back on the young man. "I know by experience that
when you choose, you can be business-like. . I . I have very
little time to spare, and if you ... By the way--excuse me--what
is your Christian name? I have forgotten it."
Everyone in the room began to laugh.
"He is telling lies!" cried the nephew. "Even now he cannot speak
the truth. He is not called Timofey Lukianovitch, prince, but
Lukian Timofeyovitch. Now do tell us why you must needs lie about
it? Lukian or Timofey, it is all the same to you, and what
difference can it make to the prince? He tells lies without the
least necessity, simply by force of habit, I assure you."
"Is that true?" said the prince impatiently.
"My name really is Lukian Timofeyovitch," acknowledged Lebedeff,
lowering his eyes, and putting his hand on his heart.
"Well, for God's sake, what made you say the other?"
"To humble myself," murmured Lebedeff.
"What on earth do you mean? Oh I if only I knew where Colia was
at this moment!" cried the prince, standing up, as if to go.
"I can tell you all about Colia," said the young man
"Oh! no, no!" said Lebedeff, hurriedly.
"Colia spent the night here, and this morning went after his
father, whom you let out of prison by paying his debts--Heaven
only knows why! Yesterday the general promised to come and lodge
here, but he did not appear. Most probably he slept at the hotel
close by. No doubt Colia is there, unless he has gone to Pavlofsk
to see the Epanchins. He had a little money, and was intending to
go there yesterday. He must be either at the hotel or at
"At Pavlofsk! He is at Pavlofsk, undoubtedly!" interrupted
Lebedeff. . . . "But come--let us go into the garden--we will
have coffee there. . . ." And Lebedeff seized the prince's arm,
and led him from the room. They went across the yard, and found
themselves in a delightful little garden with the trees already
in their summer dress of green, thanks to the unusually fine
weather. Lebedeff invited his guest to sit down on a green seat
before a table of the same colour fixed in the earth, and took a
seat facing him. In a few minutes the coffee appeared, and the
prince did not refuse it. The host kept his eyes fixed on
Muishkin, with an expression of passionate servility.
"I knew nothing about your home before," said the prince
absently, as if he were thinking of something else.
"Poor orphans," began Lebedeff, his face assuming a mournful air,
but he stopped short, for the other looked at him inattentively,
as if he had already forgotten his own remark. They waited a few
minutes in silence, while Lebedeff sat with his eyes fixed
mournfully on the young man's face.
"Well!" said the latter, at last rousing himself. "Ah! yes! You
know why I came, Lebedeff. Your letter brought me. Speak! Tell me
all about it."
The clerk, rather confused, tried to say something, hesitated,
began to speak, and again stopped. The prince looked at him
"I think I understand, Lukian Timofeyovitch: you were not sure
that I should come. You did not think I should start at the first
word from you, and you merely wrote to relieve your conscience.
However, you see now that I have come, and I have had enough of
trickery. Give up serving, or trying to serve, two masters.
Rogojin has been here these three weeks. Have you managed to sell
her to him as you did before? Tell me the truth."
"He discovered everything, the monster ... himself ......"
"Don't abuse him; though I dare say you have something to
complain of. . . ."
"He beat me, he thrashed me unmercifully!" replied Lebedeff
vehemently. "He set a dog on me in Moscow, a bloodhound, a
terrible beast that chased me all down the street."
"You seem to take me for a child, Lebedeff. Tell me, is it a fact
that she left him while they were in Moscow?"
"Yes, it is a fact, and this time, let me tell you, on the very
eve of their marriage! It was a question of minutes when she
slipped off to Petersburg. She came to me directly she arrived--
'Save me, Lukian! find me some refuge, and say nothing to the
prince!' She is afraid of you, even more than she is of him, and
in that she shows her wisdom!" And Lebedeff slily put his finger
to his brow as he said the last words.
"And now it is you who have brought them together again?"
"Excellency, how could I, how could I prevent it?"
"That will do. I can find out for myself. Only tell me, where is
she now? At his house? With him?"
"Oh no! Certainly not! 'I am free,' she says; you know how she
insists on that point. 'I am entirely free.' She repeats it over
and over again. She is living in Petersburgskaia, with my sister-
in-law, as I told you in my letter."
"She is there at this moment?"
"Yes, unless she has gone to Pavlofsk: the fine weather may have
tempted her, perhaps, into the country, with Daria Alexeyevna. 'I
am quite free,' she says. Only yesterday she boasted of her
freedom to Nicolai Ardalionovitch--a bad sign," added Lebedeff,
"Colia goes to see her often, does he not?"
"He is a strange boy, thoughtless, and inclined to be
"Is it long since you saw her?"
"I go to see her every day, every day."
"Then you were there yesterday?"
"N-no: I have not been these three last days."
"It is a pity you have taken too much wine, Lebedeff I want to
ask you something ... but. . ."
"All right! all right! I am not drunk," replied the clerk,
preparing to listen.
"Tell me, how was she when you left her?"
"She is a woman who is seeking. .. "
"She seems always to be searching about, as if she had lost
something. The mere idea of her coming marriage disgusts her; she
looks on it as an insult. She cares as much for HIM as for a
piece of orange-peel--not more. Yet I am much mistaken if she
does not look on him with fear and trembling. She forbids his
name to be mentioned before her, and they only meet when
unavoidable. He understands, well enough! But it must be gone
through She is restless, mocking, deceitful, violent...."
"Deceitful and violent?"
"Yes, violent. I can give you a proof of it. A few days ago she
tried to pull my hair because I said something that annoyed her.
I tried to soothe her by reading the Apocalypse aloud."
"What?" exclaimed the prince, thinking he had not heard aright.
"By reading the Apocalypse. The lady has a restless imagination,
he-he! She has a liking for conversation on serious subjects, of
any kind; in fact they please her so much, that it flatters her
to discuss them. Now for fifteen years at least I have studied
the Apocalypse, and she agrees with me in thinking that the
present is the epoch represented by the third horse, the black
one whose rider holds a measure in his hand. It seems to me that
everything is ruled by measure in our century; all men are
clamouring for their rights; 'a measure of wheat for a penny, and
three measures of barley for a penny.' But, added to this, men
desire freedom of mind and body, a pure heart, a healthy life,
and all God's good gifts. Now by pleading their rights alone,
they will never attain all this, so the white horse, with his
rider Death, comes next, and is followed by Hell. We talked about
this matter when we met, and it impressed her very much."
"Do you believe all this?" asked Muishkin, looking curiously at
"I both believe it and explain it. I am but a poor creature, a
beggar, an atom in the scale of humanity. Who has the least
respect for Lebedeff? He is a target for all the world, the butt
of any fool who chooses to kick him. But in interpreting
revelation I am the equal of anyone, great as he may be! Such is
the power of the mind and the spirit. I have made a lordly
personage tremble, as he sat in his armchair . . . only by
talking to him of things concerning the spirit. Two years ago, on
Easter Eve, His Excellency Nil Alexeyovitch, whose subordinate I
was then, wished to hear what I had to say, and sent a message by
Peter Zakkaritch to ask me to go to his private room. 'They tell
me you expound the prophecies relating to Antichrist,' said he,
when we were alone. 'Is that so?' ' Yes,' I answered
unhesitatingly, and I began to give some comments on the
Apostle's allegorical vision. At first he smiled, but when we
reached the numerical computations and correspondences, he
trembled, and turned pale. Then he begged me to close the book,
and sent me away, promising to put my name on the reward list.
That took place as I said on the eve of Easter, and eight days
later his soul returned to God."
"It is the truth. One evening after dinner he stumbled as he
stepped out of his carriage. He fell, and struck his head on the
curb, and died immediately. He was seventy-three years of age,
and had a red face, and white hair; he deluged himself with
scent, and was always smiling like a child. Peter Zakkaritch
recalled my interview with him, and said, 'YOU FORETOLD HIS
The prince rose from his seat, and Lebedeff, surprised to see his
guest preparing to go so soon, remarked: "You are not
interested?" in a respectful tone.
"I am not very well, and my head aches. Doubtless the effect of
the journey," replied the prince, frowning.
"You should go into the country," said Lebedeff timidly.
The prince seemed to be considering the suggestion.
"You see, I am going into the country myself in three days, with
my children and belongings. The little one is delicate; she needs
change of air; and during our absence this house will be done up.
I am going to Pavlofsk."
"You are going to Pavlofsk too?" asked the prince sharply.
"Everybody seems to be going there. Have you a house in that
"I don't know of many people going to Pavlofsk, and as for the
house, Ivan Ptitsin has let me one of his villas rather cheaply.
It is a pleasant place, lying on a hill surrounded by trees, and
one can live there for a mere song. There is good music to be
heard, so no wonder it is popular. I shall stay in the lodge. As
to the villa itself. . "
"Have you let it?"
"Let it to me," said the prince.
Now this was precisely what Lebedeff had made up his mind to do
in the last three minutes. Not that he bad any difficulty in
finding a tenant; in fact the house was occupied at present by a
chance visitor, who had told Lebedeff that he would perhaps take
it for the summer months. The clerk knew very well that this
"PERHAPS" meant "CERTAINLY," but as he thought he could make more
out of a tenant like the prince, he felt justified in speaking
vaguely about the present inhabitant's intentions. "This is quite
a coincidence," thought he, and when the subject of price was
mentioned, he made a gesture with his hand, as if to waive away a
question of so little importance.
"Oh well, as you like!" said Muishkin. "I will think it over. You
shall lose nothing!"
They were walking slowly across the garden.
"But if you ... I could . . ." stammered Lebedeff, "if...if you
please, prince, tell you something on the subject which would
interest you, I am sure." He spoke in wheedling tones, and
wriggled as he walked along.
Muishkin stopped short.
"Daria Alexeyevna also has a villa at Pavlofsk."
"A certain person is very friendly with her, and intends to visit
her pretty often."
"Oh stop, Lebedeff!" interposed Muishkin, feeling as if he had
been touched on an open wound. "That ... that has nothing to do
with me. I should like to know when you are going to start. The
sooner the better as far as I am concerned, for I am at an
They had left the garden now, and were crossing the yard on their
way to the gate.
"Well, leave your hotel at once and come here; then we can all go
together to Pavlofsk the day after tomorrow."
"I will think about it," said the prince dreamily, and went off.
The clerk stood looking after his guest, struck by his sudden
absent-mindedness. He had not even remembered to say goodbye, and
Lebedeff was the more surprised at the omission, as he knew by
experience how courteous the prince usually was.
It was now close on twelve o'clock.
The prince knew that if he called at the Epanchins' now he would
only find the general, and that the latter might probably carry
him straight off to Pavlofsk with him; whereas there was one
visit he was most anxious to make without delay.
So at the risk of missing General Epanchin altogether, and thus
postponing his visit to Pavlofsk for a day, at least, the prince
decided to go and look for the house he desired to find.
The visit he was about to pay was, in some respects, a risky one.
He was in two minds about it, but knowing that the house was in
the Gorohovaya, not far from the Sadovaya, he determined to go in
that direction, and to try to make up his mind on the way.
Arrived at the point where the Gorohovaya crosses the Sadovaya,
he was surprised to find how excessively agitated he was. He had
no idea that his heart could beat so painfully.
One house in the Gorohovaya began to attract his attention long
before he reached it, and the prince remembered afterwards that
he had said to himself: "That is the house, I'm sure of it." He
came up to it quite curious to discover whether he had guessed
right, and felt that he would be disagreeably impressed to find
that he had actually done so. The house was a large gloomy-
looking structure, without the slightest claim to architectural
beauty, in colour a dirty green. There are a few of these old
houses, built towards the end of the last century, still standing
in that part of St. Petersburg, and showing little change from
their original form and colour. They are solidly built, and are
remarkable for the thickness of their walls, and for the fewness
of their windows, many of which are covered by gratings. On the
ground-floor there is usually a money-changer's shop, and the
owner lives over it. Without as well as within, the houses seem
inhospitable and mysterious--an impression which is difficult to
explain, unless it has something to do with the actual
architectural style. These houses are almost exclusively
inhabited by the merchant class.
Arrived at the gate, the prince looked up at the legend over it,
"House of Rogojin, hereditary and honourable citizen."
He hesitated no longer; but opened the glazed door at the bottom
of the outer stairs and made his way up to the second storey. The
place was dark and gloomy-looking; the walls of the stone
staircase were painted a dull red. Rogojin and his mother and
brother occupied the whole of the second floor. The servant who
opened the door to Muishkin led him, without taking his name,
through several rooms and up and down many steps until they
arrived at a door, where he knocked.
Parfen Rogojin opened the door himself.
On seeing the prince he became deadly white, and apparently fixed
to the ground, so that he was more like a marble statue than a
human being. The prince had expected some surprise, but Rogojin
evidently considered his visit an impossible and miraculous
event. He stared with an expression almost of terror, and his
lips twisted into a bewildered smile.
"Parfen! perhaps my visit is ill-timed. I-I can go away again if
you like," said Muishkin at last, rather embarrassed.
"No, no; it's all right, come in," said Parfen, recollecting
They were evidently on quite familiar terms. In Moscow they had
had many occasions of meeting; indeed, some few of those meetings
were but too vividly impressed upon their memories. They had not
met now, however, for three months.
The deathlike pallor, and a sort of slight convulsion about the
lips, had not left Rogojin's face. Though he welcomed his guest,
he was still obviously much disturbed. As he invited the prince
to sit down near the table, the latter happened to turn towards
him, and was startled by the strange expression on his face. A
painful recollection flashed into his mind. He stood for a time,
looking straight at Rogojin, whose eyes seemed to blaze like
fire. At last Rogojin smiled, though he still looked agitated and
"What are you staring at me like that for?" he muttered. "Sit
The prince took a chair.
"Parfen," he said, "tell me honestly, did you know that I was
coming to Petersburg or no?"
"Oh, I supposed you were coming," the other replied, smiling
sarcastically, and I was right in my supposition, you see; but
how was I to know that you would come TODAY?"
A certain strangeness and impatience in his manner impressed the
prince very forcibly.
"And if you had known that I was coming today, why be so
irritated about it?" he asked, in quiet surprise.
"Why did you ask me?"
"Because when I jumped out of the train this morning, two eyes
glared at me just as yours did a moment since."
"Ha! and whose eyes may they have been?" said Rogojin,
suspiciously. It seemed to the prince that he was trembling.
"I don't know; I thought it was a hallucination. I often have
hallucinations nowadays. I feel just as I did five years ago when
my fits were about to come on."
"Well, perhaps it was a hallucination, I don't know," said
He tried to give the prince an affectionate smile, and it seemed
to the latter as though in this smile of his something had
broken, and that he could not mend it, try as he would.
"Shall you go abroad again then?" he asked, and suddenly added,
"Do you remember how we came up in the train from Pskoff
together? You and your cloak and leggings, eh?"
And Rogojin burst out laughing, this time with unconcealed
malice, as though he were glad that he had been able to find an
opportunity for giving vent to it.
"Have you quite taken up your quarters here?" asked the prince
"Yes, I'm at home. Where else should I go to?"
"We haven't met for some time. Meanwhile I have heard things
about you which I should not have believed to be possible."
"What of that? People will say anything," said Rogojin drily.
"At all events, you've disbanded your troop--and you are living in
your own house instead of being fast and loose about the place;
that's all very good. Is this house all yours, or joint
"It is my mother's. You get to her apartments by that passage."
"Where's your brother?"
"In the other wing."
"Is he married?"
"Widower. Why do you want to know all this?"
The prince looked at him, but said nothing. He had suddenly
relapsed into musing, and had probably not heard the question at
all. Rogojin did not insist upon an answer, and there was silence
for a few moments.
"I guessed which was your house from a hundred yards off," said
the prince at last.
"I don't quite know. Your house has the aspect of yourself and
all your family; it bears the stamp of the Rogojin life; but ask
me why I think so, and I can tell you nothing. It is nonsense, of
course. I am nervous about this kind of thing troubling me so
much. I had never before imagined what sort of a house you would
live in, and yet no sooner did I set eyes on this one than I said
to myself that it must be yours."
"Really!" said Rogojin vaguely, not taking in what the prince
meant by his rather obscure remarks.
The room they were now sitting in was a large one, lofty but
dark, well furnished, principally with writing-tables and desks
covered with papers and books. A wide sofa covered with red
morocco evidently served Rogojin for a bed. On the table beside
which the prince had been invited to seat himself lay some books;
one containing a marker where the reader had left off, was a
volume of Solovieff's History. Some oil-paintings in worn gilded
frames hung on the walls, but it was impossible to make out what
subjects they represented, so blackened were they by smoke and
age. One, a life-sized portrait, attracted the prince's
attention. It showed a man of about fifty, wearing a long riding-
coat of German cut. He had two medals on his breast; his beard
was white, short and thin; his face yellow and wrinkled, with a
sly, suspicious expression in the eyes.
"That is your father, is it not?" asked the prince.
"Yes, it is," replied Rogojin with an unpleasant smile, as if he
had expected his guest to ask the question, and then to make some
"Was he one of the Old Believers?"
"No, he went to church, but to tell the truth he really preferred
the old religion. This was his study and is now mine. Why did you
ask if he were an Old Believer?"
"Are you going to be married here?"
"Ye-yes!" replied Rogojin, starting at the unexpected question.
"You know yourself it does not depend on me."
"Parfen, I am not your enemy, and I do not intend to oppose your
intentions in any way. I repeat this to you now just as I said it
to you once before on a very similar occasion. When you were
arranging for your projected marriage in Moscow, I did not
interfere with you--you know I did not. That first time she fled
to me from you, from the very altar almost, and begged me to
'save her from you.' Afterwards she ran away from me again, and
you found her and arranged your marriage with her once more; and
now, I hear, she has run away from you and come to Petersburg.
Is it true? Lebedeff wrote me to this effect, and that's why I came
here. That you had once more arranged matters with Nastasia
Philipovna I only learned last night in the train from a friend of
yours, Zaleshoff--if you wish to know.
"I confess I came here with an object. I wished to persuade
Nastasia to go abroad for her health; she requires it. Both mind
and body need a change badly. I did not intend to take her abroad
myself. I was going to arrange for her to go without me. Now I
tell you honestly, Parfen, if it is true that all is made up
between you, I will not so much as set eyes upon her, and I will
never even come to see you again.
"You know quite well that I am telling the truth, because I have
always been frank with you. I have never concealed my own opinion
from you. I have always told you that I consider a marriage
between you and her would be ruin to her. You would also be
ruined, and perhaps even more hopelessly. If this marriage were
to be broken off again, I admit I should be greatly pleased; but
at the same time I have not the slightest intention of trying to
part you. You may be quite easy in your mind, and you need not
suspect me. You know yourself whether I was ever really your
rival or not, even when she ran away and came to me.
"There, you are laughing at me--I know why you laugh. It is
perfectly true that we lived apart from one another all the time,
in different towns. I told you before that I did not love her
with love, but with pity! You said then that you understood me;
did you really understand me or not? What hatred there is in your
eyes at this moment! I came to relieve your mind, because you are
dear to me also. I love you very much, Parfen; and now I shall go
away and never come back again. Goodbye."
The prince rose.
"Stay a little," said Parfen, not leaving his chair and resting
his head on his right hand. "I haven't seen you for a long time."
The prince sat down again. Both were silent for a few moments.
"When you are not with me I hate you, Lef Nicolaievitch. I have
loathed you every day of these three months since I last saw you.
By heaven I have!" said Rogojin." I could have poisoned you at
any minute. Now, you have been with me but a quarter of an hour,
and all my malice seems to have melted away, and you are as dear
to me as ever. Stay here a little longer."
"When I am with you you trust me; but as soon as my back is
turned you suspect me," said the prince, smiling, and trying to
hide his emotion.
"I trust your voice, when I hear you speak. I quite understand
that you and I cannot be put on a level, of course."
"Why did you add that?--There! Now you are cross again," said
the prince, wondering.
"We were not asked, you see. We were made different, with
different tastes and feelings, without being consulted. You say
you love her with pity. I have no pity for her. She hates me--
that's the plain truth of the matter. I dream of her every night,
and always that she is laughing at me with another man. And so
she does laugh at me. She thinks no more of marrying me than if
she were changing her shoe. Would you believe it, I haven't seen
her for five days, and I daren't go near her. She asks me what I
come for, as if she were not content with having disgraced me--"
"Disgraced you! How?"
"Just as though you didn't know! Why, she ran away from me, and
went to you. You admitted it yourself, just now."
"But surely you do not believe that she..."
"That she did not disgrace me at Moscow with that officer.
Zemtuznikoff? I know for certain she did, after having fixed our
"Impossible!" cried the prince.
"I know it for a fact," replied Rogojin, with conviction.
"It is not like her, you say? My friend, that's absurd. Perhaps
such an act would horrify her, if she were with you, but it is
quite different where I am concerned. She looks on me as vermin.
Her affair with Keller was simply to make a laughing-stock of me.
You don't know what a fool she made of me in Moscow; and the
money I spent over her! The money! the money!"
"And you can marry her now, Parfen! What will come of it all?"
said the prince, with dread in his voice.
Rogojin gazed back gloomily, and with a terrible expression in
his eyes, but said nothing.
"I haven't been to see her for five days," he repeated, after a
slight pause. "I'm afraid of being turned out. She says she's
still her own mistress, and may turn me off altogether, and go
abroad. She told me this herself," he said, with a peculiar
glance at Muishkin. "I think she often does it merely to frighten
me. She is always laughing at me, for some reason or other; but
at other times she's angry, and won't say a word, and that's what
I'm afraid of. I took her a shawl one day, the like of which she
might never have seen, although she did live in luxury and she
gave it away to her maid, Katia. Sometimes when I can keep away
no longer, I steal past the house on the sly, and once I watched
at the gate till dawn--I thought something was going on--and she
saw me from the window. She asked me what I should do if I found
she had deceived me. I said, 'You know well enough.'"
"What did she know?" cried the prince.
"How was I to tell?" replied Rogojin, with an angry laugh. "I did
my best to catch her tripping in Moscow, but did not succeed.
However, I caught hold of her one day, and said: 'You are engaged
to be married into a respectable family, and do you know what
sort of a woman you are? THAT'S the sort of woman you are,' I
"You told her that?"
"Well, go on."
"She said, 'I wouldn't even have you for a footman now, much less
for a husband.' 'I shan't leave the house,' I said, 'so it
doesn't matter.' 'Then I shall call somebody and have you kicked
out,' she cried. So then I rushed at her, and beat her till she
was bruised all over."
"Impossible!" cried the prince, aghast.
"I tell you it's true," said Rogojin quietly, but with eyes
ablaze with passion.
"Then for a day and a half I neither slept, nor ate, nor drank,
and would not leave her. I knelt at her feet: 'I shall die here,'
I said, 'if you don't forgive me; and if you have me turned out,
I shall drown myself; because, what should I be without you now?'
She was like a madwoman all that day; now she would cry; now she
would threaten me with a knife; now she would abuse me. She
called in Zaleshoff and Keller, and showed me to them, shamed me
in their presence. 'Let's all go to the theatre,' she says, 'and
leave him here if he won't go--it's not my business. They'll give
you some tea, Parfen Semeonovitch, while I am away, for you must
be hungry.' She came back from the theatre alone. 'Those cowards
wouldn't come,' she said. 'They are afraid of you, and tried to
frighten me, too. "He won't go away as he came," they said,
"he'll cut your throat--see if he doesn't." Now, I shall go to my
bedroom, and I shall not even lock my door, just to show you how
much I am afraid of you. You must be shown that once for all. Did
you have tea?' 'No,' I said, 'and I don't intend to.' 'Ha, ha!
you are playing off your pride against your stomach! That sort of
heroism doesn't sit well on you,' she said.
"With that she did as she had said she would; she went to bed,
and did not lock her door. In the morning she came out. 'Are you
quite mad?' she said, sharply. 'Why, you'll die of hunger like
this.' 'Forgive me,' I said. 'No, I won't, and I won't marry you.
I've said it. Surely you haven't sat in this chair all night
without sleeping?' 'I didn't sleep,' I said. 'H'm! how sensible
of you. And are you going to have no breakfast or dinner today?'
'I told you I wouldn't. Forgive me!' 'You've no idea how
unbecoming this sort of thing is to you,' she said, 'it's like
putting a saddle on a cow's back. Do you think you are
frightening me? My word, what a dreadful thing that you should
sit here and eat no food! How terribly frightened I am!' She
wasn't angry long, and didn't seem to remember my offence at all.
I was surprised, for she is a vindictive, resentful woman--but
then I thought that perhaps she despised me too much to feel any
resentment against me. And that's the truth.
"She came up to me and said, 'Do you know who the Pope of Rome
is?' 'I've heard of him,' I said. 'I suppose you've read the
Universal History, Parfen Semeonovitch, haven't you?' she asked.
'I've learned nothing at all,' I said. 'Then I'll lend it to you
to read. You must know there was a Roman Pope once, and he was
very angry with a certain Emperor; so the Emperor came and
neither ate nor drank, but knelt before the Pope's palace till he
should be forgiven. And what sort of vows do you think that
Emperor was making during all those days on his knees? Stop, I'll
read it to you!' Then she read me a lot of verses, where it said
that the Emperor spent all the time vowing vengeance against the
Pope. 'You don't mean to say you don't approve of the poem,
Parfen Semeonovitch,' she says. 'All you have read out is perfectly
true,' say I. 'Aha!' says she, 'you admit it's true, do you? And
you are making vows to yourself that if I marry you, you will
remind me of all this, and take it out of me.' 'I don't know,' I
say, 'perhaps I was thinking like that, and perhaps I was not.
I'm not thinking of anything just now.' 'What are your thoughts,
then?' 'I'm thinking that when you rise from your chair and go past me,
I watch you, and follow you with my eyes; if your dress does but
rustle, my heart sinks; if you leave the room, I remember every
little word and action, and what your voice sounded like, and
what you said. I thought of nothing all last night, but sat here
listening to your sleeping breath, and heard you move a little,
twice.' 'And as for your attack upon me,' she says, 'I suppose
you never once thought of THAT?' 'Perhaps I did think of it, and
perhaps not,' I say. And what if I don't either forgive you or
marry, you' 'I tell you I shall go and drown myself.' 'H'm!' she
said, and then relapsed into silence. Then she got angry, and
went out. 'I suppose you'd murder me before you drowned yourself,
though!' she cried as she left the room.
"An hour later, she came to me again, looking melancholy. 'I will
marry you, Parfen Semeonovitch,' she says, not because I'm
frightened of you, but because it's all the same to me how I ruin
myself. And how can I do it better? Sit down; they'll bring you
some dinner directly. And if I do marry you, I'll be a faithful
wife to you--you need not doubt that.' Then she thought a bit,
and said, 'At all events, you are not a flunkey; at first, I
thought you were no better than a flunkey.' And she arranged the
wedding and fixed the day straight away on the spot.
"Then, in another week, she had run away again, and came here to
Lebedeff's; and when I found her here, she said to me, 'I'm not
going to renounce you altogether, but I wish to put off the
wedding a bit longer yet--just as long as I like--for I am still
my own mistress; so you may wait, if you like.' That's how the
matter stands between us now. What do you think of all this, Lef
"'What do you think of it yourself?" replied the prince, looking
sadly at Rogojin.
"As if I can think anything about it! I--" He was about to say
more, but stopped in despair.
The prince rose again, as if he would leave.
"At all events, I shall not interfere with you!" he murmured, as
though making answer to some secret thought of his own.
"I'll tell you what!" cried Rogojin, and his eyes flashed fire.
"I can't understand your yielding her to me like this; I don't
understand it. Have you given up loving her altogether? At first
you suffered badly--I know it--I saw it. Besides, why did you
come post-haste after us? Out of pity, eh? He, he, he!" His mouth
curved in a mocking smile.
"Do you think I am deceiving you?" asked the prince.
"No! I trust you--but I can't understand. It seems to me that
your pity is greater than my love." A hungry longing to speak his
mind out seemed to flash in the man's eyes, combined with an
"Your love is mingled with hatred, and therefore, when your love
passes, there will be the greater misery," said the prince. "I
tell you this, Parfen--"
"What! that I'll cut her throat, you mean?"
The prince shuddered.
"You'll hate her afterwards for all your present love, and for
all the torment you are suffering on her account now. What seems
to me the most extraordinary thing is, that she can again consent
to marry you, after all that has passed between you. When I heard
the news yesterday, I could hardly bring myself to believe it.
Why, she has run twice from you, from the very altar rails, as it
were. She must have some presentiment of evil. What can she want
with you now? Your money? Nonsense! Besides, I should think you
must have made a fairly large hole in your fortune already.
Surely it is not because she is so very anxious to find a
husband? She could find many a one besides yourself. Anyone would
be better than you, because you will murder her, and I feel sure
she must know that but too well by now. Is it because you love
her so passionately? Indeed, that may be it. I have heard that
there are women who want just that kind of love ... but still ..."
The prince paused, reflectively.
"What are you grinning at my father's portrait again for?" asked
Rogojin, suddenly. He was carefully observing every change in the
expression of the prince's face.
"I smiled because the idea came into my head that if it were not
for this unhappy passion of yours you might have, and would have,
become just such a man as your father, and that very quickly,
too. You'd have settled down in this house of yours with some
silent and obedient wife. You would have spoken rarely, trusted
no one, heeded no one, and thought of nothing but making money."
"Laugh away! She said exactly the same, almost word for word,
when she saw my father's portrait. It's remarkable how entirely
you and she are at one now-a-days."
"What, has she been here?" asked the prince with curiosity.
"Yes! She looked long at the portrait and asked all about my
father. 'You'd be just such another,' she said at last, and
laughed. 'You have such strong passions, Parfen,' she said, 'that
they'd have taken you to Siberia in no time if you had not,
luckily, intelligence as well. For you have a good deal of
intelligence.' (She said this--believe it or not. The first time
I ever heard anything of that sort from her.) 'You'd soon have
thrown up all this rowdyism that you indulge in now, and you'd
have settled down to quiet, steady money-making, because you have
little education; and here you'd have stayed just like your
father before you. And you'd have loved your money so that you'd
amass not two million, like him, but ten million; and you'd
have died of hunger on your money bags to finish up with, for you
carry everything to extremes.' There, that's exactly word for
word as she said it to me. She never talked to me like that
before. She always talks nonsense and laughs when she's with me.
We went all over this old house together. 'I shall change all
this,' I said, 'or else I'll buy a new house for the wedding.'
'No, no!' she said, 'don't touch anything; leave it all as it is;
I shall live with your mother when I marry you.'
"I took her to see my mother, and she was as respectful and kind
as though she were her own daughter. Mother has been almost
demented ever since father died--she's an old woman. She sits and
bows from her chair to everyone she sees. If you left her alone
and didn't feed her for three days, I don't believe she would
notice it. Well, I took her hand, and I said, 'Give your blessing
to this lady, mother, she's going to be my wife.' So Nastasia
kissed mother's hand with great feeling. 'She must have suffered
terribly, hasn't she?' she said. She saw this book here lying
before me. 'What! have you begun to read Russian history?' she
asked. She told me once in Moscow, you know, that I had better
get Solovieff's Russian History and read it, because I knew
nothing. 'That's good,' she said, 'you go on like that, reading
books. I'll make you a list myself of the books you ought to read
first--shall I?' She had never once spoken to me like this
before; it was the first time I felt I could breathe before her
like a living creature."
"I'm very, very glad to hear of this, Parfen," said the prince,
with real feeling. "Who knows? Maybe God will yet bring you near
to one another."
"Never, never!" cried Rogojin, excitedly.
"Look here, Parfen; if you love her so much, surely you must be
anxious to earn her respect? And if you do so wish, surely you
may hope to? I said just now that I considered it extraordinary
that she could still be ready to marry you. Well, though I cannot
yet understand it, I feel sure she must have some good reason, or
she wouldn't do it. She is sure of your love; but besides that,
she must attribute SOMETHING else to you--some good qualities,
otherwise the thing would not be. What you have just said
confirms my words. You say yourself that she found it possible to
speak to you quite differently from her usual manner. You are
suspicious, you know, and jealous, therefore when anything
annoying happens to you, you exaggerate its significance. Of
course, of course, she does not think so ill of you as you say.
Why, if she did, she would simply be walking to death by drowning
or by the knife, with her eyes wide open, when she married you.
It is impossible! As if anybody would go to their death
Rogojin listened to the prince's excited words with a bitter
smile. His conviction was, apparently, unalterable.
"How dreadfully you look at me, Parfen!" said the prince, with a
feeling of dread.
"Water or the knife?" said the latter, at last. "Ha, ha--that's
exactly why she is going to marry me, because she knows for
certain that the knife awaits her. Prince, can it be that you
don't even yet see what's at the root of it all?"
"I don't understand you."
"Perhaps he really doesn't understand me! They do say that you
are a--you know what! She loves another--there, you can
understand that much! Just as I love her, exactly so she loves
another man. And that other man is--do you know who? It's you.
There--you didn't know that, eh?"
"You, you! She has loved you ever since that day, her birthday!
Only she thinks she cannot marry you, because it would be the
ruin of you. 'Everybody knows what sort of a woman I am,' she
says. She told me all this herself, to my very face! She's afraid
of disgracing and ruining you, she says, but it doesn't matter
about me. She can marry me all right! Notice how much
consideration she shows for me!"
"But why did she run away to me, and then again from me to--"
"From you to me? Ha, ha! that's nothing! Why, she always acts as
though she were in a delirium now-a-days! Either she says, 'Come
on, I'll marry you! Let's have the wedding quickly!' and fixes
the day, and seems in a hurry for it, and when it begins to come
near she feels frightened; or else some other idea gets into her
head--goodness knows! you've seen her--you know how she goes on--
laughing and crying and raving! There's nothing extraordinary
about her having run away from you! She ran away because she
found out how dearly she loved you. She could not bear to be near
you. You said just now that I had found her at Moscow, when she
ran away from you. I didn't do anything of the sort; she came to
me herself, straight from you. 'Name the day--I'm ready!' she
said. 'Let's have some champagne, and go and hear the gipsies
sing!' I tell you she'd have thrown herself into the water long
ago if it were not for me! She doesn't do it because I am,
perhaps, even more dreadful to her than the water! She's marrying
me out of spite; if she marries me, I tell you, it will be for
"But how do you, how can you--" began the prince, gazing with
dread and horror at Rogojin.
"Why don't you finish your sentence? Shall I tell you what you
were thinking to yourself just then? You were thinking, 'How can
she marry him after this? How can it possibly be permitted?' Oh,
I know what you were thinking about!"
"I didn't come here for that purpose, Parfen. That was not in my
"That may be! Perhaps you didn't COME with the idea, but the idea
is certainly there NOW! Ha, ha! well, that's enough! What are you
upset about? Didn't you really know it all before? You astonish
"All this is mere jealousy--it is some malady of yours, Parfen!
You exaggerate everything," said the prince, excessively
agitated. "What are you doing?"
"Let go of it!" said Parfen, seizing from the prince's hand a
knife which the latter had at that moment taken up from the
table, where it lay beside the history. Parfen replaced it where
it had been.
"I seemed to know it--I felt it, when I was coming back to
Petersburg," continued the prince, "I did not want to come, I
wished to forget all this, to uproot it from my memory
altogether! Well, good-bye--what is the matter?"
He had absently taken up the knife a second time, and again
Rogojin snatched it from his hand, and threw it down on the
table. It was a plainlooking knife, with a bone handle, a blade
about eight inches long, and broad in proportion, it did not
Seeing that the prince was considerably struck by the fact that
he had twice seized this knife out of his hand, Rogojin caught it
up with some irritation, put it inside the book, and threw the
latter across to another table.
"Do you cut your pages with it, or what?" asked Muishkin, still
rather absently, as though unable to throw off a deep
preoccupation into which the conversation had thrown him.
"It's a garden knife, isn't it?"
"Yes. Can't one cut pages with a garden knife?"
"It's quite new."
"Well, what of that? Can't I buy a new knife if I like?" shouted
Rogojin furiously, his irritation growing with every word.
The prince shuddered, and gazed fixedly at Parfen. Suddenly he
burst out laughing.
"Why, what an idea!" he said. "I didn't mean to ask you any of
these questions; I was thinking of something quite different! But
my head is heavy, and I seem so absent-minded nowadays! Well,
good-bye--I can't remember what I wanted to say--good-bye!"
"Not that way," said Rogojin.
"There, I've forgotten that too!"
"This way--come along--I'll show you."
THEY passed through the same rooms which the prince had traversed
on his arrival. In the largest there were pictures on the walls,
portraits and landscapes of little interest. Over the door,
however, there was one of strange and rather striking shape; it
was six or seven feet in length, and not more than a foot in
height. It represented the Saviour just taken from the cross.
The prince glanced at it, but took no further notice. He moved on
hastily, as though anxious to get out of the house. But Rogojin
suddenly stopped underneath the picture.