Part 6 out of 15
"My father picked up all these pictures very cheap at auctions,
and so on," he said; "they are all rubbish, except the one over
the door, and that is valuable. A man offered five hundred
roubles for it last week."
"Yes--that's a copy of a Holbein," said the prince, looking at it
again, "and a good copy, too, so far as I am able to judge. I saw
the picture abroad, and could not forget it--what's the matter?"
Rogojin had dropped the subject of the picture and walked on. Of
course his strange frame of mind was sufficient to account for
his conduct; but, still, it seemed queer to the prince that he
should so abruptly drop a conversation commenced by himself.
Rogojin did not take any notice of his question.
"Lef Nicolaievitch," said Rogojin, after a pause, during which
the two walked along a little further, "I have long wished to ask
you, do you believe in God?"
"How strangely you speak, and how odd you look!" said the other,
"I like looking at that picture," muttered Rogojin, not noticing,
apparently, that the prince had not answered his question.
"That picture! That picture!" cried Muishkin, struck by a sudden
idea. "Why, a man's faith might be ruined by looking at that
"So it is!" said Rogojin, unexpectedly. They had now reached the
The prince stopped.
"How?" he said. "What do you mean? I was half joking, and you
took me up quite seriously! Why do you ask me whether I believe
"Oh, no particular reason. I meant to ask you before--many people
are unbelievers nowadays, especially Russians, I have been told.
You ought to know--you've lived abroad."
Rogojin laughed bitterly as he said these words, and opening the
door, held it for the prince to pass out. Muishkin looked
surprised, but went out. The other followed him as far as the
landing of the outer stairs, and shut the door behind him. They
both now stood facing one another, as though oblivious of where
they were, or what they had to do next.
"Well, good-bye!" said the prince, holding out his hand.
"Good-bye," said Rogojin, pressing it hard, but quite
The prince made one step forward, and then turned round.
"As to faith," he said, smiling, and evidently unwilling to leave
Rogojin in this state--"as to faith, I had four curious
conversations in two days, a week or so ago. One morning I met a
man in the train, and made acquaintance with him at once. I had
often heard of him as a very learned man, but an atheist; and I
was very glad of the opportunity of conversing with so eminent
and clever a person. He doesn't believe in God, and he talked a
good deal about it, but all the while it appeared to me that he
was speaking OUTSIDE THE SUBJECT. And it has always struck me,
both in speaking to such men and in reading their books, that
they do not seem really to be touching on that at all, though on
the surface they may appear to do so. I told him this, but I dare
say I did not clearly express what I meant, for he could not
"That same evening I stopped at a small provincial hotel, and it
so happened that a dreadful murder had been committed there the
night before, and everybody was talking about it. Two peasants--
elderly men and old friends--had had tea together there the night
before, and were to occupy the same bedroom. They were not drunk
but one of them had noticed for the first time that his friend
possessed a silver watch which he was wearing on a chain. He was
by no means a thief, and was, as peasants go, a rich man; but
this watch so fascinated him that he could not restrain himself.
He took a knife, and when his friend turned his back, he came up
softly behind, raised his eyes to heaven, crossed himself, and
saying earnestly--'God forgive me, for Christ's sake!' he cut his
friend's throat like a sheep, and took the watch."
Rogojin roared with laughter. He laughed as though he were in a
sort of fit. It was strange to see him laughing so after the
sombre mood he had been in just before.
"Oh, I like that! That beats anything!" he cried convulsively,
panting for breath. "One is an absolute unbeliever; the other is
such a thorough--going believer that he murders his friend to the
tune of a prayer! Oh, prince, prince, that's too good for
anything! You can't have invented it. It's the best thing I've
"Next morning I went out for a stroll through the town,"
continued the prince, so soon as Rogojin was a little quieter,
though his laughter still burst out at intervals, "and soon
observed a drunken-looking soldier staggering about the pavement.
He came up to me and said, 'Buy my silver cross, sir! You shall
have it for fourpence--it's real silver.' I looked, and there he
held a cross, just taken off his own neck, evidently, a large tin
one, made after the Byzantine pattern. I fished out fourpence,
and put his cross on my own neck, and I could see by his face
that he was as pleased as he could be at the thought that he had
succeeded in cheating a foolish gentleman, and away he went to
drink the value of his cross. At that time everything that I saw
made a tremendous impression upon me. I had understood nothing
about Russia before, and had only vague and fantastic memories of
it. So I thought, 'I will wait awhile before I condemn this
Judas. Only God knows what may be hidden in the hearts of
"Well, I went homewards, and near the hotel I came across a poor
woman, carrying a child--a baby of some six weeks old. The mother
was quite a girl herself. The baby was smiling up at her, for the
first time in its life, just at that moment; and while I watched
the woman she suddenly crossed herself, oh, so devoutly! 'What is
it, my good woman I asked her. (I was never but asking questions
then!) Exactly as is a mother's joy when her baby smiles for the
first time into her eyes, so is God's joy when one of His
children turns and prays to Him for the first time, with all his
heart!' This is what that poor woman said to me, almost word for
word; and such a deep, refined, truly religious thought it was--a
thought in which the whole essence of Christianity was expressed
in one flash--that is, the recognition of God as our Father, and
of God's joy in men as His own children, which is the chief idea
of Christ. She was a simple country-woman--a mother, it's true--
and perhaps, who knows, she may have been the wife of the drunken
"Listen, Parfen; you put a question to me just now. This is my
reply. The essence of religious feeling has nothing to do with
reason, or atheism, or crime, or acts of any kind--it has nothing
to do with these things--and never had. There is something besides
all this, something which the arguments of the atheists can never
touch. But the principal thing, and the conclusion of my
argument, is that this is most clearly seen in the heart of a
Russian. This is a conviction which I have gained while I have
been in this Russia of ours. Yes, Parfen! there is work to be
done; there is work to be done in this Russian world! Remember
what talks we used to have in Moscow! And I never wished to come
here at all; and I never thought to meet you like this, Parfen!
Well, well--good-bye--good-bye! God be with you!"
He turned and went downstairs.
"Lef Nicolaievitch!" cried Parfen, before he had reached the next
landing. "Have you got that cross you bought from the soldier
"Yes, I have," and the prince stopped again.
"Show it me, will you?"
A new fancy! The prince reflected, and then mounted the stairs
once more. He pulled out the cross without taking it off his
"Give it to me," said Parfen.
"Why? do you--"
The prince would rather have kept this particular cross.
"I'll wear it; and you shall have mine. I'll take it off at
"You wish to exchange crosses? Very well, Parfen, if that's the
case, I'm glad enough--that makes us brothers, you know."
The prince took off his tin cross, Parfen his gold one, and the
exchange was made.
Parfen was silent. With sad surprise the prince observed that the
look of distrust, the bitter, ironical smile, had still not
altogether left his newly-adopted brother's face. At moments, at
all events, it showed itself but too plainly,
At last Rogojin took the prince's hand, and stood so for some
moments, as though he could not make up his mind. Then he drew
him along, murmuring almost inaudibly,
They stopped on the landing, and rang the bell at a door opposite
to Parfen's own lodging.
An old woman opened to them and bowed low to Parfen, who asked
her some questions hurriedly, but did not wait to hear her
answer. He led the prince on through several dark, cold-looking
rooms, spotlessly clean, with white covers over all the
Without the ceremony of knocking, Parfen entered a small
apartment, furnished like a drawing-room, but with a polished
mahogany partition dividing one half of it from what was probably
a bedroom. In one corner of this room sat an old woman in an arm-
chair, close to the stove. She did not look very old, and her
face was a pleasant, round one; but she was white-haired and, as
one could detect at the first glance, quite in her second
childhood. She wore a black woollen dress, with a black
handkerchief round her neck and shoulders, and a white cap with
black ribbons. Her feet were raised on a footstool. Beside her
sat another old woman, also dressed in mourning, and silently
knitting a stocking; this was evidently a companion. They both
looked as though they never broke the silence. The first old
woman, so soon as she saw Rogojin and the prince, smiled and
bowed courteously several times, in token of her gratification at
"Mother," said Rogojin, kissing her hand, "here is my great
friend, Prince Muishkin; we have exchanged crosses; he was like a
real brother to me at Moscow at one time, and did a great deal
for me. Bless him, mother, as you would bless your own son. Wait
a moment, let me arrange your hands for you."
But the old lady, before Parfen had time to touch her, raised her
right hand, and, with three fingers held up, devoutly made the
sign of the cross three times over the prince. She then nodded
her head kindly at him once more.
"There, come along, Lef Nicolaievitch; that's all I brought you
here for," said Rogojin.
When they reached the stairs again he added:
"She understood nothing of what I said to her, and did not know
what I wanted her to do, and yet she blessed you; that shows she
wished to do so herself. Well, goodbye; it's time you went, and I
must go too."
He opened his own door.
"Well, let me at least embrace you and say goodbye, you strange
fellow!" cried the prince, looking with gentle reproach at
Rogojin, and advancing towards him. But the latter had hardly
raised his arms when he dropped them again. He could not make up
his mind to it; he turned away from the prince in order to avoid
looking at him. He could not embrace him.
"Don't be afraid," he muttered, indistinctly, "though I have
taken your cross, I shall not murder you for your watch." So
saying, he laughed suddenly, and strangely. Then in a moment his
face became transfigured; he grew deadly white, his lips
trembled, his eves burned like fire. He stretched out his arms
and held the prince tightly to him, and said in a strangled
"Well, take her! It's Fate! She's yours. I surrender her....
Remember Rogojin!" And pushing the prince from him, without
looking back at him, he hurriedly entered his own flat, and
banged the door.
IT was late now, nearly half-past two, and the prince did not
find General Epanchin at home. He left a card, and determined to
look up Colia, who had a room at a small hotel near. Colia was
not in, but he was informed that he might be back shortly, and
had left word that if he were not in by half-past three it was to
be understood that he had gone to Pavlofsk to General Epanchin's,
and would dine there. The prince decided to wait till half-past
three, and ordered some dinner. At half-past three there was no
sign of Colia. The prince waited until four o'clock, and then
strolled off mechanically wherever his feet should carry him.
In early summer there are often magnificent days in St.
Petersburg--bright, hot and still. This happened to be such a day.
For some time the prince wandered about without aim or object. He
did not know the town well. He stopped to look about him on
bridges, at street corners. He entered a confectioner's shop to
rest, once. He was in a state of nervous excitement and
perturbation; he noticed nothing and no one; and he felt a
craving for solitude, to be alone with his thoughts and his
emotions, and to give himself up to them passively. He loathed
the idea of trying to answer the questions that would rise up in
his heart and mind. "I am not to blame for all this," he thought
to himself, half unconsciously.
Towards six o'clock he found himself at the station of the
He was tired of solitude now; a new rush of feeling took hold of
him, and a flood of light chased away the gloom, for a moment,
from his soul. He took a ticket to Pavlofsk, and determined to
get there as fast as he could, but something stopped him; a
reality, and not a fantasy, as he was inclined to think it. He
was about to take his place in a carriage, when he suddenly threw
away his ticket and came out again, disturbed and thoughtful. A
few moments later, in the street, he recalled something that had
bothered him all the afternoon. He caught himself engaged in a
strange occupation which he now recollected he had taken up at
odd moments for the last few hours--it was looking about all
around him for something, he did not know what. He had forgotten
it for a while, half an hour or so, and now, suddenly, the uneasy
search had recommenced.
But he had hardly become conscious of this curious phenomenon,
when another recollection suddenly swam through his brain,
interesting him for the moment, exceedingly. He remembered that
the last time he had been engaged in looking around him for the
unknown something, he was standing before a cutler's shop, in the
window of which were exposed certain goods for sale. He was
extremely anxious now to discover whether this shop and these
goods really existed, or whether the whole thing had been a
He felt in a very curious condition today, a condition similar
to that which had preceded his fits in bygone years.
He remembered that at such times he had been particularly
absentminded, and could not discriminate between objects and
persons unless he concentrated special attention upon them.
He remembered seeing something in the window marked at sixty
copecks. Therefore, if the shop existed and if this object were
really in the window, it would prove that he had been able to
concentrate his attention on this article at a moment when, as a
general rule, his absence of mind would have been too great to
admit of any such concentration; in fact, very shortly after he
had left the railway station in such a state of agitation.
So he walked back looking about him for the shop, and his heart
beat with intolerable impatience. Ah! here was the very shop, and
there was the article marked 60 cop." "Of course, it's sixty
copecks," he thought, and certainly worth no more." This idea
amused him and he laughed.
But it was a hysterical laugh; he was feeling terribly oppressed.
He remembered clearly that just here, standing before this
window, he had suddenly turned round, just as earlier in the day
he had turned and found the dreadful eyes of Rogojin fixed upon
him. Convinced, therefore, that in this respect at all events he
had been under no delusion, he left the shop and went on.
This must be thought out; it was clear that there had been no
hallucination at the station then, either; something had actually
happened to him, on both occasions; there was no doubt of it. But
again a loathing for all mental exertion overmastered him; he
would not think it out now, he would put it off and think of
something else. He remembered that during his epileptic fits, or
rather immediately preceding them, he had always experienced a
moment or two when his whole heart, and mind, and body seemed to
wake up to vigour and light; when he became filled with joy and
hope, and all his anxieties seemed to be swept away for ever;
these moments were but presentiments, as it were, of the one
final second (it was never more than a second) in which the fit
came upon him. That second, of course, was inexpressible. When
his attack was over, and the prince reflected on his symptoms, he
used to say to himself: "These moments, short as they are, when I
feel such extreme consciousness of myself, and consequently more
of life than at other times, are due only to the disease--to the
sudden rupture of normal conditions. Therefore they are not
really a higher kind of life, but a lower." This reasoning,
however, seemed to end in a paradox, and lead to the further
consideration:--"What matter though it be only disease, an
abnormal tension of the brain, if when I recall and analyze the
moment, it seems to have been one of harmony and beauty in the
highest degree--an instant of deepest sensation, overflowing with
unbounded joy and rapture, ecstatic devotion, and completest
life?" Vague though this sounds, it was perfectly comprehensible
to Muishkin, though he knew that it was but a feeble expression
of his sensations.
That there was, indeed, beauty and harmony in those abnormal
moments, that they really contained the highest synthesis of
life, he could not doubt, nor even admit the possibility of
doubt. He felt that they were not analogous to the fantastic and
unreal dreams due to intoxication by hashish, opium or wine. Of
that he could judge, when the attack was over. These instants
were characterized--to define it in a word--by an intense
quickening of the sense of personality. Since, in the last
conscious moment preceding the attack, he could say to himself,
with full understanding of his words: "I would give my whole life
for this one instant," then doubtless to him it really was worth
a lifetime. For the rest, he thought the dialectical part of his
argument of little worth; he saw only too clearly that the result
of these ecstatic moments was stupefaction, mental darkness,
idiocy. No argument was possible on that point. His conclusion,
his estimate of the "moment," doubtless contained some error, yet
the reality of the sensation troubled him. What's more unanswerable
than a fact? And this fact had occurred. The prince had confessed
unreservedly to himself that the feeling of intense beatitude in
that crowded moment made the moment worth a lifetime. "I feel
then," he said one day to Rogojin in Moscow, "I feel then as if I
understood those amazing words--'There shall be no more time.'"
And he added with a smile: "No doubt the epileptic Mahomet refers
to that same moment when he says that he visited all the
dwellings of Allah, in less time than was needed to empty his
pitcher of water." Yes, he had often met Rogojin in Moscow, and
many were the subjects they discussed. "He told me I had been a
brother to him," thought the prince. "He said so today, for the
He was sitting in the Summer Garden on a seat under a tree, and
his mind dwelt on the matter. It was about seven o'clock, and the
place was empty. The stifling atmosphere foretold a storm, and
the prince felt a certain charm in the contemplative mood which
possessed him. He found pleasure, too, in gazing at the exterior
objects around him. All the time he was trying to forget some
thing, to escape from some idea that haunted him; but melancholy
thoughts came back, though he would so willingly have escaped
from them. He remembered suddenly how he had been talking to the
waiter, while he dined, about a recently committed murder which
the whole town was discussing, and as he thought of it something
strange came over him. He was seized all at once by a violent
desire, almost a temptation, against which he strove in vain.
He jumped up and walked off as fast as he could towards the
"Petersburg Side." [One of the quarters of St. Petersburg.] He
had asked someone, a little while before, to show him which was
the Petersburg Side, on the banks of the Neva. He had not gone
there, however; and he knew very well that it was of no use to go
now, for he would certainly not find Lebedeff's relation at home.
He had the address, but she must certainly have gone to Pavlofsk,
or Colia would have let him know. If he were to go now, it would
merely be out of curiosity, but a sudden, new idea had come into
However, it was something to move on and know where he was going.
A minute later he was still moving on, but without knowing
anything. He could no longer think out his new idea. He tried to
take an interest in all he saw; in the sky, in the Neva. He spoke
to some children he met. He felt his epileptic condition becoming
more and more developed. The evening was very close; thunder was
heard some way off.
The prince was haunted all that day by the face of Lebedeff's
nephew whom he had seen for the first time that morning, just as
one is haunted at times by some persistent musical refrain. By a
curious association of ideas, the young man always appeared as
the murderer of whom Lebedeff had spoken when introducing him to
Muishkin. Yes, he had read something about the murder, and that
quite recently. Since he came to Russia, he had heard many
stories of this kind, and was interested in them. His
conversation with the waiter, an hour ago, chanced to be on the
subject of this murder of the Zemarins, and the latter had agreed
with him about it. He thought of the waiter again, and decided
that he was no fool, but a steady, intelligent man: though, said
he to himself, "God knows what he may really be; in a country
with which one is unfamiliar it is difficult to understand the
people one meets." He was beginning to have a passionate faith in
the Russian soul, however, and what discoveries he had made in
the last six months, what unexpected discoveries! But every soul
is a mystery, and depths of mystery lie in the soul of a Russian.
He had been intimate with Rogojin, for example, and a brotherly
friendship had sprung up between them--yet did he really know
him? What chaos and ugliness fills the world at times! What a
self-satisfied rascal is that nephew of Lebedeff's! "But what am
I thinking," continued the prince to himself. "Can he really have
committed that crime? Did he kill those six persons? I seem to be
confusing things ... how strange it all is.... My head goes
round... And Lebedeff's daughter--how sympathetic and
charming her face was as she held the child in her arms! What an
innocent look and child-like laugh she had! It is curious that I
had forgotten her until now. I expect Lebedeff adores her--and I
really believe, when I think of it, that as sure as two and two
make four, he is fond of that nephew, too!"
Well, why should he judge them so hastily! Could he really say
what they were, after one short visit? Even Lebedeff seemed an
enigma today. Did he expect to find him so? He had never seen him
like that before. Lebedeff and the Comtesse du Barry! Good
Heavens! If Rogojin should really kill someone, it would not, at
any rate, be such a senseless, chaotic affair. A knife made to a
special pattern, and six people killed in a kind of delirium. But
Rogojin also had a knife made to a special pattern. Can it be that
Rogojin wishes to murder anyone? The prince began to tremble
violently. "It is a crime on my part to imagine anything so base,
with such cynical frankness." His face reddened with shame at the
thought; and then there came across him as in a flash the memory
of the incidents at the Pavlofsk station, and at the other
station in the morning; and the question asked him by Rogojin
about THE EYES and Rogojin's cross, that he was even now wearing;
and the benediction of Rogojin's mother; and his embrace on the
darkened staircase--that last supreme renunciation--and now, to
find himself full of this new "idea," staring into shop-windows,
and looking round for things--how base he was!
Despair overmastered his soul; he would not go on, he would go
back to his hotel; he even turned and went the other way; but a
moment after he changed his mind again and went on in the old
Why, here he was on the Petersburg Side already, quite close to
the house! Where was his "idea"? He was marching along without it
now. Yes, his malady was coming back, it was clear enough; all
this gloom and heaviness, all these "ideas," were nothing more
nor less than a fit coming on; perhaps he would have a fit this
But just now all the gloom and darkness had fled, his heart felt
full of joy and hope, there was no such thing as doubt. And yes,
he hadn't seen her for so long; he really must see her. He wished
he could meet Rogojin; he would take his hand, and they would go
to her together. His heart was pure, he was no rival of Parfen's.
Tomorrow, he would go and tell him that he had seen her. Why, he
had only come for the sole purpose of seeing her, all the way
from Moscow! Perhaps she might be here still, who knows? She
might not have gone away to Pavlofsk yet.
Yes, all this must be put straight and above-board, there must be
no more passionate renouncements, such as Rogojin's. It must all
be clear as day. Cannot Rogojin's soul bear the light? He said he
did not love her with sympathy and pity; true, he added that
"your pity is greater than my love," but he was not quite fair on
himself there. Kin! Rogojin reading a book--wasn't that sympathy
beginning? Did it not show that he comprehended his relations
with her? And his story of waiting day and night for her
forgiveness? That didn't look quite like passion alone.
And as to her face, could it inspire nothing but passion? Could
her face inspire passion at all now? Oh, it inspired suffering,
grief, overwhelming grief of the soul! A poignant, agonizing
memory swept over the prince's heart.
Yes, agonizing. He remembered how he had suffered that first day
when he thought he observed in her the symptoms of madness. He
had almost fallen into despair. How could he have lost his hold
upon her when she ran away from him to Rogojin? He ought to have
run after her himself, rather than wait for news as he had done.
Can Rogojin have failed to observe, up to now, that she is mad?
Rogojin attributes her strangeness to other causes, to passion!
What insane jealousy! What was it he had hinted at in that
suggestion of his? The prince suddenly blushed, and shuddered to
his very heart.
But why recall all this? There was insanity on both sides. For
him, the prince, to love this woman with passion, was
unthinkable. It would be cruel and inhuman. Yes. Rogojin is not
fair to himself; he has a large heart; he has aptitude for
sympathy. When he learns the truth, and finds what a pitiable
being is this injured, broken, half-insane creature, he will
forgive her all the torment she has caused him. He will become
her slave, her brother, her friend. Compassion will teach even
Rogojin, it will show him how to reason. Compassion is the chief
law of human existence. Oh, how guilty he felt towards Rogojin!
And, for a few warm, hasty words spoken in Moscow, Parfen had
called him "brother," while he--but no, this was delirium! It
would all come right! That gloomy Parfen had implied that his
faith was waning; he must suffer dreadfully. He said he liked to
look at that picture; it was not that he liked it, but he felt
the need of looking at it. Rogojin was not merely a passionate
soul; he was a fighter. He was fighting for the restoration of
his dying faith. He must have something to hold on to and
believe, and someone to believe in. What a strange picture that
of Holbein's is! Why, this is the street, and here's the house,
The prince rang the bell, and asked for Nastasia Philipovna. The
lady of the house came out, and stated that Nastasia had gone to
stay with Daria Alexeyevna at Pavlofsk, and might be there some
Madame Filisoff was a little woman of forty, with a cunning face,
and crafty, piercing eyes. When, with an air of mystery, she
asked her visitor's name, he refused at first to answer, but in a
moment he changed his mind, and left strict instructions that it
should be given to Nastasia Philipovna. The urgency of his
request seemed to impress Madame Filisoff, and she put on a
knowing expression, as if to say, "You need not be afraid, I
quite understand." The prince's name evidently was a great
surprise to her. He stood and looked absently at her for a
moment, then turned, and took the road back to his hotel. But he
went away not as he came. A great change had suddenly come over
him. He went blindly forward; his knees shook under him; he was
tormented by "ideas"; his lips were blue, and trembled with a
feeble, meaningless smile. His demon was upon him once more.
What had happened to him? Why was his brow clammy with drops of
moisture, his knees shaking beneath him, and his soul oppressed
with a cold gloom? Was it because he had just seen these dreadful
eyes again? Why, he had left the Summer Garden on purpose to see
them; that had been his "idea." He had wished to assure himself
that he would see them once more at that house. Then why was he
so overwhelmed now, having seen them as he expected? just as
though he had not expected to see them! Yes, they were the very
same eyes; and no doubt about it. The same that he had seen in
the crowd that morning at the station, the same that he had
surprised in Rogojin's rooms some hours later, when the latter
had replied to his inquiry with a sneering laugh, "Well, whose
eyes were they?" Then for the third time they had appeared just
as he was getting into the train on his way to see Aglaya. He had
had a strong impulse to rush up to Rogojin, and repeat his words
of the morning "Whose eyes are they?" Instead he had fled from
the station, and knew nothing more, until he found himself gazing
into the window of a cutler's shop, and wondering if a knife with
a staghorn handle would cost more than sixty copecks. And as the
prince sat dreaming in the Summer Garden under a lime-tree, a
wicked demon had come and whispered in his car: "Rogojin has been
spying upon you and watching you all the morning in a frenzy of
desperation. When he finds you have not gone to Pavlofsk--a
terrible discovery for him--he will surely go at once to that
house in Petersburg Side, and watch for you there, although only
this morning you gave your word of honour not to see HER, and
swore that you had not come to Petersburg for that purpose." And
thereupon the prince had hastened off to that house, and what was
there in the fact that he had met Rogojin there? He had only seen
a wretched, suffering creature, whose state of mind was gloomy
and miserable, but most comprehensible. In the morning Rogojin
had seemed to be trying to keep out of the way; but at the
station this afternoon he had stood out, he had concealed
himself, indeed, less than the prince himself; at the house, now,
he had stood fifty yards off on the other side of the road, with
folded hands, watching, plainly in view and apparently desirous
of being seen. He had stood there like an accuser, like a judge,
not like a--a what?
And why had not the prince approached him and spoken to him,
instead of turning away and pretending he had seen nothing,
although their eyes met? (Yes, their eyes had met, and they had
looked at each other.) Why, he had himself wished to take Rogojin
by the hand and go in together, he had himself determined to go
to him on the morrow and tell him that he had seen her, he had
repudiated the demon as he walked to the house, and his heart had
been full of joy.
Was there something in the whole aspect of the man, today,
sufficient to justify the prince's terror, and the awful
suspicions of his demon? Something seen, but indescribable, which
filled him with dreadful presentiments? Yes, he was convinced of
it--convinced of what? (Oh, how mean and hideous of him to feel
this conviction, this presentiment! How he blamed himself for
it!) "Speak if you dare, and tell me, what is the presentiment?"
he repeated to himself, over and over again. "Put it into words,
speak out clearly and distinctly. Oh, miserable coward that I
am!" The prince flushed with shame for his own baseness. "How
shall I ever look this man in the face again? My God, what a day!
And what a nightmare, what a nightmare!"
There was a moment, during this long, wretched walk back from the
Petersburg Side, when the prince felt an irresistible desire to
go straight to Rogojin's, wait for him, embrace him with tears
of shame and contrition, and tell him of his distrust, and finish
with it--once for all.
But here he was back at his hotel.
How often during the day he had thought of this hotel with
loathing--its corridor, its rooms, its stairs. How he had dreaded
coming back to it, for some reason.
"What a regular old woman I am today," he had said to himself
each time, with annoyance. "I believe in every foolish
presentiment that comes into my head."
He stopped for a moment at the door; a great flush of shame came
over him. "I am a coward, a wretched coward," he said, and moved
forward again; but once more he paused.
Among all the incidents of the day, one recurred to his mind to
the exclusion of the rest; although now that his self-control was
regained, and he was no longer under the influence of a
nightmare, he was able to think of it calmly. It concerned the
knife on Rogojin's table. "Why should not Rogojin have as many
knives on his table as he chooses?" thought the prince, wondering
at his suspicions, as he had done when he found himself looking
into the cutler's window. "What could it have to do with me?" he
said to himself again, and stopped as if rooted to the ground by
a kind of paralysis of limb such as attacks people under the
stress of some humiliating recollection.
The doorway was dark and gloomy at any time; but just at this
moment it was rendered doubly so by the fact that the thunder-
storm had just broken, and the rain was coming down in torrents.
And in the semi-darkness the prince distinguished a man standing
close to the stairs, apparently waiting.
There was nothing particularly significant in the fact that a man
was standing back in the doorway, waiting to come out or go
upstairs; but the prince felt an irresistible conviction that he
knew this man, and that it was Rogojin. The man moved on up the
stairs; a moment later the prince passed up them, too. His heart
froze within him. "In a minute or two I shall know all," he
The staircase led to the first and second corridors of the hotel,
along which lay the guests' bedrooms. As is often the case in
Petersburg houses, it was narrow and very dark, and turned around
a massive stone column.
On the first landing, which was as small as the necessary turn of
the stairs allowed, there was a niche in the column, about half a
yard wide, and in this niche the prince felt convinced that a man
stood concealed. He thought he could distinguish a figure
standing there. He would pass by quickly and not look. He took a
step forward, but could bear the uncertainty no longer and turned
The eyes--the same two eyes--met his! The man concealed in the
niche had also taken a step forward. For one second they stood
face to face.
Suddenly the prince caught the man by the shoulder and twisted
him round towards the light, so that he might see his face more
Rogojin's eyes flashed, and a smile of insanity distorted his
countenance. His right hand was raised, and something glittered
in it. The prince did not think of trying to stop it. All he
could remember afterwards was that he seemed to have called out:
"Parfen! I won't believe it."
Next moment something appeared to burst open before him: a
wonderful inner light illuminated his soul. This lasted perhaps
half a second, yet he distinctly remembered hearing the beginning
of the wail, the strange, dreadful wail, which burst from his
lips of its own accord, and which no effort of will on his part
Next moment he was absolutely unconscious; black darkness blotted
He had fallen in an epileptic fit.
.. . . . . . .
As is well known, these fits occur instantaneously. The face,
especially the eyes, become terribly disfigured, convulsions
seize the limbs, a terrible cry breaks from the sufferer, a wail
from which everything human seems to be blotted out, so that it
is impossible to believe that the man who has just fallen is the
same who emitted the dreadful cry. It seems more as though some
other being, inside the stricken one, had cried. Many people have
borne witness to this impression; and many cannot behold an
epileptic fit without a feeling of mysterious terror and dread.
Such a feeling, we must suppose, overtook Rogojin at this moment,
and saved the prince's life. Not knowing that it was a fit, and
seeing his victim disappear head foremost into the darkness,
hearing his head strike the stone steps below with a crash,
Rogojin rushed downstairs, skirting the body, and flung himself
headlong out of the hotel, like a raving madman.
The prince's body slipped convulsively down the steps till it
rested at the bottom. Very soon, in five minutes or so, he was
discovered, and a crowd collected around him.
A pool of blood on the steps near his head gave rise to grave
fears. Was it a case of accident, or had there been a crime? It
was, however, soon recognized as a case of epilepsy, and
identification and proper measures for restoration followed one
another, owing to a fortunate circumstance. Colia Ivolgin had
come back to his hotel about seven o'clock, owing to a sudden
impulse which made him refuse to dine at the Epanchins', and,
finding a note from the prince awaiting him, had sped away to the
latter's address. Arrived there, he ordered a cup of tea and sat
sipping it in the coffee-room. While there he heard excited
whispers of someone just found at the bottom of the stairs in a
fit; upon which he had hurried to the spot, with a presentiment
of evil, and at once recognized the prince.
The sufferer was immediately taken to his room, and though he
partially regained consciousness, he lay long in a semi-dazed
The doctor stated that there was no danger to be apprehended from
the wound on the head, and as soon as the prince could understand
what was going on around him, Colia hired a carriage and took him
away to Lebedeff's. There he was received with much cordiality,
and the departure to the country was hastened on his account.
Three days later they were all at Pavlofsk.
LEBEDEFF'S country-house was not large, but it was pretty and
convenient, especially the part which was let to the prince.
A row of orange and lemon trees and jasmines, planted in green
tubs, stood on the fairly wide terrace. According to Lebedeff,
these trees gave the house a most delightful aspect. Some were
there when he bought it, and he was so charmed with the effect
that he promptly added to their number. When the tubs containing
these plants arrived at the villa and were set in their places,
Lebedeff kept running into the street to enjoy the view of the
house, and every time he did so the rent to be demanded from the
future tenant went up with a bound.
This country villa pleased the prince very much in his state of
physical and mental exhaustion. On the day that they left for
Pavlofsk, that is the day after his attack, he appeared almost
well, though in reality he felt very far from it. The faces of
those around him for the last three days had made a pleasant
impression. He was pleased to see, not only Colia, who had become
his inseparable companion, but Lebedeff himself and all the
family, except the nephew, who had left the house. He was also
glad to receive a visit from General Ivolgin, before leaving St.
It was getting late when the party arrived at Pavlofsk, but
several people called to see the prince, and assembled in the
verandah. Gania was the first to arrive. He had grown so pale and
thin that the prince could hardly recognize him. Then came Varia
and Ptitsin, who were rusticating in the neighbourhood. As to
General Ivolgin, he scarcely budged from Lebedeff's house, and
seemed to have moved to Pavlofsk with him. Lebedeff did his best
to keep Ardalion Alexandrovitch by him, and to prevent him from
invading the prince's quarters. He chatted with him
confidentially, so that they might have been taken for old
friends. During those three days the prince had noticed that they
frequently held long conversations; he often heard their voices
raised in argument on deep and learned subjects, which evidently
pleased Lebedeff. He seemed as if he could not do without the
general. But it was not only Ardalion Alexandrovitch whom
Lebedeff kept out of the prince's way. Since they had come to the
villa, he treated his own family the same. Upon the pretext that
his tenant needed quiet, he kept him almost in isolation, and
Muishkin protested in vain against this excess of zeal. Lebedeff
stamped his feet at his daughters and drove them away if they
attempted to join the prince on the terrace; not even Vera was
"They will lose all respect if they are allowed to be so free and
easy; besides it is not proper for them," he declared at last, in
answer to a direct question from the prince.
"Why on earth not?" asked the latter. "Really, you know, you are
making yourself a nuisance, by keeping guard over me like this. I
get bored all by myself; I have told you so over and over again,
and you get on my nerves more than ever by waving your hands and
creeping in and out in the mysterious way you do."
It was a fact that Lebedeff, though he was so anxious to keep
everyone else from disturbing the patient, was continually in and
out of the prince's room himself. He invariably began by opening
the door a crack and peering in to see if the prince was there,
or if he had escaped; then he would creep softly up to the arm-
chair, sometimes making Muishkin jump by his sudden appearance.
He always asked if the patient wanted anything, and when the
latter replied that he only wanted to be left in peace, he would
turn away obediently and make for the door on tip-toe, with
deprecatory gestures to imply that he had only just looked in,
that he would not speak a word, and would go away and not intrude
again; which did not prevent him from reappearing in ten minutes
or a quarter of an hour. Colia had free access to the prince, at
which Lebedeff was quite disgusted and indignant. He would listen
at the door for half an hour at a time while the two were
talking. Colia found this out, and naturally told the prince of
"Do you think yourself my master, that you try to keep me under
lock and key like this?" said the prince to Lebedeff. "In the
country, at least, I intend to be free, and you may make up your
mind that I mean to see whom I like, and go where I please."
"Why, of course," replied the clerk, gesticulating with his
The prince looked him sternly up and down.
"Well, Lukian Timofeyovitch, have you brought the little cupboard
that you had at the head of your bed with you here?"
"No, I left it where it was."
"It cannot be moved; you would have to pull the wall down, it is
so firmly fixed."
"Perhaps you have one like it here?"
"I have one that is even better, much better; that is really why
I bought this house."
"Ah! What visitor did you turn away from my door, about an hour
"The-the general. I would not let him in; there is no need for
him to visit you, prince... I have the deepest esteem for him,
he is a--a great man. You don't believe it? Well, you will see,
and yet, most excellent prince, you had much better not receive
"May I ask why? and also why you walk about on tiptoe and always
seem as if you were going to whisper a secret in my ear whenever
you come near me?"
"I am vile, vile; I know it!" cried Lebedeff, beating his breast
with a contrite air. "But will not the general be too hospitable
"Yes. First, he proposes to come and live in my house. Well and
good; but he sticks at nothing; he immediately makes himself one
of the family. We have talked over our respective relations
several times, and discovered that we are connected by marriage.
It seems also that you are a sort of nephew on his mother's side;
he was explaining it to me again only yesterday. If you are his
nephew, it follows that I must also be a relation of yours, most
excellent prince. Never mind about that, it is only a foible; but
just now he assured me that all his life, from the day he was
made an ensign to the 11th of last June, he has entertained at
least two hundred guests at his table every day. Finally, he went
so far as to say that they never rose from the table; they dined,
supped, and had tea, for fifteen hours at a stretch. This went on
for thirty years without a break; there was barely time to change
the table-cloth; directly one person left, another took his
place. On feast-days he entertained as many as three hundred
guests, and they numbered seven hundred on the thousandth
anniversary of the foundation of the Russian Empire. It amounts
to a passion with him; it makes one uneasy to hear of it. It is
terrible to have to entertain people who do things on such a
scale. That is why I wonder whether such a man is not too
hospitable for you and me."
"But you seem to be on the best of terms with him?"
"Quite fraternal--I look upon it as a joke. Let us be brothers-
in-law, it is all the same to me,--rather an honour than not. But
in spite of the two hundred guests and the thousandth anniversary
of the Russian Empire, I can see that he is a very remarkable
man. I am quite sincere. You said just now that I always looked
as if I was going to tell you a secret; you are right. I have a
secret to tell you: a certain person has just let me know that
she is very anxious for a secret interview with you."
"Why should it be secret? Not at all; I will call on her myself
"No, oh no!" cried Lebedeff, waving his arms; "if she is afraid,
it is not for the reason you think. By the way, do you know that
the monster comes every day to inquire after your health?"
"You call him a monster so often that it makes me suspicious."
"You must have no suspicions, none whatever," said Lebedeff
quickly. "I only want you to know that the person in question is
not afraid of him, but of something quite, quite different."
"What on earth is she afraid of, then? Tell me plainly, without
any more beating about the bush," said the prince, exasperated by
the other's mysterious grimaces.
"Ah that is the secret," said Lebedeff, with a smile.
"Yours. You forbade me yourself to mention it before you, most
excellent prince," murmured Lebedeff. Then, satisfied that he had
worked up Muishkin's curiosity to the highest pitch, he added
abruptly: "She is afraid of Aglaya Ivanovna."
The prince frowned for a moment in silence, and then said
"Really, Lebedeff, I must leave your house. Where are Gavrila
Ardalionovitch and the Ptitsins? Are they here? Have you chased
them away, too?"
"They are coming, they are coming; and the general as well. I
will open all the doors; I will call all my daughters, all of
them, this very minute," said Lebedeff in a low voice, thoroughly
frightened, and waving his hands as he ran from door to door.
At that moment Colia appeared on the terrace; he announced that
Lizabetha Prokofievna and her three daughters were close behind
Moved by this news, Lebedeff hurried up to the prince.
"Shall I call the Ptitsins, and Gavrila Ardalionovitch? Shall I
let the general in?" he asked.
"Why not? Let in anyone who wants to see me. I assure you,
Lebedeff, you have misunderstood my position from the very first;
you have been wrong all along. I have not the slightest reason to
hide myself from anyone," replied the prince gaily.
Seeing him laugh, Lebedeff thought fit to laugh also, and though
much agitated his satisfaction was quite visible.
Colia was right; the Epanchin ladies were only a few steps behind
him. As they approached the terrace other visitors appeared from
Lebedeff's side of the house-the Ptitsins, Gania, and Ardalion
The Epanchins had only just heard of the prince's illness and of
his presence in Pavlofsk, from Colia; and up to this time had
been in a state of considerable bewilderment about him. The
general brought the prince's card down from town, and Mrs.
Epanchin had felt convinced that he himself would follow his card
at once; she was much excited.
In vain the girls assured her that a man who had not written for
six months would not be in such a dreadful hurry, and that
probably he had enough to do in town without needing to bustle
down to Pavlofsk to see them. Their mother was quite angry at the
very idea of such a thing, and announced her absolute conviction
that he would turn up the next day at latest.
So next day the prince was expected all the morning, and at
dinner, tea, and supper; and when he did not appear in the
evening, Mrs. Epanchin quarrelled with everyone in the house,
finding plenty of pretexts without so much as mentioning the
On the third day there was no talk of him at all, until Aglaya
remarked at dinner: "Mamma is cross because the prince hasn't
turned up," to which the general replied that it was not his
Mrs. Epanchin misunderstood the observation, and rising from her
place she left the room in majestic wrath. In the evening,
however, Colia came with the story of the prince's adventures, so
far as he knew them. Mrs. Epanchin was triumphant; although Colia
had to listen to a long lecture. "He idles about here the whole
day long, one can't get rid of him; and then when he is wanted he
does not come. He might have sent a line if he did not wish to
At the words "one can't get rid of him," Colia was very angry,
and nearly flew into a rage; but he resolved to be quiet for the
time and show his resentment later. If the words had been less
offensive he might have forgiven them, so pleased was he to see
Lizabetha Prokofievna worried and anxious about the prince's
She would have insisted on sending to Petersburg at once, for a
certain great medical celebrity; but her daughters dissuaded her,
though they were not willing to stay behind when she at once
prepared to go and visit the invalid. Aglaya, however, suggested
that it was a little unceremonious to go en masse to see him.
"Very well then, stay at home," said Mrs. Epanchin, and a good
thing too, for Evgenie Pavlovitch is coming down and there will
be no one at home to receive him."
Of course, after this, Aglaya went with the rest. In fact, she
had never had the slightest intention of doing otherwise.
Prince S., who was in the house, was requested to escort the
ladies. He had been much interested when he first heard of the
prince from the Epanchins. It appeared that they had known one
another before, and had spent some time together in a little
provincial town three months ago. Prince S. had greatly taken to
him, and was delighted with the opportunity of meeting him again,
The general had not come down from town as yet, nor had Evgenie
It was not more than two or three hundred yards from the
Epanchins' house to Lebedeff's. The first disagreeable impression
experienced by Mrs. Epanchin was to find the prince surrounded by
a whole assembly of other guests--not to mention the fact that
some of those present were particularly detestable in her eyes.
The next annoying circumstance was when an apparently strong and
healthy young fellow, well dressed, and smiling, came forward to
meet her on the terrace, instead of the half-dying unfortunate
whom she had expected to see.
She was astonished and vexed, and her disappointment pleased
Colia immensely. Of course he could have undeceived her before
she started, but the mischievous boy had been careful not to do
that, foreseeing the probably laughable disgust that she would
experience when she found her dear friend, the prince, in good
health. Colia was indelicate enough to voice the delight he felt
at his success in managing to annoy Lizabetha Prokofievna, with
whom, in spite of their really amicable relations, he was
"Just wait a while, my boy!" said she; "don't be too certain of
your triumph." And she sat down heavily, in the arm-chair pushed
forward by the prince.
Lebedeff, Ptitsin, and General Ivolgin hastened to find chairs
for the young ladies. Varia greeted them joyfully, and they
exchanged confidences in ecstatic whispers.
"I must admit, prince, I was a little put out to see you up and
about like this--I expected to find you in bed; but I give you my
word, I was only annoyed for an instant, before I collected my
thoughts properly. I am always wiser on second thoughts, and I
dare say you are the same. I assure you I am as glad to see you
well as though you were my own son,--yes, and more; and if you
don't believe me the more shame to you, and it's not my fault.
But that spiteful boy delights in playing all sorts of tricks.
You are his patron, it seems. Well, I warn you that one fine
morning I shall deprive myself of the pleasure of his further
"What have I done wrong now?" cried Colia. "What was the good of
telling you that the prince was nearly well again? You would not
have believed me; it was so much more interesting to picture him
on his death-bed."
"How long do you remain here, prince?" asked Madame Epanchin.
"All the summer, and perhaps longer."
"You are alone, aren't you,--not married?"
"No, I'm not married!" replied the prince, smiling at the
ingenuousness of this little feeler.
"Oh, you needn't laugh! These things do happen, you know! Now
then--why didn't you come to us? We have a wing quite empty. But
just as you like, of course. Do you lease it from HIM?--this
fellow, I mean," she added, nodding towards Lebedeff. "And why
does he always wriggle so?"
At that moment Vera, carrying the baby in her arms as usual, came
out of the house, on to the terrace. Lebedeff kept fidgeting
among the chairs, and did not seem to know what to do with
himself, though he had no intention of going away. He no sooner
caught sight of his daughter, than he rushed in her direction,
waving his arms to keep her away; he even forgot himself so far
as to stamp his foot.
"Is he mad?" asked Madame Epanchin suddenly.
"No, he ..."
"Perhaps he is drunk? Your company is rather peculiar," she
added, with a glance at the other guests....
"But what a pretty girl! Who is she?"
"That is Lebedeff's daughter--Vera Lukianovna."
"Indeed? She looks very sweet. I should like to make her
The words were hardly out of her mouth, when Lebedeff dragged
Vera forward, in order to present her.
"Orphans, poor orphans!" he began in a pathetic voice.
"The child she carries is an orphan, too. She is Vera's sister,
my daughter Luboff. The day this babe was born, six weeks ago, my
wife died, by the will of God Almighty. ... Yes... Vera takes
her mother's place, though she is but her sister... nothing
more ... nothing more..."
"And you! You are nothing more than a fool, if you'll excuse me!
Well! well! you know that yourself, I expect," said the lady
Lebedeff bowed low. "It is the truth," he replied, with extreme
"Oh, Mr. Lebedeff, I am told you lecture on the Apocalypse. Is it
true?" asked Aglaya.
"Yes, that is so ... for the last fifteen years."
"I have heard of you, and I think read of you in the newspapers."
"No, that was another commentator, whom the papers named. He is
dead, however, and I have taken his place," said the other, much
"We are neighbours, so will you be so kind as to come over one
day and explain the Apocalypse to me?" said Aglaya. "I do not
understand it in the least."
"Allow me to warn you," interposed General Ivolgin, that he is
the greatest charlatan on earth." He had taken the chair next to
the girl, and was impatient to begin talking. "No doubt there are
pleasures and amusements peculiar to the country," he continued,
"and to listen to a pretended student holding forth on the book
of the Revelations may be as good as any other. It may even be
original. But ... you seem to be looking at me with some
surprise--may I introduce myself--General Ivolgin--I carried you
in my arms as a baby--"
"Delighted, I'm sure," said Aglaya; "I am acquainted with Varvara
Ardalionovna and Nina Alexandrovna." She was trying hard to
restrain herself from laughing.
Mrs. Epanchin flushed up; some accumulation of spleen in her
suddenly needed an outlet. She could not bear this General
Ivolgin whom she had once known, long ago--in society.
"You are deviating from the truth, sir, as usual!" she remarked,
boiling over with indignation; "you never carried her in your
"You have forgotten, mother," said Aglaya, suddenly. "He really
did carry me about,--in Tver, you know. I was six years old, I
remember. He made me a bow and arrow, and I shot a pigeon. Don't
you remember shooting a pigeon, you and I, one day?"
"Yes, and he made me a cardboard helmet, and a little wooden
sword--I remember!" said Adelaida.
"Yes, I remember too!" said Alexandra. "You quarrelled about the
wounded pigeon, and Adelaida was put in the corner, and stood
there with her helmet and sword and all."
The poor general had merely made the remark about having carried
Aglaya in his arms because he always did so begin a conversation
with young people. But it happened that this time he had really
hit upon the truth, though he had himself entirely forgotten the
fact. But when Adelaida and Aglaya recalled the episode of the
pigeon, his mind became filled with memories, and it is
impossible to describe how this poor old man, usually half drunk,
was moved by the recollection.
"I remember--I remember it all!" he cried. "I was captain then.
You were such a lovely little thing--Nina Alexandrovna!--Gania,
listen! I was received then by General Epanchin."
"Yes, and look what you have come to now!" interrupted Mrs.
Epanchin. "However, I see you have not quite drunk your better
feelings away. But you've broken your wife's heart, sir--and
instead of looking after your children, you have spent your time
in public-houses and debtors' prisons! Go away, my friend, stand
in some corner and weep, and bemoan your fallen dignity, and
perhaps God will forgive you yet! Go, go! I'm serious! There's
nothing so favourable for repentance as to think of the past with
feelings of remorse!"
There was no need to repeat that she was serious. The general,
like all drunkards, was extremely emotional and easily touched by
recollections of his better days. He rose and walked quietly to
the door, so meekly that Mrs. Epanchin was instantly sorry for him.
"Ardalion Alexandrovitch," she cried after him, "wait a moment,
we are all sinners! When you feel that your conscience reproaches
you a little less, come over to me and we'll have a talk about
the past! I dare say I am fifty times more of a sinner than you
are! And now go, go, good-bye, you had better not stay here!" she
added, in alarm, as he turned as though to come back.
"Don't go after him just now, Colia, or he'll be vexed, and the
benefit of this moment will be lost!" said the prince, as the boy
was hurrying out of the room.
"Quite true! Much better to go in half an hour or so said Mrs.
"That's what comes of telling the truth for once in one's life!"
said Lebedeff. "It reduced him to tears."
"Come, come! the less YOU say about it the better--to judge from
all I have heard about you!" replied Mrs. Epanchin.
The prince took the first opportunity of informing the Epanchin
ladies that he had intended to pay them a visit that day, if they
had not themselves come this afternoon, and Lizabetha Prokofievna
replied that she hoped he would still do so.
By this time some of the visitors had disappeared.
Ptitsin had tactfully retreated to Lebedeff's wing; and Gania
soon followed him.
The latter had behaved modestly, but with dignity, on this
occasion of his first meeting with the Epanchins since the
rupture. Twice Mrs. Epanchin had deliberately examined him from
head to foot; but he had stood fire without flinching. He was
certainly much changed, as anyone could see who had not met him
for some time; and this fact seemed to afford Aglaya a good deal
"That was Gavrila Ardalionovitch, who just went out, wasn't it?"
she asked suddenly, interrupting somebody else's conversation to
make the remark.
"Yes, it was," said the prince.
"I hardly knew him; he is much changed, and for the better!"
"I am very glad," said the prince.
"He has been very ill," added Varia.
"How has he changed for the better?" asked Mrs. Epanchin. "I
don't see any change for the better! What's better in him? Where
did you get THAT idea from? WHAT'S better?"
"There's nothing better than the 'poor knight'!" said Colia, who
was standing near the last speaker's chair.
"I quite agree with you there!" said Prince S., laughing.
"So do I," said Adelaida, solemnly.
"WHAT poor knight?" asked Mrs. Epanchin, looking round at the
face of each of the speakers in turn. Seeing, however, that
Aglaya was blushing, she added, angrily:
"What nonsense you are all talking! What do you mean by poor
"It's not the first time this urchin, your favourite, has shown
his impudence by twisting other people's words," said Aglaya,
Every time that Aglaya showed temper (and this was very often),
there was so much childish pouting, such "school-girlishness," as
it were, in her apparent wrath, that it was impossible to avoid
smiling at her, to her own unutterable indignation. On these
occasions she would say, "How can they, how DARE they laugh at
This time everyone laughed at her, her sisters, Prince S., Prince
Muishkin (though he himself had flushed for some reason), and
Colia. Aglaya was dreadfully indignant, and looked twice as
pretty in her wrath.
"He's always twisting round what one says," she cried.
"I am only repeating your own exclamation!" said Colia. "A month
ago you were turning over the pages of your Don Quixote, and
suddenly called out 'there is nothing better than the poor
knight.' I don't know whom you were referring to, of course,
whether to Don Quixote, or Evgenie Pavlovitch, or someone else,
but you certainly said these words, and afterwards there was a
long conversation . . . "
"You are inclined to go a little too far, my good boy, with your
guesses," said Mrs. Epanchin, with some show of annoyance.
"But it's not I alone," cried Colia. "They all talked about it,
and they do still. Why, just now Prince S. and Adelaida Ivanovna
declared that they upheld 'the poor knight'; so evidently there
does exist a 'poor knight'; and if it were not for Adelaida
Ivanovna, we should have known long ago who the 'poor knight'
"Why, how am I to blame?" asked Adelaida, smiling.
"You wouldn't draw his portrait for us, that's why you are to
blame! Aglaya Ivanovna asked you to draw his portrait, and gave
you the whole subject of the picture. She invented it herself;
and you wouldn't."
"What was I to draw? According to the lines she quoted:
"'From his face he never lifted
That eternal mask of steel.'"
"What sort of a face was I to draw? I couldn't draw a mask."
"I don't know what you are driving at; what mask do you mean?"
said Mrs. Epanchin, irritably. She began to see pretty clearly
though what it meant, and whom they referred to by the generally
accepted title of "poor knight." But what specially annoyed her
was that the prince was looking so uncomfortable, and blushing
like a ten-year-old child.
"Well, have you finished your silly joke?" she added, and am I to
be told what this 'poor knight' means, or is it a solemn secret
which cannot be approached lightly?"
But they all laughed on.
"It's simply that there is a Russian poem," began Prince S.,
evidently anxious to change the conversation, "a strange thing,
without beginning or end, and all about a 'poor knight.' A month
or so ago, we were all talking and laughing, and looking up a
subject for one of Adelaida's pictures--you know it is the
principal business of this family to find subjects for Adelaida's
pictures. Well, we happened upon this 'poor knight.' I don't
remember who thought of it first--"
"Oh! Aglaya Ivanovna did," said Colia.
"Very likely--I don't recollect," continued Prince S.
"Some of us laughed at the subject; some liked it; but she
declared that, in order to make a picture of the gentleman, she
must first see his face. We then began to think over all our
friends' faces to see if any of them would do, and none suited
us, and so the matter stood; that's all. I don't know why Nicolai
Ardalionovitch has brought up the joke now. What was appropriate
and funny then, has quite lost all interest by this time."
"Probably there's some new silliness about it," said Mrs.
"There is no silliness about it at all--only the profoundest
respect," said Aglaya, very seriously. She had quite recovered
her temper; in fact, from certain signs, it was fair to conclude
that she was delighted to see this joke going so far; and a
careful observer might have remarked that her satisfaction dated
from the moment when the fact of the prince's confusion became
apparent to all.
"'Profoundest respect!' What nonsense! First, insane giggling,
and then, all of a sudden, a display of 'profoundest respect.'
Why respect? Tell me at once, why have you suddenly developed
this 'profound respect,' eh?"
"Because," replied Aglaya gravely, "in the poem the knight is
described as a man capable of living up to an ideal all his life.
That sort of thing is not to be found every day among the men of
our times. In the poem it is not stated exactly what the ideal
was, but it was evidently some vision, some revelation of pure
Beauty, and the knight wore round his neck, instead of a scarf, a
rosary. A device--A. N. B.--the meaning of which is not
explained, was inscribed on his shield--"
"No, A. N. D.," corrected Colia.
"I say A. N. B., and so it shall be!" cried Aglaya, irritably.
"Anyway, the 'poor knight' did not care what his lady was, or
what she did. He had chosen his ideal, and he was bound to serve
her, and break lances for her, and acknowledge her as the ideal
of pure Beauty, whatever she might say or do afterwards. If she
had taken to stealing, he would have championed her just the
same. I think the poet desired to embody in this one picture the
whole spirit of medieval chivalry and the platonic love of a pure
and high-souled knight. Of course it's all an ideal, and in the
'poor knight' that spirit reached the utmost limit of asceticism.
He is a Don Quixote, only serious and not comical. I used not to
understand him, and laughed at him, but now I love the 'poor
knight,' and respect his actions."
So ended Aglaya; and, to look at her, it was difficult, indeed,
to judge whether she was joking or in earnest.
"Pooh! he was a fool, and his actions were the actions of a
fool," said Mrs. Epanchin; "and as for you, young woman, you
ought to know better. At all events, you are not to talk like
that again. What poem is it? Recite it! I want to hear this poem!
I have hated poetry all my life. Prince, you must excuse this
nonsense. We neither of us like this sort of thing! Be patient!"
They certainly were put out, both of them.
The prince tried to say something, but he was too confused, and
could not get his words out. Aglaya, who had taken such liberties
in her little speech, was the only person present, perhaps, who
was not in the least embarrassed. She seemed, in fact, quite
She now rose solemnly from her seat, walked to the centre of the
terrace, and stood in front of the prince's chair. All looked on
with some surprise, and Prince S. and her sisters with feelings
of decided alarm, to see what new frolic she was up to; it had
gone quite far enough already, they thought. But Aglaya evidently
thoroughly enjoyed the affectation and ceremony with which she
was introducing her recitation of the poem.
Mrs. Epanchin was just wondering whether she would not forbid the
performance after all, when, at the very moment that Aglaya
commenced her declamation, two new guests, both talking loudly,
entered from the street. The new arrivals were General Epanchin
and a young man.
Their entrance caused some slight commotion.
THE young fellow accompanying the general was about twenty-eight,
tall, and well built, with a handsome and clever face, and bright
black eyes, full of fun and intelligence.
Aglaya did not so much as glance at the new arrivals, but went on
with her recitation, gazing at the prince the while in an
affected manner, and at him alone. It was clear to him that she
was doing all this with some special object.
But the new guests at least somewhat eased his strained and
uncomfortable position. Seeing them approaching, he rose from his
chair, and nodding amicably to the general, signed to him not to
interrupt the recitation. He then got behind his chair, and stood
there with his left hand resting on the back of it. Thanks to
this change of position, he was able to listen to the ballad with
far less embarrassment than before. Mrs. Epanchin had also twice
motioned to the new arrivals to be quiet, and stay where they
The prince was much interested in the young man who had just
entered. He easily concluded that this was Evgenie Pavlovitch
Radomski, of whom he had already heard mention several times. He
was puzzled, however, by the young man's plain clothes, for he
had always heard of Evgenie Pavlovitch as a military man. An
ironical smile played on Evgenie's lips all the while the
recitation was proceeding, which showed that he, too, was
probably in the secret of the 'poor knight' joke. But it had
become quite a different matter with Aglaya. All the affectation
of manner which she had displayed at the beginning disappeared as
the ballad proceeded. She spoke the lines in so serious and
exalted a manner, and with so much taste, that she even seemed to
justify the exaggerated solemnity with which she had stepped
forward. It was impossible to discern in her now anything but a
deep feeling for the spirit of the poem which she had undertaken
Her eyes were aglow with inspiration, and a slight tremor of
rapture passed over her lovely features once or twice. She
continued to recite:
"Once there came a vision glorious,
Mystic, dreadful, wondrous fair;
Burned itself into his spirit,
And abode for ever there!
"Never more--from that sweet moment--
Gazed he on womankind;
He was dumb to love and wooing
And to all their graces blind.
"Full of love for that sweet vision,
Brave and pure he took the field;
With his blood he stained the letters
N. P. B. upon his shield.
"'Lumen caeli, sancta Rosa!'
Shouting on the foe he fell,
And like thunder rang his war-cry
O'er the cowering infidel.
"Then within his distant castle,
Home returned, he dreamed his days-
Silent, sad,--and when death took him
He was mad, the legend says."
When recalling all this afterwards the prince could not for the
life of him understand how to reconcile the beautiful, sincere,
pure nature of the girl with the irony of this jest. That it was
a jest there was no doubt whatever; he knew that well enough, and
had good reason, too, for his conviction; for during her
recitation of the ballad Aglaya had deliberately changed the
letters A. N. B. into N. P. B. He was quite sure she had not done
this by accident, and that his ears had not deceived him. At all
events her performance--which was a joke, of course, if rather a
crude one,--was premeditated. They had evidently talked (and
laughed) over the 'poor knight' for more than a month.
Yet Aglaya had brought out these letters N. P. B. not only
without the slightest appearance of irony, or even any particular
accentuation, but with so even and unbroken an appearance of
seriousness that assuredly anyone might have supposed that these
initials were the original ones written in the ballad. The thing
made an uncomfortable impression upon the prince. Of course Mrs.
Epanchin saw nothing either in the change of initials or in the
insinuation embodied therein. General Epanchin only knew that
there was a recitation of verses going on, and took no further
interest in the matter. Of the rest of the audience, many had
understood the allusion and wondered both at the daring of the
lady and at the motive underlying it, but tried to show no sign
of their feelings. But Evgenie Pavlovitch (as the prince was
ready to wager) both comprehended and tried his best to show that
he comprehended; his smile was too mocking to leave any doubt on
"How beautiful that is!" cried Mrs. Epanchin, with sincere
admiration. "Whose is it? '
"Pushkin's, mama, of course! Don't disgrace us all by showing
your ignorance," said Adelaida.
"As soon as we reach home give it to me to read."
"I don't think we have a copy of Pushkin in the house."
"There are a couple of torn volumes somewhere; they have been
lying about from time immemorial," added Alexandra.
"Send Feodor or Alexey up by the very first train to buy a copy,
then.--Aglaya, come here--kiss me, dear, you recited beautifully!
but," she added in a whisper, "if you were sincere I am sorry for
you. If it was a joke, I do not approve of the feelings which
prompted you to do it, and in any case you would have done far
better not to recite it at all. Do you understand?--Now come
along, young woman; we've sat here too long. I'll speak to you
about this another time."
Meanwhile the prince took the opportunity of greeting General
Epanchin, and the general introduced Evgenie Pavlovitch to him.
"I caught him up on the way to your house," explained the
general. "He had heard that we were all here."
"Yes, and I heard that you were here, too," added Evgenie
Pavlovitch; "and since I had long promised myself the pleasure of
seeking not only your acquaintance but your friendship, I did not
wish to waste time, but came straight on. I am sorry to hear that
you are unwell."
"Oh, but I'm quite well now, thank you, and very glad to make
your acquaintance. Prince S. has often spoken to me about you,"
said Muishkin, and for an instant the two men looked intently
into one another's eyes.
The prince remarked that Evgenie Pavlovitch's plain clothes had
evidently made a great impression upon the company present, so
much so that all other interests seemed to be effaced before this
His change of dress was evidently a matter of some importance.
Adelaida and Alexandra poured out a stream of questions; Prince
S., a relative of the young man, appeared annoyed; and Ivan
Fedorovitch quite excited. Aglaya alone was not interested. She
merely looked closely at Evgenie for a minute, curious perhaps as
to whether civil or military clothes became him best, then turned
away and paid no more attention to him or his costume. Lizabetha
Prokofievna asked no questions, but it was clear that she was
uneasy, and the prince fancied that Evgenie was not in her good
"He has astonished me," said Ivan Fedorovitch. "I nearly fell
down with surprise. I could hardly believe my eyes when I met him
in Petersburg just now. Why this haste? That's what I want to
know. He has always said himself that there is no need to break
Evgenie Pavlovitch remarked here that he had spoken of his
intention of leaving the service long ago. He had, however,
always made more or less of a joke about it, so no one had taken
him seriously. For that matter he joked about everything, and his
friends never knew what to believe, especially if he did not wish
them to understand him.
"I have only retired for a time," said he, laughing. "For a few
months; at most for a year."
"But there is no necessity for you to retire at all," complained
the general, "as far as I know."
"I want to go and look after my country estates. You advised me
to do that yourself," was the reply. "And then I wish to go
After a few more expostulations, the conversation drifted into
other channels, but the prince, who had been an attentive
listener, thought all this excitement about so small a matter
very curious. "There must be more in it than appears," he said to
"I see the 'poor knight' has come on the scene again," said
Evgenie Pavlovitch, stepping to Aglaya's side.
To the amazement of the prince, who overheard the remark, Aglaya
looked haughtily and inquiringly at the questioner, as though she
would give him to know, once for all, that there could be no talk
between them about the 'poor knight,' and that she did not
understand his question.
"But not now! It is too late to send to town for a Pushkin now.
It is much too late, I say!" Colia was exclaiming in a loud
voice. "I have told you so at least a hundred times."
"Yes, it is really much too late to send to town now," said
Evgenie Pavlovitch, who had escaped from Aglaya as rapidly as
possible. "I am sure the shops are shut in Petersburg; it is past
eight o'clock," he added, looking at his watch.
"We have done without him so far," interrupted Adelaida in her
turn. "Surely we can wait until to-morrow."
"Besides," said Colia, "it is quite unusual, almost improper, for
people in our position to take any interest in literature. Ask
Evgenie Pavlovitch if I am not right. It is much more fashionable
to drive a waggonette with red wheels."
"You got that from some magazine, Colia," remarked Adelaida.
"He gets most of his conversation in that way," laughed Evgenie
Pavlovitch. "He borrows whole phrases from the reviews. I have
long had the pleasure of knowing both Nicholai Ardalionovitch and
his conversational methods, but this time he was not repeating
something he had read; he was alluding, no doubt, to my yellow
waggonette, which has, or had, red wheels. But I have exchanged
it, so you are rather behind the times, Colia."
The prince had been listening attentively to Radomski's words,
and thought his manner very pleasant. When Colia chaffed him
about his waggonette he had replied with perfect equality and in
a friendly fashion. This pleased Muishkin.
At this moment Vera came up to Lizabetha Prokofievna, carrying
several large and beautifully bound books, apparently quite new.
"What is it?" demanded the lady.
"This is Pushkin," replied the girl. "Papa told me to offer it
"What? Impossible!" exclaimed Mrs. Epanchin.
"Not as a present, not as a present! I should not have taken the
liberty," said Lebedeff, appearing suddenly from behind his
daughter. "It is our own Pushkin, our family copy, Annenkoff's
edition; it could not be bought now. I beg to suggest, with great
respect, that your excellency should buy it, and thus quench the
noble literary thirst which is consuming you at this moment," he
"Oh! if you will sell it, very good--and thank you. You shall not
be a loser! But for goodness' sake, don't twist about like that,
sir! I have heard of you; they tell me you are a very learned
person. We must have a talk one of these days. You will bring me
the books yourself?"
"With the greatest respect ... and ... and veneration," replied
Lebedeff, making extraordinary grimaces.
"Well, bring them, with or without respect, provided always you
do not drop them on the way; but on the condition," went on the
lady, looking full at him, "that you do not cross my threshold. I
do not intend to receive you today. You may send your daughter
Vera at once, if you like. I am much pleased with her."
"Why don't you tell him about them?" said Vera impatiently to her
father. "They will come in, whether you announce them or not, and
they are beginning to make a row. Lef Nicolaievitch,"--she
addressed herself to the prince--"four men are here asking for
you. They have waited some time, and are beginning to make a
fuss, and papa will not bring them in."
"Who are these people?" said the prince.
"They say that they have come on business, and they are the kind
of men, who, if you do not see them here, will follow you about
the street. It would be better to receive them, and then you will
get rid of them. Gavrila Ardalionovitch and Ptitsin are both
there, trying to make them hear reason."
"Pavlicheff's son! It is not worth while!" cried Lebedeff. "There
is no necessity to see them, and it would be most unpleasant for
your excellency. They do not deserve ..."
"What? Pavlicheff's son!" cried the prince, much perturbed. "I
know ... I know--but I entrusted this matter to Gavrila
Ardalionovitch. He told me ..."
At that moment Gania, accompanied by Ptitsin, came out to the
terrace. From an adjoining room came a noise of angry voices, and
General Ivolgin, in loud tones, seemed to be trying to shout them
down. Colia rushed off at once to investigate the cause of the
"This is most interesting!" observed Evgenie Pavlovitch.
"I expect he knows all about it!" thought the prince.
"What, the son of Pavlicheff? And who may this son of Pavlicheff
be?" asked General Epanchin with surprise; and looking curiously
around him, he discovered that he alone had no clue to the
mystery. Expectation and suspense were on every face, with the
exception of that of the prince, who stood gravely wondering how
an affair so entirely personal could have awakened such lively
and widespread interest in so short a time.
Aglaya went up to him with a peculiarly serious look
"It will be well," she said, "if you put an end to this affair
yourself AT ONCE: but you must allow us to be your witnesses.
They want to throw mud at you, prince, and you must be
triumphantly vindicated. I give you joy beforehand!"
"And I also wish for justice to be done, once for all," cried
Madame Epanchin, "about this impudent claim. Deal with them
promptly, prince, and don't spare them! I am sick of hearing
about the affair, and many a quarrel I have had in your cause.
But I confess I am anxious to see what happens, so do make them
come out here, and we will remain. You have heard people talking
about it, no doubt?" she added, turning to Prince S.
"Of course," said he. "I have heard it spoken about at your
house, and I am anxious to see these young men!"
"They are Nihilists, are they not?"
"No, they are not Nihilists," explained Lebedeff, who seemed much
excited. "This is another lot--a special group. According to my
nephew they are more advanced even than the Nihilists. You are
quite wrong, excellency, if you think that your presence will
intimidate them; nothing intimidates them. Educated men, learned
men even, are to be found among Nihilists; these go further, in
that they are men of action. The movement is, properly speaking,
a derivative from Nihilism--though they are only known
indirectly, and by hearsay, for they never advertise their doings
in the papers. They go straight to the point. For them, it is not
a question of showing that Pushkin is stupid, or that Russia
must be torn in pieces. No; but if they have a great desire for
anything, they believe they have a right to get it even at the
cost of the lives, say, of eight persons. They are checked by no
obstacles. In fact, prince, I should not advise you ..."
But Muishkin had risen, and was on his way to open the door for
"You are slandering them, Lebedeff," said he, smiling.
"You are always thinking about your nephew's conduct. Don't
believe him, Lizabetha Prokofievna. I can assure you Gorsky and
Daniloff are exceptions--and that these are only ... mistaken.
However, I do not care about receiving them here, in public.
Excuse me, Lizabetha Prokofievna. They are coming, and you can
see them, and then I will take them away. Please come in,
Another thought tormented him: He wondered was this an arranged
business--arranged to happen when he had guests in his house, and
in anticipation of his humiliation rather than of his triumph?
But he reproached himself bitterly for such a thought, and felt
as if he should die of shame if it were discovered. When his new
visitors appeared, he was quite ready to believe himself
infinitely less to be respected than any of them.
Four persons entered, led by General Ivolgin, in a state of great
excitement, and talking eloquently.
"He is for me, undoubtedly!" thought the prince, with a smile.
Colia also had joined the party, and was talking with animation
to Hippolyte, who listened with a jeering smile on his lips.
The prince begged the visitors to sit down. They were all so
young that it made the proceedings seem even more extraordinary.
Ivan Fedorovitch, who really understood nothing of what was going
on, felt indignant at the sight of these youths, and would have
interfered in some way had it not been for the extreme interest
shown by his wife in the affair. He therefore remained, partly
through curiosity, partly through good-nature, hoping that his
presence might be of some use. But the bow with which General
Ivolgin greeted him irritated him anew; he frowned, and decided
to be absolutely silent.
As to the rest, one was a man of thirty, the retired officer, now
a boxer, who had been with Rogojin, and in his happier days had
given fifteen roubles at a time to beggars. Evidently he had
joined the others as a comrade to give them moral, and if
necessary material, support. The man who had been spoken of as
"Pavlicheff's son," although he gave the name of Antip Burdovsky,
was about twenty-two years of age, fair, thin and rather tall. He
was remarkable for the poverty, not to say uncleanliness, of his
personal appearance: the sleeves of his overcoat were greasy; his
dirty waistcoat, buttoned up to his neck, showed not a trace of
linen; a filthy black silk scarf, twisted till it resembled a
cord, was round his neck, and his hands were unwashed. He looked
round with an air of insolent effrontery. His face, covered with
pimples, was neither thoughtful nor even contemptuous; it wore an
expression of complacent satisfaction in demanding his rights and
in being an aggrieved party. His voice trembled, and he spoke so
fast, and with such stammerings, that he might have been taken
for a foreigner, though the purest Russian blood ran in his
veins. Lebedeff's nephew, whom the reader has seen already,
accompanied him, and also the youth named Hippolyte Terentieff.
The latter was only seventeen or eighteen. He had an intelligent
face, though it was usually irritated and fretful in expression.
His skeleton-like figure, his ghastly complexion, the brightness
of his eyes, and the red spots of colour on his cheeks, betrayed
the victim of consumption to the most casual glance. He coughed
persistently, and panted for breath; it looked as though he had
but a few weeks more to live. He was nearly dead with fatigue,
and fell, rather than sat, into a chair. The rest bowed as they
came in; and being more or less abashed, put on an air of extreme
self-assurance. In short, their attitude was not that which one
would have expected in men who professed to despise all
trivialities, all foolish mundane conventions, and indeed
everything, except their own personal interests.
"Antip Burdovsky," stuttered the son of Pavlicheff.
"Vladimir Doktorenko," said Lebedeff's nephew briskly, and with a
certain pride, as if he boasted of his name.
"Keller," murmured the retired officer.
"Hippolyte Terentieff," cried the last-named, in a shrill voice.
They sat now in a row facing the prince, and frowned, and played
with their caps. All appeared ready to speak, and yet all were
silent; the defiant expression on their faces seemed to say, "No,
sir, you don't take us in!" It could be felt that the first word
spoken by anyone present would bring a torrent of speech from the
"I DID not expect you, gentlemen," began the prince. I have been
ill until to-day. A month ago," he continued, addressing himself
to Antip Burdovsky, "I put your business into Gavrila
Ardalionovitch Ivolgin's hands, as I told you then. I do not in
the least object to having a personal interview ... but you
will agree with me that this is hardly the time ... I propose
that we go into another room, if you will not keep me long... As
you see, I have friends here, and believe me ..."
"Friends as many as you please, but allow me," interrupted the
harsh voice of Lebedeff's nephew--" allow me to tell you that you
might have treated us rather more politely, and not have kept us
waiting at least two hours ...
"No doubt ... and I ... is that acting like a prince? And you ...
you may be a general! But I ... I am not your valet! And I ...
I..." stammered Antip Burdovsky.
He was extremely excited; his lips trembled, and the resentment
of an embittered soul was in his voice. But he spoke so
indistinctly that hardly a dozen words could be gathered.
"It was a princely action!" sneered Hippolyte.
"If anyone had treated me so," grumbled the boxer.
"I mean to say that if I had been in Burdovsky's place...I..."
"Gentlemen, I did not know you were there; I have only just been
informed, I assure you," repeated Muishkin.
"We are not afraid of your friends, prince," remarked Lebedeff's
nephew, "for we are within our rights."
The shrill tones of Hippolyte interrupted him. "What right have
you ... by what right do you demand us to submit this matter,
about Burdovsky ... to the judgment of your friends? We know only
too well what the judgment of your friends will be! ..."
This beginning gave promise of a stormy discussion. The prince
was much discouraged, but at last he managed to make himself
heard amid the vociferations of his excited visitors.
"If you," he said, addressing Burdovsky--"if you prefer not to
speak here, I offer again to go into another room with you ...
and as to your waiting to see me, I repeat that I only this
instant heard ..."
"Well, you have no right, you have no right, no right at all!...
Your friends indeed!"... gabbled Burdovsky, defiantly examining
the faces round him, and becoming more and more excited. "You
have no right!..." As he ended thus abruptly, he leant
forward, staring at the prince with his short-sighted, bloodshot
eyes. The latter was so astonished, that he did not reply, but
looked steadily at him in return.
"Lef Nicolaievitch!" interposed Madame Epanchin, suddenly, "read
this at once, this very moment! It is about this business."
She held out a weekly comic paper, pointing to an article on one
of its pages. Just as the visitors were coming in, Lebedeff,
wishing to ingratiate himself with the great lady, had pulled
this paper from his pocket, and presented it to her, indicating a
few columns marked in pencil. Lizabetha Prokofievna had had time
to read some of it, and was greatly upset.
"Would it not be better to peruse it alone ..." later asked the
"No, no, read it--read it at once directly, and aloud, aloud!"
cried she, calling Colia to her and giving him the journal.--"
Read it aloud, so that everyone may hear it!"
An impetuous woman, Lizabetha Prokofievna sometimes weighed her
anchors and put out to sea quite regardless of the possible
storms she might encounter. Ivan Fedorovitch felt a sudden pang
of alarm, but the others were merely curious, and somewhat
surprised. Colia unfolded the paper, and began to read, in his
clear, high-pitched voice, the following article:
"Proletarians and scions of nobility! An episode of the
brigandage of today and every day! Progress! Reform! Justice!"
"Strange things are going on in our so-called Holy Russia in this
age of reform and great enterprises; this age of patriotism in
which hundreds of millions are yearly sent abroad; in which
industry is encouraged, and the hands of Labour paralyzed, etc.;
there is no end to this, gentlemen, so let us come to the point.
A strange thing has happened to a scion of our defunct
aristocracy. (DE PROFUNDIS!) The grandfathers of these scions
ruined themselves at the gaming-tables; their fathers were forced
to serve as officers or subalterns; some have died just as they
were about to be tried for innocent thoughtlessness in the
handling of public funds. Their children are sometimes congenital
idiots, like the hero of our story; sometimes they are found in
the dock at the Assizes, where they are generally acquitted by
the jury for edifying motives; sometimes they distinguish
themselves by one of those burning scandals that amaze the public
and add another blot to the stained record of our age. Six months
ago--that is, last winter--this particular scion returned to
Russia, wearing gaiters like a foreigner, and shivering with cold
in an old scantily-lined cloak. He had come from Switzerland,
where he had just undergone a successful course of treatment for
idiocy (SIC!). Certainly Fortune favoured him, for, apart from
the interesting malady of which he was cured in Switzerland (can
there be a cure for idiocy?) his story proves the truth of the
Russian proverb that 'happiness is the right of certain classes!'
Judge for yourselves. Our subject was an infant in arms when he
lost his father, an officer who died just as he was about to be
court-martialled for gambling away the funds of his company, and
perhaps also for flogging a subordinate to excess (remember the
good old days, gentlemen). The orphan was brought up by the
charity of a very rich Russian landowner. In the good old days,
this man, whom we will call P--, owned four thousand souls as
serfs (souls as serfs!--can you understand such an expression,
gentlemen? I cannot; it must be looked up in a dictionary before
one can understand it; these things of a bygone day are already
unintelligible to us). He appears to have been one of those
Russian parasites who lead an idle existence abroad, spending the
summer at some spa, and the winter in Paris, to the greater
profit of the organizers of public balls. It may safely be said
that the manager of the Chateau des Fleurs (lucky man!) pocketed
at least a third of the money paid by Russian peasants to their
lords in the days of serfdom. However this may be, the gay P--
brought up the orphan like a prince, provided him with tutors and
governesses (pretty, of course!) whom he chose himself in Paris.