Part 7 out of 15
But the little aristocrat, the last of his noble race, was an
idiot. The governesses, recruited at the Chateau des Fleurs,
laboured in vain; at twenty years of age their pupil could not
speak in any language, not even Russian. But ignorance of the
latter was still excusable. At last P-- was seized with a strange
notion; he imagined that in Switzerland they could change an
idiot into a mail of sense. After all, the idea was quite
logical; a parasite and landowner naturally supposed that
intelligence was a marketable commodity like everything else,
and that in Switzerland especially it could be bought for money.
The case was entrusted to a celebrated Swiss professor, and cost
thousands of roubles; the treatment lasted five years. Needless
to say, the idiot did not become intelligent, but it is alleged
that he grew into something more or less resembling a man. At
this stage P-- died suddenly, and, as usual, he had made no will
and left his affairs in disorder. A crowd of eager claimants
arose, who cared nothing about any last scion of a noble race
undergoing treatment in Switzerland, at the expense of the
deceased, as a congenital idiot. Idiot though he was, the noble
scion tried to cheat his professor, and they say he succeeded in
getting him to continue the treatment gratis for two years, by
concealing the death of his benefactor. But the professor himself
was a charlatan. Getting anxious at last when no money was
forthcoming, and alarmed above all by his patient's appetite, he
presented him with a pair of old gaiters and a shabby cloak and
packed him off to Russia, third class. It would seem that Fortune
had turned her back upon our hero. Not at all; Fortune, who lets
whole populations die of hunger, showered all her gifts at once
upon the little aristocrat, like Kryloff's Cloud which passes
over an arid plain and empties itself into the sea. He had
scarcely arrived in St. Petersburg, when a relation of his
mother's (who was of bourgeois origin, of course), died at
Moscow. He was a merchant, an Old Believer, and he had no
children. He left a fortune of several millions in good current
coin, and everything came to our noble scion, our gaitered baron,
formerly treated for idiocy in a Swiss lunatic asylum. Instantly
the scene changed, crowds of friends gathered round our baron,
who meanwhile had lost his head over a celebrated demi-mondaine;
he even discovered some relations; moreover a number of young
girls of high birth burned to be united to him in lawful
matrimony. Could anyone possibly imagine a better match?
Aristocrat, millionaire, and idiot, he has every advantage! One
might hunt in vain for his equal, even with the lantern of
Diogenes; his like is not to be had even by getting it made to
"Oh, I don't know what this means" cried Ivan Fedorovitch,
transported with indignation.
"Leave off, Colia," begged the prince. Exclamations arose on all
"Let him go on reading at all costs!" ordered Lizabetha
Prokofievna, evidently preserving her composure by a desperate
effort. "Prince, if the reading is stopped, you and I will
Colia had no choice but to obey. With crimson cheeks he read on
"But while our young millionaire dwelt as it were in the
Empyrean, something new occurred. One fine morning a man called
upon him, calm and severe of aspect, distinguished, but plainly
dressed. Politely, but in dignified terms, as befitted his
errand, he briefly explained the motive for his visit. He was a
lawyer of enlightened views; his client was a young man who had
consulted him in confidence. This young man was no other than the
son of P--, though he bears another name. In his youth P--, the
sensualist, had seduced a young girl, poor but respectable. She
was a serf, but had received a European education. Finding that a
child was expected, he hastened her marriage with a man of noble
character who had loved her for a long time. He helped the young
couple for a time, but he was soon obliged to give up, for the
high-minded husband refused to accept anything from him. Soon the
careless nobleman forgot all about his former mistress and the
child she had borne him; then, as we know, he died intestate. P--
's son, born after his mother's marriage, found a true father in
the generous man whose name he bore. But when he also died, the
orphan was left to provide for himself, his mother now being an
invalid who had lost the use of her limbs. Leaving her in a
distant province, he came to the capital in search of pupils. By
dint of daily toil he earned enough to enable him to follow the
college courses, and at last to enter the university. But what
can one earn by teaching the children of Russian merchants at ten
copecks a lesson, especially with an invalid mother to keep? Even
her death did not much diminish the hardships of the young man's
struggle for existence. Now this is the question: how, in the
name of justice, should our scion have argued the case? Our
readers will think, no doubt, that he would say to himself: 'P--
showered benefits upon me all my life; he spent tens of thousands
of roubles to educate me, to provide me with governesses, and to
keep me under treatment in Switzerland. Now I am a millionaire,
and P--'s son, a noble young man who is not responsible for the
faults of his careless and forgetful father, is wearing himself
out giving ill-paid lessons. According to justice, all that was
done for me ought to have been done for him. The enormous sums
spent upon me were not really mine; they came to me by an error
of blind Fortune, when they ought to have gone to P--'s son. They
should have gone to benefit him, not me, in whom P-- interested
himself by a mere caprice, instead of doing his duty as a father.
If I wished to behave nobly, justly, and with delicacy, I ought
to bestow half my fortune upon the son of my benefactor; but as
economy is my favourite virtue, and I know this is not a case in
which the law can intervene, I will not give up half my millions.
But it would be too openly vile, too flagrantly infamous, if I
did not at least restore to P--'s son the tens of thousands of
roubles spent in curing my idiocy. This is simply a case of
conscience and of strict justice. Whatever would have become of
me if P-- had not looked after my education, and had taken care
of his own son instead of me?'
"No, gentlemen, our scions of the nobility do not reason thus.
The lawyer, who had taken up the matter purely out of friendship
to the young man, and almost against his will, invoked every
consideration of justice, delicacy, honour, and even plain
figures; in vain, the ex-patient of the Swiss lunatic asylum was
inflexible. All this might pass, but the sequel is absolutely
unpardonable, and not to be excused by any interesting malady.
This millionaire, having but just discarded the old gaiters of
his professor, could not even understand that the noble young man
slaving away at his lessons was not asking for charitable help,
but for his rightful due, though the debt was not a legal one;
that, correctly speaking, he was not asking for anything, but it
was merely his friends who had thought fit to bestir themselves
on his behalf. With the cool insolence of a bloated capitalist,
secure in his millions, he majestically drew a banknote for fifty
roubles from his pocket-book and sent it to the noble young man
as a humiliating piece of charity. You can hardly believe it,
gentlemen! You are scandalized and disgusted; you cry out in
indignation! But that is what he did! Needless to say, the money
was returned, or rather flung back in his face. The case is not
within the province of the law, it must be referred to the
tribunal of public opinion; this is what we now do, guaranteeing
the truth of all the details which we have related."
When Colia had finished reading, he handed the paper to the
prince, and retired silently to a corner of the room, hiding his
face in his hands. He was overcome by a feeling of inexpressible
shame; his boyish sensitiveness was wounded beyond endurance. It
seemed to him that something extraordinary, some sudden
catastrophe had occurred, and that he was almost the cause of it,
because he had read the article aloud.
Yet all the others were similarly affected. The girls were
uncomfortable and ashamed. Lizabetha Prokofievna restrained her
violent anger by a great effort; perhaps she bitterly regretted
her interference in the matter; for the present she kept silence.
The prince felt as very shy people often do in such a case; he
was so ashamed of the conduct of other people, so humiliated for
his guests, that he dared not look them in the face. Ptitsin,
Varia, Gania, and Lebedeff himself, all looked rather confused.
Stranger still, Hippolyte and the "son of Pavlicheff" also seemed
slightly surprised, and Lebedeff's nephew was obviously far from
pleased. The boxer alone was perfectly calm; he twisted his
moustaches with affected dignity, and if his eyes were cast down
it was certainly not in confusion, but rather in noble modesty,
as if he did not wish to be insolent in his triumph. It was
evident that he was delighted with the article.
"The devil knows what it means," growled Ivan Fedorovitch, under
his breath; "it must have taken the united wits of fifty footmen
to write it."
"May I ask your reason for such an insulting supposition, sir?"
said Hippolyte, trembling with rage.
You will admit yourself, general, that for an honourable man, if
the author is an honourable man, that is an--an insult," growled
the boxer suddenly, with convulsive jerkings of his shoulders.
"In the first place, it is not for you to address me as 'sir,'
and, in the second place, I refuse to give you any explanation,"
said Ivan Fedorovitch vehemently; and he rose without another
word, and went and stood on the first step of the flight that led
from the verandah to the street, turning his back on the company.
He was indignant with Lizabetha Prokofievna, who did not think of
moving even now.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, let me speak at last," cried the prince,
anxious and agitated. "Please let us understand one another. I
say nothing about the article, gentlemen, except that every word
is false; I say this because you know it as well as I do. It is
shameful. I should be surprised if any one of you could have
"I did not know of its existence till this moment," declared
Hippolyte. "I do not approve of it."
"I knew it had been written, but I would not have advised its
publication," said Lebedeff's nephew, "because it is premature."
"I knew it, but I have a right. I... I ... "stammered the
"son of Pavlicheff."
"What! Did you write all that yourself? Is it possible?" asked
the prince, regarding Burdovsky with curiosity.
"One might dispute your right to ask such questions," observed
"I was only surprised that Mr. Burdovsky should have--however,
this is what I have to say. Since you had already given the
matter publicity, why did you object just now, when I began to
speak of it to my friends?"
"At last!" murmured Lizabetha Prokofievna indignantly.
Lebedeff could restrain himself no longer; he made his way
through the row of chairs.
"Prince," he cried, "you are forgetting that if you consented to
receive and hear them, it was only because of your kind heart
which has no equal, for they had not the least right to demand
it, especially as you had placed the matter in the hands of
Gavrila Ardalionovitch, which was also extremely kind of you. You
are also forgetting, most excellent prince, that you are with
friends, a select company; you cannot sacrifice them to these
gentlemen, and it is only for you to have them turned out this
instant. As the master of the house I shall have great pleasure
"Quite right!" agreed General Ivolgin in a loud voice.
"That will do, Lebedeff, that will do--" began the prince, when
an indignant outcry drowned his words.
"Excuse me, prince, excuse me, but now that will not do," shouted
Lebedeff's nephew, his voice dominating all the others. "The
matter must be clearly stated, for it is obviously not properly
understood. They are calling in some legal chicanery, and upon
that ground they are threatening to turn us out of the house!
Really, prince, do you think we are such fools as not to be aware
that this matter does not come within the law, and that legally
we cannot claim a rouble from you? But we are also aware that if
actual law is not on our side, human law is for us, natural law,
the law of common-sense and conscience, which is no less binding
upon every noble and honest man--that is, every man of sane
judgment--because it is not to be found in miserable legal codes.
If we come here without fear of being turned out (as was
threatened just now) because of the imperative tone of our
demand, and the unseemliness of such a visit at this late hour
(though it was not late when we arrived, we were kept waiting in
your anteroom), if, I say, we came in without fear, it is just
because we expected to find you a man of sense; I mean, a man of
honour and conscience. It is quite true that we did not present
ourselves humbly, like your flatterers and parasites, but holding
up our heads as befits independent men. We present no petition,
but a proud and free demand (note it well, we do not beseech, we
demand!). We ask you fairly and squarely in a dignified manner.
Do you believe that in this affair of Burdovsky you have right on
your side? Do you admit that Pavlicheff overwhelmed you with
benefits, and perhaps saved your life? If you admit it (which we
take for granted), do you intend, now that you are a millionaire,
and do you not think it in conformity with justice, to indemnify
Burdovsky? Yes or no? If it is yes, or, in other words, if you
possess what you call honour and conscience, and we more justly
call common-sense, then accede to our demand, and the matter is
at an end. Give us satisfaction, without entreaties or thanks
from us; do not expect thanks from us, for what you do will be
done not for our sake, but for the sake of justice. If you refuse
to satisfy us, that is, if your answer is no, we will go away at
once, and there will be an end of the matter. But we will tell
you to your face before the present company that you are a man of
vulgar and undeveloped mind; we will openly deny you the right to
speak in future of your honour and conscience, for you have not
paid the fair price of such a right. I have no more to say--I
have put the question before you. Now turn us out if you dare.
You can do it; force is on your side. But remember that we do not
beseech, we demand! We do not beseech, we demand!"
With these last excited words, Lebedeff's nephew was silent.
"We demand, we demand, we demand, we do not beseech," spluttered
Burdovsky, red as a lobster.
The speech of Lebedeff's nephew caused a certain stir among the
company; murmurs arose, though with the exception of Lebedeff,
who was still very much excited, everyone was careful not to
interfere in the matter. Strangely enough, Lebedeff, although on
the prince's side, seemed quite proud of his nephew's eloquence.
Gratified vanity was visible in the glances he cast upon the
"In my opinion, Mr. Doktorenko," said the prince, in rather a low
voice, "you are quite right in at least half of what you say. I
would go further and say that you are altogether right, and that
I quite agree with you, if there were not something lacking in
your speech. I cannot undertake to say precisely what it is, but
you have certainly omitted something, and you cannot be quite
just while there is something lacking. But let us put that aside
and return to the point. Tell me what induced you to publish this
article. Every word of it is a calumny, and I think, gentlemen,
that you have been guilty of a mean action."
"What? What? What?" cried all the visitors at once, in violent
"As to the article," said Hippolyte in his croaking voice, "I
have told you already that we none of us approve of it! There is
the writer," he added, pointing to the boxer, who sat beside him.
"I quite admit that he has written it in his old regimental
manner, with an equal disregard for style and decency. I know he
is a cross between a fool and an adventurer; I make no bones
about telling him so to his face every day. But after all he is
half justified; publicity is the lawful right of every man;
consequently, Burdovsky is not excepted. Let him answer for his
own blunders. As to the objection which I made just now in the
name of all, to the presence of your friends, I think I ought to
explain, gentlemen, that I only did so to assert our rights,
though we really wished to have witnesses; we had agreed
unanimously upon the point before we came in. We do not care who
your witnesses may be, or whether they are your friends or not.
As they cannot fail to recognize Burdovsky's right (seeing that
it is mathematically demonstrable), it is just as well that the
witnesses should be your friends. The truth will only be more
"It is quite true; we had agreed upon that point," said
Lebedeff's nephew, in confirmation.
"If that is the case, why did you begin by making such a fuss
about it?" asked the astonished prince.
The boxer was dying to get in a few words; owing, no doubt, to
the presence of the ladies, he was becoming quite jovial.
"As to the article, prince," he said, "I admit that I wrote it,
in spite of the severe criticism of my poor friend, in whom I
always overlook many things because of his unfortunate state of
health. But I wrote and published it in the form of a letter, in
the paper of a friend. I showed it to no one but Burdovsky, and I
did not read it all through, even to him. He immediately gave me
permission to publish it, but you will admit that I might have
done so without his consent. Publicity is a noble, beneficent,
and universal right. I hope, prince, that you are too progressive
to deny this?"
"I deny nothing, but you must confess that your article--"
"Is a bit thick, you mean? Well, in a way that is in the public
interest; you will admit that yourself, and after all one cannot
overlook a blatant fact. So much the worse for the guilty
parties, but the public welfare must come before everything. As
to certain inaccuracies and figures of speech, so to speak, you
will also admit that the motive, aim, and intention, are the
chief thing. It is a question, above all, of making a wholesome
example; the individual case can be examined afterwards; and as
to the style--well, the thing was meant to be humorous, so to
speak, and, after all, everybody writes like that; you must admit
it yourself! Ha, ha!"
"But, gentlemen, I assure you that you are quite astray,"
exclaimed the prince. "You have published this article upon the
supposition that I would never consent to satisfy Mr. Burdovsky.
Acting on that conviction, you have tried to intimidate me by
this publication and to be revenged for my supposed refusal. But
what did you know of my intentions? It may be that I have
resolved to satisfy Mr. Burdovsky's claim. I now declare openly,
in the presence of these witnesses, that I will do so."
"The noble and intelligent word of an intelligent and most noble
man, at last!" exclaimed the boxer.
"Good God!" exclaimed Lizabetha Prokofievna involuntarily.
"This is intolerable," growled the general.
"Allow me, gentlemen, allow me," urged the prince.
"I will explain matters to you. Five weeks ago I received a visit
from Tchebaroff, your agent, Mr. Burdovsky. You have given a very
flattering description of him in your article, Mr. Keller," he
continued, turning to the boxer with a smile, "but he did not
please me at all. I saw at once that Tchebaroff was the moving
spirit in the matter, and, to speak frankly, I thought he might
have induced you, Mr. Burdovsky, to make this claim, by taking
advantage of your simplicity."
"You have no right.... I am not simple," stammered Burdovsky,
"You have no sort of right to suppose such things," said
Lebedeff's nephew in a tone of authority.
"It is most offensive!" shrieked Hippolyte; "it is an insulting
suggestion, false, and most ill-timed."
"I beg your pardon, gentlemen; please excuse me," said the
prince. "I thought absolute frankness on both sides would be
best, but have it your own way. I told Tchebaroff that, as I was
not in Petersburg, I would commission a friend to look into the
matter without delay, and that I would let you know, Mr.
Burdovsky. Gentlemen, I have no hesitation in telling you that it
was the fact of Tchebaroff's intervention that made me suspect a
fraud. Oh! do not take offence at my words, gentlemen, for
Heaven's sake do not be so touchy!" cried the prince, seeing that
Burdovsky was getting excited again, and that the rest were
preparing to protest. "If I say I suspected a fraud, there is
nothing personal in that. I had never seen any of you then; I did
not even know your names; I only judged by Tchebaroff; I am
speaking quite generally--if you only knew how I have been 'done'
since I came into my fortune!"
"You are shockingly naive, prince," said Lebedeff's nephew in
"Besides, though you are a prince and a millionaire, and even
though you may really be simple and good-hearted, you can hardly
be outside the general law," Hippolyte declared loudly.
"Perhaps not; it is very possible," the prince agreed hastily,
"though I do not know what general law you allude to. I will go
on--only please do not take offence without good cause. I assure
you I do not mean to offend you in the least. Really, it is
impossible to speak three words sincerely without your flying
into a rage! At first I was amazed when Tchebaroff told me that
Pavlicheff had a son, and that he was in such a miserable
position. Pavlicheff was my benefactor, and my father's friend.
Oh, Mr. Keller, why does your article impute things to my father
without the slightest foundation? He never squandered the funds
of his company nor ill-treated his subordinates, I am absolutely
certain of it; I cannot imagine how you could bring yourself to
write such a calumny! But your assertions concerning Pavlicheff
are absolutely intolerable! You do not scruple to make a
libertine of that noble man; you call him a sensualist as coolly
as if you were speaking the truth, and yet it would not be
possible to find a chaster man. He was even a scholar of note,
and in correspondence with several celebrated scientists, and
spent large sums in the interests of science. As to his kind
heart and his good actions, you were right indeed when you said
that I was almost an idiot at that time, and could hardly
understand anything--(I could speak and understand Russian,
though),--but now I can appreciate what I remember--"
"Excuse me," interrupted Hippolyte, "is not this rather
sentimental? You said you wished to come to the point; please
remember that it is after nine o'clock."
"Very well, gentlemen--very well," replied the prince. "At first
I received the news with mistrust, then I said to myself that I
might be mistaken, and that Pavlicheff might possibly have had a
son. But I was absolutely amazed at the readiness with which the
son had revealed the secret of his birth at the expense of his
mother's honour. For Tchebaroff had already menaced me with
publicity in our interview. . . ."
"What nonsense!" Lebedeff's nephew interrupted violently.
"You have no right--you have no right!" cried Burdovsky.
"The son is not responsible for the misdeeds of his father; and
the mother is not to blame," added Hippolyte, with warmth.
"That seems to me all the more reason for sparing her," said the
"Prince, you are not only simple, but your simplicity is almost
past the limit," said Lebedeff's nephew, with a sarcastic smile.
"But what right had you?" said Hippolyte in a very strange tone.
"None--none whatever," agreed the prince hastily. "I admit you
are right there, but it was involuntary, and I immediately said
to myself that my personal feelings had nothing to do with it,--
that if I thought it right to satisfy the demands of Mr.
Burdovsky, out of respect for the memory of Pavlicheff, I ought
to do so in any case, whether I esteemed Mr. Burdovsky or not. I
only mentioned this, gentlemen, because it seemed so unnatural to
me for a son to betray his mother's secret in such a way. In
short, that is what convinced me that Tchebaroff must be a rogue,
and that he had induced Mr. Burdovsky to attempt this fraud."
"But this is intolerable!" cried the visitors, some of them
starting to their feet.
"Gentlemen, I supposed from this that poor Mr. Burdovsky must be
a simple-minded man, quite defenceless, and an easy tool in the
hands of rogues. That is why I thought it my duty to try and help
him as 'Pavlicheff's son'; in the first place by rescuing him
from the influence of Tchebaroff, and secondly by making myself
his friend. I have resolved to give him ten thousand roubles;
that is about the sum which I calculate that Pavlicheff must have
spent on me."
"What, only ten thousand!" cried Hippolyte.
"Well, prince, your arithmetic is not up to much, or else you are
mighty clever at it, though you affect the air of a simpleton,"
said Lebedeff's nephew.
"I will not accept ten thousand roubles," said Burdovsky.
"Accept, Antip," whispered the boxer eagerly, leaning past the
back of Hippolyte's chair to give his friend this piece of
advice. "Take it for the present; we can see about more later
"Look here, Mr. Muishkin," shouted Hippolyte, "please understand
that we are not fools, nor idiots, as your guests seem to
imagine; these ladies who look upon us with such scorn, and
especially this fine gentleman" (pointing to Evgenie Pavlovitch)
"whom I have not the honour of knowing, though I think I have
heard some talk about him--"
"Really, really, gentlemen," cried the prince in great agitation,
"you are misunderstanding me again. In the first place, Mr.
Keller, you have greatly overestimated my fortune in your
article. I am far from being a millionaire. I have barely a tenth
of what you suppose. Secondly, my treatment in Switzerland was
very far from costing tens of thousands of roubles. Schneider
received six hundred roubles a year, and he was only paid for the
first three years. As to the pretty governesses whom Pavlicheff
is supposed to have brought from Paris, they only exist in Mr.
Keller's imagination; it is another calumny. According to my
calculations, the sum spent on me was very considerably under ten
thousand roubles, but I decided on that sum, and you must admit
that in paying a debt I could not offer Mr. Burdovsky more,
however kindly disposed I might be towards him; delicacy forbids
it; I should seem to be offering him charity instead of rightful
payment. I don't know how you cannot see that, gentlemen!
Besides, I had no intention of leaving the matter there. I meant
to intervene amicably later on and help to improve poor Mr.
Burdovsky's position. It is clear that he has been deceived, or
he would never have agreed to anything so vile as the scandalous
revelations about his mother in Mr. Keller's article. But,
gentlemen, why are you getting angry again? Are we never to come
to an understanding? Well, the event has proved me right! I have
just seen with my own eyes the proof that my conjecture was
correct!" he added, with increasing eagerness.
He meant to calm his hearers, and did not perceive that his words
had only increased their irritation.
"What do you mean? What are you convinced of?" they demanded
"In the first place, I have had the opportunity of getting a
correct idea of Mr. Burdovsky. I see what he is for myself. He is
an innocent man, deceived by everyone! A defenceless victim, who
deserves indulgence! Secondly, Gavrila Ardalionovitch, in whose
hands I had placed the matter, had his first interview with me
barely an hour ago. I had not heard from him for some time, as I
was away, and have been ill for three days since my return to St.
Petersburg. He tells me that he has exposed the designs of
Tchebaroff and has proof that justifies my opinion of him. I
know, gentlemen, that many people think me an idiot. Counting
upon my reputation as a man whose purse-strings are easily
loosened, Tchebaroff thought it would be a simple matter to
fleece me, especially by trading on my gratitude to Pavlicheff.
But the main point is--listen, gentlemen, let me finish!--the main
point is that Mr. Burdovsky is not Pavlicheff's son at all.
Gavrila Ardalionovitch has just told me of his discovery, and
assures me that he has positive proofs. Well, what do you think
of that? It is scarcely credible, even after all the tricks that
have been played upon me. Please note that we have positive
proofs! I can hardly believe it myself, I assure you; I do not
yet believe it; I am still doubtful, because Gavrila
Ardalionovitch has not had time to go into details; but there can
be no further doubt that Tchebaroff is a rogue! He has deceived
poor Mr. Burdovsky, and all of you, gentlemen, who have come
forward so nobly to support your friend--(he evidently needs
support, I quite see that!). He has abused your credulity and
involved you all in an attempted fraud, for when all is said and
done this claim is nothing else!"
"What! a fraud? What, he is not Pavlicheff's son? Impossible!"
These exclamations but feebly expressed the profound bewilderment
into which the prince's words had plunged Burdovsky's companions.
"Certainly it is a fraud! Since Mr. Burdovsky is not Pavlicheff's
son, his claim is neither more nor less than attempted fraud
(supposing, of course, that he had known the truth), but the fact
is that he has been deceived. I insist on this point in order to
justify him; I repeat that his simple-mindedness makes him worthy
of pity, and that he cannot stand alone; otherwise he would have
behaved like a scoundrel in this matter. But I feel certain that
he does not understand it! I was just the same myself before I
went to Switzerland; I stammered incoherently; one tries to
express oneself and cannot. I understand that. I am all the
better able to pity Mr. Burdovsky, because I know from experience
what it is to be like that, and so I have a right to speak. Well,
though there is no such person as 'Pavlicheff's son,' and it is
all nothing but a humbug, yet I will keep to my decision, and I
am prepared to give up ten thousand roubles in memory of
Pavlicheff. Before Mr. Burdovsky made this claim, I proposed to
found a school with this money, in memory of my benefactor, but I
shall honour his memory quite as well by giving the ten thousand
roubles to Mr. Burdovsky, because, though he was not Pavlicheff's
son, he was treated almost as though he were. That is what gave a
rogue the opportunity of deceiving him; he really did think
himself Pavlicheff's son. Listen, gentlemen; this matter must be
settled; keep calm; do not get angry; and sit down! Gavrila
Ardalionovitch will explain everything to you at once, and I
confess that I am very anxious to hear all the details myself. He
says that he has even been to Pskoff to see your mother, Mr.
Burdovsky; she is not dead, as the article which was just read to
us makes out. Sit down, gentlemen, sit down!"
The prince sat down, and at length prevailed upon Burdovsky's
company to do likewise. During the last ten or twenty minutes,
exasperated by continual interruptions, he had raised his voice,
and spoken with great vehemence. Now, no doubt, he bitterly
regretted several words and expressions which had escaped him in
his excitement. If he had not been driven beyond the limits of
endurance, he would not have ventured to express certain
conjectures so openly. He had no sooner sat down than his heart
was torn by sharp remorse. Besides insulting Burdovsky with the
supposition, made in the presence of witnesses, that he was
suffering from the complaint for which he had himself been
treated in Switzerland, he reproached himself with the grossest
indelicacy in having offered him the ten thousand roubles before
everyone. "I ought to have waited till to-morrow and offered him
the money when we were alone," thought Muishkin. "Now it is too
late, the mischief is done! Yes, I am an idiot, an absolute
idiot!" he said to himself, overcome with shame and regret.
Till then Gavrila Ardalionovitch had sat apart in silence. When
the prince called upon him, he came and stood by his side, and in
a calm, clear voice began to render an account of the mission
confided to him. All conversation ceased instantly. Everyone,
especially the Burdovsky party, listened with the utmost
"You will not deny, I am sure," said Gavrila Ardalionovitch,
turning to Burdovsky, who sat looking at him with wide-open eyes,
perplexed and astonished. You will not deny, seriously, that you
were born just two years after your mother's legal marriage to
Mr. Burdovsky, your father. Nothing would be easier than to prove
the date of your birth from well-known facts; we can only look on
Mr. Keller's version as a work of imagination, and one, moreover,
extremely offensive both to you and your mother. Of course he
distorted the truth in order to strengthen your claim, and to
serve your interests. Mr. Keller said that he previously
consulted you about his article in the paper, but did not read it
to you as a whole. Certainly he could not have read that passage.
.. . .
"As a matter of fact, I did not read it," interrupted the boxer,
"but its contents had been given me on unimpeachable authority,
and I . . ."
"Excuse me, Mr. Keller," interposed Gavrila Ardalionovitch.
"Allow me to speak. I assure you your article shall be mentioned
in its proper place, and you can then explain everything, but for
the moment I would rather not anticipate. Quite accidentally,
with the help of my sister, Varvara Ardalionovna Ptitsin, I
obtained from one of her intimate friends, Madame Zoubkoff, a
letter written to her twenty-five years ago, by Nicolai
Andreevitch Pavlicheff, then abroad. After getting into
communication with this lady, I went by her advice to Timofei
Fedorovitch Viazovkin, a retired colonel, and one of Pavlicheff's
oldest friends. He gave me two more letters written by the latter
when he was still in foreign parts. These three documents, their
dates, and the facts mentioned in them, prove in the most
undeniable manner, that eighteen months before your birth,
Nicolai Andreevitch went abroad, where he remained for three
consecutive years. Your mother, as you are well aware, has never
been out of Russia. . . . It is too late to read the letters now;
I am content to state the fact. But if you desire it, come to me
tomorrow morning, bring witnesses and writing experts with you,
and I will prove the absolute truth of my story. From that moment
the question will be decided."
These words caused a sensation among the listeners, and there was
a general movement of relief. Burdovsky got up abruptly.
"If that is true," said he, "I have been deceived, grossly
deceived, but not by Tchebaroff: and for a long time past, a long
time. I do not wish for experts, not I, nor to go to see you. I
believe you. I give it up.... But I refuse the ten thousand
"Wait five minutes more, Mr. Burdovsky," said Gavrila
Ardalionovitch pleasantly. "I have more to say. Some rather
curious and important facts have come to light, and it is
absolutely necessary, in my opinion, that you should hear them.
You will not regret, I fancy, to have the whole matter thoroughly
Burdovsky silently resumed his seat, and bent his head as though
in profound thought. His friend, Lebedeff's nephew, who had risen
to accompany him, also sat down again. He seemed much disappointed,
though as self-confident as ever. Hippolyte looked dejected and
sulky, as well as surprised. He had just been attacked by a violent
fit of coughing, so that his handkerchief was stained with blood.
The boxer looked thoroughly frightened.
"Oh, Antip!" cried he in a miserable voice, "I did say to you the
other day--the day before yesterday--that perhaps you were not
really Pavlicheff's son!"
There were sounds of half-smothered laughter at this.
"Now, that is a valuable piece of information, Mr. Keller,"
replied Gania. "However that may be, I have private information
which convinces me that Mr. Burdovsky, though doubtless aware of
the date of his birth, knew nothing at all about Pavlicheff's
sojourn abroad. Indeed, he passed the greater part of his life
out of Russia, returning at intervals for short visits. The
journey in question is in itself too unimportant for his friends
to recollect it after more than twenty years; and of course Mr.
Burdovsky could have known nothing about it, for he was not born.
As the event has proved, it was not impossible to find evidence
of his absence, though I must confess that chance has helped me
in a quest which might very well have come to nothing. It was
really almost impossible for Burdovsky or Tchebaroff to discover
these facts, even if it had entered their heads to try. Naturally
they never dreamt...
Here the voice of Hippolyte suddenly intervened.
"Allow me, Mr. Ivolgin," he said irritably. "What is the good of
all this rigmarole? Pardon me. All is now clear, and we
acknowledge the truth of your main point. Why go into these
tedious details? You wish perhaps to boast of the cleverness of
your investigation, to cry up your talents as detective? Or
perhaps your intention is to excuse Burdovsky, by roving that he
took up the matter in ignorance? Well, I consider that extremely
impudent on your part! You ought to know that Burdovsky has no
need of being excused or justified by you or anyone else! It is
an insult! The affair is quite painful enough for him without
that. Will nothing make you understand?"
"Enough! enough! Mr. Terentieff," interrupted Gania.
"Don't excite yourself; you seem very ill, and I am sorry for
that. I am almost done, but there are a few facts to which I
must briefly refer, as I am convinced that they ought to be
clearly explained once for all. . . ." A movement of impatience
was noticed in his audience as he resumed: "I merely wish to
state, for the information of all concerned, that the reason for
Mr. Pavlicheff's interest in your mother, Mr. Burdovsky, was
simply that she was the sister of a serf-girl with whom he was
deeply in love in his youth, and whom most certainly he would
have married but for her sudden death. I have proofs that this
circumstance is almost, if not quite, forgotten. I may add that
when your mother was about ten years old, Pavlicheff took her
under his care, gave her a good education, and later, a
considerable dowry. His relations were alarmed, and feared he
might go so far as to marry her, but she gave her hand to a young
land-surveyor named Burdovsky when she reached the age of twenty.
I can even say definitely that it was a marriage of affection.
After his wedding your father gave up his occupation as land-
surveyor, and with his wife's dowry of fifteen thousand roubles
went in for commercial speculations. As he had had no experience,
he was cheated on all sides, and took to drink in order to forget
his troubles. He shortened his life by his excesses, and eight
years after his marriage he died. Your mother says herself that
she was left in the direst poverty, and would have died of
starvation had it not been for Pavlicheff, who generously allowed
her a yearly pension of six hundred roubles. Many people recall
his extreme fondness for you as a little boy. Your mother
confirms this, and agrees with others in thinking that he loved
you the more because you were a sickly child, stammering in your
speech, and almost deformed--for it is known that all his life
Nicolai Andreevitch had a partiality for unfortunates of every
kind, especially children. In my opinion this is most important.
I may add that I discovered yet another fact, the last on which I
employed my detective powers. Seeing how fond Pavlicheff was of
you,--it was thanks to him you went to school, and also had the
advantage of special teachers--his relations and servants grew to
believe that you were his son, and that your father had been
betrayed by his wife. I may point out that this idea was only
accredited generally during the last years of Pavlicheff's life,
when his next-of-kin were trembling about the succession, when
the earlier story was quite forgotten, and when all opportunity
for discovering the truth had seemingly passed away. No doubt you,
Mr. Burdovsky, heard this conjecture, and did not hesitate to accept
it as true. I have had the honour of making your mother's acquaintance,
and I find that she knows all about these reports. What she does
not know is that you, her son, should have listened to them so
complaisantly. I found your respected mother at Pskoff, ill and
in deep poverty, as she has been ever since the death of your
benefactor. She told me with tears of gratitude how you had
supported her; she expects much of you, and believes fervently
in your future success..."
"Oh, this is unbearable!" said Lebedeff's nephew impatiently.
"What is the good of all this romancing?"
"It is revolting and unseemly!" cried Hippolyte, jumping up in a
Burdovsky alone sat silent and motionless.
"What is the good of it?" repeated Gavrila Ardalionovitch, with
pretended surprise. "Well, firstly, because now perhaps Mr.
Burdovsky is quite convinced that Mr. Pavlicheff's love for him
came simply from generosity of soul, and not from paternal duty.
It was most necessary to impress this fact upon his mind,
considering that he approved of the article written by Mr.
Keller. I speak thus because I look on you, Mr. Burdovsky, as an
honourable man. Secondly, it appears that there was no intention
of cheating in this case, even on the part of Tchebaroff. I wish
to say this quite plainly, because the prince hinted a while ago
that I too thought it an attempt at robbery and extortion. On the
contrary, everyone has been quite sincere in the matter, and
although Tchebaroff may be somewhat of a rogue, in this business
he has acted simply as any sharp lawyer would do under the
circumstances. He looked at it as a case that might bring him in
a lot of money, and he did not calculate badly; because on the
one hand he speculated on the generosity of the prince, and his
gratitude to the late Mr. Pavlicheff, and on the other to his
chivalrous ideas as to the obligations of honour and conscience.
As to Mr. Burdovsky, allowing for his principles, we may
acknowledge that he engaged in the business with very little
personal aim in view. At the instigation of Tchebaroff and his
other friends, he decided to make the attempt in the service of
truth, progress, and humanity. In short, the conclusion may be
drawn that, in spite of all appearances, Mr. Burdovsky is a man
of irreproachable character, and thus the prince can all the more
readily offer him his friendship, and the assistance of which he
spoke just now..."
"Hush! hush! Gavrila Ardalionovitch!" cried Muishkin in dismay,
but it was too late.
"I said, and I have repeated it over and over again," shouted
Burdovsky furiously, "that I did not want the money. I will not
take it... why...I will not... I am going away!"
He was rushing hurriedly from the terrace, when Lebedeff's nephew
seized his arms, and said something to him in a low voice.
Burdovsky turned quickly, and drawing an addressed but unsealed
envelope from his pocket, he threw it down on a little table
beside the prince.
"There's the money!... How dare you?...The money!"
"Those are the two hundred and fifty roubles you dared to send
him as a charity, by the hands of Tchebaroff," explained
"The article in the newspaper put it at fifty!" cried Colia.
"I beg your pardon," said the prince, going up to Burdovsky. "I
have done you a great wrong, but I did not send you that money as
a charity, believe me. And now I am again to blame. I offended
you just now." (The prince was much distressed; he seemed worn
out with fatigue, and spoke almost incoherently.) "I spoke of
swindling... but I did not apply that to you. I was deceived
.... I said you were... afflicted... like me... But you are
not like me... you give lessons... you support your mother. I
said you had dishonoured your mother, but you love her. She says
so herself... I did not know... Gavrila Ardalionovitch did
not tell me that... Forgive me! I dared to offer you ten
thousand roubles, but I was wrong. I ought to have done it
differently, and now... there is no way of doing it, for you
"I declare, this is a lunatic asylum!" cried Lizabetha
"Of course it is a lunatic asylum!" repeated Aglaya sharply, but
her words were overpowered by other voices. Everybody was talking
loudly, making remarks and comments; some discussed the affair
gravely, others laughed. Ivan Fedorovitch Epanchin was extremely
indignant. He stood waiting for his wife with an air of offended
dignity. Lebedeff's nephew took up the word again.
"Well, prince, to do you justice, you certainly know how to make
the most of your--let us call it infirmity, for the sake of
politeness; you have set about offering your money and friendship
in such a way that no self-respecting man could possibly accept
them. This is an excess of ingenuousness or of malice--you ought
to know better than anyone which word best fits the case."
"Allow me, gentlemen," said Gavrila Ardalionovitch, who had just
examined the contents of the envelope, "there are only a hundred
roubles here, not two hundred and fifty. I point this out,
prince, to prevent misunderstanding."
"Never mind, never mind," said the prince, signing to him to keep
"But we do mind," said Lebedeff's nephew vehemently. "Prince,
your 'never mind' is an insult to us. We have nothing to hide;
our actions can bear daylight. It is true that there are only a
hundred roubles instead of two hundred and fifty, but it is all
"Why, no, it is hardly the same," remarked Gavrila
Ardalionovitch, with an air of ingenuous surprise.
"Don't interrupt, we are not such fools as you think, Mr.
Lawyer," cried Lebedeff's nephew angrily. "Of course there is a
difference between a hundred roubles and two hundred and fifty,
but in this case the principle is the main point, and that a
hundred and fifty roubles are missing is only a side issue. The
point to be emphasized is that Burdovsky will not accept your
highness's charity; he flings it back in your face, and it
scarcely matters if there are a hundred roubles or two hundred
and fifty. Burdovsky has refused ten thousand roubles; you heard
him. He would not have returned even a hundred roubles if he was
dishonest! The hundred and fifty roubles were paid to Tchebaroff
for his travelling expenses. You may jeer at our stupidity and at
our inexperience in business matters; you have done all you could
already to make us look ridiculous; but do not dare to call us
dishonest. The four of us will club together every day to repay
the hundred and fifty roubles to the prince, if we have to pay it
in instalments of a rouble at a time, but we will repay it, with
interest. Burdovsky is poor, he has no millions. After his
journey to see the prince Tchebaroff sent in his bill. We counted
on winning... Who would not have done the same in such a case?"
"Who indeed?" exclaimed Prince S.
"I shall certainly go mad, if I stay here!" cried Lizabetha
"It reminds me," said Evgenie Pavlovitch, laughing, "of the
famous plea of a certain lawyer who lately defended a man for
murdering six people in order to rob them. He excused his client
on the score of poverty. 'It is quite natural,' he said in
conclusion, 'considering the state of misery he was in, that he
should have thought of murdering these six people; which of you,
gentlemen, would not have done the same in his place?'"
"Enough," cried Lizabetha Prokofievna abruptly, trembling with
anger, "we have had enough of this balderdash!"
In a state of terrible excitement she threw back her head, with
flaming eyes, casting looks of contempt and defiance upon the
whole company, in which she could no longer distinguish friend
from foe. She had restrained herself so long that she felt forced
to vent her rage on somebody. Those who knew Lizabetha
Prokofievna saw at once how it was with her. "She flies into
these rages sometimes," said Ivan Fedorovitch to Prince S. the
next day, "but she is not often so violent as she was yesterday;
it does not happen more than once in three years."
"Be quiet, Ivan Fedorovitch! Leave me alone!" cried Mrs.
Epanchin. "Why do you offer me your arm now? You had not sense
enough to take me away before. You are my husband, you are a
father, it was your duty to drag me away by force, if in my folly
I refused to obey you and go quietly. You might at least have
thought of your daughters. We can find our way out now without
your help. Here is shame enough for a year! Wait a moment 'till I
thank the prince! Thank you, prince, for the entertainment you
have given us! It was most amusing to hear these young men... It
is vile, vile! A chaos, a scandal, worse than a nightmare! Is it
possible that there can be many such people on earth? Be quiet,
Aglaya! Be quiet, Alexandra! It is none of your business! Don't
fuss round me like that, Evgenie Pavlovitch; you exasperate me!
So, my dear," she cried, addressing the prince, "you go so far as
to beg their pardon! He says, 'Forgive me for offering you a
fortune.' And you, you mountebank, what are you laughing at?" she
cried, turning suddenly on Lebedeff's nephew. "'We refuse ten
thousand roubles; we do not beseech, we demand!' As if he did not
know that this idiot will call on them tomorrow to renew his
offers of money and friendship. You will, won't you? You will?
Come, will you, or won't you?"
"I shall," said the prince, with gentle humility.
"You hear him! You count upon it, too," she continued, turning
upon Doktorenko. "You are as sure of him now as if you had the
money in your pocket. And there you are playing the swaggerer to
throw dust in our eyes! No, my dear sir, you may take other
people in! I can see through all your airs and graces, I see your
"Lizabetha Prokofievna!" exclaimed the prince.
"Come, Lizabetha Prokofievna, it is quite time for us to be
going, we will take the prince with us," said Prince S. with a
smile, in the coolest possible way.
The girls stood apart, almost frightened; their father was
positively horrified. Mrs. Epanchin's language astonished
everybody. Some who stood a little way off smiled furtively, and
talked in whispers. Lebedeff wore an expression of utmost
"Chaos and scandal are to be found everywhere, madame," remarked
Doktorenko, who was considerably put out of countenance.
"Not like this! Nothing like the spectacle you have just given
us, sir," answered Lizabetha Prokofievna, with a sort of
hysterical rage. "Leave me alone, will you?" she cried violently
to those around her, who were trying to keep her quiet. "No,
Evgenie Pavlovitch, if, as you said yourself just now, a lawyer
said in open court that he found it quite natural that a man
should murder six people because he was in misery, the world must
be coming to an end. I had not heard of it before. Now I
understand everything. And this stutterer, won't he turn out a
murderer?" she cried, pointing to Burdovsky, who was staring at
her with stupefaction. "I bet he will! He will have none of your
money, possibly, he will refuse it because his conscience will
not allow him to accept it, but he will go murdering you by night
and walking off with your cashbox, with a clear conscience! He
does not call it a dishonest action but 'the impulse of a noble
despair'; 'a negation'; or the devil knows what! Bah! everything
is upside down, everyone walks head downwards. A young girl,
brought up at home, suddenly jumps into a cab in the middle of
the street, saying: 'Good-bye, mother, I married Karlitch, or
Ivanitch, the other day!' And you think it quite right? You call
such conduct estimable and natural? The 'woman question'? Look
here," she continued, pointing to Colia, "the other day that
whippersnapper told me that this was the whole meaning of the
'woman question.' But even supposing that your mother is a fool,
you are none the less, bound to treat her with humanity. Why did
you come here tonight so insolently? 'Give us our rights, but
don't dare to speak in our presence. Show us every mark of
deepest respect, while we treat you like the scum of the earth.'
The miscreants have written a tissue of calumny in their article,
and these are the men who seek for truth, and do battle for the
right! 'We do not beseech, we demand, you will get no thanks from
us, because you will be acting to satisfy your own conscience!'
What morality! But, good. heavens! if you declare that the
prince's generosity will, excite no gratitude in you, he might
answer that he is not, bound to be grateful to Pavlicheff, who
also was only satisfying his own conscience. But you counted on
the prince's, gratitude towards Pavlicheff; you never lent him
any money; he owes you nothing; then what were you counting upon
if not on his gratitude? And if you appeal to that sentiment in
others, why should you expect to be exempted from it? They are
mad! They say society is savage and. inhuman because it despises
a young girl who has been seduced. But if you call society
inhuman you imply that the young girl is made to suffer by its
censure. How then, can you hold her up to the scorn of society in
the newspapers without realizing that you are making her
suffering, still greater? Madmen! Vain fools! They don't believe
in God, they don't believe in Christ! But you are so eaten. up by
pride and vanity, that you will end by devouring each other--that
is my prophecy! Is not this absurd? Is it not monstrous chaos?
And after all this, that shameless creature will go and beg their
pardon! Are there many people like you? What are you smiling at?
Because I am not ashamed to disgrace myself before you?--Yes, I
am disgraced--it can't be helped now! But don't you jeer at me,
you scum!" (this was aimed at Hippolyte). "He is almost at his
last gasp, yet he corrupts others. You, have got hold of this lad
"--(she pointed to Colia); "you, have turned his head, you have
taught him to be an atheist, you don't believe in God, and you
are not too old to be whipped, sir! A plague upon you! And so,
Prince Lef Nicolaievitch, you will call on them tomorrow, will
you?" she asked the prince breathlessly, for the second time.
"Then I will never speak to you again." She made a sudden
movement to go, and then turned quickly back. "And you will call
on that atheist?" she continued, pointing to Hippolyte. "How dare
you grin at me like that?" she shouted furiously, rushing at the
invalid, whose mocking smile drove her to distraction.
Exclamations arose on all sides.
"Lizabetha Prokofievna! Lizabetha Prokofievna! Lizabetha
"Mother, this is disgraceful!" cried Aglaya.
Mrs. Epanchin had approached Hippolyte and seized him firmly by
the arm, while her eyes, blazing with fury, were fixed upon his
"Do not distress yourself, Aglaya Ivanovitch," he answered
calmly; "your mother knows that one cannot strike a dying man. I
am ready to explain why I was laughing. I shall be delighted if
you will let me--"
A violent fit of coughing, which lasted a full minute, prevented
him from finishing his sentence.
"He is dying, yet he will not stop holding forth!" cried
Lizabetha Prokofievna. She loosed her hold on his arm, almost
terrified, as she saw him wiping the blood from his lips. "Why do
you talk? You ought to go home to bed."
"So I will," he whispered hoarsely. "As soon as I get home I will
go to bed at once; and I know I shall be dead in a fortnight;
Botkine told me so himself last week. That is why I should like
to say a few farewell words, if you will let me."
"But you must be mad! It is ridiculous! You should take care of
yourself; what is the use of holding a conversation now? Go home
to bed, do!" cried Mrs. Epanchin in horror.
"When I do go to bed I shall never get up again," said Hippolyte,
with a smile. "I meant to take to my bed yesterday and stay there
till I died, but as my legs can still carry me, I put it off for
two days, so as to come here with them to-day--but I am very
"Oh, sit down, sit down, why are you standing?"
Lizabetha Prokofievna placed a chair for him with her own hands.
"Thank you," he said gently. "Sit opposite to me, and let us
talk. We must have a talk now, Lizabetha Prokofievna; I am very
anxious for it." He smiled at her once more. "Remember that
today, for the last time, I am out in the air, and in the company
of my fellow-men, and that in a fortnight I shall I certainly be
no longer in this world. So, in a way, this is my farewell to
nature and to men. I am not very sentimental, but do you know, I
am quite glad that all this has happened at Pavlofsk, where at
least one can see a green tree."
"But why talk now?" replied Lizabetha Prokofievna, more and more
alarmed; "are quite feverish. Just now you would not stop
shouting, and now you can hardly breathe. You are gasping."
"I shall have time to rest. Why will you not grant my last wish?
Do you know, Lizabetha Prokofievna, that I have dreamed of
meeting you for a long while? I had often heard of you from
Colia; he is almost the only person who still comes to see me.
You are an original and eccentric woman; I have seen that for
myself--Do you know, I have even been rather fond of you?"
"Good heavens! And I very nearly struck him!"
"You were prevented by Aglaya Ivanovna. I think I am not
mistaken? That is your daughter, Aglaya Ivanovna? She is so
beautiful that I recognized her directly, although I had never
seen her before. Let me, at least, look on beauty for the last
time in my life," he said with a wry smile. "You are here with
the prince, and your husband, and a large company. Why should you
refuse to gratify my last wish?"
"Give me a chair!" cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, but she seized
one for herself and sat down opposite to Hippolyte. "Colia, you
must go home with him," she commanded and tomorrow I will come
my self. "
"Will you let me ask the prince for a cup of tea?... I am
exhausted. Do you know what you might do, Lizabetha Prokofievna?
I think you wanted to take the prince home with you for tea. Stay
here, and let us spend the evening together. I am sure the prince
will give us all some tea. Forgive me for being so free and easy--
but I know you are kind, and the prince is kind, too. In fact, we
are all good-natured people--it is really quite comical."
The prince bestirred himself to give orders. Lebedeff hurried
out, followed by Vera.
"It is quite true," said Mrs. Epanchin decisively. "Talk, but not
too loud, and don't excite yourself. You have made me sorry for
you. Prince, you don't deserve that I should stay and have tea
with you, yet I will, all the same, but I won't apologize. I
apologize to nobody! Nobody! It is absurd! However, forgive me,
prince, if I blew you up--that is, if you like, of course. But
please don't let me keep anyone," she added suddenly to her
husband and daughters, in a tone of resentment, as though they
had grievously offended her. "I can come home alone quite well."
But they did not let her finish, and gathered round her eagerly.
The prince immediately invited everyone to stay for tea, and
apologized for not having thought of it before. The general
murmured a few polite words, and asked Lizabetha Prokofievna if
she did not feel cold on the terrace. He very nearly asked
Hippolyte how long he had been at the University, but stopped
himself in time. Evgenie Pavlovitch and Prince S. suddenly grew
extremely gay and amiable. Adelaida and Alexandra had not
recovered from their surprise, but it was now mingled with
satisfaction; in short, everyone seemed very much relieved that
Lizabetha Prokofievna had got over her paroxysm. Aglaya alone
still frowned, and sat apart in silence. All the other guests
stayed on as well; no one wanted to go, not even General Ivolgin,
but Lebedeff said something to him in passing which did not seem
to please him, for he immediately went and sulked in a corner.
The prince took care to offer tea to Burdovsky and his friends as
well as the rest. The invitation made them rather uncomfortable.
They muttered that they would wait for Hippolyte, and went and
sat by themselves in a distant corner of the verandah. Tea was
served at once; Lebedeff had no doubt ordered it for himself and
his family before the others arrived. It was striking eleven.
AFTER moistening his lips with the tea which Vera Lebedeff
brought him, Hippolyte set the cup down on the table, and glanced
round. He seemed confused and almost at a loss.
"Just look, Lizabetha Prokofievna," he began, with a kind of
feverish haste; "these china cups are supposed to be extremely
valuable. Lebedeff always keeps them locked up in his china-
cupboard; they were part of his wife's dowry. Yet he has brought
them out tonight--in your honour, of course! He is so pleased--"
He was about to add something else, but could not find the words.
"There, he is feeling embarrassed; I expected as much," whispered
Evgenie Pavlovitch suddenly in the prince's ear. "It is a bad
sign; what do you think? Now, out of spite, he will come out with
something so outrageous that even Lizabetha Prokofievna will not
be able to stand it."
Muishkin looked at him inquiringly.
"You do not care if he does?" added Evgenie Pavlovitch. "Neither
do I; in fact, I should be glad, merely as a proper punishment
for our dear Lizabetha Prokofievna. I am very anxious that she
should get it, without delay, and I shall stay till she does. You
"Never mind; by-and-by; yes, I am not feeling well," said the
prince impatiently, hardly listening. He had just heard Hippolyte
mention his own name.
"You don't believe it?" said the invalid, with a nervous laugh.
"I don't wonder, but the prince will have no difficulty in
believing it; he will not be at all surprised."
"Do you hear, prince--do you hear that?" said Lizabetha
Prokofievna, turning towards him.
There was laughter in the group around her, and Lebedeff stood
before her gesticulating wildly.
"He declares that your humbug of a landlord revised this
gentleman's article--the article that was read aloud just now--in
which you got such a charming dressing-down."
The prince regarded Lebedeff with astonishment.
"Why don't you say something?" cried Lizabetha Prokofievna,
stamping her foot.
"Well," murmured the prince, with his eyes still fixed on
Lebedeff, "I can see now that he did."
"Is it true?" she asked eagerly.
"Absolutely, your excellency," said Lebedeff, without the least
Mrs. Epanchin almost sprang up in amazement at his answer, and at
the assurance of his tone.
"He actually seems to boast of it!" she cried.
"I am base--base!" muttered Lebedeff, beating his breast, and
hanging his head.
"What do I care if you are base or not? He thinks he has only to
say, 'I am base,' and there is an end of it. As to you, prince,
are you not ashamed?--I repeat, are you not ashamed, to mix with
such riff-raff? I will never forgive you!"
"The prince will forgive me!" said Lebedeff with emotional
Keller suddenly left his seat, and approached Lizabetha.
"It was only out of generosity, madame," he said in a resonant
voice, "and because I would not betray a friend in an awkward
position, that I did not mention this revision before; though you
heard him yourself threatening to kick us down the steps. To
clear the matter up, I declare now that I did have recourse to
his assistance, and that I paid him six roubles for it. But I did
not ask him to correct my style; I simply went to him for
information concerning the facts, of which I was ignorant to a
great extent, and which he was competent to give. The story of
the gaiters, the appetite in the Swiss professor's house, the
substitution of fifty roubles for two hundred and fifty--all such
details, in fact, were got from him. I paid him six roubles for
them; but he did not correct the style."
"I must state that I only revised the first part of the article,"
interposed Lebedeff with feverish impatience, while laughter rose
from all around him; "but we fell out in the middle over one
idea, so I never corrected the second part. Therefore I cannot be
held responsible for the numerous grammatical blunders in it."
"That is all he thinks of!" cried Lizabetha Prokofievna.
"May I ask when this article was revised?" said Evgenie
Pavlovitch to Keller.
"Yesterday morning," he replied, "we had an interview which we
all gave our word of honour to keep secret."
"The very time when he was cringing before you and making
protestations of devotion! Oh, the mean wretches! I will have
nothing to do with your Pushkin, and your daughter shall not
set foot in my house!"
Lizabetha Prokofievna was about to rise, when she saw Hippolyte
laughing, and turned upon him with irritation.
"Well, sir, I suppose you wanted to make me look ridiculous?"
"Heaven forbid!" he answered, with a forced smile. "But I am more
than ever struck by your eccentricity, Lizabetha Prokofievna. I
admit that I told you of Lebedeff's duplicity, on purpose. I knew
the effect it would have on you,--on you alone, for the prince
will forgive him. He has probably forgiven him already, and is
racking his brains to find some excuse for him--is not that the
He gasped as he spoke, and his strange agitation seemed to
"Well?" said Mrs. Epanchin angrily, surprised at his tone; "well,
"I have heard many things of the kind about you ...they
delighted me... I have learned to hold you in the highest
esteem," continued Hippolyte.
His words seemed tinged with a kind of sarcastic mockery, yet he
was extremely agitated, casting suspicious glances around him,
growing confused, and constantly losing the thread of his ideas.
All this, together with his consumptive appearance, and the
frenzied expression of his blazing eyes, naturally attracted the
attention of everyone present.
"I might have been surprised (though I admit I know nothing of
the world), not only that you should have stayed on just now in
the company of such people as myself and my friends, who are not
of your class, but that you should let these ... young ladies
listen to such a scandalous affair, though no doubt novel-reading
has taught them all there is to know. I may be mistaken; I hardly
know what I am saying; but surely no one but you would have
stayed to please a whippersnapper (yes, a whippersnapper; I admit
it) to spend the evening and take part in everything--only to be
ashamed of it tomorrow. (I know I express myself badly.) I
admire and appreciate it all extremely, though the expression on
the face of his excellency, your husband, shows that he thinks it
very improper. He-he!" He burst out laughing, and was seized with
a fit of coughing which lasted for two minutes and prevented him
"He has lost his breath now!" said Lizabetha Prokofievna coldly,
looking at him with more curiosity than pity: "Come, my dear boy,
that is quite enough--let us make an end of this."
Ivan Fedorovitch, now quite out of patience, interrupted
suddenly. "Let me remark in my turn, sir," he said in tones of
deep annoyance, "that my wife is here as the guest of Prince Lef
Nicolaievitch, our friend and neighbour, and that in any case,
young man, it is not for you to pass judgment on the conduct of
Lizabetha Prokofievna, or to make remarks aloud in my presence
concerning what feelings you think may be read in my face. Yes,
my wife stayed here," continued the general, with increasing
irritation, "more out of amazement than anything else. Everyone
can understand that a collection of such strange young men would
attract the attention of a person interested in contemporary
life. I stayed myself, just as I sometimes stop to look on in the
street when I see something that may be regarded as-as-as-"
"As a curiosity," suggested Evgenie Pavlovitch, seeing his
excellency involved in a comparison which he could not complete.
"That is exactly the word I wanted," said the general with
satisfaction--" a curiosity. However, the most astonishing and,
if I may so express myself, the most painful, thing in this
matter, is that you cannot even understand, young man, that
Lizabetha Prokofievna, only stayed with you because you are ill,
--if you really are dying--moved by the pity awakened by your
plaintive appeal, and that her name, character, and social
position place her above all risk of contamination. Lizabetha
Prokofievna!" he continued, now crimson with rage, "if you are
coming, we will say goodnight to the prince, and--"
"Thank you for the lesson, general," said Hippolyte, with
unexpected gravity, regarding him thoughtfully.
"Two minutes more, if you please, dear Ivan Fedorovitch," said
Lizabetha Prokofievna to her husband; "it seems to me that he is
in a fever and delirious; you can see by his eyes what a state he
is in; it is impossible to let him go back to Petersburg
tonight. Can you put him up, Lef Nicolaievitch? I hope you are not
bored, dear prince," she added suddenly to Prince S. "Alexandra,
my dear, come here! Your hair is coming down."
She arranged her daughter's hair, which was not in the least
disordered, and gave her a kiss. This was all that she had called
"I thought you were capable of development," said Hippolyte,
coming out of his fit of abstraction. "Yes, that is what I meant
to say," he added, with the satisfaction of one who suddenly
remembers something he had forgotten. "Here is Burdovsky,
sincerely anxious to protect his mother; is not that so? And he
himself is the cause of her disgrace. The prince is anxious to
help Burdovsky and offers him friendship and a large sum of
money, in the sincerity of his heart. And here they stand like
two sworn enemies--ha, ha, ha! You all hate Burdovsky because his
behaviour with regard to his mother is shocking and repugnant to
you; do you not? Is not that true? Is it not true? You all have a
passion for beauty and distinction in outward forms; that is all
you care for, isn't it? I have suspected for a long time that you
cared for nothing else! Well, let me tell you that perhaps there
is not one of you who loved your mother as Burdovsky loved his.
As to you, prince, I know that you have sent money secretly to
Burdovsky's mother through Gania. Well, I bet now," he continued
with an hysterical laugh, "that Burdovsky will accuse you of
indelicacy, and reproach you with a want of respect for his
mother! Yes, that is quite certain! Ha, ha, ha!"
He caught his breath, and began to cough once more.
"Come, that is enough! That is all now; you have no more to say?
Now go to bed; you are burning with fever," said Lizabetha
Prokofievna impatiently. Her anxious eyes had never left the
invalid. "Good heavens, he is going to begin again!"
"You are laughing, I think? Why do you keep laughing at me?" said
Hippolyte irritably to Evgenie Pavlovitch, who certainly was
"I only want to know, Mr. Hippolyte--excuse me, I forget your
"Mr. Terentieff," said the prince.
"Oh yes, Mr. Terentieff. Thank you prince. I heard it just now,
but had forgotten it. I want to know, Mr. Terentieff, if what I
have heard about you is true. It seems you are convinced that if
you could speak to the people from a window for a quarter of an
hour, you could make them all adopt your views and follow you?"
"I may have said so," answered Hippolyte, as if trying to
remember. "Yes, I certainly said so," he continued with sudden
animation, fixing an unflinching glance on his questioner. "What
"Nothing. I was only seeking further information, to put the
Evgenie Pavlovitch was silent, but Hippolyte kept his eyes fixed
upon him, waiting impatiently for more.
"Well, have you finished?" said Lizabetha Prokofievna to Evgenie.
"Make haste, sir; it is time he went to bed. Have you more to
say?" She was very angry.
"Yes, I have a little more," said Evgenie Pavlovitch, with a
smile. "It seems to me that all you and your friends have said,
Mr. Terentieff, and all you have just put forward with such
undeniable talent, may be summed up in the triumph of right above
all, independent of everything else, to the exclusion of
everything else; perhaps even before having discovered what
constitutes the right. I may be mistaken?"
"You are certainly mistaken; I do not even understand you. What
Murmurs arose in the neighbourhood of Burdovsky and his
companions; Lebedeff's nephew protested under his breath.
"I have nearly finished," replied Evgenie Pavlovitch.
"I will only remark that from these premisses one could conclude
that might is right--I mean the right of the clenched fist, and of
personal inclination. Indeed, the world has often come to that
conclusion. Prudhon upheld that might is right. In the American
War some of the most advanced Liberals took sides with the
planters on the score that the blacks were an inferior race to
the whites, and that might was the right of the white race."
"You mean, no doubt, that you do not deny that might is right?"
"You are at least logical. I would only point out that from the
right of might, to the right of tigers and crocodiles, or even
Daniloff and Gorsky, is but a step."
"I know nothing about that; what else?"
Hippolyte was scarcely listening. He kept saying well?" and "what
else?" mechanically, without the least curiosity, and by mere
force of habit.
"Why, nothing else; that is all."
"However, I bear you no grudge," said Hippolyte suddenly, and,
hardly conscious of what he was doing, he held out his hand with
a smile. The gesture took Evgenie Pavlovitch by surprise, but
with the utmost gravity he touched the hand that was offered him
in token of forgiveness.
"I can but thank you," he said, in a tone too respectful to be
sincere, "for your kindness in letting me speak, for I have often
noticed that our Liberals never allow other people to have an
opinion of their own, and immediately answer their opponents with
abuse, if they do not have recourse to arguments of a still more
"What you say is quite true," observed General Epanchin; then,
clasping his hands behind his back, he returned to his place on
the terrace steps, where he yawned with an air of boredom.
"Come, sir, that will do; you weary me," said Lizabetha
Prokofievna suddenly to Evgenie Pavlovitch.
Hippolyte rose all at once, looking troubled and almost
"It is time for me to go," he said, glancing round in perplexity.
"I have detained you... I wanted to tell you everything... I
thought you all ... for the last time ... it was a whim..."
He evidently had sudden fits of returning animation, when he
awoke from his semi-delirium; then, recovering full self-
possession for a few moments, he would speak, in disconnected
phrases which had perhaps haunted him for a long while on his bed
of suffering, during weary, sleepless nights.
"Well, good-bye," he said abruptly. "You think it is easy for me
to say good-bye to you? Ha, ha!"
Feeling that his question was somewhat gauche, he smiled angrily.
Then as if vexed that he could not ever express what he really
meant, he said irritably, in a loud voice:
"Excellency, I have the honour of inviting you to my funeral;
that is, if you will deign to honour it with your presence. I
invite you all, gentlemen, as well as the general."
He burst out laughing again, but it was the laughter of a madman.
Lizabetha Prokofievna approached him anxiously and seized his
arm. He stared at her for a moment, still laughing, but soon his
face grew serious.
"Do you know that I came here to see those trees?" pointing to
the trees in the park. "It is not ridiculous, is it? Say that it
is not ridiculous!" he demanded urgently of Lizabetha
Prokofievna. Then he seemed to be plunged in thought. A moment
later he raised his head, and his eyes sought for someone. He was
looking for Evgenie Pavlovitch, who was close by on his right as
before, but he had forgotten this, and his eyes ranged over the
assembled company. "Ah! you have not gone!" he said, when he
caught sight of him at last. "You kept on laughing just now,
because I thought of speaking to the people from the window for a
quarter of an hour. But I am not eighteen, you know; lying on
that bed, and looking out of that window, I have thought of all
sorts of things for such a long time that ... a dead man has no
age, you know. I was saying that to myself only last week, when I
was awake in the night. Do you know what you fear most? You fear
our sincerity more than anything, although you despise us! The
idea crossed my mind that night... You thought I was making
fun of you just now, Lizabetha Prokofievna? No, the idea of
mockery was far from me; I only meant to praise you. Colia told
me the prince called you a child--very well--but let me see, I
had something else to say..." He covered his face with his
hands and tried to collect his thoughts.
"Ah, yes--you were going away just now, and I thought to myself:
'I shall never see these people again-never again! This is the
last time I shall see the trees, too. I shall see nothing after
this but the red brick wall of Meyer's house opposite my window.
Tell them about it--try to tell them,' I thought. 'Here is a
beautiful young girl--you are a dead man; make them understand
that. Tell them that a dead man may say anything--and Mrs. Grundy
will not be angry--ha-ha! You are not laughing?" He looked
anxiously around. "But you know I get so many queer ideas, lying
there in bed. I have grown convinced that nature is full of
mockery--you called me an atheist just now, but you know this
nature ... why are you laughing again? You are very cruel!" he
added suddenly, regarding them all with mournful reproach. "I
have not corrupted Colia," he concluded in a different and very
serious tone, as if remembering something again.
"Nobody here is laughing at you. Calm yourself" said Lizabetha
Prokofievna, much moved. "You shall see a new doctor tomorrow;
the other was mistaken; but sit down, do not stand like that! You
are delirious--Oh, what shall we do with him she cried in
anguish, as she made him sit down again in the arm-chair.
A tear glistened on her cheek. At the sight of it Hippolyte
seemed amazed. He lifted his hand timidly and, touched the tear
with his finger, smiling like a child.
"I ... you," he began joyfully. "You cannot tell how I ... he
always spoke so enthusiastically of you, Colia here; I liked his
enthusiasm. I was not corrupting him! But I must leave him, too--
I wanted to leave them all--there was not one of them--not one! I
wanted to be a man of action--I had a right to be. Oh! what a
lot of things I wanted! Now I want nothing; I renounce all my
wants; I swore to myself that I would want nothing; let them seek
the truth without me! Yes, nature is full of mockery! Why"--he
continued with sudden warmth--"does she create the choicest
beings only to mock at them? The only human being who is
recognized as perfect, when nature showed him to mankind, was
given the mission to say things which have caused the shedding of
so much blood that it would have drowned mankind if it had all
been shed at once! Oh! it is better for me to die! I should tell
some dreadful lie too; nature would so contrive it! I have
corrupted nobody. I wanted to live for the happiness of all men,
to find and spread the truth. I used to look out of my window at
the wall of Meyer's house, and say to myself that if I could
speak for a quarter of an hour I would convince the whole world,
and now for once in my life I have come into contact with ...
you--if not with the others! And what is the result? Nothing! The
sole result is that you despise me! Therefore I must be a fool, I
am useless, it is time I disappeared! And I shall leave not even
a memory! Not a sound, not a trace, not a single deed! I have not
spread a single truth! ... Do not laugh at the fool! Forget
him! Forget him forever! I beseech you, do not be so cruel as to
remember! Do you know that if I were not consumptive, I would
Though he seemed to wish to say much more, he became silent. He
fell back into his chair, and, covering his face with his hands,
began to sob like a little child.
"Oh! what on earth are we to do with him?" cried Lizabetha
Prokofievna. She hastened to him and pressed his head against her
bosom, while he sobbed convulsively.
"Come, come, come! There, you must not cry, that will do. You are
a good child! God will forgive you, because you knew no better.
Come now, be a man! You know presently you will be ashamed."
Hippolyte raised his head with an effort, saying:
"I have little brothers and sisters, over there, poor avid
innocent. She will corrupt them! You are a saint! You are a child
yourself--save them! Snatch them from that ... she is ... it
is shameful! Oh! help them! God will repay you a hundredfold. For
the love of God, for the love of Christ!"
"Speak, Ivan Fedorovitch! What are we to do?" cried Lizabetha
Prokofievna, irritably. "Please break your majestic silence! I
tell you, if you cannot come to some decision, I will stay here
all night myself. You have tyrannized over me enough, you
She spoke angrily, and in great excitement, and expected an
immediate reply. But in such a case, no matter how many are
present, all prefer to keep silence: no one will take the
initiative, but all reserve their comments till afterwards. There
were some present--Varvara Ardalionovna, for instance--who would
have willingly sat there till morning without saying a word.
Varvara had sat apart all the evening without opening her lips,
but she listened to everything with the closest attention;
perhaps she had her reasons for so doing.
"My dear," said the general, "it seems to me that a sick-nurse
would be of more use here than an excitable person like you.
Perhaps it would be as well to get some sober, reliable man for
the night. In any case we must consult the prince, and leave the
patient to rest at once. Tomorrow we can see what can be done
"It is nearly midnight; we are going. Will he come with us, or is
he to stay here?" Doktorenko asked crossly of the prince.
"You can stay with him if you like," said Muishkin.
"There is plenty of room here."
Suddenly, to the astonishment of all, Keller went quickly up to
"Excellency," he said, impulsively, "if you want a reliable man
for the night, I am ready to sacrifice myself for my friend--such
a soul as he has! I have long thought him a great man,
excellency! My article showed my lack of education, but when he
criticizes he scatters pearls!"
Ivan Fedorovitch turned from the boxer with a gesture of despair.
"I shall be delighted if he will stay; it would certainly be
difficult for him to get back to Petersburg," said the prince, in
answer to the eager questions of Lizabetha Prokofievna.
"But you are half asleep, are you not? If you don't want him, I
will take him back to my house! Why, good gracious! He can hardly
stand up himself! What is it? Are you ill?"
Not finding the prince on his death-bed, Lizabetha Prokofievna
had been misled by his appearance to think him much better than
he was. But his recent illness, the painful memories attached to
it, the fatigue of this evening, the incident with "Pavlicheff's
son," and now this scene with Hippolyte, had all so worked on his
oversensitive nature that he was now almost in a fever. Moreover,
anew trouble, almost a fear, showed itself in his eyes; he
watched Hippolyte anxiously as if expecting something further.
Suddenly Hippolyte arose. His face, shockingly pale, was that of
a man overwhelmed with shame and despair. This was shown chiefly
in the look of fear and hatred which he cast upon the assembled
company, and in the wild smile upon his trembling lips. Then he
cast down his eyes, and with the same smile, staggered towards
Burdovsky and Doktorenko, who stood at the entrance to the
verandah. He had decided to go with them.
"There! that is what I feared!" cried the prince. "It was
Hippolyte turned upon him, a prey to maniacal rage, which set all
the muscles of his face quivering.
"Ah! that is what you feared! It was inevitable, you say! Well,
let me tell you that if I hate anyone here--I hate you all," he
cried, in a hoarse, strained voice-" but you, you, with your
jesuitical soul, your soul of sickly sweetness, idiot, beneficent
millionaire--I hate you worse than anything or anyone on earth! I
saw through you and hated you long ago; from the day I first
heard of you. I hated you with my whole heart. You have contrived
all this! You have driven me into this state! You have made a
dying man disgrace himself. You, you, you are the cause of my
abject cowardice! I would kill you if I remained alive! I do not
want your benefits; I will accept none from anyone; do you hear?
Not from any one! I want nothing! I was delirious, do not dare to
triumph! I curse every one of you, once for all!"
Breath failed him here, and he was obliged to stop.
"He is ashamed of his tears!" whispered Lebedeff to Lizabetha
Prokofievna. "It was inevitable. Ah! what a wonderful man the
prince is! He read his very soul."
But Mrs. Epanchin would not deign to look at Lebedeff. Drawn up
haughtily, with her head held high, she gazed at the "riff-raff,"
with scornful curiosity. When Hippolyte had finished, Ivan
Fedorovitch shrugged his shoulders, and his wife looked him
angrily up and down, as if to demand the meaning of his movement.
Then she turned to the prince.
"Thanks, prince, many thanks, eccentric friend of the family, for
the pleasant evening you have provided for us. I am sure you are
quite pleased that you have managed to mix us up with your
extraordinary affairs. It is quite enough, dear family friend;
thank you for giving us an opportunity of getting to know you so
She arranged her cloak with hands that trembled with anger as she
waited for the "riff-raff "to go. The cab which Lebedeff's son
had gone to fetch a quarter of an hour ago, by Doktorenko's
order, arrived at that moment. The general thought fit to put in
a word after his wife.
"Really, prince, I hardly expected after--after all our friendly
intercourse-- and you see, Lizabetha Prokofievna--"
"Papa, how can you?" cried Adelaida, walking quickly up to the
prince and holding out her hand.
He smiled absently at her; then suddenly he felt a burning
sensation in his ear as an angry voice whispered:
"If you do not turn those dreadful people out of the house this
very instant, I shall hate you all my life--all my life!" It was
Aglaya. She seemed almost in a frenzy, but she turned away before
the prince could look at her. However, there was no one left to
turn out of the house, for they had managed meanwhile to get
Hippolyte into the cab, and it had driven off.
"Well, how much longer is this going to last, Ivan Fedorovitch?
What do you think? Shall I soon be delivered from these odious
"My dear, I am quite ready; naturally ... the prince."
Ivan Fedorovitch held out his hand to Muishkin, but ran after his
wife, who was leaving with every sign of violent indignation,
before he had time to shake it. Adelaida, her fiance, and
Alexandra, said good-bye to their host with sincere friendliness.
Evgenie Pavlovitch did the same, and he alone seemed in good
"What I expected has happened! But I am sorry, you poor fellow,
that you should have had to suffer for it," he murmured, with a
most charming smile.
Aglaya left without saying good-bye. But the evening was not to
end without a last adventure. An unexpected meeting was yet in
store for Lizabetha Prokofievna.
She had scarcely descended the terrace steps leading to the high
road that skirts the park at Pavlofsk, when suddenly there dashed
by a smart open carriage, drawn by a pair of beautiful white
horses. Having passed some ten yards beyond the house, the
carriage suddenly drew up, and one of the two ladies seated in it
turned sharp round as though she had just caught sight of some
acquaintance whom she particularly wished to see.
"Evgenie Pavlovitch! Is that you?" cried a clear, sweet voice,
which caused the prince, and perhaps someone else, to tremble.
"Well, I AM glad I've found you at last! I've sent to town for
you twice today myself! My messengers have been searching for
Evgenie Pavlovitch stood on the steps like one struck by
lightning. Mrs. Epanchin stood still too, but not with the
petrified expression of Evgenie. She gazed haughtily at the
audacious person who had addressed her companion, and then turned
a look of astonishment upon Evgenie himself.
"There's news!" continued the clear voice. "You need not be
anxious about Kupferof's IOU's--Rogojin has bought them up. I
persuaded him to!--I dare say we shall settle Biscup too, so it's
all right, you see! Au revoir, tomorrow! And don't worry!" The
carriage moved on, and disappeared.
"The woman's mad!" cried Evgenie, at last, crimson with anger,
and looking confusedly around. "I don't know what she's talking
about! What IOU's? Who is she?" Mrs. Epanchin continued to watch
his face for a couple of seconds; then she marched briskly and
haughtily away towards her own house, the rest following her.
A minute afterwards, Evgenie Pavlovitch reappeared on the
terrace, in great agitation.
"Prince," he said, "tell me the truth; do you know what all this
"I know nothing whatever about it!" replied the latter, who was,
himself, in a state of nervous excitement.
"Well, nor do I!" said Evgenie Pavlovitch, laughing suddenly. "I
haven't the slightest knowledge of any such IOU's as she
mentioned, I swear I haven't--What's the matter, are you
"Oh, no-no-I'm all right, I assure you!"
THE anger of the Epanchin family was unappeased for three days.
As usual the prince reproached himself, and had expected
punishment, but he was inwardly convinced that Lizabetha
Prokofievna could not be seriously angry with him, and that she
probably was more angry with herself. He was painfully surprised,
therefore, when three days passed with no word from her. Other
things also troubled and perplexed him, and one of these grew
more important in his eyes as the days went by. He had begun to
blame himself for two opposite tendencies--on the one hand to
extreme, almost "senseless," confidence in his fellows, on the
other to a "vile, gloomy suspiciousness."
By the end of the third day the incident of the eccentric lady
and Evgenie Pavlovitch had attained enormous and mysterious
proportions in his mind. He sorrowfully asked himself whether he
had been the cause of this new "monstrosity," or was it ... but
he refrained from saying who else might be in fault. As for the
letters N.P.B., he looked on that as a harmless joke, a mere
childish piece of mischief--so childish that he felt it would be
shameful, almost dishonourable, to attach any importance to it.
The day after these scandalous events, however, the prince had
the honour of receiving a visit from Adelaida and her fiance,
Prince S. They came, ostensibly, to inquire after his health.
They had wandered out for a walk, and called in "by accident,"
and talked for almost the whole of the time they were with him
about a certain most lovely tree in the park, which Adelaida had
set her heart upon for a picture. This, and a little amiable
conversation on Prince S.'s part, occupied the time, and not a
word was said about last evening's episodes. At length Adelaida
burst out laughing, apologized, and explained that they had come
incognito; from which, and from the circumstance that they said
nothing about the prince's either walking back with them or
coming to see them later on, the latter inferred that he was in
Mrs. Epanchin's black books. Adelaida mentioned a watercolour
that she would much like to show him, and explained that she
would either send it by Colia, or bring it herself the next day--
which to the prince seemed very suggestive.
At length, however, just as the visitors were on the point of
departing, Prince S. seemed suddenly to recollect himself. "Oh
yes, by-the-by," he said, "do you happen to know, my dear Lef
Nicolaievitch, who that lady was who called out to Evgenie
Pavlovitch last night, from the carriage?"
"It was Nastasia Philipovna," said the prince; "didn't you know
that? I cannot tell you who her companion was."
"But what on earth did she mean? I assure you it is a real riddle
to me--to me, and to others, too!" Prince S. seemed to be under
the influence of sincere astonishment.
"She spoke of some bills of Evgenie Pavlovitch's," said the
prince, simply, "which Rogojin had bought up from someone; and
implied that Rogojin would not press him."
"Oh, I heard that much, my dear fellow! But the thing is so
impossibly absurd! A man of property like Evgenie to give IOU's
to a money-lender, and to be worried about them! It is
ridiculous. Besides, he cannot possibly be on such intimate terms
with Nastasia Philipovna as she gave us to understand; that's the
principal part of the mystery! He has given me his word that he
knows nothing whatever about the matter, and of course I believe
him. Well, the question is, my dear prince, do you know anything
about it? Has any sort of suspicion of the meaning of it come
"No, I know nothing whatever about it. I assure you I had nothing
at all to do with it."
"Oh, prince, how strange you have become! I assure you, I hardly
know you for your old self. How can you suppose that I ever
suggested you could have had a finger in such a business? But you
are not quite yourself today, I can see." He embraced the
prince, and kissed him.
"What do you mean, though," asked Muishkin, "'by such a
business'? I don't see any particular 'business' about it at
"Oh, undoubtedly, this person wished somehow, and for some
reason, to do Evgenie Pavlovitch a bad turn, by attributing to
him--before witnesses--qualities which he neither has nor can
have," replied Prince S. drily enough.
Muiskhin looked disturbed, but continued to gaze intently and
questioningly into Prince S.'s face. The latter, however,
"Then it was not simply a matter of bills?" Muishkin said at
last, with some impatience. "It was not as she said?"
"But I ask you, my dear sir, how can there be anything in common
between Evgenie Pavlovitch, and--her, and again Rogojin? I tell
you he is a man of immense wealth--as I know for a fact; and he
has further expectations from his uncle. Simply Nastasia
Prince S. paused, as though unwilling to continue talking about
"Then at all events he knows her!" remarked the prince, after a
"Oh, that may be. He may have known her some time ago--two or
three years, at least. He used to know Totski. But it is
impossible that there should be any intimacy between them. She
has not even been in the place--many people don't even know that
she has returned from Moscow! I have only observed her carriage
about for the last three days or so."
"It's a lovely carriage," said Adelaida.
"Yes, it was a beautiful turn-out, certainly!"
The visitors left the house, however, on no less friendly terms
than before. But the visit was of the greatest importance to the
prince, from his own point of view. Admitting that he had his
suspicions, from the moment of the occurrence of last night,
perhaps even before, that Nastasia had some mysterious end in
view, yet this visit confirmed his suspicions and justified his
fears. It was all clear to him; Prince S. was wrong, perhaps, in
his view of the matter, but he was somewhere near the truth, and
was right in so far as that he understood there to be an intrigue
of some sort going on. Perhaps Prince S. saw it all more clearly
than he had allowed his hearers to understand. At all events,
nothing could be plainer than that he and Adelaida had come for
the express purpose of obtaining explanations, and that they
suspected him of being concerned in the affair. And if all this
were so, then SHE must have some terrible object in view! What
was it? There was no stopping HER, as Muishkin knew from
experience, in the performance of anything she had set her mind
on! "Oh, she is mad, mad!" thought the poor prince.
But there were many other puzzling occurrences that day, which
required immediate explanation, and the prince felt very sad. A
visit from Vera Lebedeff distracted him a little. She brought the
infant Lubotchka with her as usual, and talked cheerfully for
some time. Then came her younger sister, and later the brother,
who attended a school close by. He informed Muishkin that his
father had lately found a new interpretation of the star called
"wormwood," which fell upon the water-springs, as described in
the Apocalypse. He had decided that it meant the network of
railroads spread over the face of Europe at the present time. The
prince refused to believe that Lebedeff could have given such an
interpretation, and they decided to ask him about it at the
earliest opportunity. Vera related how Keller had taken up his
abode with them on the previous evening. She thought he would
remain for some time, as he was greatly pleased with the society
of General Ivolgin and of the whole family. But he declared that
he had only come to them in order to complete his education!
The prince always enjoyed the company of Lebedeff's children, and
today it was especially welcome, for Colia did not appear all
day. Early that morning he had started for Petersburg. Lebedeff
also was away on business. But Gavrila Ardalionovitch had
promised to visit Muishkin, who eagerly awaited his coming.
About seven in the evening, soon after dinner, he arrived. At the
first glance it struck the prince that he, at any rate, must know
all the details of last night's affair. Indeed, it would have
been impossible for him to remain in ignorance considering the
intimate relationship between him, Varvara Ardalionovna, and
Ptitsin. But although he and the prince were intimate, in a
sense, and although the latter had placed the Burdovsky affair in
his hands-and this was not the only mark of confidence he had
received--it seemed curious how many matters there were that were
tacitly avoided in their conversations. Muishkin thought that
Gania at times appeared to desire more cordiality and frankness.
It was apparent now, when he entered, that he, was convinced that
the moment for breaking the ice between them had come at last.
But all the same Gania was in haste, for his sister was waiting
at Lebedeff's to consult him on an urgent matter of business. If