Part 8 out of 15
he had anticipated impatient questions, or impulsive confidences,
he was soon undeceived. The prince was thoughtful, reserved, even
a little absent-minded, and asked none of the questions--one in
particular--that Gania had expected. So he imitated the prince's
demeanour, and talked fast and brilliantly upon all subjects but
the one on which their thoughts were engaged. Among other things
Gania told his host that Nastasia Philipovna had been only four
days in Pavlofsk, and that everyone was talking about her
already. She was staying with Daria Alexeyevna, in an ugly little
house in Mattrossky Street, but drove about in the smartest
carriage in the place. A crowd of followers had pursued her from
the first, young and old. Some escorted her on horse-back when
she took the air in her carriage.
She was as capricious as ever in the choice of her acquaintances,
and admitted few into her narrow circle. Yet she already had a
numerous following and many champions on whom she could depend in
time of need. One gentleman on his holiday had broken off his
engagement on her account, and an old general had quarrelled with
his only son for the same reason.
She was accompanied sometimes in her carriage by a girl of
sixteen, a distant relative of her hostess. This young lady sang
very well; in fact, her music had given a kind of notoriety to
their little house. Nastasia, however, was behaving with great
discretion on the whole. She dressed quietly, though with such
taste as to drive all the ladies in Pavlofsk mad with envy, of
that, as well as of her beauty and her carriage and horses.
"As for yesterday's episode," continued Gania, "of course it was
pre-arranged." Here he paused, as though expecting to be asked
how he knew that. But the prince did not inquire. Concerning
Evgenie Pavlovitch, Gania stated, without being asked, that he
believed the former had not known Nastasia Philipovna in past
years, but that he had probably been introduced to her by
somebody in the park during these four days. As to the question
of the IOU's she had spoken of, there might easily be something
in that; for though Evgenie was undoubtedly a man of wealth, yet
certain of his affairs were equally undoubtedly in disorder.
Arrived at this interesting point, Gania suddenly broke off, and
said no more about Nastasia's prank of the previous evening.
At last Varvara Ardalionovna came in search of her brother, and
remained for a few minutes. Without Muishkin's asking her, she
informed him that Evgenie Pavlovitch was spending the day in
Petersburg, and perhaps would remain there over tomorrow; and
that her husband had also gone to town, probably in connection
with Evgenie Pavlovitch's affairs.
"Lizabetha Prokofievna is in a really fiendish temper today,"
she added, as she went out, "but the most curious thing is that
Aglaya has quarrelled with her whole family; not only with her
father and mother, but with her sisters also. It is not a good
sign." She said all this quite casually, though it was extremely
important in the eyes of the prince, and went off with her
brother. Regarding the episode of "Pavlicheff's son," Gania had
been absolutely silent, partly from a kind of false modesty,
partly, perhaps, to "spare the prince's feelings." The latter,
however, thanked him again for the trouble he had taken in the
Muishkin was glad enough to be left alone. He went out of the
garden, crossed the road, and entered the park. He wished to
reflect, and to make up his mind as to a certain "step." This
step was one of those things, however, which are not thought out,
as a rule, but decided for or against hastily, and without much
reflection. The fact is, he felt a longing to leave all this and
go away--go anywhere, if only it were far enough, and at once,
without bidding farewell to anyone. He felt a presentiment that
if he remained but a few days more in this place, and among these
people, he would be fixed there irrevocably and permanently.
However, in a very few minutes he decided that to run away was
impossible; that it would be cowardly; that great problems lay
before him, and that he had no right to leave them unsolved, or
at least to refuse to give all his energy and strength to the
attempt to solve them. Having come to this determination, he
turned and went home, his walk having lasted less than a quarter
of an hour. At that moment he was thoroughly unhappy.
Lebedeff had not returned, so towards evening Keller managed to
penetrate into the prince's apartments. He was not drunk, but in
a confidential and talkative mood. He announced that he had come
to tell the story of his life to Muishkin, and had only remained
at Pavlofsk for that purpose. There was no means of turning him
out; nothing short of an earthquake would have removed him.
In the manner of one with long hours before him, he began his
history; but after a few incoherent words he jumped to the
conclusion, which was that "having ceased to believe in God
Almighty, he had lost every vestige of morality, and had gone so
far as to commit a theft." "Could you imagine such a thing?" said
"Listen to me, Keller," returned the prince. "If I were in your
place, I should not acknowledge that unless it were absolutely
necessary for some reason. But perhaps you are making yourself
out to be worse than you are, purposely?"
"I should tell it to no one but yourself, prince, and I only name
it now as a help to my soul's evolution. When I die, that secret
will die with me! But, excellency, if you knew, if you only had
the least idea, how difficult it is to get money nowadays! Where
to find it is the question. Ask for a loan, the answer is always
the same: 'Give us gold, jewels, or diamonds, and it will be
quite easy.' Exactly what one has not got! Can you picture that
to yourself? I got angry at last, and said, 'I suppose you would
accept emeralds?' 'Certainly, we accept emeralds with pleasure.
Yes!' 'Well, that's all right,' said I. 'Go to the devil, you den
of thieves!' And with that I seized my hat, and walked out."
"Had you any emeralds?" asked the prince.
"What? I have emeralds? Oh, prince! with what simplicity, with
what almost pastoral simplicity, you look upon life!"
Could not something be made of this man under good influences?
asked the prince of himself, for he began to feel a kind of pity
for his visitor. He thought little of the value of his own
personal influence, not from a sense of humility, but from his
peculiar way of looking at things in general. Imperceptibly the
conversation grew more animated and more interesting, so that
neither of the two felt anxious to bring it to a close. Keller
confessed, with apparent sincerity, to having been guilty of many
acts of such a nature that it astonished the prince that he could
mention them, even to him. At every fresh avowal he professed the
deepest repentance, and described himself as being "bathed in
tears"; but this did not prevent him from putting on a boastful
air at times, and some of his stories were so absurdly comical
that both he and the prince laughed like madmen.
"One point in your favour is that you seem to have a child-like
mind, and extreme truthfulness," said the prince at last. "Do you
know that that atones for much?"
"I am assuredly noble-minded, and chivalrous to a degree!" said
Keller, much softened. "But, do you know, this nobility of mind
exists in a dream, if one may put it so? It never appears in
practice or deed. Now, why is that? I can never understand."
"Do not despair. I think we may say without fear of deceiving
ourselves, that you have now given a fairly exact account of your
life. I, at least, think it would be impossible to add much to
what you have just told me."
"Impossible?" cried Keller, almost pityingly. "Oh prince, how
little you really seem to understand human nature!"
"Is there really much more to be added?" asked the prince, with
mild surprise. "Well, what is it you really want of me? Speak
out; tell me why you came to make your confession to me?"
"What did I want? Well, to begin with, it is good to meet a man
like you. It is a pleasure to talk over my faults with you. I
know you for one of the best of men ... and then ... then ..."
He hesitated, and appeared so much embarrassed that the prince
helped him out.
"Then you wanted me to lend you money?"
The words were spoken in a grave tone, and even somewhat shyly.
Keller started, gave an astonished look at the speaker, and
thumped the table with his fist.
"Well, prince, that's enough to knock me down! It astounds me!
Here you are, as simple and innocent as a knight of the golden
age, and yet ... yet ... you read a man's soul like a
psychologist! Now, do explain it to me, prince, because I ... I
really do not understand! ... Of course, my aim was to borrow
money all along, and you ... you asked the question as if there
was nothing blameable in it--as if you thought it quite natural."
"Yes ... from you it is quite natural."
"And you are not offended?"
"Why should I be offended?"
"Well, just listen, prince. I remained here last evening, partly
because I have a great admiration for the French archbishop
Bourdaloue. I enjoyed a discussion over him till three o'clock in
the morning, with Lebedeff; and then ...
then--I swear by all I hold sacred that I am telling you the
truth--then I wished to develop my soul in this frank and
heartfelt confession to you. This was my thought as I was sobbing
myself to sleep at dawn. Just as I was losing consciousness,
tears in my soul, tears on my face (I remember how I lay there
sobbing), an idea from hell struck me. 'Why not, after
confessing, borrow money from him?' You see, this confession was
a kind of masterstroke; I intended to use it as a means to your
good grace and favour--and then--then I meant to walk off with a
hundred and fifty roubles. Now, do you not call that base?"
"It is hardly an exact statement of the case," said the prince in
reply. "You have confused your motives and ideas, as I need
scarcely say too often happens to myself. I can assure you,
Keller, I reproach myself bitterly for it sometimes. When you
were talking just now I seemed to be listening to something about
myself. At times I have imagined that all men were the same," he
continued earnestly, for he appeared to be much interested in the
conversation, "and that consoled me in a certain degree, for a
DOUBLE motive is a thing most difficult to fight against. I have
tried, and I know. God knows whence they arise, these ideas that
you speak of as base. I fear these double motives more than ever
just now, but I am not your judge, and in my opinion it is going
too far to give the name of baseness to it--what do you think?
You were going to employ your tears as a ruse in order to borrow
money, but you also say--in fact, you have sworn to the fact--
that independently of this your confession was made with an
honourable motive. As for the money, you want it for drink, do
you not? After your confession, that is weakness, of course; but,
after all, how can anyone give up a bad habit at a moment's
notice? It is impossible. What can we do? It is best, I think, to
leave the matter to your own conscience. How does it seem to
you?" As he concluded the prince looked curiously at Keller;
evidently this problem of double motives had often been
considered by him before.
"Well, how anybody can call you an idiot after that, is more than
I can understand!" cried the boxer.
The prince reddened slightly.
"Bourdaloue, the archbishop, would not have spared a man like
me," Keller continued, "but you, you have judged me with
humanity. To show how grateful I am, and as a punishment, I will
not accept a hundred and fifty roubles. Give me twenty-five--that
will be enough; it is all I really need, for a fortnight at
least. I will not ask you for more for a fortnight. I should like
to have given Agatha a present, but she does not really deserve
it. Oh, my dear prince, God bless you!"
At this moment Lebedeff appeared, having just arrived from
Petersburg. He frowned when he saw the twenty-five rouble note in
Keller's hand, but the latter, having got the money, went away at
once. Lebedeff began to abuse him.
"You are unjust; I found him sincerely repentant," observed the
prince, after listening for a time.
"What is the good of repentance like that? It is the same exactly
as mine yesterday, when I said, 'I am base, I am base,'--words,
and nothing more!"
"Then they were only words on your part? I thought, on the
"Well, I don't mind telling you the truth--you only! Because you
see through a man somehow. Words and actions, truth and
falsehood, are all jumbled up together in me, and yet I am
perfectly sincere. I feel the deepest repentance, believe it or
not, as you choose; but words and lies come out in the infernal
craving to get the better of other people. It is always there--the
notion of cheating people, and of using my repentant tears to my
own advantage! I assure you this is the truth, prince! I would
not tell any other man for the world! He would laugh and jeer at
me--but you, you judge a man humanely."
"Why, Keller said the same thing to me nearly word for word a few
minutes ago!" cried Muishkin. "And you both seem inclined to
boast about it! You astonish me, but I think he is more sincere
than you, for you make a regular trade of it. Oh, don't put on
that pathetic expression, and don't put your hand on your heart!
Have you anything to say to me? You have not come for nothing..."
Lebedeff grinned and wriggled.
"I have been waiting all day for you, because I want to ask you a
question; and, for once in your life, please tell me the truth at
once. Had you anything to do with that affair of the carriage
Lebedeff began to grin again, rubbed his hands, sneezed, but
spoke not a word in reply.
"I see you had something to do with it."
"Indirectly, quite indirectly! I am speaking the truth--I am
indeed! I merely told a certain person that I had people in my
house, and that such and such personages might be found among
"I am aware that you sent your son to that house--he told me so
himself just now, but what is this intrigue?" said the prince,
"It is not my intrigue!" cried Lebedeff, waving his hand.
"It was engineered by other people, and is, properly speaking,
rather a fantasy than an intrigue!"
"But what is it all about? Tell me, for Heaven's sake! Cannot you
understand how nearly it touches me? Why are they blackening
Evgenie Pavlovitch's reputation?"
Lebedeff grimaced and wriggled again.
"Prince!" said he. "Excellency! You won't let me tell you the
whole truth; I have tried to explain; more than once I have
begun, but you have not allowed me to go on..."
The prince gave no answer, and sat deep in thought. Evidently he
was struggling to decide.
"Very well! Tell me the truth," he said, dejectedly.
"Aglaya Ivanovna ..." began Lebedeff, promptly.
"Be silent! At once!" interrupted the prince, red with
indignation, and perhaps with shame, too. "It is impossible and
absurd! All that has been invented by you, or fools like you! Let
me never hear you say a word again on that subject!"
Late in the evening Colia came in with a whole budget of
Petersburg and Pavlofsk news. He did not dwell much on the
Petersburg part of it, which consisted chiefly of intelligence
about his friend Hippolyte, but passed quickly to the Pavlofsk
tidings. He had gone straight to the Epanchins' from the station.
"There's the deuce and all going on there!" he said. "First of
all about the row last night, and I think there must be something
new as well, though I didn't like to ask. Not a word about YOU,
prince, the whole time!" The most interesting fact was that
Aglaya had been quarrelling with her people about Gania. Colia
did not know any details, except that it had been a terrible
quarrel! Also Evgenie Pavlovitch had called, and met with an
excellent reception all round. And another curious thing: Mrs.
Epanchin was so angry that she called Varia to her--Varia was
talking to the girls--and turned her out of the house "once for
all "she said. "I heard it from Varia herself--Mrs. Epanchin was
quite polite, but firm; and when Varia said good-bye to the
girls, she told them nothing about it, and they didn't know they
were saying goodbye for the last time. I'm sorry for Varia, and
for Gania too; he isn't half a bad fellow, in spite of his
faults, and I shall never forgive myself for not liking him
before! I don't know whether I ought to continue to go to the
Epanchins' now," concluded Colia--" I like to be quite
independent of others, and of other people's quarrels if I can;
but I must think over it."
"I don't think you need break your heart over Gania," said the
prince; "for if what you say is true, he must be considered
dangerous in the Epanchin household, and if so, certain hopes of
his must have been encouraged."
"What? What hopes?" cried Colia; "you surely don't mean Aglaya?--
"You're a dreadful sceptic, prince," he continued, after a
moment's silence. "I have observed of late that you have grown
sceptical about everything. You don't seem to believe in people
as you did, and are always attributing motives and so on--am I
using the word 'sceptic' in its proper sense?"
"I believe so; but I'm not sure."
"Well, I'll change it, right or wrong; I'll say that you are not
sceptical, but JEALOUS. There! you are deadly jealous of Gania,
over a certain proud damsel! Come!" Colia jumped up, with these
words, and burst out laughing. He laughed as he had perhaps never
laughed before, and still more when he saw the prince flushing up
to his temples. He was delighted that the prince should be
jealous about Aglaya. However, he stopped immediately on seeing
that the other was really hurt, and the conversation continued,
very earnestly, for an hour or more.
Next day the prince had to go to town, on business. Returning in
the afternoon, he happened upon General Epanchin at the station.
The latter seized his hand, glancing around nervously, as if he
were afraid of being caught in wrong-doing, and dragged him into
a first-class compartment. He was burning to speak about
something of importance.
"In the first place, my dear prince, don't be angry with me. I
would have come to see you yesterday, but I didn't know how
Lizabetha Prokofievna would take it. My dear fellow, my house is
simply a hell just now, a sort of sphinx has taken up its abode
there. We live in an atmosphere of riddles; I can't make head or
tail of anything. As for you, I feel sure you are the least to
blame of any of us, though you certainly have been the cause of a
good deal of trouble. You see, it's all very pleasant to be a
philanthropist; but it can be carried too far. Of course I admire
kind-heartedness, and I esteem my wife, but--"
The general wandered on in this disconnected way for a long time;
it was clear that he was much disturbed by some circumstance
which he could make nothing of.
"It is plain to me, that YOU are not in it at all," he continued,
at last, a little less vaguely, "but perhaps you had better not
come to our house for a little while. I ask you in the
friendliest manner, mind; just till the wind changes again. As
for Evgenie Pavlovitch," he continued with some excitement, "the
whole thing is a calumny, a dirty calumny. It is simply a plot,
an intrigue, to upset our plans and to stir up a quarrel. You
see, prince, I'll tell you privately, Evgenie and ourselves have
not said a word yet, we have no formal understanding, we are in
no way bound on either side, but the word may be said very soon,
don't you see, VERY soon, and all this is most injurious, and is
meant to be so. Why? I'm sure I can't tell you. She's an
extraordinary woman, you see, an eccentric woman; I tell you I am
so frightened of that woman that I can't sleep. What a carriage
that was, and where did it come from, eh? I declare, I was base
enough to suspect Evgenie at first; but it seems certain that
that cannot be the case, and if so, why is she interfering here?
That's the riddle, what does she want? Is it to keep Evgenie to
herself? But, my dear fellow, I swear to you, I swear he doesn't
even KNOW her, and as for those bills, why, the whole thing is an
invention! And the familiarity of the woman! It's quite clear we
must treat the impudent creature's attempt with disdain, and
redouble our courtesy towards Evgenie. I told my wife so.
"Now I'll tell you my secret conviction. I'm certain that she's
doing this to revenge herself on me, on account of the past,
though I assure you that all the time I was blameless. I blush at
the very idea. And now she turns up again like this, when I
thought she had finally disappeared! Where's Rogojin all this
time? I thought she was Mrs. Rogojin, long ago."
The old man was in a state of great mental perturbation. The
whole of the journey, which occupied nearly an hour, he continued
in this strain, putting questions and answering them himself,
shrugging his shoulders, pressing the prince's hand, and assuring
the latter that, at all events, he had no suspicion whatever of
HIM. This last assurance was satisfactory, at all events. The
general finished by informing him that Evgenie's uncle was head
of one of the civil service departments, and rich, very rich, and
a gourmand. "And, well, Heaven preserve him, of course--but
Evgenie gets his money, don't you see? But, for all this, I'm
uncomfortable, I don't know why. There's something in the air, I
feel there's something nasty in the air, like a bat, and I'm by
no means comfortable."
And it was not until the third day that the formal reconciliation
between the prince and the Epanchins took place, as said before.
IT was seven in the evening, and the prince was just preparing to
go out for a walk in the park, when suddenly Mrs. Epanchin
appeared on the terrace.
"In the first place, don't dare to suppose," she began, "that I
am going to apologize. Nonsense! You were entirely to blame."
The prince remained silent.
"Were you to blame, or not?"
"No, certainly not, no more than yourself, though at first I
thought I was."
"Oh, very well, let's sit down, at all events, for I don't intend
to stand up all day. And remember, if you say, one word about
'mischievous urchins,' I shall go away and break with you
altogether. Now then, did you, or did you not, send a letter to
Aglaya, a couple of months or so ago, about Easter-tide?"
"What for? What was your object? Show me the letter." Mrs.
Epanchin's eyes flashed; she was almost trembling with
"I have not got the letter," said the prince, timidly, extremely
surprised at the turn the conversation had taken. "If anyone has
it, if it still exists, Aglaya Ivanovna must have it."
"No finessing, please. What did you write about?"
"I am not finessing, and I am not in the least afraid of telling
you; but I don't see the slightest reason why I should not have
"Be quiet, you can talk afterwards! What was the letter about?
Why are you blushing?"
The prince was silent. At last he spoke.
"I don't understand your thoughts, Lizabetha Prokofievna; but I
can see that the fact of my having written is for some reason
repugnant to you. You must admit that I have a perfect right to
refuse to answer your questions; but, in order to show you that I
am neither ashamed of the letter, nor sorry that I wrote it, and
that I am not in the least inclined to blush about it "(here the
prince's blushes redoubled), "I will repeat the substance of my
letter, for I think I know it almost by heart."
So saying, the prince repeated the letter almost word for word,
as he had written it.
"My goodness, what utter twaddle, and what may all this nonsense
have signified, pray? If it had any meaning at all!" said Mrs.
Epanchin, cuttingly, after having listened with great attention.
"I really don't absolutely know myself; I know my feeling was
very sincere. I had moments at that time full of life and hope."
"What sort of hope?"
"It is difficult to explain, but certainly not the hopes you have
in your mind. Hopes--well, in a word, hopes for the future, and a
feeling of joy that THERE, at all events, I was not entirely a
stranger and a foreigner. I felt an ecstasy in being in my native
land once more; and one sunny morning I took up a pen and wrote
her that letter, but why to HER, I don't quite know. Sometimes
one longs to have a friend near, and I evidently felt the need of
one then," added the prince, and paused.
"Are you in love with her?"
"N-no! I wrote to her as to a sister; I signed myself her
"Oh yes, of course, on purpose! I quite understand."
"It is very painful to me to answer these questions, Lizabetha
"I dare say it is; but that's no affair of mine. Now then, assure
me truly as before Heaven, are you lying to me or not?"
"No, I am not lying."
"Are you telling the truth when you say you are not in love?"
"I believe it is the absolute truth."
"'I believe,' indeed! Did that mischievous urchin give it to
"I asked Nicolai Ardalionovitch . . ."
"The urchin! the urchin!" interrupted Lizabetha Prokofievna in an
angry voice. "I do not want to know if it were Nicolai
Ardalionovitch! The urchin!"
"Nicolai Ardalionovitch . . ."
"The urchin, I tell you!"
"No, it was not the urchin: it was Nicolai Ardalionovitch," said
the prince very firmly, but without raising his voice.
"Well, all right! All right, my dear! I shall put that down to
She was silent a moment to get breath, and to recover her
"Well!--and what's the meaning of the 'poor knight,' eh?"
"I don't know in the least; I wasn't present when the joke was
made. It IS a joke. I suppose, and that's all."
"Well, that's a comfort, at all events. You don't suppose she
could take any interest in you, do you? Why, she called you an
"I think you might have spared me that," murmured the prince
reproachfully, almost in a whisper.
"Don't be angry; she is a wilful, mad, spoilt girl. If she likes
a person she will pitch into him, and chaff him. I used to be
just such another. But for all that you needn't flatter yourself,
my boy; she is not for you. I don't believe it, and it is not to
be. I tell you so at once, so that you may take proper
precautions. Now, I want to hear you swear that you are not
married to that woman?"
"Lizabetha Prokofievna, what are you thinking of?" cried the
prince, almost leaping to his feet in amazement.
"Why? You very nearly were, anyhow."
"Yes--I nearly was," whispered the prince, hanging his head.
"Well then, have you come here for HER? Are you in love with HER?
With THAT creature?"
"I did not come to marry at all," replied the prince.
"Is there anything you hold sacred?"
"Then swear by it that you did not come here to marry HER!"
"I'll swear it by whatever you please."
"I believe you. You may kiss me; I breathe freely at last. But
you must know, my dear friend, Aglaya does not love you, and she
shall never be your wife while I am out of my grave. So be warned
in time. Do you hear me?"
"Yes, I hear."
The prince flushed up so much that he could not look her in the
"I have waited for you with the greatest impatience (not that you
were worth it). Every night I have drenched my pillow with tears,
not for you, my friend, not for you, don't flatter yourself! I
have my own grief, always the same, always the same. But I'll
tell you why I have been awaiting you so impatiently, because I
believe that Providence itself sent you to be a friend and a
brother to me. I haven't a friend in the world except Princess
Bielokonski, and she is growing as stupid as a sheep from old
age. Now then, tell me, yes or no? Do you know why she called out
from her carriage the other night?"
"I give you my word of honour that I had nothing to do with the
matter and know nothing about it."
"Very well, I believe you. I have my own ideas about it. Up to
yesterday morning I thought it was really Evgenie Pavlovitch who
was to blame; now I cannot help agreeing with the others. But why
he was made such a fool of I cannot understand. However, he is
not going to marry Aglaya, I can tell you that. He may be a very
excellent fellow, but--so it shall be. I was not at all sure of
accepting him before, but now I have quite made up my mind that I
won't have him. 'Put me in my coffin first and then into my
grave, and then you may marry my daughter to whomsoever you
please,' so I said to the general this very morning. You see how
I trust you, my boy."
"Yes, I see and understand."
Mrs. Epanchin gazed keenly into the prince's eyes. She was
anxious to see what impression the news as to Evgenie Pavlovitch
had made upon him.
"Do you know anything about Gavrila Ardalionovitch?" she asked at
"Oh yes, I know a good deal."
"Did you know he had communications with Aglaya?"
"No, I didn't," said the prince, trembling a little, and in great
agitation. "You say Gavrila Ardalionovitch has private
communications with Aglaya?--Impossible!"
"Only quite lately. His sister has been working like a rat to
clear the way for him all the winter."
"I don't believe it!" said the prince abruptly, after a short
pause. "Had it been so I should have known long ago."
"Oh, of course, yes; he would have come and wept out his secret
on your bosom. Oh, you simpleton--you simpleton! Anyone can
deceive you and take you in like a--like a,--aren't you ashamed
to trust him? Can't you see that he humbugs you just as much as
ever he pleases?"
"I know very well that he does deceive me occasionally, and he
knows that I know it, but--" The prince did not finish his
"And that's why you trust him, eh? So I should have supposed.
Good Lord, was there ever such a man as you? Tfu! and are you
aware, sir, that this Gania, or his sister Varia, have brought
her into correspondence with Nastasia Philipovna?"
"Brought whom?" cried Muishkin.
"I don't believe it! It's impossible! What object could they
have?" He jumped up from his chair in his excitement.
"Nor do I believe it, in spite of the proofs. The girl is self-
willed and fantastic, and insane! She's wicked, wicked! I'll
repeat it for a thousand years that she's wicked; they ALL are,
just now, all my daughters, even that 'wet hen' Alexandra. And
yet I don't believe it. Because I don't choose to believe it,
perhaps; but I don't. Why haven't you been?" she turned on the
prince suddenly. "Why didn't you come near us all these three
The prince began to give his reasons, but she interrupted him
"Everybody takes you in and deceives you; you went to town
yesterday. I dare swear you went down on your knees to that
rogue, and begged him to accept your ten thousand roubles!"
"I never thought of doing any such thing. I have not seen him,
and he is not a rogue, in my opinion. I have had a letter from
"Show it me!"
The prince took a paper from his pocket-book, and handed it to
Lizabetha Prokofievna. It ran as follows:
"In the eyes of the world I am sure that I have no
cause for pride or self-esteem. I am much too insignificant
for that. But what may be so to other men's eyes is not
so to yours. I am convinced that you are better than other
people. Doktorenko disagrees with me, but I am content
to differ from him on this point. I will never accept one
single copeck from you, but you have helped my mother,
and I am bound to be grateful to you for that, however
weak it may seem. At any rate, I have changed my
opinion about you, and I think right to inform you of the
fact; but I also suppose that there can be no further inter
course between us " ANTIP BURDOVSKY.
"P.S.--The two hundred roubles I owe you shall certainly be
repaid in time."
"How extremely stupid!" cried Mrs. Epanchin, giving back the
letter abruptly. "It was not worth the trouble of reading. Why
are you smiling?"
"Confess that you are pleased to have read it."
"What! Pleased with all that nonsense! Why, cannot you see that
they are all infatuated with pride and vanity?"
"He has acknowledged himself to be in the wrong. Don't you see
that the greater his vanity, the more difficult this admission
must have been on his part? Oh, what a little child you are,
"Are you tempting me to box your ears for you, or what?"
"Not at all. I am only proving that you are glad about the
letter. Why conceal your real feelings? You always like to do
"Never come near my house again!" cried Mrs. Epanchin, pale with
rage. "Don't let me see as much as a SHADOW of you about the
place! Do you hear?"
"Oh yes, and in three days you'll come and invite me yourself.
Aren't you ashamed now? These are your best feelings; you are
only tormenting yourself."
"I'll die before I invite you! I shall forget your very name!
I've forgotten it already!"
She marched towards the door.
"But I'm forbidden your house as it is, without your added
threats!" cried the prince after her.
"What? Who forbade you?"
She turned round so suddenly that one might have supposed a
needle had been stuck into her.
The prince hesitated. He perceived that he had said too much now.
"WHO forbade you?" cried Mrs. Epanchin once more.
"Aglaya Ivanovna told me--"
"She sent to say, yesterday morning, that I was never to dare to
come near the house again."
Lizabetha Prokofievna stood like a stone.
"What did she send? Whom? Was it that boy? Was it a message?-
"I had a note," said the prince.
"Where is it? Give it here, at once."
The prince thought a moment. Then he pulled out of his waistcoat
pocket an untidy slip of paper, on which was scrawled:
"PRINCE LEF NICOLAIEVITCH,--If you think fit, after all that has
passed, to honour our house with a visit, I can assure you you
will not find me among the number of those who are in any way
delighted to see you.
Mrs. Epanchin reflected a moment. The next minute she flew at the
prince, seized his hand, and dragged him after her to the door.
"Quick--come along!" she cried, breathless with agitation and
impatience. "Come along with me this moment!"
"But you declared I wasn't--"
"Don't be a simpleton. You behave just as though you weren't a
man at all. Come on! I shall see, now, with my own eyes. I shall
"Well, let me get my hat, at least."
"Here's your miserable hat He couldn't even choose a respectable
shape for his hat! Come on! She did that because I took your part
and said you ought to have come--little vixen!--else she would
never have sent you that silly note. It's a most improper note, I
call it; most improper for such an intelligent, well-brought-up
girl to write. H'm! I dare say she was annoyed that you didn't
come; but she ought to have known that one can't write like that
to an idiot like you, for you'd be sure to take it literally."
Mrs. Epanchin was dragging the prince along with her all the
time, and never let go of his hand for an instant. "What are you
listening for?" she added, seeing that she had committed herself
a little. "She wants a clown like you--she hasn't seen one for
some time--to play with. That's why she is anxious for you to
come to the house. And right glad I am that she'll make a
thorough good fool of you. You deserve it; and she can do it--oh!
she can, indeed!--as well as most people."
THE Epanchin family, or at least the more serious members of it,
were sometimes grieved because they seemed so unlike the rest of
the world. They were not quite certain, but had at times a strong
suspicion that things did not happen to them as they did to other
people. Others led a quiet, uneventful life, while they were
subject to continual upheavals. Others kept on the rails without
difficulty; they ran off at the slightest obstacle. Other houses
were governed by a timid routine; theirs was somehow different.
Perhaps Lizabetha Prokofievna was alone in making these fretful
observations; the girls, though not wanting in intelligence, were
still young; the general was intelligent, too, but narrow, and in
any difficulty he was content to say, "H'm!" and leave the matter
to his wife. Consequently, on her fell the responsibility. It was
not that they distinguished themselves as a family by any
particular originality, or that their excursions off the track
led to any breach of the proprieties. Oh no.
There was nothing premeditated, there was not even any conscious
purpose in it all, and yet, in spite of everything, the family,
although highly respected, was not quite what every highly
respected family ought to be. For a long time now Lizabetha
Prokofievna had had it in her mind that all the trouble was owing
to her "unfortunate character, "and this added to her distress.
She blamed her own stupid unconventional "eccentricity." Always
restless, always on the go, she constantly seemed to lose her
way, and to get into trouble over the simplest and more ordinary
affairs of life.
We said at the beginning of our story, that the Epanchins were
liked and esteemed by their neighbours. In spite of his humble
origin, Ivan Fedorovitch himself was received everywhere with
respect. He deserved this, partly on account of his wealth and
position, partly because, though limited, he was really a very
good fellow. But a certain limitation of mind seems to be an
indispensable asset, if not to all public personages, at least to
all serious financiers. Added to this, his manner was modest and
unassuming; he knew when to be silent, yet never allowed himself
to be trampled upon. Also--and this was more important than all--
he had the advantage of being under exalted patronage.
As to Lizabetha Prokofievna, she, as the reader knows, belonged
to an aristocratic family. True, Russians think more of
influential friends than of birth, but she had both. She was
esteemed and even loved by people of consequence in society,
whose example in receiving her was therefore followed by others.
It seems hardly necessary to remark that her family worries and
anxieties had little or no foundation, or that her imagination
increased them to an absurd degree; but if you have a wart on
your forehead or nose, you imagine that all the world is looking
at it, and that people would make fun of you because of it, even
if you had discovered America! Doubtless Lizabetha Prokofievna
was considered "eccentric" in society, but she was none the less
esteemed: the pity was that she was ceasing to believe in that
esteem. When she thought of her daughters, she said to herself
sorrowfully that she was a hindrance rather than a help to their
future, that her character and temper were absurd, ridiculous,
insupportable. Naturally, she put the blame on her surroundings,
and from morning to night was quarrelling with her husband and
children, whom she really loved to the point of self-sacrifice,
even, one might say, of passion.
She was, above all distressed by the idea that her daughters
might grow up "eccentric," like herself; she believed that no
other society girls were like them. "They are growing into
Nihilists!" she repeated over and over again. For years she had
tormented herself with this idea, and with the question: "Why
don't they get married?"
"It is to annoy their mother; that is their one aim in life; it
can be nothing else. The fact is it is all of a piece with these
modern ideas, that wretched woman's question! Six months ago
Aglaya took a fancy to cut off her magnificent hair. Why, even I,
when I was young, had nothing like it! The scissors were in her
hand, and I had to go down on my knees and implore her... She
did it, I know, from sheer mischief, to spite her mother, for she
is a naughty, capricious girl, a real spoiled child spiteful and
mischievous to a degree! And then Alexandra wanted to shave her
head, not from caprice or mischief, but, like a little fool,
simply because Aglaya persuaded her she would sleep better
without her hair, and not suffer from headache! And how many
suitors have they not had during the last five years! Excellent
offers, too! What more do they want? Why don't they get married?
For no other reason than to vex their mother--none--none!"
But Lizabetha Prokofievna felt somewhat consoled when she could
say that one of her girls, Adelaida, was settled at last. "It
will be one off our hands!" she declared aloud, though in private
she expressed herself with greater tenderness. The engagement was
both happy and suitable, and was therefore approved in society.
Prince S. was a distinguished man, he had money, and his future
wife was devoted to him; what more could be desired? Lizabetha
Prokofievna had felt less anxious about this daughter, however,
although she considered her artistic tastes suspicious. But to
make up for them she was, as her mother expressed it, "merry,"
and had plenty of "common-sense." It was Aglaya's future which
disturbed her most. With regard to her eldest daughter,
Alexandra, the mother never quite knew whether there was cause
for anxiety or not. Sometimes she felt as if there was nothing to
be expected from her. She was twenty-five now, and must be fated
to be an old maid, and "with such beauty, too!" The mother spent
whole nights in weeping and lamenting, while all the time the
cause of her grief slumbered peacefully. "What is the matter with
her? Is she a Nihilist, or simply a fool?"
But Lizabetha Prokofievna knew perfectly well how unnecessary was
the last question. She set a high value on Alexandra Ivanovna's
judgment, and often consulted her in difficulties; but that she
was a 'wet hen' she never for a moment doubted. "She is so calm;
nothing rouses her--though wet hens are not always calm! Oh! I
can't understand it!" Her eldest daughter inspired Lizabetha with
a kind of puzzled compassion. She did not feel this in Aglaya's
case, though the latter was her idol. It may be said that these
outbursts and epithets, such as "wet hen "(in which the maternal
solicitude usually showed itself), only made Alexandra laugh.
Sometimes the most trivial thing annoyed Mrs. Epanchin, and drove
her into a frenzy. For instance, Alexandra Ivanovna liked to
sleep late, and was always dreaming, though her dreams had the
peculiarity of being as innocent and naive as those of a child of
seven; and the very innocence of her dreams annoyed her mother.
Once she dreamt of nine hens, and this was the cause of quite a
serious quarrel--no one knew why. Another time she had--it was
most unusual--a dream with a spark of originality in it. She
dreamt of a monk in a dark room, into which she was too
frightened to go. Adelaida and Aglaya rushed off with shrieks of
laughter to relate this to their mother, but she was quite angry,
and said her daughters were all fools.
"H'm! she is as stupid as a fool! A veritable 'wet hen'! Nothing
excites her; and yet she is not happy; some days it makes one
miserable only to look at her! Why is she unhappy, I wonder?" At
times Lizabetha Prokofievna put this question to her husband, and
as usual she spoke in the threatening tone of one who demands an
immediate answer. Ivan Fedorovitch would frown, shrug his
shoulders, and at last give his opinion: "She needs a husband!"
"God forbid that he should share your ideas, Ivan Fedorovitch!"
his wife flashed back. "Or that he should be as gross and
churlish as you!"
The general promptly made his escape, and Lizabetha Prokofievna
after a while grew calm again. That evening, of course, she would
be unusually attentive, gentle, and respectful to her "gross and
churlish" husband, her "dear, kind Ivan Fedorovitch," for she had
never left off loving him. She was even still "in love" with him.
He knew it well, and for his part held her in the greatest
But the mother's great and continual anxiety was Aglaya. "She is
exactly like me--my image in everything," said Mrs. Epanchin to
herself. "A tyrant! A real little demon! A Nihilist! Eccentric,
senseless and mischievous! Good Lord, how unhappy she will be!"
But as we said before, the fact of Adelaida's approaching
marriage was balm to the mother. For a whole month she forgot her
fears and worries.
Adelaida's fate was settled; and with her name that of Aglaya's
was linked, in society gossip. People whispered that Aglaya, too,
was "as good as engaged;" and Aglaya always looked so sweet and
behaved so well (during this period), that the mother's heart was
full of joy. Of course, Evgenie Pavlovitch must be thoroughly
studied first, before the final step should be taken; but,
really, how lovely dear Aglaya had become--she actually grew more
beautiful every day! And then--Yes, and then--this abominable
prince showed his face again, and everything went topsy-turvy at
once, and everyone seemed as mad as March hares.
What had really happened?
If it had been any other family than the Epanchins', nothing
particular would have happened. But, thanks to Mrs. Epanchin's
invariable fussiness and anxiety, there could not be the
slightest hitch in the simplest matters of everyday life, but she
immediately foresaw the most dreadful and alarming consequences,
and suffered accordingly.
What then must have been her condition, when, among all the
imaginary anxieties and calamities which so constantly beset her,
she now saw looming ahead a serious cause for annoyance--
something really likely to arouse doubts and suspicions!
"How dared they, how DARED they write that hateful anonymous
letter informing me that Aglaya is in communication with Nastasia
Philipovna?" she thought, as she dragged the prince along towards
her own house, and again when she sat him down at the round table
where the family was already assembled. "How dared they so much
as THINK of such a thing? I should DIE with shame if I thought
there was a particle of truth in it, or if I were to show the
letter to Aglaya herself! Who dares play these jokes upon US, the
Epanchins? WHY didn't we go to the Yelagin instead of coming down
here? I TOLD you we had better go to the Yelagin this summer,
Ivan Fedorovitch. It's all your fault. I dare say it was that
Varia who sent the letter. It's all Ivan Fedorovitch. THAT woman
is doing it all for him, I know she is, to show she can make a
fool of him now just as she did when he used to give her pearls.
"But after all is said, we are mixed up in it. Your daughters are
mixed up in it, Ivan Fedorovitch; young ladies in society, young
ladies at an age to be married; they were present, they heard
everything there was to hear. They were mixed up with that other
scene, too, with those dreadful youths. You must be pleased to
remember they heard it all. I cannot forgive that wretched
prince. I never shall forgive him! And why, if you please, has
Aglaya had an attack of nerves for these last three days? Why has
she all but quarrelled with her sisters, even with Alexandra--
whom she respects so much that she always kisses her hands as
though she were her mother? What are all these riddles of hers
that we have to guess? What has Gavrila Ardalionovitch to do with
it? Why did she take upon herself to champion him this morning,
and burst into tears over it? Why is there an allusion to that
cursed 'poor knight' in the anonymous letter? And why did I rush
off to him just now like a lunatic, and drag him back here? I do
believe I've gone mad at last. What on earth have I done now? To
talk to a young man about my daughter's secrets--and secrets
having to do with himself, too! Thank goodness, he's an idiot,
and a friend of the house! Surely Aglaya hasn't fallen in love
with such a gaby! What an idea! Pfu! we ought all to be put under
glass cases--myself first of all--and be shown off as
curiosities, at ten copecks a peep!"
"I shall never forgive you for all this, Ivan Fedorovitch--never!
Look at her now. Why doesn't she make fun of him? She said she
would, and she doesn't. Look there! She stares at him with all
her eyes, and doesn't move; and yet she told him not to come. He
looks pale enough; and that abominable chatterbox, Evgenie
Pavlovitch, monopolizes the whole of the conversation. Nobody
else can get a word in. I could soon find out all about
everything if I could only change the subject."
The prince certainly was very pale. He sat at the table and
seemed to be feeling, by turns, sensations of alarm and rapture.
Oh, how frightened he was of looking to one side--one particular
corner--whence he knew very well that a pair of dark eyes were
watching him intently, and how happy he was to think that he was
once more among them, and occasionally hearing that well-known
voice, although she had written and forbidden him to come again!
"What on earth will she say to me, I wonder?" he thought to
He had not said a word yet; he sat silent and listened to Evgenie
Pavlovitch's eloquence. The latter had never appeared so happy
and excited as on this evening. The prince listened to him, but
for a long time did not take in a word he said.
Excepting Ivan Fedorovitch, who had not as yet returned from
town, the whole family was present. Prince S. was there; and they
all intended to go out to hear the band very soon.
Colia arrived presently and joined the circle. "So he is received
as usual, after all," thought the prince.
The Epanchins' country-house was a charming building, built after
the model of a Swiss chalet, and covered with creepers. It was
surrounded on all sides by a flower garden, and the family sat,
as a rule, on the open verandah as at the prince's house.
The subject under discussion did not appear to be very popular
with the assembly, and some would have been delighted to change
it; but Evgenie would not stop holding forth, and the prince's
arrival seemed to spur him on to still further oratorical
Lizabetha Prokofievna frowned, but had not as yet grasped the
subject, which seemed to have arisen out of a heated argument.
Aglaya sat apart, almost in the corner, listening in stubborn
"Excuse me," continued Evgenie Pavlovitch hotly, "I don't say a
word against liberalism. Liberalism is not a sin, it is a
necessary part of a great whole, which whole would collapse and
fall to pieces without it. Liberalism has just as much right to
exist as has the most moral conservatism; but I am attacking
RUSSIAN liberalism; and I attack it for the simple reason that a
Russian liberal is not a Russian liberal, he is a non-Russian
liberal. Show me a real Russian liberal, and I'll kiss him before
you all, with pleasure."
"If he cared to kiss you, that is," said Alexandra, whose cheeks
were red with irritation and excitement.
"Look at that, now," thought the mother to herself, "she does
nothing but sleep and eat for a year at a time, and then suddenly
flies out in the most incomprehensible way!"
The prince observed that Alexandra appeared to be angry with
Evgenie, because he spoke on a serious subject in a frivolous
manner, pretending to be in earnest, but with an under-current of
"I was saying just now, before you came in, prince, that there
has been nothing national up to now, about our liberalism, and
nothing the liberals do, or have done, is in the least degree
national. They are drawn from two classes only, the old
landowning class, and clerical families--"
"How, nothing that they have done is Russian?" asked Prince S.
"It may be Russian, but it is not national. Our liberals are not
Russian, nor are our conservatives, and you may be sure that the
nation does not recognize anything that has been done by the
landed gentry, or by the seminarists, or what is to be done
"Come, that's good! How can you maintain such a paradox? If you
are serious, that is. I cannot allow such a statement about the
landed proprietors to pass unchallenged. Why, you are a landed
proprietor yourself!" cried Prince S. hotly.
"I suppose you'll say there is nothing national about our
literature either?" said Alexandra.
"Well, I am not a great authority on literary questions, but I
certainly do hold that Russian literature is not Russian, except
perhaps Lomonosoff, Pouschkin and Gogol."
"In the first place, that is a considerable admission, and in the
second place, one of the above was a peasant, and the other two
were both landed proprietors!"
"Quite so, but don't be in such a hurry! For since it has been
the part of these three men, and only these three, to say
something absolutely their own, not borrowed, so by this very
fact these three men become really national. If any Russian shall
have done or said anything really and absolutely original, he is
to be called national from that moment, though he may not be able
to talk the Russian language; still he is a national Russian. I
consider that an axiom. But we were not speaking of literature;
we began by discussing the socialists. Very well then, I insist
that there does not exist one single Russian socialist. There
does not, and there has never existed such a one, because all
socialists are derived from the two classes--the landed
proprietors, and the seminarists. All our eminent socialists are
merely old liberals of the class of landed proprietors, men who
were liberals in the days of serfdom. Why do you laugh? Give me
their books, give me their studies, their memoirs, and though I
am not a literary critic, yet I will prove as clear as day that
every chapter and every word of their writings has been the work
of a former landed proprietor of the old school. You'll find that
all their raptures, all their generous transports are
proprietary, all their woes and their tears, proprietary; all
proprietary or seminarist! You are laughing again, and you,
prince, are smiling too. Don't you agree with me?"
It was true enough that everybody was laughing, the prince among
"I cannot tell you on the instant whether I agree with you or
not," said the latter, suddenly stopping his laughter, and
starting like a schoolboy caught at mischief. "But, I assure you,
I am listening to you with extreme gratification."
So saying, he almost panted with agitation, and a cold sweat
stood upon his forehead. These were his first words since he had
entered the house; he tried to lift his eyes, and look around,
but dared not; Evgenie Pavlovitch noticed his confusion, and
"I'll just tell you one fact, ladies and gentlemen," continued
the latter, with apparent seriousness and even exaltation of
manner, but with a suggestion of "chaff" behind every word, as
though he were laughing in his sleeve at his own nonsense--"a
fact, the discovery of which, I believe, I may claim to have made
by myself alone. At all events, no other has ever said or written
a word about it; and in this fact is expressed the whole essence
of Russian liberalism of the sort which I am now considering.
"In the first place, what is liberalism, speaking generally, but
an attack (whether mistaken or reasonable, is quite another
question) upon the existing order of things? Is this so? Yes.
Very well. Then my 'fact' consists in this, that RUSSIAN
liberalism is not an attack upon the existing order of things,
but an attack upon the very essence of things themselves--indeed,
on the things themselves; not an attack on the Russian order of
things, but on Russia itself. My Russian liberal goes so far as
to reject Russia; that is, he hates and strikes his own mother.
Every misfortune and mishap of the mother-country fills him with
mirth, and even with ecstasy. He hates the national customs,
Russian history, and everything. If he has a justification, it is
that he does not know what he is doing, and believes that his
hatred of Russia is the grandest and most profitable kind of
liberalism. (You will often find a liberal who is applauded and
esteemed by his fellows, but who is in reality the dreariest,
blindest, dullest of conservatives, and is not aware of the
fact.) This hatred for Russia has been mistaken by some of our
'Russian liberals' for sincere love of their country, and they
boast that they see better than their neighbours what real love
of one's country should consist in. But of late they have grown,
more candid and are ashamed of the expression 'love of country,'
and have annihilated the very spirit of the words as something
injurious and petty and undignified. This is the truth, and I
hold by it; but at the same time it is a phenomenon which has not
been repeated at any other time or place; and therefore, though I
hold to it as a fact, yet I recognize that it is an accidental
phenomenon, and may likely enough pass away. There can be no such
thing anywhere else as a liberal who really hates his country;
and how is this fact to be explained among US? By my original
statement that a Russian liberal is NOT a RUSSIAN liberal--that's
the only explanation that I can see."
"I take all that you have said as a joke," said Prince S.
"I have not seen all kinds of liberals, and cannot, therefore,
set myself up as a judge," said Alexandra, "but I have heard all
you have said with indignation. You have taken some accidental
case and twisted it into a universal law, which is unjust."
"Accidental case!" said Evgenie Pavlovitch. "Do you consider it
an accidental case, prince?"
"I must also admit," said the prince, "that I have not seen much,
or been very far into the question; but I cannot help thinking
that you are more or less right, and that Russian liberalism--
that phase of it which you are considering, at least--really is
sometimes inclined to hate Russia itself, and not only its
existing order of things in general. Of course this is only
PARTIALLY the truth; you cannot lay down the law for all..."
The prince blushed and broke off, without finishing what he meant
In spite of his shyness and agitation, he could not help being
greatly interested in the conversation. A special characteristic
of his was the naive candour with which he always listened to
arguments which interested him, and with which he answered any
questions put to him on the subject at issue. In the very
expression of his face this naivete was unmistakably evident,
this disbelief in the insincerity of others, and unsuspecting
disregard of irony or humour in their words.
But though Evgenie Pavlovitch had put his questions to the prince
with no other purpose but to enjoy the joke of his simple-minded
seriousness, yet now, at his answer, he was surprised into some
seriousness himself, and looked gravely at Muishkin as though he
had not expected that sort of answer at all.
"Why, how strange!" he ejaculated. "You didn't answer me
seriously, surely, did you?"
"Did not you ask me the question seriously" inquired the prince,
"Oh, trust HIM for that!" said Adelaida. "Evgenie Pavlovitch
turns everything and everybody he can lay hold of to ridicule.
You should hear the things he says sometimes, apparently in
"In my opinion the conversation has been a painful one
throughout, and we ought never to have begun it," said Alexandra.
"We were all going for a walk--"
"Come along then," said Evgenie; "it's a glorious evening. But,
to prove that this time I was speaking absolutely seriously, and
especially to prove this to the prince (for you, prince, have
interested me exceedingly, and I swear to you that I am not quite
such an ass as I like to appear sometimes, although I am rather
an ass, I admit), and--well, ladies and gentlemen, will you allow
me to put just one more question to the prince, out of pure
curiosity? It shall be the last. This question came into my mind
a couple of hours since (you see, prince, I do think seriously at
times), and I made my own decision upon it; now I wish to hear
what the prince will say to it."
"We have just used the expression 'accidental case.' This is a
significant phrase; we often hear it. Well, not long since
everyone was talking and reading about that terrible murder of
six people on the part of a--young fellow, and of the
extraordinary speech of the counsel for the defence, who observed
that in the poverty-stricken condition of the criminal it must
have come NATURALLY into his head to kill these six people. I do
not quote his words, but that is the sense of them, or something
very like it. Now, in my opinion, the barrister who put forward
this extraordinary plea was probably absolutely convinced that he
was stating the most liberal, the most humane, the most
enlightened view of the case that could possibly be brought
forward in these days. Now, was this distortion, this capacity
for a perverted way of viewing things, a special or accidental
case, or is such a general rule?"
Everyone laughed at this.
"A special case--accidental, of course!" cried Alexandra and
"Let me remind you once more, Evgenie," said Prince S., "that
your joke is getting a little threadbare."
"What do you think about it, prince?" asked Evgenie, taking no
notice of the last remark, and observing Muishkin's serious eyes
fixed upon his face. "What do you think--was it a special or a
usual case--the rule, or an exception? I confess I put the
question especially for you."
"No, I don't think it was a special case," said the prince,
quietly, but firmly.
"My dear fellow!" cried Prince S., with some annoyance, "don't
you see that he is chaffing you? He is simply laughing at you,
and wants to make game of you."
"I thought Evgenie Pavlovitch was talking seriously," said the
prince, blushing and dropping his eyes.
"My dear prince," continued Prince S. "remember what you and I
were saying two or three months ago. We spoke of the fact that in
our newly opened Law Courts one could already lay one's finger
upon so many talented and remarkable young barristers. How
pleased you were with the state of things as we found it, and how
glad I was to observe your delight! We both said it was a matter
to be proud of; but this clumsy defence that Evgenie mentions,
this strange argument CAN, of course, only be an accidental case
--one in a thousand!"
The prince reflected a little, but very soon he replied, with
absolute conviction in his tone, though he still spoke somewhat
shyly and timidly:
"I only wished to say that this 'distortion,' as Evgenie
Pavlovitch expressed it, is met with very often, and is far more
the general rule than the exception, unfortunately for Russia. So
much so, that if this distortion were not the general rule,
perhaps these dreadful crimes would be less frequent."
"Dreadful crimes? But I can assure you that crimes just as
dreadful, and probably more horrible, have occurred before our
times, and at all times, and not only here in Russia, but
everywhere else as well. And in my opinion it is not at all
likely that such murders will cease to occur for a very long time
to come. The only difference is that in former times there was
less publicity, while now everyone talks and writes freely about
such things--which fact gives the impression that such crimes
have only now sprung into existence. That is where your mistake
lies--an extremely natural mistake, I assure you, my dear
fellow!" said Prince S.
"I know that there were just as many, and just as terrible,
crimes before our times. Not long since I visited a convict
prison and made acquaintance with some of the criminals. There
were some even more dreadful criminals than this one we have been
speaking of--men who have murdered a dozen of their fellow-
creatures, and feel no remorse whatever. But what I especially
noticed was this, that the very most hopeless and remorseless
murderer--however hardened a criminal he may be--still KNOWS THAT
HE IS A CRIMINAL; that is, he is conscious that he has acted
wickedly, though he may feel no remorse whatever. And they were
all like this. Those of whom Evgenie Pavlovitch has spoken, do
not admit that they are criminals at all; they think they had a
right to do what they did, and that they were even doing a good
deed, perhaps. I consider there is the greatest difference
between the two cases. And recollect--it was a YOUTH, at the
particular age which is most helplessly susceptible to the
distortion of ideas!"
Prince S. was now no longer smiling; he gazed at the prince in
Alexandra, who had seemed to wish to put in her word when the
prince began, now sat silent, as though some sudden thought had
caused her to change her mind about speaking.
Evgenie Pavlovitch gazed at him in real surprise, and this time
his expression of face had no mockery in it whatever.
"What are you looking so surprised about, my friend?" asked Mrs.
Epanchin, suddenly. "Did you suppose he was stupider than
yourself, and was incapable of forming his own opinions, or
"No! Oh no! Not at all!" said Evgenie. "But--how is it, prince,
that you--(excuse the question, will you?)--if you are capable of
observing and seeing things as you evidently do, how is it that
you saw nothing distorted or perverted in that claim upon your
property, which you acknowledged a day or two since; and which
was full of arguments founded upon the most distorted views of
right and wrong?"
"I'll tell you what, my friend," cried Mrs. Epanchin, of a
sudden, "here are we all sitting here and imagining we are very
clever, and perhaps laughing at the prince, some of us, and
meanwhile he has received a letter this very day in which that
same claimant renounces his claim, and begs the prince's pardon.
There I we don't often get that sort of letter; and yet we are
not ashamed to walk with our noses in the air before him."
"And Hippolyte has come down here to stay," said Colia, suddenly.
"What! has he arrived?" said the prince, starting up.
"Yes, I brought him down from town just after you had left the
"There now! It's just like him," cried Lizabetha Prokofievna,
boiling over once more, and entirely oblivious of the fact that
she had just taken the prince's part. "I dare swear that you went
up to town yesterday on purpose to get the little wretch to do
you the great honour of coming to stay at your house. You did go
up to town, you know you did--you said so yourself! Now then, did
you, or did you not, go down on your knees and beg him to come,
"No, he didn't, for I saw it all myself," said Colia. "On the
contrary, Hippolyte kissed his hand twice and thanked him; and
all the prince said was that he thought Hippolyte might feel
better here in the country!"
"Don't, Colia,--what is the use of saying all that?" cried the
prince, rising and taking his hat.
"Where are you going to now?" cried Mrs. Epanchin.
"Never mind about him now, prince," said Colia. "He is all right
and taking a nap after the journey. He is very happy to be here;
but I think perhaps it would be better if you let him alone for
today,--he is very sensitive now that he is so ill--and he might
be embarrassed if you show him too much attention at first. He is
decidedly better today, and says he has not felt so well for the
last six months, and has coughed much less, too."
The prince observed that Aglaya came out of her corner and
approached the table at this point.
He did not dare look at her, but he was conscious, to the very
tips of his fingers, that she was gazing at him, perhaps angrily;
and that she had probably flushed up with a look of fiery
indignation in her black eyes.
"It seems to me, Mr. Colia, that you were very foolish to bring
your young friend down--if he is the same consumptive boy who wept
so profusely, and invited us all to his own funeral," remarked
Evgenie Pavlovitch. "He talked so eloquently about the blank wall
outside his bedroom window, that I'm sure he will never support
life here without it. "
"I think so too," said Mrs. Epanchin; "he will quarrel with you,
and be off," and she drew her workbox towards her with an air of
dignity, quite oblivious of the fact that the family was about to
start for a walk in the park.
"Yes, I remember he boasted about the blank wall in an
extraordinary way," continued Evgenie, "and I feel that without
that blank wall he will never be able to die eloquently; and he
does so long to die eloquently!"
"Oh, you must forgive him the blank wall," said the prince,
quietly. "He has come down to see a few trees now, poor fellow."
"Oh, I forgive him with all my heart; you may tell him so if
you like," laughed Evgenie.
"I don't think you should take it quite like that," said the
prince, quietly, and without removing his eyes from the carpet.
"I think it is more a case of his forgiving you "
"Forgiving me! why so? What have I done to need his forgiveness?"
"If you don't understand, then--but of course, you do understand.
He wished--he wished to bless you all round and to have your
blessing--before he died--that's all."
"My dear prince," began Prince S., hurriedly, exchanging glances
with some of those present, "you will not easily find heaven on
earth, and yet you seem to expect to. Heaven is a difficult thing
to find anywhere, prince; far more difficult than appears to that
good heart of yours. Better stop this conversation, or we shall
all be growing quite disturbed in our minds, and--"
"Let's go and hear the band, then," said Lizabetha Prokofievna,
angrily rising from her place.
The rest of the company followed her example.
THE prince suddenly approached Evgenie Pavlovitch.
"Evgenie Pavlovitch," he said, with strange excitement and
seizing the latter's hand in his own, "be assured that I esteem
you as a generous and honourable man, in spite of everything. Be
assured of that."
Evgenie Pavlovitch fell back a step in astonishment. For one
moment it was all he could do to restrain himself from bursting
out laughing; but, looking closer, he observed that the prince
did not seem to be quite himself; at all events, he was in a very
"I wouldn't mind betting, prince," he cried, "that you did not in
the least mean to say that, and very likely you meant to address
someone else altogether. What is it? Are you feeling unwell or
"Very likely, extremely likely, and you must be a very close
observer to detect the fact that perhaps I did not intend to come
up to YOU at all."
So saying he smiled strangely; but suddenly and excitedly he
"Don't remind me of what I have done or said. Don't! I am very
much ashamed of myself, I--"
"Why, what have you done? I don't understand you."
"I see you are ashamed of me, Evgenie Pavlovitch; you are
blushing for me; that's a sign of a good heart. Don't be afraid;
I shall go away directly."
"What's the matter with him? Do his fits begin like that?" said
Lizabetha Prokofievna, in a high state of alarm, addressing
"No, no, Lizabetha Prokofievna, take no notice of me. I am not
going to have a fit. I will go away directly; but I know I am
afflicted. I was twenty-four years an invalid, you see--the first
twenty-four years of my life--so take all I do and say as the
sayings and actions of an invalid. I'm going away directly, I
really am--don't be afraid. I am not blushing, for I don't think I
need blush about it, need I? But I see that I am out of place in
society--society is better without me. It's not vanity, I assure
you. I have thought over it all these last three days, and I have
made up my mind that I ought to unbosom myself candidly before
you at the first opportunity. There are certain things, certain
great ideas, which I must not so much as approach, as Prince S.
has just reminded me, or I shall make you all laugh. I have no
sense of proportion, I know; my words and gestures do not express
my ideas--they are a humiliation and abasement of the ideas, and
therefore, I have no right--and I am too sensitive. Still, I
believe I am beloved in this household, and esteemed far more
than I deserve. But I can't help knowing that after twenty-four
years of illness there must be some trace left, so that it is
impossible for people to refrain from laughing at me sometimes;
don't you think so?"
He seemed to pause for a reply, for some verdict, as it were, and
looked humbly around him.
All present stood rooted to the earth with amazement at this
unexpected and apparently uncalled-for outbreak; but the poor
prince's painful and rambling speech gave rise to a strange
"Why do you say all this here?" cried Aglaya, suddenly. "Why do
you talk like this to THEM?"
She appeared to be in the last stages of wrath and irritation;
her eyes flashed. The prince stood dumbly and blindly before her,
and suddenly grew pale.
"There is not one of them all who is worthy of these words of
yours," continued Aglaya. "Not one of them is worth your little
finger, not one of them has heart or head to compare with yours!
You are more honest than all, and better, nobler, kinder, wiser
than all. There are some here who are unworthy to bend and pick
up the handkerchief you have just dropped. Why do you humiliate
yourself like this, and place yourself lower than these people?
Why do you debase yourself before them? Why have you no pride?"
"My God! Who would ever have believed this?" cried Mrs. Epanchin,
wringing her hands.
"Hurrah for the 'poor knight'!" cried Colia.
"Be quiet! How dare they laugh at me in your house?" said Aglaya,
turning sharply on her mother in that hysterical frame of mind
that rides recklessly over every obstacle and plunges blindly
through proprieties. "Why does everyone, everyone worry and
torment me? Why have they all been bullying me these three days
about you, prince? I will not marry you--never, and under no
circumstances! Know that once and for all; as if anyone could
marry an absurd creature like you! Just look in the glass and see
what you look like, this very moment! Why, WHY do they torment me
and say I am going to marry you? You must know it; you are in the
plot with them!"
"No one ever tormented you on the subject," murmured Adelaida,
"No one ever thought of such a thing! There has never been a word
said about it!" cried Alexandra.
"Who has been annoying her? Who has been tormenting the child? Who
could have said such a thing to her? Is she raving?" cried
Lizabetha Prokofievna, trembling with rage, to the company in
"Every one of them has been saying it--every one of them--all
these three days! And I will never, never marry him!"
So saying, Aglaya burst into bitter tears, and, hiding her face
in her handkerchief, sank back into a chair.
"But he has never even--"
"I have never asked you to marry me, Aglaya Ivanovna!" said the
prince, of a sudden.
"WHAT?" cried Mrs. Epanchin, raising her hands in horror. "WHAT'S
She could not believe her ears.
"I meant to say--I only meant to say," said the prince,
faltering, "I merely meant to explain to Aglaya Ivanovna--to have
the honour to explain, as it were--that I had no intention--never
had--to ask the honour of her hand. I assure you I am not guilty,
Aglaya Ivanovna, I am not, indeed. I never did wish to--I never
thought of it at all--and never shall--you'll see it yourself--
you may be quite assured of it. Some wicked person has been
maligning me to you; but it's all right. Don't worry about it."
So saying, the prince approached Aglaya.
She took the handkerchief from her face, glanced keenly at him,
took in what he had said, and burst out laughing--such a merry,
unrestrained laugh, so hearty and gay, that. Adelaida could not
contain herself. She, too, glanced at the prince's panic-stricken
countenance, then rushed at her sister, threw her arms round her
neck, and burst into as merry a fit of laughter as Aglaya's own.
They laughed together like a couple of school-girls. Hearing and
seeing this, the prince smiled happily, and in accents of relief
and joy, he exclaimed "Well, thank God--thank God!"
Alexandra now joined in, and it looked as though the three
sisters were going to laugh on for ever.
"They are insane," muttered Lizabetha Prokofievna. "Either they
frighten one out of one's wits, or else--"
But Prince S. was laughing now, too, so was Evgenie Pavlovitch,
so was Colia, and so was the prince himself, who caught the
infection as he looked round radiantly upon the others.
"Come along, let's go out for a walk!" cried Adelaida. "We'll all
go together, and the prince must absolutely go with us. You
needn't go away, you dear good fellow! ISN'T he a dear, Aglaya?
Isn't he, mother? I must really give him a kiss for--for his
explanation to Aglaya just now. Mother, dear, I may kiss him,
mayn't I? Aglaya, may I kiss YOUR prince?" cried the young rogue,
and sure enough she skipped up to the prince and kissed his
He seized her hands, and pressed them so hard that Adelaida
nearly cried out; he then gazed with delight into her eyes, and
raising her right hand to his lips with enthusiasm, kissed it
"Come along," said Aglaya. "Prince, you must walk with me. May
he, mother? This young cavalier, who won't have me? You said you
would NEVER have me, didn't you, prince? No-no, not like that;
THAT'S not the way to give your arm. Don't you know how to give
your arm to a lady yet? There--so. Now, come along, you and I
will lead the way. Would you like to lead the way with me alone,
She went on talking and chatting without a pause, with occasional
little bursts of laughter between.
"Thank God--thank God!" said Lizabetha Prokofievna to herself,
without quite knowing why she felt so relieved.
"What extraordinary people they are!" thought Prince S., for
perhaps the hundredth time since he had entered into intimate
relations with the family; but--he liked these "extraordinary
people," all the same. As for Prince Lef Nicolaievitch himself,
Prince S. did not seem quite to like him, somehow. He was
decidedly preoccupied and a little disturbed as they all started
Evgenie Pavlovitch seemed to be in a lively humour. He made
Adelaida and Alexandra laugh all the way to the Vauxhall; but
they both laughed so very really and promptly that the worthy
Evgenie began at last to suspect that they were not listening to
him at all.
At this idea, he burst out laughing all at once, in quite
unaffected mirth, and without giving any explanation.
The sisters, who also appeared to be in high spirits, never tired
of glancing at Aglaya and the prince, who were walking in front.
It was evident that their younger sister was a thorough puzzle to
Prince S. tried hard to get up a conversation with Mrs. Epanchin
upon outside subjects, probably with the good intention of
distracting and amusing her; but he bored her dreadfully. She was
absent-minded to a degree, and answered at cross purposes, and
sometimes not at all.
But the puzzle and mystery of Aglaya was not yet over for the
evening. The last exhibition fell to the lot of the prince alone.
When they had proceeded some hundred paces or so from the house,
Aglaya said to her obstinately silent cavalier in a quick half-
"Look to the right!"
The prince glanced in the direction indicated.
"Look closer. Do you see that bench, in the park there, just by
those three big trees--that green bench?"
The prince replied that he saw it.
"Do you like the position of it? Sometimes of a morning early, at
seven o'clock, when all the rest are still asleep, I come out and
sit there alone."
The prince muttered that the spot was a lovely one.
"Now, go away, I don't wish to have your arm any longer; or
perhaps, better, continue to give me your arm, and walk along
beside me, but don't speak a word to me. I wish to think by
The warning was certainly unnecessary; for the prince would not
have said a word all the rest of the time whether forbidden to
speak or not. His heart beat loud and painfully when Aglaya spoke
of the bench; could she--but no! he banished the thought, after
an instant's deliberation.
At Pavlofsk, on weekdays, the public is more select than it is on
Sundays and Saturdays, when the townsfolk come down to walk about
and enjoy the park.
The ladies dress elegantly, on these days, and it is the fashion
to gather round the band, which is probably the best of our
pleasure-garden bands, and plays the newest pieces. The behaviour
of the public is most correct and proper, and there is an
appearance of friendly intimacy among the usual frequenters. Many
come for nothing but to look at their acquaintances, but there
are others who come for the sake of the music. It is very seldom
that anything happens to break the harmony of the proceedings,
though, of course, accidents will happen everywhere.
On this particular evening the weather was lovely, and there were
a large number of people present. All the places anywhere near
the orchestra were occupied.
Our friends took chairs near the side exit. The crowd and the
music cheered Mrs. Epanchin a little, and amused the girls; they
bowed and shook hands with some of their friends and nodded at a
distance to others; they examined the ladies' dresses, noticed
comicalities and eccentricities among the people, and laughed and
talked among themselves. Evgenie Pavlovitch, too, found plenty of
friends to bow to. Several people noticed Aglaya and the prince,
who were still together.
Before very long two or three young men had come up, and one or
two remained to talk; all of these young men appeared to be on
intimate terms with Evgenie Pavlovitch. Among them was a young
officer, a remarkably handsome fellow--very good-natured and a
great chatterbox. He tried to get up a conversation with Aglaya,
and did his best to secure her attention. Aglaya behaved very
graciously to him, and chatted and laughed merrily. Evgenie
Pavlovitch begged the prince's leave to introduce their friend to
him. The prince hardly realized what was wanted of him, but the
introduction came off; the two men bowed and shook hands.
Evgenie Pavlovitch's friend asked the prince some question, but
the latter did not reply, or if he did, he muttered something so
strangely indistinct that there was nothing to be made of it. The
officer stared intently at him, then glanced at Evgenie, divined
why the latter had introduced him, and gave his undivided
attention to Aglaya again. Only Evgenie Pavlovitch observed that
Aglaya flushed up for a moment at this.
The prince did not notice that others were talking and making
themselves agreeable to Aglaya; in fact, at moments, he almost
forgot that he was sitting by her himself. At other moments he
felt a longing to go away somewhere and be alone with his
thoughts, and to feel that no one knew where he was.
Or if that were impossible he would like to be alone at home, on
the terrace-without either Lebedeff or his children, or anyone
else about him, and to lie there and think--a day and night and
another day again! He thought of the mountains-and especially of
a certain spot which he used to frequent, whence he would look
down upon the distant valleys and fields, and see the waterfall,
far off, like a little silver thread, and the old ruined castle
in the distance. Oh! how he longed to be there now--alone with
his thoughts--to think of one thing all his life--one thing! A
thousand years would not be too much time! And let everyone here
forget him--forget him utterly! How much better it would have
been if they had never known him--if all this could but prove to
be a dream. Perhaps it was a dream!
Now and then he looked at Aglaya for five minutes at a time,
without taking his eyes off her face; but his expression was very
strange; he would gaze at her as though she were an object a
couple of miles distant, or as though he were looking at her
portrait and not at herself at all.
"Why do you look at me like that, prince?" she asked suddenly,
breaking off her merry conversation and laughter with those about
her. "I'm afraid of you! You look as though you were just going
to put out your hand and touch my face to see if it's real!
Doesn't he, Evgenie Pavlovitch--doesn't he look like that?"
The prince seemed surprised that he should have been addressed
at all; he reflected a moment, but did not seem to take in what
had been said to him; at all events, he did not answer. But
observing that she and the others had begun to laugh, he too
opened his mouth and laughed with them.
The laughter became general, and the young officer, who seemed a
particularly lively sort of person, simply shook with mirth.
Aglaya suddenly whispered angrily to herself the word--
"My goodness--surely she is not in love with such a--surely she
isn't mad!" groaned Mrs. Epanchin, under her breath.
"It's all a joke, mamma; it's just a joke like the 'poor knight'
--nothing more whatever, I assure you!" Alexandra whispered in her
ear. "She is chaffing him--making a fool of him, after her own
private fashion, that's all! But she carries it just a little too
far--she is a regular little actress. How she frightened us just
now--didn't she?--and all for a lark!"
"Well, it's lucky she has happened upon an idiot, then, that's
all I can say!" whispered Lizabetha Prokofievna, who was somewhat
comforted, however, by her daughter's remark.
The prince had heard himself referred to as "idiot," and had
shuddered at the moment; but his shudder, it so happened, was not
caused by the word applied to him. The fact was that in the
crowd, not far from where lie was sitting, a pale familiar face,
with curly black hair, and a well-known smile and expression, had
flashed across his vision for a moment, and disappeared again.
Very likely he had imagined it! There only remained to him the
impression of a strange smile, two eyes, and a bright green tie.
Whether the man had disappeared among the crowd, or whether he
had turned towards the Vauxhall, the prince could not say.
But a moment or two afterwards he began to glance keenly about
him. That first vision might only too likely be the forerunner of
a second; it was almost certain to be so. Surely he had not
forgotten the possibility of such a meeting when he came to the
Vauxhall? True enough, he had not remarked where he was coming to
when he set out with Aglaya; he had not been in a condition to
remark anything at all.
Had he been more careful to observe his companion, he would have
seen that for the last quarter of an hour Aglaya had also been
glancing around in apparent anxiety, as though she expected to
see someone, or something particular, among the crowd of people.
Now, at the moment when his own anxiety became so marked, her
excitement also increased visibly, and when he looked about him,
she did the same.
The reason for their anxiety soon became apparent. From that very
side entrance to the Vauxhall, near which the prince and all the
Epanchin party were seated, there suddenly appeared quite a large
knot of persons, at least a dozen.
Heading this little band walked three ladies, two of whom were
remarkably lovely; and there was nothing surprising in the fact
that they should have had a large troop of admirers following in
But there was something in the appearance of both the ladies and
their admirers which was peculiar, quite different for that of
the rest of the public assembled around the orchestra.
Nearly everyone observed the little band advancing, and all
pretended not to see or notice them, except a few young fellows
who exchanged glances and smiled, saying something to one another
It was impossible to avoid noticing them, however, in reality,
for they made their presence only too conspicuous by laughing and
talking loudly. It was to be supposed that some of them were more
than half drunk, although they were well enough dressed, some
even particularly well. There were one or two, however, who were
very strange-looking creatures, with flushed faces and
extraordinary clothes; some were military men; not all were quite
young; one or two were middle-aged gentlemen of decidedly
disagreeable appearance, men who are avoided in society like the
plague, decked out in large gold studs and rings, and
magnificently "got up," generally.
Among our suburban resorts there are some which enjoy a specially
high reputation for respectability and fashion; but the most
careful individual is not absolutely exempt from the danger of a
tile falling suddenly upon his head from his neighbour's roof.
Such a tile was about to descend upon the elegant and decorous
public now assembled to hear the music.
In order to pass from the Vauxhall to the band-stand, the visitor
has to descend two or three steps. Just at these steps the group
paused, as though it feared to proceed further; but very quickly
one of the three ladies, who formed its apex, stepped forward
into the charmed circle, followed by two members of her suite.
One of these was a middle-aged man of very respectable
appearance, but with the stamp of parvenu upon him, a man whom
nobody knew, and who evidently knew nobody. The other follower
was younger and far less respectable-looking.
No one else followed the eccentric lady; but as she descended the
steps she did not even look behind her, as though it were
absolutely the same to her whether anyone were following or not.
She laughed and talked loudly, however, just as before. She was
dressed with great taste, but with rather more magnificence than
was needed for the occasion, perhaps.
She walked past the orchestra, to where an open carriage was
waiting, near the road.
The prince had not seen HER for more than three months. All these
days since his arrival from Petersburg he had intended to pay her
a visit, but some mysterious presentiment had restrained him. He
could not picture to himself what impression this meeting with
her would make upon him, though he had often tried to imagine it,
with fear and trembling. One fact was quite certain, and that was
that the meeting would be painful.
Several times during the last six months he had recalled the
effect which the first sight of this face had had upon him, when
he only saw its portrait. He recollected well that even the
portrait face had left but too painful an impression.
That month in the provinces, when he had seen this woman nearly
every day, had affected him so deeply that he could not now look
back upon it calmly. In the very look of this woman there was
something which tortured him. In conversation with Rogojin he had
attributed this sensation to pity--immeasurable pity, and this
was the truth. The sight of the portrait face alone had filled
his heart full of the agony of real sympathy; and this feeling of
sympathy, nay, of actual SUFFERING, for her, had never left his
heart since that hour, and was still in full force. Oh yes, and
more powerful than ever!
But the prince was not satisfied with what he had said to
Rogojin. Only at this moment, when she suddenly made her
appearance before him, did he realize to the full the exact
emotion which she called up in him, and which he had not
described correctly to Rogojin.
And, indeed, there were no words in which he could have expressed
his horror, yes, HORROR, for he was now fully convinced from his
own private knowledge of her, that the woman was mad.
If, loving a woman above everything in the world, or at least
having a foretaste of the possibility of such love for her, one
were suddenly to behold her on a chain, behind bars and under the
lash of a keeper, one would feel something like what the poor
prince now felt.
"What's the matter?" asked Aglaya, in a whisper, giving his
sleeve a little tug.
He turned his head towards her and glanced at her black and (for
some reason) flashing eyes, tried to smile, and then, apparently
forgetting her in an instant, turned to the right once more, and
continued to watch the startling apparition before him.
Nastasia Philipovna was at this moment passing the young ladies'
Evgenie Pavlovitch continued some apparently extremely funny and
interesting anecdote to Alexandra, speaking quickly and with much
animation. The prince remembered that at this moment Aglaya
remarked in a half-whisper:
She did not finish her indefinite sentence; she restrained
herself in a moment; but it was enough.
Nastasia Philipovna, who up to now had been walking along as
though she had not noticed the Epanchin party, suddenly turned