Part 9 out of 15
her head in their direction, as though she had just observed
Evgenie Pavlovitch sitting there for the first time.
"Why, I declare, here he is!" she cried, stopping suddenly. "The
man one can't find with all one's messengers sent about the
place, sitting just under one's nose, exactly where one never
thought of looking! I thought you were sure to be at your uncle's
by this time."
Evgenie Pavlovitch flushed up and looked angrily at Nastasia
Philipovna, then turned his back on her.
"What I don't you know about it yet? He doesn't know--imagine
that! Why, he's shot himself. Your uncle shot himself this very
morning. I was told at two this afternoon. Half the town must
know it by now. They say there are three hundred and fifty
thousand roubles, government money, missing; some say five
hundred thousand. And I was under the impression that he would
leave you a fortune! He's whistled it all away. A most depraved
old gentleman, really! Well, ta, ta!--bonne chance! Surely you
intend to be off there, don't you? Ha, ha! You've retired from
the army in good time, I see! Plain clothes! Well done, sly
rogue! Nonsense! I see--you knew it all before--I dare say you
knew all about it yesterday-"
Although the impudence of this attack, this public proclamation
of intimacy, as it were, was doubtless premeditated, and had its
special object, yet Evgenie Pavlovitch at first seemed to intend
to make no show of observing either his tormentor or her words.
But Nastasia's communication struck him with the force of a
thunderclap. On hearing of his uncle's death he suddenly grew as
white as a sheet, and turned towards his informant.
At this moment, Lizabetha Prokofievna rose swiftly from her seat,
beckoned her companions, and left the place almost at a run.
Only the prince stopped behind for a moment, as though in
indecision; and Evgenie Pavlovitch lingered too, for he had not
collected his scattered wits. But the Epanchins had not had time
to get more than twenty paces away when a scandalous episode
occurred. The young officer, Evgenie Pavlovitch's friend who had
been conversing with Aglaya, said aloud in a great state of
"She ought to be whipped--that's the only way to deal with
creatures like that--she ought to be whipped!"
This gentleman was a confidant of Evgenie's, and had doubtless
heard of the carriage episode.
Nastasia turned to him. Her eyes flashed; she rushed up to a
young man standing near, whom she did not know in the least, but
who happened to have in his hand a thin cane. Seizing this from
him, she brought it with all her force across the face of her
All this occurred, of course, in one instant of time.
The young officer, forgetting himself, sprang towards her.
Nastasia's followers were not by her at the moment (the elderly
gentleman having disappeared altogether, and the younger man
simply standing aside and roaring with laughter).
In another moment, of course, the police would have been on the
spot, and it would have gone hard with Nastasia Philipovna had
not unexpected aid appeared.
Muishkin, who was but a couple of steps away, had time to spring
forward and seize the officer's arms from behind.
The officer, tearing himself from the prince's grasp, pushed him
so violently backwards that he staggered a few steps and then
subsided into a chair.
But there were other defenders for Nastasia on the spot by this
time. The gentleman known as the "boxer" now confronted the
"Keller is my name, sir; ex-lieutenant," he said, very loud. "If
you will accept me as champion of the fair sex, I am at your
disposal. English boxing has no secrets from me. I sympathize
with you for the insult you have received, but I can't permit you
to raise your hand against a woman in public. If you prefer to
meet me--as would be more fitting to your rank--in some other
manner, of course you understand me, captain."
But the young officer had recovered himself, and was no longer
listening. At this moment Rogojin appeared, elbowing through the
crowd; he took Nastasia's hand, drew it through his arm, and
quickly led her away. He appeared to be terribly excited; he was
trembling all over, and was as pale as a corpse.
As he carried Nastasia off, he turned and grinned horribly in the
officer's face, and with low malice observed:
"Tfu! look what the fellow got! Look at the blood on his cheek!
Recollecting himself, however, and seeing at a glance the sort of
people he had to deal with, the officer turned his back on both
his opponents, and courteously, but concealing his face with his
handkerchief, approached the prince, who was now rising from the
chair into which he had fallen.
"Prince Muishkin, I believe? The gentleman to whom I had the
honour of being introduced?"
"She is mad, insane--I assure you, she is mad," replied the
prince in trembling tones, holding out both his hands
mechanically towards the officer.
"I cannot boast of any such knowledge, of course, but I wished to
know your name."
He bowed and retired without waiting for an answer.
Five seconds after the disappearance of the last actor in this
scene, the police arrived. The whole episode had not lasted more
than a couple of minutes. Some of the spectators had risen from
their places, and departed altogether; some merely exchanged
their seats for others a little further off; some were delighted
with the occurrence, and talked and laughed over it for a long
In a word, the incident closed as such incidents do, and the band
began to play again. The prince walked away after the Epanchin
party. Had he thought of looking round to the left after he had
been pushed so unceremoniously into the chair, he would have
observed Aglaya standing some twenty yards away. She had stayed
to watch the scandalous scene in spite of her mother's and
sisters' anxious cries to her to come away.
Prince S. ran up to her and persuaded her, at last, to come home
Lizabetha Prokofievna saw that she returned in such a state of
agitation that it was doubtful whether she had even heard their
calls. But only a couple of minutes later, when they had reached
the park, Aglaya suddenly remarked, in her usual calm,
"I wanted to see how the farce would end."
THE occurrence at the Vauxhall had filled both mother and
daughters with something like horror. In their excitement
Lizabetha Prokofievna and the girls were nearly running all the
In her opinion there was so much disclosed and laid bare by the
episode, that, in spite of the chaotic condition of her mind, she
was able to feel more or less decided on certain points which, up
to now, had been in a cloudy condition.
However, one and all of the party realized that something
important had happened, and that, perhaps fortunately enough,
something which had hitherto been enveloped in the obscurity of
guess-work had now begun to come forth a little from the mists.
In spite of Prince S.'s assurances and explanations, Evgenie
Pavlovitch's real character and position were at last coming to
light. He was publicly convicted of intimacy with "that
creature." So thought Lizabetha Prokofievna and her two elder
But the real upshot of the business was that the number of
riddles to be solved was augmented. The two girls, though rather
irritated at their mother's exaggerated alarm and haste to depart
from the scene, had been unwilling to worry her at first with
Besides, they could not help thinking that their sister Aglaya
probably knew more about the whole matter than both they and
their mother put together.
Prince S. looked as black as night, and was silent and moody.
Mrs. Epanchin did not say a word to him all the way home, and he
did not seem to observe the fact. Adelaida tried to pump him a
little by asking, "who was the uncle they were talking about, and
what was it that had happened in Petersburg?" But he had merely
muttered something disconnected about "making inquiries," and
that "of course it was all nonsense." "Oh, of course," replied
Adelaida, and asked no more questions. Aglaya, too, was very
quiet; and the only remark she made on the way home was that they
were "walking much too fast to be pleasant."
Once she turned and observed the prince hurrying after them.
Noticing his anxiety to catch them up, she smiled ironically, and
then looked back no more. At length, just as they neared the
house, General Epanchin came out and met them; he had only just
arrived from town.
His first word was to inquire after Evgenie Pavlovitch. But
Lizabetha stalked past him, and neither looked at him nor
answered his question.
He immediately judged from the faces of his daughters and Prince
S. that there was a thunderstorm brewing, and he himself already
bore evidences of unusual perturbation of mind.
He immediately button-holed Prince S., and standing at the front
door, engaged in a whispered conversation with him. By the
troubled aspect of both of them, when they entered the house, and
approached Mrs. Epanchin, it was evident that they had been
discussing very disturbing news.
Little by little the family gathered together upstairs in
Lizabetha Prokofievna's apartments, and Prince Muishkin found
himself alone on the verandah when he arrived. He settled himself
in a corner and sat waiting, though he knew not what he expected.
It never struck him that he had better go away, with all this
disturbance in the house. He seemed to have forgotten all the
world, and to be ready to sit on where he was for years on end.
From upstairs he caught sounds of excited conversation every now
He could not say how long he sat there. It grew late and became
Suddenly Aglaya entered the verandah. She seemed to be quite
calm, though a little pale.
Observing the prince, whom she evidently did not expect to see
there, alone in the corner, she smiled, and approached him:
"What are you doing there?" she asked.
The prince muttered something, blushed, and jumped up; but Aglaya
immediately sat down beside him; so he reseated himself.
She looked suddenly, but attentively into his face, then at the
window, as though thinking of something else, and then again at
"Perhaps she wants to laugh at me," thought the prince, "but no;
for if she did she certainly would do so."
"Would you like some tea? I'll order some," she said, after a
minute or two of silence.
"N-no thanks, I don't know--"
"Don't know! How can you not know? By-the-by, look here--if
someone were to challenge you to a duel, what should you do? I
wished to ask you this--some time ago--"
"Why? Nobody would ever challenge me to a duel!"
"But if they were to, would you be dreadfully frightened?"
"I dare say I should be--much alarmed!"
"Seriously? Then are you a coward?"
"N-no!--I don't think so. A coward is a man who is afraid and
runs away; the man who is frightened but does not run away, is
not quite a coward," said the prince with a smile, after a
"And you wouldn't run away?"
"No--I don't think I should run away," replied the prince,
laughing outright at last at Aglaya's questions.
"Though I am a woman, I should certainly not run away for
anything," said Aglaya, in a slightly pained voice. "However, I
see you are laughing at me and twisting your face up as usual in
order to make yourself look more interesting. Now tell me, they
generally shoot at twenty paces, don't they? At ten, sometimes? I
suppose if at ten they must be either wounded or killed, mustn't
"I don't think they often kill each other at duels."
"They killed Pushkin that way."
"That may have been an accident."
"Not a bit of it; it was a duel to the death, and he was killed."
"The bullet struck so low down that probably his antagonist would
never have aimed at that part of him--people never do; he would
have aimed at his chest or head; so that probably the bullet hit
him accidentally. I have been told this by competent
"Well, a soldier once told me that they were always ordered to
aim at the middle of the body. So you see they don't aim at the
chest or head; they aim lower on purpose. I asked some officer
about this afterwards, and he said it was perfectly true."
"That is probably when they fire from a long distance."
"Can you shoot at all?"
"No, I have never shot in my life."
"Can't you even load a pistol?"
"No! That is, I understand how it's done, of course, but I have
never done it."
"Then, you don't know how, for it is a matter that needs
practice. Now listen and learn; in the first place buy good
powder, not damp (they say it mustn't be at all damp, but very
dry), some fine kind it is--you must ask for PISTOL powder, not
the stuff they load cannons with. They say one makes the bullets
oneself, somehow or other. Have you got a pistol?"
"No--and I don't want one," said the prince, laughing.
"Oh, what NONSENSE! You must buy one. French or English are the
best, they say. Then take a little powder, about a thimbleful, or
perhaps two, and pour it into the barrel. Better put plenty. Then
push in a bit of felt (it MUST be felt, for some reason or
other); you can easily get a bit off some old mattress, or off a
door; it's used to keep the cold out. Well, when you have pushed
the felt down, put the bullet in; do you hear now? The bullet
last and the powder first, not the other way, or the pistol won't
shoot. What are you laughing at? I wish you to buy a pistol and
practise every day, and you must learn to hit a mark for CERTAIN;
The prince only laughed. Aglaya stamped her foot with annoyance.
Her serious air, however, during this conversation had surprised
him considerably. He had a feeling that he ought to be asking her
something, that there was something he wanted to find out far
more important than how to load a pistol; but his thoughts had
all scattered, and he was only aware that she was sitting by,
him, and talking to him, and that he was looking at her; as to
what she happened to be saying to him, that did not matter in the
The general now appeared on the verandah, coming from upstairs.
He was on his way out, with an expression of determination on his
face, and of preoccupation and worry also.
"Ah! Lef Nicolaievitch, it's you, is it? Where are you off to
now?" he asked, oblivious of the fact that the prince had not
showed the least sign of moving. "Come along with me; I want to
say a word or two to you."
"Au revoir, then!" said Aglaya, holding out her hand to the
It was quite dark now, and Muishkin could not see her face
clearly, but a minute or two later, when he and the general had
left the villa, he suddenly flushed up, and squeezed his right
It appeared that he and the general were going in the same
direction. In spite of the lateness of the hour, the general was
hurrying away to talk to someone upon some important subject.
Meanwhile he talked incessantly but disconnectedly to the prince,
and continually brought in the name of Lizabetha Prokofievna.
If the prince had been in a condition to pay more attention to
what the general was saying, he would have discovered that the
latter was desirous of drawing some information out of him, or
indeed of asking him some question outright; but that he could
not make up his mind to come to the point.
Muishkin was so absent, that from the very first he could not
attend to a word the other was saying; and when the general
suddenly stopped before him with some excited question, he was
obliged to confess, ignominiously, that he did not know in the
least what he had been talking about.
The general shrugged his shoulders.
"How strange everyone, yourself included, has become of late,"
said he. "I was telling you that I cannot in the least understand
Lizabetha Prokofievna's ideas and agitations. She is in hysterics
up there, and moans and says that we have been 'shamed and
disgraced.' How? Why? When? By whom? I confess that I am very
much to blame myself; I do not conceal the fact; but the conduct,
the outrageous behaviour of this woman, must really be kept
within limits, by the police if necessary, and I am just on my
way now to talk the question over and make some arrangements. It
can all be managed quietly and gently, even kindly, and without
the slightest fuss or scandal. I foresee that the future is
pregnant with events, and that there is much that needs
explanation. There is intrigue in the wind; but if on one side
nothing is known, on the other side nothing will be explained. If
I have heard nothing about it, nor have YOU, nor HE, nor SHE--
who HAS heard about it, I should like to know? How CAN all this
be explained except by the fact that half of it is mirage or
moonshine, or some hallucination of that sort?"
"SHE is insane," muttered the prince, suddenly recollecting all
that had passed, with a spasm of pain at his heart.
"I too had that idea, and I slept in peace. But now I see that
their opinion is more correct. I do not believe in the theory of
madness! The woman has no common sense; but she is not only not
insane, she is artful to a degree. Her outburst of this evening
about Evgenie's uncle proves that conclusively. It was VILLAINOUS,
simply jesuitical, and it was all for some special purpose."
"What about Evgenie's uncle?"
"My goodness, Lef Nicolaievitch, why, you can't have heard a
single word I said! Look at me, I'm still trembling all over with
the dreadful shock! It is that that kept me in town so late.
Evgenie Pavlovitch's uncle--"
Well?" cried the prince.
"Shot himself this morning, at seven o'clock. A respected,
eminent old man of seventy; and exactly point for point as she
described it; a sum of money, a considerable sum of government
"Why, how could she--"
"What, know of it? Ha, ha, ha! Why, there was a whole crowd round
her the moment she appeared on the scenes here. You know what
sort of people surround her nowadays, and solicit the honour of
her 'acquaintance.' Of course she might easily have heard the
news from someone coming from town. All Petersburg, if not all
Pavlofsk, knows it by now. Look at the slyness of her observation
about Evgenie's uniform! I mean, her remark that he had retired
just in time! There's a venomous hint for you, if you like! No,
no! there's no insanity there! Of course I refuse to believe that
Evgenie Pavlovitch could have known beforehand of the
catastrophe; that is, that at such and such a day at seven
o'clock, and all that; but he might well have had a presentiment
of the truth. And I--all of us--Prince S. and everybody, believed
that he was to inherit a large fortune from this uncle. It's
dreadful, horrible! Mind, I don't suspect Evgenie of anything, be
quite clear on that point; but the thing is a little suspicious,
nevertheless. Prince S. can't get over it. Altogether it is a
very extraordinary combination of circumstances."
"What suspicion attaches to Evgenie Pavlovitch?"
"Oh, none at all! He has behaved very well indeed. I didn't mean
to drop any sort of hint. His own fortune is intact, I believe.
Lizabetha Prokofievna, of course, refuses to listen to anything.
That's the worst of it all, these family catastrophes or
quarrels, or whatever you like to call them. You know, prince,
you are a friend of the family, so I don't mind telling you; it
now appears that Evgenie Pavlovitch proposed to Aglaya a month
ago, and was refused."
"Impossible!" cried the prince.
"Why? Do you know anything about it? Look here," continued the
general, more agitated than ever, and trembling with excitement,
"maybe I have been letting the cat out of the bag too freely with
you, if so, it is because you are--that sort of man, you know!
Perhaps you have some special information?"
"I know nothing about Evgenie Pavlovitch!" said the prince.
"Nor do I! They always try to bury me underground when there's
anything going on; they don't seem to reflect that it is
unpleasant to a man to be treated so! I won't stand it! We have
just had a terrible scene!--mind, I speak to you as I would to my
own son! Aglaya laughs at her mother. Her sisters guessed about
Evgenie having proposed and been rejected, and told Lizabetha.
"I tell you, my dear fellow, Aglaya is such an extraordinary,
such a self-willed, fantastical little creature, you wouldn't
believe it! Every high quality, every brilliant trait of heart
and mind, are to be found in her, and, with it all, so much
caprice and mockery, such wild fancies--indeed, a little devil!
She has just been laughing at her mother to her very face, and at
her sisters, and at Prince S., and everybody--and of course she
always laughs at me! You know I love the child--I love her even
when she laughs at me, and I believe the wild little creature has
a special fondness for me for that very reason. She is fonder of
me than any of the others. I dare swear she has had a good laugh
at YOU before now! You were having a quiet talk just now, I
observed, after all the thunder and lightning upstairs. She was
sitting with you just as though there had been no row at all."
The prince blushed painfully in the darkness, and closed his
right hand tightly, but he said nothing.
"My dear good Prince Lef Nicolaievitch," began the general again,
suddenly, "both I and Lizabetha Prokofievna--(who has begun to
respect you once more, and me through you, goodness knows why!)--
we both love you very sincerely, and esteem you, in spite of any
appearances to the contrary. But you'll admit what a riddle it
must have been for us when that calm, cold, little spitfire,
Aglaya--(for she stood up to her mother and answered her
questions with inexpressible contempt, and mine still more so,
because, like a fool, I thought it my duty to assert myself as
head of the family)--when Aglaya stood up of a sudden and
informed us that 'that madwoman' (strangely enough, she used
exactly the same expression as you did) 'has taken it into her
head to marry me to Prince Lef Nicolaievitch, and therefore is
doing her best to choke Evgenie Pavlovitch off, and rid the house
of him.' That's what she said. She would not give the slightest
explanation; she burst out laughing, banged the door, and went
away. We all stood there with our mouths open. Well, I was told
afterwards of your little passage with Aglaya this afternoon,
and-and--dear prince--you are a good, sensible fellow, don't be
angry if I speak out--she is laughing at you, my boy! She is
enjoying herself like a child, at your expense, and therefore,
since she is a child, don't be angry with her, and don't think
anything of it. I assure you, she is simply making a fool of you,
just as she does with one and all of us out of pure lack of
something better to do. Well--good-bye! You know our feelings,
don't you--our sincere feelings for yourself? They are
unalterable, you know, dear boy, under all circumstances, but--
Well, here we part; I must go down to the right. Rarely have I
sat so uncomfortably in my saddle, as they say, as I now sit. And
people talk of the charms of a country holiday!"
Left to himself at the cross-roads, the prince glanced around
him, quickly crossed the road towards the lighted window of a
neighbouring house, and unfolded a tiny scrap of paper which he
had held clasped in his right hand during the whole of his
conversation with the general.
He read the note in the uncertain rays that fell from the window.
It was as follows:
"Tomorrow morning, I shall be at the green bench in the park at
seven, and shall wait there for you. I have made up my mind to
speak to you about a most important matter which closely concerns
"P.S.--I trust that you will not show this note to anyone. Though
I am ashamed of giving you such instructions, I feel that I must
do so, considering what you are. I therefore write the words, and
blush for your simple character.
"P.P.S.--It is the same green bench that I showed you before.
There! aren't you ashamed of yourself? I felt that it was
necessary to repeat even that information."
The note was written and folded anyhow, evidently in a great
hurry, and probably just before Aglaya had come down to the
In inexpressible agitation, amounting almost to fear, the prince
slipped quickly away from the window, away from the light, like a
frightened thief, but as he did so he collided violently with
some gentleman who seemed to spring from the earth at his feet.
"I was watching for you, prince," said the individual.
"Is that you, Keller?" said the prince, in surprise.
"Yes, I've been looking for you. I waited for you at the
Epanchins' house, but of course I could not come in. I dogged you
from behind as you walked along with the general. Well, prince,
here is Keller, absolutely at your service--command him!--ready
to sacrifice himself--even to die in case of need."
"Oh, why?--Of course you'll be challenged! That was young
Lieutenant Moloftsoff. I know him, or rather of him; he won't
pass an insult. He will take no notice of Rogojin and myself,
and, therefore, you are the only one left to account for. You'll
have to pay the piper, prince. He has been asking about you, and
undoubtedly his friend will call on you tomorrow--perhaps he is
at your house already. If you would do me the honour to have me
for a second, prince, I should be happy. That's why I have been
looking for you now."
"Duel! You've come to talk about a duel, too!" The prince burst
out laughing, to the great astonishment of Keller. He laughed
unrestrainedly, and Keller, who had been on pins and needles, and
in a fever of excitement to offer himself as "second," was very
near being offended.
"You caught him by the arms, you know, prince. No man of proper
pride can stand that sort of treatment in public."
"Yes, and he gave me a fearful dig in the chest," cried the
prince, still laughing. "What are we to fight about? I shall beg
his pardon, that's all. But if we must fight--we'll fight! Let
him have a shot at me, by all means; I should rather like it. Ha,
ha, ha! I know how to load a pistol now; do you know how to load
a pistol, Keller? First, you have to buy the powder, you know; it
mustn't be wet, and it mustn't be that coarse stuff that they
load cannons with--it must be pistol powder. Then you pour the
powder in, and get hold of a bit of felt from some door, and then
shove the bullet in. But don't shove the bullet in before the
powder, because the thing wouldn't go off--do you hear, Keller,
the thing wouldn't go off! Ha, ha, ha! Isn't that a grand reason,
Keller, my friend, eh? Do you know, my dear fellow, I really must
kiss you, and embrace you, this very moment. Ha, ha! How was it
you so suddenly popped up in front of me as you did? Come to my
house as soon as you can, and we'll have some champagne. We'll
all get drunk! Do you know I have a dozen of champagne in
Lebedeff's cellar? Lebedeff sold them to me the day after I
arrived. I took the lot. We'll invite everybody! Are you going to
do any sleeping tonight?"
"As much as usual, prince--why?"
"Pleasant dreams then--ha, ha!"
The prince crossed the road, and disappeared into the park,
leaving the astonished Keller in a state of ludicrous wonder. He
had never before seen the prince in such a strange condition of
mind, and could not have imagined the possibility of it.
"Fever, probably," he said to himself, "for the man is all
nerves, and this business has been a little too much for him. He
is not AFRAID, that's clear; that sort never funks! H'm!
champagne! That was an interesting item of news, at all events!--
Twelve bottles! Dear me, that's a very respectable little stock
indeed! I bet anything Lebedeff lent somebody money on deposit of
this dozen of champagne. Hum! he's a nice fellow, is this prince!
I like this sort of man. Well, I needn't be wasting time here,
and if it's a case of champagne, why--there's no time like the
That the prince was almost in a fever was no more than the truth.
He wandered about the park for a long while, and at last came to
himself in a lonely avenue. He was vaguely conscious that he had
already paced this particular walk--from that large, dark tree to
the bench at the other end--about a hundred yards altogether--at
least thirty times backwards and forwards.
As to recollecting what he had been thinking of all that time, he
could not. He caught himself, however, indulging in one thought
which made him roar with laughter, though there was nothing
really to laugh at in it; but he felt that he must laugh, and go
It struck him that the idea of the duel might not have occurred
to Keller alone, but that his lesson in the art of pistol-loading
might have been not altogether accidental! "Pooh! nonsense!" he
said to himself, struck by another thought, of a sudden. "Why,
she was immensely surprised to find me there on the verandah, and
laughed and talked about TEA! And yet she had this little note in
her hand, therefore she must have known that I was sitting there.
So why was she surprised? Ha, ha, ha!"
He pulled the note out and kissed it; then paused and reflected.
"How strange it all is! how strange!" he muttered, melancholy
enough now. In moments of great joy, he invariably felt a
sensation of melancholy come over him--he could not tell why.
He looked intently around him, and wondered why he had come here;
he was very tired, so he approached the bench and sat down on it.
Around him was profound silence; the music in the Vauxhall was
over. The park seemed quite empty, though it was not, in reality,
later than half-past eleven. It was a quiet, warm, clear night--a
real Petersburg night of early June; but in the dense avenue,
where he was sitting, it was almost pitch dark.
If anyone had come up at this moment and told him that he was in
love, passionately in love, he would have rejected the idea with
astonishment, and, perhaps, with irritation. And if anyone had
added that Aglaya's note was a love-letter, and that it contained
an appointment to a lover's rendezvous, he would have blushed
with shame for the speaker, and, probably, have challenged him to
All this would have been perfectly sincere on his part. He had
never for a moment entertained the idea of the possibility of
this girl loving him, or even of such a thing as himself falling
in love with her. The possibility of being loved himself, "a man
like me," as he put it, he ranked among ridiculous suppositions.
It appeared to him that it was simply a joke on Aglaya's part, if
there really were anything in it at all; but that seemed to him
quite natural. His preoccupation was caused by something
As to the few words which the general had let slip about Aglaya
laughing at everybody, and at himself most of all--he entirely
believed them. He did not feel the slightest sensation of
offence; on the contrary, he was quite certain that it was as it
His whole thoughts were now as to next morning early; he would
see her; he would sit by her on that little green bench, and
listen to how pistols were loaded, and look at her. He wanted
The question as to what she might have to say of special interest
to himself occurred to him once or twice. He did not doubt, for a
moment, that she really had some such subject of conversation in
store, but so very little interested in the matter was he that it
did not strike him to wonder what it could be. The crunch of
gravel on the path suddenly caused him to raise his head.
A man, whose face it was difficult to see in the gloom,
approached the bench, and sat down beside him. The prince peered
into his face, and recognized the livid features of Rogojin.
"I knew you'd be wandering about somewhere here. I didn't have to
look for you very long," muttered the latter between his teeth.
It was the first time they had met since the encounter on the
staircase at the hotel.
Painfully surprised as he was at this sudden apparition of
Rogojin, the prince, for some little while, was unable to collect
his thoughts. Rogojin, evidently, saw and understood the
impression he had made; and though he seemed more or less
confused at first, yet he began talking with what looked like
assumed ease and freedom. However, the prince soon changed his
mind on this score, and thought that there was not only no
affectation of indifference, but that Rogojin was not even
particularly agitated. If there were a little apparent
awkwardness, it was only in his words and gestures. The man could
not change his heart.
"How did you--find me here?" asked the prince for the sake of
"Keller told me (I found him at your place) that you were in the
park. 'Of course he is!' I thought."
"Why so?" asked the prince uneasily.
Rogojin smiled, but did not explain.
"I received your letter, Lef Nicolaievitch--what's the good of
all that?--It's no use, you know. I've come to you from HER,--she
bade me tell you that she must see you, she has something to say
to you. She told me to find you today."
"I'll come tomorrow. Now I'm going home--are you coming to my
"Why should I? I've given you the message.--Goodbye!"
"Won't you come?" asked the prince in a gentle voice.
"What an extraordinary man you are! I wonder at you!" Rogojin
"Why do you hate me so?" asked the prince, sadly. "You know
yourself that all you suspected is quite unfounded. I felt you
were still angry with me, though. Do you know why? Because you
tried to kill me--that's why you can't shake off your wrath
against me. I tell you that I only remember the Parfen Rogojin
with whom I exchanged crosses, and vowed brotherhood. I wrote you
this in yesterday's letter, in order that you might forget all
that madness on your part, and that you might not feel called to
talk about it when we met. Why do you avoid me? Why do you hold
your hand back from me? I tell you again, I consider all that has
passed a delirium, an insane dream. I can understand all you did,
and all you felt that day, as if it were myself. What you were
then imagining was not the case, and could never be the case.
Why, then, should there be anger between us?"
"You don't know what anger is!" laughed Rogojin, in reply to the
prince's heated words.
He had moved a pace or two away, and was hiding his hands behind
"No, it is impossible for me to come to your house again," he
"Why? Do you hate me so much as all that?"
"I don't love you, Lef Nicolaievitch, and, therefore, what would
be the use of my coming to see you? You are just like a child--
you want a plaything, and it must be taken out and given you--and
then you don't know how to work it. You are simply repeating all
you said in your letter, and what's the use? Of course I believe
every word you say, and I know perfectly well that you neither
did or ever can deceive me in any way, and yet, I don't love you.
You write that you've forgotten everything, and only remember
your brother Parfen, with whom you exchanged crosses, and that
you don't remember anything about the Rogojin who aimed a knife
at your throat. What do you know about my feelings, eh?" (Rogojin
laughed disagreeably.) "Here you are holding out your brotherly
forgiveness to me for a thing that I have perhaps never repented
of in the slightest degree. I did not think of it again all that
evening; all my thoughts were centred on something else--"
"Not think of it again? Of course you didn't!" cried the prince.
"And I dare swear that you came straight away down here to
Pavlofsk to listen to the music and dog her about in the crowd,
and stare at her, just as you did today. There's nothing
surprising in that! If you hadn't been in that condition of mind
that you could think of nothing but one subject, you would,
probably, never have raised your knife against me. I had a
presentiment of what you would do, that day, ever since I saw you
first in the morning. Do you know yourself what you looked like?
I knew you would try to murder me even at the very moment when we
exchanged crosses. What did you take me to your mother for? Did
you think to stay your hand by doing so? Perhaps you did not put
your thoughts into words, but you and I were thinking the same
thing, or feeling the same thing looming over us, at the same
moment. What should you think of me now if you had not raised
your knife to me--the knife which God averted from my throat? I
would have been guilty of suspecting you all the same--and you
would have intended the murder all the same; therefore we should
have been mutually guilty in any case. Come, don't frown; you
needn't laugh at me, either. You say you haven't 'repented.'
Repented! You probably couldn't, if you were to try; you dislike
me too much for that. Why, if I were an angel of light, and as
innocent before you as a babe, you would still loathe me if you
believed that SHE loved me, instead of loving yourself. That's
jealousy--that is the real jealousy.
"But do you know what I have been thinking out during this last
week, Parfen? I'll tell you. What if she loves you now better
than anyone? And what if she torments you BECAUSE she loves you,
and in proportion to her love for you, so she torments you the
more? She won't tell you this, of course; you must have eyes to
see. Why do you suppose she consents to marry you? She must have
a reason, and that reason she will tell you some day. Some women
desire the kind of love you give her, and she is probably one of
these. Your love and your wild nature impress her. Do you know
that a woman is capable of driving a man crazy almost, with her
cruelties and mockeries, and feels not one single pang of regret,
because she looks at him and says to herself, 'There! I'll
torment this man nearly into his grave, and then, oh! how I'll
compensate him for it all with my love!'"
Rogojin listened to the end, and then burst out laughing:
"Why, prince, I declare you must have had a taste of this sort of
thing yourself--haven't you? I have heard tell of something of
the kind, you know; is it true?"
"What? What can you have heard?" said the prince, stammering.
Rogojin continued to laugh loudly. He had listened to the
prince's speech with curiosity and some satisfaction. The
speaker's impulsive warmth had surprised and even comforted him.
"Why, I've not only heard of it; I see it for myself," he said.
"When have you ever spoken like that before? It wasn't like
yourself, prince. Why, if I hadn't heard this report about you, I
should never have come all this way into the park--at midnight,
"I don't understand you in the least, Parfen."
"Oh, SHE told me all about it long ago, and tonight I saw for
myself. I saw you at the music, you know, and whom you were
sitting with. She swore to me yesterday, and again today, that
you are madly in love with Aglaya Ivanovna. But that's all the
same to me, prince, and it's not my affair at all; for if you
have ceased to love HER, SHE has not ceased to love YOU. You
know, of course, that she wants to marry you to that girl? She's
sworn to it! Ha, ha! She says to me, 'Until then I won't marry
you. When they go to church, we'll go too-and not before.' What
on earth does she mean by it? I don't know, and I never did.
Either she loves you without limits or--yet, if she loves you,
why does she wish to marry you to another girl? She says, 'I want
to see him happy,' which is to say--she loves you."
"I wrote, and I say to you once more, that she is not in her
right mind," said the prince, who had listened with anguish to
what Rogojin said.
"Goodness knows--you may be wrong there! At all events, she named
the day this evening, as we left the gardens. 'In three weeks,'
says she, 'and perhaps sooner, we shall be married.' She swore to
it, took off her cross and kissed it. So it all depends upon you
now, prince, You see! Ha, ha!"
"That's all madness. What you say about me, Parfen, never can and
never will be. Tomorrow, I shall come and see you--"
"How can she be mad," Rogojin interrupted, "when she is sane
enough for other people and only mad for you? How can she write
letters to HER, if she's mad? If she were insane they would
observe it in her letters."
"What letters?" said the prince, alarmed.
"She writes to HER--and the girl reads the letters. Haven't you
heard?--You are sure to hear; she's sure to show you the letters
"I won't believe this!" cried the prince.
"Why, prince, you've only gone a few steps along this road, I
perceive. You are evidently a mere beginner. Wait a bit! Before
long, you'll have your own detectives, you'll watch day and
night, and you'll know every little thing that goes on there--
that is, if--"
"Drop that subject, Rogojin, and never mention it again. And
listen: as I have sat here, and talked, and listened, it has
suddenly struck me that tomorrow is my birthday. It must be
about twelve o'clock, now; come home with me--do, and we'll see
the day in! We'll have some wine, and you shall wish me--I don't
know what--but you, especially you, must wish me a good wish, and
I shall wish you full happiness in return. Otherwise, hand me my
cross back again. You didn't return it to me next day. Haven't
you got it on now?"
"Yes, I have," said Rogojin.
"Come along, then. I don't wish to meet my new year without you--
my new life, I should say, for a new life is beginning for me.
Did you know, Parfen, that a new life had begun for me?"
"I see for myself that it is so--and I shall tell HER. But you
are not quite yourself, Lef Nicolaievitch."
THE prince observed with great surprise, as he approached his
villa, accompanied by Rogojin, that a large number of people were
assembled on his verandah, which was brilliantly lighted up. The
company seemed merry and were noisily laughing and talking--even
quarrelling, to judge from the sounds. At all events they were
clearly enjoying themselves, and the prince observed further on
closer investigation--that all had been drinking champagne. To
judge from the lively condition of some of the party, it was to
be supposed that a considerable quantity of champagne had been
All the guests were known to the prince; but the curious part of
the matter was that they had all arrived on the same evening, as
though with one accord, although he had only himself recollected
the fact that it was his birthday a few moments since.
"You must have told somebody you were going to trot out the
champagne, and that's why they are all come!" muttered Rogojin,
as the two entered the verandah. "We know all about that! You've
only to whistle and they come up in shoals!" he continued, almost
angrily. He was doubtless thinking of his own late experiences
with his boon companions.
All surrounded the prince with exclamations of welcome, and, on
hearing that it was his birthday, with cries of congratulation
and delight; many of them were very noisy.
The presence of certain of those in the room surprised the prince
vastly, but the guest whose advent filled him with the greatest
wonder--almost amounting to alarm--was Evgenie Pavlovitch. The
prince could not believe his eyes when he beheld the latter, and
could not help thinking that something was wrong.
Lebedeff ran up promptly to explain the arrival of all these
gentlemen. He was himself somewhat intoxicated, but the prince
gathered from his long-winded periods that the party had
assembled quite naturally, and accidentally.
First of all Hippolyte had arrived, early in the evening, and
feeling decidedly better, had determined to await the prince on
the verandah. There Lebedeff had joined him, and his household
had followed--that is, his daughters and General Ivolgin.
Burdovsky had brought Hippolyte, and stayed on with him. Gania
and Ptitsin had dropped in accidentally later on; then came
Keller, and he and Colia insisted on having champagne. Evgenie
Pavlovitch had only dropped in half an hour or so ago. Lebedeff
had served the champagne readily.
"My own though, prince, my own, mind," he said, "and there'll be
some supper later on; my daughter is getting it ready now. Come
and sit down, prince, we are all waiting for you, we want you
with us. Fancy what we have been discussing! You know the
question, 'to be or not to be,'--out of Hamlet! A contemporary
theme! Quite up-to-date! Mr. Hippolyte has been eloquent to a
degree. He won't go to bed, but he has only drunk a little
champagne, and that can't do him any harm. Come along, prince,
and settle the question. Everyone is waiting for you, sighing for
the light of your luminous intelligence..."
The prince noticed the sweet, welcoming look on Vera Lebedeff's
face, as she made her way towards him through the crowd. He held
out his hand to her. She took it, blushing with delight, and
wished him "a happy life from that day forward." Then she ran off
to the kitchen, where. her presence was necessary to help in the
preparations for supper. Before the prince's arrival she had
spent some time on the terrace, listening eagerly to the
conversation, though the visitors, mostly under the influence of
wine, were discussing abstract subjects far beyond her
comprehension. In the next room her younger sister lay on a
wooden chest, sound asleep, with her mouth wide open; but the
boy, Lebedeff's son, had taken up his position close beside Colia
and Hippolyte, his face lit up with interest in the conversation
of his father and the rest, to which he would willingly have
listened for ten hours at a stretch.
"I have waited for you on purpose, and am very glad to see you
arrive so happy," said Hippolyte, when the prince came forward to
press his hand, immediately after greeting Vera.
"And how do you know that I am 'so happy'?
"I can see it by your face! Say 'how do you do' to the others,
and come and sit down here, quick--I've been waiting for you!" he
added, accentuating the fact that he had waited. On the prince's
asking, "Will it not be injurious to you to sit out so late?" he
replied that he could not believe that he had thought himself
dying three days or so ago, for he never had felt better than
Burdovsky next jumped up and explained that he had come in by
accident, having escorted Hippolyte from town. He murmured that
he was glad he had "written nonsense" in his letter, and then
pressed the prince's hand warmly and sat down again.
The prince approached Evgenie Pavlovitch last of all. The latter
immediately took his arm.
"I have a couple of words to say to you," he began, "and those on
a very important matter; let's go aside for a minute or two."
"Just a couple of words!" whispered another voice in the prince's
other ear, and another hand took his other arm. Muishkin turned,
and to his great surprise observed a red, flushed face and a
droll-looking figure which he recognized at once as that of
Ferdishenko. Goodness knows where he had turned up from!
"Do you remember Ferdishenko?" he asked.
"Where have you dropped from?" cried the prince.
"He is sorry for his sins now, prince," cried Keller. "He did not
want to let you know he was here; he was hidden over there in the
corner,--but he repents now, he feels his guilt."
"Why, what has he done?"
"I met him outside and brought him in--he's a gentleman who
doesn't often allow his friends to see him, of late--but he's
"Delighted, I'm sure!--I'll come back directly, gentlemen,--sit
down there with the others, please,--excuse me one moment," said
the host, getting away with difficulty in order to follow
"You are very gay here," began the latter, "and I have had quite
a pleasant half-hour while I waited for you. Now then, my dear
Lef Nicolaievitch, this is what's the matter. I've arranged it
all with Moloftsoff, and have just come in to relieve your mind
on that score. You need be under no apprehensions. He was very
sensible, as he should be, of course, for I think he was entirely
to blame himself."
"The young fellow whose arms you held, don't you know? He was so
wild with you that he was going to send a friend to you tomorrow
"Of course it is nonsense, and in nonsense it would have ended,
doubtless; but you know these fellows, they--"
"Excuse me, but I think you must have something else that you
wished to speak about, Evgenie Pavlovitch?"
"Of course, I have!" said the other, laughing. "You see, my dear
fellow, tomorrow, very early in the morning, I must be off to
town about this unfortunate business(my uncle, you know!). Just
imagine, my dear sir, it is all true--word for word--and, of
course, everybody knew it excepting myself. All this has been
such a blow to me that I have not managed to call in at the
Epanchins'. Tomorrow I shall not see them either, because I
shall be in town. I may not be here for three days or more; in a
word, my affairs are a little out of gear. But though my town
business is, of course, most pressing, still I determined not to go
away until I had seen you, and had a clear understanding with you
upon certain points; and that without loss of time. I will wait now,
if you will allow me, until the company departs; I may just as
well, for I have nowhere else to go to, and I shall certainly not
do any sleeping tonight; I'm far too excited. And finally, I must
confess that, though I know it is bad form to pursue a man in
this way, I have come to beg your friendship, my dear prince. You
are an unusual sort of a person; you don't lie at every step, as
some men do; in fact, you don't lie at all, and there is a matter
in which I need a true and sincere friend, for I really may claim
to be among the number of bona fide unfortunates just now."
He laughed again.
"But the trouble is," said the prince, after a slight pause for
reflection, "that goodness only knows when this party will break
up. Hadn't we better stroll into the park? I'll excuse myself,
there's no danger of their going away."
"No, no! I have my reasons for wishing them not to suspect us of
being engaged in any specially important conversation. There are
gentry present who are a little too much interested in us. You
are not aware of that perhaps, prince? It will be a great deal
better if they see that we are friendly just in an ordinary way.
They'll all go in a couple of hours, and then I'll ask you to
give me twenty minutes-half an hour at most."
"By all means! I assure you I am delighted--you need not have
entered into all these explanations. As for your remarks about
friendship with me--thanks, very much indeed. You must excuse my
being a little absent this evening. Do you know, I cannot somehow
be attentive to anything just now?"
"I see, I see," said Evgenie, smiling gently. His mirth seemed
very near the surface this evening.
"What do you see?" said the prince, startled.
"I don't want you to suspect that I have simply come here to
deceive you and pump information out of you!" said Evgenie, still
smiling, and without making any direct reply to the question.
"Oh, but I haven't the slightest doubt that you did come to pump
me," said the prince, laughing himself, at last; "and I dare say
you are quite prepared to deceive me too, so far as that goes.
But what of that? I'm not afraid of you; besides, you'll hardly
believe it, I feel as though I really didn't care a scrap one way
or the other, just now!--And-and-and as you are a capital fellow,
I am convinced of that, I dare say we really shall end by being
good friends. I like you very much Evgenie Pavlovitch; I consider
you a very good fellow indeed."
"Well, in any case, you are a most delightful man to have to deal
with, be the business what it may," concluded Evgenie. "Come
along now, I'll drink a glass to your health. I'm charmed to have
entered into alliance with you. By-the-by," he added suddenly,
has this young Hippolyte come down to stay with you
"He's not going to die at once, I should think, is he?"
"Oh, I don't know. I've been half an hour here with him, and he--"
Hippolyte had been waiting for the prince all this time, and had
never ceased looking at him and Evgenie Pavlovitch as they
conversed in the corner. He became much excited when they
approached the table once more. He was disturbed in his mind, it
seemed; perspiration stood in large drops on his forehead; in his
gleaming eyes it was easy to read impatience and agitation; his
gaze wandered from face to face of those present, and from object
to object in the room, apparently without aim. He had taken a
part, and an animated one, in the noisy conversation of the
company; but his animation was clearly the outcome of fever. His
talk was almost incoherent; he would break off in the middle of a
sentence which he had begun with great interest, and forget what
he had been saying. The prince discovered to his dismay that
Hippolyte had been allowed to drink two large glasses of
champagne; the one now standing by him being the third. All this
he found out afterwards; at the moment he did not notice
anything, very particularly.
"Do you know I am specially glad that today is your birthday!"
"You'll soon see. D'you know I had a feeling that there would be
a lot of people here tonight? It's not the first time that my
presentiments have been fulfilled. I wish I had known it was your
birthday, I'd have brought you a present--perhaps I have got a
present for you! Who knows? Ha, ha! How long is it now before
"Not a couple of hours," said Ptitsin, looking at his watch.
What's the good of daylight now? One can read all night in the
open air without it," said someone.
"The good of it! Well, I want just to see a ray of the sun," said
Hippolyte. Can one drink to the sun's health, do you think,
"Oh, I dare say one can; but you had better be calm and lie down,
Hippolyte--that's much more important.
"You are always preaching about resting; you are a regular nurse
to me, prince. As soon as the sun begins to 'resound' in the sky
--what poet said that? 'The sun resounded in the sky.' It is
beautiful, though there's no sense in it!--then we will go to
bed. Lebedeff, tell me, is the sun the source of life? What does
the source, or 'spring,' of life really mean in the Apocalypse?
You have heard of the 'Star that is called Wormwood,' prince?"
"I have heard that Lebedeff explains it as the railroads that
cover Europe like a net."
Everybody laughed, and Lebedeff got up abruptly.
"No! Allow me, that is not what we are discussing!" he cried,
waving his hand to impose silence. "Allow me! With these
gentlemen ... all these gentlemen," he added, suddenly addressing
the prince, "on certain points ... that is ..." He thumped
the table repeatedly, and the laughter increased. Lebedeff was in
his usual evening condition, and had just ended a long and
scientific argument, which had left him excited and irritable. On
such occasions he was apt to evince a supreme contempt for his
"It is not right! Half an hour ago, prince, it was agreed among
us that no one should interrupt, no one should laugh, that each
person was to express his thoughts freely; and then at the end,
when everyone had spoken, objections might be made, even by the
atheists. We chose the general as president. Now without some
such rule and order, anyone might be shouted down, even in the
loftiest and most profound thought. . . ."
"Go on! Go on! Nobody is going to interrupt you!" cried several
"Speak, but keep to the point!"
"What is this 'star'?" asked another.
I have no idea," replied General Ivolgin, who presided with much
"I love these arguments, prince," said Keller, also more than
half intoxicated, moving restlessly in his chair. "Scientific and
political." Then, turning suddenly towards Evgenie Pavlovitch,
who was seated near him: "Do you know, I simply adore reading the
accounts of the debates in the English parliament. Not that the
discussions themselves interest me; I am not a politician, you
know; but it delights me to see how they address each other 'the
noble lord who agrees with me,' 'my honourable opponent who
astonished Europe with his proposal,' 'the noble viscount sitting
opposite'--all these expressions, all this parliamentarism of a
free people, has an enormous attraction for me. It fascinates me,
prince. I have always been an artist in the depths of my soul, I
assure you, Evgenie Pavlovitch."
"Do you mean to say," cried Gania, from the other corner, "do you
mean to say that railways are accursed inventions, that they are
a source of ruin to humanity, a poison poured upon the earth to
corrupt the springs of life?"
Gavrila Ardalionovitch was in high spirits that evening, and it
seemed to the prince that his gaiety was mingled with triumph. Of
course he was only joking with Lebedeff, meaning to egg him on,
but he grew excited himself at the same time.
"Not the railways, oh dear, no!" replied Lebedeff, with a mixture
of violent anger and extreme enjoyment. "Considered alone, the
railways will not pollute the springs of life, but as a whole
they are accursed. The whole tendency of our latest centuries, in
its scientific and materialistic aspect, is most probably
"Is it certainly accursed? ... or do you only mean it might be?
That is an important point," said Evgenie Pavlovitch.
"It is accursed, certainly accursed!" replied the clerk,
"Don't go so fast, Lebedeff; you are much milder in the morning,"
said Ptitsin, smiling.
"But, on the other hand, more frank in the evening! In the
evening sincere and frank," repeated Lebedeff, earnestly. "More
candid, more exact, more honest, more honourable, and ...
although I may show you my weak side, I challenge you all; you
atheists, for instance! How are you going to save the world? How
find a straight road of progress, you men of science, of
industry, of cooperation, of trades unions, and all the rest?
How are you going to save it, I say? By what? By credit? What is
credit? To what will credit lead you?"
"You are too inquisitive," remarked Evgenie Pavlovitch.
"Well, anyone who does not interest himself in questions such as
this is, in my opinion, a mere fashionable dummy."
"But it will lead at least to solidarity, and balance of
interests," said Ptitsin.
"You will reach that with nothing to help you but credit? Without
recourse to any moral principle, having for your foundation only
individual selfishness, and the satisfaction of material desires?
Universal peace, and the happiness of mankind as a whole, being
the result! Is it really so that I may understand you, sir?"
"But the universal necessity of living, of drinking, of eating--
in short, the whole scientific conviction that this necessity can
only be satisfied by universal co-operation and the solidarity of
interests--is, it seems to me, a strong enough idea to serve as a
basis, so to speak, and a 'spring of life,' for humanity in
future centuries," said Gavrila Ardalionovitch, now thoroughly
"The necessity of eating and drinking, that is to say, solely the
instinct of self-preservation..."
"Is not that enough? The instinct of self-preservation is the
normal law of humanity..."
"Who told you that?" broke in Evgenie Pavlovitch.
"It is a law, doubtless, but a law neither more nor less normal
than that of destruction, even self-destruction. Is it possible
that the whole normal law of humanity is contained in this
sentiment of self-preservation?"
"Ah!" cried Hippolyte, turning towards Evgenie Pavlovitch, and
looking at him with a queer sort of curiosity.
Then seeing that Radomski was laughing, he began to laugh
himself, nudged Colia, who was sitting beside him, with his
elbow, and again asked what time it was. He even pulled Colia's
silver watch out of his hand, and looked at it eagerly. Then, as
if he had forgotten everything, he stretched himself out on the
sofa, put his hands behind his head, and looked up at the sky.
After a minute or two he got up and came back to the table to
listen to Lebedeff's outpourings, as the latter passionately
commentated on Evgenie Pavlovitch's paradox.
"That is an artful and traitorous idea. A smart notion,"
vociferated the clerk, "thrown out as an apple of discord. But it
is just. You are a scoffer, a man of the world, a cavalry
officer, and, though not without brains, you do not realize how
profound is your thought, nor how true. Yes, the laws of self-
preservation and of self-destruction are equally powerful in this
world. The devil will hold his empire over humanity until a limit
of time which is still unknown. You laugh? You do not believe in
the devil? Scepticism as to the devil is a French idea, and it is
also a frivolous idea. Do you know who the devil is? Do you know
his name? Although you don't know his name you make a mockery of
his form, following the example of Voltaire. You sneer at his
hoofs, at his tail, at his horns--all of them the produce of your
imagination! In reality the devil is a great and terrible spirit,
with neither hoofs, nor tail, nor horns; it is you who have
endowed him with these attributes! But ... he is not the
question just now!"
"How do you know he is not the question now?" cried Hippolyte,
"Another excellent idea, and worth considering!" replied
Lebedeff. "But, again, that is not the question. The question at
this moment is whether we have not weakened 'the springs of life'
by the extension ..."
"Of railways?" put in Colia eagerly.
"Not railways, properly speaking, presumptuous youth, but the
general tendency of which railways may be considered as the
outward expression and symbol. We hurry and push and hustle, for
the good of humanity! 'The world is becoming too noisy, too
commercial!' groans some solitary thinker. 'Undoubtedly it is,
but the noise of waggons bearing bread to starving humanity is of
more value than tranquillity of soul,' replies another
triumphantly, and passes on with an air of pride. As for me, I
don't believe in these waggons bringing bread to humanity. For,
founded on no moral principle, these may well, even in the act
of carrying bread to humanity, coldly exclude a considerable
portion of humanity from enjoying it; that has been seen more
"What, these waggons may coldly exclude?" repeated someone.
"That has been seen already," continued Lebedeff, not deigning to
notice the interruption. "Malthus was a friend of humanity, but,
with ill-founded moral principles, the friend of humanity is the
devourer of humanity, without mentioning his pride; for, touch
the vanity of one of these numberless philanthropists, and to
avenge his self-esteem, he will be ready at once to set fire to
the whole globe; and to tell the truth, we are all more or less
like that. I, perhaps, might be the first to set a light to the
fuel, and then run away. But, again, I must repeat, that is not
"What is it then, for goodness' sake?"
"He is boring us!"
"The question is connected with the following anecdote of past
times; for I am obliged to relate a story. In our times, and in
our country, which I hope you love as much as I do, for as far as
I am concerned, I am ready to shed the last drop of my blood...
"Go on! Go on!"
"In our dear country, as indeed in the whole of Europe, a famine
visits humanity about four times a century, as far as I can
remember; once in every twenty-five years. I won't swear to this
being the exact figure, but anyhow they have become comparatively
"Comparatively to what?"
"To the twelfth century, and those immediately preceding and
following it. We are told by historians that widespread famines
occurred in those days every two or three years, and such was the
condition of things that men actually had recourse to
cannibalism, in secret, of course. One of these cannibals, who
had reached a good age, declared of his own free will that during
the course of his long and miserable life he had personally
killed and eaten, in the most profound secrecy, sixty monks, not
to mention several children; the number of the latter he thought
was about six, an insignificant total when compared with the
enormous mass of ecclesiastics consumed by him. As to adults,
laymen that is to say, he had never touched them."
The president joined in the general outcry.
"That's impossible!" said he in an aggrieved tone. "I am often
discussing subjects of this nature with him, gentlemen, but for
the most part he talks nonsense enough to make one deaf: this
story has no pretence of being true."
"General, remember the siege of Kars! And you, gentlemen, I
assure you my anecdote is the naked truth. I may remark that
reality, although it is governed by invariable law, has at times
a resemblance to falsehood. In fact, the truer a thing is the
less true it sounds."
"But could anyone possibly eat sixty monks?" objected the
"It is quite clear that he did not eat them all at once, but in a
space of fifteen or twenty years: from that point of view the
thing is comprehensible and natural..."
"And natural," repeated Lebedeff with pedantic obstinacy.
"Besides, a Catholic monk is by nature excessively curious; it
would be quite easy therefore to entice him into a wood, or some
secret place, on false pretences, and there to deal with him as
said. But I do not dispute in the least that the number of
persons consumed appears to denote a spice of greediness."
"It is perhaps true, gentlemen," said the prince, quietly. He had
been listening in silence up to that moment without taking part
in the conversation, but laughing heartily with the others from
time to time. Evidently he was delighted to see that everybody
was amused, that everybody was talking at once, and even that
everybody was drinking. It seemed as if he were not intending to
speak at all, when suddenly he intervened in such a serious
voice that everyone looked at him with interest.
"It is true that there were frequent famines at that time,
gentlemen. I have often heard of them, though I do not know much
history. But it seems to me that it must have been so. When I was
in Switzerland I used to look with astonishment at the many ruins
of feudal castles perched on the top of steep and rocky heights,
half a mile at least above sea-level, so that to reach them one
had to climb many miles of stony tracks. A castle, as you know,
is, a kind of mountain of stones--a dreadful, almost an
impossible, labour! Doubtless the builders were all poor men,
vassals, and had to pay heavy taxes, and to keep up the
priesthood. How, then, could they provide for themselves, and
when had they time to plough and sow their fields? The greater
number must, literally, have died of starvation. I have sometimes
asked myself how it was that these communities were not utterly
swept off the face of the earth, and how they could possibly
survive. Lebedeff is not mistaken, in my opinion, when he says
that there were cannibals in those days, perhaps in considerable
numbers; but I do not understand why he should have dragged in
the monks, nor what he means by that."
"It is undoubtedly because, in the twelfth century, monks were
the only people one could eat; they were the fat, among many
lean," said Gavrila Ardalionovitch.
"A brilliant idea, and most true!" cried Lebedeff, "for he never
even touched the laity. Sixty monks, and not a single layman! It
is a terrible idea, but it is historic, it is statistic; it is
indeed one of those facts which enables an intelligent historian
to reconstruct the physiognomy of a special epoch, for it brings
out this further point with mathematical accuracy, that the
clergy were in those days sixty times richer and more flourishing
than the rest of humanity. and perhaps sixty times fatter
"You are exaggerating, you are exaggerating, Lebedeff!" cried his
hearers, amid laughter.
"I admit that it is an historic thought, but what is your
conclusion?" asked the prince.
He spoke so seriously in addressing Lebedeff, that his tone
contrasted quite comically with that of the others. They were
very nearly laughing at him, too, but he did not notice it.
"Don't you see he is a lunatic, prince?" whispered Evgenie
Pavlovitch in his ear. "Someone told me just now that he is a bit
touched on the subject of lawyers, that he has a mania for making
speeches and intends to pass the examinations. I am expecting a
splendid burlesque now."
"My conclusion is vast," replied Lebedeff, in a voice like
thunder. "Let us examine first the psychological and legal
position of the criminal. We see that in spite of the difficulty
of finding other food, the accused, or, as we may say, my client,
has often during his peculiar life exhibited signs of repentance,
and of wishing to give up this clerical diet. Incontrovertible
facts prove this assertion. He has eaten five or six children, a
relatively insignificant number, no doubt, but remarkable enough
from another point of view. It is manifest that, pricked by
remorse--for my client is religious, in his way, and has a
conscience, as I shall prove later--and desiring to extenuate his
sin as far as possible, he has tried six times at least to
substitute lay nourishment for clerical. That this was merely an
experiment we can hardly doubt: for if it had been only a
question of gastronomic variety, six would have been too few; why
only six? Why not thirty? But if we regard it as an experiment,
inspired by the fear of committing new sacrilege, then this
number six becomes intelligible. Six attempts to calm his
remorse, and the pricking of his conscience, would amply suffice,
for these attempts could scarcely have been happy ones. In my
humble opinion, a child is too small; I should say, not
sufficient; which would result in four or five times more lay
children than monks being required in a given time. The sin,
lessened on the one hand, would therefore be increased on the
other, in quantity, not in quality. Please understand, gentlemen,
that in reasoning thus, I am taking the point of view which might
have been taken by a criminal of the middle ages. As for myself,
a man of the late nineteenth century, I, of course, should reason
differently; I say so plainly, and therefore you need not jeer at
me nor mock me, gentlemen. As for you, general, it is still more
unbecoming on your part. In the second place, and giving my own
personal opinion, a child's flesh is not a satisfying diet; it is
too insipid, too sweet; and the criminal, in making these
experiments, could have satisfied neither his conscience nor his
appetite. I am about to conclude, gentlemen; and my conclusion
contains a reply to one of the most important questions of that
day and of our own! This criminal ended at last by denouncing
himself to the clergy, and giving himself up to justice. We
cannot but ask, remembering the penal system of that day, and the
tortures that awaited him--the wheel, the stake, the fire!--we
cannot but ask, I repeat, what induced him to accuse himself of
this crime? Why did he not simply stop short at the number sixty,
and keep his secret until his last breath? Why could he not
simply leave the monks alone, and go into the desert to repent?
Or why not become a monk himself? That is where the puzzle comes
in! There must have been something stronger than the stake or the
fire, or even than the habits of twenty years! There must have
been an idea more powerful than all the calamities and sorrows of
this world, famine or torture, leprosy or plague--an idea which
entered into the heart, directed and enlarged the springs of
life, and made even that hell supportable to humanity! Show me a
force, a power like that, in this our century of vices and
railways! I might say, perhaps, in our century of steamboats and
railways, but I repeat in our century of vices and railways,
because I am drunk but truthful! Show me a single idea which
unites men nowadays with half the strength that it had in those
centuries, and dare to maintain that the 'springs of life' have
not been polluted and weakened beneath this 'star,' beneath this
network in which men are entangled! Don't talk to me about your
prosperity, your riches, the rarity of famine, the rapidity of
the means of transport! There is more of riches, but less of
force. The idea uniting heart and soul to heart and soul exists
no more. All is loose, soft, limp--we are all of us limp....
Enough, gentlemen! I have done. That is not the question. No, the
question is now, excellency, I believe, to sit down to the
banquet you are about to provide for us!"
Lebedeff had roused great indignation in some of his auditors (it
should be remarked that the bottles were constantly uncorked
during his speech); but this unexpected conclusion calmed even
the most turbulent spirits. "That's how a clever barrister makes
a good point!" said he, when speaking of his peroration later on.
The visitors began to laugh and chatter once again; the committee
left their seats, and stretched their legs on the terrace. Keller
alone was still disgusted with Lebedeff and his speech; he turned
from one to another, saying in a loud voice:
"He attacks education, he boasts of the fanaticism of the twelfth
century, he makes absurd grimaces, and added to that he is by no
means the innocent he makes himself out to be. How did he get the
money to buy this house, allow me to ask?"
In another corner was the general, holding forth to a group of
hearers, among them Ptitsin, whom he had buttonholed. "I have
known," said he, "a real interpreter of the Apocalypse, the late
Gregory Semeonovitch Burmistroff, and he--he pierced the heart
like a fiery flash! He began by putting on his spectacles, then
he opened a large black book; his white beard, and his two medals
on his breast, recalling acts of charity, all added to his
impressiveness. He began in a stern voice, and before him
generals, hard men of the world, bowed down, and ladies fell to
the ground fainting. But this one here--he ends by announcing a
banquet! That is not the real thing!"
Ptitsin listened and smiled, then turned as if to get his hat;
but if he had intended to leave, he changed his mind. Before the
others had risen from the table, Gania had suddenly left off
drinking, and pushed away his glass, a dark shadow seemed to come
over his face. When they all rose, he went and sat down by
Rogojin. It might have been believed that quite friendly
relations existed between them. Rogojin, who had also seemed on
the point of going away now sat motionless, his head bent,
seeming to have forgotten his intention. He had drunk no wine,
and appeared absorbed in reflection. From time to time he raised
his eyes, and examined everyone present; one might have imagined
that he was expecting something very important to himself, and
that he had decided to wait for it. The prince had taken two or
three glasses of champagne, and seemed cheerful. As he rose he
noticed Evgenie Pavlovitch, and, remembering the appointment he
had made with him, smiled pleasantly. Evgenie Pavlovitch made a
sign with his head towards Hippolyte, whom he was attentively
watching. The invalid was fast asleep, stretched out on the sofa.
"Tell me, prince, why on earth did this boy intrude himself upon
you?" he asked, with such annoyance and irritation in his voice
that the prince was quite surprised. "I wouldn't mind laying odds
that he is up to some mischief."
"I have observed," said the prince, "that he seems to be an
object of very singular interest to you, Evgenie Pavlovitch. Why
"You may add that I have surely enough to think of, on my own
account, without him; and therefore it is all the more surprising
that I cannot tear my eyes and thoughts away from his detestable
"Oh, come! He has a handsome face."
"Why, look at him--look at him now!"
The prince glanced again at Evgenie Pavlovitch with considerable
HIPPOLYTE, who had fallen asleep during Lebedeff's discourse, now
suddenly woke up, just as though someone had jogged him in the
side. He shuddered, raised himself on his arm, gazed around, and
grew very pale. A look almost of terror crossed his face as he
"What! are they all off? Is it all over? Is the sun up?" He
trembled, and caught at the prince's hand. "What time is it? Tell
me, quick, for goodness' sake! How long have I slept?" he added,
almost in despair, just as though he had overslept something upon
which his whole fate depended.
"You have slept seven or perhaps eight minutes," said Evgenie
Hippolyte gazed eagerly at the latter, and mused for a few
"Oh, is that all?" he said at last. "Then I--"
He drew a long, deep breath of relief, as it seemed. He realized
that all was not over as yet, that the sun had not risen, and
that the guests had merely gone to supper. He smiled, and two
hectic spots appeared on his cheeks.
"So you counted the minutes while I slept, did you, Evgenie
Pavlovitch?" he said, ironically. "You have not taken your eyes
off me all the evening--I have noticed that much, you see! Ah,
Rogojin! I've just been dreaming about him, prince," he added,
frowning. "Yes, by the by," starting up, "where's the orator?
Where's Lebedeff? Has he finished? What did he talk about? Is it
true, prince, that you once declared that 'beauty would save the
world'? Great Heaven! The prince says that beauty saves the
world! And I declare that he only has such playful ideas because
he's in love! Gentlemen, the prince is in love. I guessed it the
moment he came in. Don't blush, prince; you make me sorry for
you. What beauty saves the world? Colia told me that you are a
zealous Christian; is it so? Colia says you call yourself a
The prince regarded him attentively, but said nothing.
"You don't answer me; perhaps you think I am very fond of you?"
added Hippolyte, as though the words had been drawn from him.
"No, I don't think that. I know you don't love me."
"What, after yesterday? Wasn't I honest with you?"
"I knew yesterday that you didn't love me."
"Why so? why so? Because I envy you, eh? You always think that, I
know. But do you know why I am saying all this? Look here! I must
have some more champagne--pour me out some, Keller, will you?"
"No, you're not to drink any more, Hippolyte. I won't let you."
The prince moved the glass away.
"Well perhaps you're right," said Hippolyte, musing. They might
say--yet, devil take them! what does it matter?--prince, what can
it matter what people will say of us THEN, eh? I believe I'm half
asleep. I've had such a dreadful dream--I've only just remembered
it. Prince, I don't wish you such dreams as that, though sure
enough, perhaps, I DON'T love you. Why wish a man evil, though
you do not love him, eh? Give me your hand--let me press it
sincerely. There--you've given me your hand--you must feel that I
DO press it sincerely, don't you? I don't think I shall drink any
more. What time is it? Never mind, I know the time. The time has
come, at all events. What! they are laying supper over there, are
they? Then this table is free? Capital, gentlemen! I--hem! these
gentlemen are not listening. Prince, I will just read over an
article I have here. Supper is more interesting, of course, but--"
Here Hippolyte suddenly, and most unexpectedly, pulled out of his
breast-pocket a large sealed paper. This imposing-looking
document he placed upon the table before him.
The effect of this sudden action upon the company was
instantaneous. Evgenie Pavlovitch almost bounded off his chair in
excitement. Rogojin drew nearer to the table with a look on his
face as if he knew what was coming. Gania came nearer too; so did
Lebedeff and the others--the paper seemed to be an object of
great interest to the company in general.
"What have you got there?" asked the prince, with some anxiety.
"At the first glimpse of the rising sun, prince, I will go to
bed. I told you I would, word of honour! You shall see!" cried
Hippolyte. "You think I'm not capable of opening this packet, do
you?" He glared defiantly round at the audience in general.
The prince observed that he was trembling all over.
"None of us ever thought such a thing!" Muishkin replied for all.
"Why should you suppose it of us? And what are you going to read,
Hippolyte? What is it?"
"Yes, what is it?" asked others. The packet sealed with red wax
seemed to attract everyone, as though it were a magnet.
"I wrote this yesterday, myself, just after I saw you, prince,
and told you I would come down here. I wrote all day and all
night, and finished it this morning early. Afterwards I had a
"Hadn't we better hear it tomorrow?" asked the prince timidly.
"Tomorrow 'there will be no more time!'" laughed Hippolyte,
hysterically. "You needn't be afraid; I shall get through the
whole thing in forty minutes, at most an hour! Look how
interested everybody is! Everybody has drawn near. Look! look at
them all staring at my sealed packet! If I hadn't sealed it up it
wouldn't have been half so effective! Ha, ha! that's mystery,
that is! Now then, gentlemen, shall I break the seal or not? Say
the word; it's a mystery, I tell you--a secret! Prince, you know
who said there would be 'no more time'? It was the great and
powerful angel in the Apocalypse."
"Better not read it now," said the prince, putting his hand on
"No, don't read it!" cried Evgenie suddenly. He appeared so
strangely disturbed that many of those present could not help
"Reading? None of your reading now!" said somebody; "it's supper-
time." "What sort of an article is it? For a paper? Probably it's
very dull," said another. But the prince's timid gesture had
impressed even Hippolyte.
"Then I'm not to read it?" he whispered, nervously. "Am I not to
read it?" he repeated, gazing around at each face in turn. "What
are you afraid of, prince?" he turned and asked the latter
"What should I be afraid of?"
"Has anyone a coin about them? Give me a twenty-copeck piece,
somebody!" And Hippolyte leapt from his chair.
"Here you are," said Lebedeff, handing him one; he thought the
boy had gone mad.
"Vera Lukianovna," said Hippolyte, "toss it, will you? Heads, I
read, tails, I don't."
Vera Lebedeff tossed the coin into the air and let it fall on the
It was "heads."
"Then I read it," said Hippolyte, in the tone of one bowing to
the fiat of destiny. He could not have grown paler if a verdict
of death had suddenly been presented to him.
"But after all, what is it? Is it possible that I should have
just risked my fate by tossing up?" he went on, shuddering; and
looked round him again. His eyes had a curious expression of
sincerity. "That is an astonishing psychological fact," he cried,
suddenly addressing the prince, in a tone of the most intense
surprise. "It is ... it is something quite inconceivable,
prince," he repeated with growing animation, like a man regaining
consciousness. "Take note of it, prince, remember it; you
collect, I am told, facts concerning capital punishment... They
told me so. Ha, ha! My God, how absurd!" He sat down on the sofa,
put his elbows on the table, and laid his head on his hands. "It
is shameful--though what does it matter to me if it is shameful?
"Gentlemen, gentlemen! I am about to break the seal," he
continued, with determination. "I-I--of course I don't insist
upon anyone listening if they do not wish to."
With trembling fingers he broke the seal and drew out several
sheets of paper, smoothed them out before him, and began sorting
"What on earth does all this mean? What's he going to read?"
muttered several voices. Others said nothing; but one and all sat
down and watched with curiosity. They began to think something
strange might really be about to happen. Vera stood and trembled
behind her father's chair, almost in tears with fright; Colia was
nearly as much alarmed as she was. Lebedeff jumped up and put a
couple of candles nearer to Hippolyte, so that he might see
"Gentlemen, this--you'll soon see what this is," began Hippolyte,
and suddenly commenced his reading.
"It's headed, 'A Necessary Explanation,' with the motto, 'Apres
moi le deluge!' Oh, deuce take it all! Surely I can never have
seriously written such a silly motto as that? Look here,
gentlemen, I beg to give notice that all this is very likely
terrible nonsense. It is only a few ideas of mine. If you think
that there is anything mysterious coming--or in a word--"
"Better read on without any more beating about the bush," said
"Affectation!" remarked someone else.
"Too much talk," said Rogojin, breaking the silence for the first
Hippolyte glanced at him suddenly, and when their eye, met
Rogojin showed his teeth in a disagreeable smile, and said the
following strange words: "That's not the way to settle this
business, my friend; that's not the way at all."
Of course nobody knew what Rogojin meant by this; but his words
made a deep impression upon all. Everyone seemed to see in a
flash the same idea.
As for Hippolyte, their effect upon him was astounding. He
trembled so that the prince was obliged to support him, and would
certainly have cried out, but that his voice seemed to have
entirely left him for the moment. For a minute or two he could
not speak at all, but panted and stared at Rogojin. At last he
managed to ejaculate:
"Then it was YOU who came--YOU--YOU?"
"Came where? What do you mean?" asked Rogojin, amazed. But
Hippolyte, panting and choking with excitement, interrupted him
"YOU came to me last week, in the night, at two o'clock, the day
I was with you in the morning! Confess it was you!"
"Last week? In the night? Have you gone cracked, my good friend?"
Hippolyte paused and considered a moment. Then a smile of
cunning--almost triumph--crossed his lips.
"It was you," he murmured, almost in a whisper, but with absolute
conviction. "Yes, it was you who came to my room and sat silently
on a chair at my window for a whole hour--more! It was between
one and two at night; you rose and went out at about three. It
was you, you! Why you should have frightened me so, why you
should have wished to torment me like that, I cannot tell--but you
There was absolute hatred in his eyes as he said this, but his
look of fear and his trembling had not left him.
"You shall hear all this directly, gentlemen. I-I--listen!"
He seized his paper in a desperate hurry; he fidgeted with it,
and tried to sort it, but for a long while his trembling hands
could not collect the sheets together. "He's either mad or
delirious," murmured Rogojin. At last he began.
For the first five minutes the reader's voice continued to
tremble, and he read disconnectedly and unevenly; but gradually
his voice strengthened. Occasionally a violent fit of coughing
stopped him, but his animation grew with the progress of the
reading--as did also the disagreeable impression which it made
upon his audience,--until it reached the highest pitch of
Here is the article.
MY NECESSARY EXPLANATION.
"Apres moi le deluge.
"Yesterday morning the prince came to see me. Among other things
he asked me to come down to his villa. I knew he would come and
persuade me to this step, and that he would adduce the argument
that it would be easier for me to die' among people and green
trees,'--as he expressed it. But today he did not say 'die,' he
said 'live.' It is pretty much the same to me, in my position,
which he says. When I asked him why he made such a point of his
'green trees,' he told me, to my astonishment, that he had heard
that last time I was in Pavlofsk I had said that I had come 'to
have a last look at the trees.'
"When I observed that it was all the same whether one died among
trees or in front of a blank brick wall, as here, and that it was
not worth making any fuss over a fortnight, he agreed at once.
But he insisted that the good air at Pavlofsk and the greenness
would certainly cause a physical change for the better, and that
my excitement, and my DREAMS, would be perhaps relieved. I
remarked to him, with a smile, that he spoke like a materialist,
and he answered that he had always been one. As he never tells a
lie, there must be something in his words. His smile is a
pleasant one. I have had a good look at him. I don't know whether
I like him or not; and I have no time to waste over the question.
The hatred which I felt for him for five months has become
considerably modified, I may say, during the last month. Who
knows, perhaps I am going to Pavlofsk on purpose to see him! But
why do I leave my chamber? Those who are sentenced to death
should not leave their cells. If I had not formed a final
resolve, but had decided to wait until the last minute, I should
not leave my room, or accept his invitation to come and die at
Pavlofsk. I must be quick and finish this explanation before
tomorrow. I shall have no time to read it over and correct it, for
I must read it tomorrow to the prince and two or three witnesses
whom I shall probably find there.
"As it will be absolutely true, without a touch of falsehood, I
am curious to see what impression it will make upon me myself at
the moment when I read it out. This is my 'last and solemn'--but
why need I call it that? There is no question about the truth of
it, for it is not worthwhile lying for a fortnight; a fortnight
of life is not itself worth having, which is a proof that I write
nothing here but pure truth.
("N.B.--Let me remember to consider; am I mad at this moment, or
not? or rather at these moments? I have been told that
consumptives sometimes do go out of their minds for a while in
the last stages of the malady. I can prove this tomorrow when I
read it out, by the impression it makes upon the audience. I must
settle this question once and for all, otherwise I can't go on
"I believe I have just written dreadful nonsense; but there's no
time for correcting, as I said before. Besides that, I have made
myself a promise not to alter a single word of what I write in
this paper, even though I find that I am contradicting myself
every five lines. I wish to verify the working of the natural
logic of my ideas tomorrow during the reading--whether I am
capable of detecting logical errors, and whether all that I have
meditated over during the last six months be true, or nothing but
"If two months since I had been called upon to leave my room and
the view of Meyer's wall opposite, I verily believe I should have
been sorry. But now I have no such feeling, and yet I am leaving
this room and Meyer's brick wall FOR EVER. So that my conclusion,
that it is not worth while indulging in grief, or any other
emotion, for a fortnight, has proved stronger than my very
nature, and has taken over the direction of my feelings. But is
it so? Is it the case that my nature is conquered entirely? If I
were to be put on the rack now, I should certainly cry out. I
should not say that it is not worth while to yell and feel pain
because I have but a fortnight to live.
"But is it true that I have but a fortnight of life left to me? I
know I told some of my friends that Doctor B. had informed me
that this was the case; but I now confess that I lied; B. has not
even seen me. However, a week ago, I called in a medical student,
Kislorodoff, who is a Nationalist, an Atheist, and a Nihilist, by
conviction, and that is why I had him. I needed a man who would
tell me the bare truth without any humbug or ceremony--and so he
did--indeed, almost with pleasure (which I thought was going a
little too far).
"Well, he plumped out that I had about a month left me; it might
be a little more, he said, under favourable circumstances, but
it might also be considerably less. According to his opinion I
might die quite suddenly--tomorrow, for instance--there had been
such cases. Only a day or two since a young lady at Colomna who
suffered from consumption, and was about on a par with myself in
the march of the disease, was going out to market to buy
provisions, when she suddenly felt faint, lay down on the sofa,
gasped once, and died.
"Kislorodoff told me all this with a sort of exaggerated devil-
may-care negligence, and as though he did me great honour by
talking to me so, because it showed that he considered me the
same sort of exalted Nihilistic being as himself, to whom death
was a matter of no consequence whatever, either way.
"At all events, the fact remained--a month of life and no more!
That he is right in his estimation I am absolutely persuaded.
"It puzzles me much to think how on earth the prince guessed
yesterday that I have had bad dreams. He said to me, 'Your
excitement and dreams will find relief at Pavlofsk.' Why did he
say 'dreams'? Either he is a doctor, or else he is a man of
exceptional intelligence and wonderful powers of observation.
(But that he is an 'idiot,' at bottom there can be no doubt
whatever.) It so happened that just before he arrived I had a
delightful little dream; one of a kind that I have hundreds of
just now. I had fallen asleep about an hour before he came in,
and dreamed that I was in some room, not my own. It was a large
room, well furnished, with a cupboard, chest of drawers, sofa,
and my bed, a fine wide bed covered with a silken counterpane.
But I observed in the room a dreadful-looking creature, a sort of
monster. It was a little like a scorpion, but was not a scorpion,
but far more horrible, and especially so, because there are no
creatures anything like it in nature, and because it had appeared
to me for a purpose, and bore some mysterious signification. I