“Yes, I’m at home. Where else should I go to?”

Nastasia Philipovna was also much impressed, both with Gania’s action and with the prince’s reply.

But these vulgarities seemed to please Nastasia Philipovna, although too often they were both rude and offensive. Those who wished to go to her house were forced to put up with Ferdishenko. Possibly the latter was not mistaken in imagining that he was received simply in order to annoy Totski, who disliked him extremely. Gania also was often made the butt of the jester’s sarcasms, who used this method of keeping in Nastasia Philipovna’s good graces.

He awoke towards nine o’clock with a headache, full of confused ideas and strange impressions. For some reason or other he felt most anxious to see Rogojin, to see and talk to him, but what he wished to say he could not tell. Next, he determined to go and see Hippolyte. His mind was in a confused state, so much so that the incidents of the morning seemed to be imperfectly realized, though acutely felt.

They had left the garden now, and were crossing the yard on their way to the gate.

“At home? Oh, I can do as I like there, of course; only my father will make a fool of himself, as usual. He is rapidly becoming a general nuisance. I don’t ever talk to him now, but I hold him in check, safe enough. I swear if it had not been for my mother, I should have shown him the way out, long ago. My mother is always crying, of course, and my sister sulks. I had to tell them at last that I intended to be master of my own destiny, and that I expect to be obeyed at home. At least, I gave my sister to understand as much, and my mother was present.”

Yet all the others were similarly affected. The girls were uncomfortable and ashamed. Lizabetha Prokofievna restrained her violent anger by a great effort; perhaps she bitterly regretted her interference in the matter; for the present she kept silence. The prince felt as very shy people often do in such a case; he was so ashamed of the conduct of other people, so humiliated for his guests, that he dared not look them in the face. Ptitsin, Varia, Gania, and Lebedeff himself, all looked rather confused. Stranger still, Hippolyte and the “son of Pavlicheff” also seemed slightly surprised, and Lebedeff’s nephew was obviously far from pleased. The boxer alone was perfectly calm; he twisted his moustaches with affected dignity, and if his eyes were cast down it was certainly not in confusion, but rather in noble modesty, as if he did not wish to be insolent in his triumph. It was evident that he was delighted with the article.

Rogojin laughed bitterly as he said these words, and opening the door, held it for the prince to pass out. Muishkin looked surprised, but went out. The other followed him as far as the landing of the outer stairs, and shut the door behind him. They both now stood facing one another, as though oblivious of where they were, or what they had to do next.

He had risen, and was speaking standing up. The old gentleman was looking at him now in unconcealed alarm. Lizabetha Prokofievna wrung her hands. “Oh, my God!” she cried. She had guessed the state of the case before anyone else.

“Oh, that may be. He may have known her some time ago--two or three years, at least. He used to know Totski. But it is impossible that there should be any intimacy between them. She has not even been in the place--many people don’t even know that she has returned from Moscow! I have only observed her carriage about for the last three days or so.”

After a time it became known that Totski had married a French marquise, and was to be carried off by her to Paris, and then to Brittany.

How or why it came about that everyone at the Epanchins’ became imbued with one conviction--that something very important had happened to Aglaya, and that her fate was in process of settlement--it would be very difficult to explain. But no sooner had this idea taken root, than all at once declared that they had seen and observed it long ago; that they had remarked it at the time of the “poor knight” joke, and even before, though they had been unwilling to believe in such nonsense.

“One moment, my dear prince, just one. I must absolutely speak to you about something which is most grave,” said Lebedeff, mysteriously and solemnly, entering the room with a bow and looking extremely important. He had but just returned, and carried his hat in his hand. He looked preoccupied and most unusually dignified.

“_Au revoir!_ I shall amuse them all with this story tomorrow!”

“You know, father, you would have done much better not to come at all! She is ready to eat you up! You have not shown yourself since the day before yesterday and she is expecting the money. Why did you promise her any? You are always the same! Well, now you will have to get out of it as best you can.”

“Not those very words. She only just had time to whisper as she went by; but by the way she looked at me I knew it was important. She looked at me in a way that made my heart stop beating.”

“I smiled because the idea came into my head that if it were not for this unhappy passion of yours you might have, and would have, become just such a man as your father, and that very quickly, too. You’d have settled down in this house of yours with some silent and obedient wife. You would have spoken rarely, trusted no one, heeded no one, and thought of nothing but making money.”

“But--why in the world--and the money? Was it all there?”

After a few more expostulations, the conversation drifted into other channels, but the prince, who had been an attentive listener, thought all this excitement about so small a matter very curious. “There must be more in it than appears,” he said to himself.

However, when he did master the fact, it acted upon him as a tonic by completely distracting his attention. He went at once to Nina Alexandrovna’s, whither the general had been carried, and stayed there until the evening. He could do no good, but there are people whom to have near one is a blessing at such times. Colia was in an almost hysterical state; he cried continuously, but was running about all day, all the same; fetching doctors, of whom he collected three; going to the chemist’s, and so on.

“He is ashamed of his tears!” whispered Lebedeff to Lizabetha Prokofievna. “It was inevitable. Ah! what a wonderful man the prince is! He read his very soul.”

When recalling all this afterwards the prince could not for the life of him understand how to reconcile the beautiful, sincere, pure nature of the girl with the irony of this jest. That it was a jest there was no doubt whatever; he knew that well enough, and had good reason, too, for his conviction; for during her recitation of the ballad Aglaya had deliberately changed the letters A. N. B. into N. P. B. He was quite sure she had not done this by accident, and that his ears had not deceived him. At all events her performance--which was a joke, of course, if rather a crude one,--was premeditated. They had evidently talked (and laughed) over the ‘poor knight’ for more than a month.

“Accept, Antip,” whispered the boxer eagerly, leaning past the back of Hippolyte’s chair to give his friend this piece of advice. “Take it for the present; we can see about more later on.”

“Can’t _you_ get him out of the room, somehow? _Do_, please,” and tears of annoyance stood in the boy’s eyes. “Curse that Gania!” he muttered, between his teeth.

“Your love is mingled with hatred, and therefore, when your love passes, there will be the greater misery,” said the prince. “I tell you this, Parfen--”

“I am of your opinion on that last point,” said Ivan Fedorovitch, with ill-concealed irritation.

There was a moment, during this long, wretched walk back from the Petersburg Side, when the prince felt an irresistible desire to go straight to Rogojin’s, wait for him, embrace him with tears of shame and contrition, and tell him of his distrust, and finish with it--once for all.

“He burned his hand!”

He saw them gather up the broken bits of china; he heard the loud talking of the guests and observed how pale Aglaya looked, and how very strangely she was gazing at him. There was no hatred in her expression, and no anger whatever. It was full of alarm for him, and sympathy and affection, while she looked around at the others with flashing, angry eyes. His heart filled with a sweet pain as he gazed at her.

“An idiot!”--the prince distinctly heard the word half whispered from behind him. This was Ferdishenko’s voluntary information for Nastasia’s benefit.

Hippolyte himself seemed to be hopeful about his state of health, as is often the case with consumptives.

This message entirely calmed the prince’s mind.

“You should go into the country,” said Lebedeff timidly.

“Oh, is that all?” he said at last. “Then I--”

The general gazed at his host disdainfully.

Before long Nastasia and Gania had talked the matter over. Very little was said--her modesty seemed to suffer under the infliction of discussing such a question. But she recognized his love, on the understanding that she bound herself to nothing whatever, and that she reserved the right to say “no” up to the very hour of the marriage ceremony. Gania was to have the same right of refusal at the last moment.

“From you to me? Ha, ha! that’s nothing! Why, she always acts as though she were in a delirium now-a-days! Either she says, ‘Come on, I’ll marry you! Let’s have the wedding quickly!’ and fixes the day, and seems in a hurry for it, and when it begins to come near she feels frightened; or else some other idea gets into her head--goodness knows! you’ve seen her--you know how she goes on--laughing and crying and raving! There’s nothing extraordinary about her having run away from you! She ran away because she found out how dearly she loved you. She could not bear to be near you. You said just now that I had found her at Moscow, when she ran away from you. I didn’t do anything of the sort; she came to me herself, straight from you. ‘Name the day--I’m ready!’ she said. ‘Let’s have some champagne, and go and hear the gipsies sing!’ I tell you she’d have thrown herself into the water long ago if it were not for me! She doesn’t do it because I am, perhaps, even more dreadful to her than the water! She’s marrying me out of spite; if she marries me, I tell you, it will be for spite!”

“Where are you going to now?” cried Mrs. Epanchin.

“Nastasia Philipovna!”

“Is Nastasia Philipovna at your house?”

“May I ask you, Hippolyte, not to talk of this subject? And not to use such expressions?”

As before, he crossed the street and watched the windows from the other side, walking up and down in anguish of soul for half an hour or so in the stifling heat. Nothing stirred; the blinds were motionless; indeed, the prince began to think that the apparition of Rogojin’s face could have been nothing but fancy. Soothed by this thought, he drove off once more to his friends at the Ismailofsky barracks. He was expected there. The mother had already been to three or four places to look for Nastasia, but had not found a trace of any kind.

“Come back, father; the neighbours will hear!” cried Varia.

“Oh, but you’re quite wrong in my particular instance,” said the Swiss patient, quietly. “Of course I can’t argue the matter, because I know only my own case; but my doctor gave me money--and he had very little--to pay my journey back, besides having kept me at his own expense, while there, for nearly two years.”

“I cannot boast of any such knowledge, of course, but I wished to know your name.”

The prince looked at him, but said nothing. He had suddenly relapsed into musing, and had probably not heard the question at all. Rogojin did not insist upon an answer, and there was silence for a few moments.

“Why, he must pay toll for his entrance,” explained the latter.

Nastasia seemed to Totski to have divined all this, and to be preparing something on her own account, which frightened him to such an extent that he did not dare communicate his views even to the general. But at times he would pluck up his courage and be full of hope and good spirits again, acting, in fact, as weak men do act in such circumstances.

The prince had been listening attentively to Radomski’s words, and thought his manner very pleasant. When Colia chaffed him about his waggonette he had replied with perfect equality and in a friendly fashion. This pleased Muishkin.

He grew very wroth and confused when the prince asked for the portrait, and explained how it came about that he had spoken of it.

“So I am really a princess,” she whispered to herself, ironically, and glancing accidentally at Daria Alexeyevna’s face, she burst out laughing.

“My dear fellow!” cried Prince S., with some annoyance, “don’t you see that he is chaffing you? He is simply laughing at you, and wants to make game of you.”

“Oh, it’s too horrible!” cried poor Colia, sobbing with shame and annoyance.

“Yes,” said Lebedeff, “you certainly think a great deal too much about yourself.”

“Yes, yes,” agreed the prince, warmly.

“I did not rise from my bed, and I don’t know how long I lay with my eyes open, thinking. I don’t know what I thought about, nor how I fell asleep or became insensible; but I awoke next morning after nine o’clock when they knocked at my door. My general orders are that if I don’t open the door and call, by nine o’clock, Matreona is to come and bring my tea. When I now opened the door to her, the thought suddenly struck me--how could he have come in, since the door was locked? I made inquiries and found that Rogojin himself could not possibly have come in, because all our doors were locked for the night.

The prince gazed at it for a minute or two, then glanced around him, and hurriedly raised the portrait to his lips. When, a minute after, he reached the drawing-room door, his face was quite composed. But just as he reached the door he met Aglaya coming out alone.

“But let these thirsty Russian souls find, like Columbus’ discoverers, a new world; let them find the Russian world, let them search and discover all the gold and treasure that lies hid in the bosom of their own land! Show them the restitution of lost humanity, in the future, by Russian thought alone, and by means of the God and of the Christ of our Russian faith, and you will see how mighty and just and wise and good a giant will rise up before the eyes of the astonished and frightened world; astonished because they expect nothing but the sword from us, because they think they will get nothing out of us but barbarism. This has been the case up to now, and the longer matters go on as they are now proceeding, the more clear will be the truth of what I say; and I--”

“Allow me, gentlemen, allow me,” urged the prince.

“What--shame you? I?--what do you mean, you young calf? I shame you? I can only do you honour, sir; I cannot shame you.”

“Who are these people?” said the prince.

“Do you know why I have just told you these lies?” She appealed to the prince, of a sudden, with the most childlike candour, and with the laugh still trembling on her lips. “Because when one tells a lie, if one insists on something unusual and eccentric--something too ‘out of the way’ for anything, you know--the more impossible the thing is, the more plausible does the lie sound. I’ve noticed this. But I managed it badly; I didn’t know how to work it.” She suddenly frowned again at this point as though at some sudden unpleasant recollection.

“Certainly, but not always. You would not have been able to keep it up, and would have ended by forgiving me,” said the prince, after a pause for reflection, and with a pleasant smile.

Gania stood at the door like a block and looked on in silence, putting no obstacle in the way of their entrance, and ten or a dozen men marched in behind Parfen Rogojin. They were a decidedly mixed-looking collection, and some of them came in in their furs and caps. None of them were quite drunk, but all appeared to be considerably excited.

“Old Bielokonski” listened to all the fevered and despairing lamentations of Lizabetha Prokofievna without the least emotion; the tears of this sorrowful mother did not evoke answering sighs--in fact, she laughed at her. She was a dreadful old despot, this princess; she could not allow equality in anything, not even in friendship of the oldest standing, and she insisted on treating Mrs. Epanchin as her _protégée_, as she had been thirty-five years ago. She could never put up with the independence and energy of Lizabetha’s character. She observed that, as usual, the whole family had gone much too far ahead, and had converted a fly into an elephant; that, so far as she had heard their story, she was persuaded that nothing of any seriousness had occurred; that it would surely be better to wait until something _did_ happen; that the prince, in her opinion, was a very decent young fellow, though perhaps a little eccentric, through illness, and not quite as weighty in the world as one could wish. The worst feature was, she said, Nastasia Philipovna.

PART III

“How dared they, how _dared_ they write that hateful anonymous letter informing me that Aglaya is in communication with Nastasia Philipovna?” she thought, as she dragged the prince along towards her own house, and again when she sat him down at the round table where the family was already assembled. “How dared they so much as _think_ of such a thing? I should _die_ with shame if I thought there was a particle of truth in it, or if I were to show the letter to Aglaya herself! Who dares play these jokes upon _us_, the Epanchins? _Why_ didn’t we go to the Yelagin instead of coming down here? I _told_ you we had better go to the Yelagin this summer, Ivan Fedorovitch. It’s all your fault. I dare say it was that Varia who sent the letter. It’s all Ivan Fedorovitch. _That_ woman is doing it all for him, I know she is, to show she can make a fool of him now just as she did when he used to give her pearls.

“It’s all the same; you ought to have run after Aglaya though the other was fainting.”

The words were hardly out of her mouth, when Lebedeff dragged Vera forward, in order to present her.

“Is it long since you saw her?”

“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 rare.”

Moved by this news, Lebedeff hurried up to the prince.

“Excuse me--wait a minute--he says that the leg we see is a wooden one, made by Tchernosvitoff.”

“Yes _all_, Katia, all--every one of them. Let them in, or they’ll come in whether you like or no. Listen! what a noise they are making! Perhaps you are offended, gentlemen, that I should receive such guests in your presence? I am very sorry, and ask your forgiveness, but it cannot be helped--and I should be very grateful if you could all stay and witness this climax. However, just as you please, of course.”

“Of course.”

“I am kind myself, and _always_ kind too, if you please!” she retorted, unexpectedly; “and that is my chief fault, for one ought not to be always kind. I am often angry with these girls and their father; but the worst of it is, I am always kindest when I am cross. I was very angry just before you came, and Aglaya there read me a lesson--thanks, Aglaya, dear--come and kiss me--there--that’s enough” she added, as Aglaya came forward and kissed her lips and then her hand. “Now then, go on, prince. Perhaps you can think of something more exciting than about the donkey, eh?”

He tried to give the prince an affectionate smile, and it seemed to the latter as though in this smile of his something had broken, and that he could not mend it, try as he would.

“I told you she wasn’t an ordinary woman,” replied the latter, who was as pale as anyone.

“Just look, Lizabetha Prokofievna,” he began, with a kind of feverish haste; “these china cups are supposed to be extremely valuable. Lebedeff always keeps them locked up in his china-cupboard; they were part of his wife’s dowry. Yet he has brought them out tonight--in your honour, of course! He is so pleased--” He was about to add something else, but could not find the words.

“Oh! that’s it, is it!” he yelled. “She throws my letters out of the window, does she! Oh! and she does not condescend to bargain, while I _do_, eh? We shall see, we shall see! I shall pay her out for this.”

“Whose fault is it that they are all miserable, that they don’t know how to live, though they have fifty or sixty years of life before them? Why did that fool allow himself to die of hunger with sixty years of unlived life before him?

At that moment Gania, accompanied by Ptitsin, came out to the terrace. From an adjoining room came a noise of angry voices, and General Ivolgin, in loud tones, seemed to be trying to shout them down. Colia rushed off at once to investigate the cause of the uproar.

Gania lost his head. Forgetful of everything he aimed a blow at Varia, which would inevitably have laid her low, but suddenly another hand caught his. Between him and Varia stood the prince.

As for his own impression on entering the room and taking his seat, he instantly remarked that the company was not in the least such as Aglaya’s words had led him to fear, and as he had dreamed of--in nightmare form--all night.

“Come, come, don’t overdo your philosophy. Of course you did. Now it’s all over, and a good thing, too; pair of fools that we have been! I confess I have never been able to look at it seriously. I busied myself in it for your sake, thinking that there was no knowing what might happen with a funny girl like that to deal with. There were ninety to one chances against it. To this moment I can’t make out why you wished for it.”

“This letter should be sent on at once,” said the prince, disturbed. “I’ll hand it over myself.”

“Was not Nastasia Philipovna here with him, yesterday evening?”

“Quite right!” agreed General Ivolgin in a loud voice.

At this moment Lebedeff appeared, having just arrived from Petersburg. He frowned when he saw the twenty-five rouble note in Keller’s hand, but the latter, having got the money, went away at once. Lebedeff began to abuse him.

After a few more expostulations, the conversation drifted into other channels, but the prince, who had been an attentive listener, thought all this excitement about so small a matter very curious. “There must be more in it than appears,” he said to himself.

“Yes, you are quite right. Oh! I feel that I am very guilty!” said Muishkin, in deepest distress.

“I am off,” he said, hoarsely, and with difficulty.

“No humbug at all.”

This good flunkey, in spite of his conscientious scruples, really could not resist continuing such a very genteel and agreeable conversation.

“Speak away, I am listening.”

A month after Muishkin’s departure, Mrs. Epanchin received a letter from her old friend Princess Bielokonski (who had lately left for Moscow), which letter put her into the greatest good humour. She did not divulge its contents either to her daughters or the general, but her conduct towards the former became affectionate in the extreme. She even made some sort of confession to them, but they were unable to understand what it was about. She actually relaxed towards the general a little--he had been long disgraced--and though she managed to quarrel with them all the next day, yet she soon came round, and from her general behaviour it was to be concluded that she had had good news of some sort, which she would like, but could not make up her mind, to disclose.

“No, they are not Nihilists,” explained Lebedeff, who seemed much excited. “This is another lot--a special group. According to my nephew they are more advanced even than the Nihilists. You are quite wrong, excellency, if you think that your presence will intimidate them; nothing intimidates them. Educated men, learned men even, are to be found among Nihilists; these go further, in that they are men of action. The movement is, properly speaking, a derivative from Nihilism--though they are only known indirectly, and by hearsay, for they never advertise their doings in the papers. They go straight to the point. For them, it is not a question of showing that Pushkin is stupid, or that Russia must be torn in pieces. No; but if they have a great desire for anything, they believe they have a right to get it even at the cost of the lives, say, of eight persons. They are checked by no obstacles. In fact, prince, I should not advise you...”

“Ferdishenko,” he said, gazing intently and inquiringly into the prince’s eyes.

“Only on condition that he has a napkin under his chin at lunch, then,” said Mrs. Epanchin, “and let Fedor, or Mavra, stand behind him while he eats. Is he quiet when he has these fits? He doesn’t show violence, does he?”

Nina Alexandrovna and her daughter were both seated in the drawing-room, engaged in knitting, and talking to a visitor, Ivan Petrovitch Ptitsin.