“Where is it? Give it here, at once.”

Nina Alexandrovna came in, looking frightened. She had changed much since we last saw her, half a year ago, and had grown thin and pale. Colia looked worried and perplexed. He could not understand the vagaries of the general, and knew nothing of the last achievement of that worthy, which had caused so much commotion in the house. But he could see that his father had of late changed very much, and that he had begun to behave in so extraordinary a fashion both at home and abroad that he was not like the same man. What perplexed and disturbed him as much as anything was that his father had entirely given up drinking during the last few days. Colia knew that he had quarrelled with both Lebedeff and the prince, and had just bought a small bottle of vodka and brought it home for his father.

“But, my dear fellow, what are you doing, what do you mean?”

“I don’t think so, Ferdishenko; please be quiet,” answered Nastasia Philipovna dryly.

It was clear that she had been merely passing through the room from door to door, and had not had the remotest notion that she would meet anyone.

“Perhaps not; it is very possible,” the prince agreed hastily, “though I do not know what general law you allude to. I will go on--only please do not take offence without good cause. I assure you I do not mean to offend you in the least. Really, it is impossible to speak three words sincerely without your flying into a rage! At first I was amazed when Tchebaroff told me that Pavlicheff had a son, and that he was in such a miserable position. Pavlicheff was my benefactor, and my father’s friend. Oh, Mr. Keller, why does your article impute things to my father without the slightest foundation? He never squandered the funds of his company nor ill-treated his subordinates, I am absolutely certain of it; I cannot imagine how you could bring yourself to write such a calumny! But your assertions concerning Pavlicheff are absolutely intolerable! You do not scruple to make a libertine of that noble man; you call him a sensualist as coolly as if you were speaking the truth, and yet it would not be possible to find a chaster man. He was even a scholar of note, and in correspondence with several celebrated scientists, and spent large sums in the interests of science. As to his kind heart and his good actions, you were right indeed when you said that I was almost an idiot at that time, and could hardly understand anything--(I could speak and understand Russian, though),--but now I can appreciate what I remember--”

Next moment he was absolutely unconscious; black darkness blotted out everything.

A minute afterwards, Evgenie Pavlovitch reappeared on the terrace, in great agitation.

“At moments I was in a state of dreadful weakness and misery, so that Colia was greatly disturbed when he left me.

Mrs. Epanchin put these questions hastily and brusquely, and when the prince answered she nodded her head sagely at each word he said.

He did not speak much, only answering such questions as were put to him, and gradually settled down into unbroken silence, listening to what went on, and steeped in perfect satisfaction and contentment.

“I have now--let’s see--I have a hundred and thirty-five thousand roubles,” said the prince, blushing violently.

“The prince! What on earth has the prince got to do with it? Who the deuce is the prince?” cried the general, who could conceal his wrath no longer.

“My goodness, what utter twaddle, and what may all this nonsense have signified, pray? If it had any meaning at all!” said Mrs. Epanchin, cuttingly, after having listened with great attention.

She arranged her daughter’s hair, which was not in the least disordered, and gave her a kiss. This was all that she had called her for.

The prince frowned for a moment in silence, and then said suddenly:

It was declared that he believed in no classes or anything else, excepting “the woman question.”

“I will not accept ten thousand roubles,” said Burdovsky.

“Your bundle has some importance, however,” continued the clerk, when they had laughed their fill (it was observable that the subject of their mirth joined in the laughter when he saw them laughing); “for though I dare say it is not stuffed full of friedrichs d’or and louis d’or--judge from your costume and gaiters--still--if you can add to your possessions such a valuable property as a relation like Mrs. General Epanchin, then your bundle becomes a significant object at once. That is, of course, if you really are a relative of Mrs. Epanchin’s, and have not made a little error through--well, absence of mind, which is very common to human beings; or, say--through a too luxuriant fancy?”

“Yes, I am afraid...” began the prince.

“Observe,” he gasped, through his coughing, “what a fellow Gania is! He talks about Nastasia’s ‘leavings,’ but what does he want to take himself?”

“She has promised to tell me tonight at her own house whether she consents or not,” replied Gania.

“Yes, that wasn’t a clever remark,” said Alexandra.

Aglaya then lost her temper, and began to say such awful things to the prince that he laughed no more, but grew dreadfully pale, especially when she said that she should not remain in the house with him, and that he ought to be ashamed of coming to their house at all, especially at night, “_after all that had happened._”

“What! I tell stories, do I? It is true! I gave him my promise a couple of days ago on this very seat.”

“I did not expect that of you, Aglaya,” she said. “He is an impossible husband for you,--I know it; and thank God that we agree upon that point; but I did not expect to hear such words from you. I thought I should hear a very different tone from you. I would have turned out everyone who was in the room last night and kept him,--that’s the sort of man he is, in my opinion!”

Nina Alexandrovna’s question betrayed intense annoyance. Gania waited a moment and then said, without taking the trouble to conceal the irony of his tone:

Lebedeff made a strange and very expressive grimace; he twisted about in his chair, and did something, apparently symbolical, with his hands.

“She died a few months later, from a cold,” said the prince.

So that if our readers were to ask an explanation, not of the wild reports about the prince’s Nihilistic opinions, but simply as to how such a marriage could possibly satisfy his real aspirations, or as to the spiritual condition of our hero at this time, we confess that we should have great difficulty in giving the required information.

“I didn’t mean that; at least, of course, I’m glad for your sake, too,” added the prince, correcting himself, “but--how did you find it?”

“Lvovitch,” repeated the general without the slightest haste, and with perfect confidence, just as though he had not committed himself the least in the world, but merely made a little slip of the tongue. He sat down, and taking the prince’s hand, drew him to a seat next to himself.

“You know of course why I requested this meeting?” she said at last, quietly, and pausing twice in the delivery of this very short sentence.

“Twenty-seventh; very well. Good-bye now; you have a good deal to do, I’m sure, and I must dress and go out. Take your portrait. Give my respects to your unfortunate mother, Nina Alexandrovna. _Au revoir_, dear prince, come in and see us often, do; and I shall tell old Princess Bielokonski about you. I shall go and see her on purpose. And listen, my dear boy, I feel sure that God has sent you to Petersburg from Switzerland on purpose for me. Maybe you will have other things to do, besides, but you are sent chiefly for my sake, I feel sure of it. God sent you to me! Au revoir! Alexandra, come with me, my dear.”

“It was Gogol, in Dead Souls, father,” cried Colia, glancing at him in some alarm.

“But I have done so, my dear prince!” said Lebedeff, more sweetly than ever.

The Epanchins had only just heard of the prince’s illness and of his presence in Pavlofsk, from Colia; and up to this time had been in a state of considerable bewilderment about him. The general brought the prince’s card down from town, and Mrs. Epanchin had felt convinced that he himself would follow his card at once; she was much excited.

“Yesterday, after seeing you, I went home and thought out a picture.

The young fellow accompanying the general was about twenty-eight, tall, and well built, with a handsome and clever face, and bright black eyes, full of fun and intelligence.

“It was.”

“I did not expect that of you, Aglaya,” she said. “He is an impossible husband for you,--I know it; and thank God that we agree upon that point; but I did not expect to hear such words from you. I thought I should hear a very different tone from you. I would have turned out everyone who was in the room last night and kept him,--that’s the sort of man he is, in my opinion!”

“Well--gentlemen--I do not force anyone to listen! If any of you are unwilling to sit it out, please go away, by all means!”

“There’s nothing better than the ‘poor knight’!” said Colia, who was standing near the last speaker’s chair.

“Don’t come with me,” she cried, “_Au revoir_, till the evening--do you hear? _Au revoir!_”

He laid much stress on the genius of the sufferer, as if this idea must be one of immense solace in the present crisis.

“Yours. You forbade me yourself to mention it before you, most excellent prince,” murmured Lebedeff. Then, satisfied that he had worked up Muishkin’s curiosity to the highest pitch, he added abruptly: “She is afraid of Aglaya Ivanovna.”

It was all very vague. Who had taken the letters, if letters there were? Probably Vera--and how could Lebedeff have got them? In all probability, he had managed to steal the present letter from Vera, and had himself gone over to Lizabetha Prokofievna with some idea in his head. So the prince concluded at last.

There are many strange circumstances such as this before us; but in our opinion they do but deepen the mystery, and do not in the smallest degree help us to understand the case.

“Gracious heavens!” exclaimed Lizabetha Prokofievna. The prince started. The general stiffened in his chair; the sisters frowned.

“Do you know I am specially glad that today is your birthday!” cried Hippolyte.

“Yes.”

The prince tried to say something, but he was too confused, and could not get his words out. Aglaya, who had taken such liberties in her little speech, was the only person present, perhaps, who was not in the least embarrassed. She seemed, in fact, quite pleased.

But one very curious fact was that all the shame and vexation and mortification which he felt over the accident were less powerful than the deep impression of the almost supernatural truth of his premonition. He stood still in alarm--in almost superstitious alarm, for a moment; then all mists seemed to clear away from his eyes; he was conscious of nothing but light and joy and ecstasy; his breath came and went; but the moment passed. Thank God it was not that! He drew a long breath and looked around.

This time they neither opened the door at Rogojin’s flat nor at the one opposite. The prince found the porter with difficulty, but when found, the man would hardly look at him or answer his questions, pretending to be busy. Eventually, however, he was persuaded to reply so far as to state that Rogojin had left the house early in the morning and gone to Pavlofsk, and that he would not return today at all.

The old lady, Rogojin’s mother, is still alive, and remembers her favourite son Parfen sometimes, but not clearly. God spared her the knowledge of this dreadful calamity which had overtaken her house.

“In the evening I used to walk to the waterfall. There was a spot there which was quite closed in and hidden from view by large trees; and to this spot the children used to come to me. They could not bear that their dear Leon should love a poor girl without shoes to her feet and dressed all in rags and tatters. So, would you believe it, they actually clubbed together, somehow, and bought her shoes and stockings, and some linen, and even a dress! I can’t understand how they managed it, but they did it, all together. When I asked them about it they only laughed and shouted, and the little girls clapped their hands and kissed me. I sometimes went to see Marie secretly, too. She had become very ill, and could hardly walk. She still went with the herd, but could not help the herdsman any longer. She used to sit on a stone near, and wait there almost motionless all day, till the herd went home. Her consumption was so advanced, and she was so weak, that she used to sit with closed eyes, breathing heavily. Her face was as thin as a skeleton’s, and sweat used to stand on her white brow in large drops. I always found her sitting just like that. I used to come up quietly to look at her; but Marie would hear me, open her eyes, and tremble violently as she kissed my hands. I did not take my hand away because it made her happy to have it, and so she would sit and cry quietly. Sometimes she tried to speak; but it was very difficult to understand her. She was almost like a madwoman, with excitement and ecstasy, whenever I came. Occasionally the children came with me; when they did so, they would stand some way off and keep guard over us, so as to tell me if anybody came near. This was a great pleasure to them.

“And are you assured, at the same time, that you love Aglaya too?”

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 hand tightly.

“I am, of course, quite ready to add my efforts to yours in such a case,” said the prince, rising; “but I confess, Lebedeff, that I am terribly perplexed. Tell me, do you still think... plainly, you say yourself that you suspect Mr. Ferdishenko?”

“Ah!” cried Hippolyte, turning towards Evgenie Pavlovitch, and looking at him with a queer sort of curiosity.

“No, he...”

“And why did you tell us this?”

The prince would never so much as suspect such a thing in the delight of his first impression.

“What do you think about it, prince?” asked Evgenie, taking no notice of the last remark, and observing Muishkin’s serious eyes fixed upon his face. “What do you think--was it a special or a usual case--the rule, or an exception? I confess I put the question especially for you.”

“What if he were to come out of that corner as I go by and--and stop me?” thought the prince, as he approached the familiar spot. But no one came out.

“You will admit yourself, general, that for an honourable man, if the author is an honourable man, that is an--an insult,” growled the boxer suddenly, with convulsive jerkings of his shoulders.

We said at the beginning of our story, that the Epanchins were liked and esteemed by their neighbours. In spite of his humble origin, Ivan Fedorovitch himself was received everywhere with respect. He deserved this, partly on account of his wealth and position, partly because, though limited, he was really a very good fellow. But a certain limitation of mind seems to be an indispensable asset, if not to all public personages, at least to all serious financiers. Added to this, his manner was modest and unassuming; he knew when to be silent, yet never allowed himself to be trampled upon. Also--and this was more important than all--he had the advantage of being under exalted patronage.

Lizabetha Prokofievna frowned, but had not as yet grasped the subject, which seemed to have arisen out of a heated argument. Aglaya sat apart, almost in the corner, listening in stubborn silence.

“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?”

“H’m! and instead of a bad action, your excellency has detailed one of your noblest deeds,” said Ferdishenko. “Ferdishenko is ‘done.’”

At about half-past seven the prince started for the church in his carriage.

“Yes, of course, she did say something!”

We may remark here that he seemed anxious not to omit a single one of the recognized customs and traditions observed at weddings. He wished all to be done as openly as possible, and “in due order.”

“He discovered everything, the monster... himself......”

“Here, in the first place, comes a strange thought!

“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.”

“I arrived at the old woman’s house beside myself. She was sitting in a corner all alone, leaning her face on her hand. I fell on her like a clap of thunder. ‘You old wretch!’ I yelled and all that sort of thing, in real Russian style. Well, when I began cursing at her, a strange thing happened. I looked at her, and she stared back with her eyes starting out of her head, but she did not say a word. She seemed to sway about as she sat, and looked and looked at me in the strangest way. Well, I soon stopped swearing and looked closer at her, asked her questions, but not a word could I get out of her. The flies were buzzing about the room and only this sound broke the silence; the sun was setting outside; I didn’t know what to make of it, so I went away.

“This letter cannot be allowed to remain in your hands.”

“Parfen, I am not your enemy, and I do not intend to oppose your intentions in any way. I repeat this to you now just as I said it to you once before on a very similar occasion. When you were arranging for your projected marriage in Moscow, I did not interfere with you--you know I did not. That first time she fled to me from you, from the very altar almost, and begged me to ‘save her from you.’ Afterwards she ran away from me again, and you found her and arranged your marriage with her once more; and now, I hear, she has run away from you and come to Petersburg. Is it true? Lebedeff wrote me to this effect, and that’s why I came here. That you had once more arranged matters with Nastasia Philipovna I only learned last night in the train from a friend of yours, Zaleshoff--if you wish to know.

“Well, I must say, I cannot understand it!” said the general, shrugging his shoulders and dropping his hands. “You remember your mother, Nina Alexandrovna, that day she came and sat here and groaned--and when I asked her what was the matter, she says, ‘Oh, it’s such a _dishonour_ to us!’ dishonour! Stuff and nonsense! I should like to know who can reproach Nastasia Philipovna, or who can say a word of any kind against her. Did she mean because Nastasia had been living with Totski? What nonsense it is! You would not let her come near your daughters, says Nina Alexandrovna. What next, I wonder? I don’t see how she can fail to--to understand--”

“Is it today, Gania?” asked Nina Alexandrovna, at last.

“Won’t you leave the room, mamma?” asked Varia, aloud.

“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.”

“No, a verbal message; she had hardly time even for that. She begs you earnestly not to go out of the house for a single moment all to-day, until seven o’clock in the evening. It may have been nine; I didn’t quite hear.”

“To _read?_” cried Gania, almost at the top of his voice; “to _read_, and you read it?”

But Gania had borne too much that day, and especially this evening, and he was not prepared for this last, quite unexpected trial.

The prince rose from his seat in a condition of mental collapse. The good ladies reported afterwards that “his pallor was terrible to see, and his legs seemed to give way underneath him.” With difficulty he was made to understand that his new friends would be glad of his address, in order to act with him if possible. After a moment’s thought he gave the address of the small hotel, on the stairs of which he had had a fit some five weeks since. He then set off once more for Rogojin’s.

“Oh, come, come! You are exaggerating,” said Ivan Petrovitch, beaming with satisfaction, all the same. He was right, however, in this instance, for the report had reached the prince’s ears in an incorrect form.

She appeared to be in the last stages of wrath and irritation; her eyes flashed. The prince stood dumbly and blindly before her, and suddenly grew pale.

At this moment there was a furious ring at the bell, and a great knock at the door--exactly similar to the one which had startled the company at Gania’s house in the afternoon.

At Pavlofsk, on weekdays, the public is more select than it is on Sundays and Saturdays, when the townsfolk come down to walk about and enjoy the park.

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 questions.

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

Prince S---- made the acquaintance of the general’s family, and Adelaida, the second girl, made a great impression upon him. Towards the spring he proposed to her, and she accepted him. The general and his wife were delighted. The journey abroad was put off, and the wedding was fixed for a day not very distant.

“Good heavens! And I very nearly struck him!”

“N-no! don’t marry him!” he whispered at last, drawing his breath with an effort.

“Oh, but it is absolutely necessary for me,” Gania entreated. “Believe me, if it were not so, I would not ask you; how else am I to get it to her? It is most important, dreadfully important!”

He twisted himself about with rage, and grew paler and paler; he shook his fist. So the pair walked along a few steps. Gania did not stand on ceremony with the prince; he behaved just as though he were alone in his room. He clearly counted the latter as a nonentity. But suddenly he seemed to have an idea, and recollected himself.

“In spite of his lack of amiability, I could not help seeing, in Rogojin a man of intellect and sense; and although, perhaps, there was little in the outside world which was of interest to him, still he was clearly a man with eyes to see.

“Oh, I like that! That beats anything!” he cried convulsively, panting for breath. “One is an absolute unbeliever; the other is such a thorough-going believer that he murders his friend to the tune of a prayer! Oh, prince, prince, that’s too good for anything! You can’t have invented it. It’s the best thing I’ve heard!”