“How can it be foreign? You _are_ going to be married, are you not? Very well, then you are persisting in your course. _Are_ you going to marry her or not?”
This was a gentleman of about thirty, tall, broad-shouldered, and red-haired; his face was red, too, and he possessed a pair of thick lips, a wide nose, small eyes, rather bloodshot, and with an ironical expression in them; as though he were perpetually winking at someone. His whole appearance gave one the idea of impudence; his dress was shabby.
Suddenly Rogojin burst into a loud abrupt laugh, as though he had quite forgotten that they must speak in whispers.
“They do not at all approve of women going to see an execution there. The women who do go are condemned for it afterwards in the newspapers.”
“But--why in the world--and the money? Was it all there?”
“Prince,” he cried, “you are forgetting that if you consented to receive and hear them, it was only because of your kind heart which has no equal, for they had not the least right to demand it, especially as you had placed the matter in the hands of Gavrila Ardalionovitch, which was also extremely kind of you. You are also forgetting, most excellent prince, that you are with friends, a select company; you cannot sacrifice them to these gentlemen, and it is only for you to have them turned out this instant. As the master of the house I shall have great pleasure ....”
“Well, _au revoir!_ Did you observe that he ‘willed’ a copy of his confession to Aglaya Ivanovna?”
“I do _not_ boast! You shall have a hundred thousand, this very day. Ptitsin, get the money, you gay usurer! Take what you like for it, but get it by the evening! I’ll show that I’m in earnest!” cried Rogojin, working himself up into a frenzy of excitement.
“No. I was only going to say that what surprises me most of all is your extraordinary confidence.”
Lebedeff clasped his hands once more.
“Oh, dear me, I really do not require such profuse apologies,” replied the prince, hastily. “I quite understand how unpleasant your position is, and that is what made you abuse me. So come along to your house, after all. I shall be delighted--”
“Nastasia Philipovna!” cried the prince.
“You have no right--you have no right!” cried Burdovsky.
“There, he is feeling embarrassed; I expected as much,” whispered Evgenie Pavlovitch suddenly in the prince’s ear. “It is a bad sign; what do you think? Now, out of spite, he will come out with something so outrageous that even Lizabetha Prokofievna will not be able to stand it.”
“Koulakoff... Koulakoff means nothing. This is Sokolovitch’s flat, and I am ringing at his door.... What do I care for Koulakoff?... Here comes someone to open.”
“Come along, let’s go out for a walk!” cried Adelaida. “We’ll all go together, and the prince must absolutely go with us. You needn’t go away, you dear good fellow! _Isn’t_ he a dear, Aglaya? Isn’t he, mother? I must really give him a kiss for--for his explanation to Aglaya just now. Mother, dear, I may kiss him, mayn’t I? Aglaya, may I kiss _your_ prince?” cried the young rogue, and sure enough she skipped up to the prince and kissed his forehead.
“Listen to me, Aglaya,” said the prince, “I do believe you are nervous lest I shall make a fool of myself tomorrow at your party?”
For some minutes he did not seem to comprehend the excitement around him; that is, he comprehended it and saw everything, but he stood aside, as it were, like someone invisible in a fairy tale, as though he had nothing to do with what was going on, though it pleased him to take an interest in it.
At last, about half-past ten, the prince was left alone. His head ached. Colia was the last to go, after having helped him to change his wedding clothes. They parted on affectionate terms, and, without speaking of what had happened, Colia promised to come very early the next day. He said later that the prince had given no hint of his intentions when they said good-bye, but had hidden them even from him. Soon there was hardly anyone left in the house. Burdovsky had gone to see Hippolyte; Keller and Lebedeff had wandered off together somewhere.
“I have seen a donkey though, mamma!” said Aglaya.
“What letter do you mean she returned unopened?”
The prince questioned him in detail as to his hints about Rogojin. He was anxious to seize upon some facts which might confirm Hippolyte’s vague warnings; but there were none; only Hippolyte’s own private impressions and feelings.
He could not help observing the excited and agitated condition of all members of the family, and from certain hints dropped in conversation he gathered that they were all anxious as to the impression he should make upon the princess. But the Epanchins, one and all, believed that Muishkin, in his simplicity of mind, was quite incapable of realizing that they could be feeling any anxiety on his account, and for this reason they all looked at him with dread and uneasiness.
“Speak, but keep to the point!”
“Gavrila Ardalionovitch Ivolgin,” said Nastasia, firmly and evenly.
“My word! what a thing to be melancholy about! Why, do you think I should be any happier if I were to feel disturbed about the excavations you tell me of?”
“Why, what have you done? I don’t understand you.”
Colia was occupied with his father at this time. The old man died during a second stroke, which took place just eight days after the first. The prince showed great sympathy in the grief of the family, and during the first days of their mourning he was at the house a great deal with Nina Alexandrovna. He went to the funeral, and it was observable that the public assembled in church greeted his arrival and departure with whisperings, and watched him closely.
“Away, out of the way!” cried Nastasia. “Make room, all of you! Gania, what are you standing there for? Don’t stand on ceremony. Put in your hand! There’s your whole happiness smouldering away, look! Quick!”
“Of course, naturally. The bridegroom is an impossible and ridiculous one. I mean, has _she_ given her formal consent?”
“He is boring us!”
“You must excuse my asking, you know. Your appearance led me to think--but just wait for the secretary; the general is busy now, but the secretary is sure to come out.”
“No, I had better speak,” continued the prince, with a new outburst of feverish emotion, and turning towards the old man with an air of confidential trustfulness. “Yesterday, Aglaya Ivanovna forbade me to talk, and even specified the particular subjects I must not touch upon--she knows well enough that I am odd when I get upon these matters. I am nearly twenty-seven years old, and yet I know I am little better than a child. I have no right to express my ideas, and said so long ago. Only in Moscow, with Rogojin, did I ever speak absolutely freely! He and I read Pushkin together--all his works. Rogojin knew nothing of Pushkin, had not even heard his name. I am always afraid of spoiling a great Thought or Idea by my absurd manner. I have no eloquence, I know. I always make the wrong gestures--inappropriate gestures--and therefore I degrade the Thought, and raise a laugh instead of doing my subject justice. I have no sense of proportion either, and that is the chief thing. I know it would be much better if I were always to sit still and say nothing. When I do so, I appear to be quite a sensible sort of a person, and what’s more, I think about things. But now I must speak; it is better that I should. I began to speak because you looked so kindly at me; you have such a beautiful face. I promised Aglaya Ivanovna yesterday that I would not speak all the evening.”
“What is the matter, excellency? I know how to keep my place. When I said just now that we, you and I, were the lion and the ass of Kryloff’s fable, of course it is understood that I take the role of the ass. Your excellency is the lion of which the fable remarks:
“Oh, I was told. Of course I don’t altogether believe it. I am very sorry that I should have had to say this, because I assure you I don’t believe it myself; it is all nonsense, of course. It was stupid of me to say anything about it.”
“I told you she wasn’t an ordinary woman,” replied the latter, who was as pale as anyone.
The general rose.
“No, they cut off people’s heads in France.”
“Do you know what time it is?”
“Hippolyte,” said the prince, “give me the papers, and go to bed like a sensible fellow. We’ll have a good talk tomorrow, but you really mustn’t go on with this reading; it is not good for you!”
“Just now, I confess,” began the prince, with more animation, “when you asked me for a subject for a picture, I confess I had serious thoughts of giving you one. I thought of asking you to draw the face of a criminal, one minute before the fall of the guillotine, while the wretched man is still standing on the scaffold, preparatory to placing his neck on the block.”
Mrs. Epanchin gazed keenly into the prince’s eyes. She was anxious to see what impression the news as to Evgenie Pavlovitch had made upon him.
He soon heard that a messenger from the Epanchins’ had already been to inquire after him. At half-past eleven another arrived; and this pleased him.
But Prince S. was laughing now, too, so was Evgenie Pavlovitch, so was Colia, and so was the prince himself, who caught the infection as he looked round radiantly upon the others.
The general was, of course, repeating what he had told Lebedeff the night before, and thus brought it out glibly enough, but here he looked suspiciously at the prince out of the corners of his eyes.
“Gentlemen, wouldn’t you like a little champagne now?” she asked. “I have it all ready; it will cheer us up--do now--no ceremony!”
“I certainly thought they invited you with quite other views.”
“Well, at all events, they were consulting together at the time. Of course it was the idea of an eagle, and must have originated with Napoleon; but the other project was good too--it was the ‘Conseil du lion!’ as Napoleon called it. This project consisted in a proposal to occupy the Kremlin with the whole army; to arm and fortify it scientifically, to kill as many horses as could be got, and salt their flesh, and spend the winter there; and in spring to fight their way out. Napoleon liked the idea--it attracted him. We rode round the Kremlin walls every day, and Napoleon used to give orders where they were to be patched, where built up, where pulled down and so on. All was decided at last. They were alone together--those two and myself.
“Once there came a vision glorious, Mystic, dreadful, wondrous fair; Burned itself into his spirit, And abode for ever there!
“Just so, prince, just so. How well you bring out that fact! Because your own heart is good!” cried the ecstatic old gentleman, and, strangely enough, real tears glistened in his eyes. “Yes, prince, it was a wonderful spectacle. And, do you know, I all but went off to Paris, and should assuredly have shared his solitary exile with him; but, alas, our destinies were otherwise ordered! We parted, he to his island, where I am sure he thought of the weeping child who had embraced him so affectionately at parting in Moscow; and I was sent off to the cadet corps, where I found nothing but roughness and harsh discipline. Alas, my happy days were done!”
“Hey! look at it, it’ll burn in another minute or two!” cried Nastasia Philipovna. “You’ll hang yourself afterwards, you know, if it does! I’m not joking.”
“I thought of buying flowers, and putting them all round her; but I was afraid it would make us sad to see her with flowers round her.”
“Do not despair. I think we may say without fear of deceiving ourselves, that you have now given a fairly exact account of your life. I, at least, think it would be impossible to add much to what you have just told me.”
“Yes, I came for her sake.”
“Yes, it is,” replied Rogojin with an unpleasant smile, as if he had expected his guest to ask the question, and then to make some disagreeable remark.
Evgenie takes this much to heart, and he has a heart, as is proved by the fact that he receives and even answers letters from Colia. But besides this, another trait in his character has become apparent, and as it is a good trait we will make haste to reveal it. After each visit to Schneider’s establishment, Evgenie Pavlovitch writes another letter, besides that to Colia, giving the most minute particulars concerning the invalid’s condition. In these letters is to be detected, and in each one more than the last, a growing feeling of friendship and sympathy.
“Why, how could she--”
“His only reply to this was a sour grimace. He rose and looked for my cap, and placed it in my hand, and led me out of the house--that dreadful gloomy house of his--to all appearances, of course, as though I were leaving of my own accord, and he were simply seeing me to the door out of politeness. His house impressed me much; it is like a burial-ground, he seems to like it, which is, however, quite natural. Such a full life as he leads is so overflowing with absorbing interests that he has little need of assistance from his surroundings.
The prince did not answer, and there was silence again. “I love Gavrila Ardalionovitch,” she said, quickly; but hardly audibly, and with her head bent lower than ever.
She did not finish her indefinite sentence; she restrained herself in a moment; but it was enough.
“‘I’ll do it--I’ll do it, of course!’ he said. ‘I shall attack my uncle about it tomorrow morning, and I’m very glad you told me the story. But how was it that you thought of coming to me about it, Terentieff?’
“Allow me, Mr. Ivolgin,” he said irritably. “What is the good of all this rigmarole? Pardon me. All is now clear, and we acknowledge the truth of your main point. Why go into these tedious details? You wish perhaps to boast of the cleverness of your investigation, to cry up your talents as detective? Or perhaps your intention is to excuse Burdovsky, by proving that he took up the matter in ignorance? Well, I consider that extremely impudent on your part! You ought to know that Burdovsky has no need of being excused or justified by you or anyone else! It is an insult! The affair is quite painful enough for him without that. Will nothing make you understand?”
“H’m! she is as stupid as a fool! A veritable ‘wet hen’! Nothing excites her; and yet she is not happy; some days it makes one miserable only to look at her! Why is she unhappy, I wonder?” At times Lizabetha Prokofievna put this question to her husband, and as usual she spoke in the threatening tone of one who demands an immediate answer. Ivan Fedorovitch would frown, shrug his shoulders, and at last give his opinion: “She needs a husband!”
Of course, the last argument was the chief one. The maternal heart trembled with indignation to think of such an absurdity, although in that heart there rose another voice, which said: “And _why_ is not the prince such a husband as you would have desired for Aglaya?” It was this voice which annoyed Lizabetha Prokofievna more than anything else.
“Gentlemen, I supposed from this that poor Mr. Burdovsky must be a simple-minded man, quite defenceless, and an easy tool in the hands of rogues. That is why I thought it my duty to try and help him as ‘Pavlicheff’s son’; in the first place by rescuing him from the influence of Tchebaroff, and secondly by making myself his friend. I have resolved to give him ten thousand roubles; that is about the sum which I calculate that Pavlicheff must have spent on me.”
He was extremely excited; his lips trembled, and the resentment of an embittered soul was in his voice. But he spoke so indistinctly that hardly a dozen words could be gathered.
“You exaggerate the matter very much,” said Ivan Petrovitch, with rather a bored air. “There are, in the foreign Churches, many representatives of their faith who are worthy of respect and esteem.”
“Hippolyte, stop, please! It’s so dreadfully undignified,” said Varia.
“That’s a kind-hearted man, if you like,” said Daria Alexeyevna, whose wrath was quickly evaporating.
“I like looking at that picture,” muttered Rogojin, not noticing, apparently, that the prince had not answered his question.
“Yes, for certain--quite for certain, now! I have discovered it _absolutely_ for certain, these last few days.”
“Having now shown you that I am not quite such a fool as I look, and that I have to be fished for with a rod and line for a good long while before I am caught, I will proceed to explain why I specially wished to make your brother look a fool. That my motive power is hate, I do not attempt to conceal. I have felt that before dying (and I am dying, however much fatter I may appear to you), I must absolutely make a fool of, at least, one of that class of men which has dogged me all my life, which I hate so cordially, and which is so prominently represented by your much esteemed brother. I should not enjoy paradise nearly so much without having done this first. I hate you, Gavrila Ardalionovitch, solely (this may seem curious to you, but I repeat)--solely because you are the type, and incarnation, and head, and crown of the most impudent, the most self-satisfied, the most vulgar and detestable form of commonplaceness. You are ordinary of the ordinary; you have no chance of ever fathering the pettiest idea of your own. And yet you are as jealous and conceited as you can possibly be; you consider yourself a great genius; of this you are persuaded, although there are dark moments of doubt and rage, when even this fact seems uncertain. There are spots of darkness on your horizon, though they will disappear when you become completely stupid. But a long and chequered path lies before you, and of this I am glad. In the first place you will never gain a certain person.”
“Yes--I have business--” began the prince.
He stopped for a moment at the door; a great flush of shame came over him. “I am a coward, a wretched coward,” he said, and moved forward again; but once more he paused.
“I like looking at that picture,” muttered Rogojin, not noticing, apparently, that the prince had not answered his question.
“H’m! now, I suppose, you and your husband will never weary of egging me on to work again. You’ll begin your lectures about perseverance and strength of will, and all that. I know it all by heart,” said Gania, laughing.
“Thank you,” he said gently. “Sit opposite to me, and let us talk. We must have a talk now, Lizabetha Prokofievna; I am very anxious for it.” He smiled at her once more. “Remember that today, for the last time, I am out in the air, and in the company of my fellow-men, and that in a fortnight I shall certainly be no longer in this world. So, in a way, this is my farewell to nature and to men. I am not very sentimental, but do you know, I am quite glad that all this has happened at Pavlofsk, where at least one can see a green tree.”
“What did you mean, sir, that he didn’t exist? Explain yourself,” he repeated, angrily.
“_Who_ forbade you?” cried Mrs. Epanchin once more.
Colia had no choice but to obey. With crimson cheeks he read on unsteadily:
The whole of Rogojin’s being was concentrated in one rapturous gaze of ecstasy. He could not take his eyes off Nastasia. He stood drinking her in, as it were. He was in the seventh heaven of delight.
“How am I to respect you, if that’s the case? Read on now. No--don’t! Stop reading!”
The explanation was finished; Hippolyte paused at last.
Suddenly Hippolyte jumped up as though he had been shot.
“I never thought of doing any such thing. I have not seen him, and he is not a rogue, in my opinion. I have had a letter from him.”
Colia had made it up with the prince before his father’s death, and it was he who urged him to make use of Keller and Burdovsky, promising to answer himself for the former’s behaviour. Nina Alexandrovna and Lebedeff tried to persuade him to have the wedding in St. Petersburg, instead of in the public fashion contemplated, down here at Pavlofsk in the height of the season. But the prince only said that Nastasia Philipovna desired to have it so, though he saw well enough what prompted their arguments.
“The man-servant, while I was waiting to see the general.”
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.
Left alone, he lay down on the sofa, and began to think.
But there was another question, which terrified him considerably, and that was: what was he going to do when he _did_ get in? And to this question he could fashion no satisfactory reply.
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.
But at this moment he saw, seated before him, Nastasia Philipovna. He had not dreamed of meeting her here, evidently, for her appearance produced a marvellous effect upon him. He grew pale, and his lips became actually blue.
Above his head some little bird sang out, of a sudden; he began to peer about for it among the leaves. Suddenly the bird darted out of the tree and away, and instantly he thought of the “fly buzzing about in the sun’s rays” that Hippolyte had talked of; how that it knew its place and was a participator in the universal life, while he alone was an “outcast.” This picture had impressed him at the time, and he meditated upon it now. An old, forgotten memory awoke in his brain, and suddenly burst into clearness and light. It was a recollection of Switzerland, during the first year of his cure, the very first months. At that time he had been pretty nearly an idiot still; he could not speak properly, and had difficulty in understanding when others spoke to him. He climbed the mountain-side, one sunny morning, and wandered long and aimlessly with a certain thought in his brain, which would not become clear. Above him was the blazing sky, below, the lake; all around was the horizon, clear and infinite. He looked out upon this, long and anxiously. He remembered how he had stretched out his arms towards the beautiful, boundless blue of the horizon, and wept, and wept. What had so tormented him was the idea that he was a stranger to all this, that he was outside this glorious festival.
“Well, very well, very well!” she said, but quite in a different tone. She was remorseful now, and bent forward to touch his shoulder, though still trying not to look him in the face, as if the more persuasively to beg him not to be angry with her. “Very well,” she continued, looking thoroughly ashamed of herself, “I feel that I said a very foolish thing. I only did it just to try you. Take it as unsaid, and if I offended you, forgive me. Don’t look straight at me like that, please; turn your head away. You called it a ‘horrible idea’; I only said it to shock you. Very often I am myself afraid of saying what I intend to say, and out it comes all the same. You have just told me that you wrote that letter at the most painful moment of your life. I know what moment that was!” she added softly, looking at the ground again.
“But what have I done? What is his grievance?” asked Hippolyte, grinning.
“Oh yes, I do; but it is so unnecessary. I mean, I did not think you need make such a proposition,” said the prince, looking confused.
The door opened at this point, and in came Gania most unexpectedly.
The speech of Lebedeff’s nephew caused a certain stir among the company; murmurs arose, though with the exception of Lebedeff, who was still very much excited, everyone was careful not to interfere in the matter. Strangely enough, Lebedeff, although on the prince’s side, seemed quite proud of his nephew’s eloquence. Gratified vanity was visible in the glances he cast upon the assembled company.