Evgenie meanwhile observed him attentively, and the rapidity of the questions, their simplicity, the prince’s candour, and at the same time, his evident perplexity and mental agitation, surprised him considerably. However, he told Muishkin all he could, kindly and in detail. The prince hardly knew anything, for this was the first informant from the household whom he had met since the estrangement.

“No, no I--I--no!” said Gania, bringing out his lie with a tell-tale blush of shame. He glanced keenly at Aglaya, who was sitting some way off, and dropped his eyes immediately.

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.

“Yes, for certain--quite for certain, now! I have discovered it _absolutely_ for certain, these last few days.”

Rogojin asked his question like a lost soul appealing to some divinity, with the reckless daring of one appointed to die, who has nothing to lose.

All present exchanged looks of surprise.

“Five weeks since, I was just like yourself,” continued Rogojin, addressing the prince, “with nothing but a bundle and the clothes I wore. I ran away from my father and came to Pskoff to my aunt’s house, where I caved in at once with fever, and he went and died while I was away. All honour to my respected father’s memory--but he uncommonly nearly killed me, all the same. Give you my word, prince, if I hadn’t cut and run then, when I did, he’d have murdered me like a dog.”

“Then you think Aglaya Ivanovna herself intends to go to Nastasia Philipovna’s tonight?” he asked, and bright hectic spots came out on his cheeks and forehead.

“I never said you were Rogojin’s mistress--you are _not!_” said the prince, in trembling accents.

“I have heard of you, and I think read of you in the newspapers.”

“They are Nihilists, are they not?”

“Is he mad?” asked Madame Epanchin suddenly.

Nastasia Philipovna burst out laughing and jumped up from the sofa.

“Probably there’s some new silliness about it,” said Mrs. Epanchin, sarcastically.

“I can tell you all about Colia,” said the young man

Prince Muishkin rose and stretched out his hand courteously, while he replied with some cordiality:

“It’s a good thing that there is peace in the house, at all events,” he continued. “They never utter a hint about the past, not only in Aglaya’s presence, but even among themselves. The old people are talking of a trip abroad in the autumn, immediately after Adelaida’s wedding; Aglaya received the news in silence.”

He rose from his seat in order to follow her, when a bright, clear peal of laughter rang out by his side. He felt somebody’s hand suddenly in his own, seized it, pressed it hard, and awoke. Before him stood Aglaya, laughing aloud.

“Whom did you hear it from?” asked Aglaya, alarmed. “Rogojin said something about it yesterday, but nothing definite.”

Both the listeners laughed again.

“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 authorities.”

“‘A man I knew who had been to Siberia and returned, told me that he himself had been a witness of how the very most hardened criminals remembered the old general, though, in point of fact, he could never, of course, have distributed more than a few pence to each member of a party. Their recollection of him was not sentimental or particularly devoted. Some wretch, for instance, who had been a murderer--cutting the throat of a dozen fellow-creatures, for instance; or stabbing six little children for his own amusement (there have been such men!)--would perhaps, without rhyme or reason, suddenly give a sigh and say, “I wonder whether that old general is alive still!” Although perhaps he had not thought of mentioning him for a dozen years before! How can one say what seed of good may have been dropped into his soul, never to die?’

“You wouldn’t believe how you have pained and astonished me,” cried the prince.

Breath failed him here, and he was obliged to stop.

To his consternation the good people at the lodgings had not only heard nothing of Nastasia, but all came out to look at him as if he were a marvel of some sort. The whole family, of all ages, surrounded him, and he was begged to enter. He guessed at once that they knew perfectly well who he was, and that yesterday ought to have been his wedding-day; and further that they were dying to ask about the wedding, and especially about why he should be here now, inquiring for the woman who in all reasonable human probability might have been expected to be with him in Pavlofsk.

“I assure you,” said the general, “that exactly the same thing happened to myself!”

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:

And in the semi-darkness the prince distinguished a man standing close to the stairs, apparently waiting.

The prince wanted to say something, but was so confused and astonished that he could not. However, he moved off towards the drawing-room with the cloak over his arm.

“‘Lumen caeli, sancta Rosa!’ Shouting on the foe he fell, And like thunder rang his war-cry O’er the cowering infidel.

“I don’t understand your condescension,” said Hippolyte. “As for me, I promised myself, on the first day of my arrival in this house, that I would have the satisfaction of settling accounts with you in a very thorough manner before I said good-bye to you. I intend to perform this operation now, if you like; after you, though, of course.”

“I have long sought the honour and opportunity of meeting you--much-esteemed Lef Nicolaievitch,” he murmured, pressing the prince’s hand very hard, almost painfully so; “long--very long.”

“I’ll tell you what!” cried Rogojin, and his eyes flashed fire. “I can’t understand your yielding her to me like this; I don’t understand it. Have you given up loving her altogether? At first you suffered badly--I know it--I saw it. Besides, why did you come post-haste after us? Out of pity, eh? He, he, he!” His mouth curved in a mocking smile.

“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.”

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

“_Smoke?_” said the man, in shocked but disdainful surprise, blinking his eyes at the prince as though he could not believe his senses. “No, sir, you cannot smoke here, and I wonder you are not ashamed of the very suggestion. Ha, ha! a cool idea that, I declare!”

“That’s all madness. What you say about me, Parfen, never can and never will be. Tomorrow, I shall come and see you--”

The day after these scandalous events, however, the prince had the honour of receiving a visit from Adelaida and her fiance, Prince S. They came, ostensibly, to inquire after his health. They had wandered out for a walk, and called in “by accident,” and talked for almost the whole of the time they were with him about a certain most lovely tree in the park, which Adelaida had set her heart upon for a picture. This, and a little amiable conversation on Prince S.’s part, occupied the time, and not a word was said about last evening’s episodes. At length Adelaida burst out laughing, apologized, and explained that they had come incognito; from which, and from the circumstance that they said nothing about the prince’s either walking back with them or coming to see them later on, the latter inferred that he was in Mrs. Epanchin’s black books. Adelaida mentioned a watercolour that she would much like to show him, and explained that she would either send it by Colia, or bring it herself the next day--which to the prince seemed very suggestive.

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.

At last Varvara Ardalionovna came in search of her brother, and remained for a few minutes. Without Muishkin’s asking her, she informed him that Evgenie Pavlovitch was spending the day in Petersburg, and perhaps would remain there over tomorrow; and that her husband had also gone to town, probably in connection with Evgenie Pavlovitch’s affairs.

“You were prevented by Aglaya Ivanovna. I think I am not mistaken? That is your daughter, Aglaya Ivanovna? She is so beautiful that I recognized her directly, although I had never seen her before. Let me, at least, look on beauty for the last time in my life,” he said with a wry smile. “You are here with the prince, and your husband, and a large company. Why should you refuse to gratify my last wish?”

Arrived at the point where the Gorohovaya crosses the Sadovaya, he was surprised to find how excessively agitated he was. He had no idea that his heart could beat so painfully.

Mrs. Epanchin almost sprang up in amazement at his answer, and at the assurance of his tone.

“Excuse me; I was able to deliver it almost immediately after receiving your commission, and I gave it, too, just as you asked me to. It has come into my hands now because Aglaya Ivanovna has just returned it to me.”

Lebedeff followed suit at once, and it was clear from his radiant face that he considered his prospects of satisfaction immensely improved.

“Do you know there is a limit of ignominy, beyond which man’s consciousness of shame cannot go, and after which begins satisfaction in shame? Well, of course humility is a great force in that sense, I admit that--though not in the sense in which religion accounts humility to be strength!

This was the first time in his life that he had seen a little corner of what was generally known by the terrible name of “society.” He had long thirsted, for reasons of his own, to penetrate the mysteries of the magic circle, and, therefore, this assemblage was of the greatest possible interest to him.

“Then, general, it’s your turn,” continued Nastasia Philipovna, “and if you refuse, the whole game will fall through, which will disappoint me very much, for I was looking forward to relating a certain ‘page of my own life.’ I am only waiting for you and Afanasy Ivanovitch to have your turns, for I require the support of your example,” she added, smiling.

At this moment Alexandra’s voice was heard outside the door, calling out “Papa!”

“All I’m afraid of is--mother. I’m afraid this scandal about father may come to her ears; perhaps it has already. I am dreadfully afraid.”

She took the handkerchief from her face, glanced keenly at him, took in what he had said, and burst out laughing--such a merry, unrestrained laugh, so hearty and gay, that Adelaida could not contain herself. She, too, glanced at the prince’s panic-stricken countenance, then rushed at her sister, threw her arms round her neck, and burst into as merry a fit of laughter as Aglaya’s own. They laughed together like a couple of school-girls. Hearing and seeing this, the prince smiled happily, and in accents of relief and joy, he exclaimed “Well, thank God--thank God!”

“I don’t know; I thought it was a hallucination. I often have hallucinations nowadays. I feel just as I did five years ago when my fits were about to come on.”

“Very glad, I’m particularly hungry. Yes, yes, a strange coincidence--almost a psychological--”

“So do I,” said Adelaida, solemnly.

“He led up to this on purpose. He took the trouble of writing all that so that people should come and grab him by the arm,” observed Rogojin. “Good-night, prince. What a time we’ve sat here, my very bones ache!”

“My first impression was a very strong one,” repeated the prince. “When they took me away from Russia, I remember I passed through many German towns and looked out of the windows, but did not trouble so much as to ask questions about them. This was after a long series of fits. I always used to fall into a sort of torpid condition after such a series, and lost my memory almost entirely; and though I was not altogether without reason at such times, yet I had no logical power of thought. This would continue for three or four days, and then I would recover myself again. I remember my melancholy was intolerable; I felt inclined to cry; I sat and wondered and wondered uncomfortably; the consciousness that everything was strange weighed terribly upon me; I could understand that it was all foreign and strange. I recollect I awoke from this state for the first time at Basle, one evening; the bray of a donkey aroused me, a donkey in the town market. I saw the donkey and was extremely pleased with it, and from that moment my head seemed to clear.”

“Meanwhile he continued to sit and stare jeeringly at me.

“What! did it miss fire?”

“All this is most interesting,” said the prince, very softly, “if it really was so--that is, I mean--” he hastened to correct himself.

“Excuse me, prince, but think what you are saying! Recollect yourself!”

“Those are the two hundred and fifty roubles you dared to send him as a charity, by the hands of Tchebaroff,” explained Doktorenko.

“H’m, then you _do_ give him money?”

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

“When everyone crowded into the room she hid her face in her dishevelled hair and lay cowering on the floor. Everyone looked at her as though she were a piece of dirt off the road. The old men scolded and condemned, and the young ones laughed at her. The women condemned her too, and looked at her contemptuously, just as though she were some loathsome insect.

“I won’t drink!”

“Is it Rogojin?”

“Prince, my dear fellow, do remember what you are about,” said the general, approaching Muishkin, and pulling him by the coat sleeve.

“Oh no, I remember all right, and I shall go, of course. I should think so! She’s twenty-five years old today! And, you know, Gania, you must be ready for great things; she has promised both myself and Afanasy Ivanovitch that she will give a decided answer tonight, yes or no. So be prepared!”

“Never mind, mamma! Prince, I wish you had seen an execution,” said Aglaya. “I should like to ask you a question about that, if you had.”

The lady of the house appeared to be a woman of about fifty years of age, thin-faced, and with black lines under the eyes. She looked ill and rather sad; but her face was a pleasant one for all that; and from the first word that fell from her lips, any stranger would at once conclude that she was of a serious and particularly sincere nature. In spite of her sorrowful expression, she gave the idea of possessing considerable firmness and decision.

I.

“What’s to be done? It’s fate,” said the general, shrugging his shoulders, and, for a long while after, he continued to repeat: “It’s fate, it’s fate!”

“I recognize no jurisdiction over myself, and I know that I am now beyond the power of laws and judges.

“Then, general, it’s your turn,” continued Nastasia Philipovna, “and if you refuse, the whole game will fall through, which will disappoint me very much, for I was looking forward to relating a certain ‘page of my own life.’ I am only waiting for you and Afanasy Ivanovitch to have your turns, for I require the support of your example,” she added, smiling.

The undoubted beauty of the family, _par excellence_, was the youngest, Aglaya, as aforesaid. But Totski himself, though an egotist of the extremest type, realized that he had no chance there; Aglaya was clearly not for such as he.

“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.”

But Rogojin added no words of his own in confirmation of this view, and as before, he recounted with marvellous exactness the details of his crime. He was convicted, but with extenuating circumstances, and condemned to hard labour in Siberia for fifteen years. He heard his sentence grimly, silently, and thoughtfully. His colossal fortune, with the exception of the comparatively small portion wasted in the first wanton period of his inheritance, went to his brother, to the great satisfaction of the latter.

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 different.

“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.

“‘Ne mentez jamais! NAPOLÉON (votre ami sincère).’

“I’ll turn him out!” shouted Gania, glad of the opportunity of venting his vexation. “I shall just turn him out--we can’t have this.”

“But how was it?” he asked, “how was it that you (idiot that you are),” he added to himself, “were so very confidential a couple of hours after your first meeting with these people? How was that, eh?”

“Yes, I shall marry her--yes.”

“A hundred thousand,” replied the latter, almost in a whisper.

Every time that Aglaya showed temper (and this was very often), there was so much childish pouting, such “school-girlishness,” as it were, in her apparent wrath, that it was impossible to avoid smiling at her, to her own unutterable indignation. On these occasions she would say, “How can they, how _dare_ they laugh at me?”

“Oh! I suppose the present she wished to make to you, when she took you into the dining-room, was her confidence, eh?”

The president joined in the general outcry.

The prince paused to get breath. He had spoken with extraordinary rapidity, and was very pale.

Keller started, gave an astonished look at the speaker, and thumped the table with his fist.

“Dear me, what a philosopher you are!” laughed the prince.

Such was Vera’s story afterwards.

“I won’t believe this!” cried the prince.

“You will not deny, I am sure,” said Gavrila Ardalionovitch, turning to Burdovsky, who sat looking at him with wide-open eyes, perplexed and astonished. “You will not deny, seriously, that you were born just two years after your mother’s legal marriage to Mr. Burdovsky, your father. Nothing would be easier than to prove the date of your birth from well-known facts; we can only look on Mr. Keller’s version as a work of imagination, and one, moreover, extremely offensive both to you and your mother. Of course he distorted the truth in order to strengthen your claim, and to serve your interests. Mr. Keller said that he previously consulted you about his article in the paper, but did not read it to you as a whole. Certainly he could not have read that passage. ....”

The prince was haunted all that day by the face of Lebedeff’s nephew whom he had seen for the first time that morning, just as one is haunted at times by some persistent musical refrain. By a curious association of ideas, the young man always appeared as the murderer of whom Lebedeff had spoken when introducing him to Muishkin. Yes, he had read something about the murder, and that quite recently. Since he came to Russia, he had heard many stories of this kind, and was interested in them. His conversation with the waiter, an hour ago, chanced to be on the subject of this murder of the Zemarins, and the latter had agreed with him about it. He thought of the waiter again, and decided that he was no fool, but a steady, intelligent man: though, said he to himself, “God knows what he may really be; in a country with which one is unfamiliar it is difficult to understand the people one meets.” He was beginning to have a passionate faith in the Russian soul, however, and what discoveries he had made in the last six months, what unexpected discoveries! But every soul is a mystery, and depths of mystery lie in the soul of a Russian. He had been intimate with Rogojin, for example, and a brotherly friendship had sprung up between them--yet did he really know him? What chaos and ugliness fills the world at times! What a self-satisfied rascal is that nephew of Lebedeff’s! “But what am I thinking,” continued the prince to himself. “Can he really have committed that crime? Did he kill those six persons? I seem to be confusing things... how strange it all is.... My head goes round... And Lebedeff’s daughter--how sympathetic and charming her face was as she held the child in her arms! What an innocent look and child-like laugh she had! It is curious that I had forgotten her until now. I expect Lebedeff adores her--and I really believe, when I think of it, that as sure as two and two make four, he is fond of that nephew, too!”

“But there is no necessity for you to retire at all,” complained the general, “as far as I know.”

“No, it is impossible for me to come to your house again,” he added slowly.

“At this very moment, as though divining my thoughts, Rogojin raised his head from his arm and began to part his lips as though he were going to laugh--but he continued to stare at me as persistently as before.

“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?”

“What? What? What?” cried all the visitors at once, in violent agitation.

“You are going home?”