The Idiot



I The Idiot 3 of 1149 I Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o?clock one morning, a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was approachi ng the latter city at full speed. The morning was so damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish anything more than a few yards away from the carriage windows. Some of the passengers by th is particular train were returning from abroad; but th e third-class carriages were the best filled, chiefly with insi gnificant persons of various occupations and degrees, picked up at the different stations nearer town. All of them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a shivering expression, while their complexions generally appe ared to have taken on the colour of the fog outside. When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third- class carriages found themselves opposite each other. Both were young fellows, both were rather poorly dressed, both had remarkable faces, and both were evidently anxious to start a conversation. If they had but known why, at this particular moment, they were both remarkable persons, they would undoubtedly have wondered at the strange The Idiot 4 of 1149 chance which had set them down opposite to one another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway Company. One of them was a young fellow of about twenty- seven, not tall, with black curling hair, and small, grey, fiery eyes. His nose was broad and flat, and he had high cheek bones; his thin lips w ere constantly compressed into an impudent, ironical?it might almost be called a malicious?smile; but his forehead was high and well formed, and atoned for a good deal of the ugliness of the lower part of his face. A special feature of this physiognomy was its death-like pallor, which gave to the whole man an indescribably em aciated appearance in spite of his hard look, and at the sa me time a sort of passionate and suffering expression which did not harmonize with his impudent, sarcastic smile and keen, self-satisfied bearing. He wore a large fur?or ra ther astrachan?overcoat, which had kept him warm all night, while his neighbour had been obliged to bear the full severity of a Russian November night entirely unprepared. His wide sleeveless mantle with a large cape to it ?the sort of cloak one sees upon travellers during the winter months in Switzerland or North Italy?was by no means adapted to the long cold journey through Russia, from Eydkuhnen to St. Petersburg. The Idiot 5 of 1149 The wearer of this cloak was a young fellow, also of about twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age, slightly above the middle height, very fair, with a thin, pointed and very light coloured beard; his eyes were large and blue, and had an intent look about them, yet that heavy expression which some people affi rm to be a peculiarity. as well as evidence, of an epileptic subject. His face was decidedly a pleasant one for all that; refined, but quite colourless, except for the circ umstance that at this moment it was blue with cold. He held a bundle made up of an old faded silk handkerchief that apparently contained all his travelling wardrobe, and wore thick shoes and gaiters, his whole appearance being very un-Russian. His black-haired neighbour inspected these peculiarities, having nothing better to do, and at length remarked, with that rude enjoyment of the discomforts of others which the common classes so often show: ?Cold?? ?Very,? said his neighbour, readily. ?and this is a thaw, too. Fancy if it had been a hard frost! I never thought it would be so cold in the old c ountry. I?ve grown quite out of the way of it.? ?What, been abroad, I suppose?? ?Yes, straight from Switzerland.? The Idiot 6 of 1149 ?Wheugh! my goodness!? The black-haired young fellow whistled, and then laughed. The conversation proceeded. The readiness of the fair- haired young man in the cloak to answer all his opposite neighbour?s questions was surp rising. He seemed to have no suspicion of any impertinence or inappropriateness in the fact of such questions being put to him. Replying to them, he made known to the inquirer that he certainly had been long absent from Russia, more than four years; that he had been sent abroad for his health; that he had suffered from some strange nervous malady?a kind of epilepsy, with convulsive sp asms. His interlocutor burst out laughing several times at his answers; and more than ever, when to the question, ? whether he had been cured?? the patient replied: ?No, they did not cure me.? ?Hey! that?s it! You stumped up your money for nothing, and we believe in those fellows, here!? remarked the black-haired individual, sarcastically. ?Gospel truth, sir, Gospel truth!? exclaimed another passenger, a shabbily dressed man of about forty, who looked like a clerk, and possessed a red nose and a very blotchy face. ?Gospel truth! All they do is to get hold of our good Russian money free, gratis, and for nothing. ? The Idiot 7 of 1149 ?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 ke pt me at his own expense, while there, for nearly two years.? ?Why? Was there no one else to pay for you?? asked the black- haired one. ?No?Mr. Pavlicheff, who had been supporting me there, died a couple of years ago. I wrote to Mrs. General Epanchin at the time (she is a distant relative of mine), but she did not answer my letter. And so eventually I came back.? ?And where have you come to?? ?That is?where am I going to stay? I?I really don?t quite know yet, I?? Both the listeners laughed again. ?I suppose your whole set-up is in that bundle, then?? asked the first. ?I bet anything it is!? exclaimed the red-nosed passenger, with extreme satisfaction, ?and that he has precious little in the luggage van!?though of course poverty is no crime?we must remember that!? The Idiot 8 of 1149 It appeared that it was indeed as they had surmised. The young fellow hastened to admit the fact with wonderful readiness. ?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 Mr s. 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?? ?Oh, you are right again,? said the fair-haired traveller, ?for I really am ALMOST wrong when I say she and I are related. She is hardly a relation at all; so little, in fact, that I was not in the least surprised to have no answer to my letter. I expected as much.? ?H?m! you spent your postage for nothing, then. H?m! you are candid, however?and t hat is commendable. H?m! Mrs. Epanchin?oh yes! a most eminent person. I know The Idiot 9 of 1149 her. As for Mr. Pavlicheff, who supported you in Switzerland, I know him too?at least, if it was Nicolai Andreevitch of that name? A fine fellow he was?and had a property of four thousand souls in his day.? ?Yes, Nicolai Andreevitch?that was his name,? and the young fellow looked earnestly and with curiosity at the all-knowing gentleman with the red nose. This sort of character is me t with pretty frequently in a certain class. They are people who know everyone?that is, they know where a man is em ployed, what his salary is, whom he knows, whom he married, what money his wife had, who are his cousins, and second cousins, etc., etc. These men generally have about a hundred pounds a year to live on, and they spend their whole time and talents in the amassing of this style of knowledge, which they reduce?or raise?to the standard of a science. During the latter part of the conversation the black- haired young man had become very impatient. He stared out of the window, and fidgeted, and evidently longed for the end of the journey. He was very absent; he would appear to listen-and heard nothing; and he would laugh of a sudden, evidently with no idea of what he was laughing about. The Idiot 10 of 1149 ?Excuse me,? said the red-nosed man to the young fellow with the bundle, rather suddenly; ?whom have I the honour to be talking to?? ?Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Muis hkin,? replied the latter, with perfect readiness. ?Prince Muishkin? Lef Nicolaievitch? H?m! I don?t know, I?m sure! I may say I have never heard of such a person,? said the clerk, thought fully. ?At least, the name, I admit, is historical. Karamsin must mention the family name, of course, in his histo rybut as an individual?one never hears of any Prince Muishkin nowadays.? ?Of course not,? replied the prince; ?there are none, except myself. I believe I am the last and only one. As to my forefathers, they have always been a poor lot; my own father was a sublieutenant in the army. I don?t know how Mrs. Epanchin comes into the Muishkin family, but she is descended from the Princess Muishkin, and she, too, is the last of her line.? ?And did you learn science and all that, with your professor over there?? asked the black-haired passenger. ?Oh yes?I did learn a little, but?? ?I?ve never learned anything whatever,? said the other. The Idiot 11 of 1149 ?Oh, but I learned very little, you know!? added the prince, as though excusing himself. ?They could not teach me very much on account of my illness. ? ?Do you know the Rogojins?? asked his questioner, abruptly. ?No, I don?t?not at all! I hardly know anyone in Russia. Why, is that your name?? ?Yes, I am Rogojin, Parfen Rogojin.? ?Parfen Rogojin? dear me?t hen don?t you belong to those very Rogojins, perhaps?? began the clerk, with a very perceptible increase of civility in his tone. ?Yes?those very ones,? interrupted Rogojin, impatiently, and with scant co urtesy. I may remark that he had not once taken any notice of the blotchy-faced passenger, and had hitherto addressed all his remarks direct to the prince. ?Dear me?is it possible?? observed the clerk, while his face assumed an expression of great deference and servility?if not of absolute al arm: ?what, a son of that very Semen Rogojin? hereditary honourable citizen?who died a month or so ago and left two million and a half of roubles?? ?And how do YOU know that he left two million and a half of roubles?? asked Rogojin, disdainfully, and no The Idiot 12 of 1149 deigning so much as to look at the other. ?However, it?s true enough that my father died a month ago, and that here am I returning from Ps koff, a month after, with hardly a boot to my foot. They?ve treated me like a dog! I?ve been ill of fever at Pskoff the whole time, and not a line, nor farthing of mone y, have I received from my mother or my confounded brother!? ?And now you?ll have a million roubles, at least? goodness gracious me!? exclaimed the clerk, rubbing his hands. ?Five weeks since, I was just like yourself,? continued Rogojin, addressing the pr ince, ?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.? ?I suppose you angered him somehow?? asked the prince, looking at the millionaire with considerable curiosity But though there may have been something remarkable in the fact that this man was heir to millions of roubles there was something about him which surprised The Idiot 13 of 1149 and interested the prince more than that. Rogojin, too, seemed to have taken up the conversation with unusual alacrity it appeared that he was still in a considerable state of excitement, if not absolutely feverish, and was in real need of someone to talk to for the mere sake of talking, as safety-valve to his agitation. As for his red-nosed neighbour, the latter?since the information as to the identity of Rogojin?hung over him, seemed to be living on the honey of his words and in the breath of his nostrils, catching at every syllable as though it were a pearl of great price. ?Oh, yes; I angered him?I certainly did anger him,? replied Rogojin. ?But what puts me out so is my brother. Of course my mother couldn?t do anything?she?s too old?and whatever brother Senka says is law for her! But why couldn?t he let me know ? He sent a telegram, they say. What?s the good of a tele gram? It frightened my aunt so that she sent it back to the office unopened, and there it?s been ever since! It?s only thanks to Konief that I heard at all; he wrote me all about it. He says my brother cut off the gold tassels from my father?s coffin, at night because they?re worth a lot of money!? says he. Why, I can get him sent off to Siberia for that al one, if I like; it?s sacrilege. The Idiot 14 of 1149 Here, you?scarecrow!? he added, addressing the clerk at his side, ?is it sacrilege or not, by law?? ?Sacrilege, certainly?certainly sacrilege,? said the latter. ?And it?s Siberia for sacrilege, isn?t it?? ?Undoubtedly so; Siberia, of course!? ?They will think that I?m still ill,? continued Rogojin to the prince, ?but I sloped off quietly, seedy as I was, took the train and came away. Aha, brother Senka, you?ll have to open your gates and let me in, my boy! I know he told tales about me to my father? I know that well enough but I certainly did rile my father about Nastasia Philipovna that?s very sure, and that was my own doing.? ?Nastasia Philipovna?? said the clerk, as though trying to think out something. ?Come, you know nothing about HER,? said Rogojin, impatiently. ?And supposing I do know something?? observed the other, triumphantly. ?Bosh! there are plenty of Nastasia Philipovnas. And what an impertinent beast you are!? he added angrily. ?I thought some creature like y ou would hang on to me as soon as I got hold of my money. ? ?Oh, but I do know, as it happens,? said the clerk in an aggravating manner. ?Lebedeff knows all about her. You The Idiot 15 of 1149 are pleased to reproach me, your excellency, but what if I prove that I am right after all? Nastasia Phillpovna?s family name is Barashkoff?I know, you see-and she is a very well known lady, indeed, and comes of a good family, too. She is connected with one Totski, Afanasy Ivanovitch, a man of considerable property, a director of companies, and so on, and a great friend of General Epanchin, who is interested in the same matters as he is.? ?My eyes!? said Rogojin, really surprised at last. ?The devil take the fellow, how does he know that?? ?Why, he knows everything?Lebedeff knows everything! I was a month or two with Lihachof after his father died, your excellency, and while he was knocking about?he?s in the debtor?s prison now?I was with him, and he couldn?t do a thing without Lebedeff; and I got to know Nastasia Philipovna and several people at that time.? ?Nastasia Philipovna? Why, you don?t mean to say that she and Lihachof?? cried Rogojin, turning quite pale. ?No, no, no, no, no! Nothing of the sort, I assure you!? said Lebedeff, hastily. ?Oh de ar no, not for the world! Totski?s the only man with any chance there. Oh, no! He takes her to his box at the opera at the French theatre of an evening, and the officers and people all look at her and say, ?By Jove, there?s the famous Nastasia Philipovna!? but The Idiot 16 of 1149 no one ever gets any further than that, for there is nothing more to say.? ?Yes, it?s quite true,? said Rogojin, frowning gloomily; ?so Zaleshoff told me. I was walking about the Nefsky one fine day, prince, in my father?s old coat, when she suddenly came out of a shop and stepped into her carriage. I swear I was all of a blaze at once. Then I met Zaleshoff?looking like a hair-dresser?s assistant, got up as fine as I don?t know who, while I looked like a tinker. ?Don?t flatter yourself, my boy ,? said he; ?she?s not for such as you; she?s a princess, she is, and her name is Nastasia Philipovna Barashkoff, and she lives with Totski, who wishes to get rid of her because he?s growing rather old? fifty- five or so?and wants to marry a certain beauty, the loveliest woman in all Petersburg.? And then he told me that I could see Nastasia Philipovna at the opera-house that evening, if I liked, and described which was her box. Well, I?d like to see my father a llowing any of us to go to the theatre; he?d sooner have killed us, any day. However, I went for an hour or so and saw Nastasia Philipovna, and I never slept a wink all night after. Next morning my father happened to give me two government loan bonds to sell, worth nearly five thousand roubles each. ?Sell them,? said he, ?and then take seven thousand five hundred The Idiot 17 of 1149 roubles to the office, give them to the cashier, and bring me back the rest of the ten thousand, without looking in anywhere on the way; look sharp, I shall be waiting for you.’ Well, I sold the bonds, but I didn?t take the seven thousand roubles to the office; I went straight to the English shop and chose a pair of earrings, with a diamond the size of a nut in each. They cost four hundred roubles more than I had, so I gave my name, and they trusted me. With the earri ngs I went at once to Zaleshoff?s. ?Come on!? I sa id, ?come on to Nastasia Philipovna?s,? and off we went without more ado. I tell you I hadn?t a notion of what was about me or before me or below my feet all the way; I saw nothing whatever. We went straight into her drawing-room, and then she came out to us. ?I didn?t say right out who I was, but Zaleshoff said: ?From Parfen Rogojin, in memory of his first meeting with you yesterday; be so kind as to accept these!? ?She opened the parcel, looked at the earrings, and laughed. ??Thank your friend Mr. Rogojin for his kind attention,? says she, and bowed and went off. Why didn?t I die there on the spot? The worst of it all was, though, that the beast Zaleshoff got all the credit of it! I was short and The Idiot 18 of 1149 abominably dressed, and stood and stared in her face and never said a word, because I was shy, like an ass! And there was he all in the fashion, pomaded and dressed out, with a smart tie on, bowing and scraping; and I bet anything she took him for me all the while! ??Look here now,? I said, when we came out, ?none of your interference here after this-do you understand?? He laughed: ?And how are you going to settle up with your father?? says he. I thought I might as well jump into the Neva at once without going home first; but it struck me that I wouldn?t, after all, and I went home feeling like one of the damned.? ?My goodness!? shivered the clerk. ?And his father,? he added, for the prince?s instruction, ?and his father would have given a man a ticket to the other world for ten roubles any day?not to speak of ten thousand!? The prince observed Rogojin with great curiosity; he seemed paler than ever at this moment. ?What do you know about it?? cried the latter. ?Well, my father learned the whole sto ry at once, and Zaleshoff blabbed it all over the town besides. So he took me upstairs and locked me up, and swore at me for an hour. ?This is only a foretaste,? sa ys he; ?wait a bit till night comes, and I?ll come back and talk to you again.? The Idiot 19 of 1149 ?Well, what do you think? The old fellow went straight off to Nastasia Philipovna, touched the floor with his forehead, and began blubbering and beseeching her on his knees to give him back the diamonds. So after awhile she brought the box and flew out at him. ?There,? she says, ?take your earrings, you wretched old miser; although they are ten times dearer than their value to me now that I know what it must have cost Parfen to get them! Give Parfen my compliments,? she says, ?and thank him very much!? Well, I meanwhile had borrowed twenty-five roubles from a friend, and off I went to Pskoff to my aunt?s. The old woman there lectured me so that I left the house and went on a drinkin g tour round the public- houses of the place. I was in a high fever when I got to Pskoff, and by nightfall I was lying delirious in the streets somewhere or other!? ?Oho! we?ll make Nastasia Philipovna sing another song now!? giggled Lebedeff, rubbing his hands with glee. ?Hey, my boy, we?ll get her some proper earrings now! We?ll get her such earrings that?? ?Look here,? cried Rogojin, seizing him fiercely by the arm, ?look here, if you so much as name Nastasia Philipovna again, I?ll tan your h ide as sure as you sit there!? The Idiot 20 of 1149 ?Aha! do?by all means! if you tan my hide you won?t turn me away from your society. You?ll bind me to you, with your lash, for ever. Ha, ha! here we are at the station, though.? Sure enough, the train was just steaming in as he spoke. Though Rogojin had declared that he left Pskoff secretly, a large collection of friends had assembled to greet him, and did so with profuse waving of hats and shouting. ?Why, there?s Zaleshoff here, too!? he muttered, gazing at the scene with a sort of triumphant but unpleasant smile. Then he suddenly turned to the prince: ?Prince, I don?t know why I have taken a fancy to you; perhaps because I met you just when I did. But no, it can?t be that, for I met this fellow ? (nodding at Lebedeff) ?too, and I have not taken a fancy to him by any means. Come to see me, prince; we?ll take off thos e gaiters of yours and dress you up in a smart fur coat, th e best we can buy. You shall have a dress coat, best quality, white waistcoat, anything you like, and your pocket s hall be full of money. Come, and you shall go with me to Nastasia Philipovna?s. Now then will you come or no?? ?Accept, accept, Prince Lef Nicolaievitch? said Lebedef solemnly; ?don?t let it slip! Accept, quick!? The Idiot 21 of 1149 Prince Muishkin rose and stretched out his hand courteously, while he replied with some cordiality: ?I will come with the greatest pleasure, and thank you very much for taking a fancy to me. I dare say I may even come today if I have time, for I tell you frankly that I like you very much too. I liked you especially when you told us about the diamond earrings; but I liked you before that as well, though you have such a dark-clouded sort of face. Thanks very much for the offer of clothes and a fur coat; I certainly shall require both clothes and coat very soon. As for money, I have hardly a copeck about me at this moment.? ?You shall have lots of money; by the evening I shall have plenty; so come along!? ?That?s true enough, he?ll have lots before evening!? put in Lebedeff. ?But, look here, are you a great hand with the ladies? Let?s know that first?? asked Rogojin. ?Oh no, oh no! said the prince; ?I couldn?t, you know?my illness?I hardly ever saw a soul.? ?H?m! well?here, you fellow-you can come along with me now if you like!? crie d Rogojin to Lebedeff, and so they all left the carriage. The Idiot 22 of 1149 Lebedeff had his desire. He went off with the noisy group of Rogojin?s friends towards the Voznesensky, while the prince?s route lay to wards the Litaynaya. It was damp and wet. The prince asked his way of passers-by, and finding that he was a couple of miles or so from his destination, he determined to take a droshky. The Idiot 23 of 1149 II General Epanchin lived in his own house near the Litaynaya. Besides this large residence?five-sixths of which was let in flats and lo dgings-the general was owner of another enormous house in the Sadovaya bringing in even more rent than the first. Besides these houses he had a delightful little estate just out of town, and some sort of factory in another part of the city. General Epanchin, as everyone knew, had a good deal to do with certain government monopolies; he was also a voice, and an important one, in many rich public companies of various descriptions; in fact, he enjo yed the reputation of being a well- to-do man of busy habit s, many ties, and affluent means. He had made himself indispensable in several quarters, amongst others in his department of the government; and yet it was a known fact that Fedor Ivanovitch Epanchin was a man of no education whatever, and had absolutely risen from the ranks. This last fact cou ld, of course, reflect not hing but credit upon the general; and yet, though unquestionably a sagacious man, he had his own little weaknesses-very excusable ones,?one of which was a dislike to any The Idiot 24 of 1149 allusion to the above circumstance. He was undoubtedly clever. For instance, he made a point of never asserting himself when he would gain more by keeping in the background; and in consequence many exalted personages valued him principally for his humility and simplicity, and because ?he knew his place.? And yet if these good people could only have had a peep into the mind of this excellent fellow who ?knew his place? so well! The fact is that, in spite of his knowledge of the world and his really remarkable abilities, he always liked to appear to be carrying out other people?s ideas rather than his own. And also, his luck seldom failed him, even at cards, for which he had a passion that he did not attempt to conceal. He played for high stakes, and moved, altogether, in very varied society. As to age, General Epanchin was in the very prime of life; that is, about fifty-five years of age,?the flowering time of existence, when real enjoyment of life begins. His healthy appearance, good colour, sound, though discoloured teeth, sturdy figure, preoccupied air during business hours, and jolly good humour during his game at cards in the evening, all bore witness to his success in life, and combined to make existence a bed of roses to his excellency. The general was lo rd of a flourishing family, The Idiot 25 of 1149 consisting of his wife and three grown-up daughters. He had married young, while still a lieutenant, his wife being a girl of about his own age, who possessed neither beauty nor education, and who brought him no more than fifty souls of landed property, which little estate served, however, as a nest-egg for far more important accumulations. The general never regretted his early marriage, or regarded it as a foolish youthful escapade; and he so respected and feared his wife that he was very near loving her. Mrs. Epanchin ca me of the princely stock of Muishkin, which if not a brillia nt, was, at all events, a decidedly ancient family; and she was extremely proud of her descent. With a few exceptions, the worthy couple had lived through their long union very happily. While still young the wife had been able to make important friends among the aristocracy, partly by virtue of her family descent, and partly by her own exertions; while, in after life, thanks to their wealth and to the position of her husband in the service, she took her place am ong the higher circles as by right. During these last few years all three of the general?s daughters- Alexandra, Adelaida, and Aglaya?had grown up and matured. Of course they were only Epanchins, but The Idiot 26 of 1149 their mother?s family was noble; they might expect considerable fortunes; their father had hopes of attaining to very high rank indeed in hi s country?s service-all of which was satisfactory. All three of the girls were decidedly pretty, even the eldest, Alexandra, who was just twenty- five years old. The middle daughter was now twenty- three, while the youngest, Aglaya, was twenty. This youngest girl was absolutely a beauty, and had begun of late to attract considerable a ttention in society. But this was not all, for every one of the three was clever, well educated, and accomplished. It was a matter of general k nowledge that the three girls were very fond of one another, and supported each other in every way; it was even said that the two elder ones had made certain sacrifices for the sake of the idol of the household, Aglaya. In society they not only disliked asserting themselves, but were actually retiring. Certainly no one could blame them for being too arrogant or haughty, and yet everybody was well aware that they were proud and quite understood their own value. The eldest was musical, while the second was a clever artist, which fact she had concealed until la tely. In a word, the world spoke well of the girls; but they were not without their The Idiot 27 of 1149 enemies, and occasionally people talked with horror of the number of books they had read. They were in no hurry to marry. They liked good society, but were not too keen about it. All this was the more remarkable, because everyone was well aware of the hopes and aims of their parents. It was about eleven o?clock in the forenoon when the prince rang the bell at General Epanchin?s door. The general lived on the first floor or flat of the house, as modest a lodging as his position permitted. A liveried servant opened the door, and the prince was obliged to enter into long explanations with this gentleman, who, from the first glance, looked at him and his bundle with grave suspicion. At last, however, on the repeated positive assurance that he really was Prince Muishkin, and must absolutely see the general on business, the bewildered domestic showed him into a little ante-chamber leading to a waiting-room that adjoined the general?s study, there handing him over to another servant, whose duty it was to be in this ante-chamber a ll the morning, and announce visitors to the general. This second individual wore a dress coat, and was some for ty years of age; he was the general?s special study servant, and well aware of his own importance. The Idiot 28 of 1149 ?Wait in the next room, please; and leave your bundle here,? said the door-keeper, as he sat down comfortably in his own easy-chair in the ante-chamber. He looked at the prince in severe surprise as the latter settled himself in another chair alongside, with his bundle on his knees. ?If you don?t mind, I would rather sit here with you,? said the prince; ?I should prefer it to sitting in there.? ?Oh, but you can? t stay here. You are a visitor?a guest, so to speak. Is it the general himself you wish to see?? The man evidently could not take in the idea of such a shabby- looking visitor, and had decided to ask once more. ?Yes?I have business?? began the prince. ?I do not ask you what your business may be, all I have to do is to announce you; and unless the secretary comes in here I cannot do that.? The man?s suspicions seemed to increase more and more. The prince was too unlike the usual run of daily visitors; and although the gen eral certainly did receive, on business, all sorts and conditions of men, yet in spite of this fact the servant felt great doubts on the subject of this particular visitor. The pres ence of the secretary as an intermediary was, he judged, essential in this case. The Idiot 29 of 1149 ?Surely you?are from abroad?? he inquired at last, in a confused sort of way. He had begun his sentence intending to say, ?Surely you are not Prince Muishkin, are you?? ?Yes, straight from the train! Did not you intend to say, ?Surely you are not Prince Muishkin?? just now, but refrained out of politeness ?? ?H?m!? grunted the astonished servant. ?I assure you I am not dece iving you; you shall not have to answer for me. As to my being dressed like this, and carrying a bundle, there?s nothing surprising in that? the fact is, my circumstances are not particularly rosy at this moment.? ?H?m!?no, I?m not afraid of that, you see; I have to announce you, that?s all. The secretary will be out directly-that is, unless you? yes, that?s the rub?unless you?come, you must allow me to ask you?you?ve not come to beg, have you?? ?Oh dear no, you can be perfectly easy on that score. I have quite another matter on hand.? ?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.? The Idiot 30 of 1149 ?Oh?well, look here, if I have some time to wait, would you mind telling me, is there any place about where I could have a smoke? I have my pipe and tobacco with me.? ?SMOKE?? said the man, in shocked but disdainful surprise, blinking his eyes at th e prince as though he could not believe his senses.? No, si r, you cannot smoke here, and I wonder you are not ashamed of the very suggestion. Ha, ha! a cool idea that, I declare!? ?Oh, I didn?t mean in this room! I know I can?t smoke here, of course. I?d adjourn to some other room, wherever you like to show me to. You see, I?m used to smoking a good deal, and now I haven?t had a puff for three hours; however, just as you like.? ?Now how on earth am I to announce a man like that?? muttered the servant. ?In the first place, you?ve no right in here at all; you ought to be in the waiting-room, because you?re a sort of visitor?a guest, in fact?and I shall catch it for this. Look here, do you intend to take up you abode with us?? he added, glancing once more at the prince?s bundle, which evidently gave him no peace. ?No, I don?t think so. I don?t think I should stay even if they were to invite me. I?ve simply come to make their acquaintance, and nothing more.? The Idiot 31 of 1149 ?Make their acquaintance?? asked the man, in amazement, and with redoubled suspicion. ?Then why did you say you had business with the general?? ?Oh well, very little busi ness. There is one little matter?some advice I am going to ask him for; but my principal object is simply to introduce myself, because I am Prince Muishkin, and Madame Epanchin is the last of her branch of the house, and be sides herself and me there are no other Muishkins left.? ?What?you?re a relation then, are you?? asked the servant, so bewildered that he began to feel quite alarmed. ?Well, hardly so. If you stretch a point, we are relations, of course, but so distant that one cannot really take cognizance of it. I once wrote to your mistress from abroad, but she did not reply. However, I have thought it right to make acquaintance with her on my arrival. I am telling you all this in order to ease your mind, for I see you are still far from comforta ble on my account. All you have to do is to announce me as Prince Muishkin, and the object of my visit will be plain enough. If I am received? very good; if not, well, very good again. But they are sure to receive me, I should think; Madame Epanchin will naturally be curious to see the only remaining The Idiot 32 of 1149 representative of her family. She values her Muishkin descent very highly, if I am rightly informed.? The prince?s conversation was artless and confiding to a degree, and the servant could not help feeling that as from visitor to common serving-man this state of things was highly improper. His conclusion was that one of two things must be the explanati on? either that this was a begging impostor, or that the prince, if prince he were, was simply a fool, without the slightest ambition; for a sensible prince with any ambitio n would certainly not wait about in ante-rooms with servants, and talk of his own private affairs like this. In either case, how was he to announce this singular visitor? ?I really think I must request you to step into the next room!? he said, with all the insistence he could muster. ?Why? If I had been sitting there now, I should not have had the opportunity of making these personal explanations. I see you are still uneasy about me and keep eyeing my cloak and bundle. Don?t you think you might go in yourself now, without waiting for the secretary to come out?? ?No, no! I can?t announce a visitor like yourself without the secretary. Besides the general said he was not The Idiot 33 of 1149 to be disturbed? he is with the Colonel C?. Gavrila Ardalionovitch goes in without announcing.? ?Who may that be? a clerk?? ?What? Gavrila Ardalionovitch? Oh no; he belongs to one of the companies. Look here, at all events put your bundle down, here.? ?Yes, I will if I may; and?can I take off my cloak ?Of course; you can?t go in THERE with it on, anyhow.? The prince rose and took off his mantle, revealing a neat enough morning costume?a little worn, but well made. He wore a steel watch chain and from this chain there hung a silver Geneva watch. Fool the prince might be, still, the general?s servant fe lt that it was not correct for him to continue to converse thus with a visitor, in spite of the fact that the prince pleased him somehow. ?And what time of day does the lady receive?? the latter asked, reseating himself in his old place. ?Oh, that?s not in my province! I believe she receives at any time; it depends upon the visitors. The dressmaker goes in at eleven. Gavrila Ardalionovitch is allowed much earlier than other people, too; he is even admitted to early lunch now and then.? The Idiot 34 of 1149 ?It is much warmer in the rooms here than it is abroad at this season,? observed the prince; ? but it is much warmer there out of doors. As for the houses?a Russian can?t live in them in the winter until he gets accustomed to them.? ?Don?t they heat them at all?? ?Well, they do heat them a little; but the houses and stoves are so different to ours.? ?H?m! were you long away?? ?Four years! and I was in the same place nearly all the time,?in one village.? ?You must have forgotten Russia, hadn?t you?? ?Yes, indeed I had?a good deal; and, would you believe it, I often wonder at myself for not having forgotten how to speak Russian? Even now, as I talk to you, I keep saying to myself ?how well I am speaking it.? Perhaps that is partly why I am so talkative this morning. I assure you, ever since yesterday evening I have had the strongest desire to go on and on talking Russian.? ?H?m! yes; did you live in Pet ersburg in former years?? This good flunkey, in spite of his conscientious scruples, really could not resist continuing such a very genteel and agreeable conversation. The Idiot 35 of 1149 ?In Petersburg? Oh no! hardly at all, and now they say so much is changed in the place that even those who did know it well are obliged to relearn what they knew. They talk a good deal about the new law courts, and changes there, don?t they?? ?H?m! yes, that?s true e nough. Well now, how is the law over there, do they administer it more justly than here?? ?Oh, I don?t know about that! I?ve heard much that is good about our legal administration, too. There is no capital punishment here for one thing.? ?Is there over there?? ?Yes?I saw an execution in France?at Lyons. Schneider took me over with him to see it.? ?What, did they hang the fellow?? ?No, they cut off people?s heads in France.? ?What did the fellow do??yell?? ?Oh no?it?s the work of an instant. They put a man inside a frame and a sort of broad knife falls by machinery -they call the thing a guillotine -it falls with fearful force and weight-the head springs off so quickly that you can?t wink your eye in between. But all the preparations are so dreadful. When they announce the sentence, you know, and prepare the criminal and tie his hands, and cart him off The Idiot 36 of 1149 to the scaffold?that?s the fearful part of the business. The people all crowd round?even women- though they don?t at all approve of women looking on.? ?No, it?s not a thing for women.? ?Of course not?of course not!?bah! The criminal was a fine intelligent fearless man; Le Gros was his name; and I may tell you?believe it or not, as you like?that when that man stepped upon the scaffold he CRIED, he did indeed,?he was as white as a bit of paper. Isn?t it a dreadful idea that he shou ld have cried ?cried! Whoever heard of a grown man crying from fear?not a child, but a man who never had cried before?a grown man of forty- five years. Imagine what must have been going on in that man?s mind at such a moment; what dreadful convulsions his whole spirit must have endured; it is an outrage on the soul that?s what it is. Because it is said ?thou shalt not kill,? is he to be killed because he murdered some one else? No, it is not right, it?s an impossible theory. I assure you, I saw the sight a month ago and it?s dancing before my eyes to this moment. I dream of it, often.? The prince had grown animated as he spoke, and a tinge of colour suffused his pale face, though his way of talking was as quiet as ever. The servant followed his words with sympathetic interest. Clearly he was not at all The Idiot 37 of 1149 anxious to bring the conversation to an end. Who knows? Perhaps he too was a man of imagination and with some capacity for thought. ?Well, at all events it is a good thing that there?s no pain when the poor fellow?s head flies off,? he remarked. ?Do you know, though,? cried the prince warmly, ?you made that remark now, and everyone says the same thing, and the machine is designed with the purpose of avoiding pain, this guillotine I mean; but a thought came into my head then: what if it be a bad plan after all? You may laugh at my idea, perhaps?but I could not help its occurring to me all the same. Now with the rack and tortures and so on?you suffer terrible pain of course; but then your torture is bodily pain only (although no doubt you have plenty of that) until you die. But HERE I should imagine the most terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at all?but the certain knowledge that in an hour,?the n in ten minutes, then in half a minute, then now?this very INSTANT?your soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man? and that this is certain, CERTAIN! That?s the point?the certainty of it. Just that instant when you place your head on the block and hear the iron grate over your The Idiot 38 of 1149 head?then?that quarter of a second is the most awful of all. ?This is not my own fantastical opinion?many people have thought the same; but I feel it so deeply that I?ll tell you what I think. I believe that to execute a man for murder is to punish him immeasurably more dreadfully than is equivalent to his crime. A murder by sentence is far more dreadful than a murder committed by a criminal. The man who is attacked by robbers at night, in a dark wood, or anywhere, undoubtedly hopes and hopes that he may yet escape until the very moment of his death. There are plenty of instances of a man running away, or imploring for mercy?at all events hoping on in some degree?even after his throat wa s cut. But in the case of an execution, that last hope?having which it is so immeasurably less dreadful to die,?is taken away from the wretch and CERTAINTY substi tuted in its place! There is his sentence, and with it t hat terrible certainty that he cannot possibly escape death?which, I consider, must be the most dreadful anguish in the world. You may place a soldier before a cannon?s mouth in battle, and fire upon him?and he will still hope. But read to that same soldier his death-sentence, and he will either go mad or burst into tears. Who dares to say that any man can suffer this The Idiot 39 of 1149 without going mad? No, no! it is an abuse, a shame, it is unnecessary?why should such a thing exist? Doubtless there may be men who have been sentenced, who have suffered this mental anguish for a while and then have been reprieved; perhaps such men may have been able to relate their feelings afterwards. Our Lord Christ spoke of this anguish and dread. No! no! no! No man should be treated so, no man, no man!? The servant, though of course he could not have expressed all this as the prince did, still clearly entered into it and was greatly conciliated, as was evident from the increased amiability of his expression. ?If you are really very anxious for a smoke,? he remarked, ?I think it might possibly be managed, if you are very quick about it. You see they might come out and inquire for you, and you wouldn?t be on the spot. You see that door there? Go in there and you?ll find a little room on the right; you can smoke there, only open the win dow, because I ought not to allow it really, and?.? But there was no time, after all. A young fellow entered the ante-room at this moment, with a bundle of papers in his hand. The footman hastened to help him take off his overcoat. The new arrival glanced at the prince out of the corners of his eyes. The Idiot 40 of 1149 ?This gentleman declares, Gavrila Ardalionovitch,? began the man, confidentially and almost familiarly, ?that he is Prince Muishkin and a relative of Madame Epanchin?s. He has just arrive d from abroad, with nothing but a bundle by way of luggage?.? The prince did not hear the rest, because at this point the servant continued his communication in a whisper. Gavrila Ardalionovitch listened attentively, and gazed at the prince with great curiosity. At last he motioned the man aside and stepped hurriedly towards the prince. ?Are you Prince Muishkin?? he asked, with the greatest courtesy and amiability. He was a remarkably handsome young fellow of some twenty-eight summers, fair and of middle height; he wore a small beard, and his face was most intelligent. Yet his smile, in spite of its sweetness, was a little thin, if I may so call it, and showed his teeth too evenly; his gaze though decidedly good-humoured and in genuous, was a trifle too inquisitive and intent to be altogether agreeable. ?Probably when he is alone he looks quite different, and hardly smiles at all!? thought the prince. He explained about himself in a few words, very much the same as he had told the footman and Rogojin beforehand. The Idiot 41 of 1149 Gavrila Ardalionovitch meanwhile seemed to be trying to recall something. ?Was it not you, then, who se nt a letter a year or less ago?from Switzerland, I think it was?to Elizabetha Prokofievna (Mrs. Epanchin)?? ?It was.? ?Oh, then, of course they will remember who you are. You wish to see the general? I?ll tell him at once?he will be free in a minute; but you?you had better wait in the ante-chamber,?hadn?t you? Why is he here?? he added, severely, to the man. ?I tell you, sir, he wished it himself!? At this moment the study door opened, and a military man, with a portfolio under his arm, came out talking loudly, and after bidding good-bye to someone inside, took his departure. ?You there, Gania? cried a voice from the study, ?come in here, will you?? Gavrila Ardalionovitch nodded to the prince and entered the room hastily. A couple of minutes later the door opened again and the affable voice of Gania cried: ?Come in please, prince!? The Idiot 42 of 1149 III General Ivan Fedorovitch Epanchin was standing In the middle of the room, and gazed with great curiosity at the prince as he entered. He even advanced a couple of steps to meet him. The prince came forward and introduced himself. ?Quite so,? replied the general, ?and what can I do for you?? ?Oh, I have no special business; my principal object was to make your acquaintance. I should not like to disturb you. I do not know your times and arrangements here, you see, but I have only just arrived. I came straight from the station. I am come direct from Switzerland.? The general very nearly smiled, but thought better of it and kept his smile back. Th en he reflected, blinked his eyes, stared at his guest once more from head to foot; then abruptly motioned him to a chair, sat down himself, and waited with some impatience for the prince to speak. Gania stood at his table in the far corner of the room, turning over papers. The Idiot 43 of 1149 ?I have not much time for making acquaintances, as a rule,? said the general, ?but as , of course, you have your object in coming, I?? ?I felt sure you would think I had some object in view when I resolved to pay you this visit,? the prince interrupted; ?but I give you my word, beyond the pleasure of making your acquaintance I had no personal object whatever.? ?The pleasure is, of course, mutual; but life is not all pleasure, as you are aware. There is such a thing as business, and I really do not see what possible reason there can be, or what we have in common to?? ?Oh, there is no reason, of course, and I suppose there is nothing in common between us, or very little; for if I am Prince Muishkin, and y our wife happens to be a member of my house, that can hardly be called a ?reason.? I quite understand that. And yet that was my whole motive for coming. You see I have not been in Russia for four years, and knew very little about anything when I left. I had been very ill for a long time, and I feel now the need of a few good friends. In fact, I have a certain question upon which I much need advice, and do not know whom to go to for it . I thought of your family when I was passing through Berlin. ?They are almost The Idiot 44 of 1149 relations,? I said to myself,? so I?ll begin with them; perhaps we may get on with each other, I with them and they with me, if they are kind people;? and I have heard that you are very kind people!? ?Oh, thank you, thank you, I?m sure,? replied the general, considerably taken aback. ?May I ask where you have taken up your quarters?? ?Nowhere, as yet.? ?What, straight from the station to my house? And how about your luggage?? ?I only had a small bundle, c ontaining linen, with me, nothing more. I can carry it in my hand, easily. There will be plenty of time to take a room in some hotel by the evening.? ?Oh, then you DO intend to take a room?? ?Of course.? ?To judge from your words, you came straight to my house with the intention of staying there.? ?That could only have been on your invitation. I confess, however, that I s hould not have stayed here even if you had invited me, not fo r any particular reason, but because it is? well, contrary to my practice and nature, somehow.? The Idiot 45 of 1149 ?Oh, indeed! Then it is perhaps as well that I neither DID invite you, nor DO invite you now. Excuse me, prince, but we had better make this matter clear, once for all. We have just agreed that with regard to our relationship there is not much to be said, though, of course, it would have been very delightful to us to feel that such relationship did actually exist; therefore, perhaps?? ?Therefore, perhaps I had better get up and go away?? said the prince, laughing merrily as he rose from his place; just as merrily as though the circumstances were by no means strained or difficult. ?And I give you my word, general, that though I know nothing whatever of manners and customs of societ y, and how people live and all that, yet I felt quite sure that this visit of mine would end exactly as it has ended now. Oh, well, I suppose it?s all right; especially as my letter was not answered. Well, good-bye, and forgive me for having disturbed you!? The prince?s expression wa s so good-natured at this moment, and so entirely free from even a suspicion of unpleasant feeling was the smile with which he looked at the general as he spoke, that the latter suddenly paused, and appeared to gaze at his guest from quite a new point of view, all in an instant. The Idiot 46 of 1149 ?Do you know, prince,? he said, in quite a different tone, ?I do not know you at all, yet, and after all, Elizabetha Prokofievna would very likely be pleased to have a peep at a man of her own name. Wait a little, if you don?t mind, and if you have time to spare?? ?Oh, I assure you I?ve lots of time, my time is entirely my own!? And the prince i mmediately replaced his soft, round hat on the table. ?I confess, I thought Elizabetha Prokofievna would very likely remember that I had written her a letter. Just now your servant?outside there?was dreadfully suspicious that I had come to beg of you. I noticed that! Probably he has very strict instructions on that score; but I assure you I did not come to beg. I came to make some friends. But I am rather bothered at having disturbed you; that?s all I care about.?? ?Look here, prince,? said the general, with a cordial smile, ?if you really are the sort of man you appear to be, it may be a source of great pleas ure to us to make your better acquaintance; but, you s ee, I am a very busy man, and have to be perpetually sitting here and signing papers, or off to see his excellency, or to my department, or somewhere; so that though I s hould be glad to see more of people, nice people?you s ee, I?however, I am sure you The Idiot 47 of 1149 are so well brought up that you will see at once, and? but how old are you, prince?? ?Twenty-six.? ?No? I thought you very much younger.? ?Yes, they say I have a ?young? face. As to disturbing you I shall soon learn to avoid doing that, for I hate disturbing people. Besides, you and I are so differently constituted, I should think, that there must be very little in common between us. Not that I will ever believe there is NOTHING in common between any two people, as some declare is the case. I am sure people make a great mistake in sorting each other into groups, by appearances; but I am boring you, I see, you?? ?Just two words: have you any means at all? Or perhaps you may be intending to undertake some sort of employment? Excuse my questioning you, but?? ?Oh, my dear sir, I esteem and understand your kindness in putting the question. No; at present I have no means whatever, and no employment either, but I hope to find some. I was living on other people abroad. Schneider, the professor who treated me and taught me, too, in Switzerland, gave me just enoug h money for my journey, so that now I have but a few copecks left. There certainly The Idiot 48 of 1149 is one question upon which I am anxious to have advice, but?? ?Tell me, how do you intend to live now, and what are your plans?? interrupted the general. ?I wish to work, somehow or other.? ?Oh yes, but then, you see, you are a philosopher. Have you any talents, or ability in any direction?that is, any that would bring in money and bread? Excuse me again?? ?Oh, don?t apologize. No, I don?t think I have either talents or special abilities of any kind; on the contrary. I have always been an invalid and unable to learn much. As for bread, I should think?? The general interrupted once more with questions; while the prince again replied with the narrative we have heard before. It appeared that the general had known Pavlicheff; but why the latter had taken an interest in the prince, that young gentleman could not explain; probably by virtue of the old friendsh ip with his father, he thought. The prince had been left an orphan when quite a little child, and Pavlicheff had entrusted him to an old lady, a relative of his own, living in the country, the child needing the fresh air and exerc ise of country life. He was educated, first by a governess, and afterwards by a tutor, The Idiot 49 of 1149 but could not remember much about this time of his life. His fits were so frequent then, that they made almost an idiot of him (the prince used the expression ?idiot? himself). Pavlicheff had met Professor Schneider in Berlin, and the latter had persuaded him to send the boy to Switzerland, to Schneider?s establishment there, for the cure of his epilepsy, and, five years before this time, the prince was sent off. But Pavlicheff had died two or three years since, and Schneider had himself supported the young fellow, from that day to this, at his own expense. Although he had not quite cured him, he had greatly improved his condition; and now , at last, at the prince?s own desire, and because of a c ertain matter which came to the ears of the latter, Schneider had despatched the young man to Russia. The general was much astonished. ?Then you have no one, absolutely NO one in Russia?? he asked. ?No one, at present; but I hope to make friends; and then I have a letter from?? ?At all events,? put in the general, not listening to the news about the letter, ?at all events, you must have learned SOMETHING, and your malady would not prevent your The Idiot 50 of 1149 undertaking some easy work, in one of the departments, for instance? ?Oh dear no, oh no! As for a situation, I should much like to find one for I am anxio us to discover what I really am fit for. I have learned a good deal in the last four years, and, besides, I read a great many Russian books.? ?Russian books, indeed ? Then, of course, you can read and write quite correctly?? ?Oh dear, yes!? ?Capital! And your handwriting?? ?Ah, there I am REALLY ta lented! I may say l am a real caligraphist. Let me write you something, just to show you,? said the prince, with some excitement. ?With pleasure! In fact, it is very necessary. I like your readiness, prince; in fact, I must say?I-I-like you very well, altogether,? said the general. ?What delightful writing materials you have here, such a lot of pencils and things, and what beautiful paper! It?s a charming room altogether. I know that picture, it?s a Swiss view. I?m sure the artist painted it from nature, and that I have seen the very place?? ?Quite likely, though I bought it here. Gania, give the prince some paper. Here are pens and paper; now then, take this table. What?s this ?? the general continued to The Idiot 51 of 1149 Gania, who had that moment taken a large photograph out of his portfolio, and shown it to his senior. ?Halloa! Nastasia Philipovna! Did she send it you herself? Herself?? he inquired, with much curiosity and great animation. ?She gave it me just now, when I called in to congratulate her. I asked her for it long ago. I don?t know whether she meant it for a hint that I had come empty- handed, without a present for her birthday, or what,? added Gania, with an unpleasant smile. ?Oh, nonsense, nonsense,? said the general, with decision. ? What extraordinary ideas you have, Gania! As if she would hint; that?s not h er way at all. Besides, what could you give her, without having thousands at your disposal? You might have given her your portrait, however. Has she ever asked you for it?? ?No, not yet. Very likely she never will. I suppose you haven?t forgotten about tonight, have you, Ivan Fedorovitch? You were one of those specially invited, you know.? ?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 The Idiot 52 of 1149 will give a decided answer tonight, yes or no. So be prepared!? Gania suddenly became so ill at ease that his face grew paler than ever. ?Are you sure she said that?? he asked, and his voice seemed to quiver as he spoke. ?Yes, she promised. We both worried her so that she gave in; but she wished us to tell you nothing about it until the day. ? The general watched Gania?s confusion intently, and clearly did not like it. ?Remember, Ivan Fedorovitch,? said Gania, in great agitation, ?that I was to be free too, until her decision; and that even then I was to have my ?yes or no? free.? ?Why, don?t you, aren?t you?? began the general, in alarm. ?Oh, don?t misunderstand?? ?But, my dear fellow, what are you doing, what do you mean?? ?Oh, I?m not rejecting her. I may have expressed myself badly, but I didn?t mean that.? ?Reject her! I should think not!? said the general with annoyance, and apparently not in the least anxious to conceal it. ?Why, my dear fellow, it?s not a question of The Idiot 53 of 1149 your rejecting her, it is whether you are prepared to receive her consent joyfully, and with proper satisfaction. How are things going on at home?? ?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 cheek, 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.? ?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 wo rd 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, The Idiot 54 of 1149 I wonder? I don?t see how she can fail to?to understand?? ?Her own position?? prompted Gania. ?She does understand. Don?t be annoyed with her. I have warned her not to meddle in other people?s affairs. However, although there?s comparative peace at home at present, the storm will break if anything is finally settled tonight.? The prince heard the whole of the foregoing conversation, as he sat at the table, writing. He finished at last, and brought the result of his labour to the general?s desk. ?So this is Nastasia Philipovna,? he said, looking attentively and curiously at th e portrait. ?How wonderfully beautiful!? he immediately added, with warmth. The picture was certainly that of an unusually lovely woman. She was photographed in a black silk dress of simple design, her hair was evidently dark and plainly arranged, her eyes were deep and thoughtful, the expression of her face passionate, but proud. She was rather thin, perhaps, and a little pale. Both Gania and the general gazed at the prince in amazement. ?How do you know it?s Nastasia Philipovna?? asked the general; ?you surely don?t know her already, do you? ? The Idiot 55 of 1149 ?Yes, I do! I have only been one day in Russia, but I have heard of the great beauty!? And the prince proceeded to narrate his meeting with Rogojin in the train and the whole of the latter?s story. ?There?s news!? said the general in some excitement, after listening to the story with engrossed attention. ?Oh, of course it?s nothing but humbug!? cried Gania, a little disturbed, however. ?It?s all humbug; the young merchant was pleased to indulge in a little innocent recreation! I have heard something of Rogojin!? ?Yes, so have I!? replied the general. ?Nastasia Philipovna told us all about the earrings that very day. But now it is quite a different matter. You see the fellow really has a million of roubles, and he is passionately in love. The whole story smells of passion, and we all know what this class of gentry is capable of when infatuated. I am much afraid of some disagreeable scandal, I am indeed!? ?You are afraid of the million, I suppose,? said Gania, grinning and showing his teeth. ?And you are NOT, I presume, eh?? ?How did he strike you, prince?? asked Gania, suddenly. ?Did he seem to be a serious sort of a man, or just a common rowdy fellow? What was your own opinion about the matter?? The Idiot 56 of 1149 While Gania put this question, a new idea suddenly flashed into his brain, and bl azed out, impatiently, in his eyes. The general, who was really agitated and disturbed, looked at the prince too, bu t did not seem to expect much from his reply. ?I really don?t quite know how to tell you,? replied the prince, ?but it certainly did seem to me that the man was full of passion, and not, perhaps, quite healthy passion. He seemed to be still far from well. Very likely he will be in bed again in a day or two, especially if he lives fast.? ?No! do you think so?? said the general, catching at the idea. ?Yes, I do think so!? ?Yes, but the sort of scandal I referred to may happen at any moment. It may be this very evening,? remarked Gania to the general, with a smile. ?Of course; quite so. In that case it all depends upon what is going on in her brain at this moment.? ?You know the kind of person she is at times.? ?How? What kind of person is she?? cried the general, arrived at the limits of his patience. Look here, Gania, don?t you go annoying her tonight What you are to do is to be as agreeable towards her as ever you can. Well, what are you smiling at? You must understand, Gania, that I The Idiot 57 of 1149 have no interest whatever in speaking like this. Whichever way the question is settled, it will be to my advantage. Nothing will move Totski from his resolution, so I run no risk. If there is anything I desire, you must know that it is your benefit only. Can?t you trust me? You are a sensible fellow, and I have been counting on you; for, in this matter, that, that?? ?Yes, that?s the chief thing,? said Gania, helping the general out of his difficulties again, and curling his lips in an envenomed smile, which he did not attempt to conceal. He gazed with his fev ered eyes straight into those of the general, as though he were anxious that the latter might read his thoughts. The general grew purple with anger. ?Yes, of course it is the ch ief thing!? he cried, looking sharply at Gania. ?What a very curious man you are, Gania! You actually seem to be GLAD to hear of this millionaire fellow?s arrival- just as though you wished for an excuse to get out of the whole thing. This is an affair in which you ought to act honestly with both sides, and give due warning, to avoid compromising others. But, even now, there is still time. Do you understand me? I wish to know whether you desire this arrangement or whether you do not? If not, say so,?and-and welcome! No one is The Idiot 58 of 1149 trying to force you into the snare, Gavrila Ardalionovitch, if you see a snare in the matter, at least.? ?I do desire it,? murmured Gania, softly but firmly, lowering his eyes; and he relapsed into gloomy silence. The general was satisfied. He had excited himself, and was evidently now regretting t hat he had gone so far. He turned to the prince, and suddenly the disagreeable thought of the latter?s presence struck him, and the certainty that he must have heard every word of the conversation. But he felt at ease in another moment; it only needed one glance at the pr ince to see that in that quarter there was nothing to fear. ?Oh!? cried the general, catc hing sight of the prince?s specimen of caligraphy, which the latter had now handed him for inspection. ?Why, this is simply beautiful; look at that, Gania, there?s real talent there!? On a sheet of thick writing-paper the prince had written in medieval characters the legend: ?The gentle Abbot Pafnute signed this.? ?There,? explained the prince, with great delight and animation, ?there, that?s the abbot?s real signature?from a manuscript of the fourteenth cent ury. All these old abbots and bishops used to write most beautifully, with such taste and so much care and diligence. Have you no copy of The Idiot 59 of 1149 Pogodin, general? If you had one I could show you another type. Stop a bit?here you have the large round writing common in France during the eighteenth century. Some of the letters are shaped quite differently from those now in use. It was the writ ing current then, and employed by public writers generally. I copied this from one of them, and you can see how good it is. Look at the well- rounded a and d. I have trie d to translate the French character into the Russian lettersa difficult thing to do, but I think I have succeeded fairly. Here is a fine sentence, written in a good, original hand??Zeal triumphs over all.? That is the script of the Russian War Office. That is how official documents addressed to important personages should be written. The letters are round, the type black, and the style somewhat remarkable. A stylist would not allow these ornaments, or atte mpts at flourishes?just look at these unfinished tails!?but it has distinction and really depicts the soul of the writer. He would like to give play to his imagination, and follow the inspiration of his genius, but a soldier is only at ease in the guard-room, and the pen stops half-way, a slave to discipline. How delightful! The first time I met an example of this handwriting, I was positively astonished, and where do you think I chanced to find it? In Switzerland, of all places! Now that is an The Idiot 60 of 1149 ordinary English hand. It can hardly be improved, it is so refined and exquisite?almost perfection. This is an example of another kind, a mixture of styles. The copy was given me by a French commercial traveller. It is founded on the English, but the downstrokes are a little blacker, and more marked. Notice that the oval has some slight modification?it is more rounded. This writing allows for flourishes; now a flourish is a dangerous thing! Its use requires such taste, but, if successful, what a distinction it gives to the whole! It results in an incomparable type?one to fall in love with!? ?Dear me! How you have gone into all the refinements and details of the question! Why, my dear fellow, you are not a caligraphist, you are an artist! Eh, Gania ?? ?Wonderful!? said Gania. ?And he knows it too,? he added, with a sarcastic smile. ?You may smile,?but there?s a career in this,? said the general. ?You don?t know what a great personage I shall show this to, prince. Why, you can command a situation at thirty-five roubles per m onth to start with. However, it?s half-past twelve,? he concluded, looking at his watch; ?so to business, prince, for I must be setting to work and shall not see you again today. Sit down a minute. I have told you that I cannot receive you myself very often, but I The Idiot 61 of 1149 should like to be of some assistance to you, some small assistance, of a kind that would give you satisfaction. I shall find you a place in one of the State departments, an easy place?but you will require to be accurate. Now, as to your plans?in the house, or rather in the family of Gania here?my young friend, whom I hope you will know better?his mother and sister have prepared two or three rooms for lodgers, and let them to highly recommended young fellows, with board and attendance. I am sure Nina Alexandrovna will take you in on my recommendation. There you will be comfortable and well taken care of; for I do not think, prince, that you are the sort of man to be left to the mercy of Fate in a town like Petersburg. Nina Alexandrovna, Gania?s mother, and Varvara Alexandrovna, are ladies for whom I have the highest possible esteem and respect. Nina Alexandrovna is the wife of General Ardalion Alexandrovitch, my old brother in arms, with whom, I regret to say, on account of certain circumstances, I am no longer acquainted. I give you all this information, prince, in order to make it clear to you that I am personally recommending you to this family, and that in so doing, I am more or less taking upon myself to answer for you. The terms are most reasonable, and I trust that your salary will very shortly prove amply sufficient for The Idiot 62 of 1149 your expenditure. Of course pocket-money is a necessity, if only a little; do not be angry, prince, if I strongly recommend you to avoid carrying money in your pocket. But as your purse is quite empty at the present moment, you must allow me to press these twenty-five roubles upon your acceptance, as so mething to begin with. Of course we will settle this little matter another time, and if you are the upright, honest man you look, I anticipate very little trouble between us on that score. Taking so much interest in you as you may perceive I do, I am not without my object, and you shall know it in good time. You see, I am perfectly candid with you. I hope, Gania, you have nothing to say again st the prince?s taking up his abode in your house?? ?Oh, on the contrary! my mother will be very glad,? said Gania, courteously and kindly. ?I think only one of your rooms is engaged as yet, is it not? That fellow Ferd-Ferd?? ?Ferdishenko.? ?Yes?I don?t like that Ferdishenko. I can?t understand why Nastasia Philipovna encourages him so. Is he really her cousin, as he says?? ?Oh dear no, it?s all a joke . No more cousin than I am.? ?Well, what do you think of the arrangement, prince?? The Idiot 63 of 1149 ?Thank you, general; you have behaved very kindly to me; all the more so since I did not ask you to help me. I don?t say that out of pride. I certainly did not know where to lay my head tonight. Rogojin asked me to come to his house, of course, but?? ?Rogojin? No, no, my good fellow. I should strongly recommend you, paternally,?or, if you prefer it, as a friend,?to forget all about Rogojin, and, in fact, to stick to the family into which you are about to enter.? ?Thank you,? began the prince; ?and since you are so very kind there is just one matter which I?? ?You must really excuse me,? interrupted the general, ?but I positively haven?t another moment now. I shall just tell Elizabetha Prokofievna about you, and if she wishes to receive you at once?as I shall advise her?I strongly recommend you to ingratiate y ourself with her at the first opportunity, for my wife may be of the greatest service to you in many ways. If she cannot receive you now, you must be content to wait till another time. Meanwhile you, Gania, just look over these accounts, will you? We mustn?t forget to finish off that matter?? The general left the room , and the prince never succeeded in broaching the business which he had on hand, though he had endeavoured to do so four times. The Idiot 64 of 1149 Gania lit a cigarette and offered one to the prince. The latter accepted the offer, but did not talk, being unwilling to disturb Gania?s work. He commenced to examine the study and its contents. But Gania hardly so much as glanced at the papers lying before him; he was absent and thoughtful, and his smile and general appearance struck the prince still more disagreeably now that the two were left alone together. Suddenly Gania approached our hero who was at the moment standing over Nasta sia Philipovna?s portrait, gazing at it. ?Do you admire that sort of woman, prince?? he asked, looking intently at him. He seemed to have some special object in the question. ?It?s a wonderful face,? said the prince, ?and I feel sure that her destiny is not by any means an ordinary, uneventful one. Her face is smiling enough, but she must have suffered terribly? hasn?t she? Her eyes show it? those two bones there, the littl e points under her eyes, just where the cheek begins. It?s a proud face too, terribly proud! And I?I can?t say whet her she is good and kind, or not. Oh, if she be but good! That would make all well!? The Idiot 65 of 1149 ?And would you marry a woman like that, now?? continued Gania, never taking his excited eyes off the prince?s face. ?I cannot marry at all,? said the latter. ?I am an invalid.? ?Would Rogojin marry her, do you think?? ?Why not? Certainly he would, I should think. He would marry her tomorrow!?marry her tomorrow and murder her in a week!? Hardly had the prince uttered the last word when Gania gave such a fearful shu dder that the prince almost cried out. ?What?s the matter?? said he, seizing Gania?s hand. ?Your highness! His excellency begs your presence in her excellency?s apartments!? announced the footman, appearing at the door. The prince immediately followed the man out of the room. The Idiot 66 of 1149 IV ALL three of the Miss Epanchins were fine, healthy girls, well- grown, with good shoulders and busts, and strong?almost masculine?hands; and, of course, with all the above attributes, they enjoyed capital appetites, of which they were not in the least ashamed. Elizabetha Prokofievna sometimes informed the girls that they were a little too candid in this matter, but in spite of their outward deference to their mother these three young women, in solemn conclave, had long agreed to modify the unquestioning obedience which they had been in the habit of according to her; and Mrs. General Epanchin had judged it better to say nothing about it, though, of course, she was well aware of the fact. It is true that her nature sometimes rebelled against these dictates of reason, and that she grew yearly more capricious and impatient; but having a respectful and well- disciplined husband under her thumb at all times, she found it possible, as a rule, to empty any little accumulations of spleen upon his head, and therefore the harmony of the family was kept duly balanced, and things went as smoothly as family matters can. The Idiot 67 of 1149 Mrs. Epanchin had a fair appetite herself, and generally took her share of the capital mid-day lunch which was always served for the girls, and which was nearly as good as a dinner. The young ladies used to have a cup of coffee each before this meal, at te n o?clock, while still in bed. This was a favourite and unalterable arrangement with them. At half-past twelve, the table was laid in the small dining-room, and occasionally the general himself appeared at the family gathering, if he had time. Besides tea and coffee, cheese, honey, butter, pan-cakes of various kinds (the lady of the house loved these best), cutlets, and so on, there was generally strong beef soup, and other substantial delicacies. On the particular morning on which our story has opened, the family had assem bled in the dining-room, and were waiting the general?s appearance, the latter having promised to come this day. If he had been one moment late, he would have been sent for at once; but he turned up punctually. As he came forward to wish his wife good-morning and kiss her hands, as his custom was, he observed something in her look which boded ill. He thought he knew the reason, and had expected it, but still, he was not altogether comfortable. His daughters advanced to kiss The Idiot 68 of 1149 him, too, and though they did not look exactly angry, there was something strange in their expression as well. The general was, owing to certain circumstances, a little inclined to be too suspicious at home, and needlessly nervous; but, as an experienced father and husband, he judged it better to take measu res at once to protect himself from any dangers there might be in the air. However, I hope I shall not interfere with the proper sequence of my narrative too much, if I diverge for a moment at this point, in order to explain the mutual relations between General Epanchin?s family and others acting a part in this history, at the time when we take up the thread of their destiny. I have already stated that the general, though he was a man of lowly origin, and of poor education, was, for all that, an experienced and talented husband and father. Among other things, he considered it undesirable to hurry his daughters to the matrimonial altar and to worry them too much with assurances of his paternal wishes for their happiness, as is the custom among parents of many grown-up daughters. He even succeeded in ranging his wife on his side on this question, though he found the feat very difficult to accomplish, because unnatural; but the general?s arguments were conclusive, and founded upon obvious facts. The general considered The Idiot 69 of 1149 that the girls? taste and good sense should be allowed to develop and mature deliberately, and that the parents? duty should merely be to keep watc h, in order that no strange or undesirable choice be made; but that the selection once effected, both father and mother were bound from that moment to enter heart and soul into the cause, and to see that the matter progressed without hindrance until the altar should be happily reached. Besides this, it was clear that the Epanchins? position gained each year, with geometrical accuracy, both as to financial solidity and social weight; and, therefore, the longer the girls waited, the better was their chance of making a brilliant match. But again, amidst the incontrovertible facts just recorded, one more, equally significant, rose up to confront the family; and this wa s, that the eldest daughter, Alexandra, had imperceptibly arrived at her twenty-fifth birthday. Almost at the same moment, Afanasy Ivanovitch Totski, a man of immense wealth, high connections, and good standing, announced his intention of marrying. Afanasy Ivanovitch was a gentleman of fifty-five years of age, artistically gifted, and of most refined tastes. He wished to marry well, and, moreover, he was a keen admirer and judge of beauty. The Idiot 70 of 1149 Now, since Totski had, of late, been upon terms of great cordiality with Epanchin, which excellent relations were intensified by the fact that they were, so to speak, partners in several financial enterprises, it so happened that the former now put in a frien dly request to the general for counsel with regard to the im portant step he meditated. Might he suggest, for instance, such a thing as a marriage between himself and one of the general?s daughters? Evidently the quiet, pleasant current of the family life of the Epanchins was about to undergo a change. 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. Perhaps the sisterly love and friendship of the three girls had more or less exagg erated Aglaya?s chances of happiness. In their opinion, the latter?s destiny was not merely to be very happy; she was to live in a heaven on earth. Aglaya?s husband was to be a compendium of all the virtues, and of all success, not to speak of fabulous wealth. The two elder sisters had agreed that all was to be sacrificed by them, if need be, for Aglaya?s sake; her dowry was to be colossal and unprecedented. The Idiot 71 of 1149 The general and his wife were aware of this agreement, and, therefore, when Totski suggested himself for one of the sisters, the parents made no doubt that one of the two elder girls would probably accept the offer, since Totski would certainly make no difficulty as to dowry. The general valued the proposal very highly. He knew life, and realized what such an offer was worth. The answer of the sisters to the communication was, if not conclusive, at least cons oling and hopeful. It made known that the eldest, Alexandra, would very likely be disposed to listen to a proposal. Alexandra was a good-natured girl, though she had a will of her own. She was intelligent and kind-hearted, and, if she were to marry Totski, she would make him a good wife. She did not care for a brilliant marriage; she was eminently a woman calculat ed to soothe and sweeten the life of any man; decidedly pretty, if not absolutely handsome. What better could Totski wish? So the matter crept slowly forward. The general and Totski had agreed to avoid any hasty and irrevocable step. Alexandra?s parents had not even begun to talk to their daughters freely upon the subject, when suddenly, as it were, a dissonant chord was st ruck amid the harmony of the proceedings. Mrs. Epanchin began to show signs of The Idiot 72 of 1149 discontent, and that was a serious matter. A certain circumstance had crept in, a disagreeable and troublesome factor, which threatened to overturn the whole business. This circumstance had come into existence eighteen years before. Close to an estate of Totski?s, in one of the central provinces of Russia, there lived, at that time, a poor gentleman whose estate was of the wretchedest description. This gentleman was noted in the district for his persistent ill-fortune; his name was Barashkoff, and, as regards family and descent, he was vastly superior to Totski, but his estate was mort gaged to the last acre. One day, when he had ridden over to the town to see a creditor, the chief peasant of his village followed him shortly after, with the news that his house had been burnt down, and that his wife had perished with it, but his children were safe. Even Barashkoff, inured to the storms of evil fortune as he was, could not stand this last stroke. He went mad and died shortly after in the town hospital. His estate was sold for the creditors; and the little girls?two of them, of seven and eight years of ag e respectively,?were adopted by Totski, who undertook their maintenance and education in the kindness of his heart. They were brought up together with the children of his German bailiff. Very The Idiot 73 of 1149 soon, however, there was only one of them left- Nastasia Philipovna?for the other little one died of whooping- cough. Totski, who was living abroad at this time, very soon forgot all about the child; but five years after, returning to Russia, it struck him that he would like to look over his estate and see how matters were going there, and, arrived at his bailiff?s house, he was not long in discovering that among the children of the latter there now dwelt a most lovely little girl of twelve, sweet and intelligent, and bright, and pr omising to develop beauty of most unusual quality-as to which last Totski was an undoubted authority. He only stayed at his country scat a few days on this occasion, but he had time to make his arrangements. Great changes took place in the child?s education; a good governess was engaged, a Swiss lady of experience and culture. For four years this lady resided in the house with little Nastia, and then the education was considered complete. The governess took her departure, and another lady came down to fetch Nastia, by Totski?s instructions. The child was now transported to another of Totski?s estates in a distant part of the country. Here she found a delightful little house, just bu ilt, and prepared for her reception with great care and taste; and here she took up The Idiot 74 of 1149 her abode together with the lady who had accompanied her from her old home. In the house there were two experienced maids, musical instruments of all sorts, a charming ?young lady?s library,? pictures, paint-boxes, a lap- dog, and everything to make life agreeable. Within a fortnight Totski himself arrived, and from that time he appeared to have taken a great fancy to this part of the world and came down each summer, staying two and three months at a time. So passe d four years peacefully and happily, in charming surroundings. At the end of that time, and about four months after Totski?s last visit (he had stayed but a fortnight on this occasion), a report reached Na stasia Philipovna that he was about to be married in St. Pet ersburg, to a rich, eminent, and lovely woman. The report was only partially true, the marriage project being only in an embryo condition; but a great change now came over Nastasia Philipovna. She suddenly displayed unusual decision of character; and without wasting time in thought, she left her country home and came up to St. Petersburg, straight to Totski?s house, all alone. The latter, amazed at her conduct, began to express his displeasure; but he very soon became aware that he must change his voice, style, and everything else, with this The Idiot 75 of 1149 young lady; the good old times were gone. An entirely new and different woman sat before him, between whom and the girl he had left in the country last July there seemed nothing in common. In the first place, this new woman understood a good deal more than was usual for young people of her age; so much indeed, that Totski could not help wondering where she had picked up her knowledge. Surely not from her ?young lady?s library?? It even embraced legal matters, and the ?world? in general, to a considerable extent. Her character was absolutely changed. No more of the girlish alternations of timidity and petulance, the adorable naivete, the reveries, the tears, the playfulness... It was an entirely new and hitherto unknown being who now sat and laughed at him, and informed him to his face that she had never had the faintest feeling for him of any kind, except loathing and cont empt? contempt which had followed closely upon her sensations of surprise and bewilderment after her first acquaintance with him. This new woman gave him further to understand that though it was absolutely the same to her whom he married, yet she had decided to prevent this marriage?for no particular reason, but that she chose to do so, and The Idiot 76 of 1149 because she wished to amuse herself at his expense for that it was ?quite her turn to laugh a little now!? Such were her words?very likely she did not give her real reason for this eccentric conduct; but, at all events, that was all the explanation she deigned to offer. Meanwhile, Totski thought the matter over as well as his scattered ideas would perm it. His meditations lasted a fortnight, however, and at the end of that time his resolution was taken. The fact was, Totski was at that time a man of fifty years of age; his position was solid and respectable; his place in society had long been firmly fixed upon safe foundations; he loved himself, his personal comforts, and his position better than all the world, as every respectable gentleman should! At the same time his grasp of things in general soon showed Totski that he now had to deal with a being who was outside the pale of the ordinary rules of traditional behaviour, and who would not only threaten mischief but would undoubtedly carry it out, and stop for no one. There was evidently, he concluded, something at work here; some storm of the mind, some paroxysm of romantic anger, goodness knows against whom or what, some insatiable contempt?in a word, something altogether absurd and impossible, but at the same time most The Idiot 77 of 1149 dangerous to be met with by any respectable person with a position in society to keep up. For a man of Totski?s wealth and standing, it would, of course, have been the simplest possible matter to take steps which would rid him at once from all annoyance; while it was obviously impossible for Nastasia Philipovna to harm him in any way, either legally or by stirring up a scandal, for, in case of the latter danger, he could so easily remove her to a sphere of safety. However, these arguments would only hold good in case of Nasta sia acting as others might in such an emergency. Sh e was much more likely to overstep the bounds of reasonable conduct by some extraordinary eccentricity. Here the sound judgment of Totski stood him in good stead. He realized that Nasta sia Philipovna must be well aware that she could do nothing by legal means to injure him, and that her flashing eyes betrayed some entirely different intention. Nastasia Philipovna was quite capable of ruining herself, and even of perpetrating something which would send her to Siberia, for the mere pleasure of injuring a man for whom she had developed so inhuman a sense of loathing and contempt. He had sufficient insight to understand that she valued nothing in the wo rld?herself least of all?and The Idiot 78 of 1149 he made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was a coward in some respects. For instance, if he had been told that he would be stabbed at the altar, or publicly insulted, he would undoubtedly have been frightened; but not so much at the idea of being murdered, or wounded, or insulted, as at the thought that if such things were to happen he would be made to look ridiculous in the eyes of society. He knew well that Nastasia thoroughly understood him and where to wound him and how, and therefore, as the marriage was still only in embryo, Totski decided to conciliate her by giving it up. His decision was strengthened by the fact that Nastasia Philipovna had curiously altered of late. It would be difficult to conceive how different she was physically, at the present time, to the girl of a few years ago. She was pretty then ? but now! ? Totski laughed angrily when he thought how short-sighted he had been. In days gone by he remembered how he had looked at her beautiful eyes, how even then he had marvelled at their dark mysterious depths, and at their wondering gaze which seemed to seek an answer to some unknown riddle. Her complexion also had altered. She was now exceedingly pale, but, curiously, this change only made her mo re beautiful. Like most men The Idiot 79 of 1149 of the world, Totski had rather despised such a cheaply- bought conquest, but of late years he had begun to think differently about it. It had struck him as long ago as last spring that he ought to be finding a good match for Nastasia; for instance, some respectable and reasonable young fellow serving in a government office in another part of the country. How malic iously Nastasia laughed at the idea of such a thing, now! However, it appeared to To tski that he might make use of her in another way; and he determined to establish her in St. Petersburg, surrounding her with all the comforts and luxuries that his wealth could command. In this way he might gain glory in certain circles. Five years of this Petersburg life went by, and, of course, during that time a great deal happened. Totski?s position was very uncomfortable; having ?funked? once, he could not totally regain his ea se. He was afraid, he did not know why, but he was simply afraid of Nastasia Philipovna. For the first two ye ars or so he had suspected that she wished to marry him herself, and that only her vanity prevented her telling him so. He thought that she wanted him to approach her with a humble proposal from his own side, But to his great, and not entirely pleasurable amazement, he discovered that this was by no means the The Idiot 80 of 1149 case, and that were he to offer himself he would be refused. He could not underst and such a state of things, and was obliged to conclude t hat it was pride, the pride of an injured and imaginative woman, which had gone to such lengths that it preferred to sit and nurse its contempt and hatred in solitude rather than mount to heights of hitherto unattainable splendour. To make matters worse, she was quite impervious to mercenary considerations, and could not be bribed in any way. Finally, Totski took cunning means to try to break his chains and be free. He tried to tempt her in various ways to lose her heart; he invited princes, hussars, secretaries of embassies, poets, novelists, even Socialists, to see her; but not one of them all made the faintest impression upon Nastasia. It was as though she had a pebble in place of a heart, as though her feelings and affections were dried up and withered for ever. She lived almost entirely alone; she read, she studied, she loved music. Her princ ipal acquaintances were poor women of various grades, a couple of actresses, and the family of a poor schoolteacher. Among these people she was much beloved. She received four or five friends sometimes, of an evening. Totski often came. La tely, too, General Epanchin The Idiot 81 of 1149 had been enabled with great difficulty to introduce himself into her circle. Gania made her acquaintance also, and others were Ferdishenko, an ill- bred, and would-be witty, young clerk, and Ptitsin, a money- lender of modest and polished manners, who had risen from poverty. In fact, Nastasia Philipovna?s beauty became a thing known to all the town; but not a single man could boast of anything more than his own admiration for her; and this reputation of hers, and her wit and cultu re and grace, all confirmed Totski in the plan he had now prepared. And it was at this moment that General Epanchin began to play so large and important a part in the story. When Totski had approached the general with his request for friendly counsel as to a marriage with one of his daughters, he had made a full and candid confession. He had said that he intended to stop at no means to obtain his freedom; even if Nastasia were to promise to leave him entirely alone in future, he w ould not (he said) believe and trust her; words were not enough for him; he must have solid guarantees of some sort. So he and the general determined to try what an attempt to appeal to her heart would effect. Having arrived at Nastasia?s house one day, with Epanchin, Totski immediately began to speak of the intolerable torment of his position. He admitted that he The Idiot 82 of 1149 was to blame for all, but candidly confessed that he could not bring himself to feel any remorse for his original guilt towards herself, because he was a man of sensual passions which were inborn and ineradicable, and that he had no power over himself in this respect; but that he wished, seriously, to marry at last, and that the whole fate of the most desirable social union which he contemplated, was in her hands; in a word, he confided his all to her generosity of heart. General Epanchin took up his part and spoke in the character of father of a family; he spoke sensibly, and without wasting words over any attempt at sentimentality, he merely recorded his full admission of her right to be the arbiter of Totski?s destiny at this moment. He then pointed out that the fate of his daughter, and very likely of both his other daughters, now hung upon her reply. To Nastasia?s question as to what they wished her to do, Totski confessed that he had been so frightened by her, five years ago, that he could never now be entirely comfortable until she hersel f married. He immediately added that such a suggestion from him would, of course, be absurd, unless accompanied by remarks of a more pointed nature. He very well knew, he said, that a certain young gentleman of good family, namely, Gavrila The Idiot 83 of 1149 Ardalionovitch Ivolgin, with whom she was acquainted, and whom she received at her house, had long loved her passionately, and would give his life for some response from her. The young fellow had confessed this love of his to him (Totski) and had also admitted it in the hearing of his benefactor, General Epanchin. Lastly, he could not help being of opinion that Nastasia must be aware of Gania?s love for her, and if he (Totski) mistook not, she had looked with some favour upon it, being often lonely, and rather tired of her present life. Having remarked how difficult it was for him, of al l people, to speak to her of these matters, Totski concluded by saying that he trusted Nastasia Philipovna would not look with contempt upon him if he now expressed his sincere desire to guarantee her future by a gift of seventy-fi ve thousand roubles. He added that the sum would have been le ft her all the same in his will, and that therefore she must not consider the gift as in any way an indemnification to her for anything, but that there was no reason, after all, why a man should not be allowed to entertain a natural desire to lighten his conscience, etc., etc.; in fact, all that would naturally be said under the circumstances. Totski was very eloquent all through, and, in conclusion, just touched on the fact that not a soul in the world, not even General Epanchin, had The Idiot 84 of 1149 ever heard a word about the above seventy-five thousand roubles, and that this was th e first time he had ever given expression to his intentions in respect to them. Nastasia Philipovna?s reply to this long rigmarole astonished both the friends considerably. Not only was there no trace of her former irony, of her old hatred and enmity, and of that dreadful laughter, the very recollection of which sent a cold chill down Totski?s back to this very day; but she seemed charmed and really glad to have the opportunity of talking seriously with him for once in a way. She confessed that she had long wished to have a frank and free conversation and to ask for friendly advice, but that pride had hitherto prevented her; now, however, that the ice was broken, nothing could be more welcome to her than this opportunity. First, with a sad smile, and then with a twinkle of merriment in her eyes, she ad mitted that such a storm as that of five years ago was now quite out of the question. She said that she had long since changed her views of things, and recognized that facts must be taken into consideration in spite of the feelings of the heart. What was done was done and ended, and she could not understand why Totski should still feel alarmed. The Idiot 85 of 1149 She next turned to General Epanchin and observed, most courteously, that she had long since known of his daughters, and that she had heard none but good report; that she had learned to th ink of them with deep and sincere respect. The idea alone that she could in any way serve them, would be to her both a pride and a source of real happiness. It was true that she was l onely in her present life; Totski had judged her thoughts aright. She longed to rise, if not to love, at least to family life and new hopes and objects, but as to Gavrila Ar dalionovitch, she could not as yet say much. She thought it must be the case that he loved her; she felt that she too might learn to love him, if she could be sure of the firmness of his attachment to herself; but he was very young, and it was a difficult question to decide. What sh e specially liked about him was that he worked, and supported his family by his toil. She had heard that he was proud and ambitious; she had heard much that was interesting of his mother and sister, she had heard of them from Mr. Ptitsin, and would much like to make their acquaintance, but?another question!?would they like to receive her into their house? At all events, though she did not reject the idea of this marriage, she desired not to be hurried. As for the The Idiot 86 of 1149 seventy-five thousand roubles, Mr. Totski need not have found any difficulty or awkwardness about the matter; she quite understood the value of money, and would, of course, accept the gift. She thanked him for his delicacy, however, but saw no reason why Gavrila Ardalionovitch should not know about it. She would not marry the latter, she said, until she felt persuaded that neither on his part nor on the part of his family did there exist any sort of concealed suspicions as to herself. She did not intend to ask forgiveness for anything in the past, which fact she desired to be known. She did not consider herself to blame for anything that had happened in former years, and she thought that Gavrila Ardalionovitch should be infor med as to the relations which had existed between herself and Totski during the last five years. If she accepted this money it was not to be considered as indemnificatio n for her misfortune as a young girl, which had not been in any degree her own fault, but merely as compensation for her ruined life. She became so excited and agitated during all these explanations and confessions that General Epanchin was highly gratified, and considered the matter satisfactorily arranged once for all. But the once bitten Totski was twice shy, and looked for hidden snakes among the flowers. The Idiot 87 of 1149 However, the special point to which the two friends particularly trusted to bring about their object (namely, Gania?s attractiveness for Nastasia Philipovna), stood out more and more prominently; the pourparlers had commenced, and gradually even Totski began to believe in the possibility of success. 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. It soon became clear to G ania, after scenes of wrath and quarrellings at the domestic hearth, that his family were seriously opposed to the match, and that Nastasia was aware of this fact was equally evident. She said nothing about it, though he daily expected her to do so. There were several rumours afloat, before long, which upset Totski?s equanimity a good deal, but we will not now stop to describe them; m erely mentioning an instance or two. One was that Nastasia had entered into close and secret relations with the Epanchin girls?a most unlikely The Idiot 88 of 1149 rumour; another was that Nastasia had long satisfied herself of the fact that Gania was merely marrying her for money, and that his nature was gloomy and greedy, impatient and selfish, to an extraordinary degree; and that although he had been keen enough in his desire to achieve a conquest before, yet since the two friends had agreed to exploit his passion for their own purposes, it was clear enough that he had begun to consider the whole thing a nuisance and a nightmare. In his heart passion and hate seemed to hold divided sway, and although he had at last given his consent to marry the woman (as he said), under the stress of circumstances, yet he promis ed himself that he would ?take it out of her,? after marriage. 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. However, both the friends felt that the thing looked rosy indeed when one day Nastasia informed them that The Idiot 89 of 1149 she would give her final answer on the evening of her birthday, which anniversary was due in a very short time. A strange rumour began to circulate, meanwhile; no less than that the respectable and highly respected General Epanchin was himself so fascinated by Nastasia Philipovna that his feeling for her amount ed almost to passion. What he thought to gain by Gania?s marriage to the girl it was difficult to imagine. Possibly he counted on Gania?s complaisance; for Totski had long suspected that there existed some secret understanding between the general and his secretary. At all events the fact was known that he had prepared a magnificent present of pearls for Nastasia?s birthday, and that he was looking forward to the occasion when he should present his gift with the greatest excitement and impatience. The day before her birthday he was in a fever of agitation. Mrs. Epanchin, long accustomed to her husband?s infidelities, had heard of th e pearls, and the rumour excited her liveliest curiosity and interest. The general remarked her suspicions, and felt that a grand explanation must shortly take place?whic h fact alarmed him much. This is the reason why he was so unwilling to take lunch (on the morning upon which we took up this narrative) with the rest of his family. Before the prince?s The Idiot 90 of 1149 arrival he had made up his mind to plead business, and ?cut? the meal; which simply meant running away. He was particularly anxious that this one day should be passed? especially the evening?without unpleasantness between himself and his family; and just at the right moment the prince turned up??as though Heaven had sent him on purpose,? said the ge neral to himself, as he left the study to seek out the wife of his bosom. The Idiot 91 of 1149 V Mrs. General Epanchin was a proud woman by nature. What must her feelings have been when she heard that Prince Muishkin, the last of his and her line, had arrived in beggar?s guise, a wretched idiot, a recipient of charity?all of which details the general gave out for greater effect! He was anxious to steal her interest at the first swoop, so as to distract her thoughts from other matters nearer home. Mrs. Epanchin was in the ha bit of holding herself very straight, and staring before her, without speaking, in moments of excitement. She was a fine woman of the same age as her husband, with a slightly hooked nose, a high, narrow forehead, thick hair turning a little grey, and a sallow complexion. Her eyes were grey and wore a very curious expression at times. She believed them to be most effective?a belief that nothing could alter. ?What, receive him! Now, at once?? asked Mrs. Epanchin, gazing vaguely at her husband as he stood fidgeting before her. ?Oh, dear me, I assure you there is no need to stand on ceremony with him,? the genera l explained hastily. ?He is The Idiot 92 of 1149 quite a child, not to say a pathetic-looking creature. He has fits of some sort, and has just arrived from Switzerland, straight from the station, dressed like a German and without a farthing in his pocket. I gave him twenty-five roubles to go on with, and am going to find him some easy place in one of the gov ernment offices. I should like you to ply him well with the victuals, my dears, for I should think he must be very hungry.? ?You astonish me,? said the lady, gazing as before. ?Fits, and hungry too! What sort of fits?? ?Oh, they don?t come on f requently, besides, he?s a regular child, though he seems to be fairly educated. I should like you, if possible, my dears,? the general added, making slowly for the door, ?t o put him through his paces a bit, and see what he is g ood for. I think you should be kind to him; it is a good deed, you know?however, just as you like, of course?but he is a sort of relation, remember, and I thought it mi ght interest you to see the young fellow, seeing that this is so.? ?Oh, of course, mamma, if we needn?t stand on ceremony with him, we must give the poor fellow something to eat after his journey; especially as he has not the least idea where to go to,? said Alexandra, the eldest of the girls. The Idiot 93 of 1149 ?Besides, he?s quite a child; we can entertain him with a little hide-and-seek, in case of need,? said Adelaida. ?Hide-and-seek? What do you mean?? inquired Mrs. Epanchin. ?Oh, do stop pretending, mamma,? cried Aglaya, in vexation. ?Send him up, father; mother allows.? The general rang the bell and gave orders that the prince should be shown in. ?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?? ?On the contrary, he seems to be very well brought up. His manners are excellent?but here he is himself. Here you are, prince?let me introduce you, the last of the Muishkins, a relative of your ow n, my dear, or at least of the same name. Receive him kindly, please. They?ll bring in lunch directly, prince; you must stop and have some, but you must excuse me. I?m in a hurry, I must be off?? ?We all know where YOU must be off to!? said Mrs. Epanchin, in a meaning voice. ?Yes, yes?I must hurry away, I?m late! Look here, dears, let him write you something in your albums; you?ve no idea what a wonderful caligraphist he is, wonderful The Idiot 94 of 1149 talent! He has just written out ?Abbot Pafnute signed this? for me. Well, au revoir!? ?Stop a minute; where are you off to? Who is this abbot?? cried Mrs. Epanchin to her retreating husband in a tone of excited annoyance. ?Yes, my dear, it was an old abbot of that name-I must be off to see the count, he?s waiting for me, I?m late? Good-bye! Au revoir, prince!??and the general bolted at full speed. ?Oh, yes?I know what count you?re going to see!? remarked his wife in a cutting manner, as she turned her angry eyes on the prince. ?N ow then, what?s all this about??What abbot?Who?s Pafnute?? she added, brusquely. ?Mamma!? said Alexandra, shocked at her rudeness. Aglaya stamped her foot. ?Nonsense! Let me alone!? said the angry mother. ?Now then, prince, sit down here, no, nearer, come nearer the light! I want to have a good look at you. So, now then, who is this abbot?? ?Abbot Pafnute,? said our friend, seriously and with deference. ?Pafnute, yes. And who was he?? The Idiot 95 of 1149 Mrs. Epanchin put these questions hastily and brusquely, and when the prince answered she nodded her head sagely at each word he said. ?The Abbot Pafnute lived in the fourteenth century,? began the prince; ?he was in charge of one of the monasteries on the Volga, about where our present Kostroma government lies. He went to Oreol and helped in the great matters then goin g on in the religious world; he signed an edict there, and I have seen a print of his signature; it struck me, so I copied it. When the general asked me, in his study, to write something for him, to show my handwriting, I wrot e ?The Abbot Pafnute signed this,? in the exact handwriting of the abbot. The general liked it very much, and that?s why he recalled it just now. ? ?Aglaya, make a note of ?P afnute,? or we shall forget him. H?m! and where is this signature?? ?I think it was left on the general?s table.? ?Let it be sent for at once!? ?Oh, I?ll write you a new one in half a minute,? said the prince, ?if you like!? ?Of course, mamma!? said Alexandra. ?But let?s have lunch now, we are all hungry!? The Idiot 96 of 1149 ?Yes; come along, prince,? said the mother, ?are you very hungry?? ?Yes; I must say that I am pretty hungry, thanks very much.? ?H?m! I like to see that you know your manners; and you are by no means such a person as the general thought fit to describe you. Come al ong; you sit here, opposite to me,? she continued, ?I wish to be able to see your face. Alexandra, Adelaida, look after the prince! He doesn?t seem so very ill, does he? I don?t think he requires a napkin under his chin, after all; are you accustomed to having one on, prince?? ?Formerly, when I was seven years old or so. I believe I wore one; but now I usually hold my napkin on my knee when I eat.? ?Of course, of course! And about your fits?? ?Fits?? asked the prince, slightly surprised. ?I very seldom have fits nowadays. I don?t know how it may be here, though; they say the climate may be bad for me. ? ?He talks very well, you know!? said Mrs. Epanchin, who still continued to nod at each word the prince spoke. ?I really did not expect it at all; in fact, I suppose it was all stuff and nonsense on the genera l?s part, as usual. Eat away, prince, and tell me where you were born, and where you The Idiot 97 of 1149 were brought up. I wish to know all about you, you interest me very much!? The prince expressed his thanks once more, and eating heartily the while, recommenced the narrative of his life in Switzerland, all of which we have heard before. Mrs. Epanchin became more and mo re pleased with her guest; the girls, too, listened with considerable attention. In talking over the question of relat ionship it turned out that the prince was very well up in the matter and knew his pedigree off by heart. It wa s found that scarcely any connection existed between himself and Mrs. Epanchin, but the talk, and the opportuni ty of conversing about her family tree, gratified the latt er exceedingly, and she rose from the table in great good humour. ?Let?s all go to my boudoir,? she said, ?and they shall bring some coffee in there. That?s the room where we all assemble and busy ourselves as we like best,? she explained. ?Alexandra, my eldest, here, plays the piano, or reads or sews; Adelaida paints landscapes and portraits (but never finishes any); and Aglaya sits and does nothing. I don?t work too much, either. H ere we are, now; sit down, prince, near the fire and talk to us. I want to hear you relate something. I wish to make sure of you first and then tell my old friend, Princess Bielokonski, about you. I wish The Idiot 98 of 1149 you to know all the good people and to interest them. Now then, begin!? ?Mamma, it?s rather a strange order, that!? said Adelaida, who was fussing among her paints and paint-brushes at the easel. Aglaya and Alexandra had settled themselves with folded hands on a sofa, evidently meaning to be listeners. The prince felt that the general attention was concentrated upon himself. ?I should refuse to say a word if I were ordered to tell a story like that!? observed Aglaya. ?Why? what?s there strange about it? He has a tongue. Why shouldn?t he tell us something? I want to judge whether he is a good story-teller; anything you like, prince-how you liked Switzerland, what was your first impression, anything. You?ll see, he?ll begin directly and tell us all about it beautifully.? ?The impression was forcible?? the prince began. ?There, you see, girls,? said the impatient lady, ?he has begun, you see.? ?Well, then, LET him talk, mamma,? said Alexandra. ?This prince is a great humb ug and by no means an idiot,? she whispered to Aglaya. The Idiot 99 of 1149 ?Oh, I saw that at once,? replied the latter. ?I don?t think it at all nice of him to play a part. What does he wish to gain by it, I wonder?? ?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, bu t 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 Basl e, 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.? ?A donkey? How strange! Yet it is not strange. Anyone of us might fall in love with a donkey! It happened in The Idiot 100 of 1149 mythological times,? said Madame Epanchin, looking wrathfully at her daughters, who had begun to laugh. ?Go on, prince.? ?Since that evening I have been specially fond of donkeys. I began to ask questions about them, for I had never seen one before; and I at once came to the conclusion that this must be one of the most useful of animals?strong, willing, patient, cheap; and, thanks to this donkey, I began to like the whole country I was travelling through; and my melancholy passed away.? ?All this is very strange and interesting,? said Mrs. Epanchin. ?Now let?s leave the donkey and go on to other matters. What are you laughing at, Aglaya? and you too, Adelaida? The prince told us his experiences very cleverly; he saw the donkey himself, and what have you ever seen? YOU have never been abroad.? ?I have seen a donkey though, mamma!? said Aglaya. ?And I?ve heard one!? said Adelaida. All three of the girls laughed out loud, and the prince laughed with them. ?Well, it?s too bad of you ,? said mamma. ?You must forgive them, prince; they are good girls. I am very fond of them, though I often have to be scolding them; they are all as silly and mad as march hares.? The Idiot 101 of 1149 ?Oh, why shouldn?t they laugh?? said the prince. ? I shouldn?t have let the chance go by in their place, I know. But I stick up for the donkey, all the same; he?s a patient, good-natured fellow.? ?Are you a patient man, prince ? I ask out of curiosity,? said Mrs. Epanchin. All laughed again. ?Oh, that wretched donkey again, I see!? cried the lady. ?I assure you, prince, I was not guilty of the least?? ?Insinuation? Oh! I assure you, I take your word for it.? And the prince continued laughing merrily. ?I must say it?s very nice of you to laugh. I see you really are a kind-hearted fellow,? said Mrs. Epanchin. ?I?m not always kind, though.? ?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 The Idiot 102 of 1149 you can think of something more exciting than about the donkey, eh?? ?I must say, again, I can?t understand how you can expect anyone to tell you stories straight away, so,? said Adelaida. ?I know I never could!? ?Yes, but the prince can, because he is clever?cleverer than you are by ten or twenty times, if you like. There, that?s so, prince; and seriously, let?s drop the donkey now?what else did you see abr oad, besides the donkey?? ?Yes, but the prince told us about the donkey very cleverly, all the same,? said Alexandra. ?I have always been most interested to hear how people go mad and get well again, and that sort of thing. Especially when it happens suddenly.? ?Quite so, quite so!? cried Mr s. Epanchin, delighted. ?I see you CAN be sensible now and then, Alexandra. You were speaking of Switzerland, prince?? ?Yes. We came to Lucerne, and I was taken out in a boat. I felt how lovely it wa s, but the loveliness weighed upon me somehow or other, and made me feel melancholy.? ?Why?? asked Alexandra. The Idiot 103 of 1149 ?I don?t know; I always feel like that when I look at the beauties of nature for the first time; but then, I was ill at that time, of course!? ?Oh, but I should like to see it!? said Adelaida; ?and I don?t know WHEN we shall ever go abroad. I?ve been two years looking out for a good subject for a picture. I?ve done all I know. ?The North and South I know by heart,? as our poet observes. Do help me to a subject, prince.? ?Oh, but I know nothing ab out painting. It seems to me one only has to look, and paint what one sees.? ?But I don?t know HOW to see!? ?Nonsense, what rubbish y ou talk!? the mother struck in. ?Not know how to see! Op en your eyes and look! If you can?t see here, you won?t see abroad either. Tell us what you saw yourself, prince!? ?Yes, that?s better,? said Adela ida; ?the prince learned to see abroad.? ?Oh, I hardly know! You see, I only went to restore my health. I don?t know whether I learned to see, exactly. I was very happy, however, nearly all the time.? ?Happy! you can be happy?? cried Aglaya. ?Then how can you say you did not learn to see? I should think you could teach us to see!? ?Oh! DO teach us,? laughed Adelaida. The Idiot 104 of 1149 ?Oh! I can?t do that,? said the prince, laughing too. ?I lived almost all the while in one little Swiss village; what can I teach you? At first I was only just not absolutely dull; then my health began to improve?then every day became dearer and more precious to me, and the longer I stayed, the dearer became the time to me; so much so that I could not help observing it; but why this was so, it would be difficult to say.? ?So that you didn?t care to go away anywhere else?? ?Well, at first I did; I was restless; I didn?t know however I should manage to support life?you know there are such moments, especi ally in solitude. There was a waterfall near us, such a lovely thin streak of water, like a thread but white and moving. It fell from a great height, but it looked quite low, and it was half a mile away, though it did not seem fifty paces. I loved to listen to it at night, but it was then that I became so restless. Sometimes I went and climbed the moun tain and stood there in the midst of the tall pines, all alone in the terrible silence, with our little village in the distance, and the sky so blue, and the sun so bright, and an old ruined castle on the mountain-side, far away. I used to watch the line where earth and sky met, and longed to go and seek there the key of all mysteries, thinking that I might find there a new The Idiot 105 of 1149 life, perhaps some great city where life should be grander and richer?and then it struck me that life may be grand enough even in a prison.? ?I read that last most praiseworthy thought in my manual, when I was twelve years old,? said Aglaya. ?All this is pure philosophy ,? said Adelaida. ?You are a philosopher, prince, and have come here to instruct us in your views.? ?Perhaps you are right,? said the prince, smiling. ?I think I am a philosopher, perhaps, and who knows, perhaps I do wish to teach my views of thin gs to those I meet with?? ?Your philosophy is rather like that of an old woman we know, who is rich and yet does nothing but try how little she can spend. She talks of nothing but money all day. Your great philosophic al idea of a grand life in a prison and your four happy year s in that Swiss village are like this, rather,? said Aglaya. ?As to life in a prison, of course there may be two opinions,? said the prince. ?I once heard the story of a man who lived twelve years in a prison?I heard it from the man himself. He was one of the persons under treatment with my professor; he had fits, and attacks of melancholy, then he would weep, and once he tried to commit suicide. HIS life in prison was sad enough; his only acquaintances The Idiot 106 of 1149 were spiders and a tree that grew outside his grating-but I think I had better tell you of another man I met last year. There was a very strange feature in this case, strange because of its extremely ra re occurrence. This man had once been brought to the scaffold in company with several others, and had had the sentence of death by shooting passed upon him for some political crime. Twenty minutes later he had been reprieved and some other punishment substituted; but the interval between the two sentences, twenty minutes, or at least a quarter of an hour, had been passed in the certainty that within a few minutes he must die. I was very anxious to hear him speak of his impressions during that dreadful time, and I several times inquired of him as to what he thought and felt. He remembered everything wit h the most accurate and extraordinary distinctness, and declared that he would never forget a single io ta of the experience. ?About twenty paces from the scaffold, where he had stood to hear the sentence, were three posts, fixed in the ground, to which to fasten the criminals (of whom there were several). The first three criminals were taken to the posts, dressed in long white tunics, with white caps drawn over their faces, so that they could not see the rifles pointed at them. Then a group of soldiers took their stand The Idiot 107 of 1149 opposite to each post. My friend was the eighth on the list, and therefore he would have been among the third lot to go up. A priest went about among them with a cross: and there was about five minutes of time left for him to live. ?He said that those five minutes seemed to him to be a most interminable period, an enormous wealth of time; he seemed to be living, in these minutes, so many lives that there was no need as yet to think of that last moment, so that he made several arrangements, dividing up the time into portions?one for saying farewell to his companions, two minutes for that; then a couple more for thinking over his own life and career and all about himself; and another minute for a last look around. He remembered having divided his time like this quite well. While saying good- bye to his friends he recollected asking one of them some very usual everyday question, and being much interested in the answer. Then having bade farewell, he embarked upon those two minutes which he had allotted to looking into himself; he knew beforehand what he was going to think about. He wished to put it to himself as quickly and clearly as possible, that here was he, a living, thinking man, and that in three minutes he would be nobody; or if somebody or something, then what and The Idiot 108 of 1149 where? He thought he would decide this question once for all in these last three mi nutes. A little way off there stood a church, and its gilded spire glittered in the sun. He remembered staring stubbornly at this spire, and at the rays of light sparkling from it. He co uld not tear his eyes from these rays of light; he got the idea that these rays were his new nature, and that in three minutes he would become one of them, amalgamated somehow with them. ?The repugnance to what must ensue almost immediately, and the uncertaint y, were dreadful, he said; but worst of all was the idea, ?What should I do if I were not to die now? What if I were to return to life again? What an eternity of days, and all mine! How I should grudge and count up every minut e of it, so as to waste not a single instant!? He said t hat this thought weighed so upon him and became such a terrible burden upon his brain that he could not bear it, and wished they would shoot him quickly and have done with it.? The prince paused and all waited, expecting him to go on again and finish the story. ?Is that all?? asked Aglaya. ?All? Yes,? said the prince, emerging from a momentary reverie. ?And why did you tell us this?? The Idiot 109 of 1149 ?Oh, I happened to recall it, that?s all! It fitted into the conversation?? ?You probably wish to deduce, prince,? said Alexandra, ?that moments of time c annot be reckoned by money value, and that sometimes five minutes are worth priceless treasures. All this is very pr aiseworthy; but may I ask about this friend of yours, who to ld you the terrible experience of his life? He was reprieved, you say; in other words, they did restore to him that ?eternit y of days.? What did he do with these riches of time? Did he keep careful account of his minutes?? ?Oh no, he didn?t! I asked him myself. He said that he had not lived a bit as he had intended, and had wasted many, and many a minute.? ?Very well, then there?s an experiment, and the thing is proved; one cannot live and count each moment; say what you like, but one CANNOT.? ?That is true,? said the prince , ?I have thought so myself. And yet, why shouldn?t one do it?? ?You think, then, that you could live more wisely than other people?? said Aglaya. ?I have had that idea.? ?And you have it still?? ?Yes?I have it still,? the prince replied. The Idiot 110 of 1149 He had contemplated Aglaya until now, with a pleasant though rather timid smile, but as the last words fell from his lips he began to laugh, and looked at her merrily. ?You are not very modest!? said she. ?But how brave you are!? said he. ?You are laughing, and I? that man?s tale impressed me so much, that I dreamt of it afterwards; yes, I dreamt of those five minutes ?? He looked at his listeners again with that same serious, searching expression. ?You are not angry with me?? he asked suddenly, and with a kind of nervous hurry, although he looked them straight in the face. ?Why should we be angry?? they cried. ?Only because I seem to be giving you a lecture, all the time!? At this they laughed heartily. ?Please don?t be angry with me,? continued the prince. ?I know very well that I have seen less of life than other people, and have less knowledge of it. I must appear to speak strangely sometimes ?? He said the last words nervously. ?You say you have been happy, and that proves you have lived, not less, but more than other people. Why The Idiot 111 of 1149 make all these excuses?? interrupted Aglaya in a mocking tone of voice. ?Besides, you n eed not mind about lecturing us; you have nothing to boast of. With your quietism, one could live happily for a hundred years at least. One might show you the execution of a felon, or show you one?s little finger. You could draw a moral from either, and be quite satisfied. That sort of existence is easy enough.? ?I can?t understand why you always fly into a temper,? said Mrs. Epanchin, who had been listening to the conversation and examining th e faces of the speakers in turn. ?I do not understand what you mean. What has your little finger to do with it? The prince talks well, though he is not amusing. He began all right, but now he seems sad.? ?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.? ?I have seen an execution,? said the prince. ?You have!? cried Aglaya. ?I might have guessed it. That?s a fitting crown to the rest of the story. If you have seen an execution, how can you say you lived happily all the while?? ?But is there capital punishment where you were?? asked Adelaida. The Idiot 112 of 1149 ?I saw it at Lyons. Schneider took us there, and as soon as we arrived we came in for that.? ?Well, and did you like it very much? Was it very edifying and instructive?? asked Aglaya. ?No, I didn?t like it at all, and was ill after seeing it; but I confess I stared as though my eyes were fixed to the sight. I could not tear them away.? ?I, too, should have been unable to tear my eyes away,? said Aglaya. ?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.? ?That is, by contending that it is not a sight for women they admit that it is a sight for men. I congratulate them on the deduction. I suppose you quite agree with them, prince?? ?Tell us about the execution,? put in Adelaida. ?I would much rather not, just now,? said the prince, a little disturbed and frowning slightly; ? You don?t seem to want to tell us,? said Aglaya, with a mocking air. ? No,?the thing is, I was telling all about the execution a little while ago, and?? ?Whom did you tell about it?? The Idiot 113 of 1149 ?The man-servant, while I was waiting to see the general.? ?Our man-servant?? exclaimed several voices at once. ?Yes, the one who waits in the entrance hall, a greyish, red- faced man?? ?The prince is clearly a democrat,? remarked Aglaya. ?Well, if you could tell Aleksey about it, surely you can tell us too.? ?I do so want to hear about it,? repeated Adelaida. ?Just now, I confess,? beg an 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 standin g on the scaffold, preparatory to placing his neck on the block.? ?What, his face? only his face?? asked Adelaida. ?That would be a strange subject in deed. And what sort of a picture would that make?? ?Oh, why not?? the prince insisted, with some warmth. ?When I was in Basle I saw a picture very much in that style?I should like to tell you about it; I will some time or other; it struck me very forcibly.? The Idiot 114 of 1149 ?Oh, you shall tell us about the Basle picture another time; now we must have all about the execution,? said Adelaida. ?Tell us about that fa ce as; it appeared to your imagination-how should it be drawn??just the face alone, do you mean?? ?It was just a minute before the execution,? began the prince, readily, carried aw ay by the recollection and evidently forgetting everything else in a moment; ?just at the instant when he stepped off the ladder on to the scaffold. He happened to look in my direction: I saw his eyes and understood all, at once?but how am I to describe it? I do so wish you or somebody else could draw it, you, if possible. I thought at the time what a picture it would make. You must imagine all that went before, of course, all?all. He had lived in the prison for some time and had not expected that the execution would take place for at least a week yet?he had counted on all the formalities and so on taking time ; but it so happened that his papers had been got ready quickly. At five o?clock in the morning he was asleep?it was October, and at five in the morning it was cold and dark. The governor of the prison comes in on tip-toe and touches the sleeping man?s shoulder gently. He starts up. ?What is it?? he says. ?The execution is fixed for ten o?clock.? He was only just The Idiot 115 of 1149 awake, and would not believe at first, but began to argue that his papers would not be out for a week, and so on. When he was wide awake and realized the truth, he became very silent and argued no more?so they say; but after a bit he said: ?It comes very hard on one so suddenly? and then he was silent again and said nothing. ?The three or four hours went by, of course, in necessary preparations?the priest, breakfast, (coffee, meat, and some wine they gave him; doesn?t it seem ridiculous?) And yet I believe these people give them a good breakfast out of pure kindness of heart, and believe that they are doing a good action. Then he is dressed, and then begins the procession through the town to the scaffold. I think he, too, must feel that he has an age to live still while they cart him along. Probably he thought, on the way, ?Oh, I have a long, long time yet. Three streets of life yet! When we?ve passed this street there?ll be that other one; and then that one where the baker?s shop is on the right; and when shall we get there? It?s ages , ages!? Around him are crowds shouting, yelling?ten thousand faces, twenty thousand eyes. All this has to be endured, and especially the thought: ?Here are ten thousand men, and not one of them is going to be execute d, and yet I am to die.? Well, all that is preparatory. The Idiot 116 of 1149 ?At the scaffold there is a ladder, and just there he burst into tears?and this was a strong man, and a terribly wicked one, they say! There was a priest with him the whole time, talking; even in the cart as they drove along, he talked and talked. Probably the other heard nothing; he would begin to listen now and then, and at the third word or so he had forgotten all about it. ?At last he began to mount th e steps; his legs were tied, so that he had to take very small steps. The priest, who seemed to be a wise man, had stopped talking now, and only held the cross for the wretched fellow to kiss. At the foot of the ladder he had been pale enough; but when he set foot on the scaffold at the top, his face suddenly became the colour of paper, positively like white notepaper. His legs must have become suddenly feeble and helpless, and he felt a cho king in his throat?you know the sudden feeling one has in moments of terrible fear, when one does not lose one?s wits, but is absolutely powerless to move? If some dreadful thing were suddenly to happen; if a house were just about to fall on one;? don?t you know how one would long to sit down and shut one?s eyes and wait, and wait? Well, when this terrible feeling came over him, the priest quickly pressed the cross to his lips, without a word?a little silver cross it The Idiot 117 of 1149 was- and he kept on pressing it to the man?s lips every second. And whenever the cross touched his lips, the eyes would open for a moment, and the legs moved once, and he kissed the cross greedily, hurriedly?just as though he were anxious to catch hold of something in case of its being useful to him afterwards, though he could hardly have had any connected religious thoughts at the time. And so up to the very block. ?How strange that criminals seldom swoon at such a moment! On the contrary, the brain is especially active, and works incessantly? probably hard, hard, hard?like an engine at full pressure. I imagine that various thoughts must beat loud and fast through his head?all unfinished ones, and strange, funny thoughts, very likely!?like this, for instance: ?That man is looking at me, and he has a wart on his forehead! and the executioner has burst one of his buttons, and the lowest one is all rusty!? And meanwhile he notices and remembers everything. There is one point that cannot be forgotten, round which everything else dances and turns about; and because of this point he cannot faint, and this lasts until the very final quarter of a second, when the wretched neck is on the block and the victim listens and waits and KNOWS? that?s the point, he KNOWS that he is just NOW about to die, and listens The Idiot 118 of 1149 for the rasp of the iron over his head. If I lay there, I should certainly listen for that grating sound, and hear it, too! There would probably be but the tenth part of an instant left to hear it in, but one would certainly hear it. And imagine, some people declare that when the head flies off it is CONSCIOUS of having flown off! Just imagine what a thing to realize! Fancy if consciousness were to last for even five seconds! ?Draw the scaffold so that only the top step of the ladder comes in clearly. The criminal must be just stepping on to it, his face as white as note-paper. The priest is holding the cross to his blue lips , and the criminal kisses it, and knows and sees and under stands everything. The cross and the head?there?s your picture; the priest and the executioner, with his two assistants, and a few heads and eyes below. Those might come in as subordinate accessories?a sort of mist. There?s a picture for you.? The prince paused, and looked around. ?Certainly that isn?t much like quietism,? murmured Alexandra, half to herself. ?Now tell us about your love affairs,? said Adelaida, after a moment?s pause. The prince gazed at her in amazement. The Idiot 119 of 1149 ?You know,? Adelaida continued, ?you owe us a description of the Basle picture; but first I wish to hear how you fell in love. Don?t de ny the fact, for you did, of course. Besides, you stop philosophizing when you are telling about anything.? ?Why are you ashamed of your stories the moment after you have told them?? asked Aglaya, suddenly. ?How silly you are!? said Mrs. Epanchin, looking indignantly towards the last speaker. ?Yes, that wasn?t a clever remark,? said Alexandra. ?Don?t listen to her, prince,? said Mrs. Epanchin; ?she says that sort of thing out of mischief. Don?t think anything of their nonsense, it me ans nothing. They love to chaff, but they like you. I can see it in their faces?I know their faces.? ?I know their faces, too,? said the prince, with a peculiar stress on the words. ?How so?? asked Adelaida, with curiosity. ?What do YOU know about our faces?? exclaimed the other two, in chorus. But the prince was silent and serious. All awaited his reply. ?I?ll tell you afterwards,? he said quietly. The Idiot 120 of 1149 ?Ah, you want to arouse our curiosity!? said Aglaya. ?And how terribly solemn you are about it!? ?Very well,? interrupted Adelaida, ?then if you can read faces so well, you must have been in love. Come now; I?ve guessed?let?s have the secret!? ?I have not been in love,? said the prince, as quietly and seriously as before. ?I have been happy in another way.? ?How, how?? ?Well, I?ll tell you,? said the prince, apparently in a deep reverie. The Idiot 121 of 1149 VI ?Here you all are,? began the prince, ?settling yourselves down to listen to me with so much curiosity, that if I do not satisfy you you will probably be angry with me. No, no! I?m only joking!? he added, hastily, with a smile. ?Well, then?they were all children there, and I was always among children and only with children. They were the children of the village in which I lived, and they went to the school there?all of them. I did not teach them, oh no; there was a master for that, one Jules Thibaut. I may have taught them some things , but I was among them just as an outsider, and I passed a ll four years of my life there among them. I wished for nothing better; I used to tell them everything and hid nothing from them. Their fathers and relations were very angry with me, because the children could do nothing without me at last, and used to throng after me at all times. The schoolmaster was my greatest enemy in the end! I had many enemies, and all because of the children. Even Schneider reproached me. What were they afraid of? One can tell a child everything, anything. I have often been struck by the fact that parents know their children so little. They should not conceal so The Idiot 122 of 1149 much from them. How well even little children understand that their parents conceal things from them, because they consider them too young to understand! Children are capable of giving advice in the most important matters. How can one deceive these dear little birds, when they look at one so sweetly and confidingly? I call them birds because there is nothing in the world better than birds! ?However, most of the people were angry with me about one and the same thin g; but Thibaut simply was jealous of me. At first he had wagged his head and wondered how it was that the children understood what I told them so well, and could not learn from him; and he laughed like anything when I replied that neither he nor I could teach them very much, but that THEY might teach us a good deal. ?How he could hate me and tell scandalous stories about me, living among children as he did, is what I cannot understand. Children soothe and heal the wounded heart. I remember there was one poor fellow at our professor?s who was being trea ted for madness, and you have no idea what those children did for him, eventually. I don?t think he was mad, but only terribly unhappy. But The Idiot 123 of 1149 I?ll tell you all about him another day. Now I must get on with this story. ?The children did not love me at first; I was such a sickly, awkward kind of a fellow then?and I know I am ugly. Besides, I was a foreigner. The children used to laugh at me, at first; and they even went so far as to throw stones at me, when they saw me kiss Marie. I only kissed her once in my life?no, no, don?t laugh!? The prince hastened to suppress the smiles of his audience at this point. ?It was not a matter of LOVE at all! If only you knew what a miserable creature she was, you would have pitied her, just as I did. She belonged to our village. Her mother was an old, old woman, and they used to sell string and thread, and soap and tobacco, out of the window of their little house, and lived on the pittance they gained by this trade. The old woman was ill and very old, and could hardly move. Marie was her daughter, a girl of twenty, weak and thin and consumptive; but still she did heavy work at the houses around, day by day. Well, one fine day a commercial traveller betrayed her and carried her off; and a week later he deserted her. She came home dirty, draggled, and shoeless; she had walked for a whole week without shoes; she had slept in the fields, and caught a terrible cold; her feet were swollen and sore, and The Idiot 124 of 1149 her hands torn and scratched all over. She never had been pretty even before; but her eyes were quiet, innocent, kind eyes. ?She was very quiet always?and I remember once, when she had suddenly begun singing at her work, everyone said, ?Marie tried to sing today!? and she got so chaffed that she was silent for ever after. She had been treated kindly in the place before; but when she came back now?ill and shunned and miserable?not one of them all had the slightest symp athy for her. Cruel people! Oh, what hazy understandings they have on such matters! Her mother was the first to show the way. She received her wrathfully, unkindly, and with contempt. ?You have disgraced me,? she said. She was the first to cast her into ignominy; but when they all heard that Marie had returned to the village, they ran out to see her and crowded into the little cottage?old men, children, women, girls?such a hurrying, stamping, greedy crowd. Marie was lying on the floor at the old woman?s feet, hungry, torn, draggled, crying, miserable. ?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 Idiot 125 of 1149 the young ones laughed at her. The women condemned her too, and looked at her contemptuously, just as though she were some loathsome insect. ?Her mother allowed all this to go on, and nodded her head and encouraged them. The old woman was very ill at that time, and knew she was dying (she really did die a couple of months later), and though she felt the end approaching she never thought of forgiving her daughter, to the very day of her death. She would not even speak to her. She made her sleep on straw in a shed, and hardly gave her food enough to support life. ?Marie was very gentle to her mother, and nursed her, and did everything for her; but the old woman accepted all her services without a word and never showed her the slightest kindness. Marie bore all this; and I could see when I got to know her that she thought it quite right and fitting, considering hersel f the lowest and meanest of creatures. ?When the old woman took to her bed finally, the other old women in the village sat with her by turns, as the custom is there; and then Marie was quite driven out of the house. They gave her no food at all, and she could not get any work in the village; none would employ her. The men seemed to consider her no longer a woman, they The Idiot 126 of 1149 said such dreadful things to her. Sometimes on Sundays, if they were drunk enough, they used to throw her a penny or two, into the mud, and Marie would silently pick up the money. She had began to spit blood at that time. ?At last her rags became so tattered and torn that she was ashamed of appearing in the village any longer. The children used to pelt her with mud; so she begged to be taken on as assistant cowherd, but the cowherd would not have her. Then she took to helping him without leave; and he saw how valuable her assistance was to him, and did not drive her away again; on the contrary, he occasionally gave her the remnants of his dinner, bread and cheese. He considered that he was being very kind. When the mother died, the village parson was not ashamed to hold Marie up to public derision and shame. Marie was standing at the coffi n?s head, in all her rags, crying. ?A crowd of people had co llected to see how she would cry. The parson, a young fellow ambitious of becoming a great preacher, began his sermon and pointed to Marie. ?There,? he said, ?there is th e cause of the death of this venerable woman??(which was a lie, because she had been ill for at least two years)??there she stands before you, and dares not lift her eyes from the ground, because The Idiot 127 of 1149 she knows that the finger of God is upon her. Look at her tatters and rags?the badge of those who lose their virtue. Who is she? her daughter!? and so on to the end. ?And just fancy, this infamy pleased them, all of them, nearly. Only the children had altered?for then they were all on my side and had learned to love Marie. ?This is how it was: I had wished to do something for Marie; I longed to give her some money, but I never had a farthing while I was there. But I had a little diamond pin, and this I sold to a trave lling pedlar; he gave me eight francs for it?it was worth at least forty. ?I long sought to meet Marie alone; and at last I did meet her, on the hillside beyond the village. I gave her the eight francs and asked her to take care of the money because I could get no more; and then I kissed her and said that she was not to suppo se I kissed her with any evil motives or because I was in love with her, for that I did so solely out of pity for her, and because from the first I had not accounted her as guilty so much as unfortunate. I longed to console and encourage her somehow, and to assure her that she was not the low, base thing which she and others strove to make out; but I don?t think she understood me. She stood befo re me, dreadfully ashamed of herself, and with downcast eyes; and when I had The Idiot 128 of 1149 finished she kissed my hand. I would have kissed hers, but she drew it away. Just at this moment the whole troop of children saw us. (I found out afterwards that they had long kept a watch upon me.) They all began whistling and clapping their hands, and laughing at us. Marie ran away at once; and when I tried to talk to them, they threw stones at me. All the village heard of it the same day, and Marie?s position became worse than ever. The children would not let her pass now in the streets, but annoyed her and threw dirt at her more than before. They used to run after her? she racing away with her poor feeble lungs panting and gasping, and they pelting her and shouting abuse at her. ?Once I had to interfere by force; and after that I took to speaking to them every day and whenever I could. Occasionally they stopped and listened; but they teased Marie all the same. ?I told them how unhappy Ma rie was, and after a while they stopped their abuse of her, and let her go by silently. Little by little we got into the way of conversing together, the children and I. I concealed nothing from them, I told them all. They listened very attentively and soon began to be sorry for Marie. At last some of them took to saying ?Good-morning? to her, kindly, when they met her. It is the custom there to salute anyone you meet with ?Good- The Idiot 129 of 1149 morning? whether acquainted or not. I can imagine how astonished Marie was at these first greetings from the children. ?Once two little girls got hold of some food and took it to her, and came back and told me. They said she had burst into tears, and that they loved her very much now. Very soon after that they all became fond of Marie, and at the same time they began to develop the greatest affection for myself. They often came to me and begged me to tell them stories. I think I must have told stories well, for they did so love to hear them. At last I took to reading up interesting things on purpose to pass them on to the little ones, and this went on for a ll the rest of my time there, three years. Later, when everyone?even Schneider?was angry with me for hiding nothing from the children, I pointed out how foolish it was, for they always knew things, only they learnt them in a way that soiled their minds but not so from me . One has only to remember one?s own childhood to admit the truth of this. But nobody was convinced? It was two weeks before her mother died that I had kissed Marie; and when the clergyman preached that sermon the children were all on my side. The Idiot 130 of 1149 ?When I told them what a shame it was of the parson to talk as he had done, and explained my reason, they were so angry that some of them went and broke his windows with stones. Of cour se I stopped them, for that was not right, but all the village heard of it, and how I caught it for spoiling the children! Everyone discovered now that the little ones had ta ken to being fond of Marie, and their parents were terribly alarmed; but Marie was so happy. The children were forbidde n to meet her; but they used to run out of the village to the herd and take her food and things; and some times just ran off there and kissed her, and said, ?Je vous aime, Marie!? and then trotted back again. They imag ined that I was in love with Marie, and this was the only point on which I did not undeceive them, for they got such enjoyment out of it. And what delicacy and tenderness they showed! ?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 tatt ers. So, would you believe it, they actually clubbed together, somehow, and bought her shoes and stockings, and some linen, and even a dress! I The Idiot 131 of 1149 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, t ill 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. The Idiot 132 of 1149 ?When we left her, Marie used to relapse at once into her old condition, and sit with closed eyes and motionless limbs. One day she could not go out at all, and remained at home all alone in the empty hut; but the children very soon became aware of the fact, and nearly all of them visited her that day as she lay alone and helpless in her miserable bed. ?For two days the children l ooked after her, and then, when the village people got to know that Marie was really dying, some of the old women came and took it in turns to sit by her and look after her a bit. I think they began to be a little sorry for her in the village at last; at all events they did not interfere with the children any more, on her account. ?Marie lay in a state of uncomfortable delirium the whole while; she coughed dreadfully. The old women would not let the children stay in the room; but they all collected outside the window ea ch morning, if only for a moment, and shouted ?Bon jour, notre bonne Marie!? and Marie no sooner caught sight of, or heard them, and she became quite animated at once, and, in spite of the old women, would try to sit up and nod her head and smile at them, and thank them. The littl e ones used to bring her nice things and sweets to eat, but she could hardly touch The Idiot 133 of 1149 anything. Thanks to them, I assure you, the girl died almost perfectly happy. She al most forgot her misery, and seemed to accept their love as a sort of symbol of pardon for her offence, though she never ceased to consider herself a dreadful sinner. They used to flutter at her window just like little birds, calling out: ?Nous t?aimons, Marie!? ?She died very soon; I had thought she would live much longer. The day before h er death I went to see her for the last time, just before sunset. I think she recognized me, for she pressed my hand. ?Next morning they came and told me that Marie was dead. The children could not be restrained now; they went and covered her coffin with flowers, and put a wreath of lovely blossoms on her head. The pastor did not throw any more shameful words at the poor dead woman; but there were very few people at the funeral. However, when it came to carrying the coffin, all the children rushed up, to carry it themselves. Of course they could not do it alone, but they insisted on helping, and walked alongside and behind, crying. ?They have planted roses all round her grave, and every year they look alter the flowers and make Marie?s resting- place as beautiful as they can. I was in ill odour after all The Idiot 134 of 1149 this with the parents of the children, and especially with the parson and schoolmaster. Schneider was obliged to promise that I should not meet them and talk to them; but we conversed from a distance by signs, and they used to write me sweet little notes. Afterwards I came closer than ever to those little souls, but even then it was very dear to me, to have them so fond of me. ?Schneider said that I did the children great harm by my pernicious ?system?; what nonsense that was! And what did he mean by my system? He said afterwards that he believed I was a child myself?just before I came away. ?You have the form and face of an adult? he said, ?but as regards soul, and character, and perhaps even intelligence, you are a child in the completest sense of the word, and always will be, if you live to be sixty.? I laughed very much, for of course that is nonsense. But it is a fact that I do not care to be among grown-up people and much prefer the society of children. However kind people may be to me, I never feel quit e at home with them, and am always glad to get back to my little companions. Now my companions have always been children, not because I was a child myself once, but because young things attract me. On one of the first days of my stay in Switzerland, I was strolling about alone and miserable, when I came upon the The Idiot 135 of 1149 children rushing noisily out of school, with their slates and bags, and books, their games, their laughter and shouts? and my soul went out to them. I stopped and laughed happily as I watched their little feet moving so quickly. Girls and boys, laughing and crying; for as they went home many of them found time to fight and make peace, to weep and play. I forgot my troubles in looking at them. And then, all those three years, I tried to understand why men should be for ever tormenting themselves. I lived the life of a child there, and thought I should never leave the little village; indeed, I was far from thinking that I should ever return to Russia. But at last I recognized the fact that Schneider could not keep me any longer. And then something so important happened, that Schneider himself urged me to depart. I am going to see now if can get good advice about it. Perhaps my lot in life will be changed; but that is not the principal thin g. The principal thing is the entire change that has already come over me. I left many things behind me?too many. They have gone. On the journey I said to myself, ?I am going into the world of men. I don?t know much, perhaps, but a new life has begun for me.? I made up my mind to be honest, and steadfast in accomplis hing my task. Perhaps I shall meet with troubles and many disappointments, but I have made The Idiot 136 of 1149 up my mind to be polite and sincere to everyone; more cannot be asked of me. People may consider me a child if they like. I am often called an idiot, and at one time I certainly was so ill that I was nearly as bad as an idiot; but I am not an idiot now. How can I possibly be so when I know myself that I am considered one? ?When I received a letter from those dear little souls, while passing through Berlin, I only then realized how much I loved them. It was very, very painful, getting that first little letter. How melancholy they had been when they saw me off! For a month before, they had been talking of my departure and so rrowing over it; and at the waterfall, of an evening, when we parted for the night, they would hug me so tight and kiss me so warmly, far more so than before. And every now and then they would turn up one by one when I wa s alone, just to give me a kiss and a hug, to show their love for me. The whole flock went with me to the station, which was about a mile from the village, and every now and then one of them would stop to throw his arms round me , and all the little girls had tears in their voices, though they tried hard not to cry. As the train steamed out of the station, I saw them all standing on the platform waving to me and crying ?Hurrah!? till they were lost in the distance. The Idiot 137 of 1149 ?I assure you, when I came in here just now and saw your kind faces (I can read faces well) my heart felt light for the first time since that moment of parting. I think I must be one of those who are born to be in luck, for one does not often meet with people whom one feels he can love from the first sight of their faces; and yet, no sooner do I step out of the railway carriage than I happen upon you! ?I know it is more or less a shamefaced thing to speak of one?s feelings before others; and yet here am I talking like this to you, and am not a bit ashamed or shy. I am an unsociable sort of fellow and shall very likely not come to see you again for some time; but don?t think the worse of me for that. It is not that I do not value your society; and you must never suppose that I have taken offence at anything. ?You asked me about your faces, and what I could read in them; I will tell you with th e greatest pleasure. You, Adelaida Ivanovna, have a very happy face; it is the most sympathetic of the three. Not to speak of your natural beauty, one can look at your face and say to one?s self, ?She has the face of a kind sister.? You are simple and merry, but you can see into another?s heart very quickly. That?s what I read in your face. The Idiot 138 of 1149 ?You too, Alexandra Ivanovna, have a very lovely face; but I think you may have some secret sorrow. Your heart is undoubtedly a kind, good one, but you are not merry. There is a certain suspicion of ?shadow? in your face, like in that of Holbein?s Madonna in Dresden. So much for your face. Have I guessed right? ?As for your face, Lizabetha Prokofievna, I not only think, but am perfectly SURE , that you are an absolute child?in all, in all, mind, both good and bad-and in spite of your years. Don?t be angry with me for saying so; you know what my feelings for children are. And do not suppose that I am so candid out of pure simplicity of soul. Oh dear no, it is by no means the case! Perhaps I have my own very profound object in view.? The Idiot 139 of 1149 VII When the prince ceased speaking all were gazing merrily at him? even Aglaya; but Lizabetha Prokofievna looked the jolliest of all. ?Well!? she cried, ?we HAVE ?put him through his paces,? with a vengeance! My dears, you imagined, I believe, that you were about to patronize this young gentleman, like some poor protege picked up somewhere, and taken under your magnific ent protection. What fools we were, and what a specially big fool is your father! Well done, prince! I assure you the general actually asked me to put you through your paces, and examine you. As to what you said about my face, you are absolutely correct in your judgment. I am a child, and know it. I knew it long before you said so; you have expresse d my own thoughts. I think your nature and mine must be extremely alike, and I am very glad of it. We are like two drops of water, only you are a man and I a woman, and I?ve not been to Switzerland, and that is all the difference between us.? ?Don?t be in a hurry, mother; the prince says that he has some motive behind his simplicity,? cried Aglaya. ?Yes, yes, so he does,? laughed the others. The Idiot 140 of 1149 ?Oh, don?t you begin bantering him,? said mamma. ?He is probably a good deal cleverer than all three of you girls put together. We shall see. Only you haven?t told us anything about Aglaya yet, prince; and Aglaya and I are both waiting to hear.? ?I cannot say anything at present. I?ll tell you afterwards.? ?Why? Her face is clear enough, isn?t it?? ?Oh yes, of course. You are very beautiful, Aglaya Ivanovna, so beautiful that one is afraid to look at you.? ?Is that all? What about h er character?? persisted Mrs. Epanchin. ?It is difficult to judge when such beauty is concerned. I have not prepared my judgment. Beauty is a riddle.? ?That means that you have se t Aglaya a riddle!? said Adelaida. ?Guess it, Aglaya! But she?s pretty, prince, isn?t she?? ?Most wonderfully so,? said the latter, warmly, gazing at Aglaya with admiration. ?Alm ost as lovely as Nastasia Philipovna, but quite a different type.? All present exchanged looks of surprise. ?As lovely as WHO?? said Mrs. Epanchin. ?As NASTASIA PHILIPOVNA? Where have you seen Nastasia Philipovna? What Nastasia Philipovna?? The Idiot 141 of 1149 ?Gavrila Ardalionovitch showed the general her portrait just now.? ?How so? Did he bring the portrait for my husband?? ?Only to show it. Nastasia Philipovna gave it to Gavrila Ardalionovitch today, and the latter brought it here to show to the general.? ?I must see it!? cried Mr s. Epanchin. ?Where is the portrait? If she gave it to hi m, he must have it; and he is still in the study. He never leaves before four o?clock on Wednesdays. Send for Gavrila Ardalionovitch at once. No, I don?t long to see HIM so mu ch. Look here, dear prince, BE so kind, will you? Just step to the study and fetch this portrait! Say we want to look at it. Please do this for me, will you?? ?He is a nice fellow, but a little too simple,? said Adelaida, as the prince left the room. ?He is, indeed,? said Alexandra; ?almost laughably so at times.? Neither one nor the other seemed to give expression to her full thoughts. ?He got out of it very neat ly about our faces, though,? said Aglaya. He flattered us all round, even mamma.? ?Nonsense? cried the latter. ?He did not flatter me. It was I who found his appreciation flattering. I think you The Idiot 142 of 1149 are a great deal more foolish than he is. He is simple, of course, but also very knowing. Just like myself.? ?How stupid of me to speak of the portrait,? thought the prince as he entered the study, with a feeling of guilt at his heart, ?and yet, perhaps I was right after all.? He had an idea, unformed as yet, but a strange idea. Gavrila Ardalionovitch was still sitting in the study, buried in a mass of papers. He looked as though he did not take his salary from the public company, whose servant he was, for a sinecure. 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. ?Oh, curse it all,? he said; ?what on earth must you go blabbing for? You know nothing about the thing, and yet?idiot!? he added, muttering the last word to himself in irrepressible rage. ?I am very sorry; I was not thinking at the time. I merely said that Aglaya was al most as beautiful as Nastasia Philipovna.? Gania asked for further details; and the prince once more repeated the conversation. Gania looked at him with ironical contempt the while. The Idiot 143 of 1149 ?Nastasia Philipovna,? he began, and there paused; he was clearly much agitated and annoyed. The prince reminded him of the portrait. ?Listen, prince,? said Gania, as though an idea had just struck him, ?I wish to ask you a great favour, and yet I really don?t know?? He paused again, he was tryi ng to make up his mind to something, and was turning the matter over. The prince waited quietly. Once more Gania fixed him with intent and questioning eyes. ?Prince,? he began again, ?they are rather angry with me, in there, owing to a ci rcumstance which I need not explain, so that I do not care to go in at present without an invitation. I particularly wish to speak to Aglaya, but I have written a few words in case I shall not have the chance of seeing her? (here the prince observed a small note in his hand), ?and I do not know how to get my communication to her. Don?t you think you could undertake to give it to her at once, but only to her, mind, and so that no one else should see you give it? It isn?t much of a secret, but still?Well, will you do it?? ?I don?t quite like it,? replied the prince. ?Oh, but it is absolutely necessary for me,? Gania entreated. ?Believe me, if it were not so, I would not ask The Idiot 144 of 1149 you; how else am I to get it to her? It is most important, dreadfully important!? Gania was evidently much alarmed at the idea that the prince would not consent to take his note, and he looked at him now with an expression of absolute entreaty. ?Well, I will take it then.? ?But mind, nobody is to see!? cried the delighted Gania ?And of course I may rely on your word of honour, eh?? ?I won?t show it to anyone,? said the prince. ?The letter is not sealed?? continued Gania, and paused in confusion. ?Oh, I won?t read it,? said the prince, quite simply. He took up the portrait, and went out of the room. Gania, left alone, clutched his head with his hands. ?One word from her,? he said, ?one word from her, and I may yet be free.? He could not settle himself to his papers again, for agitation and excitement, but began walking up and down the room from corner to corner. The prince walked along, musing. He did not like his commission, and disliked the idea of Gania sending a note to Aglaya at all; but when he was two rooms distant from the drawing-room, where they all were, he stopped a The Idiot 145 of 1149 though recalling something; went to the window, nearer the light, and began to examine the portrait in his hand. He longed to solve the mystery of something in the face Nastasia Philipovna, someth ing which had struck him as he looked at the portrait for the first time; the impression had not left him. It was partly the fact of her marvellous beauty that struck him, and partly something else. There was a suggestion of immense pride and disdain in the face almost of hatred, and at the same time something confiding and very full of simplicity. The contrast aroused a deep sympathy in his heart as he looked at the lovely face. The blinding loveliness of it was almost intolerable, this pale thin face with its flaming eyes; it was a strange beauty. The prince gazed at it for a minute or two, then glanced around him, and hurrie dly 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. ?Gavrila Ardalionovitch begged me to give you this,? he said, handing her the note. Aglaya stopped, took the letter, and gazed strangely into the prince?s eyes. There was no confusion in her face; a little surprise, perhaps, but that was all. By her look she The Idiot 146 of 1149 seemed merely to challenge the prince to an explanation as to how he and Gania happene d to be connected in this matter. But her expression was perfectly cool and quiet, and even condescending. So they stood for a moment or two, confronting one another. At length a faint smile passed over her face, and she passed by him without a word. Mrs. Epanchin examined the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna for some little while, holding it critically at arm?s length. ?Yes, she is pretty,? she said at last, ?even very pretty. I have seen her twice, but only at a distance. So you admire this kind of beauty, do you?? she asked the prince, suddenly. ?Yes, I do?this kind.? ?Do you mean especially this kind?? ?Yes, especially this kind.? ?Why?? ?There is much suffering in this face,? murmured the prince, more as though talkin g to himself than answering the question. ?I think you are wandering a little, prince,? Mrs. Epanchin decided, after a lengthened survey of his face; and she tossed the portrait on to the table, haughtily. The Idiot 147 of 1149 Alexandra took it, and Adelaida came up, and both the girls examined the photograph. Just then Aglaya entered the room. ?What a power!? cried Adelaida suddenly, as she earnestly examined the portra it over her sister?s shoulder. ?Whom? What power?? asked her mother, crossly. ?Such beauty is real power,? said Adelaida. ?With such beauty as that one might overthrow the world.? She returned to her easel thoughtfully. Aglaya merely glanced at the portrait?frowned, and put out her underlip; then went and sat down on the sofa with folded hands. Mrs. Epanchin rang the bell. ?Ask Gavrila Ardalionovitch to step this way,? said she to the man who answered. ?Mamma!? cried Alexandra, significantly. ?I shall just say two words to him, that?s all,? said her mother, silencing all objection by her manner; she was evidently seriously put out. ?You see, prince, it is all secrets with us, just now?all secrets. It seems to be the etiquette of the house, for some reason or, other. Stupid nonsense, and in a matter which ought to be approached with all candour and open- heartedness. There is a marriage being talked of, and I don?t like this marriage?? The Idiot 148 of 1149 ?Mamma, what are you saying?? said Alexandra again, hurriedly. ?Well, what, my dear girl? As if you can possibly like it yourself? The heart is the great thing, and the rest is all rubbish?though one must hav e sense as well. Perhaps sense is really the great th ing. Don?t smile like that, Aglaya. I don?t contradict myself. A fool with a heart and no brains is just as unhappy as a fool with brains and no heart. I am one and you are th e other, and therefore both of us suffer, both of us are unhappy.? ?Why are you so unhappy, mother?? asked Adelaida, who alone of all the company seemed to have preserved her good temper and spirits up to now. ?In the first place, because of my carefully brought-up daughters,? said Mrs. Epanchin, cuttingly; ?and as that is the best reason I can give you we need not bother about any other at present. Enough of words, now! We shall see how both of you (I don?t c ount Aglaya) will manage your business, and whether you, most revered Alexandra Ivanovna, will be happy with your fine mate.? ?Ah!? she added, as Gania suddenly entered the room, ?here?s another marrying subject. How do you do?? she continued, in response to Gania?s bow; but she did not invite him to sit down. ?You are going to be married?? The Idiot 149 of 1149 ?Married? how?what marriage?? murmured Gania, overwhelmed with confusion. ?Are you about to take a wife? I ask,?if you prefer that expression.? ?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. Aglaya gazed coldly, intently , and composedly at him, without taking her eyes off his face, and watched his confusion. ?No? You say no, do you?? continued the pitiless Mrs. General. ?Very well, I shall remember that you told me this Wednesday morning, in answer to my question, that you are not going to be married. What day is it, Wednesday, isn?t it?? ?Yes, I think so!? said Adelaida. ?You never know the day of the week; what?s the day of the month?? ?Twenty-seventh!? said Gania. ?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 The Idiot 150 of 1149 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 su re of it. God sent you to me! Au revoir! Alexandra, come with me, my dear.? Mrs. Epanchin left the room. Gania?confused, annoyed, furious?took up his portrait, and turned to the prince with a nasty smile on his face. ?Prince,? he said, ?I am just going home. If you have not changed your mind as to living with us, perhaps you would like to come with me. You don?t know the address, I believe?? ?Wait a minute, prince,? sa id Aglaya, suddenly rising from her seat, ?do write something in my album first, will you? Father says you are a most talented caligraphist; I?ll bring you my book in a minute.? She left the room. ?Well, au revoir, prince,? sa id Adelaida, ?I must be going too.? She pressed the prince?s hand warmly, and gave him a friendly smile as she left the room. She did not so much as look at Gania. The Idiot 151 of 1149 ?This is your doing, prince,? said Gania, turning on the latter so soon as the others were all out of the room. ?This is your doing, sir! YOU have been telling them that I am going to be married!? He said this in a hurried whisper, his eyes flashing with rage and his face ablaze. ?You shameless tattler!? ?I assure you, you are under a delusion,? said the prince, calmly and politely. ?I did not even know that you were to be married.? ?You heard me talking about it, the general and me. You heard me say that everythi ng was to be settled today at Nastasia Philipovna?s, and you went and blurted it out here. You lie if you deny it. Who else could have told them Devil take it, sir, w ho could have told them except yourself? Didn?t the old woman as good as hint as much to me?? ?If she hinted to you who told her you must know best, of course; but I never said a word about it.? ?Did you give my note? Is there an answer?? interrupted Gania, impatiently. But at this moment Aglaya came back, and the prince had no time to reply. ?There, prince,? said she, ?there?s my album. Now choose a page and write me something, will you? There?s The Idiot 152 of 1149 a pen, a new one; do you mind a steel one? I have heard that you caligraphists don?t like steel pens.? Conversing with the prince, Aglaya did not even seem to notice that Gania was in the room. But while the prince was getting his pen ready, finding a page, and making his preparations to write, Gania came up to the fireplace where Aglaya was standing, to the right of the prince, and in trembling, broken accents said, almost in her ear: ?One word, just one word from you, and I?m saved.? The prince turned sharply round and looked at both of them. Gania?s face was full of real despair; he seemed to have said the words almost unconsciously and on the impulse of the moment. Aglaya gazed at him for some seconds with precisely the same composure and calm astonishment as she had shown a little while before, when the prince handed her the note, and it appeared t hat this calm surprise and seemingly absolute incomprehension of what was said to her, were more terribly overwhelming to Gania than even the most plainly expressed disdain would have been. ?What shall I write?? asked the prince. The Idiot 153 of 1149 ?I?ll dictate to you,? said Aglaya, coming up to the table. ?Now then, are you ready? Write, ?I never condescend to bargain!? Now put your name and the date. Let me see it.? The prince handed her the album. ?Capital! How beautifully you have written it! Thanks so much. Au revoir, prince. Wait a minute,?; she added, ?I want to give you something for a keepsake. Come with me this way, will you?? The prince followed her. Arrived at the dining-room, she stopped. ?Read this,? she said, handing him Gania?s note. The prince took it from h er hand, but gazed at her in bewilderment. ?Oh! I KNOW you haven?t read it, and that you could never be that man?s accomplic e. Read it, I wish you to read it.? The letter had evidently been written in a hurry: ?My fate is to be decided today? (it ran), ?you know how. This day I must give my word irrevocably. I have no right to ask your help, and I dare not allow myself to indulge in any hopes; but once you said just one word, and that word lighted up the night of my life, and became the beacon of my days. Say one more such word, and save me from utter ruin. Only tell me, ?break off the whole The Idiot 154 of 1149 thing!? and I will do so this very day. Oh! what can it cost you to say just this one word? In doing so you will but be giving me a sign of your sympathy for me, and of your pity; only this, only this; nothing more, NOTHING. I dare not indulge in any hope, because I am unworthy of it. But if you say but this word, I will take up my cross again with joy, and return once more to my battle with poverty. I shall meet the storm and be glad of it; I shall rise up with renewed strength. ?Send me back then this one word of sympathy, only sympathy, I swear to you; and oh! do not be angry with the audacity of despair, with the drowning man who has dared to make this last effort to save himself from perishing beneath the waters. ?G.L.? ?This man assures me,? said Aglaya, scornfully, when the prince had finished reading the letter, ?that the words ?break off everything? do not commit me to anything whatever; and himself gives me a written guarantee to that effect, in this letter. Ob serve how ingenuously he underlines certain words, and how crudely he glosses over his hidden thoughts. He must know that if he ?broke off everything,? FIRST, by himse lf, and without telling me a word about it or having the slightest hope on my account, The Idiot 155 of 1149 that in that case I should perhaps be able to change my opinion of him, and even accept his?friendship. He must know that, but his soul is such a wretched thing. He knows it and cannot make up his mind; he knows it and yet asks for guarantees. He cannot bring himself to TRUST, he wants me to give him hopes of myself before he lets go of his hundred t housand roubles. As to the ?former word? which he declares ?lighted up the night of his life,? he is simply an impudent liar; I merely pitied him once. But he is audacious and shameless. He immediately began to hope, at that very moment. I saw it. He has tried to catch me ever since; he is still fishing for me. Well, enough of this. Take the letter and give it back to him, as soon as you have left our hous e; not before, of course.? ?And what shall I tell him by way of answer?? ?Nothing?of course! That?s th e best answer. Is it the case that you are going to live in his house?? ?Yes, your father kindly recommended me to him.? ?Then look out for him, I warn you! He won?t forgive you easily, for taking back the letter.? Aglaya pressed the prince?s hand and left the room. Her face was serious and frowning; she did not even smile as she nodded good- bye to him at the door. The Idiot 156 of 1149 ?I?ll just get my parcel and we?ll go,? said the prince to Gania, as he re-entered the drawing-room. Gania stamped his foot with impatience. His face looked dark and gloomy with rage. At last they left the house behind them, the prince carrying his bundle. ?The answer?quick?the answer!? said Gania, the instant they were outside. ?What did she say? Did you give the letter?? The prince silent ly held out the note. Gania was struck motionless with amazement. ?How, what? my letter?? he cried. ?He never delivered it! I might have guessed it, oh! curse him! Of course she did not understand what I meant, naturally! Why-why- WHY didn?t you give her the note, you?? ?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.? ?How? When?? ?As soon as I finished writing in her album for her, and when she asked me to come out of the room with her (you heard?), we went into the dining-room, and she gave me your letter to read, and then told me to return it.? The Idiot 157 of 1149 ?To READ?? cried Gania, almost at the top of his voice; ?to READ, and you read it?? And again he stood like a log in the middle of the pavement; so amazed that his mouth remained open after the last word had left it. ?Yes, I have just read it.? ?And she gave it you to read herself?HERSELF?? ?Yes, herself; and you may believe me when I tell you that I would not have read it for anything without her permission.? Gania was silent for a minute or two, as though thinking out some problem. Suddenly he cried: ?It?s impossible, she cannot have given it to you to read! You are lying. You read it yourself!? ?I am telling you the truth ,? said the prince in his former composed tone of voice; ?and believe me, I am extremely sorry that the ci rcumstance should have made such an unpleasant impression upon you!? ?But, you wretched man, at least she must have said something? There must be SOME answer from her!? ?Yes, of course, she did say something!? ?Out with it then, damn it ! Out with it at once!? and Gania stamped his foot twice on the pavement. The Idiot 158 of 1149 ?As soon as I had finished reading it, she told me that you were fishing for her; that you wished to compromise her so far as to receive some hopes from her, trusting to which hopes you might b reak with the prospect of receiving a hundred thousand roubles. She said that if you had done this without bargaining with her, if you had broken with the money prospe cts without trying to force a guarantee out of her first, she might have been your friend. That?s all, I think. Oh no, when I asked her what I was to say, as I took the le tter, she replied that ?no answer is the best answer.? I think that was it. Forgive me if I do not use her exact expressions. I tell you the sense as I understood it myself.? Ungovernable rage and madness took entire possession of Gania, and his fury burst out without the least attempt at restraint. ?Oh! that?s it, is it!? he yelled. ?She throws my letters out of the window, does sh e! 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.? He twisted himself about wit h 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 The Idiot 159 of 1149 clearly counted the latter as a nonentity. But suddenly he seemed to have an idea, and recollected himself. ?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?? Up to this moment jealous y had not been one of his torments; now it suddenly gnawed at his heart. ?That is a thing I cannot undertake to explain,? replied the prince. Gania looked at him with angry contempt. ?Oh! I suppose the present she wished to make to you, when she took you into the dining-room, was her confidence, eh?? ?I suppose that was it; I cannot explain it otherwise?? ?But why, WHY? Devil take it, what did you do in there? Why did they fancy you? Look here, can?t you remember exactly what you said to them, from the very beginning? Can?t you remember?? ?Oh, we talked of a great many things. When first I went in we began to speak of Switzerland.? ?Oh, the devil take Switzerland!? ?Then about executions.? ?Executions?? The Idiot 160 of 1149 ?Yes?at least about one. Then I told the whole three years? story of my life, and the history of a poor peasant girl?? ?Oh, damn the peasant girl! go on, go on!? said Gania, impatiently. ?Then how Schneider told me about my childish nature, and?? ?Oh, CURSE Schneider and his dirty opinions! Go on.? ?Then I began to talk about faces, at least about the EXPRESSIONS of faces, and said that Aglaya Ivanovna was nearly as lovely as Nastasia Philipovna. It was then I blurted out about the portrait?? ?But you didn?t repeat what you heard in the study? You didn?t repeat that?eh?? ?No, I tell you I did NOT.? ?Then how did they?look h ere! Did Aglaya show my letter to the old lady?? ?Oh, there I can give you my fullest assurance that she did NOT. I was there all the while?she had no time to do it!? ?But perhaps you may not have observed it, oh, you damned idiot, you!? he shouted, quite beside himself with fury. ?You can?t even describe what went on.? The Idiot 161 of 1149 Gania having once descended to abuse, and receiving no check, very soon knew no bounds or limit to his licence, as is often the way in such cases. His rage so blinded him that he had not even been able to detect that this ?idiot,? whom he was abusing to such an extent, was very far from being slow of comprehension, and had a way of taking in an impression, and afterwards giving it out again, which was very un-idiotic indeed. But something a little unforeseen now occurred. ?I think I ought to tell y ou, Gavrila Ardalionovitch,? said the prince, suddenly, ?that though I once was so ill that I really was little better than an idiot, yet now I am almost recovered, and that, there fore, it is not altogether pleasant to be called an idiot to my face. Of course your anger is excusable, considering the treatment you have just experienced; but I must remind you that you have twice abused me rather rudely. I do not like this sort of thing, and especially so at the first time of meeting a man, and, therefore, as we happen to be at this moment standing at a crossroad, don?t you think we had better part, you to the left, homewards, and I to the right, here? I have twenty- five roubles, and I shall easily find a lodging.? Gania was much confused, and blushed for shame ?Do forgive me, prince!? he cried, suddenly changing his The Idiot 162 of 1149 abusive tone for one of great courtesy. ?For Heaven?s sake, forgive me! You see what a miserable plight I am in, but you hardly know anything of the fac ts of the case as yet. If you did, I am sure you would forgi ve me, at least partially. Of course it was inexcusable of me, I know, but?? ?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?? ?I am not going to let him go like this,? thought Gania, glancing angrily at the prince as they walked along. ? The fellow has sucked everything out of me, and now he takes off his mask? there?s somethin g more than appears, here we shall see. It shall all be as clear as water by tonight, everything!? But by this time they had reached Gania?s house. The Idiot 163 of 1149 VIII The flat occupied by Gania and his family was on the third floor of the house. It was reached by a clean light staircase, and consisted of se ven rooms, a nice enough lodging, and one would have thought a little too good for a clerk on two thousand roubles a year. But it was designed to accommodate a few lodgers on board terms, and had beer) taken a few months since, much to the disgust of Gania, at the urge nt request of his mother and his sister, Varvara Ardalionovna, who longed to do something to increase the family income a little, and fixed their hopes upon letting lodgings. Gania frowned upon the idea. He thought it i nfra dig, and did not quite like appearing in society afterwar ds?that society in which he had been accustomed to pose up to now as a young man of rather brilliant prospects. All these concessions and rebuffs of fortune, of late, had wounded his spirit severely, and his temper had become extremely irritable, his wrath being generally quite out of proportion to the cause. But if he had made up his mind to put up with this sort of life for a while, it was only on the plain understanding with his inner self that he would very soon change it all, and The Idiot 164 of 1149 have things as he chose again. Yet the very means by which he hoped to make this change threatened to involve him in even greater difficulties than he had had before. The flat was divided by a passage which led straight out of the entrance-hall. Along one side of this corridor lay the three rooms which were designed for the accommodation of the ?highly recommended? lodgers. Besides these three rooms there was another small one at the end of the passage, clos e to the kitchen, which was allotted to General Ivolgin, the nominal master of the house, who slept on a wide sofa, and was obliged to pass into and out of his room through the kitchen, and up or down the back stairs. Colia, Gania?s young brother, a school-boy of thirteen, shared this room with his father. He, too, had to sleep on an old sofa, a narrow, uncomfortable thing with a torn rug over it; his chief duty being to look after his father, who needed to be watched more and more every day. The prince was given the middle room of the three, the first being occupied by one Ferdishenko, while the third was empty. But Gania first conducted the prince to the family apartments. These consisted of a ?salon,? which became the The Idiot 165 of 1149 dining-room when required; a drawing-room, which was only a drawing-room in the morning, and became Gania?s study in the evening, and his bedroom at night; and lastly Nina Alexandrovna?s and Varvara?s bedroom, a small, close chamber which they shared together. In a word, the whole place was confined, and a ?tight fit? for the party. Gania used to grind his teeth with rage over the state of affairs; though he was anxious to be dutiful and polite to his mother. However, it was very soon apparent to anyone coming into the house, that Gania was the tyrant of the family. Nina Alexandrovna and her daughter were both seated in the drawing-room, engaged in knitting, and talking to a visitor, Ivan Petrovitch Ptitsin. The lady of the house appeared to be a woman of about fifty years of age, thin-faced, and with black lines under the eves. 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 pa rticularly sincere nature. In spite of her sorrowful expre ssion, she gave the idea of possessing considerable firmness and decision. The Idiot 166 of 1149 Her dress was modest and simple to a degree, dark and elderly in style; but both her face and appearance gave evidence that she had seen better days. Varvara was a girl of some twenty-three summers, of middle height, thin, but possessing a face which, without being actually beautiful, had the rare quality of charm, and might fascinate even to the extent of passionate regard. She was very like her mother: she even dressed like her, which proved that she had no taste for smart clothes. The expression of her grey eyes was merry and gentle, when it was not, as lately, t oo full of thought and anxiety. The same decision and firmness was to be observed in her face as in her mother?s, but her strength seemed to be more vigorous than that of Nina Alexandrovna. She was subject to outbursts of temper, of which even her brother was a little afraid. The present visitor, Ptitsin, was also afraid of her. This was a young fellow of something under thirty, dressed plainly, but neatly. His manners were good, but rather ponderously so. His dark beard bore evidence to the fact that he was not in any government employ. He could speak well, but preferred silence. On the whole he made a decidedly agreeable impression. He was clearly attracted by Varvara, and made no secret of his feelings. She trusted The Idiot 167 of 1149 him in a friendly way, but had not shown him any decided encouragement as yet, which fact did not quell his ardour in the least. Nina Alexandrovna was very fond of him, and had grown quite confidential with him of late. Ptitsin, as was well known, was engaged in the business of lending out money on good security, and at a good rate of interest. He was a great friend of Gania?s. After a formal introduction by Gania (who greeted his mother very shortly, took no notice of his sister, and immediately marched Ptitsi n out of the room), Nina Alexandrovna addressed a few kind words to the prince and forthwith requested Colia, who had just appeared at the door, to show him to the ? middle room.? Colia was a nice-looking boy. His expression was simple and confiding, and hi s manners were very polite and engaging. ?Where?s your luggage?? he asked, as he led the prince away to his room. ?I had a bundle; it?s in the entrance hall.? ?I?ll bring it you directly. We only have a cook and one maid, so I have to help as much as I can. Varia looks after things, generally, and loses her temper over it. Gania says you have only just arrived from Switzerland? ? The Idiot 168 of 1149 ?Yes.? ?Is it jolly there?? ?Very.? ?Mountains?? ?Yes.? ?I?ll go and get your bundle.? Here Varvara joined them. ?The maid shall bring your bed-linen directly. Have you a portmanteau?? ?No; a bundle?your brother has just gone to the hall for it.? ?There?s nothing there exce pt this,? said Colia, returning at this moment . ?Where did you put it?? ?Oh! but that?s all I have,? said the prince, taking it. ?Ah! I thought perhaps Ferdishenko had taken it.? ?Don?t talk nonsense,? said Varia, severely. She seemed put out, and was only just polite with the prince. ?Oho!? laughed the boy, ?you can be nicer than that to ME, you know?I?m not Ptitsin!? ?You ought to be whipped, Colia, you silly boy. If you want anything? (to the prince) ?please apply to the servant. We dine at half-past four. Y ou can take your dinner with us, or have it in your room, just as you please. Come along, Colia, don?t disturb the prince.? The Idiot 169 of 1149 At the door they met Gania coming in. ?Is father in?? he asked. Colia whispered something in his ear and went out. ?Just a couple of words, pr ince, if you?ll excuse me. Don?t blab over THERE about w hat you may see here, or in this house as to all t hat about Aglaya and me, you know. Things are not altogether pleasant in this establishment?devil take it all! You?ll see. At all events keep your tongue to yourself for TODAY.? ?I assure you I ?blabbed? a great deal less than you seem to suppose,? said the prince, with some annoyance. Clearly the relations between Gania and himself were by no means improving. ?Oh I well; I caught it quite hot enough today, thanks to you. However, I forgive you.? ?I think you might fairly remember that I was not in any way bound, I had no reason to be silent about that portrait. You never asked me not to mention it.? ?Pfu! what a wretched room this is?dark, and the window looking into the yar d. Your coming to our house is, in no respect, opportune. However, it?s not MY affair. I don?t keep the lodgings.? Ptitsin here looked in and beckoned to Gania, who hastily left the room, in s pite of the fact that he had The Idiot 170 of 1149 evidently wished to say something more and had only made the remark about the room to gain time. The prince had hardly had time to wash and tidy himself a little when the door opened once more, and another figure appeared. This was a gentleman of about thirty, tall, broadshouldered, and red-haire d; his face was red, too, and he possessed a pair of th ick lips, a wide nose, small eyes, rather bloodshot, and with an ironical expression in them; as though he were p erpetually winking at someone. His whole appearance gave one the idea of impudence; his dress was shabby. He opened the door just enough to let his head in. His head remained so placed for a few seconds while he quietly scrutinized the room; the door then opened enough to admit his body; bu t still he did not enter. He stood on the threshold and examined the prince carefully. At last he gave the door a final shove, entered, approached the prince, took his hand and seated himself and the owner of the room on two chairs side by side. ?Ferdishenko,? he said, gazing intently and inquiringly into the prince?s eyes. ?Very well, what next?? said the latter, almost laughing in his face. ?A lodger here,? continued the other, staring as before. The Idiot 171 of 1149 ?Do you wish to make acquaintance?? asked the prince. ?Ah!? said the visitor, passing his fingers through his hair and sighing. He then looked over to the other side of the room and around it. ?Got any money?? he asked, suddenly. ?Not much.? ?How much?? ?Twenty-five roubles.? ?Let?s see it.? The prince took his banknot e out and showed it to Ferdishenko. The latter unfolded it and looked at it; then he turned it round and examined the other side; then he held it up to the light. ?How strange that it should have browned so,? he said, reflectively. ?These twenty-five rouble notes brown in a most extraordinary way, wh ile other notes often grow paler. Take it.? The prince took his note. Ferdishenko rose. ?I came here to warn you,? he said. ?In the first place, don?t lend me any money, for I shall certainly ask you to.? ?Very well.? ?Shall you pay here?? ?Yes, I intend to.? ?Oh! I DON?T intend to. Thanks. I live here, next door to you; you noticed a room, did you? Don?t come to The Idiot 172 of 1149 me very often; I shall see you here quite often enough. Have you seen the general?? ?No.? ?Nor heard him?? ?No; of course not.? ?Well, you?ll both hear and see him soon; he even tries to borrow money from me. Avis au lecteur. Good-bye; do you think a man can possibly live with a name like Ferdishenko?? ?Why not?? ?Good-bye.? And so he departed. The prince found out afterwards that this gentleman made it his business to amaze people with his originality and wit, bu t that it did not as a rule ?come off.? He even produced a bad impression on some people, which grieved him so rely; but he did not change his ways for all that. As he went out of the prin ce?s room, he collided with yet another visitor coming in. Ferdishenko took the opportunity of making several warning gestures to the prince from behind the new arrival?s back, and left the room in conscious pride. This next arrival was a tall red-faced man of about fifty- five, with greyish hair and whiskers, and large eyes which The Idiot 173 of 1149 stood out of their sockets. His appearance would have been distinguished had it not been that he gave the idea of being rather dirty. He was dressed in an old coat, and he smelled of vodka when he came near. His walk was effective, and he clearly did hi s best to appear dignified, and to impress people by his manner. This gentleman now approached the prince slowly, and with a most courteous smile; silently took his hand and held it in his own, as he examined the prince?s features as though searching for familiar traits therein. ??Tis he, ?tis he!? he said at last, quietly, but with much solemnity. ?As though he were alive once more. I heard the familiar name-the dear familiar name?and, oh. I how it reminded me of the irrevoc able past?Prince Muishkin, I believe ?? ?Exactly so.? ?General Ivolgin?retired and unfortunate. May I ask your Christian and generic names?? ?Lef Nicolaievitch.? ?So, so?the son of my old, I may say my childhood?s friend, Nicolai Petrovitch.? ?My father?s name was Nicolai Lvovitch.? ?Lvovitch,? repeated the ge neral without the slightest haste, and with perfect confidenc e, just as though he had The Idiot 174 of 1149 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. ?I carried you in my arms as a baby,? he observed. ?Really?? asked the prince. ?Why, it?s twenty years since my father died.? ?Yes, yes?twenty years and three months. We were educated together; I went straight into the army, and he? ? ?My father went into the army, too. He was a sub- lieutenant in the Vasiliefsky regiment.? ?No, sir?in the Bielomirsky; he changed into the latter shortly before his death. I was at his bedside when he died, and gave him my blessing for eternity. Your mother?? The general paused, as though overcome with emotion. ?She died a few months later, from a cold,? said the prince. ?Oh, not cold?believe an o ld man?not from a cold, but from grief for her prince. Oh?your mother, your mother! heigh-ho! Youth?yout h! Your father and I?old friends as we were?nearly murdered each other for her sake.? The prince began to be a little incredulous. The Idiot 175 of 1149 ?I was passionately in love with her when she was engaged? engaged to my friend. The prince noticed the fact and was furious. He came and woke me at seven o?clock one morning. I rise and dress in amazement; silence on both sides. I understand it all. He takes a couple of pistols out of his pocket?across a handkerchief? without witnesses. Why invite witnesses when both of us would be walking in eternity in a couple of minutes? The pistols are loaded; we stretch the handkerchief and stand opposite one another. We aim the pistols at each other?s hearts. Suddenly tears start to our eyes, our hands shake; we weep, we embrace?the battle is one of self-sacrifice now! The prince shouts, ?She is yours;? I cry, ?She is yours?? in a word, in a word?You?ve come to live with us, hey?? ?Yes?yes?for a while, I think,? stammered the prince. ?Prince, mother begs you to come to her,? said Colia, appearing at the door. The prince rose to go, but the general once more laid his hand in a friendly manner on his shoulder, and dragged him down on to the sofa. ?As the true friend of your father, I wish to say a few words to you,? he began. ?I have suffered?there was a catastrophe. I suffered without a trial; I had no trial. Nina The Idiot 176 of 1149 Alexandrovna my wife, is an excellent woman, so is my daughter Varvara. We have to let lodgings because we are poor?a dreadful, unheard-of come- down for us?for me, who should have been a governor-general; but we are very glad to have YOU, at all events. Meanwhile there is a tragedy in the house.? The prince looked inqu iringly at the other. ?Yes, a marriage is being arranged?a marriage between a questionable woman and a young fellow who might be a flunkey. They wish to bring this woman into the house where my wife and daughter reside, but while I live and breathe she shall never enter my doors. I shall lie at the threshold, and she shall trample me underfoot if she does. I hardly talk to Gania now, and av oid him as much as I can. I warn you of this beforehand, but you cannot fail to observe it. But you are the son of my old friend, and I hope?? ?Prince, be so kind as to co me to me for a moment in the drawing- room,? said Nina Alexandrovna herself, appearing at the door. ?Imagine, my dear,? cried the general, ?it turns out that I have nursed the prince on my knee in the old days.? His wife looked searchingly at him, and glanced at the prince, but said nothing. The prince rose and followed her; but The Idiot 177 of 1149 hardly had they reached the drawing-room, and Nina Alexandrovna had begun to talk hurriedly, when in came the general. She immediately relapsed into silence. The master of the house may have observed this, but at all events he did not take any notice of it; he was in high good humour. ?A son of my old friend, dear,? he cried; ?surely you must remember Prince Nicolai Lvovitch? You saw him at?at Tver.? ?I don?t remember any Nicolai Lvovitch, Was that your father?? she inquired of the prince. ?Yes, but he died at Elizabethgrad, not at Tver,? said the prince, rather timidly. ?So Pavlicheff told me.? ?No, Tver,? insisted the general; ?he removed just before his death. You were very small and cannot remember; and Pavlicheff, though an excellent fellow, may have made a mistake.? ?You knew Pavlicheff then?? ?Oh, yes?a wonderful fellow; but I was present myself. I gave him my blessing.? ?My father was just about to be tried when he died,? said the prince, ?although I never knew of what he was accused. He died in hospital.? The Idiot 178 of 1149 ?Oh! it was the Kolpakoff business, and of course he would have been acquitted.? ?Yes? Do you know that for a fact?? asked the prince, whose curiosity was aroused by the general?s words. ?I should think so indeed!? cried the latter. ?The court- martial came to no decision. It was a mysterious, an impossible business, one mi ght say! Captain Larionoff, commander of the company, had died; his command was handed over to the prince for the moment. Very well. This soldier, Kolpakoff, stole some leather from one of his comrades, intending to sell it, and spent the money on drink. Well! The prince?you understand that what follows took place in the p resence of the sergeant-major, and a corporal?the prince rated Kolpakoff soundly, and threatened to have him flogged. Well, Kolpakoff went back to the barracks, lay down on a camp bedstead, and in a quarter of an hour was dead: you quite understand? It was, as I said, a strange, almost impossible, affair. In due course Kolpakoff was buried; the prince wrote his report, the deceased?s name was removed from the roll. All as it should be, is it not? But exa ctly three months later at the inspection of the brigade, the man Kolpakoff was found in the third company of the se cond battalion of infantry, Novozemlianski division, just as if nothing had happened!? The Idiot 179 of 1149 ?What?? said the prince, much astonished. ?It did not occur?it?s a mistake!? said Nina Alexandrovna quickly, looking, at the prince rather anxiously. ?Mon mari se trompe,? she added, speaking in French. ?My dear, ?se trompe? is ea sily said. Do you remember any case at all like it? Everybody was at their wits? end. I should be the first to say ?qu?on se trompe,? but unfortunately I was an eye- wit ness, and was also on the commission of inquiry. Everyth ing proved that it was really he, the very same soldier Kolpakoff who had been given the usual military funeral to the sound of the drum. It is of course a most curi ous case?nearly an impossible one. I recognize that ... but?? ?Father, your dinner is ready,? said Varvara at this point, putting her head in at the door. ?Very glad, I?m particularly hungry. Yes, yes, a strange coincidence?almost a psychological?? ?Your soup?ll be cold; do come.? ?Coming, coming ? said the general. ?Son of my old friend?? he was heard muttering as he went down the passage. ?You will have to excuse very much in my husband, if you stay with us,? said Nina Alexandrovna; ?but he will The Idiot 180 of 1149 not disturb you often. He dines alone. Everyone has his little peculiarities, you know, and some people perhaps have more than those who are most pointed at and laughed at. One thing I must beg of you-if my husband applies to you for payment for board and lodging, tell him that you have already paid me. Of course anything paid by you to the general would be as fully settled as if paid to me, so far as you are concerned; but I wish it to be so, if you please, for convenience? sake. What is it, Varia?? Varia had quietly entered the room, and was holding out the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna to her mother. Nina Alexandrovna started, and examined the photograph intently, gazing at it long and sadly. At last she looked up inquiringly at Varia. ?It?s a present from herself to him,? said Varia; ?the question is to be finally decided this evening.? ?This evening!? repeated her mother in a tone of despair, but softly, as though to herself. ?Then it?s all settled, of course, and there?s no hope left to us. She has anticipated her answer by the p resent of her portrait. Did he show it you himself?? she added, in some surprise. ?You know we have hardly spoken to each other for a whole month. Ptitsin told me all about it; and the photo was lying under the table, and I picked it up.? The Idiot 181 of 1149 ?Prince,? asked Nina Alexandrovna, ?I wanted to inquire whether you have known my son long? I think he said that you had only arrived today from somewhere.? The prince gave a short narrative of what we have heard before, leaving out the greater part. The two ladies listened intently. ?I did not ask about Gania out of curiosity,? said the elder, at last. ?I wish to know how much you know about him, because he said just now that we need not stand on ceremony with you. What, exactly, does that mean?? At this moment Gania and Ptitsin entered the room together, and Nina Alexandrovna immediately became silent again. The prince remained seated next to her, but Varia moved to the other end of the room; the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna remained lying as before on the work- table. Gania observed it there, and with a frown of annoyance snatched it up and threw it across to his writing-table, which stood at the other end of the room. ?Is it today, Gania?? asked Nina Alexandrovna, at last. ?Is what today?? cried the former. Then suddenly recollecting himself, he turned sharply on the prince. ?Oh,? he growled, ?I see, you are h ere, that explains it! Is it a disease, or what, that you can?t hold your tongue? Look here, understand once for all, prince?? The Idiot 182 of 1149 ?I am to blame in this, Gania?no one else,? said Ptitsin. Gania glanced inquiringly at the speaker. ?It?s better so, you know, Gania?especially as, from one point of view, the matter may be considered as settled,? said Ptitsin; and sitting down a little way from the table he began to study a paper covered with pencil writing. Gania stood and frowned, he expected a family scene. He never thought of apologizing to the prince, however. ?If it?s all settled, Gania, then of course Mr. Ptitsin is right,? said Nina Alexandrovna. ?Don?t frown. You need not worry yourself, Gania; I shall ask you no questions. You need not tell me anything you don?t like. I assure you I have quite submitted to your will.? She said all this, knitting away the while as though perfectly calm and composed. Gania was surprised, but cautiously kept silence and looked at his mother, hoping that she would express herself more clearly. Nina Alexandrovna observed his cautiousness and added, with a bitter smile: ?You are still suspicious, I s ee, and do not believe me; but you may be quite at your ease. There shall be no more tears, nor questions?not from my side, at all events. All I wish is that you may be happy, you know that. I have The Idiot 183 of 1149 submitted to my fate; but my heart will always be with you, whether we remain united, or whether we part. Of course I only answer for myself?you can hardly expect your sister?? ?My sister again,? cried Gania, looking at her with contempt and almost hate. ?Look here, mother, I have already given you my word that I shall always respect you fully and absolutely, and so shall everyone else in this house, be it who it may, who shall cross this threshold.? Gania was so much relieved t hat he gazed at his mother almost affectionately. ?I was not at all afraid for myself, Gania, as you know well. It was not for my own sake that I have been so anxious and worried all this time! They say it is all to be settled to-day. What is to be settled?? ?She has promised to tell me tonight at her own house whether she consents or not,? replied Gania. ?We have been silent on th is subject for three weeks,? said his mother, ?and it was better so; and now I will only ask you one question. How can she give her consent and make you a present of her portrait when you do not love her? How can such a?such a?? ?Practised hand?eh?? The Idiot 184 of 1149 ?I was not going to express myself so. But how could you so blind her?? 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: ?There you are, mother, you are always like that. You begin by promising that there are to be no reproaches or insinuations or questions, and here you are beginning them at once. We had bett er drop the subject?we had, really. I shall never leave y ou, mother; any other man would cut and run from such a sister as this. See how she is looking at me at this moment! Besides, how do you know that I am blinding Nastasi a Philipovna? As for Varia, I don?t care?she can do just as she pleases. There, that?s quite enough!? Gania?s irritation increased with every word he uttered, as he walked up and down the room. These conversations always touched the family sores before long. ?I have said already that the moment she comes in I go out, and I shall keep my word,? remarked Varia. ?Out of obstinacy? shouted Gania. ?You haven?t married, either, thanks to your obstinacy. Oh, you needn?t frown at me, Varvara! You can go at once for all I care; I The Idiot 185 of 1149 am sick enough of your company. What, you are going to leave us are you, too?? he cried, turning to the prince, who was rising from his chair. Gania?s voice was full of the most uncontrolled and uncontrollable irritation. The prince turned at the door to say something, but perceiving in Gania?s expression that there was but that one drop wanting to make the cup overflow, he changed his mind and left the room without a word. A few minutes later he was aware from the noisy voices in the drawing room, that the c onversation had become more quarrelsome than ever after his departure. He crossed the salon and the entrance-hall, so as to pass down the corridor into his ow n room. As he came near the front door he heard someone outside vainly endeavouring to ring the bell, which was evidently broken, and only shook a little, without emitting any sound. The prince took down the chain and opened the door. He started back in amazement?for there stood Nastasia Philipovna. He knew her at once from her photograph. Her eyes blazed with anger as she looked at him. She quickly pushed by him into the hall, shouldering him out The Idiot 186 of 1149 of her way, and said, furiously, as she threw off her fur cloak: ?If you are too lazy to mend your bell, you should at least wait in the hall to let people in when they rattle the bell handle. There, now, you?ve dropped my fur cloak? dummy!? Sure enough the cloak was lying on the ground. Nastasia had thrown it off her towards the prince, expecting him to catch it, but the prince had missed it. ?Now then?announce me, quick!? 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. ?Now then, where are you taking my cloak to? Ha, ha, ha! Are you mad?? The prince turned and came back, more confused than ever. When she burst out laughing, he smiled, but his tongue could not form a word as yet. At first, when he had opened the door and saw her standing before him, he had become as pale as death; but now the red blood had rushed back to his cheeks in a torrent. The Idiot 187 of 1149 ?Why, what an idiot it is!? cried Nastasia, stamping her foot with irritation. ?Go on, do! Whom are you going to announce?? ?Nastasia Philipovna,? murmured the prince. ?And how do you know that?? she asked him, sharply. ?I have never seen you before!? ?Go on, announce me?what?s that noise?? ?They are quarrelling,? said the prince, and entered the drawing- room, just as matters in there had almost reached a crisis. Nina Alexandrovna had forgotten that she had ?submitted to everything!? She was defending Varia. Ptitsin was taking her part, too. No t that Varia was afraid of standing up for herself. She was by no means that sort of a girl; but her brother was becoming ruder and more intolerable every moment. Her us ual practice in such cases as the present was to say not hing, but stare at him, without taking her eyes off his face for an instant. This manoeuvre, as she well knew, could drive Gania distracted. Just at this moment the door opened and the prince entered, announcing: ?Nastasia Philipovna!? The Idiot 188 of 1149 IX Silence immediately fell on the room; all looked at the prince as though they neither understood, nor hoped to understand. Gania was motionless with horror. Nastasia?s arrival was a most unexpected and overwhelming event to all part ies. In the first place, she had never been before. Up to now she had been so haughty that she had never even asked Gania to introduce her to his parents. Of late she had not so much as mentioned them. Gania was partly glad of this; but still he had put it to her debit in the account to be settled after marriage. He would have borne anything from her rather than this visit. But one thing seemed to him quite clear-her visit now, and the present of her portrait on this particular day, pointed out plainly enough which way she intended to make her decision! The incredulous amazement with which all regarded the prince did not last long, for Nastasia herself appeared at the door and passed in, pushing by the prince again. ?At last I?ve stormed the citadel! Why do you tie up your bell?? she said, merrily, as she pressed Gania?s hand, The Idiot 189 of 1149 the latter having rushed up to her as soon as she made her appearance. ?What are you looking so upset about? Introduce me, please!? The bewildered Gania introduced her first to Varia, and both women, before shaking hands, exchanged looks of strange import. Nastasia, however, smiled amiably; but Varia did not try to look amiable, and kept her gloomy expression. She did not even vouchsafe the usual courteous smile of etiquette. Gania darted a terrible glance of wrath at her for this, but Nina Alexandrovna, mended matters a little when Gania introduced her at last. Hardly, however, had the old lady begun about her ? highly gratified feelings,? and so on, when Nastasia left her, and flounced into a chair by Gania?s side in the corner by the window, and cried: ?Where?s y our study? and where are the?the lodgers? You do take in lodgers, don?t you?? Gania looked dreadfully put out, and tried to say something in reply, but Nastasia interrupted him: ?Why, where are you going to squeeze lodgers in here? Don?t you use a study? Does this sort of thing pay?? she added, turning to Nina Alexandrovna. ?Well, it is troublesome, rather,? said the latter; ?but I suppose it will ?pay? pretty well. We have only just begun, however?? The Idiot 190 of 1149 Again Nastasia Philipovna did not hear the sentence out. She glanced at Gania, and cried, laughing, ?What a face! My goodness, what a face you have on at this moment!? Indeed, Gania did not look in the least like himself. His bewilderment and his alarmed perplexity passed off, however, and his lips now twitched with rage as he continued to stare evilly at his laughing guest, while his countenance became absolutely livid. There was another witness, who, though standing at the door motionless and be wildered himself, still managed to remark Gania?s death-like pallor, and the dreadful change that had come over his face. This witness was the prince, who now advanced in alarm and muttered to Gania: ?Drink some water, and don?t look like that!? It was clear that he came out with these words quite spontaneously, on the spur of the moment. But his speech was productive of much?for it appeared that all. Gania?s rage now overflowed upon the prince. He seized him by the shoulder and gazed with an intensity of loathing and revenge at him, but said nothing?as though his feelings were too strong to permit of words. The Idiot 191 of 1149 General agitation prevailed. Nina Alexandrovna gave a little cry of anxiety; Ptitsin took a step forward in alarm; Colia and Ferdishenko stood stock still at the door in amazement;?only Varia remained coolly watching the scene from under her eyelashes. She did not sit down, but stood by her mother with folded hands. However, Gania recollected himself almost immediately. He let go of the prince and burst out laughing. ?Why, are you a doctor, prince, or what?? he asked, as naturally as possible. ?I decl are you quite frightened me! Nastasia Philipovna, let me introduce this interesting character to you? though I have only known him myself since the morning.? Nastasia gazed at the prince in bewilderment. ?Prince? He a Prince? Why, I took him for the footman, just now, and sent him in to announce me! Ha, ha, ha, isn?t that good!? ?Not bad that, not bad at a ll!? put in Ferdishenko, ?se non e vero?? ?I rather think I pitched into you, too, didn?t I? Forgive me?do! Who is he, did you say? What prince? Muishkin?? she added, addressing Gania. ?He is a lodger of ours,? explained the latter. The Idiot 192 of 1149 ?An idiot!??the prince distinctly heard the word half whispered from behind him. This was Ferdishenko?s voluntary information for Nastasia?s benefit. ?Tell me, why didn?t you put me right when I made such a dreadful mistake just now?? continued the latter, examining the prince from head to foot without the slightest ceremony. She awaited the answer as though convinced that it would be so foolish that she must inevitably fail to restrain her laughter over it. ?I was astonished, seeing you so suddenly?? murmured the prince. ?How did you know who I was? Where had you seen me before? And why were you so struck dumb at the sight of me? What was there so overwhelming about me?? ?Oho! ho, ho, ho!? cried Ferdishenko. ?NOW then, prince! My word, what things I would say if I had such a chance as that! My goodness, prince?go on!? ?So should I, in your place, I?ve no doubt!? laughed the prince to Ferdishenko; then continued, addressing Nastasia: ?Your portrait struck me very forcibly this morning; then I was talking about you to the Epanchins; and then, in the train, before I reached Petersburg, Parfen Rogojin told me a good deal about you; and at the very The Idiot 193 of 1149 moment that I opened the door to you I happened to be thinking of you, when?there you stood before me!? ?And how did you recognize me?? ?From the portrait!? ?What else?? ?I seemed to imagine you exactly as you are?I seemed to have seen you somewhere.? ?Where?where?? ?I seem to have seen your eyes somewhere; but it cannot be! I have not seen y ou?I never was here before. I may have dreamed of you, I don?t know.? The prince said all this with manifest effort?in broken sentences, and with many drawings of breath. He was evidently much agitated. Na stasia Philipovna looked at him inquisitively, but did not laugh. ?Bravo, prince!? cried Ferdishenko, delighted. At this moment a loud voic e from behind the group which hedged in the prin ce and Nastasia Philipovna, divided the crowd, as it were, and before them stood the head of the family, General Ivolgin. He was dressed in evening clothes; his moustache was dyed. This apparition was too much for Gania. Vain and ambitious almost to morbidness, he had had much to put up with in the last two months , and was seeking feverishly The Idiot 194 of 1149 for some means of enabling himself to lead a more presentable kind of existence. At home, he now adopted an attitude of absolute cynicism, but he could not keep this up before Nastasia Philipovna, although he had sworn to make her pay after marriage for all he suffered now. He was experiencing a last humiliation, the bitterest of all, at this moment?the humiliation of blushing for his own kindred in his own house. A question flashed through his mind as to whether the game was really worth the candle. For that had happened at this moment, which for two months had been his nightmare; which had filled his soul with dread and shame?the meeting between his father and Nastasia Philipovna. He had often tried to imagine such an event, but had found the picture too mortifying and exasperating, and had quietly dropped it. Very likely he anticipated far worse things than was at all necessary; it is often so with vain p ersons. He had long since determined, therefore, to get his father out of the way, anywhere, before his marriage, in order to avoid such a meeting; but when Nastasia entered the room just now, he had been so overwhelmed with astonishment, that he had not thought of his father, and had made no arrangements to keep him out of the way. And now it was too late?there he was, and got up, too, in a dress coat and The Idiot 195 of 1149 white tie, and Nastasia in the very humour to heap ridicule on him and his family circle; of this last fact, he felt quite persuaded. What else had she come for? There were his mother and his sister sitting before her, and she seemed to have forgotten their very existence already; and if she behaved like that, he thought, she must have some object in view. Ferdishenko led the general up to Nastasia Philipovna. ?Ardalion Alexandrovitch Ivolgin,? said the smiling general, with a low bow of great dignity, ?an old soldier, unfortunate, and the father of this family; but happy in the hope of including in that family so exquisite?? He did not finish his sentence, for at this moment Ferdishenko pushed a chair up from behind, and the general, not very firm on his legs, at this post-prandial hour, flopped into it backwards. It was always a difficult thing to put this warrior to confusion, and his sudden descent left him as composed as before. He had sat down just opposite to Nastasia, whose fingers he now took, and raised to his lips with great elegance, and much courtesy. The general had once belonged to a very select circle of society, but he had been turned out of it two or three years since on account of certai n weaknesses, in which he The Idiot 196 of 1149 now indulged with all the less restraint; but his good manners remained with him to this day, in spite of all. Nastasia Philipovna seemed delighted at the appearance of this latest arrival, of whom she had of course heard a good deal by report. ?I have heard that my son?? began Ardalion Alexandrovitch. ?Your son, indeed! A nice papa you are! YOU might have come to see me any how, without compromising anyone. Do you hide yourself , or does your son hide you?? ?The children of the nineteenth century, and their parents?? began the general, again. ?Nastasia Philipovna, will you excuse the general for a moment? Someone is inquiring for him,? said Nina Alexandrovna in a loud voice, interrupting the conversation. ?Excuse him? Oh no, I have wished to see him too long for that. Why, what bu siness can he have? He has retired, hasn?t he? You won?t leave me, general, will you?? ?I give you my word that he shall come and see you? but he?he needs rest just now.? The Idiot 197 of 1149 ?General, they say you require rest,? said Nastasia Philipovna, with the melancholy face of a child whose toy is taken away. Ardalion Alexandrovitch immediately did his best to make his foolish position a great deal worse. ?My dear, my dear!? he said, solemnly and reproachfully, looking at his wife, with one hand on his heart. ?Won?t you leave the room, mamma?? asked Varia, aloud. ?No, Varia, I shall sit it out to the end.? Nastasia must have overhear d both question and reply, but her vivacity was not in the least damped. On the contrary, it seemed to increase. She immediately overwhelmed the general once more with questions, and within five minutes that gentleman was as happy as a king, and holding forth at the top of his voice, amid the laughter of almost all who heard him. Colia jogged the prince?s arm. ?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. ?Oh yes, I knew General Epanchin well,? General Ivolgin was saying at this moment; ?he and Prince Nicolai The Idiot 198 of 1149 Ivanovitch Muishkin?whose son I have this day embraced after an absence of twenty years?and I, were three inseparables. Alas one is in the grave, torn to pieces by calumnies and bullets; anot her is now before you, still battling with calumnies and bullets?? ?Bullets?? cried Nastasia. ?Yes, here in my chest. I received them at the siege of Kars, and I feel them in bad weather now. And as to the third of our trio, Epanchin, of course after that little affair with the poodle in the railway carriage, it was all UP between us.? ?Poodle? What was that? And in a railway carriage? Dear me,? said Nastasia, thought fully, as though trying to recall something to mind. ?Oh, just a silly, little occurrence, really not worth telling, about Princess Bielokonski?s governess, Miss Smith, and?oh, it is really not worth telling!? ?No, no, we must have it!? cried Nastasia merrily. ?Yes, of course,? said Ferdishenko. ?C?est du nouveau.? ?Ardalion,? said Nina Alexandrovitch, entreatingly. ?Papa, you are wanted!? cried Colia. ?Well, it is a silly little story, in a few words,? began the delighted general. ?A couple of years ago, soon after the new railway was opened, I had to go somewhere or other The Idiot 199 of 1149 on business. Well, I took a first-class ticket, sat down, and began to smoke, or rather CONTINUED to smoke, for I had lighted up before. I was alone in the carriage. Smoking is not allowed, but is not prohibited either; it is half allowed?so to speak, winked at. I had the window open.? ?Suddenly, just before the whistle, in came two ladies with a little poodle, and sat down opposite to me; not bad-looking women; one was in light blue, the other in black silk. The poodle, a beauty with a silver collar, lay on light blue?s knee. They looked haughtily about, and talked English together. I took no notice, just went on smoking. I observed that the ladies were getting angry?over my cigar, doubtless. One looked at me through her tortoise- shell eyeglass. ?I took no notice, because they never said a word. If they didn?t like the cigar, wh y couldn?t they say so? Not a word, not a hint! Suddenly, and without the very slightest suspicion of warning, ?light blue? seizes my cigar from between my fingers, and, wheugh! out of the window with it! Well, on flew the tr ain, and I sat bewildered, and the young woman, tall and fair, and rather red in the face, too red, glared at me with flashing eyes. The Idiot 200 of 1149 ?I didn?t say a word, but with extreme courtesy, I may say with most refined courtesy, I reached my finger and thumb over towards the poodle, took it up delicately by the nape of the neck, and chucked it out of the window, after the cigar. The train went flying on, and the poodle?s yells were lost in the distance.? ?Oh, you naughty man!? cried Nastasia, laughing and clapping her hands like a child. ?Bravo!? said Ferdishenko. Pt itsin laughed too, though he had been very sorry to see the general appear. Even Colia laughed and said, ?Bravo!? ?And I was right, truly right,? cried the general, with warmth and solemnity, ?for if cigars are forbidden in railway carriages, poodles are much more so.? ?Well, and what did the lady do?? asked Nastasia, impatiently. ? She?ah, that?s where all the mischief of it lies!? replied Ivolgin, frowning. ?Without a word, as it were, of warning, she slapped me on the cheek! An extraordinary woman!? ?And you?? The general dropped his eyes , and elevated his brows; shrugged his shoulders, tightened his lips, spread his hands, and remained silent. At last he blurted out: The Idiot 201 of 1149 ?I lost my head!? ?Did you hit her?? ?No, oh no!?there was a great flare-up, but I didn?t hit her! I had to struggle a little, purely to defend myself; but the very devil was in the busine ss. It turned out that ?light blue? was an Englishwoman, governess or something, at Princess Bielokonski?s, and the other woman was one of the old-maid princesses Bielokonski. Well, everybody knows what great friends the princess and Mrs. Epanchin are, so there was a pretty kettle of fish. All the Bielokonskis went into mourning for the poodle. Six princesses in tears, and the Englishwoman shrieking! ?Of course I wrote an apology, and called, but they would not receive either me or my apology, and the Epanchins cut me, too!? ?But wait,? said Nastasia. ?How is it that, five or six days since, I read exactly the same story in the paper, as happening between a Frenchman and an English girl? The cigar was snatched away exactly as you describe, and the poodle was chucked out of the window after it. The slapping came off, too, as in y our case; and the girl?s dress was light blue!? The general blushed dreadfu lly; Colia blushed too; and Ptitsin turned hastily away. Ferdishenko was the only one The Idiot 202 of 1149 who laughed as gaily as before. As to Gania, I need not say that he was miserable; he stood dumb and wretched and took no notice of anybody. ?I assure you,? said the gen eral, ?that exactly the same thing happened to myself!? ?I remembered there was some quarrel between father and Miss Smith, the Bielokonski?s governess,? said Colia. ?How very curious, point for point the same anecdote, and happening at different ends of Europe! Even the light blue dress the same,? continued the pitiless Nastasia. ?I must really send you the paper.? ?You must observe,? insisted the general, ?that my experience was two years earlier.? ?Ah! that?s it, no doubt!? Nastasia Philipovna laughed hysterically. ?Father, will you hear a word from me outside!? said Gania, his voice shaking with agitation, as he seized his father by the shoulder. His eyes shone with a blaze of hatred. At this moment there was a t errific bang at the front door, almost enough to break it down. Some most unusual visitor must have arrived. Colia ran to open. The Idiot 203 of 1149 X THE entrance-hall suddenly became full of noise and people. To judge from the sounds which penetrated to the drawing-room, a number of peop le had already come in, and the stampede continued. Several voices were talking and shouting at once; others were talking and shouting on the stairs outside; it was evidently a most extraordinary visit that was about to take place. Everyone exchanged startled glances. Gania rushed out towards the dining-room, but a number of men had already made their way in, and met him. ?Ah! here he is, the Judas!? cried a voice which the prince recognized at once. ?How d?ye do, Gania, you old blackguard?? ?Yes, that?s the man!? said another voice. There was no room for doubt in the prince?s mind: one of the voices was Rogojin?s, and the other Lebedeff?s. 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 The Idiot 204 of 1149 caps. None of them were quite drunk, but all appeared to De considerably excited. They seemed to need each other?s support, morally, before they dared come in; not one of them would have entered alone but with th e rest each one was brave enough. Even Rogojin entered rather cautiously at the head of his troop; but he was evidently preoccupied. He appeared to be gloomy and morose, and had clearly come with some end in view. All the rest were merely chorus, brought in to support the chie f character. Besides Lebedeff there was the dandy Zalesheff, who came in without his coat and hat, two or three others followed his example; the rest were more uncouth. They included a couple of young merchants, a man in a great-coat, a medical student, a little Pole, a small fat man who laughed continuously, and an enormously tall stout one who apparently put great faith in the strength of his fi sts. A couple of ?ladies? of some sort put their heads in at the front door, but did not dare come any farther. Colia promptly banged the door in their faces and locked it. ?Hallo, Gania, you blackguard! You didn?t expect Rogojin, eh?? said the latter, entering the drawing-room, and stopping before Gania. The Idiot 205 of 1149 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. ?I suppose it is true, then!? he muttered to himself, and his face took on an expression of despair. ?So that?s the end of it! Now you, sir, will you answer me or not?? he went on suddenly, gazing at Gania with ineffable malice. ?Now then, you?? He panted, and could hardly speak for agitation. He advanced into the room me chanically; but perceiving Nina Alexandrovna and Varia he became more or less embarrassed, in spite of his excitement. His followers entered after him, and all paus ed a moment at sight of the ladies. Of course their modesty was not fated to be long- lived, but for a moment they were abashed. Once let them begin to shout, however, and nothing on earth should disconcert them. ?What, you here too, prince?? said Rogojin, absently, but a little surprised all the same ? Still in your gaiters, eh?? He sighed, and forgot the prince next moment, and his wild eyes wandered over to Nastasia again, as though attracted in that direction by some magnetic force. The Idiot 206 of 1149 Nastasia looked at the new arrivals with great curiosity. Gania recollected himself at last. ?Excuse me, sirs,? he said, loudly, ?but what does all this mean?? He glared at the advancing crowd generally, but addressed his remarks especially to their captain, Rogojin. ?You are not in a stable, gentlemen, though you may think it?my mother and sister are present.? ?Yes, I see your mother and sister,? muttered Rogojin, through his teeth; and Lebedeff seemed to feel himself called upon to second the statement. ?At all events, I must request you to step into the salon,? said Gania, his rage rising quite out of proportion to his words, ?and then I shall inquire?? ?What, he doesn?t know me!? said Rogojin, showing his teeth disagreeably. ?He doesn?t recognize Rogojin!? He did not move an inch, however. ?I have met you somewhere, I believe, but?? ?Met me somewhere, pfu! Why, it?s only three months since I lost two hundred rouble s of my father?s money to you, at cards. The old fellow died before he found out. Ptitsin knows all about it. Wh y, I?ve only to pull out a three-rouble note and show it to you, and you?d crawl on your hands and knees to the other end of the town for it; that?s the sort of man you are. Why, I?ve come now, at The Idiot 207 of 1149 this moment, to buy you up! Oh, you needn?t think that because I wear these boots I have no money. I have lots of money, my beauty,?enough to buy up you and all yours together. So I shall, if I like to! I?ll buy you up! I will!? he yelled, apparently growing more and more intoxicated and excited.? Oh, Nastasia Philipovna! don?t turn me out! Say one word, do! Are you going to marry this man, or not?? 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. He awaited the reply in deadly anxiety. Nastasia Philipovna gazed at him with a haughty, ironical. expression of face; but when she glanced at Nina Alexandrovna and Varia, and from them to Gania, she changed her tone, all of a sudden. ?Certainly not; what are you thinking of? What could have induced you to ask such a question?? she replied, quietly and seriously, and even, apparently, with some astonishment. ?No? No?? shouted Rogojin, almost out of his mind with joy. ?You are not going to, after all? And they told me?oh, Nastasia Philipovna?th ey said you had promised to marry him, HIM! As if you COULD do it!?him? pooh! I don?t mind saying it to everyone? I?d buy him The Idiot 208 of 1149 off for a hundred roubles, any day pfu! Give him a thousand, or three if he likes, poor devil? and he?d cut and run the day before his wedding, and leave his bride to me! Wouldn?t you, Gania, you blackguard? You?d take three thousand, wouldn?t you? Here?s the money! Look, I?ve come on purpose to pay you off and get your receipt, formally. I said I?d buy you up, and so I will.? ?Get out of this, you drunken beast!? cried Gania, who was red and white by turns. Rogojin?s troop, who were only waiting for an excuse, set up a howl at this. Lebedeff stepped forward and whispered something in Parfen?s ear. ?You?re right, clerk,? said the latter, ?you?re right, tipsy spirit?you?re right!?Nastasia Philipovna,? he added, looking at her like some l unatic, harmless generally, but suddenly wound up to a pitch of audacity, ?here are eighteen thousand roubles, and?and you shall have more?.? Here he threw a packet of bank- notes tied up in white paper, on the table before her, not daring to say all he wished to say. ?No-no-no!? muttered Lebedeff, clutching at his arm. He was clearly aghast at the largeness of the sum, and thought a far smaller amount should have been tried first. The Idiot 209 of 1149 ?No, you fool?you don?t know whom you are dealing with?and it appears I am a fool, too!? said Parfen, trembling beneath the flashing glance of Nastasia. ?Oh, curse it all! What a fool I was to listen to you!? he added, with profound melancholy. Nastasia Philipovna, observing his woe-begone expression, suddenly burst out laughing. ?Eighteen thousand roubles, for me? Why, you declare yourself a fool at once,? she said, with impudent familiarity, as she rose from the sofa and prepared to go. Gania watched the whole scene with a sinking of the heart. ?Forty thousand, then?forty thousand roubles instead of eighteen! Ptitsin and another have promised to find me forty thousand roubles by se ven o?clock tonight. Forty thousand roubles?paid down on the nail!? The scene was growing more and more disgraceful; but Nastasia Philipovna continued to laugh and did not go away. Nina Alexandrovna and Varia had both risen from their places and were waiting, in silent horror, to see what would happen. Varia?s eyes were all ablaze with anger; but the scene had a different effect on Nina Alexandrovna. She paled and trembled, and looked more and more like fainting every moment. The Idiot 210 of 1149 ?Very well then, a HUNDRED thousand! a hundred thousand! paid this very day. Ptitsin! find it for me. A good share shall stick to your fingers?come!? ?You are mad!? said Ptitsin, coming up quickly and seizing him by the hand. ?You?re drunk?the police will be sent for if you don?t look out. Think where you are.? ?Yes, he?s boasting like a drunkard,? added Nastasia, as though with the sole intention of goading him. ?I do NOT boast! You shall have a hundred thousand, this very day. Ptitsin, get th e 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. ?Come, come; what?s all this?? cried General Ivolgin, suddenly and angrily, coming close up to Rogojin. The unexpectedness of this sally on the part of the hitherto silent old man caused some laughter among the intruders. ?Halloa! what?s this now?? laughed Rogojin. ?You come along with me, old fellow! You shall have as much to drink as you like.? ?Oh, it?s too horrible!? cried poor Colia, sobbing with shame and annoyance. ?Surely there must be someone among all of you here who will turn this shameless creature out of the room?? The Idiot 211 of 1149 cried Varia, suddenly. She was shaking and trembling with rage. ?That?s me, I suppose. I?m the shameless creature!? cried Nastasia Philipovna, with amused indifference. ?Dear me, and I came?like a fool, as I am ?to invite them over to my house for the evening! Look how your sister treats me, Gavrila Ardalionovitch.? For some moments Gania stood as if stunned or struck by lightning, after his sister?s speech. But seeing that Nastasia Philipovna was really about to leave the room this time, he sprang at Varia and seized her by the arm like a madman. ?What have you done?? he hissed, glaring at her as though he would like to annihilate her on the spot. He was quite beside himself, and could hardly articulate his words for rage. ?What have I done? Where are you dragging me to?? ?Do you wish me to beg pardon of this creature because she has come here to insult our mother and disgrace the whole household, you low, base wretch?? cried Varia, looking back at her brother with proud defiance. A few moments passed as they stood there face to face, Gania still holding her wrist tightly. Varia struggled The Idiot 212 of 1149 once?twice?to get free; then could restrain herself no longer, and spat in his face. ?There?s a girl for you!? cried Nastasia Philipovna. ?Mr. Ptitsin, I congratulate you on your choice.? Gania lost his head. Forgetful of everything he aimed a blow at Varia, which would in evitably have laid her low, but suddenly another hand caught his. Between him and Varia stood the prince. ?Enough?enough!? said the latter, with insistence, but all of a tremble with excitement. ?Are you going to cross my path for ever, damn you!? cried Gania; and, loosening his hold on Varia, he slapped the prince?s face with all his force. Exclamations of horror arose on all sides. The prince grew pale as death; he gazed into Gania?s eyes with a strange, wild, reproachful look; his lips trembled and vainly endeavoured to form some words; then his mouth twisted into an incongruous smile. ?Very well?never mind about me; but I shall not allow you to strike her!? he said, at last, quietly. Then, suddenly, he could bear it no longer, and covering his face with his hands, turned to the wall, and murmured in broken accents: ?Oh! how ashamed you will be of this afterwards!? The Idiot 213 of 1149 Gania certainly did look dreadfully abashed. Colia rushed up to comfort the prince, and after him crowded Varia, Rogojin and all, even the general. ?It?s nothing, it?s nothing!? said the prince, and again he wore the smile which was so inconsistent with the circumstances. ?Yes, he will be ashamed!? cried Rogojin. ?You will be properly ashamed of yourself for having injured such a? such a sheep? (he could not find a better word). ?Prince, my dear fellow, leave this and come away with me. I?ll show you how Rogojin shows his affection for his friends.? Nastasia Philipovna was also much impressed, both with Gania?s action and with the prince?s reply. Her usually thoughtful, pale face, which all this while had been so little in harmony with the jests and laughter which she had seemed to put on for the occasion, was now evidently agitated by new feelings, though she tried to conceal the fact and to look as though she were as ready as ever for jesting and irony. ?I really think I must have seen him somewhere!? she murmured seriously enough. ?Oh, aren?t you ashamed of yourself?aren?t you ashamed? Are you really the so rt of woman you are trying The Idiot 214 of 1149 to represent yourself to be? Is it possible?? The prince was now addressing Nastasia, in a tone of reproach, which evidently came from his very heart. Nastasia Philipovna looked surprised, and smiled, but evidently concealed somethin g beneath her smile and with some confusion and a glance at Gania she left the room. However, she had not reached the outer hall when she turned round, walked quickly up to Nina Alexandrovna, seized her hand and lifted it to her lips. ?He guessed quite right. I am not that sort of woman,? she whispered hurriedly, flushing red all over. Then she turned again and left the room so quickly that no one could imagine what she had come back for. All they saw was that she said something to Nina Alexandrovna in a hurried whisper, and seemed to kiss her hand. Varia, however, both saw and heard all, and watched Nastasia out of the room with an expression of wonder. Gania recollected himself in time to rush after her in order to show her out, but she had gone. He followed her to the stairs. ?Don?t come with me,? she cried, ?Au revoir, till the evening?do you hear? Au revoir!? He returned thoughtful and confused; the riddle lay heavier than ever on his soul. He was troubled about the The Idiot 215 of 1149 prince, too, and so bewildered that he did not even observe Rogojin?s rowdy band crowd past him and step on his toes, at the door as they went out. They were all talking at once. Rogojin went ahead of the others, talking to Ptitsin, and apparently insisting vehemently upon something very important ?You?ve lost the game, Gania? he cried, as he passed the latter. Gania gazed after him uneasily, but said nothing. The Idiot 216 of 1149 XI THE prince now left the room and shut himself up in his own chamber. Colia followed him almost at once, anxious to do what he cou ld to console him. The poor boy seemed to be already so attached to him that he could hardly leave him. ?You were quite right to go away!? he said. ?The row will rage there worse than ever now; and it?s like this every day with us? and all through that Nastasia Philipovna.? ?You have so many sources of trouble here, Colia,? said the prince. ?Yes, indeed, and it is all our own fault. But I have a great friend who is much worse off even than we are. Would you like to know him?? ?Yes, very much. Is he one of your school-fellows?? ?Well, not exactly. I will tell you all about him some day?. What do you think of Nastasia Philipovna? She is beautiful, isn?t she? I had ne ver seen her before, though I had a great wish to do so. She fascinated me. I could forgive Gania if he were to marry her for love, but for money! Oh dear! that is horrible!? The Idiot 217 of 1149 ?Yes, your brother does not attract me much.? ?I am not surprised at that. After what you ... But I do hate that way of looking at things! Because some fool, or a rogue pretending to be a fool, st rikes a man, that man is to be dishonoured for his whole life, unless he wipes out the disgrace with blood, or makes his assailant beg forgiveness on his knees! I think that so very absurd and tyrannical. Lermontoff?s Bal Masque is based on that idea?a stupid and unnatural one, in my opinion; but he was hardly more than a child when he wrote it.? ?I like your sister very much.? ?Did you see how she spat in Gania?s face! Varia is afraid of no one. But you did no t follow her example, and yet I am sure it was not through cowardice. Here she comes! Speak of a wolf and you see his tail! I felt sure that she would come. She is very generous, though of course she has her faults.? Varia pounced upon her brother. ?This is not the place for you,? said she. ?Go to father. Is he plaguing you, prince?? ?Not in the least; on the contrary, he interests me.? ?Scolding as usual, Varia! It is the worst thing about her. After all, I believe fat her may have started off with The Idiot 218 of 1149 Rogojin. No doubt he is sorry now. Perhaps I had better go and see what he is doing,? added Colia, running off. ?Thank God, I have got mother away, and put her to bed without another scene ! Gania is worried?and ashamed?not without reason! What a spectacle! I have come to thank you once more, prince, and to ask you if you knew Nastasia Philipovna before ?No, I have never known her.? ?Then what did you mean, when you said straight out to her that she was not really ?like that?? You guessed right, I fancy. It is quite possible she was not herself at the moment, though I cannot fathom her meaning. Evidently she meant to hurt and insult us. I have heard curious tales about her before now, but if she came to invite us to her house, why did she behave so to my mother? Ptitsin knows her very well; he says he could not understand her today. With Rogojin, too! No one with a spark of self- respect could have talked like that in the house of her... Mother is extremely vexed on your account, too... ?That is nothing!? said the prince, waving his hand. ?But how meek she was when you spoke to her!? ?Meek! What do you mean?? ?You told her it was a shame for her to behave so, and her manner changed at once; she was like another person. The Idiot 219 of 1149 You have some influence over her, prince,? added Varia, smiling a little. The door opened at this point, and in came Gania most unexpectedly. He was not in the least disco ncerted to see Varia there, but he stood a moment at the door, and then approached the prince quietly. ?Prince,? he said, with feeling, ?I was a blackguard. Forgive me!? His face gave evidence of suffering. The prince was considerably amaze d, and did not reply at once. ?Oh, come, forgive me, forgive me!? Gania insisted, rather impatiently. ?If you like, I?ll kiss your hand. There!? The prince was touched; he took Gania?s hands, and embraced him heartily, while each kissed the other. ?I never, never thought you were like that,? said Muishkin, drawing a deep breath. ?I thought you?you weren?t capable of?? ?Of what? Apologizing, eh? And where on earth did I get the idea that you were an idiot? You always observe what other people pass by unnoticed; one could talk sense to you, but?? ?Here is another to whom you should apologize,? said the prince, pointing to Varia. The Idiot 220 of 1149 ?No, no! they are all enemies! I?ve tried them often enough, believe me,? and Gania turned his back on Varia with these words. ?But if I beg you to make it up?? said Varia. ?And you?ll go to Nastasia Philipovna?s this evening?? ?If you insist: but, judge for yourself, can I go, ought I to go?? ?But she is not that sort of woman, I tell you!? said Gania, angrily. ?She was only acting.? ?I know that?I know that; but what a part to play! And think what she must take YOU for, Gania! I know she kissed mother?s hand, and all that, but she laughed at you, all the same. All this is not good enough for seventy- five thousand roubles, my de ar boy. You are capable of honourable feelings still, and that?s why I am talking to you so. Oh! DO take care what you are doing! Don?t you know yourself that it will end badly, Gania?? So saying, and in a state of violent agitation, Varia left the room. ?There, they are all like that,? said Gania, laughing, ?just as if I do not know all about it much better than they do.? He sat down with these words, evidently intending to prolong his visit. The Idiot 221 of 1149 ?If you know it so well,? said the prince a little timidly, ?why do you choose all this worry for the sake of the seventy-five thousand, which, you confess, does not cover it?? ?I didn?t mean that,? said Gania; ?but while we are upon the subject, let me hear your opinion. Is all this worry worth seventy-five thousand or not? ?Certainly not.? ?Of course! And it would be a disgrace to marry so, eh?? ?A great disgrace.? ?Oh, well, then you may know that I shall certainly do it, now. I shall certainly marry her. I was not quite sure of myself before, but now I am. Don?t say a word: I know what you want to tell me?? ?No. I was only going to say that what surprises me most of all is your extraordinary confidence.? ?How so? What in?? ?That Nastasia Philipovna will a ccept you, and that the question is as good as settled; and secondly, that even if she did, you would be able to pocket the money. Of course, I know very little about it, but that?s my view. When a man marries for money it often happens that the wife keeps the money in her own hands.? The Idiot 222 of 1149 ?Of course, you don?t know all; but, I assure you, you needn?t be afraid, it won?t be like that in our case. There are circumstances,? said Gania, rather excitedly. ?And as to her answer to me, there?s no doubt about that. Why should you suppose she will refuse me?? ?Oh, I only judge by what I see. Varvara Ardalionovna said just now?? ?Oh she?they don?t know anything about it! Nastasia was only chaffing Rogojin. I wa s alarmed at first, but I have thought better of it now; she was simply laughing at him. She looks on me as a fool because I show that I meant her money, and doesn? t realize that there are other men who would deceive her in far worse fashion. I?m not going to pretend anything, and you?ll see she?ll marry me, all right. If she likes to live quietly, so she shall; but if she gives me any of her nonsense, I shall leave her at once, but I shall keep the money. I?m not going to look a fool; that?s the first thing, not to look a fool.? ?But Nastasia Philipovna seems to me to be such a SENSIBLE woman, and, as such, why should she run blindly into this business? That?s what puzzles me so,? said the prince. ?You don?t know all, you see; I tell you there are things?and besides, I?m sure that she is persuaded that I The Idiot 223 of 1149 love her to distraction, and I give you my word I have a strong suspicion that she loves me, too?in her own way, of course. She thinks she will be able to make a sort of slave of me all my life; but I shall prepare a little surprise for her. I don?t know whether I ought to be confidential with you, prince; but, I assure you, you are the only decent fellow I have come across. I have not spoken so sincerely as I am doing at this moment for years. There are uncommonly few honest people about, prince; there isn?t one honester than Ptitsin, he?s the best of the lot. Are you laughing? You don?t know, perhaps, that blackguards like honest people, and being one myself I like you. WHY am I a blackguard? Tell me honestly, now. They all call me a blackguard because of her, and I have got into the way of thinking myself one. That?s what is so bad about the business.? ?I for one shall never think you a blackguard again,? said the prince. ?I confess I had a p oor opinion of you at first, but I have been so joyfully surprised about you just now; it?s a good lesson for me. I shall never judge again without a thorough trial. I see now that you are riot only not a blackguard, but are not even qu ite spoiled. I see that you are quite an ordinary man, not original in the least degree, but rather weak.? The Idiot 224 of 1149 Gania laughed sarcastically, but said nothing. The prince, seeing that he did not quite like the last remark, blushed, and was silent too. ?Has my father asked you for money?? asked Gania, suddenly. ?No.? ?Don?t give it to him if he does. Fancy, he was a decent, respectable man once! He was received in the best society; he was not always the liar he is now. Of course, wine is at the bottom of it all; but he is a good deal worse than an innocent liar now. Do you know that he keeps a mistress? I can?t understand how mother is so long- sufferring. Did he tell you the story of the siege of Kars? Or perhaps the one about his g rey horse that talked? He loves, to enlarge on these absurd histories.? And Gania burst into a fit of laughter. Suddenly he turned to the prince and asked: ?Why are you looking at me like that?? ?I am surprised to see you laugh in that way, like a child. You came to make friends with me again just now, and you said, ?I will kiss your hand, if you like,? just as a child would have said it. And then, all at once you are talking of this mad project?of these seventy-five thousand roubles! It all seems so absurd and impossible.? ?Well, what conclusion have you reached?? The Idiot 225 of 1149 ?That you are rushing madly into the undertaking, and that you would do well to thin k it over again. It is more than possible that Varvara Ardalionovna is right.? ?Ah! now you begin to moralize! I know that I am only a child, very well,? replied Gani a impatiently. ?That is proved by my having this conversation with you. It is not for money only, prince, that I am rushing into this affair,? he continued, hardly master of his words, so closely had his vanity been touched. ?If I reckoned on that I should certainly be deceived, for I am still too weak in mind and character. I am obeying a passion, an impulse perhaps, because I have but one aim, one that overmasters all else. You imagine that once I am in possession of these seventy-five thousand rouble s, I shall rush to buy a carriage... No, I shall go on wearing the old overcoat I have worn for three years, and I shall give up my club. I shall follow the example of men who have made their fortunes. When Ptitsin was seve nteen he slept in the street, he sold pen-knives, and began with a copeck; now he has sixty thousand roubles, but to get them, what has he not done? Well, I shall be spared such a hard beginning, and shall start with a little capita l. In fifteen years people will say, ?Look, that?s Ivolgin, the king of the Jews!? You say that I have no originality. Now mark this, prince? there The Idiot 226 of 1149 is nothing so offensive to a man of our time and race than to be told that he is wanting in originality, that he is weak in character, has no particular talent, and is, in short, an ordinary person. You have not even done me the honour of looking upon me as a rogue. Do you know, I could have knocked you down for that just now! You wounded me more cruelly than Epanchin, who thinks me capable of selling him my wife! Observe, it was a perfectly gratuitous idea on his part, seeing there has never been any discussion of it between us! This has exasperated me, and I am determined to make a fortune! I will do it! Once I am rich, I shall be a genius, an extremely original man. One of the vilest and most hateful th ings connected with money is that it can buy even talent; and will do so as long as the world lasts. You will say that this is childish?or romantic. Well, that will be all the better for me, but the thing shall be done. I will carry it through. He laughs most, who laughs last. Why does Ep anchin insult me? Simply because, socially, I am a nobody. However, enough for the present. Colia has put his nose in to tell us dinner is ready, twice. I?m dining out. I shall come and talk to you now and then; you shall be comfortable enough with us. They are sure to make you one of the family. I think you and I will either be great friends or enemies. Look here The Idiot 227 of 1149 now, supposing I had kissed your hand just now, as I offered to do in all sincerity, should I have hated you for it afterwards?? ?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. ?Oho, how careful one has to be with you, prince! Haven?t you put a drop of poison in that remark now, eh? By the way?ha, ha, ha!? I forgot to ask, was I right in believing that you were a good deal struck yourself with Nastasia Philipovna ?Ye-yes.? ?Are you in love with her?? ?N-no.? ?And yet you flush up as red as a rosebud! Come?it?s all right. I?m not going to laugh at you. Do you know she is a very virtuous woman? Be lieve it or not, as you like. You think she and Totski? not a bit of it, not a bit of it! Not for ever so long! Au revoir!? Gania left the room in great good humour. The prince stayed behind, and meditated alone for a few minutes. At length, Colia popped his head in once more. The Idiot 228 of 1149 ?I don?t want any dinner, thanks, Colia. I had too good a lunch at General Epanchin?s.? Colia came into the room and gave the prince a note; it was from the general and was carefully sealed up. It was clear from Colia?s face how painful it was to him to deliver the missive. The prince read it, rose, and took his hat. ?It?s only a couple of yards,? said Colia, blushing. ?He?s sitting there over his bottle?and how they can give him credit, I cannot understand. Don?t tell mother I brought you the note, prince; I have sworn not to do it a thousand times, but I?m always so sorry for him. Don?t stand on ceremony, give him some trifle, and let that end it.? ?Come along, Colia, I want to see your father. I have an idea,? said the prince. The Idiot 229 of 1149 XII Colia took the prince to a public-house in the Litaynaya, not far off. In one of the side rooms there sat at a table?looking like one of the regular guests of the establishment?Ardalion Alexandrovitch, with a bottle before him, and a newspaper on his knee. He was waiting for the prince, and no sooner did the latter appear than he began a long harangue about so mething or other; but so far gone was he that the prince could hardly understand a word. ?I have not got a ten-rouble note,? said the prince; ?but here is a twenty-five. Change it and give me back the fifteen, or I shall be left without a farthing myself.? ?Oh, of course, of course; and you quite understand that I?? ?Yes; and I have another request to make, general. Have you ever been at Nastasia Philipovna?s?? ?I? I? Do you mean me? Often, my friend, often! I only pretended I had not in order to avoid a painful subject. You saw today, you were a witne ss, that I did all that a kind, an indulgent father could do. Now a father of altogether another type shall step into the scene. You shall The Idiot 230 of 1149 see; the old soldier shall lay bare this intrigue, or a shameless woman will force her way into a respectable and noble family.? ?Yes, quite so. I wished to ask you whether you could show me the way to Nastasia Philipovna?s tonight. I must go; I have business with her; I was not invited but I was introduced. Anyhow I am rea dy to trespass the laws of propriety if only I can get in somehow or other.? ?My dear young friend, you have hit on my very idea. It was not for this rubbish I asked you to come over here? (he pocketed the money, however, at this point), ?it was to invite your alliance in the campaign against Nastasia Philipovna tonight. How well it sounds, ?General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin.? That?ll fetch her, I think, eh? Capital! We?ll go at nine; there?s time yet.? ?Where does she live?? ?Oh, a long way off, near the Great Theatre, just in the square there?It won?t be a large party.? The general sat on and on. He had ordered a fresh bottle when the prince arrive d; this took him an hour to drink, and then he had another, and another, during the consumption of which he told pretty nearly the whole story of his life. The prince wa s in despair. He felt that though he had but applied to this miserable old drunkard The Idiot 231 of 1149 because he saw no other way of getting to Nastasia Philipovna?s, yet he had been very wrong to put the slightest confidence in such a man. At last he rose and declared that he would wait no longer. The general rose too, drank the last drops that he could squeeze out of the bo ttle, and staggered into the street. Muishkin began to despair. He could not imagine how he had been so foolish as to trust this man. He only wanted one thing, and that was to get to Nastasia Philipovna?s, even at the cost of a certain amount of impropriety. But now the scandal threatened to be more than he had bargained for. By this time Ardalion Alexandrovitch was quite intoxicated, and he kept his companion listening while he discoursed eloquently and pathetically on subjects of all kinds, interspersed with torrents of recrimination against the members of his family. He insisted that all his troubles were caused by their bad conduct, and time alone would put an end to them. At last they reached the Litaynaya. The thaw increased steadily, a warm, unhealthy wind blew through the streets, vehicles splashed through the mud, and the iron shoes of horses and mules rang on the paving stones. Crowds of The Idiot 232 of 1149 melancholy people plodded wearily along the footpaths, with here and there a drunken man among them. ?Do you see those brightly-lighted windows?? said the general. ?Many of my old comrades-in-arms live about here, and I, who served longer, and suffered more than any of them, am walking on foot to the house of a woman of rather questionable reputation! A man, look you, who has thirteen bullets on his breast! ... You don?t believe it? Well, I can assure you it was entirely on my account that Pirogoff telegraphed to Paris, and left Sebastopol at the greatest risk during the siege. Nelaton, the Tuileries surgeon, demanded a safe conduct, in the name of science, into the besieged city in order to attend my wounds. The government knows all about it. ?That?s the Ivolgin with thirteen bullets in him!? That ?s how they speak of me.... Do you see that house, prince ? One of my old friends lives on the first floor, with his large family. In this and five other houses, three overlooking Nevsky, two in the Morskaya, are all that remain of my personal friends. Nina Alexandrovna gave them up long ago, but I keep in touch with them still... I may say I find refreshment in this little coterie, in thus meeting my old acquaintances and subordinates, who worship me still, in spite of all. General Sokolovitch (by the way, I have not called on him lately, The Idiot 233 of 1149 or seen Anna Fedorovna)... You know, my dear prince, when a person does not receive company himself, he gives up going to other people?s houses involuntarily. And yet ... well ... you look as if you didn?t believe me.... Well now, why should I not present the son of my old friend and companion to this delightful family?General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin? You will s ee a lovely girl?what am I saying?a lovely girl? No, indeed, two, three! Ornaments of this city and of society: beauty, education, culture?the woman question?poetry?everything! Added to which is the fact t hat each one will have a dot of at least eighty thousand roubles. No bad thing, eh? ... In a word I absolutely must introduce you to them: it is a duty, an obligation. General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin. Tableau!? ?At once? Now? You must have forgotten ... ? began the prince. ?No, I have forgotten nothing. Come! This is the house?up this magnificent staircase. I am surprised not to see the porter, but .... it is a holiday ... and the man has gone off ... Drunken fool! Why have they not got rid of him? Sokolovitch owes all th e happiness he has had in the service and in his private life to me, and me alone, but ... here we are.? The Idiot 234 of 1149 The prince followed quietly, making no further objection for fear of irritating the old man. At the same time he fervently hoped that General Sokolovitch and his family would fade away like a mirage in the desert, so that the visitors could escape, by merely returning downstairs. But to his horror he saw that General Ivolgin was quite familiar with the house, and really seemed to have friends there. At every step he named some topographical or biographical detail that left nothing to be desired on the score of accuracy. When they arrived at last, on the first floor, and the general turned to ring the bell to the right, the prince decided to run away, but a curious incident stopped him momentarily. ?You have made a mistake, general,? said he. ? The name on the door is Koulakoff, and you were going to see General Sokolovitch.? ?Koulakoff ... Koulakoff means nothing. This is Sokolovitch?s flat, and I am ri nging at his door.... What do I care for Koulakoff? ... Here comes someone to open.? In fact, the door opened directly, and the footman in formed the visitors that the family were all away. ?What a pity! What a pity! It?s just my luck!? repeated Ardalion Alexandrovitch over and over again, in regretful tones. ? When your master and mistress return, my man, The Idiot 235 of 1149 tell them that General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin desired to present themselves, and that they were extremely sorry, excessively grieved ...? Just then another person belonging to the household was seen at the back of the hall. It was a woman of some forty years, dressed in sombre colours, probably a housekeeper or a governess. Hearing the names she came forward with a look of suspicion on her face. ?Marie Alexandrovna is not at home,? said she, staring hard at the general. ?She has gone to her mother?s, with Alexandra Michailovna.? ?Alexandra Michailovna out , too! How disappointing! Would you believe it, I am always so unfortunate! May I most respectfully ask you to present my compliments to Alexandra Michailovna, and remind her ... tell her, that with my whole heart I wish for her what she wished for herself on Thursday evening, while she was listening to Chopin?s Ballade. She will rem ember. I wish it with all sincerity. General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin!? The woman?s face changed; she lost her suspicious expression. ?I will not fail to deliver y our message,? she replied, and bowed them out. The Idiot 236 of 1149 As they went downstairs the general regretted repeatedly that he had failed to introduce the prince to his friends. ?You know I am a bit of a poet,? said he. ?Have you noticed it? The poetic soul, you know.? Then he added suddenly??But after all ... after all I believe we made a mistake this time! I remember that the Sokolovitch?s live in another house, and what is more, they are just now in Moscow. Yes, I certainly was at fault. However, it is of no consequence.? ?Just tell me,? said the prince in reply, ?may I count still on your assistance? Or shall I go on alone to see Nastasia Philipovna?? ?Count on my assistance? Go alone? How can you ask me that question, when it is a matter on which the fate of my family so largely depends? You don?t know Ivolgin, my friend. To trust Ivolgin is to trust a rock; that?s how the first squadron I commanded spoke of me. ?Depend upon Ivolgin,? said they all, ?he is as steady as a rock.? But, excuse me, I must just call at a house on our way, a house where I have found consolation and help in all my trials for years.? ?You are going home?? The Idiot 237 of 1149 ?No ... I wish ... to visit Madame Terentieff, the widow of Captain Terentieff, my old subordinate and friend. She helps me to keep up my courage, and to bear the trials of my domestic life, and as I have an extra burden on my mind today ...? ?It seems to me,? interrupted the prince, ?that I was foolish to trouble you just no w. However, at present you ... Good-bye!? ?Indeed, you must not go aw ay like that, young man, you must not!? cried the general. ?My friend here is a widow, the mother of a family; her words come straight from her heart, and find an ec ho in mine. A visit to her is merely an affair of a few minutes; I am quite at home in her house. I will have a wash, and dress, and then we can drive to the Grand Theatre. Make up your mind to spend the evening with me.... We are just there?that?s the house... Why, Colia! you here! Well, is Marfa Borisovna at home or have you only just come?? ?Oh no! I have been here a long while,? replied Colia, who was at the front door when the general met him. ?I am keeping Hippolyte company . He is worse, and has been in bed all day. I came down to buy some cards. Marfa Borisovna expects you. But what a state you are in, The Idiot 238 of 1149 father!? added the boy, noticing his father?s unsteady gait. ?Well, let us go in.? On meeting Colia the prince determined to accompany the general, though he made up his mind to stay as short a time as possible. He wanted Colia, but firmly resolved to leave the general behind. He could not forgive himself for being so simple as to imagine that Ivolgin would be of any use. The three climbed up the long staircase until they reached the fourth floor where Madame Terentieff lived. ?You intend to introduce th e prince?? asked Colia, as they went up. ?Yes, my boy. I wish to present him: General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin! But what?s the matter? ... what? ... How is Marfa Borisovna?? ?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.? They stopped before a somewhat low doorway on the fourth floor. Ardalion Alexandro vitch, evidently much out of countenance, pushed Muishkin in front. The Idiot 239 of 1149 ?I will wait here,? he stammered. ?I should like to surprise her. ....? Colia entered first, and as the door stood open, the mistress of the house peeped out. The surprise of the general?s imagination fell very flat, for she at once began to address him in terms of reproach. Marfa Borisovna was about forty years of age. She wore a dressing-jacket, her feet were in slippers, her face painted, and her hair was in dozens of small plaits. No sooner did she catch sight of Ardalion Alexandrovitch than she screamed: ?There he is, that wicked, mean wretch! I knew it was he! My heart misgave me!? The old man tried to put a good face on the affair. ?Come, let us go in?it?s all right,? he whispered in the prince?s ear. But it was more serious than he wished to think. As soon as the visitors had crossed the low dark hall, and entered the narrow reception-r oom, furnished with half a dozen cane chairs, and two small card-tables, Madame Terentieff, in the shrill tones habitual to her, continued her stream of invectives. ?Are you not ashamed? Are you not ashamed? You barbarian! You tyrant! You have robbed me of all I The Idiot 240 of 1149 possessed?you have sucked my bones to the marrow. How long shall I be your victim? Shameless, dishonourable man!? ?Marfa Borisovna! Marfa Borisovna! Here is ... the Prince Muishkin! General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin,? stammered the disconcerted old man. ?Would you believe,? said the mistress of the house, suddenly addressing the prince, ?would you believe that that man has not even spared my orphan children? He has stolen everything I possessed, sold everything, pawned everything; he has left me nothing?nothing! What am I to do with your IOU?s, you cunning, unscrupulous rogue? Answer, devourer I answer, heart of stone! How shall I feed my orphans? with what shall I nourish them? And now he has come, he is drunk! He can scarcely stand. How, oh how, have I offended the Almighty, that He should bring this curse upon me! Answer, you worthless villain, answer!? But this was too much for the general. ?Here are twenty-five roubles, Marfa Borisovna ... it is all that I can give ... and I owe even these to the prince?s generosity?my noble friend. I have been cruelly deceived. Such is ... life ... Now ... Excuse me, I am very weak,? he continued, standing in the centre of the room, The Idiot 241 of 1149 and bowing to all sides. ?I am faint; excuse me! Lenotchka ... a cushion ... my dear!? Lenotchka, a little girl of eight, ran to fetch the cushion at once, and placed it on the rickety old sofa. The general meant to have said much mo re, but as soon as he had stretched himself out, he turn ed his face to the wall, and slept the sleep of the just. With a grave and ceremonious air, Marfa Borisovna motioned the prince to a chair at one of the card-tables. She seated herself opposite, leaned her right cheek on her hand, and sat in silence, her eyes fixed on Muishkin, now and again sighing deeply. The three children, two little girls and a boy, Lenotchka being the eldest, came and leant on the table and also stared steadily at him. Presently Colia appeared from the adjoining room. ?I am very glad indeed to have met you here, Colia,? said the prince. ?Can you do so mething for me? I must see Nastasia Philipovna, and I asked Ardalion Alexandrovitch just now to take me to her house, but he has gone to sleep, as you see. Will you show me the way, for I do not know the street? I have the addre ss, though; it is close to the Grand Theatre.? ?Nastasia Philipovna? She does not live there, and to tell you the truth my father has never been to her house! It The Idiot 242 of 1149 is strange that you should have depended on him! She lives near Wladimir Street, at the Five Corners, and it is quite close by. Will you go directly? It is just half-past nine. I will show you the way with pleasure.? Colia and the prince went off together. Alas! the latter had no money to pay for a cab, so they were obliged to walk. ?I should have liked to have taken you to see Hippolyte,? said Colia. ?He is the eldest son of the lady you met just now, and was in the next room. He is ill, and has been in bed all day. But he is rather strange, and extremely sensitive, and I thought he might be upset considering the circumstanc es in which you came ... Somehow it touches me less, as it concerns my father, while it is HIS mother. That , of course, makes a great difference. What is a terrible disgrace to a woman, does not disgrace a man, at least not in the same way. Perhaps public opinion is wrong in condemning one sex, and excusing the other. Hippolyte is an extremely clever boy, but so prejudiced. He is really a slave to his opinions.? ?Do you say he is consumptive?? ?Yes. It really would be ha ppier for him to die young. If I were in his place I should certainly long for death. He is unhappy about his brother and sisters, the children you The Idiot 243 of 1149 saw. If it were possible, if we only had a little money, we should leave our respective families, and live together in a little apartment of our own. It is our dream. But, do you know, when I was talking over your affair with him, he was angry, and said that anyone who did not call out a man who had given him a blow was a coward. He is very irritable to-day, and I left off arguing the matter with him. So Nastasia Philipovna has invited you to go and see her?? ?To tell the truth, she has not.? ?Then how do you come to be going there?? cried Colia, so much astonished that he stopped short in the middle of the pavement. ?And ... and are you going to her At Home in that costume?? ?I don?t know, really, whether I shall be allowed in at all. If she will receive me, so much the better. If not, the matter is ended. As to my clothes?what can I do?? ?Are you going there for some particular reason, or only as a way of getting into her society, and that of her friends?? ?No, I have really an object in going ... That is, I am going on business it is difficult to explain, but...? ?Well, whether you go on business or not is your affair, I do not want to know. The only important thing, in my eyes, is that you should not be going there simply for the The Idiot 244 of 1149 pleasure of spending your evening in such company? cocottes, generals, usurers! If that were the case I should despise and laugh at you. There are terribly few honest people here, and hardly any whom one can respect, although people put on airs?Varia especially! Have you noticed, prince, how many adventurers there are nowadays? Especially here, in our dear Russia. How it has happened I never can understand. There used to be a certain amount of solidity in all things, but now what happens? Everything is expose d to the public gaze, veils are thrown back, every wound is probed by careless fingers. We are for ever present at an orgy of scandalous revelations. Parents blush when they remember their old- fashioned morality. At Moscow lately a father was heard urging his son to stop at nothing?at nothing, mind you!?to get money! The pre ss seized upon the story, of course, and now it is public property. Look at my father, the general! See what he is, and yet, I assure you, he is an honest man! Only ... he drinks too much, and his morals are not all we could desire. Yes , that?s true! I pity him, to tell the truth, but I dare not say so, because everybody would laugh at me?but I do pity him! And who are the really clever men, after all? M oney- grubbers, every one of them, from the first to the la st. Hippolyte finds excuses for The Idiot 245 of 1149 money-lending, and says it is a necessity. He talks about the economic movement, and the ebb and flow of capital; the devil knows what he means. It makes me angry to hear him talk so, but he is soured by his troubles. Just imagine- the general keeps his mother-but she lends him money! She lends it for a week or ten days at very high interest! Isn?t it disgusting? And then, you would hardly believe it, but my mother? Nina Alexandrovna?helps Hippolyte in all sorts of ways, sends him money and clothes. She even goes as far as helping the children, through Hippolyte, because their mother cares nothing about them, and Varia does the same.? ?Well, just now you said there were no honest nor good people about, that there were only money- grubbers?and here they are quite close at hand, these honest and good people, your mother and Varia! I think there is a good deal of moral strength in helping people in suchcircum stances.? ?Varia does it from pride , and likes showing off, and giving herself airs. As to my mother, I really do admire her?yes, and honour her. Hippo lyte, hardened as he is, feels it. He laughed at first, and thought it vulgar of her? but now, he is sometimes quite touched and overcome by her kindness. H?m! You call that being strong and good? I The Idiot 246 of 1149 will remember that! Gania knows nothing about it. He would say that it was encouraging vice.? ?Ah, Gania knows nothing about it? It seems there are many things that Gania does not know,? exclaimed the prince, as he considered Colia?s last words. ?Do you know, I like you very much indeed, prince? I shall never forget about this afternoon.? ?I like you too, Colia.? ?Listen to me! You are going to live here, are you not?? said Colia. ?I mean to get something to do directly, and earn money. Then shall we three live together? You, and I, and Hippolyte? We will hire a flat, and let the general come and visit us. What do you say?? ?It would be very pleasant,? returned the prince. ?But we must see. I am really ra ther worried just now. What! are we there already? Is that the house? What a long flight of steps! And there?s a porter! Well, Colia I don?t know what will come of it all.? The prince seemed quite distracted for the moment. ?You must tell me all about it tomorrow! Don?t be afraid. I wish you success; we agree so entirely I that can do so, although I do not understand why you are here. Good-bye!? cried Colia excitedly. ?Now I will rush back and tell Hippolyte all about our plans and proposals! But as The Idiot 247 of 1149 to your getting in?don?t be in the least afraid. You will see her. She is so original about everything. It?s the first floor. The porter will show you.? The Idiot 248 of 1149 XIII THE prince was very nervous as he reached the outer door; but he did his best to encourage himself with the reflection that the worst thing that could happen to him would be that he would not be received, or, perhaps, received, then laughed at for coming. 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. If only he could find an opportunity of coming close up to Nastasia Philipovna and saying to her: ?Don?t ruin yourself by marrying this man. He does not love you, he only loves your money. He told me so himself, and so did Aglaya Ivanovna, and I have come on purpose to warn you??but even that did not seem quite a legitimate or practicable thing to do. Then, again, there was another delicate question, to which he could not find an answer; dared not, in fact, think of it; but at the very idea of which he trembled and blushed. Howev er, in spite of all his fears and heart-quakings he went in, and asked for Nastasia Philipovna. The Idiot 249 of 1149 Nastasia occupied a medium-sized, but distinctly tasteful, flat, beautifully furnished and arranged. At one period of these five years of Petersburg life, Totski had certainly not spared his expenditure upon her. He had calculated upon her eventual love, and tried to tempt her with a lavish outlay upon comforts and luxuries, knowing too well how easily the heart a ccustoms itself to comforts, and how difficult it is to tear one?s self away from luxuries which have become habitual and, little by little, indispensable. Nastasia did not reject all this, she even loved her comforts and luxuries, but, strangely enough, never became, in the least degree, dependent upon them, and always gave the impression that she could do just as well without them. In fact, she went so far as to inform Totski on several occasions that such was the case, which the latter gentleman considered a very unpleasant communication indeed. But, of late, Totski had observed many strange and original features and characteristics in Nastasia, which he had neither known nor reckoned upon in former times, and some of these fascinated him, even now, in spite of the fact that all his old calcul ations with regard to her were long ago cast to the winds. The Idiot 250 of 1149 A maid opened the door for the prince (Nastasia?s servants were all females) and, to his surprise, received his request to announce him to her mistress without any astonishment. Neither his dirty boots, nor his wide- brimmed hat, nor his sleeveless cloak, nor his evident confusion of manner, produced the least impression upon her. She helped him off with his cloak, and begged him to wait a moment in the ante-room while she announced him. The company assembled at Nastasia Philipovna?s consisted of none but her mo st intimate friends, and formed a very small party in comparison with her usual gatherings on this anniversary. In the first place there were present Totski, and General Epanchin. They were both highly amiable, but both appeared to be labouring under a half-hidden feeling of anxiety as to the result of Nastasia?s deliberations with regard to Gania, which result was to be made public this evening. Then, of course, there was Gania who was by no means so amiable as his elders, but stood apart, gloomy, and miserable, and silent. He had determined not to bring Varia with him; but Nastasia had not even asked after her, though no sooner had he arri ved than she had reminded The Idiot 251 of 1149 him of the episode between himself and the prince. The general, who had heard nothing of it before, began to listen with some interest, while Gania, drily, but with perfect candour, went through the whole history, including the fact of his apology to the prince. He finished by declaring that the prince was a most extraordinary man, and goodness knows why he had been considered an idiot hitherto, for he was very far from being one. Nastasia listened to all this with great interest; but the conversation soon turned to Rogojin and his visit, and this theme proved of the greatest attraction to both Totski and the general. Ptitsin was able to afford some particulars as to Rogojin?s conduct since the afternoon. He declared that he had been busy finding m oney for the latter ever since, and up to nine o?clock, Rogojin having declared that he must absolutely have a hundred thousand roubles by the evening. He added that Rogo jin was drunk, of course; but that he thought the money would be forthcoming, for the excited and intoxicated rapture of the fellow impelled him to give any interest or premium that was asked of him, and there were several others en gaged in beating up the money, also. The Idiot 252 of 1149 All this news was received by the company with somewhat gloomy interest. Nastasia was silent, and would not say what she thought about it. Gania was equally uncommunicative. The general seemed the most anxious of all, and decidedly uneasy. The present of pearls which he had prepared with so much joy in the morning had been accepted but coldly, and Nastasia had smiled rather disagreeably as she took it from him. Ferdishenko was the only person present in good spirits. Totski himself, who had the reputation of being a capital talker, and was usually the life and soul of these entertainments, was as silent as any on this occasion, and sat in a state of, for him, most uncommon perturbation. The rest of the guests (an old tutor or schoolmaster, goodness knows why invited; a young man, very timid, and shy and silent; a rather loud woman of about forty, apparently an actress; and a very pretty, well-dressed German lady who hardly said a word all the evening) not only had no gift for enlivening the proceedings, but hardly knew what to say for themse lves when addressed. Under these circumstances the arrival of the prince came almost as a godsend. The announcement of his name gave rise to some surprise and to some smiles, especially when it became The Idiot 253 of 1149 evident, from Nastasia?s astonished look, that she had not thought of inviting him. But her astonishment once over, Nastasia showed such satisfaction that all prepared to greet the prince with cordial smiles of welcome. ?Of course,? remarked General Epanchin, ?he does this out of pure innocence. It?s a little dangerous, perhaps, to encourage this sort of freedom ; but it is rather a good thing that he has arrived just at this moment. He may enliven us a little with his originalities.? ?Especially as he asked himself,? said Ferdishenko. ?What?s that got to do with it?? asked the general, who loathed Ferdishenko. ?Why, he must pay toll for his entrance,? explained the latter. ?H?m! Prince Muishkin is not Ferdishenko,? said the general, impatiently. This worthy gentleman could never quite reconcile himself to the idea of meeting Ferdishenko in society, and on an equal footing. ?Oh general, spare Ferdishenko!? replied the other, smiling. ?I have special privileges.? ?What do you mean by special privileges?? ?Once before I had the honour of stating them to the company. I will repeat the explanation to-day for your excellency?s benefit. You see, excellency, all the world is The Idiot 254 of 1149 witty and clever except myself. I am neither. As a kind of compensation I am allowed to tell the truth, for it is a well-known fact that only stu pid people tell ?the truth. Added to this, I am a spiteful man, just because I am not clever. If I am offended or inju red I bear it quite patiently until the man injuring me meets with some misfortune. Then I remember, and take my revenge. I return the injury sevenfold, as Ivan Petrovitch Ptitsin says. (Of course he never does so himself.) Excellency, no doubt you recollect Kryloff?s fable, ?The Lion and the Ass?? Well now, that?s you and I. That fable was written precisely for us.? ?You seem to be talking nonsense again, Ferdishenko,? growled the general. ?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: ?A mighty lion, terror of the woods, Was shorn of his great prowess by old age.? And I, your excellency, am the ass.? ?I am of your opinion on that last point,? said Ivan Fedorovitch, with ill-concealed irritation. The Idiot 255 of 1149 All this was no doubt extremely coarse, and moreover it was premeditated, but after all Ferdishenko had persuaded everyone to accept him as a buffoon. ?If I am admitted and tolerated here,? he had said one day, ?it is simply because I talk in this way. How can anyone possibly receive such a man as I am? I quite understand. Now, could I, a Ferdishenko, be allowed to sit shoulder to shoulder with a clever man like Afanasy Ivanovitch? There is one explanation, only one. I am given the position because it is so entirely inconceivable!? 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 Ferdis henko. 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. ?The prince will begin by singing us a fashionable ditty,? remarked Ferdishenko, and looked at the mistress of the house, to see what she would say. ?I don?t think so, Ferdishenko; please be quiet,? answered Nastasia Philipovna dryly. The Idiot 256 of 1149 ?A-ah! if he is to be under special patronage, I withdraw my claws.? But Nastasia Philipovna had now risen and advanced to meet the prince. ?I was so sorry to have forgotten to ask you to come, when I saw you,? she said, ?and I am delighted to be able to thank you personally now, and to express my pleasure at your resolution.? So saying she gazed into his eyes, longing to see whether she could make any guess as to the explanation of his motive in coming to her house. The prince would very likely have made some reply to her kind words, but he was so dazzled by her appearance that he could not speak. Nastasia noticed this with sa tisfaction. She was in full dress this evening; and her appearance was certainly calculated to impress all beholders. She took his hand and led him towards her other guests. But just before they reached the drawing-room door, the prince stopped her, and hurriedly and in great agitation whispered to her: ?You are altogether perfection; even your pallor and thinness are perfect; one could not wish you otherwise. I did so wish to come and see you. I?forgive me, please?? The Idiot 257 of 1149 ?Don?t apologize,? said Nastasia, laughing; ?you spoil the whole originality of the thing. I think what they say about you must be true, that you are so original.?So you think me perfection, do you?? ?Yes.? ?H?m! Well, you may be a good reader of riddles but you are wrong THERE, at all events. I?ll remind you of this, tonight.? Nastasia introduced the prince to her guests, to most of whom he was already known. Totski immediately made some amiable remark. Al seemed to brighten up at once, and the conversation became general. Nastasia made the prince sit down next to herself. ?Dear me, there?s nothing so very curious about the prince dropping in, after all,? remarked Ferdishenko. ?It?s quite a clear case,? said the hitherto silent Gania. I have watched the prince almost all day, ever since the moment when he first saw Nastasia Philipovna?s portrait, at General Epanchin?s. I remember thinking at the time what I am now pretty sure of; and what, I may say in passing, the prince confessed to myself.? The Idiot 258 of 1149 Gania said all this perfectly seriously, and without the slightest appearance of joking; indeed, he seemed strangely gloomy. ?I did not confess anything to you,? said the prince, blushing. ?I only answered your question.? ?Bravo! That?s frank, at any rate!? shouted Ferdishenko, and there was general laughter. ?Oh prince, prince! I never should have thought it of you;? said General Epanchin. ?And I imagined you a philosopher! Oh, you silent fellows!? ?Judging from the fact that the prince blushed at this innocent joke, like a young girl, I should think that he must, as an honourable man, harbour the noblest intentions,? said the old to othless schoolmaster, most unexpectedly; he had not so much as opened his mouth before. This remark provoked general mirth, and the old fellow himself laughed loudest of the lot, but ended with a stupendous fit of coughing. Nastasia Philipovna, who loved originality and drollery of all kinds, was apparently very fond of this old man, and rang the bell for more tea to stop his coughing. It was now half-past ten o?clock. The Idiot 259 of 1149 ?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!? This invitation to drink, couched, as it was, in such informal terms, came very strangely from Nastasia Philipovna. Her usual entertai nments were not quite like this; there was more style about them. However, the wine was not refused; each guest took a glass excepting Gania, who drank nothing. It was extremely difficult to account for Nastasia?s strange condition of mind, wh ich became more evident each moment, and which none could avoid noticing. She took her glass, and vowed she would empty it three times that evening. She was hysterical, and laughed aloud every other minute with no apparent reason?the next moment relapsing into gloom and thoughtfulness. Some of her guests suspected that she must be ill; but concluded at last that she was expecting something, for she continued to look at her watch impatiently and unceasingly; she was most absent and strange. ?You seem to be a little feverish tonight,? said the actress. ?Yes; I feel quite ill. I have b een obliged to put on this shawl ?I feel so cold,? replied Nastasia. She certainly had The Idiot 260 of 1149 grown very pale, and every now and then she tried to suppress a trembling in her limbs. ?Had we not better allow our hostess to retire?? asked Totski of the general. ?Not at all, gentlemen, not at all! Your presence is absolutely necessary to me tonight,? said Nastasia, significantly. As most of those present were aware that this evening a certain very important decision was to be taken, these words of Nastasia Philipovna?s a ppeared to be fraught with much hidden interest. The general and Totski exchanged looks; Gania fidgeted convulsively in his chair. ?Let?s play at some game!? suggested the actress. ?I know a new and most delightful game, added Ferdishenko. ?What is it?? asked the actress. ?Well, when we tried it we were a party of people, like this, for instance; and somebody proposed that each of us, without leaving his place at the table, should relate something about himself. It had to be something that he really and honestly considered the very worst action he had ever committed in his life. But he was to be honest? that was the chief point! He wasn?t to be allowed to lie.? ?What an extraordinary idea!? said the general. The Idiot 261 of 1149 ?That?s the beauty of it, general!? ?It?s a funny notion,? said Totski, ?and yet quite natural?it?s only a new way of boasting.? ?Perhaps that is just what was so fascinating about it.? ?Why, it would be a game to cry over?not to laugh at!? said the actress. ?Did it succeed?? asked Nastasia Philipovna. ?Come, let?s try it, let?s try it; we really are not quite so jolly as we might be? let?s try it! We may like it; it?s original, at all events!? ?Yes,? said Ferdishenko; ?it?s a good idea?come along?the men begin. Of cour se no one need tell a story if he prefers to be disobliging. We must draw lots! Throw your slips of paper, gentlemen, into this hat, and the prince shall draw for turns. It ?s a very simple game; all you have to do is to tell the story of the worst action of your life. It?s as simple as anything. I?ll prompt anyone who forgets the rules!? No one liked the idea much. Some smiled, some frowned some objected, but faintly, not wishing to oppose Nastasia?s wishes; for this new idea seemed to be rather well received by her. She was still in an excited, hysterical state, laughing convulsively at nothing and everything. Her eyes were blazing, and her cheeks showed two bright The Idiot 262 of 1149 red spots against the white. The melancholy appearance of some of her guests seemed to add to her sarcastic humour, and perhaps the very cynicism and cruelty of the game proposed by Ferdishenko pleased her. At all events she was attracted by the idea, and gradually her guests came round to her side; the thing was origi nal, at least, and might turn out to be amusing. ?And su pposing it?s something that one?one can?t speak about before ladies?? asked the timid and silent young man. ?Why, then of course, you won?t say anything about it. As if there are not plenty of sins to your score without the need of those!? said Ferdishenko. ?But I really don?t know which of my actions is the worst,? said the lively actress. ?Ladies are exempted if they like.? ?And how are you to know that one isn?t lying? And if one lies the whole point of the game is lost,? said Gania. ?Oh, but think how delightful to hear how one?s friends lie! Besides you n eedn?t be afraid, Gania; everybody knows what your worst action is without the need of any lying on your part. Only think, gentlemen,?? and Ferdishenko here grew quite enthusiastic, ?only think with what eyes we shall observe one another tomorrow, after our tales have been told!? The Idiot 263 of 1149 ?But surely this is a joke, Nastasia Philipovna?? asked Totski. ?You don?t really mean us to play this game.? ?Whoever is afraid of wolves had better not go into the wood,? said Nastasia, smiling. ?But, pardon me, Mr. Ferdishenko, is it possible to make a game out of this kind of thing?? persisted Totski, growing more and more uneasy. ?I assure you it can?t be a success.? ?And why not? Why, the last time I simply told straight off about how I stole three roubles.? ?Perhaps so; but it is hardly po ssible that you told it so that it seemed like truth, or so that you were believed. And, as Gavrila Ardalionovit ch has said, the least suggestion of a falsehood takes al l point out of the game. It seems to me that sincerity, on the other hand, is only possible if combined with a kind of bad taste that would be utterly out of place here.? ?How subtle you are, Afanasy Ivanovitch! You astonish me,? cried Ferdishenko. ?You will remark, gentleman, that in saying that I could not rec ount the story of my theft so as to be believed, Afanasy Ivanovitch has very ingeniously implied that I am not capable of thieving?(it would have been bad taste to say so openly); and all the time he is probably firmly convinced, in his own mind, that I am The Idiot 264 of 1149 very well capable of it! But now, gentlemen, to business! Put in your slips, ladies and gentlemen?is yours in, Mr. Totski? So?then we are all ready; now prince, draw, please.? The prince silently put his hand into the hat, and drew the names. Ferdishenko was first, then Ptitsin, then the general, Totski next, his own fifth, then Gania, and so on; the ladies did not draw. ?Oh, dear! oh, dear!? cried Ferdishenko. ?I did so hope the prince would come out first, and then the general. Well, gentlemen, I suppose I must set a good example! What vexes me much is that I am such an insignificant creature that it ma tters nothing to an ybody whether I have done bad actions or not! Besides, which am I to choose? It?s an embarras de richesse. Shall I tell how I became a thief on one occasion only, to convince Afanasy Ivanovitch that it is possible to steal without being a thief?? ?Do go on, Ferdishenko, and don?t make unnecessary preface, or you?ll never fini sh,? said Nastasia Philipovna. All observed how irritable and cross she had become since her last burst of laughter; but none the less obstinately did she stick to her absurd whim about this new game. Totski sat looking miserable enough. The general lingered over his champagne, and seemed to be thinking of some story for the time when his turn should come. The Idiot 265 of 1149 XIV ?I have no wit, Nastasia Philipovna,? began Ferdishenko, ?and therefore I talk too much, perhaps. Were I as witty, now, as Mr. Totski or the general, I should probably have sat silent all the evening, as they have. Now, prince, what do you think??are there not far more thieves than honest men in this world? Don?t you think we may say there does not exist a single person so honest that he has never stole n anything whatever in his life?? ?What a silly idea,? said the actress. ?Of course it is not the case. I have never stolen anything, for one.? ?H?m! very well, Daria Alexeyevna; you have not stolen anything? agreed. But how about the prince, now?look how he is blushing!? ?I think you are partially right, but you exaggerate,? said the prince, who had certainly blushed up, of a sudden, for some reason or other. ?Ferdishenko?either tell us your story, or be quiet, and mind your own business. You exhaust all patience,? cuttingly and irritably remarked Nastasia Philipovna. The Idiot 266 of 1149 ?Immediately, immediately! As for my story, gentlemen, it is too stupid and absurd to tell you. ?I assure you I am not a thie f, and yet I have stolen; I cannot explain why. It was at Semeon Ivanovitch Ishenka?s country house, one Sunday. He had a dinner party. After dinner the men stayed at the table over their wine. It struck me to ask the daughter of the house to play something on the piano; so I passed through the corner room to join the ladies. In that room, on Maria Ivanovna?s writing-table, I observed a three-rouble note. She must have taken it out for some purpose, and left it lying there. There was no one about. I took up the note and put it in my pocket; why, I can?t say. I don?t know what possessed me to do it, but it was done , and I went quickly back to the dining-room and reseated myself at the dinner-table. I sat and waited there in a great state of excitement. I talked hard, and told lots of stories, and laughed like mad; then I joined the ladies. ?In half an hour or so the loss was discovered, and the servants were being put under examination. Daria, the housemaid was suspected. I exhibited the greatest interest and sympathy, and I remember that poor Daria quite lost her head, and that I began a ssuring her, before everyone, that I would guarantee her forgiveness on the part of her The Idiot 267 of 1149 mistress, if she would confess her guilt. They all stared at the girl, and I remember a wonderful attraction in the reflection that here was I sermonizing away, with the money in my own pocket all the while. I went and spent the three roubles that very evening at a restaurant. I went in and asked for a bottle of Lafite, and drank it up; I wanted to be rid of the money. ?I did not feel much remorse either then or afterwards; but I would not repeat the performance?believe it or not as you please. There?that?s all.? ?Only, of course that?s not nearly your worst action,? said the actress, with evident dislike in her face. ?That was a psychological ph enomenon, not an action,? remarked Totski. ?And what about the maid?? asked Nastasia Philipovna, with undisguised contempt. ?Oh, she was turned out next day, of course. It?s a very strict household, there!? ?And you allowed it?? ?I should think so, rather! I was not going to return and confess next day,? laughed Ferdishenko, who seemed a little surprised at the disagreeable impression which his story had made on all parties. ?How mean you were!? said Nastasia. The Idiot 268 of 1149 ?Bah! you wish to hear a man tell of his worst actions, and you expect the story to come out goody-goody! One?s worst actions always are mean. We shall see what the general has to say for himse lf now. All is not gold that glitters, you know; and because a man keeps his carriage he need not be specially virt uous, I assure you, all sorts of people keep carriages. And by what means?? In a word, Ferdishenko was very angry and rapidly forgetting himself; his whole face was drawn with passion. Strange as it may appear, he had expected much better success for his story. These little errors of taste on Ferdishenko?s part occurred very frequently. Nastasia trembled with rage, and looked fixedly at him, whereupon he relapsed into alarmed silence. He realized that he had gone a little too far. ?Had we not better end th is game?? asked Totski. ?It?s my turn, but I plead exemption,? said Ptitsin. ?You don?t care to oblige us?? asked Nastasia. ?I cannot, I assure you. I confess I do not understand how anyone can play this game.? ?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.? The Idiot 269 of 1149 I am only waiting for you and Afanasy Ivanovitch to have your turns, for I require the support of your example,? she added, smiling. ?Oh, if you put it in that way ? cried the general, excitedly, ?I?m ready to tell th e whole story of my life, but I must confess that I prepared a little story in anticipation of my turn.? Nastasia smiled amiably at him; but evidently her depression and irritability were increasing with every moment. Totski was dreadfu lly alarmed to hear her promise a revelation out of her own life. ?I, like everyone else,? began the general, ?have committed certain not altogether graceful actions, so to speak, during the course of my life. But the strangest thing of all in my case is, that I should consider the little anecdote which I am now about to give you as a confession of the worst of my ?bad actions.? It is thirty-five years since it all happened, and yet I cannot to this very day recall the circumstances without, as it were, a sudden pang at the heart. ?It was a silly affair?I was an ensign at the time. You know ensigns?their blood is boiling water, their circumstances generally penur ious. Well, I had a servant Nikifor who used to do everyt hing for me in my quarters, The Idiot 270 of 1149 economized and managed for me, and even laid hands on anything he could find (belonging to other people), in order to augment our household goods; but a faithful, honest fellow all the same. ?I was strict, but just by nature. At that time we were stationed in a small town. I was quartered at an old widow?s house, a lieutenant?s widow of eighty years of age. She lived in a wretched little wooden house, and had not even a servant, so poor was she. ?Her relations had all died off?her husband was dead and buried forty years since; and a niece, who had lived with her and bullied her up to three years ago, was dead too; so that she was quite alone. ?Well, I was precious dull with her, especially as she was so childish that there was nothing to be got out of her. Eventually, she stole a fowl of mine; the business is a mystery to this day; but it could have been no one but herself. I requested to be quartered somewhere else, and was shifted to the other end of the town, to the house of a merchant with a large family, and a long beard, as I remember him. Nikifor and I were delighted to go; but the old lady was not pleased at our departure. ?Well, a day or two afterwards, when I returned from drill, Nikifor says to me: ?We oughtn?t to have left our The Idiot 271 of 1149 tureen with the old lady, I?ve nothing to serve the soup in.? ?I asked how it came about that the tureen had been left. Nikifor explained that the old lady refused to give it up, because, she said, we had broken her bowl, and she must have our tureen in place of it; she had declared that I had so arranged the matter with herself. ?This baseness on her part of course aroused my young blood to fever heat; I jump ed up, and away I flew. ?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 so rt of thing, in real Russian style. Well, when I began cursin g 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. The Idiot 272 of 1149 ?Before I reached home I was met and summoned to the major?s, so that it was some while before I actually got there. When I came in, Niki for met me. ?Have you heard, sir, that our old lady is dead?? ?DEAD, when?? ?Oh, an hour and a half ago.? That meant nothing more nor less than that she was dying at the moment when I pounced on her and began abusing her. ?This produced a great effect upon me. I used to dream of the poor old woman at nights. I really am not superstitious, but two days after, I went to her funeral, and as time went on I thought more and more about her. I said to myself, ?This woman, this human being, lived to a great age. She had children, a husband and family, friends and relations; her household was busy and cheerful; she was surrounded by smiling faces; and then suddenly they are gone, and she is left alone like a solitary fly ... like a fly, cursed with the burden of her ag e. At last, God calls her to Himself. At sunset, on a lovely summer?s evening, my little old woman passes away?a thought, you will notice, which offers much food for reflection?and behold! instead of tears and prayers to start her on her last journey, she has insults and jeers from a young ensign, who stands before her with his hands in his pockets, making a terrible row about a soup tureen!? Of course I was to blame, and The Idiot 273 of 1149 even now that I have time to look back at it calmly, I pity the poor old thing no less. I repeat that I wonder at myself, for after all I was not really responsible. Why did she take it into her head to die at that moment? But the more I thought of it, the more I felt the weight of it upon my mind; and I never got quite rid of the impression until I put a couple of old women into an almshouse and kept them there at my own expense. There, that?s all. I repeat I dare say I have committed many a grievous sin in my day; but I cannot help always looking back upon this as the worst action I have ever perpetrated.? ?H?m! and instead of a bad action, your excellency has detailed one of your noblest deeds,? said Ferdishenko. ?Ferdishenko is ?done.?? ?Dear me, general,? said Nastasi a Philipovna, absently, ?I really never imagined you had such a good heart.? The general laughed with grea t satisfaction, and applied himself once more to the champagne. It was now Totski?s turn, and his story was awaited with great curiosity?while all eyes turned on Nastasia Philipovna, as though anticipating that his revelation must be connected somehow with h er. Nastasia, during the whole of his story, pulled at the lace trimming of her sleeve, and never once glanced at the speaker. Totski was a The Idiot 274 of 1149 handsome man, rather stout, with a very polite and dignified manner. He was always well dressed, and his linen was exquisite. He had plump white hands, and wore a magnificent diamond ring on one finger. ?What simplifies the duty before me considerably, in my opinion,? he began, ?is th at I am bound to recall and relate the very worst action of my life. In such circumstances there can, of course, be no doubt. One?s conscience very soon informs one what is the proper narrative to tell. I admit, that among the many silly and thoughtless actions of my life, the memory of one comes prominently forward and reminds me that it lay long like a stone on my heart. Some twenty years since, I paid a visit to Platon Ordintzeff at his country-house. He had just been elected marshal of th e nobility, and had come there with his young wife for the winter holidays. Anfisa Alexeyevna?s birthday came off just then, too, and there were two balls arranged. At that time Dumas-fils? beautiful work, La Dame aux Camelias?a novel which I consider imperishable?had just come into fashion. In the provinces all the ladies were in raptures over it, those who had read it, at least. Camellias were all the fashion. Everyone inquired for them, everybody wanted them; and The Idiot 275 of 1149 a grand lot of camellias are to be got in a country town? as you all know?and two balls to provide for! ?Poor Peter Volhofskoi was desperately in love with Anfisa Alexeyevna. I don?t know whether there was anything?I mean I don?t know whether he could possibly have indulged in any hope. The poor fellow was beside himself to get her a bouquet of camellias. Countess Sotski and Sophia Bespalova, as everyone knew, were coming with white camellia bouquets. Anfisa wished for red ones, for effect. Well, her husband Platon was driven desperate to find some. And the day before the ball, Anfisa?s rival snapped up the only red camellias to be had in the place, from under Platon?s nose, and Platon? wretched man?was done for. Now if Peter had only been able to step in at this moment with a red bouquet, his little hopes might have made gigantic strides. A woman?s gratitude under such circumstances would have been boundless?but it was practically an impossibility. ?The night before the ball I met Peter, looking radiant. ?What is it?? I ask. ?I?ve f ound them, Eureka!? ?No! where, where?? ?At Ekshaisk (a little town fifteen miles off) there? s a rich old merchant, who keeps a lot of canaries, has no children, and he and his wife a re devoted to flowers. He?s got some camellias.’ ?And what if he won?t let The Idiot 276 of 1149 you have them?? ?I?ll go on my knees and implore till I get them. I won?t go away.? ?When shall you start?? ?Tomorrow morning at five o?clock.? ?Go on,? I said, ? and good luck to you.? ?I was glad for the poor fellow, and went home. But an idea got hold of me somehow. I don?t know how. It was nearly two in the morning. I rang the bell and ordered the coachman to be waked up and sent to me. He came. I gave him a tip of fifteen roubles, and told him to get the carriage ready at once. In half an hour it was at the door. I got in and off we went. ?By five I drew up at the Ek shaisky inn. I waited there till dawn, and soon after six I was off, and at the old merchant Trepalaf?s. ??Camellias!? I said, ?father, save me, save me, let me have some camellias!? He was a tall, grey old man?a terrible-looking old gentleman. ?Not a bit of it,? he says. ?I won?t.? Down I went on my knees. ?Don?t say so, don?t? think what you?re doing!? I cr ied; ?it?s a matter of life and death!? ?If that?s the case, take them,? says he. So up I get, and cut such a bouquet of red camellias! He had a whole greenhouse full of them?lovely ones. The old fellow sighs. I pull out a hundred roubles. ?No, no!? says he, ?don?t insult me that way.? ?Oh, if that?s the case, give it to The Idiot 277 of 1149 the village hospital,? I say. ?Ah,? he says, ?that?s quite a different matter; that?s good of you and generous. I?ll pay it in there for you with pleasure.? I liked that old fellow, Russian to the core, de la vr aie souche. I went home in raptures, but took another road in order to avoid Peter. Immediately on arriving I sent up the bouquet for Anfisa to see when she awoke. ?You may imagine her ecstasy, her gratitude. The wretched Platon, who had almost died since yesterday of the reproaches showered upon him, wept on my shoulder. Of course poor Peter had no chance after this. ?I thought he would cut my throat at first, and went about armed ready to meet him. But he took it differently; he fainted, and had brain feve r and convulsions. A month after, when he had hardly recov ered, he went off to the Crimea, and there he was shot. ?I assure you this business le ft me no peace for many a long year. Why did I do it? I was not in love with her myself; I?m afraid it was simply mischief?pure ?cussedness? on my part. ?If I hadn?t seized that bouquet from under his nose he might have been alive now, and a happy man. He might have been successful in life, and never have gone to fight the Turks.? The Idiot 278 of 1149 Totski ended his tale with the same dignity that had characterized its commencement. Nastasia Philipovna?s eyes were flashing in a most unmistakable way, now; and her lips were all a-quiver by the time Totski finished his story. All present watched both of them with curiosity. ?You were right, Totski,? said Na stasia, ?it is a dull game and a stupid one. I?ll just tell my story, as I promised, and then we?ll play cards.? ?Yes, but let?s have the story first!? cried the general. ?Prince,? said Nastasia Philipovna, unexpectedly turning to Muishkin, ?here are my old friends, Totski and General Epanchin, who wish to marry me off. Tell me what you think. Shall I marry or not? As you decide, so shall it be.? Totski grew white as a sheet. The general was struck dumb. All present started and listened intently. Gania sat rooted to his chair. ?Marry whom?? asked the prince, faintly. ?Gavrila Ardalionovitch Ivolgin,? said Nastasia, firmly and evenly. There were a few seconds of dead silence. The prince tried to spea k, but could not form his words; a great weight seemed to lie upon his breast and suffocate him. The Idiot 279 of 1149 ?N-no! don?t marry him!? he whispered at last, drawing his breath with an effort. ?So be it, then. Gavrila Ardalionovitch,? she spoke solemnly and forcibly, ?you he ar the prince?s decision? Take it as my decision; and let that be the end of the matter for good and all.? ?Nastasia Philipovna!? cried Totski, in a quaking voice. ?Nastasia Philipovna!? said the general, in persuasive but agitated tones. Everyone in the room fidgeted in their places, and waited to see what was coming next. ?Well, gentlemen!? she continued, gazing around in apparent astonishment; ?what do you all look so alarmed about? Why are you so upset?? ?But?recollect, Nastasia Philipovna.? stammered Totski, ?you gave a promise, quite a free one, and?and you might have spared us this. I am confused and bewildered, I know; but, in a word, at such a moment, and before company, and all so-so-irregular, finishing off a game with a serious matter like this, a matter of honour, and of heart, and?? ?I don?t follow you, Afanasy Ivanovitch; you are losing your head. In the first place, what do you mean by ?before company?? Isn?t the company good enough for you? And The Idiot 280 of 1149 what?s all that about ?a game?? I wished to tell my little story, and I told it! Don?t you like it? You heard what I said to the prince? ?As you decide, so it shall be!? If he had said ?yes,? I should have given my consent! But he said ?no,? so I refused. Here was my whole life hanging on his one word! Surely I was serious enough?? ?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. ?The prince has this to do with it?that I see in him. for the first time in all my life, a man endowed with real truthfulness of spirit, and I trust him. He trusted me at first sight, and I trust him!? ?It only remains for me, then, to thank Nastasia Philipovna for the great delicacy with which she has treated me,? said Gania, as pale as death, and with quivering lips. ?That is my pla in duty, of course; but the prince?what has he to do in the matter?? ?I see what you are driving at,? said Nastasia Philipovna. ?You imply that the prince is after the seventy-five thousand roubles ?I quite understand you. Mr. Totski, I forgot to say, ?Take your seventy-five thousand roubles?? I don?t want them. I let you go free for nothing take your freedom! You must need it. Ni ne years and three months? The Idiot 281 of 1149 captivity is enough for anybody. Tomorrow I shall start afresh?today I am a free agent for the first time in my life. ?General, you must take your pearls back, too?give them to your wife?here they are! Tomorrow I shall leave this flat altogether, and then there?ll be no more of these pleasant little social gatherings, ladies and gentlemen.? So saying, she scornfully rose from her seat as though to depart. ?Nastasia Philipovna! Nastasia Philipovna!? The words burst involuntarily from every mouth. All present started up in bewildered excitement; all surrounded her; all had listened uneasily to her wild, disconnected sentences. All felt that something had happened, something had gone very far wrong indeed, but no one could make head or tail of the matter. 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. ?Ah, ah! here?s the climax at last, at half-past twelve!? cried Nastasia Philipovna. ?Sit down, gentlemen, I beg you. Something is about to happen.? The Idiot 282 of 1149 So saying, she reseated herself; a strange smile played on her lips. She sat quite still, but watched the door in a fever of impatience. ?Rogojin and his hundred thousand roubles, no doubt of it,? muttered Ptitsin to himself. The Idiot 283 of 1149 XV Katia, the maid-servant, made her appearance, terribly frightened. ?Goodness knows what it means, ma?am,? she said. ?There is a whole collection of men come?all tipsy?and want to see you. They say that ?it?s Rogojin, and she knows all about it.?? ?It?s all right, Katia, let them all in at once.? ?Surely not ALL, ma?am? They seem so disorderly?it?s dreadful to see them.? ?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 recei ve 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.? The guests exchanged glances; they were annoyed and bewildered by the episode; but it was clear enough that all this had been pre- arranged and expected by Nastasia The Idiot 284 of 1149 Philipovna, and that there was no use in trying to stop her now?for she was little short of insane. Besides, they were naturally inquisitive to see what was to happen. There was nobody who would be likely to feel much alarm. There were but two ladies present; one of whom was the lively actress, who was not easily frightened, and the other the silent German beauty who, it turned out, did not understand a word of Russian, and seemed to be as stupid as she was lovely. Her acquaintances invited her to their ?At Homes? because she was so decorative. She was exhibited to their guests like a valuable picture, or vase, or statue, or firescreen. As for the men, Ptitsin was one of Rogojin?s friends; Ferdishenko was as mu ch at home as a fish in the sea, Gania, not yet recov ered from his amazement, appeared to be chained to a pillory. The old professor did not in the least understand what was happening; but when he noticed how extremely agitated the mistress of the house, and her friends, seem ed, he nearly wept, and trembled with fright: but he would rather have died than leave Nastasia Philipovna at such a crisis, for he loved her as if she were his own granddaughter. Afanasy Ivanovitch greatly disliked having anything to do with the affair, but he was too much interested to leave, in spite of the mad The Idiot 285 of 1149 turn things had taken; and a few words that had dropped from the lips of Nastasia puzzled him so much, that he felt he could not go without an explanation. He resolved therefore, to see it out, and to adopt the attitude of silent spectator, as most suited to his dignity. Genera Epanchin alone determined to depart. He was annoyed at the manner in which his gift had been returned, an though he had condescended, under the influence of passion, to place himself on a level with Ptitsin and Ferdishenko, his self- respect and sense of duty now returned together with a consciousness of what was due to his social rank and official importance. In short, he plainly showed his conviction that a man in his position could have nothing to do with Rogojin and his companions. But Nastasia interrupted him at his first words. ?Ah, general!? she cried, ?I was forgetting! If I had only foreseen this unpleasantness! I won?t insist on keeping you against your will, although I should have liked you to be beside me now. In any case, I am most grateful to you for your visit, and flattering attention ? but if you are afraid ?? ?Excuse me, Nastasia Philipovna,? interrupted the general, with chivalric generosity. ?To whom are you speaking? I have remained until now simply because of my The Idiot 286 of 1149 devotion to you, and as for danger, I am only afraid that the carpets may be ruined, and the furniture smashed! ? You should shut the door on the lot, in my opinion. But I confess that I am extremely cu rious to see how it ends.? ?Rogojin!? announced Ferdishenko. ?What do you think about it?? said the general in a low voice to Totski. ?Is she mad? I mean mad in the medical sense of the word .? eh?? ?I?ve always said she was p redisposed to it,? whispered Afanasy Ivanovitch slyly. ?Perhaps it is a fever!? Since their visit to Gania?s home, Rogojin?s followers had been increased by two new recruits?a dissolute old man, the hero of some ancient scandal, and a retired sub- lieutenant. A laughable story was told of the former. He possessed, it was said, a set of false teeth, and one day when he wanted money for a drinking orgy, he pawned them, and was never able to reclaim them! The officer appeared to be a rival of th e gentleman who was so proud of his fists. He was known to none of Rogojin?s followers, but as they passed by the Nevsky, where he stood begging, he had joined their ranks. His claim for the charity he desired seemed based on the fact that in the days of his prosperity he had given away as much as fifteen roubles at a time. The rivals seemed more than a little jealous of one The Idiot 287 of 1149 another. The athlete appeared injured at the admission of the ?beggar? into the company. By nature taciturn, he now merely growled occasionally like a bear, and glared contemptuously upon the ?beggar,? who, being somewhat of a man of the world, and a diplomatist, tried to insinuate himself into the bear?s good graces. He was a much smaller man than the athlete, and doubtless was conscious that he must tread warily. Gently and without argument he alluded to the advantages of the English style in boxing, and showed himself a firm belie ver in Western institutions. The athlete?s lips curled disdainfully, and without honouring his adversary with a formal denial, he exhibited, as if by accident, that peculiarly Russian object?an enormous fist, clenched, muscular, and covered with red hairs! The sight of this pre-eminently national attribute was enough to convince anybody, without words, that it was a serious matter for those who should happen to come into contact with it. None of the band were very drunk, for the leader had kept his intended visit to Nastasia in view all day, and had done his best to prevent his followers from drinking too much. He was sober himself, but the excitement of this chaotic day?the strangest day of his life?had affected The Idiot 288 of 1149 him so that he was in a dazed, wild condition, which almost resembled drunkenness. He had kept but one idea before him all day, and for that he had worked in an ag ony of anxiety and a fever of suspense. His lieutenants had worked so hard from five o?clock until eleven, that they actually had collected a hundred thousand roubles for hi m, but at such terrific expense, that the rate of interest was only mentioned among them in whispers and with bated breath. As before, Rogojin walked in advance of his troop, who followed him with ming led self-assertion and timidity. They were specially frightened of Nastasia Philipovna herself, for some reason. Many of them expected to be thrown downstairs at once, without further ceremony, the elegant arid irresistible Zaleshoff among them . But the party led by the athlete, without openly showing their hostile intentions, silently nursed contempt and even hatred for Nastasia Philipovna, and marched into her house as they would have marched into an enemy?s fortress. Arrived there, the luxury of the rooms seemed to inspire them with a kind of respect, not unmixed with alarm. So many things were entirely new to their experience?the choice furniture, the pictures, the great statu e of Venus. They followed The Idiot 289 of 1149 their chief into the salon, however, with a kind of impudent curiosity. There, the sight of General Epanchin among the guests, caused many of them to beat a hasty retreat into the adjoining r oom, the ?boxer? and ?beggar? being among the first to go. A few only, of whom Lebedeff made one, stood their ground; he had contrived to walk side by side with Rogo jin, for he quite understood the importance of a man who had a fortune of a million odd roubles, and who at this moment carried a hundred thousand in his hand. It may be added that the whole company, not excepting Lebede ff, had the vaguest idea of the extent of their powers, and of how far they could safely go. At some moments Lebedeff was sure that right was on their side; at others he tried uneasily to remember various cheering and reassuring articles of the Civil Code. Rogojin, when he stepped into the room, and his eyes fell upon Nastasia, stopped short, grew white as a sheet, and stood staring; it was clea r that his heart was beating painfully. So he stood, gazing intently, but timidly, for a few seconds. Suddenly, as t hough bereft of his senses, he moved forward, staggering helplessly, towards the table. On his way he collided against Ptitsin?s chair, and put his dirty foot on the lace skirt of the silent lady?s dress; but he neither apologized for th is, nor even noticed it. The Idiot 290 of 1149 On reaching the table, he placed upon it a strange- looking object, which he had carried with him into the drawing-room. This was a paper packet, some six or seven inches thick, and eight or nine in length, wrapped in an old newspaper, and tied round three or four times with string. Having placed this before her, he stood with drooped arms and head, as though awaiting his sentence. His costume was the same as it had been in the morning, except for a new silk handkerchief round his neck, bright green and red, fastened with a huge diamond pin, and an enormous diamond ring on his dirty forefinger. Lebedeff stood two or three pa ces behind his chief; and the rest of the band waited about near the door. The two maid-servants were both peeping in, frightened and amazed at this unusual and disorderly scene. ?What is that?? asked Nastasia Philipovna, gazing intently at Rogojin, and indicating the paper packet. ?A hundred thousand,? replied the latter, almost in a whisper. ?Oh! so he kept his word?there?s a man for you! Well, sit down, please?take that chai r. I shall have something to say to you presently. Who are all these with you? The The Idiot 291 of 1149 same party? Let them come in and sit down. There?s room on that sofa, there are some chairs and there?s another sofa! Well, why don?t they sit down?? Sure enough, some of the brave fellows entirely lost their heads at this point, and retreated into the next room. Others, however, took the hint and sat down, as far as they could from the table, however; feeling braver in proportion to their distance from Nastasia. Rogojin took the chair offered him, but he did not sit long; he soon stood up again, and did not reseat himself. Little by little he began to look around him and discern the other guests. Seeing Gania, he smiled venomously and muttered to himself, ?Look at that!? He gazed at Totski and the general with no apparent confusion, and with very little curiosity. But when he observed that the prince was seated beside Nastasia Philipovna, he could not take his eyes off him for a long while, and was clearly amazed. He could not account for the prince?s presence there. It was not in the least surprising that Rogojin should be, at this time, in a more or less delirious condition; for not to speak of the excitements of the day, he had spent the night before in the train, and had not slept more than a wink for forty- eight hours. The Idiot 292 of 1149 ?This, gentlemen, is a hundred thousand roubles,? said Nastasia Philipovna, addressing the company in general, ?here, in this dirty parcel. This afternoon Rogojin yelled, like a madman, that he would bring me a hundred thousand in the evening, and I have been waiting for him all the while. He was bargaining for me, you know; first he offered me eighteen thousan d; then he rose to forty, and then to a hundred thousand. And he has kept his word, see! My goodness, how white he is! All this happened this afternoon, at Gania?s. I had gone to pay his mother a visit?my future family, you know! And his sister said to my very face, surely somebody will turn this shameless creature out. After wh ich she spat in her brother Gania?s face?a girl of character, that!? ?Nastasia Philipovna!? began the general, reproachfully. He was beginning to put his own interpretation on the affair. ?Well, what, general? Not quite good form, eh? Oh, nonsense! Here have I been sitting in my box at the French theatre for the last five years like a statue of inaccessible virtue, and kept out of the way of all admirers, like a silly little idiot! Now, there?s this man, who comes and pays down his hundred thousand on the table, before you all, in spite of my five years of innocence and proud The Idiot 293 of 1149 virtue, and I dare be sworn he has his sledge outside waiting to carry me off. He values me at a hundred thousand! I see you are still ang ry with me, Gania! Why, surely you never really wished to take ME into your family? ME, Rogojin?s mistress! What did the prince say just now?? ?I never said you were Rogojin?s mistress?you are NOT!? said the prince, in trembling accents. ?Nastasia Philipovna, dear soul!? cried the actress, impatiently, ?do be calm, dear! If it annoys you so?all this?do go away and rest! Of course you would never go with this wretched fellow, in spite of his hundred thousand roubles! Take his m oney and kick him out of the house; that?s the way to treat him and the likes of him! Upon my word, if it were my business, I?d soon clear them all out!? The actress was a kind-hearted woman, and highly impressionable. She was very angry now. ?Don?t be cross, Daria Alexeyevna!? laughed Nastasia. ?I was not angry when I spoke; I wasn?t reproaching Gania. I don?t know how it was that I ever could have indulged the whim of entering an honest family like his. I saw his mother?and kissed her hand, too. I came and stirred up all that fuss, Gania, this af ternoon, on purpose to see how The Idiot 294 of 1149 much you could swallow?you surprised me, my friend? you did, indeed. Surely you could not marry a woman who accepts pearls like those you knew the general was going to give me, on the very eve of her marriage? And Rogojin! Why, in your own house and before your own brother and sister, he bargained with me! Yet you could come here and expect to be betrothed to me before you left the house! You almost brought your sister, too. Surely what Rogojin said about you is not really true: that you would crawl all the way to the other end of the town, on hands and knees, for three roubles?? ?Yes, he would!? said Rogojin, quietly, but with an air of absolute conviction. ?H?m! and he receives a g ood salary, I?m told. Well, what should you get but disgrac e and misery if you took a wife you hated into your family (for I know very well that you do hate me)? No, no! I believe now that a man like you would murder anyone for money? sharpen a razor and come up behind his best fr iend and cut his throat like a sheep?I?ve read of such people. Everyone seems money-mad nowadays. No, no! I may be shameless, but you are far worse. I don?t sa y a word about that other?? ?Nastasia Philipovna, is this really you? You, once so refined and delicate of speech. Oh, what a tongue! What The Idiot 295 of 1149 dreadful things you are saying,? cried the general, wringing his hands in real grief. ?I am intoxicated, general. I am having a day out, you know?it?s my birthday! I have long looked forward to this happy occasion. Daria Alexeyevna, you see that nosegay-man, that Monsieur aux Camelias, sitting there laughing at us?? ?I am not laughing, Nastasia Philipovna; I am only listening with all my attention,? said Totski, with dignity. ?Well, why have I worried him, for five years, and never let him go free? Is he wo rth it? He is only just what he ought to be? nothing particular. He thinks I am to blame, too. He gave me my education, kept me like a countess. Money?my word! What a lot of money he spent over me! And he tried to find me an honest husband first, and then this Gania, here. And what do you think? All these five years I did not live with him, and yet I took his money, and considered I was quite justified. ?You say, take the hundred thousand and kick that man out. It is true, it is an abomi nable business, as you say. I might have married long ago, not Gania?Oh, no!?but that would have been abominable too. ?Would you believe it, I had some thoughts of marrying Totski, four years ago! I meant mischief, I The Idiot 296 of 1149 confess?but I could have had him, I give you my word; he asked me himself. But I thought, no! it?s not worthwhile to take such advantage of him. No! I had better go on to the streets, or accept Rogojin, or become a washerwoman or something?for I have nothing of my own, you know. I shall go away and leave everything behind, to the last rag?he shall have it all back. And who would take me without anything? Ask Gania, there, whether he would. Why, even Ferdishenko wouldn?t have me!? ?No, Ferdishenko would not; he is a candid fellow, Nastasia Philipovna,? said that worthy. ?But the prince would. You sit here making complaints, but just look at the prince. I?ve been observing him for a long while.? Nastasia Philipovna looked keenly round at the prince. ?Is that true?? she asked. ?Quite true,? whispered the prince. ?You?ll take me as I am, with nothing?? ?I will, Nastasia Philipovna.? ?Here?s a pretty business!? cried the general. ?However, it might have been expected of him.? The prince continued to regard Nastasia with a sorrowful, but intent and piercing, gaze. The Idiot 297 of 1149 ?Here?s another alternative for me,? said Nastasia, turning once more to the actress; ?and he does it out of pure kindness of heart. I know him. I?ve found a benefactor. Perhaps, though, what they say about him may be true?that he?s an?we know what. And what shall you live on, if you are really so madly in love with Rogojin?s mistress, that you are ready to marry her ?eh?? ?I take you as a good, honest woman, Nastasia Philipovna?not as Rogojin?s mistress.? ?Who? I??good and honest?? ?Yes, you.? ?Oh, you get those ideas out of novels, you know. Times are changed now, dear prince; the world sees things as they really are. That?s all nonsense. Besides, how can you marry? You need a nurse, not a wife.? The prince rose and began to speak in a trembling, timid tone, but with the air of a man absolutely sure of the truth of his words. ?I know nothing, Nastasia Philipovna. I have seen nothing. You are right so far; but I consider that you would be honouring me, and not I you. I am a nobody. You have suffered, you have passed through hell and emerged pure, and that is very much. Why do you shame yourself by desiring to go with Rogojin? You are The Idiot 298 of 1149 delirious. You have returned to Mr. Totski his seventy- five thousand roubles, and declared that you will leave this house and all that is in it, wh ich is a line of conduct that not one person here would imitate. Nastasia Philipovna, I love you! I would die for you. I shall never let any man say one word against you, Nastasia Philipovna! and if we are poor, I can work for both.? As the prince spoke these last words a titter was heard from Ferdishenko; Lebedeff laughed too. The general grunted with irritation; Ptitsin and Totski barely restrained their smiles. The rest all sa t listening, open-mouthed with wonder. ?But perhaps we shall not be poor; we may be very rich, Nastasia Philipovna.? continued the prince, in the same timid, quivering tones. ?I don?t know for certain, and I?m sorry to say I haven?t had an opportunity of finding out all day; but I received a letter from Moscow, while I was in Switzerland, from a Mr. Salaskin, and he acquaints me with the fact that I am entitled to a very large inheritance. This letter?? The prince pulled a letter out of his pocket. ?Is he raving?? said the general. ?Are we really in a mad- house?? There was silence for a moment. Then Ptitsin spoke. The Idiot 299 of 1149 ?I think you said, prince, that your letter was from Salaskin? Salaskin is a very eminent man, indeed, in his own world; he is a wonderfully clever solicitor, and if he really tells you this, I think you may be pretty sure that he is right. It so happens, luckily, that I know his handwriting, for I have lately had business with him. If you would allow me to see it, I should perhaps be able to tell you.? The prince held out the letter silently, but with a shaking hand. ?What, what?? said the general, much agitated. ?What?s all this? Is he really heir to anything?? All present concentrated their attention upon Ptitsin, reading the prince?s letter. The general curiosity had received a new fillip. Ferdishe nko could not sit still. Rogojin fixed his eyes first on the prince, and then on Ptitsin, and then back again; he was extremely agitated. Lebedeff could not stand it. He crept up and read over Ptitsin?s shoulder, with the air of a naughty boy who expects a box on the ear every moment for his indiscretion. The Idiot 300 of 1149 XVI ?It?s good business,? said Ptitsin, at last, folding the letter and handing it back to the prince. ?You will receive, without the slightest trouble, by the last will and testament of your aunt, a very large sum of money indeed.? ?Impossible!? cried the genera l, starting up as if he had been shot. Ptitsin explained, for the benefit of the company, that the prince?s aunt had died five months since. He had never known her, but she was his mother?s own sister, the daughter of a Moscow merchant, one Paparchin, who had died a bankrupt. But the elder brother of this same Paparchin, had been an emin ent and very rich merchant. A year since it had so happened that his only two sons had both died within the same month. This sad event had so affected the old man that he, too, had died very shortly after. He was a widower, and had no relations left, excepting the prince?s aunt, a poor woman living on charity, who was herself at th e point of death from dropsy; but who had time, before she died, to set Salaskin to work to find her nephew, and to make her will bequeathing her newly-acquired fortune to him. The Idiot 301 of 1149 It appeared that neither the prince, nor the doctor with whom he lived in Switzerland, had thought of waiting for further communications; but the prince had started straight away with Salaskin?s letter in his pocket. ?One thing I may tell you, for certain,? concluded Ptitsin, addressing the prin ce, ?that there is no question about the authenticity of this matter. Anything that Salaskin writes you as regards your unquestionable right to this inheritance, you may look upon as so much money in your pocket. I congratulate you, prince; you may receive a million and a half of roubles, perhaps more; I don?t know. All I DO know is that Paparchin was a very rich merchant indeed.? ?Hurrah!? cried Lebedeff, in a drunken voice. ?Hurrah for the last of the Muishkins!? ?My goodness me! and I gave him twenty-five roubles this morning as though he were a beggar,? blurted out the general, half senseless with amazement. ?Well, I congratulate you, I congratulate you!? And the general rose from his seat and solemnly embraced the prince. All came forward with congratulations; even those of Rogojin?s party who had retreated into the next room, now crept softly back to look on. For the moment even Nastasia Philipovna was forgotten. The Idiot 302 of 1149 But gradually the consciousness crept back into the minds of each one present that the prince had just made her an offer of marriage. The situation had, therefore, become three times as fantastic as before. Totski sat and shrugged his shoulders, bewildered. He was the only guest left sitting at this time; the others had thronged round the table in disorder, and were all talking at once. It was generally agreed, afterwards, in recalling that evening, that from this moment Nastasia Philipovna seemed entirely to lose her se nses. She continued to sit still in her place, looking around at her guests with a strange, bewildered expression, as though she were trying to collect her thoughts, and c ould not. Then she suddenly turned to the prince, and glared at him with frowning brows; but this only lasted one moment. Perhaps it suddenly struck her that all this was a jest, but his face seemed to reassure her. She reflected, and smiled again, vaguely. ?So I am really a princess,? she whispered to herself, ironically, and glancing accidentally at Daria Alexeyevna?s face, she burst out laughing. ?Ha, ha, ha!? she cried, ?thi s is an unexpected climax, after all. I didn?t expect this. What are you all standing up The Idiot 303 of 1149 for, gentlemen? Sit down; congratulate me and the prince! Ferdishenko, just step out and order some more champagne, will you? Katia, Pasha,? she added suddenly, seeing the servants at the d oor, ?come here! I?m going to be married, did you hear? To the prince. He has a million and a half of roubles; he is Prince Muishkin, and has asked me to marry him. Here, prince, come and sit by me; and here comes the wine. Now then, ladies and gentlemen, where are your congratulations?? ?Hurrah!? cried a number of voices. A rush was made for the wine by Rogojin?s followers, though, even among them, there seemed some so rt of realization that the situation had changed. Rogojin stood and looked on, with an incredulous smile, screwing up one side of his mouth. ?Prince, my dear fellow, do remember what you are about,? said the general, approaching Muishkin, and pulling him by the coat sleeve. Nastasia Philipovna overheard the remark, and burst out laughing. ?No, no, general!? she cried. ?You had better look out! I am the princess now, you know. The prince won?t let you insult me. Afanasy Ivanovitch, why don?t you congratulate me? I shall be able to sit at table with your new wife, now. Aha! you see what I gain by marrying a prince! A million The Idiot 304 of 1149 and a half, and a prince, and an idiot into the bargain, they say. What better could I wish for? Life is only just about to commence for me in earnest. Rogojin, you are a little too late. Away with your paper parcel! I?m going to marry the prince; I?m richer than you are now.? But Rogojin understood how things were tending, at last. An inexpressibly painful expression came over his face. He wrung his hands; a groan made its way up from the depths of his soul. ?Surrender her, for God?s sake!? he said to the prince. All around burst out laughing. ?What? Surrender her to YOU?? cried Daria Alexeyevna. ?To a fellow who comes and bargains for a wife like a moujik! The prince wishes to marry her, and you?? ?So do I, so do I! This moment, if I could! I?d give every farthing I have to do it.? ?You drunken moujik,? said Daria Alexeyevna, once more. ?You ought to be kicked out of the place.? The laughter became louder than ever. ?Do you hear, prince?? sa id Nastasia Philipovna. ?Do you hear how this moujik of a fellow goes on bargaining for your bride?? The Idiot 305 of 1149 ?He is drunk,? said the prince, quietly, ?and he loves you very much.? ?Won?t you be ashamed, afterwards, to reflect that your wife very nearly ran away with Rogojin?? ?Oh, you were raving, you were in a fever; you are still half delirious.? ?And won?t you be ashamed when they tell you, afterwards, that your wife liv ed at Totski?s expense so many years?? ?No; I shall not be ashame d of that. You did not so live by your own will.? ?And you?ll never reproach me with it?? ?Never.? ?Take care, don?t commit yourself for a whole lifetime.? ?Nastasia Philipovna.? said the prince, quietly, and with deep emotion, ?I said before that I shall esteem your consent to be my wife as a great honour to myself, and shall consider that it is you who will honour me, not I you, by our marriage. You laughed at these words, and others around us laughed as well; I heard them. Very likely I expressed myself funn ily, and I may have looked funny, but, for all that, I believe I understand where honour lies, and what I said was but the literal truth. You were about to ruin yourself just now, irrevocably; you The Idiot 306 of 1149 would never have forgiven yourself for so doing afterwards; and yet, you are absolutely blameless. It is impossible that your life should be altogether ruined at your age. What matter that Ro gojin came bargaining here, and that Gavrila Ardalionovitch would have deceived you if he could? Why do you continually remind us of these facts? I assure you once more that very few could find it in them to act as you have acted this day. As for your wish to go with Rogojin, that was simply the idea of a delirious and suffering brain. You are still quite feverish; you ought to be in bed, not here. You know quite well that if you had gone with Rogojin, you would have become a washer-woman next day, rather than stay with him. You are proud, Nastasia Philipovna, and perhaps you have really suffered so much that you imagine yourself to be a desperately guilty woman. You require a great deal of petting and looking after, Nastasia Philipovna, and I will do this. I saw your portrait this morning, and it seemed quite a familiar face to me; it seemed to me that the portrait- face was calling to me for help. I-I shall respect you all my life, Nastasia Philipovna,? concluded the prince, as though suddenly recollecting himself, and blushing to think of the sort of company before whom he had said all this. The Idiot 307 of 1149 Ptitsin bowed his head and looked at the ground, overcome by a mixture of f eelings. Totski muttered to himself: ?He may be an idiot, but he knows that flattery is the best road to success here.? The prince observed Gania?s eyes flashing at him, as though they would gladly annihilate him then and there. ?That?s a kind-hearted man, if you like,? said Daria Alexeyevna, whose wrath was quickly evaporating. ?A refined man, but?lost ,? murmured the general. Totski took his hat and rose to go. He and the general exchanged glances, making a private arrangement, thereby, to leave the house together. ?Thank you, prince; no one has ever spoken to me like that before,? began Nastasia Philipovna. ?Men have always bargained for me, before this; and not a single respectable man has ever proposed to marry me. Do you hear, Afanasy Ivanovitch? What do YOU think of what the prince has just been saying? It was almost immodest, wasn?t it? You, Rogojin, wait a moment, don?t go yet! I see you don?t intend to move however. Perhaps I may go with you yet. Where did you mean to take me to?? ?To Ekaterinhof,? replied Lebedeff. Rogojin simply stood staring, with trembling lips, not daring to believe his ears. He was stunned, as though from a blow on the head. The Idiot 308 of 1149 ?What are you thinking of, my dear Nastasia?? said Daria Alexeyevna in alarm. ?What are you saying?? ?You are not going mad, are you?? Nastasia Philipovna burst out laughing and jumped up from the sofa. ?You thought I should accept this good child?s invitation to ruin him, did you?? she cried. ?That?s Totski?s way, not mine. He?s fond of children. Come along, Rogojin, get your money re ady! We won?t talk about marrying just at this moment, bu t let?s see the money at all events. Come! I may not marry you, either. I don?t know. I suppose you thought you?d keep the money, if I did! Ha, ha, ha! nonsense! I have no sens e of shame left. I tell you I have been Totski?s concubine. Prince, you must marry Aglaya Ivanovna, not Nastasia Philipovna, or this fellow Ferdishenko will always be pointing the finger of scorn at you. You aren?t afraid, I know; but I should always be afraid that I had ruined you, and that you would reproach me for it. As for what you say about my doing you honour by marrying you-well, Totski can tell you all about that. You had your eye on Aglaya, Gania, you know you had; and you might have married her if you had not come bargaining. You are all like this. You should choose, once for all, between disreputable women, and The Idiot 309 of 1149 respectable ones, or you are sure to get mixed. Look at the general, how he?s staring at me!? ?This is too horrible,? said the general, starting to his feet. All were standing up now. Nastasia was absolutely beside herself. ?I am very proud, in spite of what I am,? she continued. ?You called me ?perfection? just now, prince. A nice sort of perfection to throw up a prince and a million and a half of roubles in order to be able to boast of the fact afterwards! What sort of a wife should I make for you, after all I have said? Afanasy Ivanovitch, do you observe I have really and truly thrown away a million of roubles? And you thought that I should consider your wretched seventy-five thousand, with Gania thrown in for a husband, a paradise of bliss! Take your seventy-five thousand back, sir; you did not reach the hundred thousand. Rogojin cut a better dash than you did. I?ll console Gania myself; I have an idea about that. But now I must be off! I?ve been in pris on for ten years. I?m free at last! Well, Rogojin, what are you waiting for? Let?s get ready and go.? ?Come along!? shouted Rogojin, beside himself with joy. ?Hey! all of you fellows! Wine! Round with it! Fill the glasses!? The Idiot 310 of 1149 ?Get away!? he shouted frantically, observing that Daria Alexeyevna was approaching to protest against Nastasia?s conduct. ?Get away, she?s mine, everything?s mine! She?s a queen, get away!? He was panting with ecstasy. He walked round and round Nastasia Philipovna and told everybody to ?keep their distance.? All the Rogojin company were now collected in the drawing-room; some were dr inking, some laughed and talked: all were in the high est and wildest spirits. Ferdishenko was doing his best to unite himself to them; the general and Totski agai n made an attempt to go. Gania, too stood hat in hand ready to go; but seemed to be unable to tear his eyes away from the scene before him ?Get out, keep your distance!? shouted Rogojin. ?What are you shouting about there!? cried Nastasia ?I?m not yours yet. I may kick you out for all you know I haven?t taken your money yet; there it all is on the table Here, give me over that packet! Is there a hundred thousand roubles in that one packet? Pfu! what abominable stuff it looks! Oh! nonsense, Daria Alexeyevna; you surely did not expect me to ruin HIM?? (indicating the prince). ?Fancy him nursing me! Why, he needs a nurse himself! The general, there, will be his nurse The Idiot 311 of 1149 now, you?ll see. Here, prince, look here! Your bride is accepting money. What a disreputable woman she must be! And you wished to marry her! What are you crying about? Is it a bitter dose? Never mind, you shall laugh yet. Trust to time.? (In spite of these words there were two large tears rolling down Nasta sia?s own cheeks.) ?It?s far better to think twice of it now than afterwards. Oh! you mustn?t cry like that! There?s Kati a crying, too. What is it, Katia, dear? I shall leave you and Pasha a lot of things, I?ve laid them out for you already; but good-bye, now. I made an honest girl like you serve a low woman like myself. It?s better so, prince, it is indeed. You?d begin to despise me afterwards? we should never be happy. Oh! you needn?t swear, prince, I shan?t believe you, you know. How foolish it would be, too! No, no; we?d better say good-bye and part friends. I am a bit of a dreamer myself, and I used to dream of you once. Very often during those five years down at his estate I used to dream and think, and I always imagined just such a good, honest, foolish fellow as you, one who should come and say to me: ?You are an innocent woman, Nastasia Philipovna, and I adore you.? I dreamt of you often. I used to think so much down there that I nearly went mad; and then this fellow here would come down. He would stay a couple of months out of the The Idiot 312 of 1149 twelve, and disgrace and insult and deprave me, and then go; so that I longed to drown myself in the pond a thousand times over; but I did not dare do it. I hadn?t the heart, and now?well, are you ready, Rogojin?? ?Ready?keep your distance, all of you!? ?We?re all ready,? said several of his friends. ?The troikas [Sledges drawn by three horses abreast.] are at the door, bells and all.? Nastasia Philipovna seized the packet of bank-notes. ?Gania, I have an idea. I wish to recompense you?why should you lose all? Rogojin , would he crawl for three roubles as far as the Vassiliostrof? ?Oh, wouldn?t he just!? ?Well, look here, Gania. I wish to look into your heart once more, for the last time. You?ve worried me for the last three months?now it?s my turn. Do you see this packet? It contains a hundred thousand roubles. Now, I?m going to throw it into the fire, here?before all these witnesses. As soon as the fire catches hold of it, you put your hands into the fire and pick it out?without gloves, you know. You must have bare hands, and you must turn your sleeves up. Pull it out, I say, and it?s all yours. You may burn your fingers a little, of course; but then it?s a hundred thousand roubles, remember?it won?t take you The Idiot 313 of 1149 long to lay hold of it and snatch it out. I shall so much admire you if you put your hands into the fire for my money. All here present may be witnesses that the whole packet of money is yours if you get it out. If you don?t get it out, it shall burn. I will le t no one else come; away?get away, all of you?it?s my money! Rogojin has bought me with it. Is it my money, Rogojin?? ?Yes, my queen; it?s your own money, my joy.? ?Get away then, all of you. I shall do as I like with my own? don?t meddle! Ferdishenko, make up the fire, quick!? ?Nastasia Philipovna, I can?t; my hands won?t obey me,? said Ferdishenko, astounded and helpless with bewilderment. ?Nonsense,? cried Nastasia Philipovna, seizing the poker and raking a couple of logs together. No sooner did a tongue of flame burst out t han she threw the packet of notes upon it. Everyone gasped; some even crossed themselves. ?She?s mad?she?s mad!? was the cry. ?Oughtn?t-oughtn?t we to secure her?? asked the general of Ptitsin, in a whisp er; ?or shall we send for the authorities? Why, she?s mad, isn?t she?isn?t she, eh?? The Idiot 314 of 1149 ?N-no, I hardly think she is actually mad,? whispered Ptitsin, who was as white as his handkerchief, and trembling like a leaf. He could not take his eyes off the smouldering packet. ?She?s mad surely, isn?t she?? the general appealed to Totski. ?I told you she wasn?t an ordinary woman,? replied the latter, who was as pale as anyone. ?Oh, but, positively, you know?a hundred thousand roubles!? ?Goodness gracious! good he avens!? came from all quarters of the room. All now crowded round the fire and thronged to see what was going on; everyone lamented and gave vent to exclamations of horror and woe. Some jumped up on chairs in order to get a better view. Daria Alexeyevna ran into the next room and whispered excitedly to Katia and Pasha. The beautiful German disappeared altogether. ?My lady! my sovereign!? lamented Lebedeff, falling on his knees before Nastasia Philipo vna, and stretching out his hands towards the fire; ?it?s a hundred thousand roubles, it is indeed, I packed it up myself, I saw the money! My queen, let me get into the fire after it?say the word-I?ll put my whole grey head into the fire for it! I have a poor The Idiot 315 of 1149 lame wife and thirteen children. My father died of starvation last week. Nastasia Philipovna, Nastasia Philipovna!? The wretched little man wept, and groaned, and crawled towards the fire. ?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 y our hand! There?s your whole happiness smouldering away, look! Quick!? But Gania had borne too much that day, and especially this evening, and he was not prepared for this last, quite unexpected trial. The crowd parted on each side of him and he was left face to face with Nastasia Philipovna, three paces from her. She stood by the fire and waited, with her intent gaze fixed upon him. Gania stood before her, in his evening clothes, holding his white gloves and hat in his hand, speechless and motionless, with arms folded and eyes fixed on the fire. A silly, meaningless smile played on his white, death- like lips. He could not take his eyes off the smouldering packet; but it appeared that something new had come to birth in his soul?as though he were vowing to himself that he would bear this tria l. He did not move from his The Idiot 316 of 1149 place. In a few seconds it became evident to all that he did not intend to rescue the money. ?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.? The fire, choked between a couple of smouldering pieces of wood, had died down for the first few moments after the packet was thrown upon it. But a little tongue of fire now began to lick the paper from below, and soon, gathering courage, mounted the sides of the parcel, and crept around it. In another moment, the whole of it burst into flames, and the exclamat ions of woe and horror were redoubled. ?Nastasia Philipovna!? lame nted Lebedeff again, straining towards the firepla ce; but Rogojin dragged him away, and pushed him to the rear once more. The whole of Regojin?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. ?Oh, what a queen she is!? he ejaculated, every other minute, throwing out the rem ark for anyone who liked to catch it. ?That?s the sort of woman for me! Which of you would think of doing a thing like that, you blackguards, The Idiot 317 of 1149 eh?? he yelled. He was hopelessly and wildly beside himself with ecstasy. The prince watched the whole scene, silent and dejected. ?I?ll pull it out with my t eeth for one thousand,? said Ferdishenko. ?So would I,? said another, from behind, ?with pleasure. Devil take the thing!? he added, in a tempest of despair, ?it will all be burnt up in a minute?It?s burning, it?s burning!? ?It?s burning, it?s burning!? cried all, thronging nearer and nearer to the fire in their excitement. ?Gania, don?t be a fool! I tell you for the last time.? ?Get on, quick!? shrieked Ferdishenko, rushing wildly up to Gania, and trying to drag him to the fire by the sleeve of his coat. ?Get it, you dummy, it?s burning away fast! Oh?DAMN the thing!? Gania hurled Ferdishenko from him; then he turned sharp round and made for the door. But he had not gone a couple of steps when he tottered and fell to the ground. ?He?s fainted!? the cry went round. ?And the money?s burning still,? Lebedeff lamented. ?Burning for nothing,? shouted others. The Idiot 318 of 1149 ?Katia-Pasha! Bring him some water!? cried Nastasia Philipovna. Then she took th e tongs and fished out the packet. Nearly the whole of the outer covering was burned away, but it was soon evident that the contents were hardly touched. The packet had been wrapped in a threefold covering of newspaper, and the, notes were safe. All breathed more freely. ?Some dirty little thousand or so may be touched,? said Lebedeff, immensely relieved, ?but there?s very little harm done, after all.? ?It?s all his?the whole packet is for him, do you hear? all of you?? cried Nastasia Philipovna, placing the packet by the side of Gania. ?He re strained himself, and didn?t go after it; so his self-respect is greater than his thirst for money. All right? he?ll come to directly?he must have the packet or he?ll cut his th roat afterwards. There! He?s coming to himself. General, Totski, all of you, did you hear me? The money is all Gania?s. I give it to him, fully conscious of my action, as recompense for? well, for anything he thinks best. Tell hi m so. Let it lie here beside him. Off we go, Rogojin! Goodbye, prince. I have seen a man for the first time in my life. Goodbye, Afanasy Ivanovitch? and thanks!? The Idiot 319 of 1149 The Rogojin gang followed their leader and Nastasia Philipovna to the entrance-hall, laughing and shouting and whistling. In the hall the servants were waiting, and handed her her fur cloak. Martha, the cook, ran in from the kitchen. Nastasia kissed them all round. ?Are you really throwing us all over, little mother? Where, where are you going to? And on your birthday, too!? cried the four girls, crying over her and kissing her hands. ?I am going out into the wor ld, Katia; perhaps I shall be a laundress. I don?t know. No more of Afanasy Ivanovitch, anyhow. Give him my respects. Don?t think badly of me, girls.? The prince hurried down to the front gate where the party were settling into the tr oikas, all the bells tinkling a merry accompaniment the while. The general caught him up on the stairs: ?Prince, prince!? he crie d, seizing hold of his arm, ?recollect yourself! Drop her, prince! You see what sort of a woman she is. I am speaking to you like a father.? The prince glanced at him, but said nothing. He shook himself free, and rushed on downstairs. The Idiot 320 of 1149 The general was just in time to see the prince take the first sledge he could get, and, giving the order to Ekaterinhof, start off in pursuit of the troikas. Then the general?s fine grey horse dr agged that worthy home, with some new thoughts, and some new hopes and calculations developing in his brain, and wit h the pearls in his pocket, for he had not forgotten to bring them along with him, being a man of business. Amid his new thoughts and ideas there came, once or twice, the image of Nastasia Philipovna. The general sighed. ?I?m sorry, really sorry,? he muttered. ?She?s a ruined woman. Mad! mad! However, the prince is not for Nastasia Philipovna now,?perhaps it?s as well.? Two more of Nastasia?s guests, who walked a short distance together, indulged in high moral sentiments of a similar nature. ?Do you know, Totski, this is all very like what they say goes on among the Japanese?? said Ptitsin. ?The offended party there, they say, marches off to his insulter and says to him, ?You insulted me, so I have come to rip myself open before your eyes;? and with these words he does actually rip his stomach open before his enemy, and considers, doubtless, that he is having all possible and The Idiot 321 of 1149 necessary satisfaction and revenge. There are strange characters in the world, sir!? ?H?m! and you think there was something of this sort here, do you? Dear me?a very remarkable comparison, you know! But you must have ob served, my dear Ptitsin, that I did all I possibly could. I could do no more than I did. And you must admi t that there are some rare qualities in this woman. I felt I could not speak in that Bedlam, or I should have been tempted to cry out, when she reproached me, that she herself was my best justification. Such a woman could make anyone forget all reason? everything! Even that moujik, Rogojin, you saw, brought her a hundred thousand rouble s! Of course, all that happened tonight was ephemeral, fantastic, unseemly?yet it lacked neither colour nor originality. My God! What might not have been made of such a character combined with such beauty! Yet in spite of all efforts ?in spite of all education, even?all those gift s are wasted! She is an uncut diamond.... I have often said so.? And Afanasy Ivanovitch heaved a deep sigh. The Idiot 322 of 1149

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