Muiskhin looked disturbed, but continued to gaze intently and questioningly into Prince S.’s face. The latter, however, remained silent.

“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--”

She mechanically arranged her dress, and fidgeted uncomfortably, eventually changing her seat to the other end of the sofa. Probably she was unconscious of her own movements; but this very unconsciousness added to the offensiveness of their suggested meaning.

“The very time when he was cringing before you and making protestations of devotion! Oh, the mean wretches! I will have nothing to do with your Pushkin, and your daughter shall not set foot in my house!”

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

“When I entered the yard I thought I saw a man going along on the far side of it; but it was so dark I could not make out his figure.

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

“They can’t bake bread anywhere, decently; and they all freeze in their houses, during winter, like a lot of mice in a cellar. At all events, I’ve had a good Russian cry over this poor fellow,” she added, pointing to the prince, who had not recognized her in the slightest degree. “So enough of this nonsense; it’s time we faced the truth. All this continental life, all this Europe of yours, and all the trash about ‘going abroad’ is simply foolery, and it is mere foolery on our part to come. Remember what I say, my friend; you’ll live to agree with me yourself.”

“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.”

“Forgiving me! why so? What have I done to need his forgiveness?”

“No, I didn’t,” said the prince, trembling a little, and in great agitation. “You say Gavrila Ardalionovitch has private communications with Aglaya?--Impossible!”

“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.”

“I go to see her every day, every day.”

“I want to explain all to you--everything--everything! I know you think me Utopian, don’t you--an idealist? Oh, no! I’m not, indeed--my ideas are all so simple. You don’t believe me? You are smiling. Do you know, I am sometimes very wicked--for I lose my faith? This evening as I came here, I thought to myself, ‘What shall I talk about? How am I to begin, so that they may be able to understand partially, at all events?’ How afraid I was--dreadfully afraid! And yet, how _could_ I be afraid--was it not shameful of me? Was I afraid of finding a bottomless abyss of empty selfishness? Ah! that’s why I am so happy at this moment, because I find there is no bottomless abyss at all--but good, healthy material, full of life.

“Lizabetha Prokofievna!” exclaimed the prince.

However, it was something to move on and know where he was going. A minute later he was still moving on, but without knowing anything. He could no longer think out his new idea. He tried to take an interest in all he saw; in the sky, in the Neva. He spoke to some children he met. He felt his epileptic condition becoming more and more developed. The evening was very close; thunder was heard some way off.

“I haven’t been to see her for five days,” he repeated, after a slight pause. “I’m afraid of being turned out. She says she’s still her own mistress, and may turn me off altogether, and go abroad. She told me this herself,” he said, with a peculiar glance at Muishkin. “I think she often does it merely to frighten me. She is always laughing at me, for some reason or other; but at other times she’s angry, and won’t say a word, and that’s what I’m afraid of. I took her a shawl one day, the like of which she might never have seen, although she did live in luxury and she gave it away to her maid, Katia. Sometimes when I can keep away no longer, I steal past the house on the sly, and once I watched at the gate till dawn--I thought something was going on--and she saw me from the window. She asked me what I should do if I found she had deceived me. I said, ‘You know well enough.’”

II.

“You suspect him?”

They exchanged glances questioningly, but the prince did not seem to have understood the meaning of Aglaya’s words; he was in the highest heaven of delight.

“She sprang forward and stood still in front of the reptile as if she had been turned to stone. The beast stopped too, but its tail and claws still moved about. I believe animals are incapable of feeling supernatural fright--if I have been rightly informed,--but at this moment there appeared to me to be something more than ordinary about Norma’s terror, as though it must be supernatural; and as though she felt, just as I did myself, that this reptile was connected with some mysterious secret, some fatal omen.

“No, I have never shot in my life.”

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.

Everyone seemed to be speaking prophetically, hinting at some misfortune or sorrow to come; they had all looked at him as though they knew something which he did not know. Lebedeff had asked questions, Colia had hinted, and Vera had shed tears. What was it?

“I beg your pardon, gentlemen; please excuse me,” said the prince. “I thought absolute frankness on both sides would be best, but have it your own way. I told Tchebaroff that, as I was not in Petersburg, I would commission a friend to look into the matter without delay, and that I would let you know, Mr. Burdovsky. Gentlemen, I have no hesitation in telling you that it was the fact of Tchebaroff’s intervention that made me suspect a fraud. Oh! do not take offence at my words, gentlemen, for Heaven’s sake do not be so touchy!” cried the prince, seeing that Burdovsky was getting excited again, and that the rest were preparing to protest. “If I say I suspected a fraud, there is nothing personal in that. I had never seen any of you then; I did not even know your names; I only judged by Tchebaroff; I am speaking quite generally--if you only knew how I have been ‘done’ since I came into my fortune!”

“Where did they tell you so,--at his door?”

“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!”

All this was suspicious and unsatisfactory. Very likely the porter had received new instructions during the interval of the prince’s absence; his manner was so different now. He had been obliging--now he was as obstinate and silent as a mule. However, the prince decided to call again in a couple of hours, and after that to watch the house, in case of need. His hope was that he might yet find Nastasia at the address which he had just received. To that address he now set off at full speed.

“Yes... from you it is quite natural.”

“Quite so--parties--you are very right,” said the prince. “I was reading a book about Napoleon and the Waterloo campaign only the other day, by Charasse, in which the author does not attempt to conceal his joy at Napoleon’s discomfiture at every page. Well now, I don’t like that; it smells of ‘party,’ you know. You are quite right. And were you much occupied with your service under Napoleon?”

“Very well, what next?” said the latter, almost laughing in his face.

“Oh yes, I knew General Epanchin well,” General Ivolgin was saying at this moment; “he and Prince Nicolai 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; another is now before you, still battling with calumnies and bullets--”

“GAVRILA ARDOLIONOVITCH,--persuaded of your kindness of heart, I have determined to ask your advice on a matter of great importance to myself. I should like to meet you tomorrow morning at seven o’clock by the green bench in the park. It is not far from our house. Varvara Ardalionovna, who must accompany you, knows the place well.

He had gone to the front door, and was kept waiting a long while before anyone came. At last the door of old Mrs. Rogojin’s flat was opened, and an aged servant appeared.

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

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

“Well, go on.”

“Screw!” laughed Hippolyte.

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!”

“Kapiton didn’t exist either!” persisted Gania, maliciously.

Now and then he looked at Aglaya for five minutes at a time, without taking his eyes off her face; but his expression was very strange; he would gaze at her as though she were an object a couple of miles distant, or as though he were looking at her portrait and not at herself at all.

“That is a thing I cannot undertake to explain,” replied the prince. Gania looked at him with angry contempt.

Oh, he could not then speak these words, or express all he felt! He had been tormented dumbly; but now it appeared to him that he must have said these very words--even then--and that Hippolyte must have taken his picture of the little fly from his tears and words of that time.

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

“Mine, mine!” she cried. “Has the proud young lady gone? Ha, ha, ha!” she laughed hysterically. “And I had given him up to her! Why--why did I? Mad--mad! Get away, Rogojin! Ha, ha, ha!”

“Well, well! Enough! You’ve pitied me, and that’s all that good manners exact. I forgot, how are you?”

“I too had that idea, and I slept in peace. But now I see that their opinion is more correct. I do not believe in the theory of madness! The woman has no common sense; but she is not only not insane, she is artful to a degree. Her outburst of this evening about Evgenie’s uncle proves that conclusively. It was _villainous_, simply jesuitical, and it was all for some special purpose.”

“May I ask when this article was revised?” said Evgenie Pavlovitch to Keller.

“Very good. That would increase our income nicely. Have you any intention of being a Kammer-junker?”

“Why don’t you say something?” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, stamping her foot.

“Well! naturally he came to grief: the law is not administered as it used to be, and he only got laughed at for his pains. But he was much pleased with himself in spite of that. ‘Most learned judge!’ said he, ‘picture this unhappy man, crippled by age and infirmities, who gains his living by honourable toil--picture him, I repeat, robbed of his all, of his last mouthful; remember, I entreat you, the words of that learned legislator, “Let mercy and justice alike rule the courts of law.”’ Now, would you believe it, excellency, every morning he recites this speech to us from beginning to end, exactly as he spoke it before the magistrate. To-day we have heard it for the fifth time. He was just starting again when you arrived, so much does he admire it. He is now preparing to undertake another case. I think, by the way, that you are Prince Muishkin? Colia tells me you are the cleverest man he has ever known....”

“It was engineered by other people, and is, properly speaking, rather a fantasy than an intrigue!”

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

“If you really intended to shoot yourself, Terentieff,” said Evgenie Pavlovitch, laughing, “if I were you, after all these compliments, I should just not shoot myself in order to vex them all.”

“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 is that all your evidence? It is not enough!”

“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, thoughtfully. “At least, the name, I admit, is historical. Karamsin must mention the family name, of course, in his history--but as an individual--one never hears of any Prince Muishkin nowadays.”

“This--this is going beyond all limits!” said Lizabetha Prokofievna, suddenly alarmed.

At last Rogojin took the prince’s hand, and stood so for some moments, as though he could not make up his mind. Then he drew him along, murmuring almost inaudibly,

“Then don’t speak at all. Sit still and don’t talk.”

“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.

“Oh, devil take what he wanted you to do! Don’t try to be too cunning with me, young man!” shouted Gania. “If you are aware of the real reason for my father’s present condition (and you have kept such an excellent spying watch during these last few days that you are sure to be aware of it)--you had no right whatever to torment the--unfortunate man, and to worry my mother by your exaggerations of the affair; because the whole business is nonsense--simply a drunken freak, and nothing more, quite unproved by any evidence, and I don’t believe that much of it!” (he snapped his fingers). “But you must needs spy and watch over us all, because you are a--a--”

“In a word, you are a wretched little scandal-monger,” cried Gania, “and you cannot go away without a scandal!”

“You shall have lots of money; by the evening I shall have plenty; so come along!”

“That is your father, is it not?” asked the prince.

“It reminds me,” said Evgenie Pavlovitch, laughing, “of the famous plea of a certain lawyer who lately defended a man for murdering six people in order to rob them. He excused his client on the score of poverty. ‘It is quite natural,’ he said in conclusion, ‘considering the state of misery he was in, that he should have thought of murdering these six people; which of you, gentlemen, would not have done the same in his place?’”

That there was, indeed, beauty and harmony in those abnormal moments, that they really contained the highest synthesis of life, he could not doubt, nor even admit the possibility of doubt. He felt that they were not analogous to the fantastic and unreal dreams due to intoxication by hashish, opium or wine. Of that he could judge, when the attack was over. These instants were characterized--to define it in a word--by an intense quickening of the sense of personality. Since, in the last conscious moment preceding the attack, he could say to himself, with full understanding of his words: “I would give my whole life for this one instant,” then doubtless to him it really was worth a lifetime. For the rest, he thought the dialectical part of his argument of little worth; he saw only too clearly that the result of these ecstatic moments was stupefaction, mental darkness, idiocy. No argument was possible on that point. His conclusion, his estimate of the “moment,” doubtless contained some error, yet the reality of the sensation troubled him. What’s more unanswerable than a fact? And this fact had occurred. The prince had confessed unreservedly to himself that the feeling of intense beatitude in that crowded moment made the moment worth a lifetime. “I feel then,” he said one day to Rogojin in Moscow, “I feel then as if I understood those amazing words--‘There shall be no more time.’” And he added with a smile: “No doubt the epileptic Mahomet refers to that same moment when he says that he visited all the dwellings of Allah, in less time than was needed to empty his pitcher of water.” Yes, he had often met Rogojin in Moscow, and many were the subjects they discussed. “He told me I had been a brother to him,” thought the prince. “He said so today, for the first time.”

“Now, that is a valuable piece of information, Mr. Keller,” replied Gania. “However that may be, I have private information which convinces me that Mr. Burdovsky, though doubtless aware of the date of his birth, knew nothing at all about Pavlicheff’s sojourn abroad. Indeed, he passed the greater part of his life out of Russia, returning at intervals for short visits. The journey in question is in itself too unimportant for his friends to recollect it after more than twenty years; and of course Mr. Burdovsky could have known nothing about it, for he was not born. As the event has proved, it was not impossible to find evidence of his absence, though I must confess that chance has helped me in a quest which might very well have come to nothing. It was really almost impossible for Burdovsky or Tchebaroff to discover these facts, even if it had entered their heads to try. Naturally they never dreamt...”

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

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.

“Yes, yes--twenty years and three months. We were educated together; I went straight into the army, and he--”

“This page of the album, framed in gold, hung on the wall of my sister’s drawing-room all her life, in the most conspicuous place, till the day of her death; where it is now, I really don’t know. Heavens! it’s two o’clock! _How_ I have kept you, prince! It is really most unpardonable of me.”

“‘Like Napoleon going to England, eh?’ cried he, laughing. ‘I’ll do it though--of course, and at once, if I can!’ he added, seeing that I rose seriously from my chair at this point.

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

“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 fever and convulsions. A month after, when he had hardly recovered, he went off to the Crimea, and there he was shot.

At this they laughed heartily.

“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.”

So he walked back looking about him for the shop, and his heart beat with intolerable impatience. Ah! here was the very shop, and there was the article marked “60 cop.” Of course, it’s sixty copecks, he thought, and certainly worth no more. This idea amused him and he laughed.

“She is worthy of sympathy? Is that what you wished to say, my good fellow? But then, for the mere sake of vindicating her worthiness of sympathy, you should not have insulted and offended a noble and generous girl in her presence! This is a terrible exaggeration of sympathy! How can you love a girl, and yet so humiliate her as to throw her over for the sake of another woman, before the very eyes of that other woman, when you have already made her a formal proposal of marriage? And you _did_ propose to her, you know; you did so before her parents and sisters. Can you be an honest man, prince, if you act so? I ask you! And did you not deceive that beautiful girl when you assured her of your love?”

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

“I was only surprised that Mr. Burdovsky should have--however, this is what I have to say. Since you had already given the matter publicity, why did you object just now, when I began to speak of it to my friends?”

“Oh, no particular reason. I meant to ask you before--many people are unbelievers nowadays, especially Russians, I have been told. You ought to know--you’ve lived abroad.”

She gazed thirstily at him and clutched his hands.

“Do you know anything about Gavrila Ardalionovitch?” she asked at last.

“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. You can take your dinner with us, or have it in your room, just as you please. Come along, Colia, don’t disturb the prince.”

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

“I’ll tell you afterwards,” he said quietly.

“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.”

But the prince’s mental perturbation increased every moment. He wandered about the park, looking absently around him, and paused in astonishment when he suddenly found himself in the empty space with the rows of chairs round it, near the Vauxhall. The look of the place struck him as dreadful now: so he turned round and went by the path which he had followed with the Epanchins on the way to the band, until he reached the green bench which Aglaya had pointed out for their rendezvous. He sat down on it and suddenly burst into a loud fit of laughter, immediately followed by a feeling of irritation. His disturbance of mind continued; he felt that he must go away somewhere, anywhere.

“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.”

“However, it’s all the same to me; laugh or not, just as you please. When I asked him about you, he told me that he had long since ceased to love you, that the very recollection of you was a torture to him, but that he was sorry for you; and that when he thought of you his heart was pierced. I ought to tell you that I never in my life met a man anything like him for noble simplicity of mind and for boundless trustfulness. I guessed that anyone who liked could deceive him, and that he would immediately forgive anyone who did deceive him; and it was for this that I grew to love him--”

“Don’t be afraid,” he muttered, indistinctly, “though I have taken your cross, I shall not murder you for your watch.” So saying, he laughed suddenly, and strangely. Then in a moment his face became transfigured; he grew deadly white, his lips trembled, his eyes burned like fire. He stretched out his arms and held the prince tightly to him, and said in a strangled voice:

An hour later he was in St. Petersburg, and by ten o’clock he had rung the bell at Rogojin’s.

Keller suddenly left his seat, and approached Lizabetha Prokofievna.

Aglaya stamped her foot, and grew quite pale with anger.

“Mamma, what are you saying?” said Alexandra again, hurriedly.

But now his eyes had become so far accustomed to the darkness that he could distinguish the whole of the bed. Someone was asleep upon it--in an absolutely motionless sleep. Not the slightest movement was perceptible, not the faintest breathing could be heard. The sleeper was covered with a white sheet; the outline of the limbs was hardly distinguishable. He could only just make out that a human being lay outstretched there.

“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.”

“Ready--keep your distance, all of you!”