“You astonish me,” said the lady, gazing as before. “Fits, and hungry too! What sort of fits?”
“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 stolen anything whatever in his life?” “You must have told somebody you were going to trot out the champagne, and that’s why they are all come!” muttered Rogojin, as the two entered the verandah. “We know all about that! You’ve only to whistle and they come up in shoals!” he continued, almost angrily. He was doubtless thinking of his own late experiences with his boon companions.

“You must tell me all about it tomorrow! Don’t be afraid. I wish you success; we agree so entirely that I 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 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.”

“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 quite 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 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 thing. 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 accomplishing my task. Perhaps I shall meet with troubles and many disappointments, but I have made 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?

The prince looked back at him in amazement.

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 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 original, at least, and might turn out to be amusing. “And supposing it’s something that one--one can’t speak about before ladies?” asked the timid and silent young man.
“It seems to me,” interrupted the prince, “that I was foolish to trouble you just now. However, at present you... Good-bye!”

“I don’t love you a bit!” she said suddenly, just as though the words had exploded from her mouth.

Of course, the last argument was the chief one. The maternal heart trembled with indignation to think of such an absurdity, although in that heart there rose another voice, which said: “And _why_ is not the prince such a husband as you would have desired for Aglaya?” It was this voice which annoyed Lizabetha Prokofievna more than anything else.
The amiable and undoubtedly witty Prince N. could not but feel that he was as a sun, risen for one night only to shine upon the Epanchin drawing-room. He accounted them immeasurably his inferiors, and it was this feeling which caused his special amiability and delightful ease and grace towards them. He knew very well that he must tell some story this evening for the edification of the company, and led up to it with the inspiration of anticipatory triumph.

“What are you looking so surprised about, my friend?” asked Mrs. Epanchin, suddenly. “Did you suppose he was stupider than yourself, and was incapable of forming his own opinions, or what?”

The door opened at this point, and in came Gania most unexpectedly.
“You’ve moved him to tears,” added Ferdishenko. But Hippolyte was by no means weeping. He was about to move from his place, when his four guards rushed at him and seized him once more. There was a laugh at this.
“She sent to say, yesterday morning, that I was never to dare to come near the house again.”
“Impossible!” cried the prince. “No; Constant was away then, taking a letter to the Empress Josephine. Instead of him there were always a couple of orderlies--and that was all, excepting, of course, the generals and marshals whom Napoleon always took with him for the inspection of various localities, and for the sake of consultation generally. I remember there was one--Davoust--nearly always with him--a big man with spectacles. They used to argue and quarrel sometimes. Once they were in the Emperor’s study together--just those two and myself--I was unobserved--and they argued, and the Emperor seemed to be agreeing to something under protest. Suddenly his eye fell on me and an idea seemed to flash across him.

All we know is, that the marriage really was arranged, and that the prince had commissioned Lebedeff and Keller to look after all the necessary business connected with it; that he had requested them to spare no expense; that Nastasia herself was hurrying on the wedding; that Keller was to be the prince’s best man, at his own earnest request; and that Burdovsky was to give Nastasia away, to his great delight. The wedding was to take place before the middle of July.

“Yes, believe it or not! It’s all the same to me!”

“Parfen! I won’t believe it.”

“We have just used the expression ‘accidental case.’ This is a significant phrase; we often hear it. Well, not long since everyone was talking and reading about that terrible murder of six people on the part of a--young fellow, and of the extraordinary speech of the counsel for the defence, who observed that in the poverty-stricken condition of the criminal it must have come _naturally_ into his head to kill these six people. I do not quote his words, but that is the sense of them, or something very like it. Now, in my opinion, the barrister who put forward this extraordinary plea was probably absolutely convinced that he was stating the most liberal, the most humane, the most enlightened view of the case that could possibly be brought forward in these days. Now, was this distortion, this capacity for a perverted way of viewing things, a special or accidental case, or is such a general rule?”
“That means that you have set Aglaya a riddle!” said Adelaida. “Guess it, Aglaya! But she’s pretty, prince, isn’t she?”

“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.

“Not the least bit in the world, esteemed and revered prince! Not the least bit in the world!” cried Lebedeff, solemnly, with his hand upon his heart. “On the contrary, I am too painfully aware that neither by my position in the world, nor by my gifts of intellect and heart, nor by my riches, nor by any former conduct of mine, have I in any way deserved your confidence, which is far above my highest aspirations and hopes. Oh no, prince; I may serve you, but only as your humble slave! I am not angry, oh no! Not angry; pained perhaps, but nothing more.” “Why don’t you say something?” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, stamping her foot.

“Let’s go in--but you mustn’t--well--let’s go in.”

“Surely not _all_, ma’am? They seem so disorderly--it’s dreadful to see them.”
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.
“Quite so, quite so; and he swears that his wife never found out that one of his legs was wooden all the while they were married. When I showed him the ridiculousness of all this, he said, ‘Well, if you were one of Napoleon’s pages in 1812, you might let me bury my leg in the Moscow cemetery.’ ”
“He has told me already that he hates you,” murmured Aglaya, scarcely audibly.
“He never drinks much in the morning; if you have come to talk business with him, do it now. It is the best time. He sometimes comes back drunk in the evening; but just now he passes the greater part of the evening in tears, and reads passages of Holy Scripture aloud, because our mother died five weeks ago.”
She gazed attentively at him.
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.
“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 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.” “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, 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 see 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 that 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!”

“I certainly thought they invited you with quite other views.”

“What do you mean by ‘arrangements’?”
“What’s to be done? It’s fate,” said the general, shrugging his shoulders, and, for a long while after, he continued to repeat: “It’s fate, it’s fate!”
“It cannot be moved; you would have to pull the wall down, it is so firmly fixed.”
“One point in your favour is that you seem to have a child-like mind, and extreme truthfulness,” said the prince at last. “Do you know that that atones for much?”

“I told you I had not had much of an education,” replied the prince.

The prince glanced in the direction indicated.
“Why not? Let in anyone who wants to see me. I assure you, Lebedeff, you have misunderstood my position from the very first; you have been wrong all along. I have not the slightest reason to hide myself from anyone,” replied the prince gaily.
“How so?” asked Adelaida, with curiosity.
No, this was no apparition!
“Full of love for that sweet vision, Brave and pure he took the field; With his blood he stained the letters N. P. B. upon his shield.
“Quite so; I understand. I understand quite well. You are very--Well, how did she appear to you? What did she look like? No, I don’t want to know anything about her,” said Aglaya, angrily; “don’t interrupt me--”
“Perhaps not; it is very possible,” the prince agreed hastily, “though I do not know what general law you allude to. I will go on--only please do not take offence without good cause. I assure you I do not mean to offend you in the least. Really, it is impossible to speak three words sincerely without your flying into a rage! At first I was amazed when Tchebaroff told me that Pavlicheff had a son, and that he was in such a miserable position. Pavlicheff was my benefactor, and my father’s friend. Oh, Mr. Keller, why does your article impute things to my father without the slightest foundation? He never squandered the funds of his company nor ill-treated his subordinates, I am absolutely certain of it; I cannot imagine how you could bring yourself to write such a calumny! But your assertions concerning Pavlicheff are absolutely intolerable! You do not scruple to make a libertine of that noble man; you call him a sensualist as coolly as if you were speaking the truth, and yet it would not be possible to find a chaster man. He was even a scholar of note, and in correspondence with several celebrated scientists, and spent large sums in the interests of science. As to his kind heart and his good actions, you were right indeed when you said that I was almost an idiot at that time, and could hardly understand anything--(I could speak and understand Russian, though),--but now I can appreciate what I remember--”
“I wished to find out from you,” she said, firmly, “by what right you dare to meddle with his feelings for me? By what right you dared send me those letters? By what right do you continually remind both me and him that you love him, after you yourself threw him over and ran away from him in so insulting and shameful a way?”
“Yes--not a physical one! I don’t suppose anyone--even a woman--would raise a hand against me now. Even Gania would hesitate! I did think at one time yesterday, that he would fly at me, though. I bet anything that I know what you are thinking of now! You are thinking: ‘Of course one can’t strike the little wretch, but one could suffocate him with a pillow, or a wet towel, when he is asleep! One _ought_ to get rid of him somehow.’ I can see in your face that you are thinking that at this very second.”
“I shan’t ever be a Rothschild, and there is no reason why I should,” he added, smiling; “but I shall have a house in the Liteynaya, perhaps two, and that will be enough for me.” “Who knows but what I may have three!” he concluded to himself; but this dream, cherished inwardly, he never confided to a soul.
Suddenly Rogojin burst into a loud abrupt laugh, as though he had quite forgotten that they must speak in whispers.
“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?”

“Calm yourself, my dear fellow. You are exaggerating again; you really have no occasion to be so grateful to us. It is a feeling which does you great credit, but an exaggeration, for all that.”

Suddenly Hippolyte jumped up as though he had been shot.

“Oh--I didn’t like to disturb you, prince, in the midst of your private and doubtless most interesting personal reflections. Besides, I wanted to appear, myself, to have found nothing. I took the purse, and opened it, and counted the money, and shut it and put it down again under the chair.”

“What Osterman?” asked the prince in some surprise.

“So, so--the son of my old, I may say my childhood’s friend, Nicolai Petrovitch.”
“And you’ll never reproach me with it?”

The chief object in his mind at this moment was to get as quickly as he could to Nastasia Philipovna’s lodging. He remembered that, not long since, when she had left Pavlofsk at his request, he had begged her to put up in town at the house of a respectable widow, who had well-furnished rooms to let, near the Ismailofsky barracks. Probably Nastasia had kept the rooms when she came down to Pavlofsk this last time; and most likely she would have spent the night in them, Rogojin having taken her straight there from the station.

“Come, Lizabetha Prokofievna, it is quite time for us to be going, we will take the prince with us,” said Prince S. with a smile, in the coolest possible way.
“But--why?”
“It would be very pleasant,” returned the prince. “But we must see. I am really rather 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.”
“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--”
“PR. L. MUISHKIN.”
“Why, what an idiot it is!” cried Nastasia, stamping her foot with irritation. “Go on, do! Whom are you going to announce?”

“And now it is you who have brought them together again?”

“Yes, he’s in church.”

Hippolyte suddenly burst into a fit of hysterical laughter, which turned into a choking cough.

Such a feeling, we must suppose, overtook Rogojin at this moment, and saved the prince’s life. Not knowing that it was a fit, and seeing his victim disappear head foremost into the darkness, hearing his head strike the stone steps below with a crash, Rogojin rushed downstairs, skirting the body, and flung himself headlong out of the hotel, like a raving madman.
Evgenie called upon the prince the day after that on which the Epanchins left Pavlofsk. He knew of all the current rumours,--in fact, he had probably contributed to them himself. The prince was delighted to see him, and immediately began to speak of the Epanchins;--which simple and straightforward opening quite took Evgenie’s fancy, so that he melted at once, and plunged in medias res without ceremony.
“That officer, eh!--that young officer--don’t you remember that fellow at the band? Eh? Ha, ha, ha! Didn’t she whip him smartly, eh?”
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 more beautiful. Like most men 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 maliciously Nastasia laughed at the idea of such a thing, now!
“I assure you this business left 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. “It is not my intrigue!” cried Lebedeff, waving his hand.

“Wouldn’t it be better, esteemed prince, wouldn’t it be better--to--don’t you know--”

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!”
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. “Delighted, I’m sure,” said Aglaya; “I am acquainted with Varvara Ardalionovna and Nina Alexandrovna.” She was trying hard to restrain herself from laughing. “Confess that you are pleased to have read it.”
“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--”
He gave full, satisfactory, and direct evidence on every point; and the prince’s name was, thanks to this, not brought into the proceedings. Rogojin was very quiet during the progress of the trial. He did not contradict his clever and eloquent counsel, who argued that the brain fever, or inflammation of the brain, was the cause of the crime; clearly proving that this malady had existed long before the murder was perpetrated, and had been brought on by the sufferings of the accused.
“It is difficult to explain, but certainly not the hopes you have in your mind. Hopes--well, in a word, hopes for the future, and a feeling of joy that _there_, at all events, I was not entirely a stranger and a foreigner. I felt an ecstasy in being in my native land once more; and one sunny morning I took up a pen and wrote her that letter, but why to _her_, I don’t quite know. Sometimes one longs to have a friend near, and I evidently felt the need of one then,” added the prince, and paused.
The fact that the prince confirmed her idea, about Hippolyte shooting himself that she might read his confession, surprised her greatly.
“That is all he thinks of!” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna.
“No, he has not.”
“Oh, I happened to recall it, that’s all! It fitted into the conversation--”
“Is it jolly there?”