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.

“Only to show it. Nastasia Philipovna gave it to Gavrila Ardalionovitch today, and the latter brought it here to show to the general.”

“He is drunk,” said the prince, quietly, “and he loves you very much.”

“Oh, I can’t do that, you know! I shall say something foolish out of pure ‘funk,’ and break something for the same excellent reason; I know I shall. Perhaps I shall slip and fall on the slippery floor; I’ve done that before now, you know. I shall dream of it all night now. Why did you say anything about it?”

“Loves him? She is head over ears in love, that’s what she is,” put in Alexandra.

“You shall hear all this directly, gentlemen. I--I--listen!”

He aired his own views on various matters, some of his most private opinions and observations, many of which would have seemed rather funny, so his hearers agreed afterwards, had they not been so well expressed.

Neither one nor the other seemed to give expression to her full thoughts.

“Do you say he is consumptive?”

“Ferdishenko--either tell us your story, or be quiet, and mind your own business. You exhaust all patience,” cuttingly and irritably remarked Nastasia Philipovna.

“Of course; and it all happened so easily and naturally. And yet, were a novelist to describe the episode, he would put in all kinds of impossible and incredible details.”

“I know, Colia told me that he had said he was off to--I forget the name, some friend of his, to finish the night.”

“Hide-and-seek? What do you mean?” inquired Mrs. Epanchin.

“Do you know,” Aglaya said to him once, interrupting the reading, “I’ve remarked that you are dreadfully badly educated. You never know anything thoroughly, if one asks you; neither anyone’s name, nor dates, nor about treaties and so on. It’s a great pity, you know!”

“What? At your house?” she asked, but without much surprise. “He was alive yesterday evening, wasn’t he? How could you sleep here after that?” she cried, growing suddenly animated.

“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.”

“Of course not.”

“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.”

The prince regarded Lebedeff with astonishment.

“Nastasia Philipovna?” said the clerk, as though trying to think out something.

“You know yourself it does not depend on me.”

“You found it? Thank God for that!”

It was “heads.”

“I am, of course, quite ready to add my efforts to yours in such a case,” said the prince, rising; “but I confess, Lebedeff, that I am terribly perplexed. Tell me, do you still think... plainly, you say yourself that you suspect Mr. Ferdishenko?”

“Yes, that’s better,” said Adelaida; “the prince _learned to see_ abroad.”

Lebedeff strained his eyes and ears to take in what the prince was saying. The latter was frowning more and more, and walking excitedly up and down, trying not to look at Lebedeff.

“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.

“Excuse me--I will take a seat,” interrupted Hippolyte once more, sitting down deliberately; “for I am not strong yet. Now then, I am ready to hear you. Especially as this is the last chance we shall have of a talk, and very likely the last meeting we shall ever have at all.”

“I am aware that you sent your son to that house--he told me so himself just now, but what is this intrigue?” said the prince, impatiently.

“No finessing, please. What did you write about?”

IX.

“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!”

“I am going out into the world, 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.”

Lebedeff ran up promptly to explain the arrival of all these gentlemen. He was himself somewhat intoxicated, but the prince gathered from his long-winded periods that the party had assembled quite naturally, and accidentally.

“Married? how--what marriage?” murmured Gania, overwhelmed with confusion.

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.

“Evgenie Pavlovitch,” he said, with strange excitement and seizing the latter’s hand in his own, “be assured that I esteem you as a generous and honourable man, in spite of everything. Be assured of that.”

“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. Hippolyte, 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 will remember that! Gania knows nothing about it. He would say that it was encouraging vice.”

“Look at that, now,” thought the mother to herself, “she does nothing but sleep and eat for a year at a time, and then suddenly flies out in the most incomprehensible way!”

They passed through the same rooms which the prince had traversed on his arrival. In the largest there were pictures on the walls, portraits and landscapes of little interest. Over the door, however, there was one of strange and rather striking shape; it was six or seven feet in length, and not more than a foot in height. It represented the Saviour just taken from the cross.

“I--I,” the general continued to whisper, clinging more and more tightly to the boy’s shoulder. “I--wish--to tell you--all--Maria--Maria Petrovna--Su--Su--Su.......”

The general very nearly smiled, but thought better of it and kept his smile back. Then 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.

The general shrugged his shoulders.

“What, it’s still there then, is it? Ever since the day before yesterday?”

Muishkin was so absent, that from the very first he could not attend to a word the other was saying; and when the general suddenly stopped before him with some excited question, he was obliged to confess, ignominiously, that he did not know in the least what he had been talking about.

“And I have heard of _you_,” continued the prince, addressing Ivan Petrovitch, “that when some of your villagers were burned out you gave them wood to build up their houses again, though they were no longer your serfs and had behaved badly towards you.”

It was strange, Nastasia Philipovna felt, to see Aglaya like this. She gazed at her, and could hardly believe her eyes and ears for a moment or two.

“One moment, my dear prince, just one. I must absolutely speak to you about something which is most grave,” said Lebedeff, mysteriously and solemnly, entering the room with a bow and looking extremely important. He had but just returned, and carried his hat in his hand. He looked preoccupied and most unusually dignified.

“He jumped up, too.

The latter was describing in eloquent words how, in consequence of recent legislation, he was obliged to sell a beautiful estate in the N. province, not because he wanted ready money--in fact, he was obliged to sell it at half its value. “To avoid another lawsuit about the Pavlicheff estate, I ran away,” he said. “With a few more inheritances of that kind I should soon be ruined!”

“Then at all events he knows her!” remarked the prince, after a moment’s silence.

“What a dear little thing she is,” thought the prince, and immediately forgot all about her.

IX.

And it was not until the third day that the formal reconciliation between the prince and the Epanchins took place, as said before.

Muishkin glanced at Rogojin in perplexity, but the latter only smiled disagreeably, and said nothing. The silence continued for some few moments.

The prince observed that Aglaya came out of her corner and approached the table at this point.

“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--”

Suddenly, to the astonishment of all, Keller went quickly up to the general.

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 Nastasia Philipovna that he was about to be married in St. Petersburg, 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.

“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.”

“What are you up to? Where are you off to? You’ve nowhere to go to, you know,” cried Gania, out of the window.

“The young fellow whose arms you held, don’t you know? He was so wild with you that he was going to send a friend to you tomorrow morning.”

“It’s a funny notion,” said Totski, “and yet quite natural--it’s only a new way of boasting.”

“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!”

“I shall never forgive you for all this, Ivan Fedorovitch--never! Look at her now. Why doesn’t she make fun of him? She said she would, and she doesn’t. Look there! She stares at him with all her eyes, and doesn’t move; and yet she told him not to come. He looks pale enough; and that abominable chatterbox, Evgenie Pavlovitch, monopolizes the whole of the conversation. Nobody else can get a word in. I could soon find out all about everything if I could only change the subject.”

“How strange that it should have browned so,” he said, reflectively. “These twenty-five rouble notes brown in a most extraordinary way, while other notes often grow paler. Take it.”

And Rogojin burst out laughing, this time with unconcealed malice, as though he were glad that he had been able to find an opportunity for giving vent to it.

“Wait a bit--I’ll make the bed, and you can lie down. I’ll lie down, too, and we’ll listen and watch, for I don’t know yet what I shall do... I tell you beforehand, so that you may be ready in case I--”

“Yes, it’s off our hands--off _yours_, I should say.”

“She’s mad surely, isn’t she?” the general appealed to Totski.

“Yes, what is it?” asked others. The packet sealed with red wax seemed to attract everyone, as though it were a magnet.

“Yes, he’s in church.”

“Yes, he went at seven o’clock. He came into the room on his way out; I was watching just then. He said he was going to spend ‘the rest of the night’ at Wilkin’s; there’s a tipsy fellow, a friend of his, of that name. Well, I’m off. Oh, here’s Lebedeff himself! The prince wants to go to sleep, Lukian Timofeyovitch, so you may just go away again.”

Among all the incidents of the day, one recurred to his mind to the exclusion of the rest; although now that his self-control was regained, and he was no longer under the influence of a nightmare, he was able to think of it calmly. It concerned the knife on Rogojin’s table. “Why should not Rogojin have as many knives on his table as he chooses?” thought the prince, wondering at his suspicions, as he had done when he found himself looking into the cutler’s window. “What could it have to do with me?” he said to himself again, and stopped as if rooted to the ground by a kind of paralysis of limb such as attacks people under the stress of some humiliating recollection.

He rose late, and immediately upon waking remembered all about the previous evening; he also remembered, though not quite so clearly, how, half an hour after his fit, he had been carried home.

“How strange that it should have browned so,” he said, reflectively. “These twenty-five rouble notes brown in a most extraordinary way, while other notes often grow paler. Take it.”

“I never thought of such a thing for a moment,” said the prince, with disgust.

“But, on the other hand, more frank in the evening! In the evening sincere and frank,” repeated Lebedeff, earnestly. “More candid, more exact, more honest, more honourable, and... although I may show you my weak side, I challenge you all; you atheists, for instance! How are you going to save the world? How find a straight road of progress, you men of science, of industry, of cooperation, of trades unions, and all the rest? How are you going to save it, I say? By what? By credit? What is credit? To what will credit lead you?”

“Yes--that’s a copy of a Holbein,” said the prince, looking at it again, “and a good copy, too, so far as I am able to judge. I saw the picture abroad, and could not forget it--what’s the matter?”

“Oh, no--no--I’m all right, I assure you!”

His cab took him to a small and bad hotel near the Litaynaya. Here he engaged a couple of rooms, dark and badly furnished. He washed and changed, and hurriedly left the hotel again, as though anxious to waste no time. Anyone who now saw him for the first time since he left Petersburg would judge that he had improved vastly so far as his exterior was concerned. His clothes certainly were very different; they were more fashionable, perhaps even too much so, and anyone inclined to mockery might have found something to smile at in his appearance. But what is there that people will not smile at?

Lebedeff had his desire. He went off with the noisy group of Rogojin’s friends towards the Voznesensky, while the prince’s route lay towards 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.

“Come, come, I’ve always heard that you ran away with the beautiful Countess Levitsky that time--throwing up everything in order to do it--and not from the Jesuits at all,” said Princess Bielokonski, suddenly.

“Yes, it was,” said the prince.

“They showed me out with bows and every kind of respect; they seemed quite beside themselves. I shall never forget the expression of their faces!

“Had we not better allow our hostess to retire?” asked Totski of the general.

VII.

“What, what?” said the general, much agitated.

“Are you off?” said Gania, suddenly, remarking that she had risen and was about to leave the room. “Wait a moment--look at this.”

The latter, with one thing and another, was now so disturbed and confused, that when, a couple of hours or so later, a message came from Colia that the general was ill, he could hardly take the news in.

“Halloa! what’s this now?” laughed Rogojin. “You come along with me, old fellow! You shall have as much to drink as you like.”

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 Nastasia Philipovna that he was about to be married in St. Petersburg, 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.

In reply to a very guarded question of her sisters’, Aglaya had answered coldly, but exceedingly haughtily:

“Yes, I am afraid...” began the prince.

This message entirely calmed the prince’s mind.

“Enough,” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna abruptly, trembling with anger, “we have had enough of this balderdash!”

“Is there really much more to be added?” asked the prince, with mild surprise. “Well, what is it you really want of me? Speak out; tell me why you came to make your confession to me?”

“Just now, I confess,” began the prince, with more animation, “when you asked me for a subject for a picture, I confess I had serious thoughts of giving you one. I thought of asking you to draw the face of a criminal, one minute before the fall of the guillotine, while the wretched man is still standing on the scaffold, preparatory to placing his neck on the block.”

“Are you in love with her?”

“What suspicion attaches to Evgenie Pavlovitch?”