“I guess what you mean--I should be an Osterman, not a Gleboff--eh? Is that what you meant?”

“Cruel?” sobbed Aglaya. “Yes, I _am_ cruel, and worthless, and spoiled--tell father so,--oh, here he is--I forgot Father, listen!” She laughed through her tears.

“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.

Hippolyte clutched his manuscript, and gazing at the last speaker with glittering eyes, said: “You don’t like me at all!” A few laughed at this, but not all.

He was panting with ecstasy. He walked round and round Nastasia Philipovna and told everybody to “keep their distance.”

“There are a couple of torn volumes somewhere; they have been lying about from time immemorial,” added Alexandra.

“I will tell you all the story. I am his nephew; he did speak the truth there, although he is generally telling lies. I am at the University, and have not yet finished my course. I mean to do so, and I shall, for I have a determined character. I must, however, find something to do for the present, and therefore I have got employment on the railway at twenty-four roubles a month. I admit that my uncle has helped me once or twice before. Well, I had twenty roubles in my pocket, and I gambled them away. Can you believe that I should be so low, so base, as to lose money in that way?”

“Just as before, sir, just as before! To a certain person, and from a certain hand. The individual’s name who wrote the letter is to be represented by the letter A.--”

“Well then, have you come here for _her?_ Are you in love with _her?_ With _that_ creature?”

“Oh, but I do know, as it happens,” said the clerk in an aggravating manner. “Lebedeff knows all about her. You 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.”

“Don’t be a simpleton. You behave just as though you weren’t a man at all. Come on! I shall see, now, with my own eyes. I shall see all.”

“It’s all the same; you ought to have run after Aglaya though the other was fainting.”

“Excuse me,” said Lebedeff, “but did you observe the young gentleman’s style? ‘I’ll go and blow my brains out in the park,’ says he, ‘so as not to disturb anyone.’ He thinks he won’t disturb anybody if he goes three yards away, into the park, and blows his brains out there.”

The prince made no reply.

Lebedeff made a strange and very expressive grimace; he twisted about in his chair, and did something, apparently symbolical, with his hands.

Half an hour after this conversation, she went off to town, and thence to the Kammenny Ostrof, [“Stone Island,” a suburb and park of St. Petersburg] to see Princess Bielokonski, who had just arrived from Moscow on a short visit. The princess was Aglaya’s godmother.

“At all events, I shall not interfere with you!” he murmured, as though making answer to some secret thought of his own.

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

“My goodness, what utter twaddle, and what may all this nonsense have signified, pray? If it had any meaning at all!” said Mrs. Epanchin, cuttingly, after having listened with great attention.

“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!’

“Do you know what time it is?”

The huge vase swayed backwards and forwards; it seemed to be uncertain whether or no to topple over on to the head of one of the old men, but eventually determined to go the other way, and came crashing over towards the German poet, who darted out of the way in terror.

“And where have you come to?”

“You are mad!” he cried, indignantly.

“Neither during my illness nor at any previous time had I ever seen an apparition;--but I had always thought, both when I was a little boy, and even now, that if I were to see one I should die on the spot--though I don’t believe in ghosts. And yet _now_, when the idea struck me that this was a ghost and not Rogojin at all, I was not in the least alarmed. Nay--the thought actually irritated me. Strangely enough, the decision of the question as to whether this were a ghost or Rogojin did not, for some reason or other, interest me nearly so much as it ought to have done;--I think I began to muse about something altogether different. For instance, I began to wonder why Rogojin, who had been in dressing-gown and slippers when I saw him at home, had now put on a dress-coat and white waistcoat and tie? I also thought to myself, I remember--‘if this is a ghost, and I am not afraid of it, why don’t I approach it and verify my suspicions? Perhaps I am afraid--’ And no sooner did this last idea enter my head than an icy blast blew over me; I felt a chill down my backbone and my knees shook.

“Oh, the devil take Switzerland!”

“What shall I write?” asked the prince.

“But, look here, are you a great hand with the ladies? Let’s know that first?” asked Rogojin.

The prince observed with great surprise, as he approached his villa, accompanied by Rogojin, that a large number of people were assembled on his verandah, which was brilliantly lighted up. The company seemed merry and were noisily laughing and talking--even quarrelling, to judge from the sounds. At all events they were clearly enjoying themselves, and the prince observed further on closer investigation--that all had been drinking champagne. To judge from the lively condition of some of the party, it was to be supposed that a considerable quantity of champagne had been consumed already.

At last he was wide awake.

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

“‘Nurse, where is your tomb?’

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.

“Yes, quite so; very remarkable.”

A month after Muishkin’s departure, Mrs. Epanchin received a letter from her old friend Princess Bielokonski (who had lately left for Moscow), which letter put her into the greatest good humour. She did not divulge its contents either to her daughters or the general, but her conduct towards the former became affectionate in the extreme. She even made some sort of confession to them, but they were unable to understand what it was about. She actually relaxed towards the general a little--he had been long disgraced--and though she managed to quarrel with them all the next day, yet she soon came round, and from her general behaviour it was to be concluded that she had had good news of some sort, which she would like, but could not make up her mind, to disclose.

“It _is_ true, it _is_ true,” cried Aglaya, almost beside herself with rage.

“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!”

“I suppose you’ll say there is nothing national about our literature either?” said Alexandra.

“Yes, or even if they had! But who did sleep with you?”

“So, so--the son of my old, I may say my childhood’s friend, Nicolai Petrovitch.”

“I felt so furious with him at this moment that I longed to rush at him; but as I had sworn that he should speak first, I continued to lie still--and the more willingly, as I was still by no means satisfied as to whether it really was Rogojin or not.

“My word! what a thing to be melancholy about! Why, do you think I should be any happier if I were to feel disturbed about the excavations you tell me of?”

Suddenly he became aware that General Epanchin was tapping him on the shoulder; Ivan Petrovitch was laughing too, but still more kind and sympathizing was the old dignitary. He took the prince by the hand and pressed it warmly; then he patted it, and quietly urged him to recollect himself--speaking to him exactly as he would have spoken to a little frightened child, which pleased the prince wonderfully; and next seated him beside himself.

When the prince reached home, about nine o’clock, he found Vera Lebedeff and the maid on the verandah. They were both busy trying to tidy up the place after last night’s disorderly party.

The prince’s expression was 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.

He caught his breath, and began to cough once more.

So saying, the prince approached Aglaya.

“But I tell you she is not in Pavlofsk! She’s in Colmina.”

“But I don’t know _how_ to see!”

“I see you had something to do with it.”

“To the station, quick! If you catch the train you shall have another. Quick!”

The prince made after him, but it so happened that at this moment Evgenie Pavlovitch stretched out his hand to say good-night. The next instant there was a general outcry, and then followed a few moments of indescribable excitement.

“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 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, which 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.”

If anyone had come up at this moment and told him that he was in love, passionately in love, he would have rejected the idea with astonishment, and, perhaps, with irritation. And if anyone had added that Aglaya’s note was a love-letter, and that it contained an appointment to a lover’s rendezvous, he would have blushed with shame for the speaker, and, probably, have challenged him to a duel.

“General Ivolgin--retired and unfortunate. May I ask your Christian and generic names?”

“You kiss my hands, _mine?_”

“As for you, sir,” he cried, “you should at least remember that you are in a strange house and--receiving hospitality; you should not take the opportunity of tormenting an old man, sir, who is too evidently out of his mind.”

“Besides, he’s quite a child; we can entertain him with a little hide-and-seek, in case of need,” said Adelaida.

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 affirm 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 circumstance 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.

Hippolyte paused, and looked at him intently and with great gratification. He then turned his gaze upon Varia, bowed, and went out, without adding another word.

“Aglaya, make a note of ‘Pafnute,’ or we shall forget him. H’m! and where is this signature?”

“Then why is it ‘not the point’?”

“Nicolai Ardalionovitch...”

“Would Rogojin marry her, do you think?”

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.

It was “heads.”

“What brutes they all are!” he whispered to the prince. Whenever he addressed him he lowered his voice.

Here Hippolyte suddenly, and most unexpectedly, pulled out of his breast-pocket a large sealed paper. This imposing-looking document he placed upon the table before him.

Both the listeners laughed again.

In a state of terrible excitement she threw back her head, with flaming eyes, casting looks of contempt and defiance upon the whole company, in which she could no longer distinguish friend from foe. She had restrained herself so long that she felt forced to vent her rage on somebody. Those who knew Lizabetha Prokofievna saw at once how it was with her. “She flies into these rages sometimes,” said Ivan Fedorovitch to Prince S. the next day, “but she is not often so violent as she was yesterday; it does not happen more than once in three years.”

“One thing I may tell you, for certain,” concluded Ptitsin, addressing the prince, “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.”

“Yes, especially this kind.”

II.

The two sisters hurriedly went after her.

“Is that all? What about her character?” persisted Mrs. Epanchin.

Observing the prince, whom she evidently did not expect to see there, alone in the corner, she smiled, and approached him:

She was astonished and vexed, and her disappointment pleased Colia immensely. Of course he could have undeceived her before she started, but the mischievous boy had been careful not to do that, foreseeing the probably laughable disgust that she would experience when she found her dear friend, the prince, in good health. Colia was indelicate enough to voice the delight he felt at his success in managing to annoy Lizabetha Prokofievna, with whom, in spite of their really amicable relations, he was constantly sparring.

“There’s news!” continued the clear voice. “You need not be anxious about Kupferof’s IOU’s--Rogojin has bought them up. I persuaded him to!--I dare say we shall settle Biscup too, so it’s all right, you see! _Au revoir_, tomorrow! And don’t worry!” The carriage moved on, and disappeared.

“At once? Now? You must have forgotten...” began the prince.

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

Lebedeff grimaced and wriggled again.

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 certain weaknesses, in which he now indulged with all the less restraint; but his good manners remained with him to this day, in spite of all.

She spoke angrily, and in great excitement, and expected an immediate reply. But in such a case, no matter how many are present, all prefer to keep silence: no one will take the initiative, but all reserve their comments till afterwards. There were some present--Varvara Ardalionovna, for instance--who would have willingly sat there till morning without saying a word. Varvara had sat apart all the evening without opening her lips, but she listened to everything with the closest attention; perhaps she had her reasons for so doing.

“Oh!” cried the general, catching 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!”

“I have not asked you to marry me yet, Aglaya Ivanovna,” said the prince, becoming suddenly animated; “but you know yourself how much I love you and trust you.”

“Cruel?” sobbed Aglaya. “Yes, I _am_ cruel, and worthless, and spoiled--tell father so,--oh, here he is--I forgot Father, listen!” She laughed through her tears.

There was no need to repeat that she was serious. The general, like all drunkards, was extremely emotional and easily touched by recollections of his better days. He rose and walked quietly to the door, so meekly that Mrs. Epanchin was instantly sorry for him.

But the general only stood stupefied and gazed around in a dazed way. Gania’s speech had impressed him, with its terrible candour. For the first moment or two he could find no words to answer him, and it was only when Hippolyte burst out laughing, and said:

“The children of the nineteenth century, and their parents--” began the general, again.

“I like looking at that picture,” muttered Rogojin, not noticing, apparently, that the prince had not answered his question.

“But I don’t know _how_ to see!”

“Of course you have your own lodging at Pavlofsk at--at your daughter’s house,” began the prince, quite at a loss what to say. He suddenly recollected that the general had come for advice on a most important matter, affecting his destiny.

“A son of my old friend, dear,” he cried; “surely you must remember Prince Nicolai Lvovitch? You saw him at--at Tver.”

“Ah! I thought perhaps Ferdishenko had taken it.”

“What is this ‘star’?” asked another.

“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.”

“Well, leave your hotel at once and come here; then we can all go together to Pavlofsk the day after tomorrow.”

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.

“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!”

Next moment he was absolutely unconscious; black darkness blotted out everything.