The Idiot by Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky PART I

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[2]         PART I
[4]         I.
[6]         Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o'clock one
[7]         morning, a train on the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was
[8]         approaching the latter city at full speed. The morning was so
[9]         damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the
[10]        day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish
[11]        anything more than a few yards away from the carriage windows.
[13]        Some of the passengers by this particular train were returning
[14]        from abroad; but the third-class carriages were the best filled,
[15]        chiefly with insignificant persons of various occupations and
[16]        degrees, picked up at the different stations nearer town. All of
[17]        them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a
[18]        shivering expression, while their complexions generally appeared
[19]        to have taken on the colour of the fog outside.
[21]        When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third-class
[22]        carriages found themselves opposite each other. Both were young
[23]        fellows, both were rather poorly dressed, both had remarkable
[24]        faces, and both were evidently anxious to start a conversation.
[25]        If they had but known why, at this particular moment, they were
[26]        both remarkable persons, they would undoubtedly have wondered at
[27]        the strange chance which had set them down opposite to one
[28]        another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway Company.
[30]        One of them was a young fellow of about twenty-seven, not tall,
[31]        with black curling hair, and small, grey, fiery eyes. His nose
[32]        was broad and flat, and he had high cheek bones; his thin lips
[33]        were constantly compressed into an impudent, ironical--it might
[34]        almost be called a malicious--smile; but his forehead was high
[35]        and well formed, and atoned for a good deal of the ugliness of
[36]        the lower part of his face. A special feature of this physiognomy
[37]        was its death-like pallor, which gave to the whole man an
[38]        indescribably emaciated appearance in spite of his hard look, and
[39]        at the same time a sort of passionate and suffering expression
[40]        which did not harmonize with his impudent, sarcastic smile and
[41]        keen, self-satisfied bearing. He wore a large fur--or rather
[42]        astrachan--overcoat, which had kept him warm all night, while his
[43]        neighbour had been obliged to bear the full severity of a Russian
[44]        November night entirely unprepared. His wide sleeveless mantle
[45]        with a large cape to it--the sort of cloak one sees upon
[46]        travellers during the winter months in Switzerland or North
[47]        Italy--was by no means adapted to the long cold journey through
[48]        Russia, from Eydkuhnen to St. Petersburg.
[50]        The wearer of this cloak was a young fellow, also of about
[51]        twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age, slightly above the
[52]        middle height, very fair, with a thin, pointed and very light
[53]        coloured beard; his eyes were large and blue, and had an intent
[54]        look about them, yet that heavy expression which some people
[55]        affirm to be a peculiarity. as well as evidence, of an epileptic
[56]        subject. His face was decidedly a pleasant one for all that;
[57]        refined, but quite colourless, except for the circumstance that
[58]        at this moment it was blue with cold. He held a bundle made up of
[59]        an old faded silk handkerchief that apparently contained all his
[60]        travelling wardrobe, and wore thick shoes and gaiters, his whole
[61]        appearance being very un-Russian.
[63]        His black-haired neighbour inspected these peculiarities, having
[64]        nothing better to do, and at length remarked, with that rude
[65]        enjoyment of the discomforts of others which the common classes
[66]        so often show:
[68]        "Cold?"
[70]        "Very," said his neighbour, readily. "and this is a thaw, too.
[71]        Fancy if it had been a hard frost! I never thought it would be so
[72]        cold in the old country. I've grown quite out of the way of it."
[74]        "What, been abroad, I suppose?"
[76]        "Yes, straight from Switzerland."
[78]        "Wheugh! my goodness!" The black-haired young fellow whistled,
[79]        and then laughed.
[81]        The conversation proceeded. The readiness of the fair-haired
[82]        young man in the cloak to answer all his opposite neighbour's
[83]        questions was surprising. He seemed to have no suspicion of any
[84]        impertinence or inappropriateness in the fact of such questions
[85]        being put to him. Replying to them, he made known to the inquirer
[86]        that he certainly had been long absent from Russia, more than
[87]        four years; that he had been sent abroad for his health; that he
[88]        had suffered from some strange nervous malady--a kind of
[89]        epilepsy, with convulsive spasms. His interlocutor burst out
[90]        laughing several times at his answers; and more than ever, when
[91]        to the question, " whether he had been cured?" the patient
[92]        replied:
[94]        "No, they did not cure me."
[96]        "Hey! that's it! You stumped up your money for nothing, and we
[97]        believe in those fellows, here!" remarked the black-haired
[98]        individual, sarcastically.
[100]       "Gospel truth, sir, Gospel truth!" exclaimed another passenger, a
[101]       shabbily dressed man of about forty, who looked like a clerk, and
[102]       possessed a red nose and a very blotchy face. "Gospel truth! All
[103]       they do is to get hold of our good Russian money free, gratis,
[104]       and for nothing. "
[106]       "Oh, but you're quite wrong in my particular instance," said the
[107]       Swiss patient, quietly. "Of course I can't argue the matter,
[108]       because I know only my own case; but my doctor gave me money--and
[109]       he had very little--to pay my journey back, besides having kept
[110]       me at his own expense, while there, for nearly two years."
[112]       "Why? Was there no one else to pay for you?" asked the black-
[113]       haired one.
[115]       "No--Mr. Pavlicheff, who had been supporting me there, died a
[116]       couple of years ago. I wrote to Mrs. General Epanchin at the time
[117]       (she is a distant relative of mine), but she did not answer my
[118]       letter. And so eventually I came back."
[120]       "And where have you come to?"
[122]       "That is--where am I going to stay? I--I really don't quite know
[123]       yet, I--"
[125]       Both the listeners laughed again.
[127]       "I suppose your whole set-up is in that bundle, then?" asked the
[128]       first.
[130]       "I bet anything it is!" exclaimed the red-nosed passenger, with
[131]       extreme satisfaction, "and that he has precious little in the
[132]       luggage van!--though of course poverty is no crime--we must
[133]       remember that!"
[135]       It appeared that it was indeed as they had surmised. The young
[136]       fellow hastened to admit the fact with wonderful readiness.
[138]       "Your bundle has some importance, however," continued the clerk,
[139]       when they had laughed their fill (it was observable that the
[140]       subject of their mirth joined in the laughter when he saw them
[141]       laughing); "for though I dare say it is not stuffed full of
[142]       friedrichs d'or and louis d'or--judge from your costume and
[143]       gaiters--still--if you can add to your possessions such a
[144]       valuable property as a relation like Mrs. General Epanchin, then
[145]       your bundle becomes a significant object at once. That is, of
[146]       course, if you really are a relative of Mrs. Epanchin's, and have
[147]       not made a little error through--well, absence of mind, which is
[148]       very common to human beings; or, say--through a too luxuriant
[149]       fancy?"
[151]       "Oh, you are right again," said the fair-haired traveller, "for I
[152]       really am ALMOST wrong when I say she and I are related. She is
[153]       hardly a relation at all; so little, in fact, that I was not in
[154]       the least surprised to have no answer to my letter. I expected as
[155]       much."
[157]       "H'm! you spent your postage for nothing, then. H'm! you are
[158]       candid, however--and that is commendable. H'm! Mrs. Epanchin--oh
[159]       yes! a most eminent person. I know her. As for Mr. Pavlicheff,
[160]       who supported you in Switzerland, I know him too--at least, if it
[161]       was Nicolai Andreevitch of that name? A fine fellow he was--and
[162]       had a property of four thousand souls in his day."
[164]       "Yes, Nicolai Andreevitch--that was his name," and the young
[165]       fellow looked earnestly and with curiosity at the all-knowing
[166]       gentleman with the red nose.
[168]       This sort of character is met with pretty frequently in a certain
[169]       class. They are people who know everyone--that is, they know
[170]       where a man is employed, what his salary is, whom he knows, whom
[171]       he married, what money his wife had, who are his cousins, and
[172]       second cousins, etc., etc. These men generally have about a
[173]       hundred pounds a year to live on, and they spend their whole time
[174]       and talents in the amassing of this style of knowledge, which
[175]       they reduce--or raise--to the standard of a science.
[177]       During the latter part of the conversation the black-haired young
[178]       man had become very impatient. He stared out of the window, and
[179]       fidgeted, and evidently longed for the end of the journey. He was
[180]       very absent; he would appear to listen-and heard nothing; and he
[181]       would laugh of a sudden, evidently with no idea of what he was
[182]       laughing about.
[184]       "Excuse me," said the red-nosed man to the young fellow with the
[185]       bundle, rather suddenly; "whom have I the honour to be talking
[186]       to?"
[188]       "Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Muishkin," replied the latter, with
[189]       perfect readiness.
[191]       "Prince Muishkin? Lef Nicolaievitch? H'm! I don't know, I'm sure!
[192]       I may say I have never heard of such a person," said the clerk,
[193]       thoughtfully. "At least, the name, I admit, is historical.
[194]       Karamsin must mention the family name, of course, in his history-
[195]       -but as an individual--one never hears of any Prince Muishkin
[196]       nowadays."
[198]       "Of course not," replied the prince; "there are none, except
[199]       myself. I believe I am the last and only one. As to my
[200]       forefathers, they have always been a poor lot; my own father was
[201]       a sublieutenant in the army. I don't know how Mrs. Epanchin comes
[202]       into the Muishkin family, but she is descended from the Princess
[203]       Muishkin, and she, too, is the last of her line."
[205]       "And did you learn science and all that, with your professor over
[206]       there?" asked the black-haired passenger.
[208]       "Oh yes--I did learn a little, but--"
[210]       "I've never learned anything whatever," said the other.
[212]       "Oh, but I learned very little, you know!" added the prince, as
[213]       though excusing himself. "They could not teach me very much on
[214]       account of my illness. "
[216]       "Do you know the Rogojins?" asked his questioner, abruptly.
[218]       "No, I don't--not at all! I hardly know anyone in Russia. Why, is
[219]       that your name?"
[221]       "Yes, I am Rogojin, Parfen Rogojin."
[223]       "Parfen Rogojin? dear me--then don't you belong to those very
[224]       Rogojins, perhaps--" began the clerk, with a very perceptible
[225]       increase of civility in his tone.
[227]       "Yes--those very ones," interrupted Rogojin, impatiently, and
[228]       with scant courtesy. I may remark that he had not once taken any
[229]       notice of the blotchy-faced passenger, and had hitherto addressed
[230]       all his remarks direct to the prince.
[232]       "Dear me--is it possible?" observed the clerk, while his face
[233]       assumed an expression of great deference and servility--if not of
[234]       absolute alarm: "what, a son of that very Semen Rogojin--
[235]       hereditary honourable citizen--who died a month or so ago and
[236]       left two million and a half of roubles?"
[238]       "And how do YOU know that he left two million and a half of
[239]       roubles?" asked Rogojin, disdainfully, and no deigning so much as
[240]       to look at the other. "However, it's true enough that my father
[241]       died a month ago, and that here am I returning from Pskoff, a
[242]       month after, with hardly a boot to my foot. They've treated me like
[243]       a dog! I've been ill of fever at Pskoff the whole time, and not a
[244]       line, nor farthing of money, have I received from my mother or my
[245]       confounded brother!"
[247]       "And now you'll have a million roubles, at least--goodness
[248]       gracious me!" exclaimed the clerk, rubbing his hands.
[250]       "Five weeks since, I was just like yourself," continued Rogojin,
[251]       addressing the prince, "with nothing but a bundle and the clothes
[252]       I wore. I ran away from my father and came to Pskoff to my aunt's
[253]       house, where I caved in at once with fever, and he went and died
[254]       while I was away. All honour to my respected father's memory--but
[255]       he uncommonly nearly killed me, all the same. Give you my word,
[256]       prince, if I hadn't cut and run then, when I did, he'd have
[257]       murdered me like a dog."
[259]       "I suppose you angered him somehow?" asked the prince, looking at
[260]       the millionaire with considerable curiosity But though there may
[261]       have been something remarkable in the fact that this man was heir
[262]       to millions of roubles there was something about him which
[263]       surprised and interested the prince more than that. Rogojin, too,
[264]       seemed to have taken up the conversation with unusual alacrity it
[265]       appeared that he was still in a considerable state of excitement,
[266]       if not absolutely feverish, and was in real need of someone to
[267]       talk to for the mere sake of talking, as safety-valve to his
[268]       agitation.
[270]       As for his red-nosed neighbour, the latter--since the information
[271]       as to the identity of Rogojin--hung over him, seemed to be living
[272]       on the honey of his words and in the breath of his nostrils,
[273]       catching at every syllable as though it were a pearl of great
[274]       price.
[276]       "Oh, yes; I angered him--I certainly did anger him," replied
[277]       Rogojin. "But what puts me out so is my brother. Of course my
[278]       mother couldn't do anything--she's too old--and whatever brother
[279]       Senka says is law for her! But why couldn't he let me know? He
[280]       sent a telegram, they say. What's the good of a telegram? It
[281]       frightened my aunt so that she sent it back to the office
[282]       unopened, and there it's been ever since! It's only thanks to
[283]       Konief that I heard at all; he wrote me all about it. He says my
[284]       brother cut off the gold tassels from my father's coffin, at
[285]       night because they're worth a lot of money!' says he. Why, I can
[286]       get him sent off to Siberia for that alone, if I like; it's
[287]       sacrilege. Here, you--scarecrow!" he added, addressing the clerk
[288]       at his side, "is it sacrilege or not, by law?'
[290]       "Sacrilege, certainly--certainly sacrilege," said the latter.
[292]       "And it's Siberia for sacrilege, isn't it?"
[294]       "Undoubtedly so; Siberia, of course!"
[296]       "They will think that I'm still ill," continued Rogojin to the
[297]       prince, "but I sloped off quietly, seedy as I was, took the train
[298]       and came away. Aha, brother Senka, you'll have to open your gates
[299]       and let me in, my boy! I know he told tales about me to my
[300]       father--I know that well enough but I certainly did rile my
[301]       father about Nastasia Philipovna that's very sure, and that was
[302]       my own doing."
[304]       "Nastasia Philipovna?" said the clerk, as though trying to think
[305]       out something.
[307]       "Come, you know nothing about HER," said Rogojin, impatiently.
[309]       "And supposing I do know something?" observed the other,
[310]       triumphantly.
[312]       "Bosh! there are plenty of Nastasia Philipovnas. And what an
[313]       impertinent beast you are!" he added angrily. "I thought some
[314]       creature like you would hang on to me as soon as I got hold of my
[315]       money. "
[317]       "Oh, but I do know, as it happens," said the clerk in an
[318]       aggravating manner. "Lebedeff knows all about her. You are
[319]       pleased to reproach me, your excellency, but what if I prove that
[320]       I am right after all? Nastasia Phillpovna's family name is
[321]       Barashkoff--I know, you see-and she is a very well known lady,
[322]       indeed, and comes of a good family, too. She is connected with
[323]       one Totski, Afanasy Ivanovitch, a man of considerable property, a
[324]       director of companies, and so on, and a great friend of General
[325]       Epanchin, who is interested in the same matters as he is."
[327]       "My eyes!" said Rogojin, really surprised at last. "The devil
[328]       take the fellow, how does he know that?"
[330]       "Why, he knows everything--Lebedeff knows everything! I was a
[331]       month or two with Lihachof after his father died, your
[332]       excellency, and while he was knocking about--he's in the debtor's
[333]       prison now--I was with him, and he couldn't do a thing without
[334]       Lebedeff; and I got to know Nastasia Philipovna and several
[335]       people at that time."
[337]       "Nastasia Philipovna? Why, you don't mean to say that she and
[338]       Lihachof--" cried Rogojin, turning quite pale.
[340]       "No, no, no, no, no! Nothing of the sort, I assure you!" said
[341]       Lebedeff, hastily. "Oh dear no, not for the world! Totski's the
[342]       only man with any chance there. Oh, no! He takes her to his box
[343]       at the opera at the French theatre of an evening, and the
[344]       officers and people all look at her and say, 'By Jove, there's
[345]       the famous Nastasia Philipovna!' but no one ever gets any further
[346]       than that, for there is nothing more to say."
[348]       "Yes, it's quite true," said Rogojin, frowning gloomily; "so
[349]       Zaleshoff told me. I was walking about the Nefsky one fine day,
[350]       prince, in my father's old coat, when she suddenly came out of a
[351]       shop and stepped into her carriage. I swear I was all of a blaze
[352]       at once. Then I met Zaleshoff--looking like a hair-dresser's
[353]       assistant, got up as fine as I don't know who, while I looked
[354]       like a tinker. 'Don't flatter yourself, my boy,' said he; 'she's
[355]       not for such as you; she's a princess, she is, and her name is
[356]       Nastasia Philipovna Barashkoff, and she lives with Totski, who
[357]       wishes to get rid of her because he's growing rather old--fifty-
[358]       five or so--and wants to marry a certain beauty, the loveliest
[359]       woman in all Petersburg.' And then he told me that I could see
[360]       Nastasia Philipovna at the opera-house that evening, if I liked,
[361]       and described which was her box. Well, I'd like to see my father
[362]       allowing any of us to go to the theatre; he'd sooner have killed
[363]       us, any day. However, I went for an hour or so and saw Nastasia
[364]       Philipovna, and I never slept a wink all night after. Next
[365]       morning my father happened to give me two government loan bonds
[366]       to sell, worth nearly five thousand roubles each. 'Sell them,'
[367]       said he, 'and then take seven thousand five hundred roubles to
[368]       the office, give them to the cashier, and bring me back the rest
[369]       of the ten thousand, without looking in anywhere on the way; look
[370]       sharp, I shall be waiting for you.' Well, I sold the bonds, but I
[371]       didn't take the seven thousand roubles to the office; I went
[372]       straight to the English shop and chose a pair of earrings, with a
[373]       diamond the size of a nut in each. They cost four hundred roubles
[374]       more than I had, so I gave my name, and they trusted me. With the
[375]       earrings I went at once to Zaleshoff's. 'Come on!' I said, 'come
[376]       on to Nastasia Philipovna's,' and off we went without more ado. I
[377]       tell you I hadn't a notion of what was about me or before me or
[378]       below my feet all the way; I saw nothing whatever. We went
[379]       straight into her drawing-room, and then she came out to us.
[381]       "I didn't say right out who I was, but Zaleshoff said: 'From
[382]       Parfen Rogojin, in memory of his first meeting with you
[383]       yesterday; be so kind as to accept these!'
[385]       "She opened the parcel, looked at the earrings, and laughed.
[387]       "'Thank your friend Mr. Rogojin for his kind attention,' says
[388]       she, and bowed and went off. Why didn't I die there on the spot?
[389]       The worst of it all was, though, that the beast Zaleshoff got all
[390]       the credit of it! I was short and abominably dressed, and stood
[391]       and stared in her face and never said a word, because I was shy,
[392]       like an ass! And there was he all in the fashion, pomaded and
[393]       dressed out, with a smart tie on, bowing and scraping; and I bet
[394]       anything she took him for me all the while!
[396]       "'Look here now,' I said, when we came out, 'none of your
[397]       interference here after this-do you understand?' He laughed: 'And
[398]       how are you going to settle up with your father?' says he. I
[399]       thought I might as well jump into the Neva at once without going
[400]       home first; but it struck me that I wouldn't, after all, and I
[401]       went home feeling like one of the damned."
[403]       "My goodness!" shivered the clerk. "And his father," he added,
[404]       for the prince's instruction, "and his father would have given a
[405]       man a ticket to the other world for ten roubles any day--not to
[406]       speak of ten thousand!"
[408]       The prince observed Rogojin with great curiosity; he seemed paler
[409]       than ever at this moment.
[411]       "What do you know about it?" cried the latter. "Well, my father
[412]       learned the whole story at once, and Zaleshoff blabbed it all
[413]       over the town besides. So he took me upstairs and locked me up,
[414]       and swore at me for an hour. 'This is only a foretaste,' says he;
[415]       'wait a bit till night comes, and I'll come back and talk to you
[416]       again.'
[418]       "Well, what do you think? The old fellow went straight off to
[419]       Nastasia Philipovna, touched the floor with his forehead, and
[420]       began blubbering and beseeching her on his knees to give him back
[421]       the diamonds. So after awhile she brought the box and flew out at
[422]       him. 'There,' she says, 'take your earrings, you wretched old
[423]       miser; although they are ten times dearer than their value to me
[424]       now that I know what it must have cost Parfen to get them! Give
[425]       Parfen my compliments,' she says, 'and thank him very much!'
[426]       Well, I meanwhile had borrowed twenty-five roubles from a friend,
[427]       and off I went to Pskoff to my aunt's. The old woman there
[428]       lectured me so that I left the house and went on a drinking tour
[429]       round the public-houses of the place. I was in a high fever when
[430]       I got to Pskoff, and by nightfall I was lying delirious in the
[431]       streets somewhere or other!"
[433]       "Oho! we'll make Nastasia Philipovna sing another song now!"
[434]       giggled Lebedeff, rubbing his hands with glee. "Hey, my boy,
[435]       we'll get her some proper earrings now! We'll get her such
[436]       earrings that--"
[438]       "Look here," cried Rogojin, seizing him fiercely by the arm,
[439]       "look here, if you so much as name Nastasia Philipovna again,
[440]       I'll tan your hide as sure as you sit there!"
[442]       "Aha! do--by all means! if you tan my hide you won't turn me away
[443]       from your society. You'll bind me to you, with your lash, for
[444]       ever. Ha, ha! here we are at the station, though."
[446]       Sure enough, the train was just steaming in as he spoke.
[448]       Though Rogojin had declared that he left Pskoff secretly, a large
[449]       collection of friends had assembled to greet him, and did so with
[450]       profuse waving of hats and shouting.
[452]       "Why, there's Zaleshoff here, too!" he muttered, gazing at the
[453]       scene with a sort of triumphant but unpleasant smile. Then he
[454]       suddenly turned to the prince: "Prince, I don't know why I have
[455]       taken a fancy to you; perhaps because I met you just when I did.
[456]       But no, it can't be that, for I met this fellow " (nodding at
[457]       Lebedeff) "too, and I have not taken a fancy to him by any means.
[458]       Come to see me, prince; we'll take off those gaiters of yours and
[459]       dress you up in a smart fur coat, the best we can buy. You shall
[460]       have a dress coat, best quality, white waistcoat, anything you
[461]       like, and your pocket shall be full of money. Come, and you shall
[462]       go with me to Nastasia Philipovna's. Now then will you come or
[463]       no?"
[465]       "Accept, accept, Prince Lef Nicolaievitch" said Lebedef solemnly;
[466]       "don't let it slip! Accept, quick!"
[468]       Prince Muishkin rose and stretched out his hand courteously,
[469]       while he replied with some cordiality:
[471]       "I will come with the greatest pleasure, and thank you very much
[472]       for taking a fancy to me. I dare say I may even come today if I
[473]       have time, for I tell you frankly that I like you very much too.
[474]       I liked you especially when you told us about the diamond
[475]       earrings; but I liked you before that as well, though you have
[476]       such a dark-clouded sort of face. Thanks very much for the offer
[477]       of clothes and a fur coat; I certainly shall require both clothes
[478]       and coat very soon. As for money, I have hardly a copeck about me
[479]       at this moment."
[481]       "You shall have lots of money; by the evening I shall have
[482]       plenty; so come along!"
[484]       "That's true enough, he'll have lots before evening!" put in
[485]       Lebedeff.
[487]       "But, look here, are you a great hand with the ladies? Let's know
[488]       that first?" asked Rogojin.
[490]       "Oh no, oh no! said the prince; "I couldn't, you know--my
[491]       illness--I hardly ever saw a soul."
[493]       "H'm! well--here, you fellow-you can come along with me now if
[494]       you like!" cried Rogojin to Lebedeff, and so they all left the
[495]       carriage.
[497]       Lebedeff had his desire. He went off with the noisy group of
[498]       Rogojin's friends towards the Voznesensky, while the prince's
[499]       route lay towards the Litaynaya. It was damp and wet. The prince
[500]       asked his way of passers-by, and finding that he was a couple of
[501]       miles or so from his destination, he determined to take a
[502]       droshky.
[504]       II.
[506]       General Epanchin lived in his own house near the Litaynaya.
[507]       Besides this large residence--five-sixths of which was let in
[508]       flats and lodgings-the general was owner of another enormous
[509]       house in the Sadovaya bringing in even more rent than the first.
[510]       Besides these houses he had a delightful little estate just out
[511]       of town, and some sort of factory in another part of the city.
[512]       General Epanchin, as everyone knew, had a good deal to do with
[513]       certain government monopolies; he was also a voice, and an
[514]       important one, in many rich public companies of various
[515]       descriptions; in fact, he enjoyed the reputation of being a well-
[516]       to-do man of busy habits, many ties, and affluent means. He had
[517]       made himself indispensable in several quarters, amongst others in
[518]       his department of the government; and yet it was a known fact
[519]       that Fedor Ivanovitch Epanchin was a man of no education
[520]       whatever, and had absolutely risen from the ranks.
[522]       This last fact could, of course, reflect nothing but credit upon
[523]       the general; and yet, though unquestionably a sagacious man, he
[524]       had his own little weaknesses-very excusable ones,--one of which
[525]       was a dislike to any allusion to the above circumstance. He was
[526]       undoubtedly clever. For instance, he made a point of never
[527]       asserting himself when he would gain more by keeping in the
[528]       background; and in consequence many exalted personages valued him
[529]       principally for his humility and simplicity, and because "he knew
[530]       his place." And yet if these good people could only have had a
[531]       peep into the mind of this excellent fellow who "knew his place"
[532]       so well! The fact is that, in spite of his knowledge of the world
[533]       and his really remarkable abilities, he always liked to appear to
[534]       be carrying out other people's ideas rather than his own. And
[535]       also, his luck seldom failed him, even at cards, for which he had
[536]       a passion that he did not attempt to conceal. He played for high
[537]       stakes, and moved, altogether, in very varied society.
[539]       As to age, General Epanchin was in the very prime of life; that
[540]       is, about fifty-five years of age,--the flowering time of
[541]       existence, when real enjoyment of life begins. His healthy
[542]       appearance, good colour, sound, though discoloured teeth, sturdy
[543]       figure, preoccupied air during business hours, and jolly good
[544]       humour during his game at cards in the evening, all bore witness
[545]       to his success in life, and combined to make existence a bed of
[546]       roses to his excellency. The general was lord of a flourishing
[547]       family, consisting of his wife and three grown-up daughters. He
[548]       had married young, while still a lieutenant, his wife being a
[549]       girl of about his own age, who possessed neither beauty nor
[550]       education, and who brought him no more than fifty souls of landed
[551]       property, which little estate served, however, as a nest-egg for
[552]       far more important accumulations. The general never regretted his
[553]       early marriage, or regarded it as a foolish youthful escapade;
[554]       and he so respected and feared his wife that he was very near
[555]       loving her. Mrs. Epanchin came of the princely stock of Muishkin,
[556]       which if not a brilliant, was, at all events, a decidedly ancient
[557]       family; and she was extremely proud of her descent.
[559]       With a few exceptions, the worthy couple had lived through their
[560]       long union very happily. While still young the wife had been able
[561]       to make important friends among the aristocracy, partly by virtue
[562]       of her family descent, and partly by her own exertions; while, in
[563]       after life, thanks to their wealth and to the position of her
[564]       husband in the service, she took her place among the higher
[565]       circles as by right.
[567]       During these last few years all three of the general's daughters-
[568]       Alexandra, Adelaida, and Aglaya--had grown up and matured. Of
[569]       course they were only Epanchins, but their mother's family was
[570]       noble; they might expect considerable fortunes; their father had
[571]       hopes of attaining to very high rank indeed in his country's
[572]       service-all of which was satisfactory. All three of the girls
[573]       were decidedly pretty, even the eldest, Alexandra, who was just
[574]       twenty-five years old. The middle daughter was now twenty-three,
[575]       while the youngest, Aglaya, was twenty. This youngest girl was
[576]       absolutely a beauty, and had begun of late to attract
[577]       considerable attention in society. But this was not all, for every
[578]       one of the three was clever, well educated, and accomplished.
[580]       It was a matter of general knowledge that the three girls were
[581]       very fond of one another, and supported each other in every way;
[582]       it was even said that the two elder ones had made certain
[583]       sacrifices for the sake of the idol of the household, Aglaya. In
[584]       society they not only disliked asserting themselves, but were
[585]       actually retiring. Certainly no one could blame them for being
[586]       too arrogant or haughty, and yet everybody was well aware that
[587]       they were proud and quite understood their own value. The eldest
[588]       was musical, while the second was a clever artist, which fact she
[589]       had concealed until lately. In a word, the world spoke well of
[590]       the girls; but they were not without their enemies, and
[591]       occasionally people talked with horror of the number of books
[592]       they had read.
[594]       They were in no hurry to marry. They liked good society, but were
[595]       not too keen about it. All this was the more remarkable, because
[596]       everyone was well aware of the hopes and aims of their parents.
[598]       It was about eleven o'clock in the forenoon when the prince rang
[599]       the bell at General Epanchin's door. The general lived on the
[600]       first floor or flat of the house, as modest a lodging as his
[601]       position permitted. A liveried servant opened the door, and the
[602]       prince was obliged to enter into long explanations with this
[603]       gentleman, who, from the first glance, looked at him and his
[604]       bundle with grave suspicion. At last, however, on the repeated
[605]       positive assurance that he really was Prince Muishkin, and must
[606]       absolutely see the general on business, the bewildered domestic
[607]       showed him into a little ante-chamber leading to a waiting-room
[608]       that adjoined the general's study, there handing him over to
[609]       another servant, whose duty it was to be in this ante-chamber
[610]       all the morning, and announce visitors to the general. This
[611]       second individual wore a dress coat, and was some forty years of
[612]       age; he was the general's special study servant, and well aware
[613]       of his own importance.
[615]       "Wait in the next room, please; and leave your bundle here," said
[616]       the door-keeper, as he sat down comfortably in his own easy-chair
[617]       in the ante-chamber. He looked at the prince in severe surprise
[618]       as the latter settled himself in another chair alongside, with
[619]       his bundle on his knees.
[621]       "If you don't mind, I would rather sit here with you," said the
[622]       prince; "I should prefer it to sitting in there."
[624]       "Oh, but you can't stay here. You are a visitor--a guest, so to
[625]       speak. Is it the general himself you wish to see?"
[627]       The man evidently could not take in the idea of such a shabby-
[628]       looking visitor, and had decided to ask once more.
[630]       "Yes--I have business--" began the prince.
[632]       "I do not ask you what your business may be, all I have to do is
[633]       to announce you; and unless the secretary comes in here I cannot
[634]       do that."
[636]       The man's suspicions seemed to increase more and more. The prince
[637]       was too unlike the usual run of daily visitors; and although the
[638]       general certainly did receive, on business, all sorts and
[639]       conditions of men, yet in spite of this fact the servant felt
[640]       great doubts on the subject of this particular visitor. The
[641]       presence of the secretary as an intermediary was, he judged,
[642]       essential in this case.
[644]       "Surely you--are from abroad?" he inquired at last, in a confused
[645]       sort of way. He had begun his sentence intending to say, "Surely
[646]       you are not Prince Muishkin, are you?"
[648]       "Yes, straight from the train! Did not you intend to say, 'Surely
[649]       you are not Prince Muishkin?' just now, but refrained out of
[650]       politeness ?"
[652]       "H'm!" grunted the astonished servant.
[654]       "I assure you I am not deceiving you; you shall not have to
[655]       answer for me. As to my being dressed like this, and carrying a
[656]       bundle, there's nothing surprising in that--the fact is, my
[657]       circumstances are not particularly rosy at this moment."
[659]       "H'm!--no, I'm not afraid of that, you see; I have to announce
[660]       you, that's all. The secretary will be out directly-that is,
[661]       unless you--yes, that's the rub--unless you--come, you must allow
[662]       me to ask you--you've not come to beg, have you?"
[664]       "Oh dear no, you can be perfectly easy on that score. I have
[665]       quite another matter on hand."
[667]       "You must excuse my asking, you know. Your appearance led me to
[668]       think--but just wait for the secretary; the general is busy now,
[669]       but the secretary is sure to come out."
[671]       "Oh--well, look here, if I have some time to wait, would you mind
[672]       telling me, is there any place about where I could have a smoke?
[673]       I have my pipe and tobacco with me."
[675]       "SMOKE?" said the man, in shocked but disdainful surprise,
[676]       blinking his eyes at the prince as though he could not believe
[677]       his senses." No, sir, you cannot smoke here, and I wonder you
[678]       are not ashamed of the very suggestion. Ha, ha! a cool idea that,
[679]       I declare!"
[681]       "Oh, I didn't mean in this room! I know I can't smoke here, of
[682]       course. I'd adjourn to some other room, wherever you like to show
[683]       me to. You see, I'm used to smoking a good deal, and now I
[684]       haven't had a puff for three hours; however, just as you like."
[686]       "Now how on earth am I to announce a man like that?" muttered the
[687]       servant. "In the first place, you've no right in here at all; you
[688]       ought to be in the waiting-room, because you're a sort of
[689]       visitor--a guest, in fact--and I shall catch it for this. Look
[690]       here, do you intend to take up you abode with us?" he added,
[691]       glancing once more at the prince's bundle, which evidently gave
[692]       him no peace.
[694]       "No, I don't think so. I don't think I should stay even if they
[695]       were to invite me. I've simply come to make their acquaintance,
[696]       and nothing more."
[698]       "Make their acquaintance?" asked the man, in amazement, and with
[699]       redoubled suspicion. "Then why did you say you had business with
[700]       the general?"
[702]       "Oh well, very little business. There is one little matter--some
[703]       advice I am going to ask him for; but my principal object is
[704]       simply to introduce myself, because I am Prince Muishkin, and
[705]       Madame Epanchin is the last of her branch of the house, and
[706]       besides herself and me there are no other Muishkins left."
[708]       "What--you're a relation then, are you?" asked the servant, so
[709]       bewildered that he began to feel quite alarmed.
[711]       "Well, hardly so. If you stretch a point, we are relations, of
[712]       course, but so distant that one cannot really take cognizance of
[713]       it. I once wrote to your mistress from abroad, but she did not
[714]       reply. However, I have thought it right to make acquaintance with
[715]       her on my arrival. I am telling you all this in order to ease
[716]       your mind, for I see you are still far from comfortable on my
[717]       account. All you have to do is to announce me as Prince Muishkin,
[718]       and the object of my visit will be plain enough. If I am
[719]       received--very good; if not, well, very good again. But they are
[720]       sure to receive me, I should think; Madame Epanchin will
[721]       naturally be curious to see the only remaining representative of
[722]       her family. She values her Muishkin descent very highly, if I am
[723]       rightly informed."
[725]       The prince's conversation was artless and confiding to a degree,
[726]       and the servant could not help feeling that as from visitor to
[727]       common serving-man this state of things was highly improper. His
[728]       conclusion was that one of two things must be the explanation--
[729]       either that this was a begging impostor, or that the prince, if
[730]       prince he were, was simply a fool, without the slightest
[731]       ambition; for a sensible prince with any ambition would certainly
[732]       not wait about in ante-rooms with servants, and talk of his own
[733]       private affairs like this. In either case, how was he to announce
[734]       this singular visitor?
[736]       "I really think I must request you to step into the next room!"
[737]       he said, with all the insistence he could muster.
[739]       "Why? If I had been sitting there now, I should not have had the
[740]       opportunity of making these personal explanations. I see you are
[741]       still uneasy about me and keep eyeing my cloak and bundle. Don't
[742]       you think you might go in yourself now, without waiting for the
[743]       secretary to come out?"
[745]       "No, no! I can't announce a visitor like yourself without the
[746]       secretary. Besides the general said he was not to be disturbed--
[747]       he is with the Colonel C--. Gavrila Ardalionovitch goes in
[748]       without announcing."
[750]       "Who may that be? a clerk?"
[752]       "What? Gavrila Ardalionovitch? Oh no; he belongs to one of the
[753]       companies. Look here, at all events put your bundle down, here."
[755]       "Yes, I will if I may; and--can I take off my cloak"
[757]       "Of course; you can't go in THERE with it on, anyhow."
[759]       The prince rose and took off his mantle, revealing a neat enough
[760]       morning costume--a little worn, but well made. He wore a steel
[761]       watch chain and from this chain there hung a silver Geneva watch.
[762]       Fool the prince might be, still, the general's servant felt that
[763]       it was not correct for him to continue to converse thus with a
[764]       visitor, in spite of the fact that the prince pleased him
[765]       somehow.
[767]       "And what time of day does the lady receive?" the latter asked,
[768]       reseating himself in his old place.
[770]       "Oh, that's not in my province! I believe she receives at any
[771]       time; it depends upon the visitors. The dressmaker goes in at
[772]       eleven. Gavrila Ardalionovitch is allowed much earlier than other
[773]       people, too; he is even admitted to early lunch now and then."
[775]       "It is much warmer in the rooms here than it is abroad at this
[776]       season," observed the prince; " but it is much warmer there out
[777]       of doors. As for the houses--a Russian can't live in them in the
[778]       winter until he gets accustomed to them."
[780]       "Don't they heat them at all?"
[782]       "Well, they do heat them a little; but the houses and stoves are
[783]       so different to ours."
[785]       "H'm! were you long away?"
[787]       "Four years! and I was in the same place nearly all the time,--in
[788]       one village."
[790]       "You must have forgotten Russia, hadn't you?"
[792]       "Yes, indeed I had--a good deal; and, would you believe it, I
[793]       often wonder at myself for not having forgotten how to speak
[794]       Russian? Even now, as I talk to you, I keep saying to myself 'how
[795]       well I am speaking it.' Perhaps that is partly why I am so
[796]       talkative this morning. I assure you, ever since yesterday
[797]       evening I have had the strongest desire to go on and on talking
[798]       Russian."
[800]       "H'm! yes; did you live in Petersburg in former years?"
[802]       This good flunkey, in spite of his conscientious scruples, really
[803]       could not resist continuing such a very genteel and agreeable
[804]       conversation.
[806]       "In Petersburg? Oh no! hardly at all, and now they say so much
[807]       is changed in the place that even those who did know it well are
[808]       obliged to relearn what they knew. They talk a good deal about
[809]       the new law courts, and changes there, don't they?"
[811]       "H'm! yes, that's true enough. Well now, how is the law over
[812]       there, do they administer it more justly than here?"
[814]       "Oh, I don't know about that! I've heard much that is good about
[815]       our legal administration, too. There is no capital punishment
[816]       here for one thing."
[818]       "Is there over there?"
[820]       "Yes--I saw an execution in France--at Lyons. Schneider took me
[821]       over with him to see it."
[823]       "What, did they hang the fellow?"
[825]       "No, they cut off people's heads in France."
[827]       "What did the fellow do?--yell?"
[829]       "Oh no--it's the work of an instant. They put a man inside a
[830]       frame and a sort of broad knife falls by machinery -they call the
[831]       thing a guillotine-it falls with fearful force and weight-the
[832]       head springs off so quickly that you can't wink your eye in
[833]       between. But all the preparations are so dreadful. When they
[834]       announce the sentence, you know, and prepare the criminal and tie
[835]       his hands, and cart him off to the scaffold--that's the fearful
[836]       part of the business. The people all crowd round--even women-
[837]       though they don't at all approve of women looking on."
[839]       "No, it's not a thing for women."
[841]       "Of course not--of course not!--bah! The criminal was a fine
[842]       intelligent fearless man; Le Gros was his name; and I may tell
[843]       you--believe it or not, as you like--that when that man stepped
[844]       upon the scaffold he CRIED, he did indeed,--he was as white as a
[845]       bit of paper. Isn't it a dreadful idea that he should have cried
[846]       --cried! Whoever heard of a grown man crying from fear--not a
[847]       child, but a man who never had cried before--a grown man of
[848]       forty-five years. Imagine what must have been going on in that
[849]       man's mind at such a moment; what dreadful convulsions his whole
[850]       spirit must have endured; it is an outrage on the soul that's
[851]       what it is. Because it is said 'thou shalt not kill,' is he to be
[852]       killed because he murdered some one else? No, it is not right,
[853]       it's an impossible theory. I assure you, I saw the sight a month
[854]       ago and it's dancing before my eyes to this moment. I dream of
[855]       it, often."
[857]       The prince had grown animated as he spoke, and a tinge of colour
[858]       suffused his pale face, though his way of talking was as quiet as
[859]       ever. The servant followed his words with sympathetic interest.
[860]       Clearly he was not at all anxious to bring the conversation to an
[861]       end. Who knows? Perhaps he too was a man of imagination and with
[862]       some capacity for thought.
[864]       "Well, at all events it is a good thing that there's no pain when
[865]       the poor fellow's head flies off," he remarked.
[867]       "Do you know, though," cried the prince warmly, "you made that
[868]       remark now, and everyone says the same thing, and the machine is
[869]       designed with the purpose of avoiding pain, this guillotine I
[870]       mean; but a thought came into my head then: what if it be a bad
[871]       plan after all? You may laugh at my idea, perhaps--but I could
[872]       not help its occurring to me all the same. Now with the rack and
[873]       tortures and so on--you suffer terrible pain of course; but then
[874]       your torture is bodily pain only (although no doubt you have
[875]       plenty of that) until you die. But HERE I should imagine the most
[876]       terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at
[877]       all--but the certain knowledge that in an hour,--then in ten
[878]       minutes, then in half a minute, then now--this very INSTANT--your
[879]       soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man--
[880]       and that this is certain, CERTAIN! That's the point--the
[881]       certainty of it. Just that instant when you place your head on
[882]       the block and hear the iron grate over your head--then--that
[883]       quarter of a second is the most awful of all.
[885]       "This is not my own fantastical opinion--many people have thought
[886]       the same; but I feel it so deeply that I'll tell you what I
[887]       think. I believe that to execute a man for murder is to punish
[888]       him immeasurably more dreadfully than is equivalent to his crime.
[889]       A murder by sentence is far more dreadful than a murder committed
[890]       by a criminal. The man who is attacked by robbers at night, in a
[891]       dark wood, or anywhere, undoubtedly hopes and hopes that he may
[892]       yet escape until the very moment of his death. There are plenty
[893]       of instances of a man running away, or imploring for mercy--at
[894]       all events hoping on in some degree--even after his throat was
[895]       cut. But in the case of an execution, that last hope--having
[896]       which it is so immeasurably less dreadful to die,--is taken away
[897]       from the wretch and CERTAINTY substituted in its place! There is
[898]       his sentence, and with it that terrible certainty that he cannot
[899]       possibly escape death--which, I consider, must be the most
[900]       dreadful anguish in the world. You may place a soldier before a
[901]       cannon's mouth in battle, and fire upon him--and he will still
[902]       hope. But read to that same soldier his death-sentence, and he
[903]       will either go mad or burst into tears. Who dares to say that any
[904]       man can suffer this without going mad? No, no! it is an abuse, a
[905]       shame, it is unnecessary--why should such a thing exist?
[906]       Doubtless there may be men who have been sentenced, who have
[907]       suffered this mental anguish for a while and then have been
[908]       reprieved; perhaps such men may have been able to relate their
[909]       feelings afterwards. Our Lord Christ spoke of this anguish and
[910]       dread. No! no! no! No man should be treated so, no man, no man!"
[912]       The servant, though of course he could not have expressed all
[913]       this as the prince did, still clearly entered into it and was
[914]       greatly conciliated, as was evident from the increased amiability
[915]       of his expression. "If you are really very anxious for a smoke,"
[916]       he remarked, "I think it might possibly be managed, if you are
[917]       very quick about it. You see they might come out and inquire for
[918]       you, and you wouldn't be on the spot. You see that door there? Go
[919]       in there and you'll find a little room on the right; you can
[920]       smoke there, only open the window, because I ought not to allow
[921]       it really, and--." But there was no time, after all.
[923]       A young fellow entered the ante-room at this moment, with a
[924]       bundle of papers in his hand. The footman hastened to help him
[925]       take off his overcoat. The new arrival glanced at the prince out
[926]       of the corners of his eyes.
[928]       "This gentleman declares, Gavrila Ardalionovitch," began the man,
[929]       confidentially and almost familiarly, "that he is Prince Muishkin
[930]       and a relative of Madame Epanchin's. He has just arrived from
[931]       abroad, with nothing but a bundle by way of luggage--."
[933]       The prince did not hear the rest, because at this point the
[934]       servant continued his communication in a whisper.
[936]       Gavrila Ardalionovitch listened attentively, and gazed at the
[937]       prince with great curiosity. At last he motioned the man aside
[938]       and stepped hurriedly towards the prince.
[940]       "Are you Prince Muishkin?" he asked, with the greatest courtesy
[941]       and amiability.
[943]       He was a remarkably handsome young fellow of some twenty-eight
[944]       summers, fair and of middle height; he wore a small beard, and
[945]       his face was most intelligent. Yet his smile, in spite of its
[946]       sweetness, was a little thin, if I may so call it, and showed his
[947]       teeth too evenly; his gaze though decidedly good-humoured and
[948]       ingenuous, was a trifle too inquisitive and intent to be
[949]       altogether agreeable.
[951]       "Probably when he is alone he looks quite different, and hardly
[952]       smiles at all!" thought the prince.
[954]       He explained about himself in a few words, very much the same as
[955]       he had told the footman and Rogojin beforehand.
[957]       Gavrila Ardalionovitch meanwhile seemed to be trying to recall
[958]       something.
[960]       "Was it not you, then, who sent a letter a year or less ago--from
[961]       Switzerland, I think it was--to Elizabetha Prokofievna (Mrs.
[962]       Epanchin)?"
[964]       "It was."
[966]       "Oh, then, of course they will remember who you are. You wish to
[967]       see the general? I'll tell him at once--he will be free in a
[968]       minute; but you--you had better wait in the ante-chamber,--hadn't
[969]       you? Why is he here?" he added, severely, to the man.
[971]       "I tell you, sir, he wished it himself!"
[973]       At this moment the study door opened, and a military man, with a
[974]       portfolio under his arm, came out talking loudly, and after
[975]       bidding good-bye to someone inside, took his departure.
[977]       "You there, Gania? cried a voice from the study, "come in here,
[978]       will you?"
[980]       Gavrila Ardalionovitch nodded to the prince and entered the room
[981]       hastily.
[983]       A couple of minutes later the door opened again and the affable
[984]       voice of Gania cried:
[986]       "Come in please, prince!"
[988]       III.
[990]       General Ivan Fedorovitch Epanchin was standing In the middle of
[991]       the room, and gazed with great curiosity at the prince as he
[992]       entered. He even advanced a couple of steps to meet him.
[994]       The prince came forward and introduced himself.
[996]       "Quite so," replied the general, "and what can I do for you?"
[998]       "Oh, I have no special business; my principal object was to make
[999]       your acquaintance. I should not like to disturb you. I do not
[1000]      know your times and arrangements here, you see, but I have only
[1001]      just arrived. I came straight from the station. I am come direct
[1002]      from Switzerland."
[1004]      The general very nearly smiled, but thought better of it and kept
[1005]      his smile back. Then he reflected, blinked his eyes, stared at his guest
[1006]      once more from head to foot; then abruptly motioned him to a
[1007]      chair, sat down himself, and waited with some impatience for the
[1008]      prince to speak.
[1010]      Gania stood at his table in the far corner of the room, turning
[1011]      over papers.
[1013]      "I have not much time for making acquaintances, as a rule," said
[1014]      the general, "but as, of course, you have your object in coming,
[1015]      I--"
[1017]      "I felt sure you would think I had some object in view when I
[1018]      resolved to pay you this visit," the prince interrupted; "but I
[1019]      give you my word, beyond the pleasure of making your acquaintance
[1020]      I had no personal object whatever."
[1022]      "The pleasure is, of course, mutual; but life is not all
[1023]      pleasure, as you are aware. There is such a thing as business,
[1024]      and I really do not see what possible reason there can be, or
[1025]      what we have in common to--"
[1027]      "Oh, there is no reason, of course, and I suppose there is
[1028]      nothing in common between us, or very little; for if I am Prince
[1029]      Muishkin, and your wife happens to be a member of my house, that
[1030]      can hardly be called a 'reason.' I quite understand that. And yet
[1031]      that was my whole motive for coming. You see I have not been in
[1032]      Russia for four years, and knew very little about anything when I
[1033]      left. I had been very ill for a long time, and I feel now the
[1034]      need of a few good friends. In fact, I have a certain question
[1035]      upon which I much need advice, and do not know whom to go to for
[1036]      it. I thought of your family when I was passing through Berlin.
[1037]      'They are almost relations,' I said to myself,' so I'll begin
[1038]      with them; perhaps we may get on with each other, I with them and
[1039]      they with me, if they are kind people;' and I have heard that you
[1040]      are very kind people!"
[1042]      "Oh, thank you, thank you, I'm sure," replied the general,
[1043]      considerably taken aback. "May I ask where you have taken up your
[1044]      quarters?"
[1046]      "Nowhere, as yet."
[1048]      "What, straight from the station to my house? And how about your
[1049]      luggage?"
[1051]      "I only had a small bundle, containing linen, with me, nothing
[1052]      more. I can carry it in my hand, easily. There will be plenty of
[1053]      time to take a room in some hotel by the evening."
[1055]      "Oh, then you DO intend to take a room?"
[1057]      "Of course."
[1059]      "To judge from your words, you came straight to my house with the
[1060]      intention of staying there."
[1062]      "That could only have been on your invitation. I confess,
[1063]      however, that I should not have stayed here even if you had
[1064]      invited me, not for any particular reason, but because it is--
[1065]      well, contrary to my practice and nature, somehow."
[1067]      "Oh, indeed! Then it is perhaps as well that I neither DID invite
[1068]      you, nor DO invite you now. Excuse me, prince, but we had better
[1069]      make this matter clear, once for all. We have just agreed that
[1070]      with regard to our relationship there is not much to be said,
[1071]      though, of course, it would have been very delightful to us to
[1072]      feel that such relationship did actually exist; therefore,
[1073]      perhaps--"
[1075]      "Therefore, perhaps I had better get up and go away?" said the
[1076]      prince, laughing merrily as he rose from his place; just as
[1077]      merrily as though the circumstances were by no means strained or
[1078]      difficult. "And I give you my word, general, that though I know
[1079]      nothing whatever of manners and customs of society, and how
[1080]      people live and all that, yet I felt quite sure that this visit
[1081]      of mine would end exactly as it has ended now. Oh, well, I
[1082]      suppose it's all right; especially as my letter was not answered.
[1083]      Well, good-bye, and forgive me for having disturbed you!"
[1085]      The prince's expression was so good-natured at this moment, and
[1086]      so entirely free from even a suspicion of unpleasant feeling was
[1087]      the smile with which he looked at the general as he spoke, that
[1088]      the latter suddenly paused, and appeared to gaze at his guest
[1089]      from quite a new point of view, all in an instant.
[1091]      "Do you know, prince," he said, in quite a different tone, "I do
[1092]      not know you at all, yet, and after all, Elizabetha Prokofievna
[1093]      would very likely be pleased to have a peep at a man of her own
[1094]      name. Wait a little, if you don't mind, and if you have time to
[1095]      spare?"
[1097]      "Oh, I assure you I've lots of time, my time is entirely my own!"
[1098]      And the prince immediately replaced his soft, round hat on the
[1099]      table. "I confess, I thought Elizabetha Prokofievna would very
[1100]      likely remember that I had written her a letter. Just now your
[1101]      servant--outside there--was dreadfully suspicious that I had come
[1102]      to beg of you. I noticed that! Probably he has very strict
[1103]      instructions on that score; but I assure you I did not come to
[1104]      beg. I came to make some friends. But I am rather bothered at
[1105]      having disturbed you; that's all I care about.--"
[1107]      "Look here, prince," said the general, with a cordial smile, "if
[1108]      you really are the sort of man you appear to be, it may be a
[1109]      source of great pleasure to us to make your better acquaintance;
[1110]      but, you see, I am a very busy man, and have to be perpetually
[1111]      sitting here and signing papers, or off to see his excellency, or
[1112]      to my department, or somewhere; so that though I should be glad
[1113]      to see more of people, nice people--you see, I--however, I am
[1114]      sure you are so well brought up that you will see at once, and--
[1115]      but how old are you, prince?"
[1117]      "Twenty-six."
[1119]      "No? I thought you very much younger."
[1121]      "Yes, they say I have a 'young' face. As to disturbing you I
[1122]      shall soon learn to avoid doing that, for I hate disturbing
[1123]      people. Besides, you and I are so differently constituted, I
[1124]      should think, that there must be very little in common between
[1125]      us. Not that I will ever believe there is NOTHING in common
[1126]      between any two people, as some declare is the case. I am sure
[1127]      people make a great mistake in sorting each other into groups, by
[1128]      appearances; but I am boring you, I see, you--"
[1130]      "Just two words: have you any means at all? Or perhaps you may be
[1131]      intending to undertake some sort of employment? Excuse my
[1132]      questioning you, but--"
[1134]      "Oh, my dear sir, I esteem and understand your kindness in
[1135]      putting the question. No; at present I have no means whatever,
[1136]      and no employment either, but I hope to find some. I was living
[1137]      on other people abroad. Schneider, the professor who treated me
[1138]      and taught me, too, in Switzerland, gave me just enough money for
[1139]      my journey, so that now I have but a few copecks left. There
[1140]      certainly is one question upon which I am anxious to have advice,
[1141]      but--"
[1143]      "Tell me, how do you intend to live now, and what are your
[1144]      plans?" interrupted the general.
[1146]      "I wish to work, somehow or other."
[1148]      "Oh yes, but then, you see, you are a philosopher. Have you any
[1149]      talents, or ability in any direction--that is, any that would
[1150]      bring in money and bread? Excuse me again--"
[1152]      "Oh, don't apologize. No, I don't think I have either talents or
[1153]      special abilities of any kind; on the contrary. I have always
[1154]      been an invalid and unable to learn much. As for bread, I should
[1155]      think--"
[1157]      The general interrupted once more with questions; while the
[1158]      prince again replied with the narrative we have heard before. It
[1159]      appeared that the general had known Pavlicheff; but why the
[1160]      latter had taken an interest in the prince, that young gentleman
[1161]      could not explain; probably by virtue of the old friendship with
[1162]      his father, he thought.
[1164]      The prince had been left an orphan when quite a little child, and
[1165]      Pavlicheff had entrusted him to an old lady, a relative of his
[1166]      own, living in the country, the child needing the fresh air and
[1167]      exercise of country life. He was educated, first by a governess,
[1168]      and afterwards by a tutor, but could not remember much about this
[1169]      time of his life. His fits were so frequent then, that they made
[1170]      almost an idiot of him (the prince used the expression "idiot"
[1171]      himself). Pavlicheff had met Professor Schneider in Berlin, and
[1172]      the latter had persuaded him to send the boy to Switzerland, to
[1173]      Schneider's establishment there, for the cure of his epilepsy,
[1174]      and, five years before this time, the prince was sent off. But
[1175]      Pavlicheff had died two or three years since, and Schneider had
[1176]      himself supported the young fellow, from that day to this, at his
[1177]      own expense. Although he had not quite cured him, he had greatly
[1178]      improved his condition; and now, at last, at the prince's own
[1179]      desire, and because of a certain matter which came to the ears of
[1180]      the latter, Schneider had despatched the young man to Russia.
[1182]      The general was much astonished.
[1184]      "Then you have no one, absolutely NO one in Russia?" he asked.
[1186]      "No one, at present; but I hope to make friends; and then I have
[1187]      a letter