“Bring it by all means; you needn’t ask him. He will be delighted, you may be sure; for, in all probability, he shot at himself simply in order that I might read his confession. Don’t laugh at what I say, please, Lef Nicolaievitch, because it may very well be the case.”

At last Varvara Ardalionovna came in search of her brother, and remained for a few minutes. Without Muishkin’s asking her, she informed him that Evgenie Pavlovitch was spending the day in Petersburg, and perhaps would remain there over tomorrow; and that her husband had also gone to town, probably in connection with Evgenie Pavlovitch’s affairs.

“It grieves me to see you so, Hippolyte. Why didn’t you send me a message? I would have come up and saved you this trouble.”

Varvara Ardalionovna was not like her brother. She too, had passionate desires, but they were persistent rather than impetuous. Her plans were as wise as her methods of carrying them out. No doubt she also belonged to the category of ordinary people who dream of being original, but she soon discovered that she had not a grain of true originality, and she did not let it trouble her too much. Perhaps a certain kind of pride came to her help. She made her first concession to the demands of practical life with great resolution when she consented to marry Ptitsin. However, when she married she did not say to herself, “Never mind a mean action if it leads to the end in view,” as her brother would certainly have said in such a case; it is quite probable that he may have said it when he expressed his elder-brotherly satisfaction at her decision. Far from this; Varvara Ardalionovna did not marry until she felt convinced that her future husband was unassuming, agreeable, almost cultured, and that nothing on earth would tempt him to a really dishonourable deed. As to small meannesses, such trifles did not trouble her. Indeed, who is free from them? It is absurd to expect the ideal! Besides, she knew that her marriage would provide a refuge for all her family. Seeing Gania unhappy, she was anxious to help him, in spite of their former disputes and misunderstandings. Ptitsin, in a friendly way, would press his brother-in-law to enter the army. “You know,” he said sometimes, jokingly, “you despise generals and generaldom, but you will see that ‘they’ will all end by being generals in their turn. You will see it if you live long enough!”

“Oh, I don’t know what this means” cried Ivan Fedorovitch, transported with indignation.

The prince remarked that Evgenie Pavlovitch’s plain clothes had evidently made a great impression upon the company present, so much so that all other interests seemed to be effaced before this surprising fact.

Mrs. Epanchin had a fair appetite herself, and generally took her share of the capital mid-day lunch which was always served for the girls, and which was nearly as good as a dinner. The young ladies used to have a cup of coffee each before this meal, at ten o’clock, while still in bed. This was a favourite and unalterable arrangement with them. At half-past twelve, the table was laid in the small dining-room, and occasionally the general himself appeared at the family gathering, if he had time.
The prince said nothing, but entered the room, sat down silently, and stared at them, one after the other, with the air of a man who cannot understand what is being said to him. It was strange--one moment he seemed to be so observant, the next so absent; his behaviour struck all the family as most remarkable. At length he rose from his seat, and begged to be shown Nastasia’s rooms. The ladies reported afterwards how he had examined everything in the apartments. He observed an open book on the table, Madam Bovary, and requested the leave of the lady of the house to take it with him. He had turned down the leaf at the open page, and pocketed it before they could explain that it was a library book. He had then seated himself by the open window, and seeing a card-table, he asked who played cards.
He saw them gather up the broken bits of china; he heard the loud talking of the guests and observed how pale Aglaya looked, and how very strangely she was gazing at him. There was no hatred in her expression, and no anger whatever. It was full of alarm for him, and sympathy and affection, while she looked around at the others with flashing, angry eyes. His heart filled with a sweet pain as he gazed at her.
“Yes--I have it still,” the prince replied.

When--late in the evening--the prince made his appearance in Lizabetha Prokofievna’s drawing-room, he found it full of guests. Mrs. Epanchin questioned him very fully about the general as soon as he appeared; and when old Princess Bielokonski wished to know “who this general was, and who was Nina Alexandrovna,” she proceeded to explain in a manner which pleased the prince very much.

“Here is another to whom you should apologize,” said the prince, pointing to Varia.

“He is a strange boy, thoughtless, and inclined to be indiscreet.”

Left alone, he lay down on the sofa, and began to think.

“He really is very charming,” whispered the old dignitary to Ivan Petrovitch.

“That is Lebedeff’s daughter--Vera Lukianovna.”
The announcement of his name gave rise to some surprise and to some smiles, especially when it became evident, from Nastasia’s astonished look, that she had not thought of inviting him. But her astonishment once over, Nastasia showed such satisfaction that all prepared to greet the prince with cordial smiles of welcome.

“Yes, for certain--quite for certain, now! I have discovered it _absolutely_ for certain, these last few days.”

The general shrugged his shoulders.

The Epanchin family, or at least the more serious members of it, were sometimes grieved because they seemed so unlike the rest of the world. They were not quite certain, but had at times a strong suspicion that things did not happen to them as they did to other people. Others led a quiet, uneventful life, while they were subject to continual upheavals. Others kept on the rails without difficulty; they ran off at the slightest obstacle. Other houses were governed by a timid routine; theirs was somehow different. Perhaps Lizabetha Prokofievna was alone in making these fretful observations; the girls, though not wanting in intelligence, were still young; the general was intelligent, too, but narrow, and in any difficulty he was content to say, “H’m!” and leave the matter to his wife. Consequently, on her fell the responsibility. It was not that they distinguished themselves as a family by any particular originality, or that their excursions off the track led to any breach of the proprieties. Oh no.

“Yes, it’s quite true, isn’t it?” cried the general, his eyes sparkling with gratification. “A small boy, a child, would naturally realize no danger; he would shove his way through the crowds to see the shine and glitter of the uniforms, and especially the great man of whom everyone was speaking, for at that time all the world had been talking of no one but this man for some years past. The world was full of his name; I--so to speak--drew it in with my mother’s milk. Napoleon, passing a couple of paces from me, caught sight of me accidentally. I was very well dressed, and being all alone, in that crowd, as you will easily imagine...”

“I know it is more or less a shamefaced thing to speak of one’s feelings before others; and yet here am I talking like this to you, and am not a bit ashamed or shy. I am an unsociable sort of fellow and shall very likely not come to see you again for some time; but don’t think the worse of me for that. It is not that I do not value your society; and you must never suppose that I have taken offence at anything.

“Come, speak out! Don’t lie, for once in your life--speak out!” continued Hippolyte, quivering with agitation.

He looked intently around him, and wondered why he had come here; he was very tired, so he approached the bench and sat down on it. Around him was profound silence; the music in the Vauxhall was over. The park seemed quite empty, though it was not, in reality, later than half-past eleven. It was a quiet, warm, clear night--a real Petersburg night of early June; but in the dense avenue, where he was sitting, it was almost pitch dark.
“That is--I suppose you wish to know how I received the hedgehog, Aglaya Ivanovna,--or, I should say, how I regarded your sending him to me? In that case, I may tell you--in a word--that I--in fact--”“That she did not disgrace me at Moscow with that officer, Zemtuznikoff? I know for certain she did, after having fixed our marriage-day herself!”
He was so happy that “it made one feel happy to look at him,” as Aglaya’s sisters expressed it afterwards. He talked, and told stories just as he had done once before, and never since, namely on the very first morning of his acquaintance with the Epanchins, six months ago. Since his return to Petersburg from Moscow, he had been remarkably silent, and had told Prince S. on one occasion, before everyone, that he did not think himself justified in degrading any thought by his unworthy words.
“I saw how the man dashed about the room to find me an empty chair, how he kicked the rags off a chair which was covered up by them, brought it to me, and helped me to sit down; but my cough went on for another three minutes or so. When I came to myself he was sitting by me on another chair, which he had also cleared of the rubbish by throwing it all over the floor, and was watching me intently.

“Ask Gavrila Ardalionovitch to step this way,” said she to the man who answered.

The prince sat down again. Both were silent for a few moments.
“Capital! And your handwriting?”

“Oh, of course! Naturally the sight impressed him, and proved to him that not _all_ the aristocracy had left Moscow; that at least some nobles and their children had remained behind.”

“But the trouble is,” said the prince, after a slight pause for reflection, “that goodness only knows when this party will break up. Hadn’t we better stroll into the park? I’ll excuse myself, there’s no danger of their going away.”

“Oh dear no! Why--”

The general was, of course, repeating what he had told Lebedeff the night before, and thus brought it out glibly enough, but here he looked suspiciously at the prince out of the corners of his eyes.“No, certainly not, no more than yourself, though at first I thought I was.”Gania having once descended to abuse, and receiving no check, very soon knew no bounds or limit to his licence, as is often the way in such cases. His rage so blinded him that he had not even been able to detect that this “idiot,” whom he was abusing to such an extent, was very far from being slow of comprehension, and had a way of taking in an impression, and afterwards giving it out again, which was very un-idiotic indeed. But something a little unforeseen now occurred.
“Prince,” he said, “tell me the truth; do you know what all this means?”

“And natural,” repeated Lebedeff with pedantic obstinacy. “Besides, a Catholic monk is by nature excessively curious; it would be quite easy therefore to entice him into a wood, or some secret place, on false pretences, and there to deal with him as said. But I do not dispute in the least that the number of persons consumed appears to denote a spice of greediness.”

“Before I reached home I was met and summoned to the major’s, so that it was some while before I actually got there. When I came in, Nikifor met me. ‘Have you heard, sir, that our old lady is dead?’ ‘_dead_, when?’ ‘Oh, an hour and a half ago.’ That meant nothing more nor less than that she was dying at the moment when I pounced on her and began abusing her.The prince seemed to be considering the suggestion.
“N-no: I have not been these three last days.”
“You have no right--you have no right!” cried Burdovsky.“I wanted to see how the farce would end.”
The prince was touched; he took Gania’s hands, and embraced him heartily, while each kissed the other.
Rogojin took the chair offered him, but he did not sit long; he soon stood up again, and did not reseat himself. Little by little he began to look around him and discern the other guests. Seeing Gania, he smiled venomously and muttered to himself, “Look at that!”He had gone to the front door, and was kept waiting a long while before anyone came. At last the door of old Mrs. Rogojin’s flat was opened, and an aged servant appeared.
X.
“It’s headed, ‘A Necessary Explanation,’ with the motto, ‘_Après moi le déluge!_’ Oh, deuce take it all! Surely I can never have seriously written such a silly motto as that? Look here, gentlemen, I beg to give notice that all this is very likely terrible nonsense. It is only a few ideas of mine. If you think that there is anything mysterious coming--or in a word--”
“Where is Nastasia Philipovna?” asked the prince, breathlessly.
“He beat me, he thrashed me unmercifully!” replied Lebedeff vehemently. “He set a dog on me in Moscow, a bloodhound, a terrible beast that chased me all down the street.”
“But why, _why?_ Devil take it, what did you do in there? Why did they fancy you? Look here, can’t you remember exactly what you said to them, from the very beginning? Can’t you remember?”
“My goodness, Lef Nicolaievitch, why, you can’t have heard a single word I said! Look at me, I’m still trembling all over with the dreadful shock! It is that that kept me in town so late. Evgenie Pavlovitch’s uncle--”

I.

“Marry whom?” asked the prince, faintly.
“I’ve covered her with oilcloth--best American oilcloth, and put the sheet over that, and four jars of disinfectant, on account of the smell--as they did at Moscow--you remember? And she’s lying so still; you shall see, in the morning, when it’s light. What! can’t you get up?” asked Rogojin, seeing the other was trembling so that he could not rise from his seat.“What in the world induces you to act so? You are nothing but a spy. Why did you write anonymously to worry so noble and generous a lady? Why should not Aglaya Ivanovna write a note to whomever she pleases? What did you mean to complain of today? What did you expect to get by it? What made you go at all?”
“I didn’t mean that exactly.”

“I won’t believe this!” cried the prince.

“Affectation!” remarked someone else.

The evidence of the porter went further than anything else towards the success of Lebedeff in gaining the assistance of the police. He declared that he had seen Rogojin return to the house last night, accompanied by a friend, and that both had gone upstairs very secretly and cautiously. After this there was no hesitation about breaking open the door, since it could not be got open in any other way.

Mrs. Epanchin flushed up; some accumulation of spleen in her suddenly needed an outlet. She could not bear this General Ivolgin whom she had once known, long ago--in society.

“I think you are unfair towards me,” he said. “There is nothing wrong in the thoughts I ascribe to Hippolyte; they are only natural. But of course I don’t know for certain what he thought. Perhaps he thought nothing, but simply longed to see human faces once more, and to hear human praise and feel human affection. Who knows? Only it all came out wrong, somehow. Some people have luck, and everything comes out right with them; others have none, and never a thing turns out fortunately.”

Nastasia Philipovna was quite capable of ruining herself, and even of perpetrating something which would send her to Siberia, for the mere pleasure of injuring a man for whom she had developed so inhuman a sense of loathing and contempt. He had sufficient insight to understand that she valued nothing in the world--herself least of all--and he made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was a coward in some respects. For instance, if he had been told that he would be stabbed at the altar, or publicly insulted, he would undoubtedly have been frightened; but not so much at the idea of being murdered, or wounded, or insulted, as at the thought that if such things were to happen he would be made to look ridiculous in the eyes of society.

“Oh, I didn’t mean in this room! I know I can’t smoke here, of course. I’d adjourn to some other room, wherever you like to show me to. You see, I’m used to smoking a good deal, and now I haven’t had a puff for three hours; however, just as you like.”

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

“Don’t go after him just now, Colia, or he’ll be vexed, and the benefit of this moment will be lost!” said the prince, as the boy was hurrying out of the room.

“No,--the thing is, I was telling all about the execution a little while ago, and--”

“I should refuse to say a word if _I_ were ordered to tell a story like that!” observed Aglaya.

The prince followed her.
The sisters replied candidly and fully enough to their mother’s impatient questions on her return. They said, in the first place, that nothing particular had happened since her departure; that the prince had been, and that Aglaya had kept him waiting a long while before she appeared--half an hour, at least; that she had then come in, and immediately asked the prince to have a game of chess; that the prince did not know the game, and Aglaya had beaten him easily; that she had been in a wonderfully merry mood, and had laughed at the prince, and chaffed him so unmercifully that one was quite sorry to see his wretched expression.
“Not the least bit in the world, esteemed and revered prince! Not the least bit in the world!” cried Lebedeff, solemnly, with his hand upon his heart. “On the contrary, I am too painfully aware that neither by my position in the world, nor by my gifts of intellect and heart, nor by my riches, nor by any former conduct of mine, have I in any way deserved your confidence, which is far above my highest aspirations and hopes. Oh no, prince; I may serve you, but only as your humble slave! I am not angry, oh no! Not angry; pained perhaps, but nothing more.”
“Perhaps that is just what was so fascinating about it.”
“However, most of the people were angry with me about one and the same thing; but Thibaut simply was jealous of me. At first he had wagged his head and wondered how it was that the children understood what I told them so well, and could not learn from him; and he laughed like anything when I replied that neither he nor I could teach them very much, but that _they_ might teach us a good deal.
All now crowded round the fire and thronged to see what was going on; everyone lamented and gave vent to exclamations of horror and woe. Some jumped up on chairs in order to get a better view. Daria Alexeyevna ran into the next room and whispered excitedly to Katia and Pasha. The beautiful German disappeared altogether.

“If you didn’t mean that, then she has only to go down the steps and walk off, and she need never come back unless she chooses: Ships are burned behind one sometimes, and one doesn’t care to return whence one came. Life need not consist only of lunches, and dinners, and Prince S’s. It strikes me you take Aglaya Ivanovna for some conventional boarding-school girl. I said so to her, and she quite agreed with me. Wait till seven or eight o’clock. In your place I would send someone there to keep watch, so as to seize the exact moment when she steps out of the house. Send Colia. He’ll play the spy with pleasure--for you at least. Ha, ha, ha!”

“Brought whom?” cried Muishkin.

“What is it then, for goodness’ sake?”

“Yes, sir--on that very spot.” The prince gazed strangely at Lebedeff. “And the general?” he asked, abruptly.