No sooner had his sister left him alone, than Gania took the note out of his pocket, kissed it, and pirouetted around.

“Of course it is; we are not a secret society; and that being the case, it is all the more curious that the general should have been on his way to wake me up in order to tell me this.”

Prince Muishkin entered the court-yard, and ascended the steps. A cook with her sleeves turned up to the elbows opened the door. The visitor asked if Mr. Lebedeff were at home.

“Yes, it’s quite true,” said Rogojin, frowning gloomily; “so Zaleshoff told me. I was walking about the Nefsky one fine day, prince, in my father’s old coat, when she suddenly came out of a shop and stepped into her carriage. I swear I was all of a blaze at once. Then I met Zaleshoff--looking like a hair-dresser’s assistant, got up as fine as I don’t know who, while I looked like a tinker. ‘Don’t flatter yourself, my boy,’ said he; ‘she’s not for such as you; she’s a princess, she is, and her name is Nastasia Philipovna Barashkoff, and she lives with Totski, who wishes to get rid of her because he’s growing rather old--fifty-five or so--and wants to marry a certain beauty, the loveliest woman in all Petersburg.’ And then he told me that I could see Nastasia Philipovna at the opera-house that evening, if I liked, and described which was her box. Well, I’d like to see my father allowing any of us to go to the theatre; he’d sooner have killed us, any day. However, I went for an hour or so and saw Nastasia Philipovna, and I never slept a wink all night after. Next morning my father happened to give me two government loan bonds to sell, worth nearly five thousand roubles each. ‘Sell them,’ said he, ‘and then take seven thousand five hundred roubles to the office, give them to the cashier, and bring me back the rest of the ten thousand, without looking in anywhere on the way; look sharp, I shall be waiting for you.’ Well, I sold the bonds, but I didn’t take the seven thousand roubles to the office; I went straight to the English shop and chose a pair of earrings, with a diamond the size of a nut in each. They cost four hundred roubles more than I had, so I gave my name, and they trusted me. With the earrings I went at once to Zaleshoff’s. ‘Come on!’ I said, ‘come on to Nastasia Philipovna’s,’ and off we went without more ado. I tell you I hadn’t a notion of what was about me or before me or below my feet all the way; I saw nothing whatever. We went straight into her drawing-room, and then she came out to us.

“It is not right! Half an hour ago, prince, it was agreed among us that no one should interrupt, no one should laugh, that each person was to express his thoughts freely; and then at the end, when everyone had spoken, objections might be made, even by the atheists. We chose the general as president. Now without some such rule and order, anyone might be shouted down, even in the loftiest and most profound thought....”

“At all events, you’ve disbanded your troop--and you are living in your own house instead of being fast and loose about the place; that’s all very good. Is this house all yours, or joint property?”
“I tell you, sir, he wished it himself!”

“Then, general, it’s your turn,” continued Nastasia Philipovna, “and if you refuse, the whole game will fall through, which will disappoint me very much, for I was looking forward to relating a certain ‘page of my own life.’ I am only waiting for you and Afanasy Ivanovitch to have your turns, for I require the support of your example,” she added, smiling.

“Have you let it?”
“This is not my own fantastical opinion--many people have thought the same; but I feel it so deeply that I’ll tell you what I think. I believe that to execute a man for murder is to punish him immeasurably more dreadfully than is equivalent to his crime. A murder by sentence is far more dreadful than a murder committed by a criminal. The man who is attacked by robbers at night, in a dark wood, or anywhere, undoubtedly hopes and hopes that he may yet escape until the very moment of his death. There are plenty of instances of a man running away, or imploring for mercy--at all events hoping on in some degree--even after his throat was cut. But in the case of an execution, that last hope--having which it is so immeasurably less dreadful to die,--is taken away from the wretch and _certainty_ substituted in its place! There is his sentence, and with it that terrible certainty that he cannot possibly escape death--which, I consider, must be the most dreadful anguish in the world. You may place a soldier before a cannon’s mouth in battle, and fire upon him--and he will still hope. But read to that same soldier his death-sentence, and he will either go mad or burst into tears. Who dares to say that any man can suffer this without going mad? No, no! it is an abuse, a shame, it is unnecessary--why should such a thing exist? Doubtless there may be men who have been sentenced, who have suffered this mental anguish for a while and then have been reprieved; perhaps such men may have been able to relate their feelings afterwards. Our Lord Christ spoke of this anguish and dread. No! no! no! No man should be treated so, no man, no man!”
So saying, he almost panted with agitation, and a cold sweat stood upon his forehead. These were his first words since he had entered the house; he tried to lift his eyes, and look around, but dared not; Evgenie Pavlovitch noticed his confusion, and smiled.Lizabetha Prokofievna was about to rise, when she saw Hippolyte laughing, and turned upon him with irritation.
“May I ask when this article was revised?” said Evgenie Pavlovitch to Keller.
“How do you make out that the Roman Catholic religion is _unchristian?_ What is it, then?” asked Ivan Petrovitch, turning to the prince.
In her opinion there was so much disclosed and laid bare by the episode, that, in spite of the chaotic condition of her mind, she was able to feel more or less decided on certain points which, up to now, had been in a cloudy condition.
However, it appeared to Totski that he might make use of her in another way; and he determined to establish her in St. Petersburg, surrounding her with all the comforts and luxuries that his wealth could command. In this way he might gain glory in certain circles.“Le roi de Rome,” whispered the general, trembling all over.“Well, it was clear enough all along,” he said, after a moment’s reflection. “So that’s the end,” he added, with a disagreeable smile, continuing to walk up and down the room, but much slower than before, and glancing slyly into his sister’s face.

IV.

The prince glanced in the direction indicated.
He paused, breathless.

“I am off,” he said, hoarsely, and with difficulty.

Aglaya alone seemed sad and depressed; her face was flushed, perhaps with indignation.“Well, at all events, they were consulting together at the time. Of course it was the idea of an eagle, and must have originated with Napoleon; but the other project was good too--it was the ‘Conseil du lion!’ as Napoleon called it. This project consisted in a proposal to occupy the Kremlin with the whole army; to arm and fortify it scientifically, to kill as many horses as could be got, and salt their flesh, and spend the winter there; and in spring to fight their way out. Napoleon liked the idea--it attracted him. We rode round the Kremlin walls every day, and Napoleon used to give orders where they were to be patched, where built up, where pulled down and so on. All was decided at last. They were alone together--those two and myself.“I have not much time for making acquaintances, as a rule,” said the general, “but as, of course, you have your object in coming, I--”

He twisted himself about with rage, and grew paler and paler; he shook his fist. So the pair walked along a few steps. Gania did not stand on ceremony with the prince; he behaved just as though he were alone in his room. He clearly counted the latter as a nonentity. But suddenly he seemed to have an idea, and recollected himself.

“H’m! yes, that’s true enough. Well now, how is the law over there, do they administer it more justly than here?”
“Is it Rogojin?”

“Look here; this is what I called you here for. I wish to make you a--to ask you to be my friend. What do you stare at me like that for?” she added, almost angrily.

“Very well, I believe you. I have my own ideas about it. Up to yesterday morning I thought it was really Evgenie Pavlovitch who was to blame; now I cannot help agreeing with the others. But why he was made such a fool of I cannot understand. However, he is not going to marry Aglaya, I can tell you that. He may be a very excellent fellow, but--so it shall be. I was not at all sure of accepting him before, but now I have quite made up my mind that I won’t have him. ‘Put me in my coffin first and then into my grave, and then you may marry my daughter to whomsoever you please,’ so I said to the general this very morning. You see how I trust you, my boy.”
“What? Who forbade you?”
“But if they were to, would you be dreadfully frightened?”
“She’s mad--quite!” said Alexandra.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” said the prince, apparently in a deep reverie.
The prince was in a fever all night. It was strange, but he had suffered from fever for several nights in succession. On this particular night, while in semi-delirium, he had an idea: what if on the morrow he were to have a fit before everybody? The thought seemed to freeze his blood within him. All night he fancied himself in some extraordinary society of strange persons. The worst of it was that he was talking nonsense; he knew that he ought not to speak at all, and yet he talked the whole time; he seemed to be trying to persuade them all to something. Evgenie and Hippolyte were among the guests, and appeared to be great friends.

Such were her words--very likely she did not give her real reason for this eccentric conduct; but, at all events, that was all the explanation she deigned to offer.

“No--Aglaya--come, enough of this, you mustn’t behave like this,” said her father, in dismay.

The words burst involuntarily from every mouth. All present started up in bewildered excitement; all surrounded her; all had listened uneasily to her wild, disconnected sentences. All felt that something had happened, something had gone very far wrong indeed, but no one could make head or tail of the matter.

The whole of Rogojin’s being was concentrated in one rapturous gaze of ecstasy. He could not take his eyes off Nastasia. He stood drinking her in, as it were. He was in the seventh heaven of delight.

“Well, what does it all mean? What do you make of it?” asked the general of his spouse, hurriedly.

“Yes, but the prince told us about the donkey very cleverly, all the same,” said Alexandra. “I have always been most interested to hear how people go mad and get well again, and that sort of thing. Especially when it happens suddenly.”

IV.

“So you counted the minutes while I slept, did you, Evgenie Pavlovitch?” he said, ironically. “You have not taken your eyes off me all the evening--I have noticed that much, you see! Ah, Rogojin! I’ve just been dreaming about him, prince,” he added, frowning. “Yes, by the by,” starting up, “where’s the orator? Where’s Lebedeff? Has he finished? What did he talk about? Is it true, prince, that you once declared that ‘beauty would save the world’? Great Heaven! The prince says that beauty saves the world! And I declare that he only has such playful ideas because he’s in love! Gentlemen, the prince is in love. I guessed it the moment he came in. Don’t blush, prince; you make me sorry for you. What beauty saves the world? Colia told me that you are a zealous Christian; is it so? Colia says you call yourself a Christian.”
“Why are you ashamed of your stories the moment after you have told them?” asked Aglaya, suddenly.
“How very curious, point for point the same anecdote, and happening at different ends of Europe! Even the light blue dress the same,” continued the pitiless Nastasia. “I must really send you the paper.”“Please don’t be angry with me,” continued the prince. “I know very well that I have seen less of life than other people, and have less knowledge of it. I must appear to speak strangely sometimes...”
“Now then, where are you taking my cloak to? Ha, ha, ha! Are you mad?”
The question as to what she might have to say of special interest to himself occurred to him once or twice. He did not doubt, for a moment, that she really had some such subject of conversation in store, but so very little interested in the matter was he that it did not strike him to wonder what it could be. The crunch of gravel on the path suddenly caused him to raise his head.

“You know of course why I requested this meeting?” she said at last, quietly, and pausing twice in the delivery of this very short sentence.

“Oh come! just as if you didn’t understand, Lukian Timofeyovitch! What are you up to? I can’t make you out! The money, the money, sir! The four hundred roubles that you lost that day. You came and told me about it one morning, and then went off to Petersburg. There, _now_ do you understand?”
“Oh, devil take what he wanted you to do! Don’t try to be too cunning with me, young man!” shouted Gania. “If you are aware of the real reason for my father’s present condition (and you have kept such an excellent spying watch during these last few days that you are sure to be aware of it)--you had no right whatever to torment the--unfortunate man, and to worry my mother by your exaggerations of the affair; because the whole business is nonsense--simply a drunken freak, and nothing more, quite unproved by any evidence, and I don’t believe that much of it!” (he snapped his fingers). “But you must needs spy and watch over us all, because you are a--a--”

“Oh, but you’re quite wrong in my particular instance,” said the Swiss patient, quietly. “Of course I can’t argue the matter, because I know only my own case; but my doctor gave me money--and he had very little--to pay my journey back, besides having kept me at his own expense, while there, for nearly two years.”

“No, a verbal message; she had hardly time even for that. She begs you earnestly not to go out of the house for a single moment all to-day, until seven o’clock in the evening. It may have been nine; I didn’t quite hear.”
It never struck him that all this refined simplicity and nobility and wit and personal dignity might possibly be no more than an exquisite artistic polish. The majority of the guests--who were somewhat empty-headed, after all, in spite of their aristocratic bearing--never guessed, in their self-satisfied composure, that much of their superiority was mere veneer, which indeed they had adopted unconsciously and by inheritance.

“Oh! I suppose the present she wished to make to you, when she took you into the dining-room, was her confidence, eh?”

“Where to?”

“There, look at her now--Ivan Fedorovitch! Here she is--all of her! This is our _real_ Aglaya at last!” said Lizabetha Prokofievna.
“As soon as I finished writing in her album for her, and when she asked me to come out of the room with her (you heard?), we went into the dining-room, and she gave me your letter to read, and then told me to return it.”
“Water or the knife?” said the latter, at last. “Ha, ha--that’s exactly why she is going to marry me, because she knows for certain that the knife awaits her. Prince, can it be that you don’t even yet see what’s at the root of it all?”
“Allow me to warn you,” interposed General Ivolgin, “that he is the greatest charlatan on earth.” He had taken the chair next to the girl, and was impatient to begin talking. “No doubt there are pleasures and amusements peculiar to the country,” he continued, “and to listen to a pretended student holding forth on the book of the Revelations may be as good as any other. It may even be original. But... you seem to be looking at me with some surprise--may I introduce myself--General Ivolgin--I carried you in my arms as a baby--”
“Pardon me, it is no offence to wish to know this; you are her mother. We met at the green bench this morning, punctually at seven o’clock,--according to an agreement made by Aglaya Ivanovna with myself yesterday. She said that she wished to see me and speak to me about something important. We met and conversed for an hour about matters concerning Aglaya Ivanovna herself, and that’s all.”The prince jumped up so furiously that Lebedeff ran towards the door; having gained which strategic position, however, he stopped and looked back to see if he might hope for pardon.

“And you are _not_, I presume, eh?”

“Yes, and he gave me a fearful dig in the chest,” cried the prince, still laughing. “What are we to fight about? I shall beg his pardon, that’s all. But if we must fight--we’ll fight! Let him have a shot at me, by all means; I should rather like it. Ha, ha, ha! I know how to load a pistol now; do you know how to load a pistol, Keller? First, you have to buy the powder, you know; it mustn’t be wet, and it mustn’t be that coarse stuff that they load cannons with--it must be pistol powder. Then you pour the powder in, and get hold of a bit of felt from some door, and then shove the bullet in. But don’t shove the bullet in before the powder, because the thing wouldn’t go off--do you hear, Keller, the thing wouldn’t go off! Ha, ha, ha! Isn’t that a grand reason, Keller, my friend, eh? Do you know, my dear fellow, I really must kiss you, and embrace you, this very moment. Ha, ha! How was it you so suddenly popped up in front of me as you did? Come to my house as soon as you can, and we’ll have some champagne. We’ll all get drunk! Do you know I have a dozen of champagne in Lebedeff’s cellar? Lebedeff sold them to me the day after I arrived. I took the lot. We’ll invite everybody! Are you going to do any sleeping tonight?”

He could not settle himself to his papers again, for agitation and excitement, but began walking up and down the room from corner to corner.

“I love that boy for his perception,” said Lebedeff, looking after him. “My dear prince,” he continued, “I have had a terrible misfortune, either last night or early this morning. I cannot tell the exact time.”

“What have you done, indeed?” put in Nina Alexandrovna. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, teasing an old man like that--and in your position, too.”

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

“Yes, herself; and you may believe me when I tell you that I would not have read it for anything without her permission.”Hippolyte, too, was a source of some distraction to the prince at this time; he would send for him at any and every hour of the day. They lived,--Hippolyte and his mother and the children,--in a small house not far off, and the little ones were happy, if only because they were able to escape from the invalid into the garden. The prince had enough to do in keeping the peace between the irritable Hippolyte and his mother, and eventually the former became so malicious and sarcastic on the subject of the approaching wedding, that Muishkin took offence at last, and refused to continue his visits.

Hippolyte frowned gloomily.

“Nastasia Philipovna, is this really you? You, once so refined and delicate of speech. Oh, what a tongue! What dreadful things you are saying,” cried the general, wringing his hands in real grief.

“I do _not_ boast! You shall have a hundred thousand, this very day. Ptitsin, get the money, you gay usurer! Take what you like for it, but get it by the evening! I’ll show that I’m in earnest!” cried Rogojin, working himself up into a frenzy of excitement.

She was silent a moment to get breath, and to recover her composure.