“I’ll just tell you one fact, ladies and gentlemen,” continued the latter, with apparent seriousness and even exaltation of manner, but with a suggestion of “chaff” behind every word, as though he were laughing in his sleeve at his own nonsense--“a fact, the discovery of which, I believe, I may claim to have made by myself alone. At all events, no other has ever said or written a word about it; and in this fact is expressed the whole essence of Russian liberalism of the sort which I am now considering.

“And, meanwhile both his legs are still on his body,” said the prince, laughing. “I assure you, it is only an innocent joke, and you need not be angry about it.”

“Well, go on.”

“I assure you, prince, that Lebedeff is intriguing against you. He wants to put you under control. Imagine that! To take ‘from you the use of your free-will and your money’--that is to say, the two things that distinguish us from the animals! I have heard it said positively. It is the sober truth.”

“Where they played last night. Then I found this bench and sat down, and thought and thought--and at last I fell fast asleep.”

This agitated the old lady considerably; and she awoke her other daughters. Next, she learned from the maid that Aglaya had gone into the park before seven o’clock. The sisters made a joke of Aglaya’s last freak, and told their mother that if she went into the park to look for her, Aglaya would probably be very angry with her, and that she was pretty sure to be sitting reading on the green bench that she had talked of two or three days since, and about which she had nearly quarrelled with Prince S., who did not see anything particularly lovely in it.

“No--I don’t think I should run away,” replied the prince, laughing outright at last at Aglaya’s questions.

“You’ve lost the game, Gania” he cried, as he passed the latter.

“Do you admire that sort of woman, prince?” he asked, looking intently at him. He seemed to have some special object in the question.

“As much as usual, prince--why?”

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

In order to pass from the Vauxhall to the band-stand, the visitor has to descend two or three steps. Just at these steps the group paused, as though it feared to proceed further; but very quickly one of the three ladies, who formed its apex, stepped forward into the charmed circle, followed by two members of her suite.

Gania--confused, annoyed, furious--took up his portrait, and turned to the prince with a nasty smile on his face.

“I knew it was all a joke!” cried Adelaida. “I felt it ever since--since the hedgehog.”

“Oh, no; oh, no! Not to theology alone, I assure you! Why, Socialism is the progeny of Romanism and of the Romanistic spirit. It and its brother Atheism proceed from Despair in opposition to Catholicism. It seeks to replace in itself the moral power of religion, in order to appease the spiritual thirst of parched humanity and save it; not by Christ, but by force. ‘Don’t dare to believe in God, don’t dare to possess any individuality, any property! _Fraternité ou la Mort_; two million heads. ‘By their works ye shall know them’--we are told. And we must not suppose that all this is harmless and without danger to ourselves. Oh, no; we must resist, and quickly, quickly! We must let our Christ shine forth upon the Western nations, our Christ whom we have preserved intact, and whom they have never known. Not as slaves, allowing ourselves to be caught by the hooks of the Jesuits, but carrying our Russian civilization to _them_, we must stand before them, not letting it be said among us that their preaching is ‘skilful,’ as someone expressed it just now.”

“No, he went to church, but to tell the truth he really preferred the old religion. This was his study and is now mine. Why did you ask if he were an Old Believer?”

He sat down on the edge of his chair, smiling and making faces, and rubbing his hands, and looking as though he were in delighted expectation of hearing some important communication, which had been long guessed by all.

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.

At this moment Gania and Ptitsin entered the room together, and Nina Alexandrovna immediately became silent again. The prince remained seated next to her, but Varia moved to the other end of the room; the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna remained lying as before on the work-table. Gania observed it there, and with a frown of annoyance snatched it up and threw it across to his writing-table, which stood at the other end of the room.

“Undoubtedly, at ten years old you would not have felt the sense of fear, as you say,” blurted out the prince, horribly uncomfortable in the sensation that he was just about to blush.

“You call him a monster so often that it makes me suspicious.”

“Let it be sent for at once!”

“I should tell it to no one but yourself, prince, and I only name it now as a help to my soul’s evolution. When I die, that secret will die with me! But, excellency, if you knew, if you only had the least idea, how difficult it is to get money nowadays! Where to find it is the question. Ask for a loan, the answer is always the same: ‘Give us gold, jewels, or diamonds, and it will be quite easy.’ Exactly what one has not got! Can you picture that to yourself? I got angry at last, and said, ‘I suppose you would accept emeralds?’ ‘Certainly, we accept emeralds with pleasure. Yes!’ ‘Well, that’s all right,’ said I. ‘Go to the devil, you den of thieves!’ And with that I seized my hat, and walked out.”

The man evidently could not take in the idea of such a shabby-looking visitor, and had decided to ask once more.

“He’s not going to die at once, I should think, is he?”

“How do you mean--applaud?”

“My father picked up all these pictures very cheap at auctions, and so on,” he said; “they are all rubbish, except the one over the door, and that is valuable. A man offered five hundred roubles for it last week.”

“It only remains for me, then, to thank Nastasia Philipovna for the great delicacy with which she has treated me,” said Gania, as pale as death, and with quivering lips. “That is my plain duty, of course; but the prince--what has he to do in the matter?”

“Prince! ex-ex-excellency!” he stammered. Then suddenly he ran towards the girl with the infant, a movement so unexpected by her that she staggered and fell back, but next moment he was threatening the other child, who was standing, still laughing, in the doorway. She screamed, and ran towards the kitchen. Lebedeff stamped his foot angrily; then, seeing the prince regarding him with amazement, he murmured apologetically--“Pardon to show respect!... he-he!”

After a time it became known that Totski had married a French marquise, and was to be carried off by her to Paris, and then to Brittany.

“Very well.”

“All? Yes,” said the prince, emerging from a momentary reverie.

He walked along the road towards his own house. His heart was beating, his thoughts were confused, everything around seemed to be part of a dream.

“What if he were to come out of that corner as I go by and--and stop me?” thought the prince, as he approached the familiar spot. But no one came out.

Muishkin, who was but a couple of steps away, had time to spring forward and seize the officer’s arms from behind.

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.

“Send Feodor or Alexey up by the very first train to buy a copy, then.--Aglaya, come here--kiss me, dear, you recited beautifully! but,” she added in a whisper, “if you were sincere I am sorry for you. If it was a joke, I do not approve of the feelings which prompted you to do it, and in any case you would have done far better not to recite it at all. Do you understand?--Now come along, young woman; we’ve sat here too long. I’ll speak to you about this another time.”

“But as if that is enough!” cried Evgenie, indignantly. “As if it is enough simply to say: ‘I know I am very guilty!’ You are to blame, and yet you persevere in evil-doing. Where was your heart, I should like to know, your _christian heart_, all that time? Did she look as though she were suffering less, at that moment? You saw her face--was she suffering less than the other woman? How could you see her suffering and allow it to continue? How could you?”

He had risen, and was speaking standing up. The old gentleman was looking at him now in unconcealed alarm. Lizabetha Prokofievna wrung her hands. “Oh, my God!” she cried. She had guessed the state of the case before anyone else.

“Too hospitable?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” said the prince, once more, nodding his head, and blushing slightly. “Yes, it was so, or nearly so--I know it. And besides, you see, I had not slept the night before, in the train, or the night before that, either, and I was very tired.”

Keller and Burdovsky looked wonderfully correct in their dress-coats and white kid gloves, although Keller caused the bridegroom some alarm by his undisguisedly hostile glances at the gathering crowd of sight-seers outside.

Before long Nastasia and Gania had talked the matter over. Very little was said--her modesty seemed to suffer under the infliction of discussing such a question. But she recognized his love, on the understanding that she bound herself to nothing whatever, and that she reserved the right to say “no” up to the very hour of the marriage ceremony. Gania was to have the same right of refusal at the last moment.

“GAVRILA ARDOLIONOVITCH,--persuaded of your kindness of heart, I have determined to ask your advice on a matter of great importance to myself. I should like to meet you tomorrow morning at seven o’clock by the green bench in the park. It is not far from our house. Varvara Ardalionovna, who must accompany you, knows the place well.

To Nastasia’s question as to what they wished her to do, Totski confessed that he had been so frightened by her, five years ago, that he could never now be entirely comfortable until she herself married. He immediately added that such a suggestion from him would, of course, be absurd, unless accompanied by remarks of a more pointed nature. He very well knew, he said, that a certain young gentleman of good family, namely, Gavrila Ardalionovitch Ivolgin, with whom she was acquainted, and whom she received at her house, had long loved her passionately, and would give his life for some response from her. The young fellow had confessed this love of his to him (Totski) and had also admitted it in the hearing of his benefactor, General Epanchin. Lastly, he could not help being of opinion that Nastasia must be aware of Gania’s love for her, and if he (Totski) mistook not, she had looked with some favour upon it, being often lonely, and rather tired of her present life. Having remarked how difficult it was for him, of all people, to speak to her of these matters, Totski concluded by saying that he trusted Nastasia Philipovna would not look with contempt upon him if he now expressed his sincere desire to guarantee her future by a gift of seventy-five thousand roubles. He added that the sum would have been left her all the same in his will, and that therefore she must not consider the gift as in any way an indemnification to her for anything, but that there was no reason, after all, why a man should not be allowed to entertain a natural desire to lighten his conscience, etc., etc.; in fact, all that would naturally be said under the circumstances. Totski was very eloquent all through, and, in conclusion, just touched on the fact that not a soul in the world, not even General Epanchin, had ever heard a word about the above seventy-five thousand roubles, and that this was the first time he had ever given expression to his intentions in respect to them.

“Oh, you needn’t laugh! These things do happen, you know! Now then--why didn’t you come to us? We have a wing quite empty. But just as you like, of course. Do you lease it from _him?_--this fellow, I mean,” she added, nodding towards Lebedeff. “And why does he always wriggle so?”

“Only quite lately. His sister has been working like a rat to clear the way for him all the winter.”

“Shall you pay here?”

“That’s me, I suppose. I’m the shameless creature!” cried Nastasia Philipovna, with amused indifference. “Dear me, and I came--like a fool, as I am--to invite them over to my house for the evening! Look how your sister treats me, Gavrila Ardalionovitch.”

There was evidently, he concluded, something at work here; some storm of the mind, some paroxysm of romantic anger, goodness knows against whom or what, some insatiable contempt--in a word, something altogether absurd and impossible, but at the same time most dangerous to be met with by any respectable person with a position in society to keep up.

“‘Like Napoleon going to England, eh?’ cried he, laughing. ‘I’ll do it though--of course, and at once, if I can!’ he added, seeing that I rose seriously from my chair at this point.

“Oh, just out of curiosity,” said Lebedeff, rubbing his hands and sniggering.

“What suspicion attaches to Evgenie Pavlovitch?”

“What, these waggons may coldly exclude?” repeated someone.

The old woman examined the prince from head to foot with great curiosity.

It so happened that Prince S---- introduced a distant relation of his own into the Epanchin family--one Evgenie Pavlovitch, a young officer of about twenty-eight years of age, whose conquests among the ladies in Moscow had been proverbial. This young gentleman no sooner set eyes on Aglaya than he became a frequent visitor at the house. He was witty, well-educated, and extremely wealthy, as the general very soon discovered. His past reputation was the only thing against him.

“Yes, that’s the man!” said another voice.

Another thought tormented him: He wondered was this an arranged business--arranged to happen when he had guests in his house, and in anticipation of his humiliation rather than of his triumph? But he reproached himself bitterly for such a thought, and felt as if he should die of shame if it were discovered. When his new visitors appeared, he was quite ready to believe himself infinitely less to be respected than any of them.

The words were hardly out of her mouth, when Lebedeff dragged Vera forward, in order to present her.

“Look here, my dear prince, no one jumps out of the window if they can help it; but when there’s a fire, the dandiest gentleman or the finest lady in the world will skip out! When the moment comes, and there’s nothing else to be done--our young lady will go to Nastasia Philipovna’s! Don’t they let the young ladies out of the house alone, then?”

The prince sat silent once more. Aglaya did not seem to be joking; she was too angry for that.

Lebedeff said this so seriously that the prince quite lost his temper with him.

“The cleverest in the world,” interrupted his uncle hastily.

“Go nearer,” suggested Rogojin, softly.

“Yes,” said Lebedeff, “you certainly think a great deal too much about yourself.”

“I assure you, general, I do not in the least doubt your statement. One of our living autobiographers states that when he was a small baby in Moscow in 1812 the French soldiers fed him with bread.”

“Why do you look at me like that, prince?” she asked suddenly, breaking off her merry conversation and laughter with those about her. “I’m afraid of you! You look as though you were just going to put out your hand and touch my face to see if it’s real! Doesn’t he, Evgenie Pavlovitch--doesn’t he look like that?”

“Didn’t you put it away in some drawer, perhaps?”

“One might dispute your right to ask such questions,” observed Lebedeff’s nephew.

“I hardly knew him; he is much changed, and for the better!”

V.

“Last week? In the night? Have you gone cracked, my good friend?”

“Who told you that?” broke in Evgenie Pavlovitch.

“I was not going to express myself so. But how could you so blind her?”

“I understand, gentlemen,” he began, trembling as before, and stumbling over every word, “that I have deserved your resentment, and--and am sorry that I should have troubled you with this raving nonsense” (pointing to his article), “or rather, I am sorry that I have not troubled you enough.” He smiled feebly. “Have I troubled you, Evgenie Pavlovitch?” He suddenly turned on Evgenie with this question. “Tell me now, have I troubled you or not?”

“Thank you, general; you have behaved very kindly to me; all the more so since I did not ask you to help me. I don’t say that out of pride. I certainly did not know where to lay my head tonight. Rogojin asked me to come to his house, of course, but--”

“Indeed? She looks very sweet. I should like to make her acquaintance.”

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

“You thought I should accept this good child’s invitation to ruin him, did you?” she cried. “That’s Totski’s way, not mine. He’s fond of children. Come along, Rogojin, get your money ready! We won’t talk about marrying just at this moment, but let’s see the money at all events. Come! I may not marry you, either. I don’t know. I suppose you thought you’d keep the money, if I did! Ha, ha, ha! nonsense! I have no sense of shame left. I tell you I have been Totski’s concubine. Prince, you must marry Aglaya Ivanovna, not Nastasia Philipovna, or this fellow Ferdishenko will always be pointing the finger of scorn at you. You aren’t afraid, I know; but I should always be afraid that I had ruined you, and that you would reproach me for it. As for what you say about my doing you honour by marrying you--well, Totski can tell you all about that. You had your eye on Aglaya, Gania, you know you had; and you might have married her if you had not come bargaining. You are all like this. You should choose, once for all, between disreputable women, and respectable ones, or you are sure to get mixed. Look at the general, how he’s staring at me!”

“That’s me, I suppose. I’m the shameless creature!” cried Nastasia Philipovna, with amused indifference. “Dear me, and I came--like a fool, as I am--to invite them over to my house for the evening! Look how your sister treats me, Gavrila Ardalionovitch.”

One of these was a middle-aged man of very respectable appearance, but with the stamp of parvenu upon him, a man whom nobody knew, and who evidently knew nobody. The other follower was younger and far less respectable-looking.

“I don’t understand why people in my position do not oftener indulge in such ideas--if only for a joke! Perhaps they do! Who knows! There are plenty of merry souls among us!

“I’ve heard so. Well, we’ll leave that question just now. Why am I a scandal-monger? Why did she call me a scandal-monger? And mind, _after_ she had heard every word I had to tell her, and had asked all sorts of questions besides--but such is the way of women. For _her_ sake I entered into relations with Rogojin--an interesting man! At _her_ request I arranged a personal interview between herself and Nastasia Philipovna. Could she have been angry because I hinted that she was enjoying Nastasia Philipovna’s ‘leavings’? Why, I have been impressing it upon her all this while for her own good. Two letters have I written her in that strain, and I began straight off today about its being humiliating for her. Besides, the word ‘leavings’ is not my invention. At all events, they all used it at Gania’s, and she used it herself. So why am I a scandal-monger? I see--I see you are tremendously amused, at this moment! Probably you are laughing at me and fitting those silly lines to my case--

Mrs. Epanchin could bear her suspense no longer, and in spite of the opposition of husband and daughters, she sent for Aglaya, determined to get a straightforward answer out of her, once for all.

“One thing I may tell you, for certain,” concluded Ptitsin, addressing the prince, “that there is no question about the authenticity of this matter. Anything that Salaskin writes you as regards your unquestionable right to this inheritance, you may look upon as so much money in your pocket. I congratulate you, prince; you may receive a million and a half of roubles, perhaps more; I don’t know. All I _do_ know is that Paparchin was a very rich merchant indeed.”

The prince sat down again. Both were silent for a few moments.

“There’s the money!... How dare you?... The money!”

“It is revolting and unseemly!” cried Hippolyte, jumping up in a fury.

“Yes--she’s mad!” he whispered, growing pale.

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

“Seriously? Then are you a coward?”

His change of dress was evidently a matter of some importance. Adelaida and Alexandra poured out a stream of questions; Prince S., a relative of the young man, appeared annoyed; and Ivan Fedorovitch quite excited. Aglaya alone was not interested. She merely looked closely at Evgenie for a minute, curious perhaps as to whether civil or military clothes became him best, then turned away and paid no more attention to him or his costume. Lizabetha Prokofievna asked no questions, but it was clear that she was uneasy, and the prince fancied that Evgenie was not in her good graces.

The Rogojin gang followed their leader and Nastasia Philipovna to the entrance-hall, laughing and shouting and whistling.

Why, here he was on the Petersburg Side already, quite close to the house! Where was his “idea”? He was marching along without it now. Yes, his malady was coming back, it was clear enough; all this gloom and heaviness, all these “ideas,” were nothing more nor less than a fit coming on; perhaps he would have a fit this very day.

“Yes--Abbot Gurot, a Jesuit,” said Ivan Petrovitch. “Yes, that’s the sort of thing our best men are apt to do. A man of rank, too, and rich--a man who, if he had continued to serve, might have done anything; and then to throw up the service and everything else in order to go over to Roman Catholicism and turn Jesuit--openly, too--almost triumphantly. By Jove! it was positively a mercy that he died when he did--it was indeed--everyone said so at the time.”

“It’s a most improbable story.”

“Seeking?”

“She looked at him, and stared and stared, and hung on every word he said,” said Lizabetha afterwards, to her husband, “and yet, tell her that she loves him, and she is furious!”

Keller insisted afterwards that he had held his right hand in his pocket all the while, when he was speaking to the prince, and that he had held the latter’s shoulder with his left hand only. This circumstance, Keller affirmed, had led him to feel some suspicion from the first. However this may be, Keller ran after Hippolyte, but he was too late.

But Lizabetha Prokofievna felt somewhat consoled when she could say that one of her girls, Adelaida, was settled at last. “It will be one off our hands!” she declared aloud, though in private she expressed herself with greater tenderness. The engagement was both happy and suitable, and was therefore approved in society. Prince S. was a distinguished man, he had money, and his future wife was devoted to him; what more could be desired? Lizabetha Prokofievna had felt less anxious about this daughter, however, although she considered her artistic tastes suspicious. But to make up for them she was, as her mother expressed it, “merry,” and had plenty of “common-sense.” It was Aglaya’s future which disturbed her most. With regard to her eldest daughter, Alexandra, the mother never quite knew whether there was cause for anxiety or not. Sometimes she felt as if there was nothing to be expected from her. She was twenty-five now, and must be fated to be an old maid, and “with such beauty, too!” The mother spent whole nights in weeping and lamenting, while all the time the cause of her grief slumbered peacefully. “What is the matter with her? Is she a Nihilist, or simply a fool?”