The day after these scandalous events, however, the prince had the honour of receiving a visit from Adelaida and her fiance, Prince S. They came, ostensibly, to inquire after his health. They had wandered out for a walk, and called in “by accident,” and talked for almost the whole of the time they were with him about a certain most lovely tree in the park, which Adelaida had set her heart upon for a picture. This, and a little amiable conversation on Prince S.’s part, occupied the time, and not a word was said about last evening’s episodes. At length Adelaida burst out laughing, apologized, and explained that they had come incognito; from which, and from the circumstance that they said nothing about the prince’s either walking back with them or coming to see them later on, the latter inferred that he was in Mrs. Epanchin’s black books. Adelaida mentioned a watercolour that she would much like to show him, and explained that she would either send it by Colia, or bring it herself the next day--which to the prince seemed very suggestive.
That month in the provinces, when he had seen this woman nearly every day, had affected him so deeply that he could not now look back upon it calmly. In the very look of this woman there was something which tortured him. In conversation with Rogojin he had attributed this sensation to pity--immeasurable pity, and this was the truth. The sight of the portrait face alone had filled his heart full of the agony of real sympathy; and this feeling of sympathy, nay, of actual _suffering_, for her, had never left his heart since that hour, and was still in full force. Oh yes, and more powerful than ever!
“Of course I wrote an apology, and called, but they would not receive either me or my apology, and the Epanchins cut me, too!”
“At last!” murmured Lizabetha Prokofievna indignantly.
The prince looked him sternly up and down.
“Do you cut your pages with it, or what?” asked Muishkin, still rather absently, as though unable to throw off a deep preoccupation into which the conversation had thrown him.
“I’m not laughing. I am convinced, myself, that that may have been partly the reason.”
“Why, it would be a game to cry over--not to laugh at!” said the actress.
The prince was listening open-mouthed, and still in a condition of excited agitation. The old man was evidently interested in him, and anxious to study him more closely.
“Gracious heavens!” exclaimed Lizabetha Prokofievna. The prince started. The general stiffened in his chair; the sisters frowned.
Five seconds after the disappearance of the last actor in this scene, the police arrived. The whole episode had not lasted more than a couple of minutes. Some of the spectators had risen from their places, and departed altogether; some merely exchanged their seats for others a little further off; some were delighted with the occurrence, and talked and laughed over it for a long time.
“Quite so--parties--you are very right,” said the prince. “I was reading a book about Napoleon and the Waterloo campaign only the other day, by Charasse, in which the author does not attempt to conceal his joy at Napoleon’s discomfiture at every page. Well now, I don’t like that; it smells of ‘party,’ you know. You are quite right. And were you much occupied with your service under Napoleon?”
“Shall I call the Ptitsins, and Gavrila Ardalionovitch? Shall I let the general in?” he asked.
“Yes, for certain--quite for certain, now! I have discovered it _absolutely_ for certain, these last few days.”
All this news was received by the company with somewhat gloomy interest. Nastasia was silent, and would not say what she thought about it. Gania was equally uncommunicative. The general seemed the most anxious of all, and decidedly uneasy. The present of pearls which he had prepared with so much joy in the morning had been accepted but coldly, and Nastasia had smiled rather disagreeably as she took it from him. Ferdishenko was the only person present in good spirits.
“What a silly idea,” said the actress. “Of course it is not the case. I have never stolen anything, for one.”
“Excuse me, sirs,” he said, loudly, “but what does all this mean?” He glared at the advancing crowd generally, but addressed his remarks especially to their captain, Rogojin. “You are not in a stable, gentlemen, though you may think it--my mother and sister are present.”
“Here they are,” said Rogojin, after a still longer pause.
“Why? If I had been sitting there now, I should not have had the opportunity of making these personal explanations. I see you are still uneasy about me and keep eyeing my cloak and bundle. Don’t you think you might go in yourself now, without waiting for the secretary to come out?”
“I cannot sacrifice myself so, though I admit I did wish to do so once. Who knows, perhaps I still wish to! But I know for _certain_, that if she married me it would be her ruin; I know this and therefore I leave her alone. I ought to go to see her today; now I shall probably not go. She is proud, she would never forgive me the nature of the love I bear her, and we should both be ruined. This may be unnatural, I don’t know; but everything seems unnatural. You say she loves me, as if this were _love!_ As if she could love _me_, after what I have been through! No, no, it is not love.”
The general flushed with indignation as he spoke.
“Yes, of course,” said Ferdishenko. “C’est du nouveau.”
“Very well, but I’ll change my mind, and begin about Gania. Just fancy to begin with, if you can, that I, too, was given an appointment at the green bench today! However, I won’t deceive you; I asked for the appointment. I said I had a secret to disclose. I don’t know whether I came there too early, I think I must have; but scarcely had I sat down beside Aglaya Ivanovna than I saw Gavrila Ardalionovitch and his sister Varia coming along, arm in arm, just as though they were enjoying a morning walk together. Both of them seemed very much astonished, not to say disturbed, at seeing me; they evidently had not expected the pleasure. Aglaya Ivanovna blushed up, and was actually a little confused. I don’t know whether it was merely because I was there, or whether Gania’s beauty was too much for her! But anyway, she turned crimson, and then finished up the business in a very funny manner. She jumped up from her seat, bowed back to Gania, smiled to Varia, and suddenly observed: ‘I only came here to express my gratitude for all your kind wishes on my behalf, and to say that if I find I need your services, believe me--’ Here she bowed them away, as it were, and they both marched off again, looking very foolish. Gania evidently could not make head nor tail of the matter, and turned as red as a lobster; but Varia understood at once that they must get away as quickly as they could, so she dragged Gania away; she is a great deal cleverer than he is. As for myself, I went there to arrange a meeting to be held between Aglaya Ivanovna and Nastasia Philipovna.”
Perhaps he was too easy in his mind. So thought Hippolyte, at all events, who met him in the park one day.
“Yes, a candle! What’s there improbable about that?”
“Besides, he’s quite a child; we can entertain him with a little hide-and-seek, in case of need,” said Adelaida.
“I know their faces, too,” said the prince, with a peculiar stress on the words.
“I will think about it,” said the prince dreamily, and went off.
Lebedeff immediately procured the services of an old doctor, and carried the latter away to Pavlofsk to see the prince, by way of viewing the ground, as it were, and to give him (Lebedeff) counsel as to whether the thing was to be done or not. The visit was not to be official, but merely friendly.
“I don’t believe it! It’s impossible! What object could they have?” He jumped up from his chair in his excitement.
“What I am really alarmed about, though,” he said, “is Aglaya Ivanovna. Rogojin knows how you love her. Love for love. You took Nastasia Philipovna from him. He will murder Aglaya Ivanovna; for though she is not yours, of course, now, still such an act would pain you,--wouldn’t it?”
He seemed to pause for a reply, for some verdict, as it were, and looked humbly around him.
“Oh, but it’s only the simple tale of an old soldier who saw the French enter Moscow. Some of his remarks were wonderfully interesting. Remarks of an eye-witness are always valuable, whoever he be, don’t you think so?”
“Well, that’ll do; we must be quick,” she concluded, after hearing all. “We have only an hour here, till eight; I must be home by then without fail, so that they may not find out that I came and sat here with you; but I’ve come on business. I have a great deal to say to you. But you have bowled me over considerably with your news. As to Hippolyte, I think his pistol was bound not to go off; it was more consistent with the whole affair. Are you sure he really wished to blow his brains out, and that there was no humbug about the matter?”
“Yes, I have,” and the prince stopped again.
“Oh, why?--Of course you’ll be challenged! That was young Lieutenant Moloftsoff. I know him, or rather of him; he won’t pass an insult. He will take no notice of Rogojin and myself, and, therefore, you are the only one left to account for. You’ll have to pay the piper, prince. He has been asking about you, and undoubtedly his friend will call on you tomorrow--perhaps he is at your house already. If you would do me the honour to have me for a second, prince, I should be happy. That’s why I have been looking for you now.”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, let me speak at last,” cried the prince, anxious and agitated. “Please let us understand one another. I say nothing about the article, gentlemen, except that every word is false; I say this because you know it as well as I do. It is shameful. I should be surprised if any one of you could have written it.”
But the prince could not finish his question; he did not know what to say. Besides this, his heart was beating so that he found it difficult to speak at all. Rogojin was silent also and looked at him as before, with an expression of deep thoughtfulness.
“You do not care if he does?” added Evgenie Pavlovitch. “Neither do I; in fact, I should be glad, merely as a proper punishment for our dear Lizabetha Prokofievna. I am very anxious that she should get it, without delay, and I shall stay till she does. You seem feverish.”
“Married? how--what marriage?” murmured Gania, overwhelmed with confusion.
“Oh, come, come! You are exaggerating,” said Ivan Petrovitch, beaming with satisfaction, all the same. He was right, however, in this instance, for the report had reached the prince’s ears in an incorrect form.
The prince followed her.
Aglaya pressed the prince’s hand and left the room. Her face was serious and frowning; she did not even smile as she nodded good-bye to him at the door.
“Oh dear no, it’s all a joke. No more cousin than I am.”
“I’ll wear it; and you shall have mine. I’ll take it off at once.”
He seemed to feel warmly and deeply grateful to someone for something or other--perhaps to Ivan Petrovitch; but likely enough to all the guests, individually, and collectively. He was much too happy.
“Hush! hush! Gavrila Ardalionovitch!” cried Muishkin in dismay, but it was too late.
“Don’t you see he is a lunatic, prince?” whispered Evgenie Pavlovitch in his ear. “Someone told me just now that he is a bit touched on the subject of lawyers, that he has a mania for making speeches and intends to pass the examinations. I am expecting a splendid burlesque now.”
Moved by this news, Lebedeff hurried up to the prince.
“Oh, I happened to recall it, that’s all! It fitted into the conversation--”
“And you, princess,” he went on, addressing Princess Bielokonski, “was it not you who received me in Moscow, six months since, as kindly as though I had been your own son, in response to a letter from Lizabetha Prokofievna; and gave me one piece of advice, again as to your own son, which I shall never forget? Do you remember?”
The prince certainly had darted a rather piercing look at her, and now observed that she had begun to blush violently. At such moments, the more Aglaya blushed, the angrier she grew with herself; and this was clearly expressed in her eyes, which flashed like fire. As a rule, she vented her wrath on her unfortunate companion, be it who it might. She was very conscious of her own shyness, and was not nearly so talkative as her sisters for this reason--in fact, at times she was much too quiet. When, therefore, she was bound to talk, especially at such delicate moments as this, she invariably did so with an air of haughty defiance. She always knew beforehand when she was going to blush, long before the blush came.
“What?” exclaimed the prince, thinking he had not heard aright.
“Gania, Gania, reflect!” cried his mother, hurriedly.
“I like you too, Colia.”
Colia took the prince to a public-house in the Litaynaya, not far off. In one of the side rooms there sat at a table--looking like one of the regular guests of the establishment--Ardalion Alexandrovitch, with a bottle before him, and a newspaper on his knee. He was waiting for the prince, and no sooner did the latter appear than he began a long harangue about something or other; but so far gone was he that the prince could hardly understand a word.
Left to himself at the cross-roads, the prince glanced around him, quickly crossed the road towards the lighted window of a neighbouring house, and unfolded a tiny scrap of paper which he had held clasped in his right hand during the whole of his conversation with the general.
“To this keen question I replied as keenly, ‘The Russian heart can recognize a great man even in the bitter enemy of his country.’ At least, I don’t remember the exact words, you know, but the idea was as I say. Napoleon was struck; he thought a minute and then said to his suite: ‘I like that boy’s pride; if all Russians think like this child, then--’ he didn’t finish, but went on and entered the palace. I instantly mixed with his suite, and followed him. I was already in high favour. I remember when he came into the first hall, the emperor stopped before a portrait of the Empress Katherine, and after a thoughtful glance remarked, ‘That was a great woman,’ and passed on.
The room they were now sitting in was a large one, lofty but dark, well furnished, principally with writing-tables and desks covered with papers and books. A wide sofa covered with red morocco evidently served Rogojin for a bed. On the table beside which the prince had been invited to seat himself lay some books; one containing a marker where the reader had left off, was a volume of Solovieff’s History. Some oil-paintings in worn gilded frames hung on the walls, but it was impossible to make out what subjects they represented, so blackened were they by smoke and age. One, a life-sized portrait, attracted the prince’s attention. It showed a man of about fifty, wearing a long riding-coat of German cut. He had two medals on his breast; his beard was white, short and thin; his face yellow and wrinkled, with a sly, suspicious expression in the eyes.
“Forgive a silly, horrid, spoilt girl”--(she took his hand here)--“and be quite assured that we all of us esteem you beyond all words. And if I dared to turn your beautiful, admirable simplicity to ridicule, forgive me as you would a little child its mischief. Forgive me all my absurdity of just now, which, of course, meant nothing, and could not have the slightest consequence.” She spoke these words with great emphasis.
“Pavlicheff was a man of bright intellect and a good Christian, a sincere Christian,” said the prince, suddenly. “How could he possibly embrace a faith which is unchristian? Roman Catholicism is, so to speak, simply the same thing as unchristianity,” he added with flashing eyes, which seemed to take in everybody in the room.
Hippolyte, who had fallen asleep during Lebedeff’s discourse, now suddenly woke up, just as though someone had jogged him in the side. He shuddered, raised himself on his arm, gazed around, and grew very pale. A look almost of terror crossed his face as he recollected.
“I wish to work, somehow or other.”
When the prince heard that the old man had gone to Nina Alexandrovna, though, he felt almost easy on his account.
At this idea, he burst out laughing all at once, in quite unaffected mirth, and without giving any explanation.
“How pale you have grown!” cried Aglaya in alarm.
Evgenie himself was very likely going abroad also; so were Prince S. and his wife, if affairs allowed of it; the general was to stay at home. They were all at their estate of Colmina now, about twenty miles or so from St. Petersburg. Princess Bielokonski had not returned to Moscow yet, and was apparently staying on for reasons of her own. Lizabetha Prokofievna had insisted that it was quite impossible to remain in Pavlofsk after what had happened. Evgenie had told her of all the rumours current in town about the affair; so that there could be no talk of their going to their house on the Yelagin as yet.
“I’ll bring it you directly. We only have a cook and one maid, so I have to help as much as I can. Varia looks after things, generally, and loses her temper over it. Gania says you have only just arrived from Switzerland?”
He did not speak much, only answering such questions as were put to him, and gradually settled down into unbroken silence, listening to what went on, and steeped in perfect satisfaction and contentment.
“I _did_ suspect him. When I woke up at half-past seven and tore my hair in despair for my loss and carelessness, I awoke the general, who was sleeping the sleep of innocence near me. Taking into consideration the sudden disappearance of Ferdishenko, which was suspicious in itself, we decided to search Keller, who was lying there sleeping like a top. Well, we searched his clothes thoroughly, and not a farthing did we find; in fact, his pockets all had holes in them. We found a dirty handkerchief, and a love-letter from some scullery-maid. The general decided that he was innocent. We awoke him for further inquiries, and had the greatest difficulty in making him understand what was up. He opened his mouth and stared--he looked so stupid and so absurdly innocent. It wasn’t Keller.”
Here she suddenly paused, afraid of what she had just said. But she little knew how unfair she was to her daughter at that moment. It was all settled in Aglaya’s mind. She was only waiting for the hour that would bring the matter to a final climax; and every hint, every careless probing of her wound, did but further lacerate her heart.
Madame Filisoff was a little woman of forty, with a cunning face, and crafty, piercing eyes. When, with an air of mystery, she asked her visitor’s name, he refused at first to answer, but in a moment he changed his mind, and left strict instructions that it should be given to Nastasia Philipovna. The urgency of his request seemed to impress Madame Filisoff, and she put on a knowing expression, as if to say, “You need not be afraid, I quite understand.” The prince’s name evidently was a great surprise to her. He stood and looked absently at her for a moment, then turned, and took the road back to his hotel. But he went away not as he came. A great change had suddenly come over him. He went blindly forward; his knees shook under him; he was tormented by “ideas”; his lips were blue, and trembled with a feeble, meaningless smile. His demon was upon him once more.
It is impossible to describe Aglaya’s irritation. She flared up, and said some indignant words about “all these silly insinuations.” She added that “she had no intentions as yet of replacing anybody’s mistress.”
Exclamations of horror arose on all sides. The prince grew pale as death; he gazed into Gania’s eyes with a strange, wild, reproachful look; his lips trembled and vainly endeavoured to form some words; then his mouth twisted into an incongruous smile.
“And you wouldn’t run away?”
“What a regular old woman I am today,” he had said to himself each time, with annoyance. “I believe in every foolish presentiment that comes into my head.”
Hippolyte suddenly burst into a fit of hysterical laughter, which turned into a choking cough.
But as we said before, the fact of Adelaida’s approaching marriage was balm to the mother. For a whole month she forgot her fears and worries.
“What, after yesterday? Wasn’t I honest with you?”
“I don’t want you to suspect that I have simply come here to deceive you and pump information out of you!” said Evgenie, still smiling, and without making any direct reply to the question.
“No, not a bit of it,” said Ivan Petrovitch, with a sarcastic laugh.
“In a word, you are a wretched little scandal-monger,” cried Gania, “and you cannot go away without a scandal!”
“It is to annoy their mother; that is their one aim in life; it can be nothing else. The fact is it is all of a piece with these modern ideas, that wretched woman’s question! Six months ago Aglaya took a fancy to cut off her magnificent hair. Why, even I, when I was young, had nothing like it! The scissors were in her hand, and I had to go down on my knees and implore her... She did it, I know, from sheer mischief, to spite her mother, for she is a naughty, capricious girl, a real spoiled child spiteful and mischievous to a degree! And then Alexandra wanted to shave her head, not from caprice or mischief, but, like a little fool, simply because Aglaya persuaded her she would sleep better without her hair, and not suffer from headache! And how many suitors have they not had during the last five years! Excellent offers, too! What more do they want? Why don’t they get married? For no other reason than to vex their mother--none--none!”
“You are very like Lizabetha Prokofievna.”
“Of course, you don’t know all; but, I assure you, you needn’t be afraid, it won’t be like that in our case. There are circumstances,” said Gania, rather excitedly. “And as to her answer to me, there’s no doubt about that. Why should you suppose she will refuse me?”
“Go on! Go on! Nobody is going to interrupt you!” cried several voices.
“There’s a girl for you!” cried Nastasia Philipovna. “Mr. Ptitsin, I congratulate you on your choice.”
“They have planted roses all round her grave, and every year they look after the flowers and make Marie’s resting-place as beautiful as they can. I was in ill odour after all this with the parents of the children, and especially with the parson and schoolmaster. Schneider was obliged to promise that I should not meet them and talk to them; but we conversed from a distance by signs, and they used to write me sweet little notes. Afterwards I came closer than ever to those little souls, but even then it was very dear to me, to have them so fond of me.
“Can you? I’m sorry for it then, for I should have had a good laugh at you otherwise. Do break _something_ at least, in the drawing-room! Upset the Chinese vase, won’t you? It’s a valuable one; _do_ break it. Mamma values it, and she’ll go out of her mind--it was a present. She’ll cry before everyone, you’ll see! Wave your hand about, you know, as you always do, and just smash it. Sit down near it on purpose.”
“Chaos and scandal are to be found everywhere, madame,” remarked Doktorenko, who was considerably put out of countenance.
“Oh, that’s not in _my_ province! I believe she receives at any time; it depends upon the visitors. The dressmaker goes in at eleven. Gavrila Ardalionovitch is allowed much earlier than other people, too; he is even admitted to early lunch now and then.”
The prince had not seen _her_ for more than three months. All these days since his arrival from Petersburg he had intended to pay her a visit, but some mysterious presentiment had restrained him. He could not picture to himself what impression this meeting with her would make upon him, though he had often tried to imagine it, with fear and trembling. One fact was quite certain, and that was that the meeting would be painful.
“No; of course not.”
While he feasted his eyes upon Aglaya, as she talked merrily with Evgenie and Prince N., suddenly the old anglomaniac, who was talking to the dignitary in another corner of the room, apparently telling him a story about something or other--suddenly this gentleman pronounced the name of “Nicolai Andreevitch Pavlicheff” aloud. The prince quickly turned towards him, and listened.
“Yesterday! Morning or evening? Before the music or after?”
“Then how Schneider told me about my childish nature, and--”
The crowd parted on each side of him and he was left face to face with Nastasia Philipovna, three paces from her. She stood by the fire and waited, with her intent gaze fixed upon him.
“I say that I have but to open my mouth, and you--”
“Silence!” cried Nastasia Philipovna. “You are about as fit to understand me as the housemaid here, who bore witness against her lover in court the other day. She would understand me better than you do.”
The prince bent forward to listen, putting all the strain he could muster upon his understanding in order to take in what Rogojin said, and continuing to gaze at the latter’s face.