It was a fact that Lebedeff, though he was so anxious to keep everyone else from disturbing the patient, was continually in and out of the prince’s room himself. He invariably began by opening the door a crack and peering in to see if the prince was there, or if he had escaped; then he would creep softly up to the arm-chair, sometimes making Muishkin jump by his sudden appearance. He always asked if the patient wanted anything, and when the latter replied that he only wanted to be left in peace, he would turn away obediently and make for the door on tip-toe, with deprecatory gestures to imply that he had only just looked in, that he would not speak a word, and would go away and not intrude again; which did not prevent him from reappearing in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. Colia had free access to the prince, at which Lebedeff was quite disgusted and indignant. He would listen at the door for half an hour at a time while the two were talking. Colia found this out, and naturally told the prince of his discovery.
“You are wrong. I know scarcely anything, and Aglaya Ivanovna is aware that I know nothing. I knew nothing whatever about this meeting. You say there was a meeting. Very well; let’s leave it so--”
“But it will lead at least to solidarity, and balance of interests,” said Ptitsin.

He knew well that Nastasia thoroughly understood him and where to wound him and how, and therefore, as the marriage was still only in embryo, Totski decided to conciliate her by giving it up. His decision was strengthened by the fact that Nastasia Philipovna had curiously altered of late. It would be difficult to conceive how different she was physically, at the present time, to the girl of a few years ago. She was pretty then... but now!... Totski laughed angrily when he thought how short-sighted he had been. In days gone by he remembered how he had looked at her beautiful eyes, how even then he had marvelled at their dark mysterious depths, and at their wondering gaze which seemed to seek an answer to some unknown riddle. Her complexion also had altered. She was now exceedingly pale, but, curiously, this change only made her more beautiful. Like most men of the world, Totski had rather despised such a cheaply-bought conquest, but of late years he had begun to think differently about it. It had struck him as long ago as last spring that he ought to be finding a good match for Nastasia; for instance, some respectable and reasonable young fellow serving in a government office in another part of the country. How maliciously Nastasia laughed at the idea of such a thing, now!

The prince held out the letter silently, but with a shaking hand.

“What did he do there? What did he say?” “They couldn’t tell me themselves; they couldn’t make head or tail of it; but he frightened them all. He came to see the general, who was not at home; so he asked for Lizabetha Prokofievna. First of all, he begged her for some place, or situation, for work of some kind, and then he began to complain about _us_, about me and my husband, and you, especially _you_; he said a lot of things.” “You don’t seem to want to tell us,” said Aglaya, with a mocking air.
“Oh! he’s not dangerous there!” cried Gania, laughing angrily. “However, I believe there is something of that sort in the air; he is very likely to be in love, for he is a mere boy. But he won’t write anonymous letters to the old lady; that would be too audacious a thing for him to attempt; but I dare swear the very first thing he did was to show me up to Aglaya as a base deceiver and intriguer. I confess I was fool enough to attempt something through him at first. I thought he would throw himself into my service out of revengeful feelings towards the prince, the sly little beast! But I know him better now. As for the theft, he may have heard of it from the widow in Petersburg, for if the old man committed himself to such an act, he can have done it for no other object but to give the money to her. Hippolyte said to me, without any prelude, that the general had promised the widow four hundred roubles. Of course I understood, and the little wretch looked at me with a nasty sort of satisfaction. I know him; you may depend upon it he went and told mother too, for the pleasure of wounding her. And why doesn’t he die, I should like to know? He undertook to die within three weeks, and here he is getting fatter. His cough is better, too. It was only yesterday that he said that was the second day he hadn’t coughed blood.”
“I beg your pardon, gentlemen; please excuse me,” said the prince. “I thought absolute frankness on both sides would be best, but have it your own way. I told Tchebaroff that, as I was not in Petersburg, I would commission a friend to look into the matter without delay, and that I would let you know, Mr. Burdovsky. Gentlemen, I have no hesitation in telling you that it was the fact of Tchebaroff’s intervention that made me suspect a fraud. Oh! do not take offence at my words, gentlemen, for Heaven’s sake do not be so touchy!” cried the prince, seeing that Burdovsky was getting excited again, and that the rest were preparing to protest. “If I say I suspected a fraud, there is nothing personal in that. I had never seen any of you then; I did not even know your names; I only judged by Tchebaroff; I am speaking quite generally--if you only knew how I have been ‘done’ since I came into my fortune!”
“Yes, especially this kind.”

“She is a woman who is seeking...”

There are many strange circumstances such as this before us; but in our opinion they do but deepen the mystery, and do not in the smallest degree help us to understand the case.
Muishkin, who was but a couple of steps away, had time to spring forward and seize the officer’s arms from behind.

“But that evening and that night were sown the first seeds of my ‘last conviction.’ I seized greedily on my new idea; I thirstily drank in all its different aspects (I did not sleep a wink that night!), and the deeper I went into it the more my being seemed to merge itself in it, and the more alarmed I became. A dreadful terror came over me at last, and did not leave me all next day.

“No humbug at all.”

Evgenie Pavlovitch seemed to be in a lively humour. He made Adelaida and Alexandra laugh all the way to the Vauxhall; but they both laughed so very readily and promptly that the worthy Evgenie began at last to suspect that they were not listening to him at all.

The girls stood apart, almost frightened; their father was positively horrified. Mrs. Epanchin’s language astonished everybody. Some who stood a little way off smiled furtively, and talked in whispers. Lebedeff wore an expression of utmost ecstasy.

Hippolyte clutched his manuscript, and gazing at the last speaker with glittering eyes, said: “You don’t like me at all!” A few laughed at this, but not all.
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.
But it was more serious than he wished to think. As soon as the visitors had crossed the low dark hall, and entered the narrow reception-room, furnished with half a dozen cane chairs, and two small card-tables, Madame Terentieff, in the shrill tones habitual to her, continued her stream of invectives. There was no reason for the prince to set anyone to watch, even if he had been capable of such a thing. Aglaya’s command that he should stay at home all day seemed almost explained now. Perhaps she meant to call for him, herself, or it might be, of course, that she was anxious to make sure of his not coming there, and therefore bade him remain at home. His head whirled; the whole room seemed to be turning round. He lay down on the sofa, and closed his eyes. “Get away!” he shouted frantically, observing that Daria Alexeyevna was approaching to protest against Nastasia’s conduct. “Get away, she’s mine, everything’s mine! She’s a queen, get away!”
“Where to?”

“There, you see! Even your own son supports my statement that there never was such a person as Captain Eropegoff!” that the old fellow muttered confusedly:

“Oh, don’t be so worried on my account, prince! I assure you I am not worth it! At least, not I alone. But I see you are suffering on behalf of the criminal too, for wretched Ferdishenko, in fact!”

“I know a new and most delightful game, added Ferdishenko.

“And you’ll never reproach me with it?”
“Yes--I dare say it is all as you say; I dare say you are quite right,” muttered the prince once more. “She is very sensitive and easily put out, of course; but still, she...”
“He has astonished me,” said Ivan Fedorovitch. “I nearly fell down with surprise. I could hardly believe my eyes when I met him in Petersburg just now. Why this haste? That’s what I want to know. He has always said himself that there is no need to break windows.” “About twenty paces from the scaffold, where he had stood to hear the sentence, were three posts, fixed in the ground, to which to fasten the criminals (of whom there were several). The first three criminals were taken to the posts, dressed in long white tunics, with white caps drawn over their faces, so that they could not see the rifles pointed at them. Then a group of soldiers took their stand opposite to each post. My friend was the eighth on the list, and therefore he would have been among the third lot to go up. A priest went about among them with a cross: and there was about five minutes of time left for him to live.
“Oh, I heard that much, my dear fellow! But the thing is so impossibly absurd! A man of property like Evgenie to give IOU’s to a money-lender, and to be worried about them! It is ridiculous. Besides, he cannot possibly be on such intimate terms with Nastasia Philipovna as she gave us to understand; that’s the principal part of the mystery! He has given me his word that he knows nothing whatever about the matter, and of course I believe him. Well, the question is, my dear prince, do you know anything about it? Has any sort of suspicion of the meaning of it come across you?”
He meant to calm his hearers, and did not perceive that his words had only increased their irritation.
He had fallen in an epileptic fit.

“Let’s all go to my boudoir,” she said, “and they shall bring some coffee in there. That’s the room where we all assemble and busy ourselves as we like best,” she explained. “Alexandra, my eldest, here, plays the piano, or reads or sews; Adelaida paints landscapes and portraits (but never finishes any); and Aglaya sits and does nothing. I don’t work too much, either. Here we are, now; sit down, prince, near the fire and talk to us. I want to hear you relate something. I wish to make sure of you first and then tell my old friend, Princess Bielokonski, about you. I wish you to know all the good people and to interest them. Now then, begin!”

“Certainly, but not always. You would not have been able to keep it up, and would have ended by forgiving me,” said the prince, after a pause for reflection, and with a pleasant smile.
“I know their faces, too,” said the prince, with a peculiar stress on the words.

But the general only stood stupefied and gazed around in a dazed way. Gania’s speech had impressed him, with its terrible candour. For the first moment or two he could find no words to answer him, and it was only when Hippolyte burst out laughing, and said:

“No, I have never known her.”

“To tell the truth, she has not.”
“Judging from the fact that the prince blushed at this innocent joke, like a young girl, I should think that he must, as an honourable man, harbour the noblest intentions,” said the old toothless schoolmaster, most unexpectedly; he had not so much as opened his mouth before. This remark provoked general mirth, and the old fellow himself laughed loudest of the lot, but ended with a stupendous fit of coughing.
She went away in great anxiety about him, but when she saw him in the morning, he seemed to be quite himself again, greeted her with a smile, and told her that he would very likely be back by the evening. It appears that he did not consider it necessary to inform anyone excepting Vera of his departure for town.
They stopped before a somewhat low doorway on the fourth floor. Ardalion Alexandrovitch, evidently much out of countenance, pushed Muishkin in front.
“I was not going to express myself so. But how could you so blind her?”
“Nothing. I was only seeking further information, to put the finishing touch.”

One of these women so despised the other, and so longed to express her contempt for her (perhaps she had only come for that very purpose, as Rogojin said next day), that howsoever fantastical was the other woman, howsoever afflicted her spirit and disturbed her understanding, no preconceived idea of hers could possibly stand up against that deadly feminine contempt of her rival. The prince felt sure that Nastasia would say nothing about the letters herself; but he could judge by her flashing eyes and the expression of her face what the thought of those letters must be costing her at this moment. He would have given half his life to prevent Aglaya from speaking of them. But Aglaya suddenly braced herself up, and seemed to master herself fully, all in an instant.

“Oh, he was very likely joking; he said it for fun.”
On seeing the prince he became deadly white, and apparently fixed to the ground, so that he was more like a marble statue than a human being. The prince had expected some surprise, but Rogojin evidently considered his visit an impossible and miraculous event. He stared with an expression almost of terror, and his lips twisted into a bewildered smile.

“What is that?” asked Nastasia Philipovna, gazing intently at Rogojin, and indicating the paper packet.

He was rushing hurriedly from the terrace, when Lebedeff’s nephew seized his arms, and said something to him in a low voice. Burdovsky turned quickly, and drawing an addressed but unsealed envelope from his pocket, he threw it down on a little table beside the prince.
“It’s simply that there is a Russian poem,” began Prince S., evidently anxious to change the conversation, “a strange thing, without beginning or end, and all about a ‘poor knight.’ A month or so ago, we were all talking and laughing, and looking up a subject for one of Adelaida’s pictures--you know it is the principal business of this family to find subjects for Adelaida’s pictures. Well, we happened upon this ‘poor knight.’ I don’t remember who thought of it first--”

“Suddenly the monster reappeared; it crawled slowly across the room and made for the door, as though with some fixed intention, and with a slow movement that was more horrible than ever.

But there was another question, which terrified him considerably, and that was: what was he going to do when he _did_ get in? And to this question he could fashion no satisfactory reply.

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.

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

“Your soup’ll be cold; do come.”

“Why? Because you have suffered more than we have?”
XII. “That’s the beauty of it, general!”

“It is very distressing, because _who_--? That’s the question!”

“You know, father, you would have done much better not to come at all! She is ready to eat you up! You have not shown yourself since the day before yesterday and she is expecting the money. Why did you promise her any? You are always the same! Well, now you will have to get out of it as best you can.”

“Don’t be cross, Daria Alexeyevna!” laughed Nastasia. “I was not angry when I spoke; I wasn’t reproaching Gania. I don’t know how it was that I ever could have indulged the whim of entering an honest family like his. I saw his mother--and kissed her hand, too. I came and stirred up all that fuss, Gania, this afternoon, on purpose to see how much you could swallow--you surprised me, my friend--you did, indeed. Surely you could not marry a woman who accepts pearls like those you knew the general was going to give me, on the very eve of her marriage? And Rogojin! Why, in your own house and before your own brother and sister, he bargained with me! Yet you could come here and expect to be betrothed to me before you left the house! You almost brought your sister, too. Surely what Rogojin said about you is not really true: that you would crawl all the way to the other end of the town, on hands and knees, for three roubles?”
IV.
“Are you going there for some particular reason, or only as a way of getting into her society, and that of her friends?”
“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...”

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.

“Give me a chair!” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, but she seized one for herself and sat down opposite to Hippolyte. “Colia, you must go home with him,” she commanded, “and tomorrow I will come my self.”
X.
“Oh, dear! oh, dear!” cried Ferdishenko. “I did so hope the prince would come out first, and then the general. Well, gentlemen, I suppose I must set a good example! What vexes me much is that I am such an insignificant creature that it matters nothing to anybody whether I have done bad actions or not! Besides, which am I to choose? It’s an _embarras de richesse_. Shall I tell how I became a thief on one occasion only, to convince Afanasy Ivanovitch that it is possible to steal without being a thief?”
“Oh, we talked of a great many things. When first I went in we began to speak of Switzerland.”

“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?”

There were rumours current as to Gania, too; but circumstances soon contradicted these. He had fallen seriously ill, and his illness precluded his appearance in society, and even at business, for over a month. As soon as he had recovered, however, he threw up his situation in the public company under General Epanchin’s direction, for some unknown reason, and the post was given to another. He never went near the Epanchins’ house at all, and was exceedingly irritable and depressed.

Rogojin suffered from brain fever for two months. When he recovered from the attack he was at once brought up on trial for murder.

“In spite of his lack of amiability, I could not help seeing, in Rogojin a man of intellect and sense; and although, perhaps, there was little in the outside world which was of interest to him, still he was clearly a man with eyes to see.
“But believe me, believe me, my simple-hearted friends, that in this highly moral verse, in this academical blessing to the world in general in the French language, is hidden the intensest gall and bitterness; but so well concealed is the venom, that I dare say the poet actually persuaded himself that his words were full of the tears of pardon and peace, instead of the bitterness of disappointment and malice, and so died in the delusion.
“Yes _all_, Katia, all--every one of them. Let them in, or they’ll come in whether you like or no. Listen! what a noise they are making! Perhaps you are offended, gentlemen, that I should receive such guests in your presence? I am very sorry, and ask your forgiveness, but it cannot be helped--and I should be very grateful if you could all stay and witness this climax. However, just as you please, of course.” 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.
“One point in your favour is that you seem to have a child-like mind, and extreme truthfulness,” said the prince at last. “Do you know that that atones for much?”
“You know I have never needed to blush before you, up to this day, though perhaps you would have been glad enough to make me,” said Lizabetha Prokofievna,--with majesty. “Good-bye, prince; forgive me for bothering you. I trust you will rest assured of my unalterable esteem for you.”

The prince began to think of Aglaya. She had certainly given him a wonderful smile, both at coming and again at leave-taking, but had not said a word, not even when the others all professed their friendship for him. She had looked very intently at him, but that was all. Her face had been paler than usual; she looked as though she had slept badly.

“I don’t know in the least; I wasn’t present when the joke was made. It _is_ a joke. I suppose, and that’s all.”
“You astonish me,” said the lady, gazing as before. “Fits, and hungry too! What sort of fits?”
The prince rose again, as if he would leave.
“He won’t do any harm now; and--and don’t be too severe with him.”

“Laissez-le dire! He is trembling all over,” said the old man, in a warning whisper.

“The pleasure is, of course, mutual; but life is not all pleasure, as you are aware. There is such a thing as business, and I really do not see what possible reason there can be, or what we have in common to--”
“I only now perceive what a terrible mistake I made in reading this article to them,” said Hippolyte, suddenly, addressing Evgenie, and looking at him with an expression of trust and confidence, as though he were applying to a friend for counsel.
“I wanted to see how the farce would end.”
PART IV
The prince was instantly covered with confusion; for it appeared to be plain that everyone expected something of him--that everyone looked at him as though anxious to congratulate him, and greeted him with hints, and smiles, and knowing looks.
This, then, was the society that the prince accepted at once as true coin, as pure gold without alloy.

“It is nearly midnight; we are going. Will he come with us, or is he to stay here?” Doktorenko asked crossly of the prince.

“Thank you,” began the prince; “and since you are so very kind there is just one matter which I--”
“Dear me, what a philosopher you are!” laughed the prince.

The prince glanced again at Evgenie Pavlovitch with considerable surprise.

“I hardly dare say,” said Lizabetha, as hurriedly, “but I think it’s as plain as anything can be.”