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.

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.

Hippolyte was scarcely listening. He kept saying “well?” and “what else?” mechanically, without the least curiosity, and by mere force of habit.

In the first place there were present Totski, and General Epanchin. They were both highly amiable, but both appeared to be labouring under a half-hidden feeling of anxiety as to the result of Nastasia’s deliberations with regard to Gania, which result was to be made public this evening.

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

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

“And you have it still?”

“What am I doing? What am I doing to you?” she sobbed convulsively, embracing his knees.

The prince took his banknote out and showed it to Ferdishenko. The latter unfolded it and looked at it; then he turned it round and examined the other side; then he held it up to the light.

“Why, how could she--”

“Full of love for that sweet vision, Brave and pure he took the field; With his blood he stained the letters N. P. B. upon his shield.

“Such beauty is real power,” said Adelaida. “With such beauty as that one might overthrow the world.” She returned to her easel thoughtfully.

“Do you know this for certain?” asked Evgenie, with the greatest curiosity.

“Oh yes, but that is not enough.”

“Comparatively to what?”

“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.”

So ended Aglaya; and, to look at her, it was difficult, indeed, to judge whether she was joking or in earnest.

“You may add that I have surely enough to think of, on my own account, without him; and therefore it is all the more surprising that I cannot tear my eyes and thoughts away from his detestable physiognomy.”

“All this is most interesting,” said the prince, very softly, “if it really was so--that is, I mean--” he hastened to correct himself.

“Oh, you cruel little girl! How will you treat us all next, I wonder?” she said, but she spoke with a ring of joy in her voice, and as though she breathed at last without the oppression which she had felt so long.

“You are unjust; I found him sincerely repentant,” observed the prince, after listening for a time.

“Well, then, _let_ him talk, mamma,” said Alexandra. “This prince is a great humbug and by no means an idiot,” she whispered to Aglaya.

“I’ll come tomorrow. Now I’m going home--are you coming to my house?”

“Wasn’t it you,” he said, suddenly turning to the old gentleman, “who saved the student Porkunoff and a clerk called Shoabrin from being sent to Siberia, two or three months since?”

The general was, of course, repeating what he had told Lebedeff the night before, and thus brought it out glibly enough, but here he looked suspiciously at the prince out of the corners of his eyes.

Aglaya stamped her foot, and grew quite pale with anger.

“God bless you, dear boy, for being respectful to a disgraced man. Yes, to a poor disgraced old fellow, your father. You shall have such a son yourself; le roi de Rome. Oh, curses on this house!”

“Quite so--together! But the second time I thought better to say nothing about finding it. I found it alone.”

“And supposing I do know something?” observed the other, triumphantly.

“Can there be an appearance of that which has no form? And yet it seemed to me, at certain moments, that I beheld in some strange and impossible form, that dark, dumb, irresistibly powerful, eternal force.

The prince certainly was beside himself.

“Gania, don’t be a fool! I tell you for the last time.”

“Of course,” added the prince, “he wished us all to applaud his conduct--besides yourself.”

“No one ever thought of such a thing! There has never been a word said about it!” cried Alexandra.

“Gentlemen!” said Hippolyte, breaking off here, “I have not done yet, but it seems to me that I have written down a great deal here that is unnecessary,--this dream--”

“Quite so,” replied the general, “and what can I do for you?”

“Early?” said Lebedeff, sarcastically. “Time counts for nothing, even in physical chastisement; but my slap in the face was not physical, it was moral.”

“What, you here too, prince?” said Rogojin, absently, but a little surprised all the same “Still in your gaiters, eh?” He sighed, and forgot the prince next moment, and his wild eyes wandered over to Nastasia again, as though attracted in that direction by some magnetic force.

“Afraid of _you?_” asked Aglaya, beside herself with naive amazement that the other should dare talk to her like this.

“What is it?” someone asked, breathlessly--“A misfire?”

“Oh, if you put it in that way,” cried the general, excitedly, “I’m ready to tell the whole story of my life, but I must confess that I prepared a little story in anticipation of my turn.”

He jumped up from his chair in a fit of uncontrollable rage. Gania was very angry too.

“He is dying, yet he will not stop holding forth!” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna. She loosed her hold on his arm, almost terrified, as she saw him wiping the blood from his lips. “Why do you talk? You ought to go home to bed.”

The prince looked inquiringly at the other.

“Fortune--money--do you mean?” asked the prince in some surprise.

“Directly, directly! Stand still a moment, I wish to look in your eyes; don’t speak--stand so--let me look at you! I am bidding farewell to mankind.”

“Oh yes!” cried the prince, starting. “Hippolyte’s suicide--”

“Mamma!” cried Alexandra, significantly.

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

“Did I ever expect to find happiness with Aglaya?”

Muishkin glanced at Rogojin in perplexity, but the latter only smiled disagreeably, and said nothing. The silence continued for some few moments.

“Yes, it is,” replied Rogojin with an unpleasant smile, as if he had expected his guest to ask the question, and then to make some disagreeable remark.

Nastasia Philipovna overheard the remark, and burst out laughing.

“I haven’t seen him once--since that day!” the prince murmured.

“Let’s go and hear the band, then,” said Lizabetha Prokofievna, angrily rising from her place.

With these last excited words, Lebedeff’s nephew was silent.

Besides this, before they had been married half a year, the count and his friend the priest managed to bring about a quarrel between Aglaya and her family, so that it was now several months since they had seen her. In a word, there was a great deal to say; but Mrs. Epanchin, and her daughters, and even Prince S., were still so much distressed by Aglaya’s latest infatuations and adventures, that they did not care to talk of them, though they must have known that Evgenie knew much of the story already.

As a general rule, old General Ivolgin’s paroxysms ended in smoke. He had before this experienced fits of sudden fury, but not very often, because he was really a man of peaceful and kindly disposition. He had tried hundreds of times to overcome the dissolute habits which he had contracted of late years. He would suddenly remember that he was “a father,” would be reconciled with his wife, and shed genuine tears. His feeling for Nina Alexandrovna amounted almost to adoration; she had pardoned so much in silence, and loved him still in spite of the state of degradation into which he had fallen. But the general’s struggles with his own weakness never lasted very long. He was, in his way, an impetuous man, and a quiet life of repentance in the bosom of his family soon became insupportable to him. In the end he rebelled, and flew into rages which he regretted, perhaps, even as he gave way to them, but which were beyond his control. He picked quarrels with everyone, began to hold forth eloquently, exacted unlimited respect, and at last disappeared from the house, and sometimes did not return for a long time. He had given up interfering in the affairs of his family for two years now, and knew nothing about them but what he gathered from hearsay.

“Here, on the verandah? Very well, I’ll tell them all not to come and wake you. Papa has gone out somewhere.”

It was not a large party, however. Besides Princess Bielokonski and the old dignitary (who was really a great man) and his wife, there was an old military general--a count or baron with a German name, a man reputed to possess great knowledge and administrative ability. He was one of those Olympian administrators who know everything except Russia, pronounce a word of extraordinary wisdom, admired by all, about once in five years, and, after being an eternity in the service, generally die full of honour and riches, though they have never done anything great, and have even been hostile to all greatness. This general was Ivan Fedorovitch’s immediate superior in the service; and it pleased the latter to look upon him also as a patron. On the other hand, the great man did not at all consider himself Epanchin’s patron. He was always very cool to him, while taking advantage of his ready services, and would instantly have put another in his place if there had been the slightest reason for the change.

The prince certainly was beside himself.

“But I didn’t sleep a wink all night. I walked and walked about, and went to where the music was--”

“Poor Bachmatoff was much impressed--painfully so. He took me all the way home; not attempting to console me, but behaving with the greatest delicacy. On taking leave he pressed my hand warmly and asked permission to come and see me. I replied that if he came to me as a ‘comforter,’ so to speak (for he would be in that capacity whether he spoke to me in a soothing manner or only kept silence, as I pointed out to him), he would but remind me each time of my approaching death! He shrugged his shoulders, but quite agreed with me; and we parted better friends than I had expected.

“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?”

“‘Nurse, where is your tomb?’

“Shall you pay here?”

“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.”

“_You_ came to me last week, in the night, at two o’clock, the day I was with you in the morning! Confess it was you!”

“However, I bear you no grudge,” said Hippolyte suddenly, and, hardly conscious of what he was doing, he held out his hand with a smile. The gesture took Evgenie Pavlovitch by surprise, but with the utmost gravity he touched the hand that was offered him in token of forgiveness.

“‘Maybe sad Love upon his setting smiles, And with vain hopes his farewell hour beguiles.’

Gania seized his head with both hands and tottered to the window; Varia sat down at the other window.

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

“How can she be mad,” Rogojin interrupted, “when she is sane enough for other people and only mad for you? How can she write letters to _her_, if she’s mad? If she were insane they would observe it in her letters.”

“Come, sir, that will do; you weary me,” said Lizabetha Prokofievna suddenly to Evgenie Pavlovitch.

Princess Bielokonski, as she drove away on this eventful evening, took occasion to say to Lizabetha Prokofievna:

Aglaya was clearly confused, but not frightened. On entering she had merely glanced momentarily at her rival, and then had sat still, with her eyes on the ground, apparently in thought. Once or twice she glanced casually round the room. A shade of disgust was visible in her expression; she looked as though she were afraid of contamination in this place.

“Lebedeff, you seem to be angry for some reason!” said the prince.

While Gania put this question, a new idea suddenly flashed into his brain, and blazed out, impatiently, in his eyes. The general, who was really agitated and disturbed, looked at the prince too, but did not seem to expect much from his reply.

“If it’s all settled, Gania, then of course Mr. Ptitsin is right,” said Nina Alexandrovna. “Don’t frown. You need not worry yourself, Gania; I shall ask you no questions. You need not tell me anything you don’t like. I assure you I have quite submitted to your will.” She said all this, knitting away the while as though perfectly calm and composed.

“I assure you, when I came in here just now and saw your kind faces (I can read faces well) my heart felt light for the first time since that moment of parting. I think I must be one of those who are born to be in luck, for one does not often meet with people whom one feels he can love from the first sight of their faces; and yet, no sooner do I step out of the railway carriage than I happen upon you!

“Oh, if you put it in that way,” cried the general, excitedly, “I’m ready to tell the whole story of my life, but I must confess that I prepared a little story in anticipation of my turn.”

“Oh--if that is the state of affairs--” began Gania.

“He attacks education, he boasts of the fanaticism of the twelfth century, he makes absurd grimaces, and added to that he is by no means the innocent he makes himself out to be. How did he get the money to buy this house, allow me to ask?”

“Oh, I have no special business; my principal object was to make your acquaintance. I should not like to disturb you. I do not know your times and arrangements here, you see, but I have only just arrived. I came straight from the station. I am come direct from Switzerland.”

The prince watched the whole scene, silent and dejected.

In a word, the whole place was confined, and a “tight fit” for the party. Gania used to grind his teeth with rage over the state of affairs; though he was anxious to be dutiful and polite to his mother. However, it was very soon apparent to anyone coming into the house, that Gania was the tyrant of the family.

“Keller told me (I found him at your place) that you were in the park. ‘Of course he is!’ I thought.”

“That is all thanks to our lassitude, I think,” replied the old man, with authority. “And then their way of preaching; they have a skilful manner of doing it! And they know how to startle one, too. I got quite a fright myself in ’32, in Vienna, I assure you; but I didn’t cave in to them, I ran away instead, ha, ha!”

“You’re right, clerk,” said the latter, “you’re right, tipsy spirit--you’re right!--Nastasia Philipovna,” he added, looking at her like some lunatic, harmless generally, but suddenly wound up to a pitch of audacity, “here are eighteen thousand roubles, and--and you shall have more--.” Here he threw a packet of bank-notes tied up in white paper, on the table before her, not daring to say all he wished to say.

“_I_ for one shall never think you a blackguard again,” said the prince. “I confess I had a poor opinion of you at first, but I have been so joyfully surprised about you just now; it’s a good lesson for me. I shall never judge again without a thorough trial. I see now that you are not only not a blackguard, but are not even quite spoiled. I see that you are quite an ordinary man, not original in the least degree, but rather weak.”

“Perhaps she wants to laugh at me,” thought the prince, “but no; for if she did she certainly would do so.”

As a general rule, old General Ivolgin’s paroxysms ended in smoke. He had before this experienced fits of sudden fury, but not very often, because he was really a man of peaceful and kindly disposition. He had tried hundreds of times to overcome the dissolute habits which he had contracted of late years. He would suddenly remember that he was “a father,” would be reconciled with his wife, and shed genuine tears. His feeling for Nina Alexandrovna amounted almost to adoration; she had pardoned so much in silence, and loved him still in spite of the state of degradation into which he had fallen. But the general’s struggles with his own weakness never lasted very long. He was, in his way, an impetuous man, and a quiet life of repentance in the bosom of his family soon became insupportable to him. In the end he rebelled, and flew into rages which he regretted, perhaps, even as he gave way to them, but which were beyond his control. He picked quarrels with everyone, began to hold forth eloquently, exacted unlimited respect, and at last disappeared from the house, and sometimes did not return for a long time. He had given up interfering in the affairs of his family for two years now, and knew nothing about them but what he gathered from hearsay.

Hippolyte looked furious, but he restrained himself.

“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.”

Little by little a sort of inspiration, however, began to stir within him, ready to spring into life at the right moment. When he did begin to speak, it was accidentally, in response to a question, and apparently without any special object.

“Five weeks since, I was just like yourself,” continued Rogojin, addressing the prince, “with nothing but a bundle and the clothes I wore. I ran away from my father and came to Pskoff to my aunt’s house, where I caved in at once with fever, and he went and died while I was away. All honour to my respected father’s memory--but he uncommonly nearly killed me, all the same. Give you my word, prince, if I hadn’t cut and run then, when I did, he’d have murdered me like a dog.”

It was true enough that everybody was laughing, the prince among them.

“What’s the matter with him? Do his fits begin like that?” said Lizabetha Prokofievna, in a high state of alarm, addressing Colia.

“‘I think you dropped this,’ I remarked, as quietly and drily as I could. (I thought it best to treat him so.) For some while he stood before me in downright terror, and seemed unable to understand. He then suddenly grabbed at his side-pocket, opened his mouth in alarm, and beat his forehead with his hand.