“Bravo! That’s frank, at any rate!” shouted Ferdishenko, and there was general laughter.
“Remember, Ivan Fedorovitch,” said Gania, in great agitation, “that I was to be free too, until her decision; and that even then I was to have my ‘yes or no’ free.”
“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.
But alas! at the German lady’s house they did not even appear to understand what he wanted. After a while, by means of certain hints, he was able to gather that Nastasia must have had a quarrel with her friend two or three weeks ago, since which date the latter had neither heard nor seen anything of her. He was given to understand that the subject of Nastasia’s present whereabouts was not of the slightest interest to her; and that Nastasia might marry all the princes in the world for all she cared! So Muishkin took his leave hurriedly. It struck him now that she might have gone away to Moscow just as she had done the last time, and that Rogojin had perhaps gone after her, or even _with_ her. If only he could find some trace!
“Well done, prince, capital!” cried Aglaya, who entered the room at this moment. “Thank you for assuming that I would not demean myself with lies. Come, is that enough, mamma, or do you intend to put any more questions?”
“They do say one can dance with those!”

“PRINCE LEF NICOLAIEVITCH,--If you think fit, after all that has passed, to honour our house with a visit, I can assure you you will not find me among the number of those who are in any way delighted to see you.

“Impossible!” cried the prince.

“Look here, Mr. Muishkin,” shouted Hippolyte, “please understand that we are not fools, nor idiots, as your guests seem to imagine; these ladies who look upon us with such scorn, and especially this fine gentleman” (pointing to Evgenie Pavlovitch) “whom I have not the honour of knowing, though I think I have heard some talk about him--”

“Where--where?”

The man’s suspicions seemed to increase more and more. The prince was too unlike the usual run of daily visitors; and although the general certainly did receive, on business, all sorts and conditions of men, yet in spite of this fact the servant felt great doubts on the subject of this particular visitor. The presence of the secretary as an intermediary was, he judged, essential in this case.
“This baseness on her part of course aroused my young blood to fever heat; I jumped up, and away I flew.
It was generally agreed, afterwards, in recalling that evening, that from this moment Nastasia Philipovna seemed entirely to lose her senses. She continued to sit still in her place, looking around at her guests with a strange, bewildered expression, as though she were trying to collect her thoughts, and could not. Then she suddenly turned to the prince, and glared at him with frowning brows; but this only lasted one moment. Perhaps it suddenly struck her that all this was a jest, but his face seemed to reassure her. She reflected, and smiled again, vaguely.
“So do I, so do I! This moment, if I could! I’d give every farthing I have to do it.”
“Go nearer,” suggested Rogojin, softly.
“There is much that might be improved in him,” said the prince, moderately, “but he has some qualities which--though amid them one cannot but discern a cunning nature--reveal what is often a diverting intellect.”

“It is hardly an exact statement of the case,” said the prince in reply. “You have confused your motives and ideas, as I need scarcely say too often happens to myself. I can assure you, Keller, I reproach myself bitterly for it sometimes. When you were talking just now I seemed to be listening to something about myself. At times I have imagined that all men were the same,” he continued earnestly, for he appeared to be much interested in the conversation, “and that consoled me in a certain degree, for a _double_ motive is a thing most difficult to fight against. I have tried, and I know. God knows whence they arise, these ideas that you speak of as base. I fear these double motives more than ever just now, but I am not your judge, and in my opinion it is going too far to give the name of baseness to it--what do you think? You were going to employ your tears as a ruse in order to borrow money, but you also say--in fact, you have sworn to the fact--that independently of this your confession was made with an honourable motive. As for the money, you want it for drink, do you not? After your confession, that is weakness, of course; but, after all, how can anyone give up a bad habit at a moment’s notice? It is impossible. What can we do? It is best, I think, to leave the matter to your own conscience. How does it seem to you?” As he concluded the prince looked curiously at Keller; evidently this problem of double motives had often been considered by him before.

“I’ll go and get your bundle.”

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.
Evgenie takes this much to heart, and he has a heart, as is proved by the fact that he receives and even answers letters from Colia. But besides this, another trait in his character has become apparent, and as it is a good trait we will make haste to reveal it. After each visit to Schneider’s establishment, Evgenie Pavlovitch writes another letter, besides that to Colia, giving the most minute particulars concerning the invalid’s condition. In these letters is to be detected, and in each one more than the last, a growing feeling of friendship and sympathy.
“Remember, Ivan Fedorovitch,” said Gania, in great agitation, “that I was to be free too, until her decision; and that even then I was to have my ‘yes or no’ free.”
“Yes, I do! I have only been one day in Russia, but I have heard of the great beauty!” And the prince proceeded to narrate his meeting with Rogojin in the train and the whole of the latter’s story.
“There, I’ve forgotten that too!”
“You are altogether perfection; even your pallor and thinness are perfect; one could not wish you otherwise. I did so wish to come and see you. I--forgive me, please--”
“That is--I suppose you wish to know how I received the hedgehog, Aglaya Ivanovna,--or, I should say, how I regarded your sending him to me? In that case, I may tell you--in a word--that I--in fact--”
“Oh, yes; I angered him--I certainly did anger him,” replied Rogojin. “But what puts me out so is my brother. Of course my mother couldn’t do anything--she’s too old--and whatever brother Senka says is law for her! But why couldn’t he let me know? He sent a telegram, they say. What’s the good of a telegram? It frightened my aunt so that she sent it back to the office unopened, and there it’s been ever since! It’s only thanks to Konief that I heard at all; he wrote me all about it. He says my brother cut off the gold tassels from my father’s coffin, at night ‘because they’re worth a lot of money!’ says he. Why, I can get him sent off to Siberia for that alone, if I like; it’s sacrilege. Here, you--scarecrow!” he added, addressing the clerk at his side, “is it sacrilege or not, by law?”

“Then look out for him, I warn you! He won’t forgive you easily, for taking back the letter.”

The prince regarded Lebedeff with astonishment.
“It was a silly affair--I was an ensign at the time. You know ensigns--their blood is boiling water, their circumstances generally penurious. Well, I had a servant Nikifor who used to do everything for me in my quarters, economized and managed for me, and even laid hands on anything he could find (belonging to other people), in order to augment our household goods; but a faithful, honest fellow all the same.
“Yes, indeed I had--a good deal; and, would you believe it, I often wonder at myself for not having forgotten how to speak Russian? Even now, as I talk to you, I keep saying to myself ‘how well I am speaking it.’ Perhaps that is partly why I am so talkative this morning. I assure you, ever since yesterday evening I have had the strongest desire to go on and on talking Russian.”
All this was suspicious and unsatisfactory. Very likely the porter had received new instructions during the interval of the prince’s absence; his manner was so different now. He had been obliging--now he was as obstinate and silent as a mule. However, the prince decided to call again in a couple of hours, and after that to watch the house, in case of need. His hope was that he might yet find Nastasia at the address which he had just received. To that address he now set off at full speed.

“You’ve moved him to tears,” added Ferdishenko. But Hippolyte was by no means weeping. He was about to move from his place, when his four guards rushed at him and seized him once more. There was a laugh at this.

Everyone exchanged startled glances. Gania rushed out towards the dining-room, but a number of men had already made their way in, and met him.
“But could anyone possibly eat sixty monks?” objected the scoffing listeners.
The prince begged him to take a chair.
“His only reply to this was a sour grimace. He rose and looked for my cap, and placed it in my hand, and led me out of the house--that dreadful gloomy house of his--to all appearances, of course, as though I were leaving of my own accord, and he were simply seeing me to the door out of politeness. His house impressed me much; it is like a burial-ground, he seems to like it, which is, however, quite natural. Such a full life as he leads is so overflowing with absorbing interests that he has little need of assistance from his surroundings.
“Well, that’s a comfort, at all events. You don’t suppose she could take any interest in you, do you? Why, she called you an ‘idiot’ herself.”

“My dear, ‘_se trompe_’ is easily said. Do you remember any case at all like it? Everybody was at their wits’ end. I should be the first to say ‘_qu’on se trompe_,’ but unfortunately I was an eye-witness, and was also on the commission of inquiry. Everything proved that it was really he, the very same soldier Kolpakoff who had been given the usual military funeral to the sound of the drum. It is of course a most curious case--nearly an impossible one. I recognize that... but--”

“Oh, the devil take Switzerland!”

But gradually the consciousness crept back into the minds of each one present that the prince had just made her an offer of marriage. The situation had, therefore, become three times as fantastic as before.

“And what can I do for you, esteemed prince? Since I am told you sent for me just now,” he said, after a few moments’ silence.

“Well--come! there’s nothing to get cross about,” said Gania.

“Marie lay in a state of uncomfortable delirium the whole while; she coughed dreadfully. The old women would not let the children stay in the room; but they all collected outside the window each morning, if only for a moment, and shouted ‘_Bon jour, notre bonne Marie!_’ and Marie no sooner caught sight of, or heard them, and she became quite animated at once, and, in spite of the old women, would try to sit up and nod her head and smile at them, and thank them. The little ones used to bring her nice things and sweets to eat, but she could hardly touch anything. Thanks to them, I assure you, the girl died almost perfectly happy. She almost forgot her misery, and seemed to accept their love as a sort of symbol of pardon for her offence, though she never ceased to consider herself a dreadful sinner. They used to flutter at her window just like little birds, calling out: ‘_Nous t’aimons, Marie!_’

The visitors left the house, however, on no less friendly terms than before. But the visit was of the greatest importance to the prince, from his own point of view. Admitting that he had his suspicions, from the moment of the occurrence of last night, perhaps even before, that Nastasia had some mysterious end in view, yet this visit confirmed his suspicions and justified his fears. It was all clear to him; Prince S. was wrong, perhaps, in his view of the matter, but he was somewhere near the truth, and was right in so far as that he understood there to be an intrigue of some sort going on. Perhaps Prince S. saw it all more clearly than he had allowed his hearers to understand. At all events, nothing could be plainer than that he and Adelaida had come for the express purpose of obtaining explanations, and that they suspected him of being concerned in the affair. And if all this were so, then _she_ must have some terrible object in view! What was it? There was no stopping _her_, as Muishkin knew from experience, in the performance of anything she had set her mind on! “Oh, she is mad, mad!” thought the poor prince.

“That is nothing!” said the prince, waving his hand.
“But how meek she was when you spoke to her!”
However, one and all of the party realized that something important had happened, and that, perhaps fortunately enough, something which had hitherto been enveloped in the obscurity of guess-work had now begun to come forth a little from the mists. In spite of Prince S.’s assurances and explanations, Evgenie Pavlovitch’s real character and position were at last coming to light. He was publicly convicted of intimacy with “that creature.” So thought Lizabetha Prokofievna and her two elder daughters. “She writes to _her_--and the girl reads the letters. Haven’t you heard?--You are sure to hear; she’s sure to show you the letters herself.”

“Come then. You know, I suppose, that you must escort me there? You are well enough to go out, aren’t you?”

Recollecting himself, however, and seeing at a glance the sort of people he had to deal with, the officer turned his back on both his opponents, and courteously, but concealing his face with his handkerchief, approached the prince, who was now rising from the chair into which he had fallen.

But these vulgarities seemed to please Nastasia Philipovna, although too often they were both rude and offensive. Those who wished to go to her house were forced to put up with Ferdishenko. Possibly the latter was not mistaken in imagining that he was received simply in order to annoy Totski, who disliked him extremely. Gania also was often made the butt of the jester’s sarcasms, who used this method of keeping in Nastasia Philipovna’s good graces.

“Don’t interrupt, we are not such fools as you think, Mr. Lawyer,” cried Lebedeff’s nephew angrily. “Of course there is a difference between a hundred roubles and two hundred and fifty, but in this case the principle is the main point, and that a hundred and fifty roubles are missing is only a side issue. The point to be emphasized is that Burdovsky will not accept your highness’s charity; he flings it back in your face, and it scarcely matters if there are a hundred roubles or two hundred and fifty. Burdovsky has refused ten thousand roubles; you heard him. He would not have returned even a hundred roubles if he was dishonest! The hundred and fifty roubles were paid to Tchebaroff for his travelling expenses. You may jeer at our stupidity and at our inexperience in business matters; you have done all you could already to make us look ridiculous; but do not dare to call us dishonest. The four of us will club together every day to repay the hundred and fifty roubles to the prince, if we have to pay it in instalments of a rouble at a time, but we will repay it, with interest. Burdovsky is poor, he has no millions. After his journey to see the prince Tchebaroff sent in his bill. We counted on winning... Who would not have done the same in such a case?”

She arranged her cloak with hands that trembled with anger as she waited for the “riff-raff” to go. The cab which Lebedeff’s son had gone to fetch a quarter of an hour ago, by Doktorenko’s order, arrived at that moment. The general thought fit to put in a word after his wife.

“Well, nor do I!” said Evgenie Pavlovitch, laughing suddenly. “I haven’t the slightest knowledge of any such IOU’s as she mentioned, I swear I haven’t--What’s the matter, are you fainting?”

The prince, returning home from the interview with Aglaya, had sat gloomy and depressed for half an hour. He was almost in despair when Colia arrived with the hedgehog. He was not allowed to finish his sentence. Somebody pushed him back into his chair, and begged him to be calm. Nina Alexandrovna trembled, and cried quietly. Gania retired to the window in disgust.

“Certainly that isn’t much like quietism,” murmured Alexandra, half to herself.

“Probably an honest girl living by her own toil. Why do you speak of a housemaid so contemptuously?”

“You knew it? Come, that’s news! But no--perhaps better not tell me. And were you a witness of the meeting?”
“Mamma is not very well, nor is Aglaya. Adelaida has gone to bed, and I am just going. We were alone the whole evening. Father and Prince S. have gone to town.”
“But if you... I could...” stammered Lebedeff, “if... if you please, prince, tell you something on the subject which would interest you, I am sure.” He spoke in wheedling tones, and wriggled as he walked along.