THE Epanchin family, or at least the more serious members of it, wer_ometimes grieved because they seemed so unlike the rest of the world. The_ere not quite certain, but had at times a strong suspicion that things di_ot happen to them as they did to other people. Others led a quiet, uneventfu_ife, while they were subject to continual upheavals. Others kept on the rail_ithout difficulty; they ran off at the slightest obstacle. Other houses wer_overned by a timid routine; theirs was somehow different. Perhaps Lizabeth_rokofievna was alone in making these fretful observations; the girls, thoug_ot wanting in intelligence, were still young; the general was intelligent, too, but narrow, and in any difficulty he was content to say, "H'm!" and leav_he matter to his wife. Consequently, on her fell the responsibility. It wa_ot that they distinguished themselves as a family by any particula_riginality, or that their excursions off the track led to any breach of th_roprieties. Oh no.
There was nothing premeditated, there was not even any conscious purpose in i_ll, and yet, in spite of everything, the family, although highly respected, was not quite what every highly respected family ought to be. For a long tim_ow Lizabetha Prokofievna had had it in her mind that all the trouble wa_wing to her "unfortunate character," and this added to her distress. Sh_lamed her own stupid unconventional "eccentricity." Always restless, alway_n the go, she constantly seemed to lose her way, and to get into trouble ove_he simplest and more ordinary affairs of life.
We said at the beginning of our story, that the Epanchins were liked an_steemed by their neighbours. In spite of his humble origin, Ivan Fedorovitc_imself was received everywhere with respect. He deserved this, partly o_ccount of his wealth and position, partly because, though limited, he wa_eally a very good fellow. But a certain limitation of mind seems to be a_ndispensable asset, if not to all public personages, at least to all seriou_inanciers. Added to this, his manner was modest and unassuming; he knew whe_o be silent, yet never allowed himself to be trampled upon. Also—and this wa_ore important than all—he had the advantage of being under exalted patronage.
As to Lizabetha Prokofievna, she, as the reader knows, belonged to a_ristocratic family. True, Russians think more of influential friends than o_irth, but she had both. She was esteemed and even loved by people o_onsequence in society, whose example in receiving her was therefore followe_y others. It seems hardly necessary to remark that her family worries an_nxieties had little or no foundation, or that her imagination increased the_o an absurd degree; but if you have a wart on your forehead or nose, yo_magine that all the world is looking at it, and that people would make fun o_ou because of it, even if you had discovered America! Doubtless Lizabeth_rokofievna was considered "eccentric" in society, but she was none the les_steemed: the pity was that she was ceasing to believe in that esteem. Whe_he thought of her daughters, she said to herself sorrowfully that she was _indrance rather than a help to their future, that her character and tempe_ere absurd, ridiculous, insupportable. Naturally, she put the blame on he_urroundings, and from morning to night was quarrelling with her husband an_hildren, whom she really loved to the point of self-sacrifice, even, on_ight say, of passion.
She was, above all distressed by the idea that her daughters might grow up
"eccentric," like herself; she believed that no other society girls were lik_hem. "They are growing into Nihilists!" she repeated over and over again. Fo_ears she had tormented herself with this idea, and with the question: "Wh_on't they get married?"
"It is to annoy their mother; that is their one aim in life; it can be nothin_lse. The fact is it is all of a piece with these modern ideas, that wretche_oman's question! Six months ago Aglaya took a fancy to cut off he_agnificent hair. Why, even I, when I was young, had nothing like it! Th_cissors 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 _aughty, capricious girl, a real spoiled child spiteful and mischievous to _egree! And then Alexandra wanted to shave her head, not from caprice o_ischief, but, like a little fool, simply because Aglaya persuaded her sh_ould sleep better without her hair, and not suffer from headache! And ho_any 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 reaso_han to vex their mother—none—none!"
But Lizabetha Prokofievna felt somewhat consoled when she could say that on_f her girls, Adelaida, was settled at last. "It will be one off our hands!"
she declared aloud, though in private she expressed herself with greate_enderness. The engagement was both happy and suitable, and was therefor_pproved in society. Prince S. was a distinguished man, he had money, and hi_uture wife was devoted to him; what more could be desired? Lizabeth_rokofievna had felt less anxious about this daughter, however, although sh_onsidered her artistic tastes suspicious. But to make up for them she was, a_er mother expressed it, "merry," and had plenty of "common-sense." It wa_glaya's future which disturbed her most. With regard to her eldest daughter, Alexandra, the mother never quite knew whether there was cause for anxiety o_ot. Sometimes she felt as if there was nothing to be expected from her. Sh_as twenty-five now, and must be fated to be an old maid, and "with suc_eauty, too!" The mother spent whole nights in weeping and lamenting, whil_ll the time the cause of her grief slumbered peacefully. "What is the matte_ith her? Is she a Nihilist, or simply a fool?"
But Lizabetha Prokofievna knew perfectly well how unnecessary was the las_uestion. She set a high value on Alexandra Ivanovna's judgment, and ofte_onsulted her in difficulties; but that she was a 'wet hen' she never for _oment doubted. "She is so calm; nothing rouses her—though wet hens are no_lways calm! Oh! I can't understand it!" Her eldest daughter inspire_izabetha with a kind of puzzled compassion. She did not feel this in Aglaya'_ase, though the latter was her idol. It may be said that these outbursts an_pithets, such as "wet hen" (in which the maternal solicitude usually showe_tself), only made Alexandra laugh. Sometimes the most trivial thing annoye_rs. Epanchin, and drove her into a frenzy. For instance, Alexandra Ivanovn_iked to sleep late, and was always dreaming, though her dreams had th_eculiarity of being as innocent and naive as those of a child of seven; an_he very innocence of her dreams annoyed her mother. Once she dreamt of nin_ens, and this was the cause of quite a serious quarrel—no one knew why.
Another time she had—it was most unusual—a dream with a spark of originalit_n it. She dreamt of a monk in a dark room, into which she was too frightene_o go. Adelaida and Aglaya rushed off with shrieks of laughter to relate thi_o their mother, but she was quite angry, and said her daughters were al_ools.
"H'm! she is as stupid as a fool! A veritable 'wet hen'! Nothing excites her; and yet she is not happy; some days it makes one miserable only to look a_er! Why is she unhappy, I wonder?" At times Lizabetha Prokofievna put thi_uestion to her husband, and as usual she spoke in the threatening tone of on_ho demands an immediate answer. Ivan Fedorovitch would frown, shrug hi_houlders, and at last give his opinion: "She needs a husband!"
"God forbid that he should share your ideas, Ivan Fedorovitch!" his wif_lashed back. "Or that he should be as gross and churlish as you!"
The general promptly made his escape, and Lizabetha Prokofievna after a whil_rew calm again. That evening, of course, she would be unusually attentive, gentle, and respectful to her "gross and churlish" husband, her "dear, kin_van Fedorovitch," for she had never left off loving him. She was even still
"in love" with him. He knew it well, and for his part held her in the greates_steem.
But the mother's great and continual anxiety was Aglaya. "She is exactly lik_e—my image in everything," said Mrs. Epanchin to herself. "A tyrant! A rea_ittle demon! A Nihilist! Eccentric, senseless and mischievous! Good Lord, ho_nhappy she will be!"
But as we said before, the fact of Adelaida's approaching marriage was balm t_he mother. For a whole month she forgot her fears and worries.
Adelaida's fate was settled; and with her name that of Aglaya's was linked, i_ociety gossip. People whispered that Aglaya, too, was "as good as engaged;"
and Aglaya always looked so sweet and behaved so well (during this period), that the mother's heart was full of joy. Of course, Evgenie Pavlovitch must b_horoughly studied first, before the final step should be taken; but, really, how lovely dear Aglaya had become—she actually grew more beautiful every day!
And then—Yes, and then—this abominable prince showed his face again, an_verything went topsy-turvy at once, and everyone seemed as mad as Marc_ares.
What had really happened?
If it had been any other family than the Epanchins', nothing particular woul_ave happened. But, thanks to Mrs. Epanchin's invariable fussiness an_nxiety, there could not be the slightest hitch in the simplest matters o_veryday life, but she immediately foresaw the most dreadful and alarmin_onsequences, and suffered accordingly.
What then must have been her condition, when, among all the imaginar_nxieties and calamities which so constantly beset her, she now saw loomin_head a serious cause for annoyance—something really likely to arouse doubt_nd suspicions!
"How dared they, how DARED they write that hateful anonymous letter informin_e that Aglaya is in communication with Nastasia Philipovna?" she thought, a_he dragged the prince along towards her own house, and again when she sat hi_own at the round table where the family was already assembled. "How dare_hey so much as THINK of such a thing? I should DIE with shame if I though_here was a particle of truth in it, or if I were to show the letter to Aglay_erself! Who dares play these jokes upon US, the Epanchins? WHY didn't we g_o the Yelagin instead of coming down here? I TOLD you we had better go to th_elagin this summer, Ivan Fedorovitch. It's all your fault. I dare say it wa_hat Varia who sent the letter. It's all Ivan Fedorovitch. THAT woman is doin_t all for him, I know she is, to show she can make a fool of him now just a_he did when he used to give her pearls.
"But after all is said, we are mixed up in it. Your daughters are mixed up i_t, Ivan Fedorovitch; young ladies in society, young ladies at an age to b_arried; they were present, they heard everything there was to hear. They wer_ixed up with that other scene, too, with those dreadful youths. You must b_leased to remember they heard it all. I cannot forgive that wretched prince.
I never shall forgive him! And why, if you please, has Aglaya had an attack o_erves for these last three days? Why has she all but quarrelled with he_isters, even with Alexandra—whom she respects so much that she always kisse_er hands as though she were her mother? What are all these riddles of her_hat we have to guess? What has Gavrila Ardalionovitch to do with it? Why di_he take upon herself to champion him this morning, and burst into tears ove_t? Why is there an allusion to that cursed 'poor knight' in the anonymou_etter? And why did I rush off to him just now like a lunatic, and drag hi_ack here? I do believe I've gone mad at last. What on earth have I done now?
To talk to a young man about my daughter's secrets—and secrets having to d_ith himself, too! Thank goodness, he's an idiot, and a friend of the house!
Surely Aglaya hasn't fallen in love with such a gaby! What an idea! Pfu! w_ught all to be put under glass cases—myself first of all—and be shown off a_uriosities, at ten copecks a peep!"
"I shall never forgive you for all this, Ivan Fedorovitch—never! Look at he_ow. Why doesn't she make fun of him? She said she would, and she doesn't.
Look there! She stares at him with all her eyes, and doesn't move; and yet sh_old him not to come. He looks pale enough; and that abominable chatterbox, Evgenie Pavlovitch, monopolizes the whole of the conversation. Nobody else ca_et a word in. I could soon find out all about everything if I could onl_hange the subject."
The prince certainly was very pale. He sat at the table and seemed to b_eeling, by turns, sensations of alarm and rapture.
Oh, how frightened he was of looking to one side—one particular corner—whenc_e knew very well that a pair of dark eyes were watching him intently, and ho_appy he was to think that he was once more among them, and occasionall_earing that well-known voice, although she had written and forbidden him t_ome again!
"What on earth will she say to me, I wonder?" he thought to himself.
He had not said a word yet; he sat silent and listened to Evgenie Pavlovitch'_loquence. The latter had never appeared so happy and excited as on thi_vening. The prince listened to him, but for a long time did not take in _ord he said.
Excepting Ivan Fedorovitch, who had not as yet returned from town, the whol_amily was present. Prince S. was there; and they all intended to go out t_ear the band very soon.
Colia arrived presently and joined the circle. "So he is received as usual, after all," thought the prince.
The Epanchins' country-house was a charming building, built after the model o_ Swiss chalet, and covered with creepers. It was surrounded on all sides by _lower garden, and the family sat, as a rule, on the open verandah as at th_rince's house.
The subject under discussion did not appear to be very popular with th_ssembly, and some would have been delighted to change it; but Evgenie woul_ot stop holding forth, and the prince's arrival seemed to spur him on t_till further oratorical efforts.
Lizabetha Prokofievna frowned, but had not as yet grasped the subject, whic_eemed to have arisen out of a heated argument. Aglaya sat apart, almost i_he corner, listening in stubborn silence.
"Excuse me," continued Evgenie Pavlovitch hotly, "I don't say a word agains_iberalism. Liberalism is not a sin, it is a necessary part of a great whole, which whole would collapse and fall to pieces without it. Liberalism has jus_s much right to exist as has the most moral conservatism; but I am attackin_USSIAN liberalism; and I attack it for the simple reason that a Russia_iberal is not a Russian liberal, he is a non-Russian liberal. Show me a rea_ussian liberal, and I'll kiss him before you all, with pleasure."
"If he cared to kiss you, that is," said Alexandra, whose cheeks were red wit_rritation and excitement.
"Look at that, now," thought the mother to herself, "she does nothing bu_leep and eat for a year at a time, and then suddenly flies out in the mos_ncomprehensible way!"
The prince observed that Alexandra appeared to be angry with Evgenie, becaus_e spoke on a serious subject in a frivolous manner, pretending to be i_arnest, but with an under-current of irony.
"I was saying just now, before you came in, prince, that there has bee_othing national up to now, about our liberalism, and nothing the liberals do, or have done, is in the least degree national. They are drawn from two classe_nly, the old landowning class, and clerical families—"
"How, nothing that they have done is Russian?" asked Prince S.
"It may be Russian, but it is not national. Our liberals are not Russian, no_re our conservatives, and you may be sure that the nation does not recogniz_nything that has been done by the landed gentry, or by the seminarists, o_hat is to be done either."
"Come, that's good! How can you maintain such a paradox? If you are serious, that is. I cannot allow such a statement about the landed proprietors to pas_nchallenged. Why, you are a landed proprietor yourself!" cried Prince S.
"I suppose you'll say there is nothing national about our literature either?"
"Well, I am not a great authority on literary questions, but I certainly d_old that Russian literature is not Russian, except perhaps Lomonosoff, Pouschkin and Gogol."
"In the first place, that is a considerable admission, and in the secon_lace, one of the above was a peasant, and the other two were both lande_roprietors!"
"Quite so, but don't be in such a hurry! For since it has been the part o_hese three men, and only these three, to say something absolutely their own, not borrowed, so by this very fact these three men become really national. I_ny Russian shall have done or said anything really and absolutely original, he is to be called national from that moment, though he may not be able t_alk the Russian language; still he is a national Russian. I consider that a_xiom. But we were not speaking of literature; we began by discussing th_ocialists. Very well then, I insist that there does not exist one singl_ussian socialist. There does not, and there has never existed such a one, because all socialists are derived from the two classes—the lande_roprietors, and the seminarists. All our eminent socialists are merely ol_iberals of the class of landed proprietors, men who were liberals in the day_f serfdom. Why do you laugh? Give me their books, give me their studies, their memoirs, and though I am not a literary critic, yet I will prove a_lear as day that every chapter and every word of their writings has been th_ork of a former landed proprietor of the old school. You'll find that al_heir raptures, all their generous transports are proprietary, all their woe_nd their tears, proprietary; all proprietary or seminarist! You are laughin_gain, and you, prince, are smiling too. Don't you agree with me?"
It was true enough that everybody was laughing, the prince among them.
"I cannot tell you on the instant whether I agree with you or not," said th_atter, suddenly stopping his laughter, and starting like a schoolboy caugh_t mischief. "But, I assure you, I am listening to you with extrem_ratification."
So saying, he almost panted with agitation, and a cold sweat stood upon hi_orehead. These were his first words since he had entered the house; he trie_o lift his eyes, and look around, but dared not; Evgenie Pavlovitch notice_is confusion, and smiled.
"I'll just tell you one fact, ladies and gentlemen," continued the latter, with apparent seriousness and even exaltation of manner, but with a suggestio_f "chaff" behind every word, as though he were laughing in his sleeve at hi_wn nonsense—"a fact, the discovery of which, I believe, I may claim to hav_ade by myself alone. At all events, no other has ever said or written a wor_bout it; and in this fact is expressed the whole essence of Russia_iberalism of the sort which I am now considering.
"In the first place, what is liberalism, speaking generally, but an attack (whether mistaken or reasonable, is quite another question) upon the existin_rder of things? Is this so? Yes. Very well. Then my 'fact' consists in this, that RUSSIAN liberalism is not an attack upon the existing order of things, but an attack upon the very essence of things themselves—indeed, on the thing_hemselves; not an attack on the Russian order of things, but on Russi_tself. My Russian liberal goes so far as to reject Russia; that is, he hate_nd strikes his own mother. Every misfortune and mishap of the mother-countr_ills him with mirth, and even with ecstasy. He hates the national customs, Russian history, and everything. If he has a justification, it is that he doe_ot know what he is doing, and believes that his hatred of Russia is th_randest and most profitable kind of liberalism. (You will often find _iberal who is applauded and esteemed by his fellows, but who is in realit_he dreariest, blindest, dullest of conservatives, and is not aware of th_act.) This hatred for Russia has been mistaken by some of our 'Russia_iberals' for sincere love of their country, and they boast that they se_etter than their neighbours what real love of one's country should consis_n. But of late they have grown, more candid and are ashamed of the expression
'love of country,' and have annihilated the very spirit of the words a_omething injurious and petty and undignified. This is the truth, and I hol_y it; but at the same time it is a phenomenon which has not been repeated a_ny other time or place; and therefore, though I hold to it as a fact, yet _ecognize that it is an accidental phenomenon, and may likely enough pas_way. There can be no such thing anywhere else as a liberal who really hate_is country; and how is this fact to be explained among US? By my origina_tatement that a Russian liberal is NOT a RUSSIAN liberal—that's the onl_xplanation that I can see."
"I take all that you have said as a joke," said Prince S. seriously.
"I have not seen all kinds of liberals, and cannot, therefore, set myself u_s a judge," said Alexandra, "but I have heard all you have said wit_ndignation. You have taken some accidental case and twisted it into _niversal law, which is unjust."
"Accidental case!" said Evgenie Pavlovitch. "Do you consider it an accidenta_ase, prince?"
"I must also admit," said the prince, "that I have not seen much, or been ver_ar into the question; but I cannot help thinking that you are more or les_ight, and that Russian liberalism—that phase of it which you are considering, at least—really is sometimes inclined to hate Russia itself, and not only it_xisting order of things in general. Of course this is only PARTIALLY th_ruth; you cannot lay down the law for all… "
The prince blushed and broke off, without finishing what he meant to say.
In spite of his shyness and agitation, he could not help being greatl_nterested in the conversation. A special characteristic of his was the naiv_andour with which he always listened to arguments which interested him, an_ith which he answered any questions put to him on the subject at issue. I_he very expression of his face this naivete was unmistakably evident, thi_isbelief in the insincerity of others, and unsuspecting disregard of irony o_umour in their words.
But though Evgenie Pavlovitch had put his questions to the prince with n_ther purpose but to enjoy the joke of his simple-minded seriousness, yet now, at his answer, he was surprised into some seriousness himself, and looke_ravely at Muishkin as though he had not expected that sort of answer at all.
"Why, how strange!" he ejaculated. "You didn't answer me seriously, surely, did you?"
"Did not you ask me the question seriously" inquired the prince, in amazement.
"Oh, trust HIM for that!" said Adelaida. "Evgenie Pavlovitch turns everythin_nd everybody he can lay hold of to ridicule. You should hear the things h_ays sometimes, apparently in perfect seriousness."
"In my opinion the conversation has been a painful one throughout, and w_ught never to have begun it," said Alexandra. "We were all going for a walk—"
"Come along then," said Evgenie; "it's a glorious evening. But, to prove tha_his time I was speaking absolutely seriously, and especially to prove this t_he prince (for you, prince, have interested me exceedingly, and I swear t_ou that I am not quite such an ass as I like to appear sometimes, although _m rather an ass, I admit), and—well, ladies and gentlemen, will you allow m_o put just one more question to the prince, out of pure curiosity? It shal_e the last. This question came into my mind a couple of hours since (you see, prince, I do think seriously at times), and I made my own decision upon it; now I wish to hear what the prince will say to it."
"We have just used the expression 'accidental case.' This is a significan_hrase; we often hear it. Well, not long since everyone was talking an_eading about that terrible murder of six people on the part of a—youn_ellow, and of the extraordinary speech of the counsel for the defence, wh_bserved that in the poverty-stricken condition of the criminal it must hav_ome NATURALLY into his head to kill these six people. I do not quote hi_ords, but that is the sense of them, or something very like it. Now, in m_pinion, the barrister who put forward this extraordinary plea was probabl_bsolutely convinced that he was stating the most liberal, the most humane, the most enlightened view of the case that could possibly be brought forwar_n these days. Now, was this distortion, this capacity for a perverted way o_iewing things, a special or accidental case, or is such a general rule?"
Everyone laughed at this.
"A special case—accidental, of course!" cried Alexandra and Adelaida.
"Let me remind you once more, Evgenie," said Prince S., "that your joke i_etting a little threadbare."
"What do you think about it, prince?" asked Evgenie, taking no notice of th_ast remark, and observing Muishkin's serious eyes fixed upon his face. "Wha_o you think—was it a special or a usual case—the rule, or an exception? _onfess I put the question especially for you."
"No, I don't think it was a special case," said the prince, quietly, bu_irmly.
"My dear fellow!" cried Prince S., with some annoyance, "don't you see that h_s chaffing you? He is simply laughing at you, and wants to make game of you."
"I thought Evgenie Pavlovitch was talking seriously," said the prince, blushing and dropping his eyes.
"My dear prince," continued Prince S. "remember what you and I were saying tw_r three months ago. We spoke of the fact that in our newly opened Law Court_ne could already lay one's finger upon so many talented and remarkable youn_arristers. How pleased you were with the state of things as we found it, an_ow glad I was to observe your delight! We both said it was a matter to b_roud of; but this clumsy defence that Evgenie mentions, this strange argumen_AN, of course, only be an accidental case—one in a thousand!"
The prince reflected a little, but very soon he replied, with absolut_onviction in his tone, though he still spoke somewhat shyly and timidly:
"I only wished to say that this 'distortion,' as Evgenie Pavlovitch expresse_t, is met with very often, and is far more the general rule than th_xception, unfortunately for Russia. So much so, that if this distortion wer_ot the general rule, perhaps these dreadful crimes would be less frequent."
"Dreadful crimes? But I can assure you that crimes just as dreadful, an_robably more horrible, have occurred before our times, and at all times, an_ot only here in Russia, but everywhere else as well. And in my opinion it i_ot at all likely that such murders will cease to occur for a very long tim_o come. The only difference is that in former times there was less publicity, while now everyone talks and writes freely about such things—which fact give_he impression that such crimes have only now sprung into existence. That i_here your mistake lies—an extremely natural mistake, I assure you, my dea_ellow!" said Prince S.
"I know that there were just as many, and just as terrible, crimes before ou_imes. Not long since I visited a convict prison and made acquaintance wit_ome of the criminals. There were some even more dreadful criminals than thi_ne we have been speaking of—men who have murdered a dozen of their fellow- creatures, and feel no remorse whatever. But what I especially noticed wa_his, that the very most hopeless and remorseless murderer—however hardened _riminal he may be—still KNOWS THAT HE IS A CRIMINAL; that is, he is consciou_hat he has acted wickedly, though he may feel no remorse whatever. And the_ere all like this. Those of whom Evgenie Pavlovitch has spoken, do not admi_hat they are criminals at all; they think they had a right to do what the_id, and that they were even doing a good deed, perhaps. I consider there i_he greatest difference between the two cases. And recollect—it was a YOUTH, at the particular age which is most helplessly susceptible to the distortio_f ideas!"
Prince S. was now no longer smiling; he gazed at the prince in bewilderment.
Alexandra, who had seemed to wish to put in her word when the prince began, now sat silent, as though some sudden thought had caused her to change he_ind about speaking.
Evgenie Pavlovitch gazed at him in real surprise, and this time his expressio_f face had no mockery in it whatever.
"What are you looking so surprised about, my friend?" asked Mrs. Epanchin, suddenly. "Did you suppose he was stupider than yourself, and was incapable o_orming his own opinions, or what?"
"No! Oh no! Not at all!" said Evgenie. "But—how is it, prince, tha_ou—(excuse the question, will you?)—if you are capable of observing an_eeing things as you evidently do, how is it that you saw nothing distorted o_erverted in that claim upon your property, which you acknowledged a day o_wo since; and which was full of arguments founded upon the most distorte_iews of right and wrong?"
"I'll tell you what, my friend," cried Mrs. Epanchin, of a sudden, "here ar_e all sitting here and imagining we are very clever, and perhaps laughing a_he prince, some of us, and meanwhile he has received a letter this very da_n which that same claimant renounces his claim, and begs the prince's pardon.
There I we don't often get that sort of letter; and yet we are not ashamed t_alk with our noses in the air before him."
"And Hippolyte has come down here to stay," said Colia, suddenly.
"What! has he arrived?" said the prince, starting up.
"Yes, I brought him down from town just after you had left the house."
"There now! It's just like him," cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, boiling ove_nce more, and entirely oblivious of the fact that she had just taken th_rince's part. "I dare swear that you went up to town yesterday on purpose t_et the little wretch to do you the great honour of coming to stay at you_ouse. You did go up to town, you know you did—you said so yourself! Now then, did you, or did you not, go down on your knees and beg him to come, confess!"
"No, he didn't, for I saw it all myself," said Colia. "On the contrary, Hippolyte kissed his hand twice and thanked him; and all the prince said wa_hat he thought Hippolyte might feel better here in the country!"
"Don't, Colia,—what is the use of saying all that?" cried the prince, risin_nd taking his hat.
"Where are you going to now?" cried Mrs. Epanchin.
"Never mind about him now, prince," said Colia. "He is all right and taking _ap after the journey. He is very happy to be here; but I think perhaps i_ould be better if you let him alone for today,—he is very sensitive now tha_e is so ill—and he might be embarrassed if you show him too much attention a_irst. He is decidedly better today, and says he has not felt so well for th_ast six months, and has coughed much less, too."
The prince observed that Aglaya came out of her corner and approached th_able at this point.
He did not dare look at her, but he was conscious, to the very tips of hi_ingers, that she was gazing at him, perhaps angrily; and that she ha_robably flushed up with a look of fiery indignation in her black eyes.
"It seems to me, Mr. Colia, that you were very foolish to bring your youn_riend down—if he is the same consumptive boy who wept so profusely, an_nvited us all to his own funeral," remarked Evgenie Pavlovitch. "He talked s_loquently about the blank wall outside his bedroom window, that I'm sure h_ill never support life here without it."
"I think so too," said Mrs. Epanchin; "he will quarrel with you, and be off,"
and she drew her workbox towards her with an air of dignity, quite obliviou_f the fact that the family was about to start for a walk in the park.
"Yes, I remember he boasted about the blank wall in an extraordinary way,"
continued Evgenie, "and I feel that without that blank wall he will never b_ble to die eloquently; and he does so long to die eloquently!"
"Oh, you must forgive him the blank wall," said the prince, quietly. "He ha_ome down to see a few trees now, poor fellow."
"Oh, I forgive him with all my heart; you may tell him so if you like,"
"I don't think you should take it quite like that," said the prince, quietly, and without removing his eyes from the carpet. "I think it is more a case o_is forgiving you."
"Forgiving me! why so? What have I done to need his forgiveness?"
"If you don't understand, then—but of course, you do understand. He wished—h_ished to bless you all round and to have your blessing—before he died—that'_ll."
"My dear prince," began Prince S., hurriedly, exchanging glances with some o_hose present, "you will not easily find heaven on earth, and yet you seem t_xpect to. Heaven is a difficult thing to find anywhere, prince; far mor_ifficult than appears to that good heart of yours. Better stop thi_onversation, or we shall all be growing quite disturbed in our minds, and—"
"Let's go and hear the band, then," said Lizabetha Prokofievna, angrily risin_rom her place.