THE prince now left the room and shut himself up in his own chamber. Coli_ollowed him almost at once, anxious to do what he could to console him. Th_oor boy seemed to be already so attached to him that he could hardly leav_im.
"You were quite right to go away!" he said. "The row will rage there wors_han ever now; and it's like this every day with us—and all through tha_astasia Philipovna."
"You have so many sources of trouble here, Colia," said the prince.
"Yes, indeed, and it is all our own fault. But I have a great friend who i_uch worse off even than we are. Would you like to know him?"
"Yes, very much. Is he one of your school-fellows?"
"Well, not exactly. I will tell you all about him some day… . What do yo_hink of Nastasia Philipovna? She is beautiful, isn't she? I had never see_er before, though I had a great wish to do so. She fascinated me. I coul_orgive Gania if he were to marry her for love, but for money! Oh dear! tha_s horrible!"
"Yes, your brother does not attract me much."
"I am not surprised at that. After what you… But I do hate that way of lookin_t things! Because some fool, or a rogue pretending to be a fool, strikes _an, that man is to be dishonoured for his whole life, unless he wipes out th_isgrace with blood, or makes his assailant beg forgiveness on his knees! _hink that so very absurd and tyrannical. Lermontoff's Bal Masque is based o_hat idea—a stupid and unnatural one, in my opinion; but he was hardly mor_han a child when he wrote it."
"I like your sister very much."
"Did you see how she spat in Gania's face! Varia is afraid of no one. But yo_id not follow her example, and yet I am sure it was not through cowardice.
Here she comes! Speak of a wolf and you see his tail! I felt sure that sh_ould come. She is very generous, though of course she has her faults."
Varia pounced upon her brother.
"This is not the place for you," said she. "Go to father. Is he plaguing you, prince?"
"Not in the least; on the contrary, he interests me."
"Scolding as usual, Varia! It is the worst thing about her. After all, _elieve father may have started off with Rogojin. No doubt he is sorry now.
Perhaps I had better go and see what he is doing," added Colia, running off.
"Thank God, I have got mother away, and put her to bed without another scene!
Gania is worried—and ashamed—not without reason! What a spectacle! I have com_o thank you once more, prince, and to ask you if you knew Nastasia Philipovn_efore?"
"No, I have never known her."
"Then what did you mean, when you said straight out to her that she was no_eally 'like that'? You guessed right, I fancy. It is quite possible she wa_ot herself at the moment, though I cannot fathom her meaning. Evidently sh_eant to hurt and insult us. I have heard curious tales about her before now, but if she came to invite us to her house, why did she behave so to my mother?
Ptitsin knows her very well; he says he could not understand her today. Wit_ogojin, too! No one with a spark of self-respect could have talked like tha_n the house of her… Mother is extremely vexed on your account, too…
"That is nothing!" said the prince, waving his hand.
"But how meek she was when you spoke to her!"
"Meek! What do you mean?"
"You told her it was a shame for her to behave so, and her manner changed a_nce; she was like another person. You have some influence over her, prince,"
added Varia, smiling a little.
The door opened at this point, and in came Gania most unexpectedly.
He was not in the least disconcerted to see Varia there, but he stood a momen_t the door, and then approached the prince quietly.
"Prince," he said, with feeling, "I was a blackguard. Forgive me!" His fac_ave evidence of suffering. The prince was considerably amazed, and did no_eply at once. "Oh, come, forgive me, forgive me!" Gania insisted, rathe_mpatiently. "If you like, I'll kiss your hand. There!"
The prince was touched; he took Gania's hands, and embraced him heartily, while each kissed the other.
"I never, never thought you were like that," said Muishkin, drawing a dee_reath. "I thought you—you weren't capable of—"
"Of what? Apologizing, eh? And where on earth did I get the idea that you wer_n idiot? You always observe what other people pass by unnoticed; one coul_alk sense to you, but—"
"Here is another to whom you should apologize," said the prince, pointing t_aria.
"No, no! they are all enemies! I've tried them often enough, believe me," an_ania turned his back on Varia with these words.
"But if I beg you to make it up?" said Varia.
"And you'll go to Nastasia Philipovna's this evening—"
"If you insist: but, judge for yourself, can I go, ought I to go?"
"But she is not that sort of woman, I tell you!" said Gania, angrily. "She wa_nly acting."
"I know that—I know that; but what a part to play! And think what she mus_ake YOU for, Gania! I know she kissed mother's hand, and all that, but sh_aughed at you, all the same. All this is not good enough for seventy-fiv_housand roubles, my dear boy. You are capable of honourable feelings still, and that's why I am talking to you so. Oh! DO take care what you are doing!
Don't you know yourself that it will end badly, Gania?"
So saying, and in a state of violent agitation, Varia left the room.
"There, they are all like that," said Gania, laughing, "just as if I do no_now all about it much better than they do."
He sat down with these words, evidently intending to prolong his visit.
"If you know it so well," said the prince a little timidly, "why do you choos_ll this worry for the sake of the seventy-five thousand, which, you confess, does not cover it?"
"I didn't mean that," said Gania; "but while we are upon the subject, let m_ear your opinion. Is all this worry worth seventy-five thousand or not?
"Of course! And it would be a disgrace to marry so, eh?"
"A great disgrace."
"Oh, well, then you may know that I shall certainly do it, now. I shal_ertainly marry her. I was not quite sure of myself before, but now I am.
Don't say a word: I know what you want to tell me—"
"No. I was only going to say that what surprises me most of all is you_xtraordinary confidence."
"How so? What in?"
"That Nastasia Philipovna will accept you, and that the question is as good a_ettled; and secondly, that even if she did, you would be able to pocket th_oney. Of course, I know very little about it, but that's my view. When a ma_arries for money it often happens that the wife keeps the money in her ow_ands."
"Of course, you don't know all; but, I assure you, you needn't be afraid, i_on't be like that in our case. There are circumstances," said Gania, rathe_xcitedly. "And as to her answer to me, there's no doubt about that. Wh_hould you suppose she will refuse me?"
"Oh, I only judge by what I see. Varvara Ardalionovna said just now—"
"Oh she—they don't know anything about it! Nastasia was only chaffing Rogojin.
I was alarmed at first, but I have thought better of it now; she was simpl_aughing at him. She looks on me as a fool because I show that I meant he_oney, and doesn't realize that there are other men who would deceive her i_ar worse fashion. I'm not going to pretend anything, and you'll see she'l_arry me, all right. If she likes to live quietly, so she shall; but if sh_ives me any of her nonsense, I shall leave her at once, but I shall keep th_oney. I'm not going to look a fool; that's the first thing, not to look _ool."
"But Nastasia Philipovna seems to me to be such a SENSIBLE woman, and, a_uch, why should she run blindly into this business? That's what puzzles m_o," said the prince.
"You don't know all, you see; I tell you there are things—and besides, I'_ure that she is persuaded that I love her to distraction, and I give you m_ord I have a strong suspicion that she loves me, too—in her own way, o_ourse. She thinks she will be able to make a sort of slave of me all my life; but I shall prepare a little surprise for her. I don't know whether I ought t_e confidential with you, prince; but, I assure you, you are the only decen_ellow I have come across. I have not spoken so sincerely as I am doing a_his moment for years. There are uncommonly few honest people about, prince; there isn't one honester than Ptitsin, he's the best of the lot. Are yo_aughing? You don't know, perhaps, that blackguards like honest people, an_eing one myself I like you. WHY am I a blackguard? Tell me honestly, now.
They all call me a blackguard because of her, and I have got into the way o_hinking myself one. That's what is so bad about the business."
"I for one shall never think you a blackguard again," said the prince. "_onfess I had a poor opinion of you at first, but I have been so joyfull_urprised about you just now; it's a good lesson for me. I shall never judg_gain without a thorough trial. I see now that you are riot only not _lackguard, but are not even quite spoiled. I see that you are quite a_rdinary man, not original in the least degree, but rather weak."
Gania laughed sarcastically, but said nothing. The prince, seeing that he di_ot quite like the last remark, blushed, and was silent too.
"Has my father asked you for money?" asked Gania, suddenly.
"Don't give it to him if he does. Fancy, he was a decent, respectable ma_nce! He was received in the best society; he was not always the liar he i_ow. Of course, wine is at the bottom of it all; but he is a good deal wors_han an innocent liar now. Do you know that he keeps a mistress? I can'_nderstand how mother is so long-suffering. Did he tell you the story of th_iege of Kars? Or perhaps the one about his grey horse that talked? He loves, to enlarge on these absurd histories." And Gania burst into a fit of laughter.
Suddenly he turned to the prince and asked: "Why are you looking at me lik_hat?"
"I am surprised to see you laugh in that way, like a child. You came to mak_riends with me again just now, and you said, 'I will kiss your hand, if yo_ike,' just as a child would have said it. And then, all at once you ar_alking of this mad project—of these seventy-five thousand roubles! It al_eems so absurd and impossible."
"Well, what conclusion have you reached?"
"That you are rushing madly into the undertaking, and that you would do wel_o think it over again. It is more than possible that Varvara Ardalionovna i_ight."
"Ah! now you begin to moralize! I know that I am only a child, very well,"
replied Gania impatiently. "That is proved by my having this conversation wit_ou. It is not for money only, prince, that I am rushing into this affair," h_ontinued, hardly master of his words, so closely had his vanity been touched.
"If I reckoned on that I should certainly be deceived, for I am still too wea_n mind and character. I am obeying a passion, an impulse perhaps, because _ave but one aim, one that overmasters all else. You imagine that once I am i_ossession of these seventy-five thousand roubles, I shall rush to buy _arriage… No, I shall go on wearing the old overcoat I have worn for thre_ears, and I shall give up my club. I shall follow the example of men who hav_ade their fortunes. When Ptitsin was seventeen he slept in the street, h_old pen-knives, and began with a copeck; now he has sixty thousand roubles, but to get them, what has he not done? Well, I shall be spared such a har_eginning, and shall start with a little capital. In fifteen years people wil_ay, 'Look, that's Ivolgin, the king of the Jews!' You say that I have n_riginality. Now mark this, prince—there is nothing so offensive to a man o_ur time and race than to be told that he is wanting in originality, that h_s weak in character, has no particular talent, and is, in short, an ordinar_erson. You have not even done me the honour of looking upon me as a rogue. D_ou know, I could have knocked you down for that just now! You wounded me mor_ruelly than Epanchin, who thinks me capable of selling him my wife! Observe, it was a perfectly gratuitous idea on his part, seeing there has never bee_ny discussion of it between us! This has exasperated me, and I am determine_o make a fortune! I will do it! Once I am rich, I shall be a genius, a_xtremely original man. One of the vilest and most hateful things connecte_ith money is that it can buy even talent; and will do so as long as the worl_asts. You will say that this is childish—or romantic. Well, that will be al_he better for me, but the thing shall be done. I will carry it through. H_aughs most, who laughs last. Why does Epanchin insult me? Simply because, socially, I am a nobody. However, enough for the present. Colia has put hi_ose in to tell us dinner is ready, twice. I'm dining out. I shall come an_alk to you now and then; you shall be comfortable enough with us. They ar_ure to make you one of the family. I think you and I will either be grea_riends or enemies. Look here now, supposing I had kissed your hand just now, as I offered to do in all sincerity, should I have hated you for i_fterwards?"
"Certainly, but not always. You would not have been able to keep it up, an_ould have ended by forgiving me," said the prince, after a pause fo_eflection, and with a pleasant smile.
"Oho, how careful one has to be with you, prince! Haven't you put a drop o_oison in that remark now, eh? By the way—ha, ha, ha!—I forgot to ask, was _ight in believing that you were a good deal struck yourself with Nastasi_hilipovna."
"Are you in love with her?"
"And yet you flush up as red as a rosebud! Come—it's all right. I'm not goin_o laugh at you. Do you know she is a very virtuous woman? Believe it or not, as you like. You think she and Totski—not a bit of it, not a bit of it! No_or ever so long! Au revoir!"
Gania left the room in great good humour. The prince stayed behind, an_editated alone for a few minutes. At length, Colia popped his head in onc_ore.
"I don't want any dinner, thanks, Colia. I had too good a lunch at Genera_panchin's."
Colia came into the room and gave the prince a note; it was from the genera_nd was carefully sealed up. It was clear from Colia's face how painful it wa_o him to deliver the missive. The prince read it, rose, and took his hat.
"It's only a couple of yards," said Colia, blushing.
"He's sitting there over his bottle—and how they can give him credit, I canno_nderstand. Don't tell mother I brought you the note, prince; I have sworn no_o do it a thousand times, but I'm always so sorry for him. Don't stand o_eremony, give him some trifle, and let that end it."
"Come along, Colia, I want to see your father. I have an idea," said th_rince.