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Chapter 9

  • Silence immediately fell on the room; all looked at the prince as though the_either understood, nor hoped to understand. Gania was motionless with horror.
  • Nastasia's arrival was a most unexpected and overwhelming event to al_arties. In the first place, she had never been before. Up to now she had bee_o haughty that she had never even asked Gania to introduce her to hi_arents. Of late she had not so much as mentioned them. Gania was partly gla_f this; but still he had put it to her debit in the account to be settle_fter marriage.
  • He would have borne anything from her rather than this visit. But one thin_eemed to him quite clear-her visit now, and the present of her portrait o_his particular day, pointed out plainly enough which way she intended to mak_er decision!
  • The incredulous amazement with which all regarded the prince did not las_ong, for Nastasia herself appeared at the door and passed in, pushing by th_rince again.
  • "At last I've stormed the citadel! Why do you tie up your bell?" she said, merrily, as she pressed Gania's hand, the latter having rushed up to her a_oon as she made her appearance. "What are you looking so upset about?
  • Introduce me, please!"
  • The bewildered Gania introduced her first to Varia, and both women, befor_haking hands, exchanged looks of strange import. Nastasia, however, smile_miably; but Varia did not try to look amiable, and kept her gloom_xpression. She did not even vouchsafe the usual courteous smile of etiquette.
  • Gania darted a terrible glance of wrath at her for this, but Nin_lexandrovna, mended matters a little when Gania introduced her at last.
  • Hardly, however, had the old lady begun about her "highly gratified feelings,"
  • and so on, when Nastasia left her, and flounced into a chair by Gania's sid_n the corner by the window, and cried: "Where's your study? and where ar_he—the lodgers? You do take in lodgers, don't you?"
  • Gania looked dreadfully put out, and tried to say something in reply, bu_astasia interrupted him:
  • "Why, where are you going to squeeze lodgers in here? Don't you use a study?
  • Does this sort of thing pay?" she added, turning to Nina Alexandrovna.
  • "Well, it is troublesome, rather," said the latter; "but I suppose it will
  • 'pay' pretty well. We have only just begun, however—"
  • Again Nastasia Philipovna did not hear the sentence out. She glanced at Gania, and cried, laughing, "What a face! My goodness, what a face you have on a_his moment!"
  • Indeed, Gania did not look in the least like himself. His bewilderment and hi_larmed perplexity passed off, however, and his lips now twitched with rage a_e continued to stare evilly at his laughing guest, while his countenanc_ecame absolutely livid.
  • There was another witness, who, though standing at the door motionless an_ewildered himself, still managed to remark Gania's death-like pallor, and th_readful change that had come over his face. This witness was the prince, wh_ow advanced in alarm and muttered to Gania:
  • "Drink some water, and don't look like that!"
  • It was clear that he came out with these words quite spontaneously, on th_pur of the moment. But his speech was productive of much—for it appeared tha_ll. Gania's rage now overflowed upon the prince. He seized him by th_houlder and gazed with an intensity of loathing and revenge at him, but sai_othing—as though his feelings were too strong to permit of words.
  • General agitation prevailed. Nina Alexandrovna gave a little cry of anxiety; Ptitsin took a step forward in alarm; Colia and Ferdishenko stood stock stil_t the door in amazement;—only Varia remained coolly watching the scene fro_nder her eyelashes. She did not sit down, but stood by her mother with folde_ands. However, Gania recollected himself almost immediately. He let go of th_rince and burst out laughing.
  • "Why, are you a doctor, prince, or what?" he asked, as naturally as possible.
  • "I declare you quite frightened me! Nastasia Philipovna, let me introduce thi_nteresting character to you—though I have only known him myself since th_orning."
  • Nastasia gazed at the prince in bewilderment. "Prince? He a Prince? Why, _ook him for the footman, just now, and sent him in to announce me! Ha, ha, ha, isn't that good!"
  • "Not bad that, not bad at all!" put in Ferdishenko, "se non e vero—"
  • "I rather think I pitched into you, too, didn't I? Forgive me—do! Who is he, did you say? What prince? Muishkin?" she added, addressing Gania.
  • "He is a lodger of ours," explained the latter.
  • "An idiot!"—the prince distinctly heard the word half whispered from behin_im. This was Ferdishenko's voluntary information for Nastasia's benefit.
  • "Tell me, why didn't you put me right when I made such a dreadful mistake jus_ow?" continued the latter, examining the prince from head to foot without th_lightest ceremony. She awaited the answer as though convinced that it woul_e so foolish that she must inevitably fail to restrain her laughter over it.
  • "I was astonished, seeing you so suddenly—" murmured the prince.
  • "How did you know who I was? Where had you seen me before? And why were you s_truck dumb at the sight of me? What was there so overwhelming about me?"
  • "Oho! ho, ho, ho!" cried Ferdishenko. "NOW then, prince! My word, what thing_ would say if I had such a chance as that! My goodness, prince—go on!"
  • "So should I, in your place, I've no doubt!" laughed the prince t_erdishenko; then continued, addressing Nastasia: "Your portrait struck m_ery forcibly this morning; then I was talking about you to the Epanchins; an_hen, in the train, before I reached Petersburg, Parfen Rogojin told me a goo_eal about you; and at the very moment that I opened the door to you _appened to be thinking of you, when—there you stood before me!"
  • "And how did you recognize me?"
  • "From the portrait!"
  • "What else?"
  • "I seemed to imagine you exactly as you are—I seemed to have seen yo_omewhere."
  • "Where—where?"
  • "I seem to have seen your eyes somewhere; but it cannot be! I have not see_ou—I never was here before. I may have dreamed of you, I don't know."
  • The prince said all this with manifest effort—in broken sentences, and wit_any drawings of breath. He was evidently much agitated. Nastasia Philipovn_ooked at him inquisitively, but did not laugh.
  • "Bravo, prince!" cried Ferdishenko, delighted.
  • At this moment a loud voice from behind the group which hedged in the princ_nd Nastasia Philipovna, divided the crowd, as it were, and before them stoo_he head of the family, General Ivolgin. He was dressed in evening clothes; his moustache was dyed.
  • This apparition was too much for Gania. Vain and ambitious almost t_orbidness, he had had much to put up with in the last two months, and wa_eeking feverishly for some means of enabling himself to lead a mor_resentable kind of existence. At home, he now adopted an attitude of absolut_ynicism, but he could not keep this up before Nastasia Philipovna, althoug_e had sworn to make her pay after marriage for all he suffered now. He wa_xperiencing a last humiliation, the bitterest of all, at this moment—th_umiliation of blushing for his own kindred in his own house. A questio_lashed through his mind as to whether the game was really worth the candle.
  • For that had happened at this moment, which for two months had been hi_ightmare; which had filled his soul with dread and shame—the meeting betwee_is father and Nastasia Philipovna. He had often tried to imagine such a_vent, but had found the picture too mortifying and exasperating, and ha_uietly dropped it. Very likely he anticipated far worse things than was a_ll necessary; it is often so with vain persons. He had long since determined, therefore, to get his father out of the way, anywhere, before his marriage, i_rder to avoid such a meeting; but when Nastasia entered the room just now, h_ad been so overwhelmed with astonishment, that he had not thought of hi_ather, and had made no arrangements to keep him out of the way. And now i_as too late—there he was, and got up, too, in a dress coat and white tie, an_astasia in the very humour to heap ridicule on him and his family circle; o_his last fact, he felt quite persuaded. What else had she come for? Ther_ere his mother and his sister sitting before her, and she seemed to hav_orgotten their very existence already; and if she behaved like that, h_hought, she must have some object in view.
  • Ferdishenko led the general up to Nastasia Philipovna.
  • "Ardalion Alexandrovitch Ivolgin," said the smiling general, with a low bow o_reat dignity, "an old soldier, unfortunate, and the father of this family; but happy in the hope of including in that family so exquisite—"
  • He did not finish his sentence, for at this moment Ferdishenko pushed a chai_p from behind, and the general, not very firm on his legs, at this post- prandial hour, flopped into it backwards. It was always a difficult thing t_ut this warrior to confusion, and his sudden descent left him as composed a_efore. He had sat down just opposite to Nastasia, whose fingers he now took, and raised to his lips with great elegance, and much courtesy. The general ha_nce belonged to a very select circle of society, but he had been turned ou_f it two or three years since on account of certain weaknesses, in which h_ow indulged with all the less restraint; but his good manners remained wit_im to this day, in spite of all.
  • Nastasia Philipovna seemed delighted at the appearance of this latest arrival, of whom she had of course heard a good deal by report.
  • "I have heard that my son—" began Ardalion Alexandrovitch.
  • "Your son, indeed! A nice papa you are! YOU might have come to see me anyhow, without compromising anyone. Do you hide yourself, or does your son hide you?"
  • "The children of the nineteenth century, and their parents—" began th_eneral, again.
  • "Nastasia Philipovna, will you excuse the general for a moment? Someone i_nquiring for him," said Nina Alexandrovna in a loud voice, interrupting th_onversation.
  • "Excuse him? Oh no, I have wished to see him too long for that. Why, wha_usiness can he have? He has retired, hasn't he? You won't leave me, general, will you?"
  • "I give you my word that he shall come and see you—but he—he needs rest jus_ow."
  • "General, they say you require rest," said Nastasia Philipovna, with th_elancholy face of a child whose toy is taken away.
  • Ardalion Alexandrovitch immediately did his best to make his foolish positio_ great deal worse.
  • "My dear, my dear!" he said, solemnly and reproachfully, looking at his wife, with one hand on his heart.
  • "Won't you leave the room, mamma?" asked Varia, aloud.
  • "No, Varia, I shall sit it out to the end."
  • Nastasia must have overheard both question and reply, but her vivacity was no_n the least damped. On the contrary, it seemed to increase. She immediatel_verwhelmed the general once more with questions, and within five minutes tha_entleman was as happy as a king, and holding forth at the top of his voice, amid the laughter of almost all who heard him.
  • Colia jogged the prince's arm.
  • "Can't YOU get him out of the room, somehow? DO, please," and tears o_nnoyance stood in the boy's eyes. "Curse that Gania!" he muttered, betwee_is teeth.
  • "Oh yes, I knew General Epanchin well," General Ivolgin was saying at thi_oment; "he and Prince Nicolai Ivanovitch Muishkin—whose son I have this da_mbraced after an absence of twenty years—and I, were three inseparables. Ala_ne is in the grave, torn to pieces by calumnies and bullets; another is no_efore you, still battling with calumnies and bullets—"
  • "Bullets?" cried Nastasia.
  • "Yes, here in my chest. I received them at the siege of Kars, and I feel the_n bad weather now. And as to the third of our trio, Epanchin, of course afte_hat little affair with the poodle in the railway carriage, it was all U_etween us."
  • "Poodle? What was that? And in a railway carriage? Dear me," said Nastasia, thoughtfully, as though trying to recall something to mind.
  • "Oh, just a silly, little occurrence, really not worth telling, about Princes_ielokonski's governess, Miss Smith, and—oh, it is really not worth telling!"
  • "No, no, we must have it!" cried Nastasia merrily.
  • "Yes, of course," said Ferdishenko. "C'est du nouveau."
  • "Ardalion," said Nina Alexandrovitch, entreatingly.
  • "Papa, you are wanted!" cried Colia.
  • "Well, it is a silly little story, in a few words," began the delighte_eneral. "A couple of years ago, soon after the new railway was opened, I ha_o go somewhere or other on business. Well, I took a first-class ticket, sa_own, and began to smoke, or rather CONTINUED to smoke, for I had lighted u_efore. I was alone in the carriage. Smoking is not allowed, but is no_rohibited either; it is half allowed—so to speak, winked at. I had the windo_pen."
  • "Suddenly, just before the whistle, in came two ladies with a little poodle, and sat down opposite to me; not bad-looking women; one was in light blue, th_ther in black silk. The poodle, a beauty with a silver collar, lay on ligh_lue's knee. They looked haughtily about, and talked English together. I too_o notice, just went on smoking. I observed that the ladies were gettin_ngry—over my cigar, doubtless. One looked at me through her tortoise-shel_yeglass.
  • "I took no notice, because they never said a word. If they didn't like th_igar, why couldn't they say so? Not a word, not a hint! Suddenly, and withou_he very slightest suspicion of warning, 'light blue' seizes my cigar fro_etween my fingers, and, wheugh! out of the window with it! Well, on flew th_rain, and I sat bewildered, and the young woman, tall and fair, and rathe_ed in the face, too red, glared at me with flashing eyes.
  • "I didn't say a word, but with extreme courtesy, I may say with most refine_ourtesy, I reached my finger and thumb over towards the poodle, took it u_elicately by the nape of the neck, and chucked it out of the window, afte_he cigar. The train went flying on, and the poodle's yells were lost in th_istance."
  • "Oh, you naughty man!" cried Nastasia, laughing and clapping her hands like _hild.
  • "Bravo!" said Ferdishenko. Ptitsin laughed too, though he had been very sorr_o see the general appear. Even Colia laughed and said, "Bravo!"
  • "And I was right, truly right," cried the general, with warmth and solemnity,
  • "for if cigars are forbidden in railway carriages, poodles are much more so."
  • "Well, and what did the lady do?" asked Nastasia, impatiently.
  • "She—ah, that's where all the mischief of it lies!" replied Ivolgin, frowning.
  • "Without a word, as it were, of warning, she slapped me on the cheek! A_xtraordinary woman!"
  • "And you?"
  • The general dropped his eyes, and elevated his brows; shrugged his shoulders, tightened his lips, spread his hands, and remained silent. At last he blurte_ut:
  • "I lost my head!"
  • "Did you hit her?"
  • "No, oh no!—there was a great flare-up, but I didn't hit her! I had t_truggle a little, purely to defend myself; but the very devil was in th_usiness. It turned out that 'light blue' was an Englishwoman, governess o_omething, at Princess Bielokonski's, and the other woman was one of the old- maid princesses Bielokonski. Well, everybody knows what great friends th_rincess and Mrs. Epanchin are, so there was a pretty kettle of fish. All th_ielokonskis went into mourning for the poodle. Six princesses in tears, an_he Englishwoman shrieking!
  • "Of course I wrote an apology, and called, but they would not receive eithe_e or my apology, and the Epanchins cut me, too!"
  • "But wait," said Nastasia. "How is it that, five or six days since, I rea_xactly the same story in the paper, as happening between a Frenchman and a_nglish girl? The cigar was snatched away exactly as you describe, and th_oodle was chucked out of the window after it. The slapping came off, too, a_n your case; and the girl's dress was light blue!"
  • The general blushed dreadfully; Colia blushed too; and Ptitsin turned hastil_way. Ferdishenko was the only one who laughed as gaily as before. As t_ania, I need not say that he was miserable; he stood dumb and wretched an_ook no notice of anybody.
  • "I assure you," said the general, "that exactly the same thing happened t_yself!"
  • "I remembered there was some quarrel between father and Miss Smith, th_ielokonski's governess," said Colia.
  • "How very curious, point for point the same anecdote, and happening a_ifferent ends of Europe! Even the light blue dress the same," continued th_itiless Nastasia. "I must really send you the paper."
  • "You must observe," insisted the general, "that my experience was two year_arlier."
  • "Ah! that's it, no doubt!"
  • Nastasia Philipovna laughed hysterically.
  • "Father, will you hear a word from me outside!" said Gania, his voice shakin_ith agitation, as he seized his father by the shoulder. His eyes shone with _laze of hatred.
  • At this moment there was a terrific bang at the front door, almost enough t_reak it down. Some most unusual visitor must have arrived. Colia ran to open.