ARRIVED at her house, Lizabetha Prokofievna paused in the first room. Sh_ould go no farther, and subsided on to a couch quite exhausted; too feeble t_emember so much as to ask the prince to take a seat. This was a larg_eception-room, full of flowers, and with a glass door leading into th_arden.
Alexandra and Adelaida came in almost immediately, and looked inquiringly a_he prince and their mother.
The girls generally rose at about nine in the morning in the country; Aglaya, of late, had been in the habit of getting up rather earlier and having a wal_n the garden, but not at seven o'clock; about eight or a little later was he_sual time.
Lizabetha Prokofievna, who really had not slept all night, rose at about eigh_n purpose to meet Aglaya in the garden and walk with her; but she could no_ind her either in the garden or in her own room.
This agitated the old lady considerably; and she awoke her other daughters.
Next, she learned from the maid that Aglaya had gone into the park befor_even o'clock. The sisters made a joke of Aglaya's last freak, and told thei_other that if she went into the park to look for her, Aglaya would probabl_e very angry with her, and that she was pretty sure to be sitting reading o_he green bench that she had talked of two or three days since, and abou_hich she had nearly quarrelled with Prince S., who did not see anythin_articularly lovely in it.
Arrived at the rendezvous of the prince and her daughter, and hearing th_trange words of the latter, Lizabetha Prokofievna had been dreadfull_larmed, for many reasons. However, now that she had dragged the prince hom_ith her, she began to feel a little frightened at what she had undertaken.
Why should not Aglaya meet the prince in the park and have a talk with him, even if such a meeting should be by appointment?
"Don't suppose, prince," she began, bracing herself up for the effort, "don'_uppose that I have brought you here to ask questions. After last night, _ssure you, I am not so exceedingly anxious to see you at all; I could hav_ostponed the pleasure for a long while." She paused.
"But at the same time you would be very glad to know how I happened to mee_glaya Ivanovna this morning?" The prince finished her speech for her with th_tmost composure.
"Well, what then? Supposing I should like to know?" cried Lizabeth_rokofievna, blushing. "I'm sure I am not afraid of plain speaking. I'm no_ffending anyone, and I never wish to, and—"
"Pardon me, it is no offence to wish to know this; you are her mother. We me_t the green bench this morning, punctually at seven o'clock,—according to a_greement made by Aglaya Ivanovna with myself yesterday. She said that sh_ished to see me and speak to me about something important. We met an_onversed for an hour about matters concerning Aglaya Ivanovna herself, an_hat's all."
"Of course it is all, my friend. I don't doubt you for a moment," sai_izabetha Prokofievna with dignity.
"Well done, prince, capital!" cried Aglaya, who entered the room at thi_oment. "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?"
"You know I have never needed to blush before you, up to this day, thoug_erhaps you would have been glad enough to make me," said Lizabeth_rokofievna,—with majesty. "Good-bye, prince; forgive me for bothering you. _rust you will rest assured of my unalterable esteem for you."
The prince made his bows and retired at once. Alexandra and Adelaida smile_nd whispered to each other, while Lizabetha Prokofievna glared severely a_hem. "We are only laughing at the prince's beautiful bows, mamma," sai_delaida. "Sometimes he bows just like a meal-sack, but to-day he wa_ike—like Evgenie Pavlovitch!"
"It is the HEART which is the best teacher of refinement and dignity, not th_ancing-master," said her mother, sententiously, and departed upstairs to he_wn room, not so much as glancing at Aglaya.
When the prince reached home, about nine o'clock, he found Vera Lebedeff an_he maid on the verandah. They were both busy trying to tidy up the plac_fter last night's disorderly party.
"Thank goodness, we've just managed to finish it before you came in!" sai_era, joyfully.
"Good-morning! My head whirls so; I didn't sleep all night. I should like t_ave a nap now."
"Here, on the verandah? Very well, I'll tell them all not to come and wak_ou. Papa has gone out somewhere."
The servant left the room. Vera was about to follow her, but returned an_pproached the prince with a preoccupied air.
"Prince!" she said, "have pity on that poor boy; don't turn him out today."
"Not for the world; he shall do just as he likes."
"He won't do any harm now; and—and don't be too severe with him."
"Oh dear no! Why—"
"And—and you won't LAUGH at him? That's the chief thing."
"Oh no! Never."
"How foolish I am to speak of such things to a man like you," said Vera, blushing. "Though you _do_ look tired," she added, half turning away, "you_yes are so splendid at this moment—so full of happiness."
"Really?" asked the prince, gleefully, and he laughed in delight.
But Vera, simple-minded little girl that she was (just like a boy, in fact), here became dreadfully confused, of a sudden, and ran hastily out of the room, laughing and blushing.
"What a dear little thing she is," thought the prince, and immediately forgo_ll about her.
He walked to the far end of the verandah, where the sofa stood, with a tabl_n front of it. Here he sat down and covered his face with his hands, and s_emained for ten minutes. Suddenly he put his hand in his coat-pocket an_urriedly produced three letters.
But the door opened again, and out came Colia.
The prince actually felt glad that he had been interrupted,—and might retur_he letters to his pocket. He was glad of the respite.
"Well," said Colia, plunging in medias res, as he always did, "here's a go!
What do you think of Hippolyte now? Don't respect him any longer, eh?"
"Why not? But look here, Colia, I'm tired; besides, the subject is to_elancholy to begin upon again. How is he, though?"
"Asleep—he'll sleep for a couple of hours yet. I quite understand—you haven'_lept—you walked about the park, I know. Agitation—excitement—all that sort o_hing—quite natural, too!"
"How do you know I walked in the park and didn't sleep at home?"
"Vera just told me. She tried to persuade me not to come, but I couldn't hel_yself, just for one minute. I have been having my turn at the bedside for th_ast two hours; Kostia Lebedeff is there now. Burdovsky has gone. Now, li_own, prince, make yourself comfortable, and sleep well! I'm awfull_mpressed, you know."
"Naturally, all this—"
"No, no, I mean with the 'explanation,' especially that part of it where h_alks about Providence and a future life. There is a gigantic thought there."
The prince gazed affectionately at Colia, who, of course, had come in solel_or the purpose of talking about this "gigantic thought."
"But it is not any one particular thought, only; it is the genera_ircumstances of the case. If Voltaire had written this now, or Rousseau, _hould have just read it and thought it remarkable, but should not have bee_o IMPRESSED by it. But a man who knows for certain that he has but te_inutes to live and can talk like that—why—it's—it's PRIDE, that is! It i_eally a most extraordinary, exalted assertion of personal dignity, it's—it'_EFIANT! What a GIGANTIC strength of will, eh? And to accuse a fellow lik_hat of not putting in the cap on purpose; it's base and mean! You know h_eceived us last night, the cunning rascal. I never packed his bag for him, and I never saw his pistol. He packed it himself. But he put me off my guar_ike that, you see. Vera says you are going to let him stay on; I swea_here's no danger, especially as we are always with him."
"Who was by him at night?"
"I, and Burdovsky, and Kostia Lebedeff. Keller stayed a little while, and the_ent over to Lebedeff's to sleep. Ferdishenko slept at Lebedeff's, too; but h_ent away at seven o'clock. My father is always at Lebedeff's; but he has gon_ut just now. I dare say Lebedeff will be coming in here directly; he has bee_ooking for you; I don't know what he wants. Shall we let him in or not, i_ou are asleep? I'm going to have a nap, too. By-the-by, such a curious thin_appened. Burdovsky woke me at seven, and I met my father just outside th_oom, so drunk, he didn't even know me. He stood before me like a log, an_hen he recovered himself, asked hurriedly how Hippolyte was. 'Yes,' he said, when I told him, 'that's all very well, but I REALLY came to warn you that yo_ust be very careful what you say before Ferdishenko.' Do you follow me, prince?"
"Yes. Is it really so? However, it's all the same to us, of course."
"Of course it is; we are not a secret society; and that being the case, it i_ll the more curious that the general should have been on his way to wake m_p in order to tell me this."
"Ferdishenko has gone, you say?"
"Yes, he went at seven o'clock. He came into the room on his way out; I wa_atching just then. He said he was going to spend 'the rest of the night' a_ilkin's; there's a tipsy fellow, a friend of his, of that name. Well, I'_ff. Oh, here's Lebedeff himself! The prince wants to go to sleep, Lukia_imofeyovitch, so you may just go away again."
"One moment, my dear prince, just one. I must absolutely speak to you abou_omething which is most grave," said Lebedeff, mysteriously and solemnly, entering the room with a bow and looking extremely important. He had but jus_eturned, and carried his hat in his hand. He looked preoccupied and mos_nusually dignified.
The prince begged him to take a chair.
"I hear you have called twice; I suppose you are still worried abou_esterday's affair."
"What, about that boy, you mean? Oh dear no, yesterday my ideas were _ittle—well—mixed. Today, I assure you, I shall not oppose in the slightes_egree any suggestions it may please you to make."
"What's up with you this morning, Lebedeff? You look so important an_ignified, and you choose your words so carefully," said the prince, smiling.
"Nicolai Ardalionovitch!" said Lebedeff, in a most amiable tone of voice, addressing the boy. "As I have a communication to make to the prince whic_oncerns only myself—"
"Of course, of course, not my affair. All right," said Colia, and away h_ent.
"I love that boy for his perception," said Lebedeff, looking after him. "M_ear prince," he continued, "I have had a terrible misfortune, either las_ight or early this morning. I cannot tell the exact time."
"What is it?"
"I have lost four hundred roubles out of my side pocket! They're gone!" sai_ebedeff, with a sour smile.
"You've lost four hundred roubles? Oh! I'm sorry for that."
"Yes, it is serious for a poor man who lives by his toil."
"Of course, of course! How was it?"
"Oh, the wine is to blame, of course. I confess to you, prince, as I would t_rovidence itself. Yesterday I received four hundred roubles from a debtor a_bout five in the afternoon, and came down here by train. I had my purse in m_ocket. When I changed, I put the money into the pocket of my plain clothes, intending to keep it by me, as I expected to have an applicant for it in th_vening."
"It's true then, Lebedeff, that you advertise to lend money on gold or silve_rticles?"
"Yes, through an agent. My own name doesn't appear. I have a large family, yo_ee, and at a small percentage—"
"Quite so, quite so. I only asked for information—excuse the question. Go on."
"Well, meanwhile that sick boy was brought here, and those guests came in, an_e had tea, and—well, we made merry—to my ruin! Hearing of your birthda_fterwards, and excited with the circumstances of the evening, I ran upstair_nd changed my plain clothes once more for my uniform [Civil Service clerks i_ussia wear uniform.]—you must have noticed I had my uniform on all th_vening? Well, I forgot the money in the pocket of my old coat—you know whe_od will ruin a man he first of all bereaves him of his senses—and it was onl_his morning at half-past seven that I woke up and grabbed at my coat pocket, first thing. The pocket was empty—the purse gone, and not a trace to b_ound!"
"Dear me! This is very unpleasant!"
"Unpleasant! Indeed it is. You have found a very appropriate expression," sai_ebedeff, politely, but with sarcasm.
"But what's to be done? It's a serious matter," said the prince, thoughtfully.
"Don't you think you may have dropped it out of your pocket whils_ntoxicated?"
"Certainly. Anything is possible when one is intoxicated, as you neatl_xpress it, prince. But consider—if I, intoxicated or not, dropped an objec_ut of my pocket on to the ground, that object ought to remain on the ground.
Where is the object, then?"
"Didn't you put it away in some drawer, perhaps?"
"I've looked everywhere, and turned out everything."
"I confess this disturbs me a good deal. Someone must have picked it up, then."
"Or taken it out of my pocket—two alternatives."
"It is very distressing, because WHO—? That's the question!"
"Most undoubtedly, excellent prince, you have hit it—that is the ver_uestion. How wonderfully you express the exact situation in a few words!"
"Come, come, Lebedeff, no sarcasm! It's a serious—"
"Sarcasm!" cried Lebedeff, wringing his hands. "All right, all right, I'm no_ngry. I'm only put out about this. Whom do you suspect?"
"That is a very difficult and complicated question. I cannot suspect th_ervant, for she was in the kitchen the whole evening, nor do I suspect any o_y children."
"I should think not. Go on."
"Then it must be one of the guests."
"Is such a thing possible?"
"Absolutely and utterly impossible—and yet, so it must be. But one thing I a_ure of, if it be a theft, it was committed, not in the evening when we wer_ll together, but either at night or early in the morning; therefore, by on_f those who slept here. Burdovsky and Colia I except, of course. They did no_ven come into my room."
"Yes, or even if they had! But who did sleep with you?"
"Four of us, including myself, in two rooms. The general, myself, Keller, an_erdishenko. One of us four it must have been. I don't suspect myself, thoug_uch cases have been known."
"Oh! _do_ go on, Lebedeff! Don't drag it out so."
"Well, there are three left, then—Keller firstly. He is a drunkard to begi_ith, and a liberal (in the sense of other people's pockets), otherwise wit_ore of the ancient knight about him than of the modern liberal. He was wit_he sick man at first, but came over afterwards because there was no place t_ie down in the room and the floor was so hard."
"You suspect him?"
"I DID suspect him. When I woke up at half-past seven and tore my hair i_espair for my loss and carelessness, I awoke the general, who was sleepin_he sleep of innocence near me. Taking into consideration the sudde_isappearance of Ferdishenko, which was suspicious in itself, we decided t_earch Keller, who was lying there sleeping like a top. Well, we searched hi_lothes thoroughly, and not a farthing did we find; in fact, his pockets al_ad holes in them. We found a dirty handkerchief, and a love-letter from som_cullery-maid. The general decided that he was innocent. We awoke him fo_urther inquiries, and had the greatest difficulty in making him understan_hat was up. He opened his mouth and stared—he looked so stupid and s_bsurdly innocent. It wasn't Keller."
"Oh, I'm so glad!" said the prince, joyfully. "I was so afraid."
"Afraid! Then you had some grounds for supposing he might be the culprit?"
said Lebedeff, frowning.
"Oh no—not a bit! It was foolish of me to say I was afraid! Don't repeat i_lease, Lebedeff, don't tell anyone I said that!"
"My dear prince! your words lie in the lowest depth of my heart—it is thei_omb!" said Lebedeff, solemnly, pressing his hat to the region of his heart.
"Thanks; very well. Then I suppose it's Ferdishenko; that is, I mean, yo_uspect Ferdishenko?"
"Whom else?" said Lebedeff, softly, gazing intently into the prince s face.
"Of course—quite so, whom else? But what are the proofs?"
"We have evidence. In the first place, his mysterious disappearance at seve_'clock, or even earlier."
"I know, Colia told me that he had said he was off to—I forget the name, som_riend of his, to finish the night."
"H'm! then Colia has spoken to you already?"
"Not about the theft."
"He does not know of it; I have kept it a secret. Very well, Ferdishenko wen_ff to Wilkin's. That is not so curious in itself, but here the evidence open_ut further. He left his address, you see, when he went. Now prince, consider, why did he leave his address? Why do you suppose he went out of his way t_ell Colia that he had gone to Wilkin's? Who cared to know that he was goin_o Wilkin's? No, no! prince, this is finesse, thieves' finesse! This is a_ood as saying, 'There, how can I be a thief when I leave my address? I'm no_oncealing my movements as a thief would.' Do you understand, prince?"
"Oh yes, but that is not enough."
"Second proof. The scent turns out to be false, and the address given is _ham. An hour after—that is at about eight, I went to Wilkin's myself, an_here was no trace of Ferdishenko. The maid did tell me, certainly, that a_our or so since someone had been hammering at the door, and had smashed th_ell; she said she would not open the door because she didn't want to wake he_aster; probably she was too lazy to get up herself. Such phenomena are me_ith occasionally!"
"But is that all your evidence? It is not enough!"
"Well, prince, whom are we to suspect, then? Consider!" said Lebedeff wit_lmost servile amiability, smiling at the prince. There was a look of cunnin_n his eyes, however.
"You should search your room and all the cupboards again," said the prince, after a moment or two of silent reflection.
"But I have done so, my dear prince!" said Lebedeff, more sweetly than ever.
"H'm! why must you needs go up and change your coat like that?" asked th_rince, banging the table with his fist, in annoyance.
"Oh, don't be so worried on my account, prince! I assure you I am not wort_t! At least, not I alone. But I see you are suffering on behalf of th_riminal too, for wretched Ferdishenko, in fact!"
"Of course you have given me a disagreeable enough thing to think about," sai_he prince, irritably, "but what are you going to do, since you are so sure i_as Ferdishenko?"
"But who else COULD it be, my very dear prince?" repeated Lebedeff, as swee_s sugar again. "If you don't wish me to suspect Mr. Burdovsky?"
"Of course not."
"Nor the general? Ha, ha, ha!"
"Nonsense!" said the prince, angrily, turning round upon him.
"Quite so, nonsense! Ha, ha, ha! dear me! He did amuse me, did the general! W_ent off on the hot scent to Wilkin's together, you know; but I must firs_bserve that the general was even more thunderstruck than I myself thi_orning, when I awoke him after discovering the theft; so much so that hi_ery face changed—he grew red and then pale, and at length flew into _aroxysm of such noble wrath that I assure you I was quite surprised! He is _ost generous-hearted man! He tells lies by the thousands, I know, but it i_erely a weakness; he is a man of the highest feelings; a simple-minded ma_oo, and a man who carries the conviction of innocence in his very appearance.
I love that man, sir; I may have told you so before; it is a weakness of mine.
Well—he suddenly stopped in the middle of the road, opened out his coat an_ared his breast. 'Search me,' he says, 'you searched Keller; why don't yo_earch me too? It is only fair!' says he." And all the while his legs an_ands were trembling with anger, and he as white as a sheet all over! So _aid to him, "Nonsense, general; if anybody but yourself had said that to me, I'd have taken my head, my own head, and put it on a large dish and carried i_ound to anyone who suspected you; and I should have said: 'There, you se_hat head? It's my head, and I'll go bail with that head for him! Yes, an_alk through the fire for him, too. There,' says I, 'that's how I'd answer fo_ou, general!' Then he embraced me, in the middle of the street, and hugged m_o tight (crying over me all the while) that I coughed fit to choke! 'You ar_he one friend left to me amid all my misfortunes,' says he. Oh, he's a man o_entiment, that! He went on to tell me a story of how he had been accused, o_uspected, of stealing five hundred thousand roubles once, as a young man; an_ow, the very next day, he had rushed into a burning, blazing house and save_he very count who suspected him, and Nina Alexandrovna (who was then a youn_irl), from a fiery death. The count embraced him, and that was how he came t_arry Nina Alexandrovna, he said. As for the money, it was found among th_uins next day in an English iron box with a secret lock; it had got under th_loor somehow, and if it had not been for the fire it would never have bee_ound! The whole thing is, of course, an absolute fabrication, though when h_poke of Nina Alexandrovna he wept! She's a grand woman, is Nina Alexandrovna, though she is very angry with me!"
"Are you acquainted with her?"
"Well, hardly at all. I wish I were, if only for the sake of justifying mysel_n her eyes. Nina Alexandrovna has a grudge against me for, as she thinks, encouraging her husband in drinking; whereas in reality I not only do no_ncourage him, but I actually keep him out of harm's way, and out of ba_ompany. Besides, he's my friend, prince, so that I shall not lose sight o_im, again. Where he goes, I go. He's quite given up visiting the captain'_idow, though sometimes he thinks sadly of her, especially in the morning, when he's putting on his boots. I don't know why it's at that time. But he ha_o money, and it's no use his going to see her without. Has he borrowed an_oney from you, prince?"
"No, he has not."
"Ah, he's ashamed to! He MEANT to ask you, I know, for he said so. I suppos_e thinks that as you gave him some once (you remember), you would probabl_efuse if he asked you again."
"Do you ever give him money?"
"Prince! Money! Why I would give that man not only my money, but my very life, if he wanted it. Well, perhaps that's exaggeration; not life, we'll say, bu_ome illness, a boil or a bad cough, or anything of that sort, I would stan_ith pleasure, for his sake; for I consider him a great man fallen—money, indeed!"
"H'm, then you DO give him money?"
"N-no, I have never given him money, and he knows well that I will never giv_im any; because I am anxious to keep him out of intemperate ways. He is goin_o town with me now; for you must know I am off to Petersburg afte_erdishenko, while the scent is hot; I'm certain he is there. I shall let th_eneral go one way, while I go the other; we have so arranged matters in orde_o pop out upon Ferdishenko, you see, from different sides. But I am going t_ollow that naughty old general and catch him, I know where, at a certai_idow's house; for I think it will be a good lesson, to put him to shame b_atching him with the widow."
"Oh, Lebedeff, don't, don't make any scandal about it!" said the prince, muc_gitated, and speaking in a low voice.
"Not for the world, not for the world! I merely wish to make him ashamed o_imself. Oh, prince, great though this misfortune be to myself, I cannot hel_hinking of his morals! I have a great favour to ask of you, esteemed prince; I confess that it is the chief object of my visit. You know the Ivolgins, yo_ave even lived in their house; so if you would lend me your help, honoure_rince, in the general's own interest and for his good."
Lebedeff clasped his hands in supplication.
"What help do you want from me? You may be certain that I am most anxious t_nderstand you, Lebedeff."
"I felt sure of that, or I should not have come to you. We might manage i_ith the help of Nina Alexandrovna, so that he might be closely watched in hi_wn house. Unfortunately I am not on terms… otherwise… but Nicola_rdalionovitch, who adores you with all his youthful soul, might help, too."
"No, no! Heaven forbid that we should bring Nina Alexandrovna into thi_usiness! Or Colia, either. But perhaps I have not yet quite understood you, Lebedeff?"
Lebedeff made an impatient movement.
"But there is nothing to understand! Sympathy and tenderness, that is all—tha_s all our poor invalid requires! You will permit me to consider him a_nvalid?"
"Yes, it shows delicacy and intelligence on your part."
"I will explain my idea by a practical example, to make it clearer. You kno_he sort of man he is. At present his only failing is that he is crazy abou_hat captain's widow, and he cannot go to her without money, and I mean t_atch him at her house today—for his own good; but supposing it was not onl_he widow, but that he had committed a real crime, or at least some ver_ishonourable action (of which he is, of course, incapable), I repeat tha_ven in that case, if he were treated with what I may call generou_enderness, one could get at the whole truth, for he is very soft-hearted!
Believe me, he would betray himself before five days were out; he would burs_nto tears, and make a clean breast of the matter; especially if managed wit_act, and if you and his family watched his every step, so to speak. Oh, m_ear prince," Lebedeff added most emphatically, "I do not positively asser_hat he has… I am ready, as the saying is, to shed my last drop of blood fo_im this instant; but you will admit that debauchery, drunkenness, and th_aptain's widow, all these together may lead him very far."
"I am, of course, quite ready to add my efforts to yours in such a case," sai_he prince, rising; "but I confess, Lebedeff, that I am terribly perplexed.
Tell me, do you still think… plainly, you say yourself that you suspect Mr.
Lebedeff clasped his hands once more.
"Why, who else could I possibly suspect? Who else, most outspoken prince?" h_eplied, with an unctuous smile.
Muishkin frowned, and rose from his seat.
"You see, Lebedeff, a mistake here would be a dreadful thing. Thi_erdishenko, I would not say a word against him, of course; but, who knows?
Perhaps it really was he? I mean he really does seem to be a more likely ma_han… than any other."
Lebedeff strained his eyes and ears to take in what the prince was saying. Th_atter was frowning more and more, and walking excitedly up and down, tryin_ot to look at Lebedeff.
"You see," he said, "I was given to understand that Ferdishenko was that sor_f man,—that one can't say everything before him. One has to take care not t_ay too much, you understand? I say this to prove that he really is, so t_peak, more likely to have done this than anyone else, eh? You understand? Th_mportant thing is, not to make a mistake."
"And who told you this about Ferdishenko?"
"Oh, I was told. Of course I don't altogether believe it. I am very sorry tha_ should have had to say this, because I assure you I don't believe it myself; it is all nonsense, of course. It was stupid of me to say anything about it."
"You see, it is very important, it is most important to know where you go_his report from," said Lebedeff, excitedly. He had risen from his seat, an_as trying to keep step with the prince, running after him, up and down.
"Because look here, prince, I don't mind telling you now that as we were goin_long to Wilkin's this morning, after telling me what you know about the fire, and saving the count and all that, the general was pleased to drop certai_ints to the same effect about Ferdishenko, but so vaguely and clumsily that _hought better to put a few questions to him on the matter, with the resul_hat I found the whole thing was an invention of his excellency's own mind. O_ourse, he only lies with the best intentions; still, he lies. But, such bein_he case, where could you have heard the same report? It was the inspiratio_f the moment with him, you understand, so who could have told YOU? It is a_mportant question, you see!"
"It was Colia told me, and his father told HIM at about six this morning. The_et at the threshold, when Colia was leaving the room for something or other."
The prince told Lebedeff all that Colia had made known to himself, in detail.
"There now, that's what we may call SCENT!" said Lebedeff, rubbing his hand_nd laughing silently. "I thought it must be so, you see. The genera_nterrupted his innocent slumbers, at six o'clock, in order to go and wake hi_eloved son, and warn him of the dreadful danger of companionship wit_erdishenko. Dear me! what a dreadfully dangerous man Ferdishenko must be, an_hat touching paternal solicitude, on the part of his excellency, ha! ha! ha!"
"Listen, Lebedeff," began the prince, quite overwhelmed; "DO act quietly—don'_ake a scandal, Lebedeff, I ask you—I entreat you! No one must know—NO ONE, mind! In that case only, I will help you."
"Be assured, most honourable, most worthy of princes—be assured that the whol_atter shall be buried within my heart!" cried Lebedeff, in a paroxysm o_xaltation. "I'd give every drop of my blood… Illustrious prince, I am a poo_retch in soul and spirit, but ask the veriest scoundrel whether he woul_refer to deal with one like himself, or with a noble-hearted man like you, and there is no doubt as to his choice! He'll answer that he prefers th_oble-hearted man—and there you have the triumph of virtue! Au revoir, honoured prince! You and I together—softly! softly!"