“Oh--be easy, sir, be easy! I shall not wound your tenderest feelings. I’ve been through it all myself, and I know well how unpleasant it is when an outsider sticks his nose in where he is not wanted. I experience this every morning. I came to speak to you about another matter, though, an important matter. A very important matter, prince.”
“Oh, you were raving, you were in a fever; you are still half delirious.”
“Well?” said Mrs. Epanchin angrily, surprised at his tone; “well, what more?”
“Yes, I’ve been looking for you. I waited for you at the Epanchins’ house, but of course I could not come in. I dogged you from behind as you walked along with the general. Well, prince, here is Keller, absolutely at your service--command him!--ready to sacrifice himself--even to die in case of need.”
“You did a good action,” said the prince, “for in the midst of his angry feelings you insinuated a kind thought into his heart.”
“Not a bit of it! You are much too good to him; you shouldn’t care a hang about what he thinks. I have heard of such things before, but never came across, till tonight, a man who would actually shoot himself in order to gain a vulgar notoriety, or blow out his brains for spite, if he finds that people don’t care to pat him on the back for his sanguinary intentions. But what astonishes me more than anything is the fellow’s candid confession of weakness. You’d better get rid of him tomorrow, in any case.”
“Yes, that’s the man!” said another voice.
He seized her hands, and pressed them so hard that Adelaida nearly cried out; he then gazed with delight into her eyes, and raising her right hand to his lips with enthusiasm, kissed it three times.
“By five I drew up at the Ekshaisky inn. I waited there till dawn, and soon after six I was off, and at the old merchant Trepalaf’s.
“Really, prince, I hardly expected after--after all our friendly intercourse--and you see, Lizabetha Prokofievna--”

“It seems to me, Mr. Colia, that you were very foolish to bring your young friend down--if he is the same consumptive boy who wept so profusely, and invited us all to his own funeral,” remarked Evgenie Pavlovitch. “He talked so eloquently about the blank wall outside his bedroom window, that I’m sure he will never support life here without it.”

“Only, of course that’s not nearly your worst action,” said the actress, with evident dislike in her face.
“No? No?” shouted Rogojin, almost out of his mind with joy. “You are not going to, after all? And they told me--oh, Nastasia Philipovna--they said you had promised to marry him, _him!_ As if you _could_ do it!--him--pooh! I don’t mind saying it to everyone--I’d buy him off for a hundred roubles, any day pfu! Give him a thousand, or three if he likes, poor devil, and he’d cut and run the day before his wedding, and leave his bride to me! Wouldn’t you, Gania, you blackguard? You’d take three thousand, wouldn’t you? Here’s the money! Look, I’ve come on purpose to pay you off and get your receipt, formally. I said I’d buy you up, and so I will.”

“Comparatively to what?”

“What a power!” cried Adelaida suddenly, as she earnestly examined the portrait over her sister’s shoulder.
“I should tell it to no one but yourself, prince, and I only name it now as a help to my soul’s evolution. When I die, that secret will die with me! But, excellency, if you knew, if you only had the least idea, how difficult it is to get money nowadays! Where to find it is the question. Ask for a loan, the answer is always the same: ‘Give us gold, jewels, or diamonds, and it will be quite easy.’ Exactly what one has not got! Can you picture that to yourself? I got angry at last, and said, ‘I suppose you would accept emeralds?’ ‘Certainly, we accept emeralds with pleasure. Yes!’ ‘Well, that’s all right,’ said I. ‘Go to the devil, you den of thieves!’ And with that I seized my hat, and walked out.”
“I guessed which was your house from a hundred yards off,” said the prince at last.
The general rang the bell and gave orders that the prince should be shown in.
“Why, Osterman--the diplomatist. Peter’s Osterman,” muttered Hippolyte, confused. There was a moment’s pause of mutual confusion.
Hippolyte raised his head with an effort, saying:
“Can there be an appearance of that which has no form? And yet it seemed to me, at certain moments, that I beheld in some strange and impossible form, that dark, dumb, irresistibly powerful, eternal force.
Offering all these facts to our readers and refusing to explain them, we do not for a moment desire to justify our hero’s conduct. On the contrary, we are quite prepared to feel our share of the indignation which his behaviour aroused in the hearts of his friends. Even Vera Lebedeff was angry with him for a while; so was Colia; so was Keller, until he was selected for best man; so was Lebedeff himself,--who began to intrigue against him out of pure irritation;--but of this anon. In fact we are in full accord with certain forcible words spoken to the prince by Evgenie Pavlovitch, quite unceremoniously, during the course of a friendly conversation, six or seven days after the events at Nastasia Philipovna’s house.

At the beginning of the evening, when the prince first came into the room, he had sat down as far as possible from the Chinese vase which Aglaya had spoken of the day before.

“Marie was very gentle to her mother, and nursed her, and did everything for her; but the old woman accepted all her services without a word and never showed her the slightest kindness. Marie bore all this; and I could see when I got to know her that she thought it quite right and fitting, considering herself the lowest and meanest of creatures.
However, he made up his mind that he would himself take the note and deliver it. Indeed, he went so far as to leave the house and walk up the road, but changed his mind when he had nearly reached Ptitsin’s door. However, he there luckily met Colia, and commissioned him to deliver the letter to his brother as if direct from Aglaya. Colia asked no questions but simply delivered it, and Gania consequently had no suspicion that it had passed through so many hands.
The general blushed dreadfully; Colia blushed too; and Ptitsin turned hastily away. Ferdishenko was the only one who laughed as gaily as before. As to Gania, I need not say that he was miserable; he stood dumb and wretched and took no notice of anybody.
“When I observed that it was all the same whether one died among trees or in front of a blank brick wall, as here, and that it was not worth making any fuss over a fortnight, he agreed at once. But he insisted that the good air at Pavlofsk and the greenness would certainly cause a physical change for the better, and that my excitement, and my _dreams_, would be perhaps relieved. I remarked to him, with a smile, that he spoke like a materialist, and he answered that he had always been one. As he never tells a lie, there must be something in his words. His smile is a pleasant one. I have had a good look at him. I don’t know whether I like him or not; and I have no time to waste over the question. The hatred which I felt for him for five months has become considerably modified, I may say, during the last month. Who knows, perhaps I am going to Pavlofsk on purpose to see him! But why do I leave my chamber? Those who are sentenced to death should not leave their cells. If I had not formed a final resolve, but had decided to wait until the last minute, I should not leave my room, or accept his invitation to come and die at Pavlofsk. I must be quick and finish this explanation before tomorrow. I shall have no time to read it over and correct it, for I must read it tomorrow to the prince and two or three witnesses whom I shall probably find there.
“Observe,” he gasped, through his coughing, “what a fellow Gania is! He talks about Nastasia’s ‘leavings,’ but what does he want to take himself?”

“I’m not laughing. I am convinced, myself, that that may have been partly the reason.”

“Prince,” whispered Hippolyte, suddenly, his eyes all ablaze, “you don’t suppose that I did not foresee all this hatred?” He looked at the prince as though he expected him to reply, for a moment. “Enough!” he added at length, and addressing the whole company, he cried: “It’s all my fault, gentlemen! Lebedeff, here’s the key,” (he took out a small bunch of keys); “this one, the last but one--Colia will show you--Colia, where’s Colia?” he cried, looking straight at Colia and not seeing him. “Yes, he’ll show you; he packed the bag with me this morning. Take him up, Colia; my bag is upstairs in the prince’s study, under the table. Here’s the key, and in the little case you’ll find my pistol and the powder, and all. Colia packed it himself, Mr. Lebedeff; he’ll show you; but it’s on condition that tomorrow morning, when I leave for Petersburg, you will give me back my pistol, do you hear? I do this for the prince’s sake, not yours.”
“My dear,” said the general, “it seems to me that a sick-nurse would be of more use here than an excitable person like you. Perhaps it would be as well to get some sober, reliable man for the night. In any case we must consult the prince, and leave the patient to rest at once. Tomorrow we can see what can be done for him.”
“Forgive a silly, horrid, spoilt girl”--(she took his hand here)--“and be quite assured that we all of us esteem you beyond all words. And if I dared to turn your beautiful, admirable simplicity to ridicule, forgive me as you would a little child its mischief. Forgive me all my absurdity of just now, which, of course, meant nothing, and could not have the slightest consequence.” She spoke these words with great emphasis.
“What an idea! Of course not. And what are you blushing for again? And there comes that frown once more! You’ve taken to looking too gloomy sometimes, Aglaya, much more than you used to. I know why it is.”

“But enough!” he cried, suddenly. “I see I have been boring you with my--”

“This evening!” repeated her mother in a tone of despair, but softly, as though to herself. “Then it’s all settled, of course, and there’s no hope left to us. She has anticipated her answer by the present of her portrait. Did he show it you himself?” she added, in some surprise.

The prince gazed at her in amazement.

Aglaya raised her head haughtily.

“Wonderful!” said Gania. “And he knows it too,” he added, with a sarcastic smile.
“Well, when we tried it we were a party of people, like this, for instance; and somebody proposed that each of us, without leaving his place at the table, should relate something about himself. It had to be something that he really and honestly considered the very worst action he had ever committed in his life. But he was to be honest--that was the chief point! He wasn’t to be allowed to lie.”
“Well, it is troublesome, rather,” said the latter; “but I suppose it will ‘pay’ pretty well. We have only just begun, however--”
“You call him a monster so often that it makes me suspicious.”
“Gentlemen, I supposed from this that poor Mr. Burdovsky must be a simple-minded man, quite defenceless, and an easy tool in the hands of rogues. That is why I thought it my duty to try and help him as ‘Pavlicheff’s son’; in the first place by rescuing him from the influence of Tchebaroff, and secondly by making myself his friend. I have resolved to give him ten thousand roubles; that is about the sum which I calculate that Pavlicheff must have spent on me.”

“Lizabetha Prokofievna!” exclaimed the prince.

Rogojin had dropped the subject of the picture and walked on. Of course his strange frame of mind was sufficient to account for his conduct; but, still, it seemed queer to the prince that he should so abruptly drop a conversation commenced by himself. Rogojin did not take any notice of his question.
“But, my goodness me,” laughed Ivan Petrovitch, “why can’t I be cousin to even a splendid man?”

“Well, anyone who does not interest himself in questions such as this is, in my opinion, a mere fashionable dummy.”

“N-no thanks, I don’t know--”
“Are you not ashamed? Are you not ashamed? You barbarian! You tyrant! You have robbed me of all I possessed--you have sucked my bones to the marrow. How long shall I be your victim? Shameless, dishonourable man!”
The man’s suspicions seemed to increase more and more. The prince was too unlike the usual run of daily visitors; and although the general certainly did receive, on business, all sorts and conditions of men, yet in spite of this fact the servant felt great doubts on the subject of this particular visitor. The presence of the secretary as an intermediary was, he judged, essential in this case.

“He has astonished me,” said Ivan Fedorovitch. “I nearly fell down with surprise. I could hardly believe my eyes when I met him in Petersburg just now. Why this haste? That’s what I want to know. He has always said himself that there is no need to break windows.”

She was a fine woman of the same age as her husband, with a slightly hooked nose, a high, narrow forehead, thick hair turning a little grey, and a sallow complexion. Her eyes were grey and wore a very curious expression at times. She believed them to be most effective--a belief that nothing could alter.

“If”--she began, looking seriously and even sadly at him--“if when I read you all that about the ‘poor knight,’ I wished to-to praise you for one thing--I also wished to show you that I knew all--and did not approve of your conduct.”

“And you! You are nothing more than a fool, if you’ll excuse me! Well! well! you know that yourself, I expect,” said the lady indignantly.

“Yes, my dear, it was an old abbot of that name--I must be off to see the count, he’s waiting for me, I’m late--Good-bye! _Au revoir_, prince!”--and the general bolted at full speed.
They exchanged glances questioningly, but the prince did not seem to have understood the meaning of Aglaya’s words; he was in the highest heaven of delight.
“Yes--I have it still,” the prince replied.
Evgenie Pavlovitch, who went abroad at this time, intending to live a long while on the continent, being, as he often said, quite superfluous in Russia, visits his sick friend at Schneider’s every few months.
“Yes--I don’t like that Ferdishenko. I can’t understand why Nastasia Philipovna encourages him so. Is he really her cousin, as he says?”
“Why on earth not?” asked the latter. “Really, you know, you are making yourself a nuisance, by keeping guard over me like this. I get bored all by myself; I have told you so over and over again, and you get on my nerves more than ever by waving your hands and creeping in and out in the mysterious way you do.”
She was silent a moment to get breath, and to recover her composure.
“You should pass us by and forgive us our happiness,” said the prince in a low voice.

“Count on my assistance? Go alone? How can you ask me that question, when it is a matter on which the fate of my family so largely depends? You don’t know Ivolgin, my friend. To trust Ivolgin is to trust a rock; that’s how the first squadron I commanded spoke of me. ‘Depend upon Ivolgin,’ said they all, ‘he is as steady as a rock.’ But, excuse me, I must just call at a house on our way, a house where I have found consolation and help in all my trials for years.”

“Nonsense! Let me alone!” said the angry mother. “Now then, prince, sit down here, no, nearer, come nearer the light! I want to have a good look at you. So, now then, who is this abbot?”

“If I hadn’t seized that bouquet from under his nose he might have been alive now, and a happy man. He might have been successful in life, and never have gone to fight the Turks.”

“Nobody here is laughing at you. Calm yourself,” said Lizabetha Prokofievna, much moved. “You shall see a new doctor tomorrow; the other was mistaken; but sit down, do not stand like that! You are delirious--” Oh, what shall we do with him she cried in anguish, as she made him sit down again in the arm-chair.

The prince took a droshky. It struck him as he drove on that he ought to have begun by coming here, since it was most improbable that Rogojin should have taken Nastasia to his own house last night. He remembered that the porter said she very rarely came at all, so that it was still less likely that she would have gone there so late at night.

“You’ve lost the game, Gania” he cried, as he passed the latter.

This confidence of a stupid man in his own talents has been wonderfully depicted by Gogol in the amazing character of Pirogoff. Pirogoff has not the slightest doubt of his own genius,--nay, of his _superiority_ of genius,--so certain is he of it that he never questions it. How many Pirogoffs have there not been among our writers--scholars, propagandists? I say “have been,” but indeed there are plenty of them at this very day.