“And did you learn science and all that, with your professor over there?” asked the black-haired passenger.
“You are convinced? You don’t really mean to say you think that honestly?” asked Aglaya, extremely surprised.
“Four years! and I was in the same place nearly all the time,--in one village.”Hardly had the prince uttered the last word when Gania gave such a fearful shudder that the prince almost cried out.
“I admit I was afraid that that was the case, yesterday,” blundered the prince (he was rather confused), “but today I am quite convinced that--”
“Good Lord, he’s off again!” said Princess Bielokonski, impatiently.
“The devil knows what it means,” growled Ivan Fedorovitch, under his breath; “it must have taken the united wits of fifty footmen to write it.”
“Bachmatoff saw me home after the dinner and we crossed the Nicolai bridge. We were both a little drunk. He told me of his joy, the joyful feeling of having done a good action; he said that it was all thanks to myself that he could feel this satisfaction; and held forth about the foolishness of the theory that individual charity is useless.
“So I saw.”“Who told you that?” broke in Evgenie Pavlovitch.
“In the first place, I have had the opportunity of getting a correct idea of Mr. Burdovsky. I see what he is for myself. He is an innocent man, deceived by everyone! A defenceless victim, who deserves indulgence! Secondly, Gavrila Ardalionovitch, in whose hands I had placed the matter, had his first interview with me barely an hour ago. I had not heard from him for some time, as I was away, and have been ill for three days since my return to St. Petersburg. He tells me that he has exposed the designs of Tchebaroff and has proof that justifies my opinion of him. I know, gentlemen, that many people think me an idiot. Counting upon my reputation as a man whose purse-strings are easily loosened, Tchebaroff thought it would be a simple matter to fleece me, especially by trading on my gratitude to Pavlicheff. But the main point is--listen, gentlemen, let me finish!--the main point is that Mr. Burdovsky is not Pavlicheff’s son at all. Gavrila Ardalionovitch has just told me of his discovery, and assures me that he has positive proofs. Well, what do you think of that? It is scarcely credible, even after all the tricks that have been played upon me. Please note that we have positive proofs! I can hardly believe it myself, I assure you; I do not yet believe it; I am still doubtful, because Gavrila Ardalionovitch has not had time to go into details; but there can be no further doubt that Tchebaroff is a rogue! He has deceived poor Mr. Burdovsky, and all of you, gentlemen, who have come forward so nobly to support your friend--(he evidently needs support, I quite see that!). He has abused your credulity and involved you all in an attempted fraud, for when all is said and done this claim is nothing else!”“No, I had better speak,” continued the prince, with a new outburst of feverish emotion, and turning towards the old man with an air of confidential trustfulness. “Yesterday, Aglaya Ivanovna forbade me to talk, and even specified the particular subjects I must not touch upon--she knows well enough that I am odd when I get upon these matters. I am nearly twenty-seven years old, and yet I know I am little better than a child. I have no right to express my ideas, and said so long ago. Only in Moscow, with Rogojin, did I ever speak absolutely freely! He and I read Pushkin together--all his works. Rogojin knew nothing of Pushkin, had not even heard his name. I am always afraid of spoiling a great Thought or Idea by my absurd manner. I have no eloquence, I know. I always make the wrong gestures--inappropriate gestures--and therefore I degrade the Thought, and raise a laugh instead of doing my subject justice. I have no sense of proportion either, and that is the chief thing. I know it would be much better if I were always to sit still and say nothing. When I do so, I appear to be quite a sensible sort of a person, and what’s more, I think about things. But now I must speak; it is better that I should. I began to speak because you looked so kindly at me; you have such a beautiful face. I promised Aglaya Ivanovna yesterday that I would not speak all the evening.”
“‘Why, what on earth can have possessed you to come and see _me_, Terentieff?’ he cried, with his usual pleasant, sometimes audacious, but never offensive familiarity, which I liked in reality, but for which I also detested him. ‘Why what’s the matter?’ he cried in alarm. ‘Are you ill?’“Yes, directly; I’ll go away directly. I’ll--”Rogojin took the chair offered him, but he did not sit long; he soon stood up again, and did not reseat himself. Little by little he began to look around him and discern the other guests. Seeing Gania, he smiled venomously and muttered to himself, “Look at that!”
“H’m! and he receives a good salary, I’m told. Well, what should you get but disgrace and misery if you took a wife you hated into your family (for I know very well that you do hate me)? No, no! I believe now that a man like you would murder anyone for money--sharpen a razor and come up behind his best friend and cut his throat like a sheep--I’ve read of such people. Everyone seems money-mad nowadays. No, no! I may be shameless, but you are far worse. I don’t say a word about that other--”Without the ceremony of knocking, Parfen entered a small apartment, furnished like a drawing-room, but with a polished mahogany partition dividing one half of it from what was probably a bedroom. In one corner of this room sat an old woman in an arm-chair, close to the stove. She did not look very old, and her face was a pleasant, round one; but she was white-haired and, as one could detect at the first glance, quite in her second childhood. She wore a black woollen dress, with a black handkerchief round her neck and shoulders, and a white cap with black ribbons. Her feet were raised on a footstool. Beside her sat another old woman, also dressed in mourning, and silently knitting a stocking; this was evidently a companion. They both looked as though they never broke the silence. The first old woman, so soon as she saw Rogojin and the prince, smiled and bowed courteously several times, in token of her gratification at their visit.
“I carried you in my arms as a baby,” he observed.
One of these incidents was a visit from Lebedeff. Lebedeff came rather early--before ten--but he was tipsy already. Though the prince was not in an observant condition, yet he could not avoid seeing that for at least three days--ever since General Ivolgin had left the house Lebedeff had been behaving very badly. He looked untidy and dirty at all times of the day, and it was said that he had begun to rage about in his own house, and that his temper was very bad. As soon as he arrived this morning, he began to hold forth, beating his breast and apparently blaming himself for something.
“And why did you tell us this?”
“Capital! And your handwriting?”
“But could anyone possibly eat sixty monks?” objected the scoffing listeners.
The prince muttered something, blushed, and jumped up; but Aglaya immediately sat down beside him; so he reseated himself.
Hippolyte suddenly burst into a fit of hysterical laughter, which turned into a choking cough.
“Oh, Aglaya--perhaps you cannot understand all this. Try to realize that in the perpetual admission of guilt she probably finds some dreadful unnatural satisfaction--as though she were revenging herself upon someone.“What is it?” asked the actress.
Keller, for instance, had run into the house three times of late, “just for a moment,” and each time with the air of desiring to offer his congratulations. Colia, too, in spite of his melancholy, had once or twice begun sentences in much the same strain of suggestion or insinuation.“They are quarrelling,” said the prince, and entered the drawing-room, just as matters in there had almost reached a crisis. Nina Alexandrovna had forgotten that she had “submitted to everything!” She was defending Varia. Ptitsin was taking her part, too. Not that Varia was afraid of standing up for herself. She was by no means that sort of a girl; but her brother was becoming ruder and more intolerable every moment. Her usual practice in such cases as the present was to say nothing, but stare at him, without taking her eyes off his face for an instant. This manoeuvre, as she well knew, could drive Gania distracted.“At the first glimpse of the rising sun, prince, I will go to bed. I told you I would, word of honour! You shall see!” cried Hippolyte. “You think I’m not capable of opening this packet, do you?” He glared defiantly round at the audience in general.
This must be thought out; it was clear that there had been no hallucination at the station then, either; something had actually happened to him, on both occasions; there was no doubt of it. But again a loathing for all mental exertion overmastered him; he would not think it out now, he would put it off and think of something else. He remembered that during his epileptic fits, or rather immediately preceding them, he had always experienced a moment or two when his whole heart, and mind, and body seemed to wake up to vigour and light; when he became filled with joy and hope, and all his anxieties seemed to be swept away for ever; these moments were but presentiments, as it were, of the one final second (it was never more than a second) in which the fit came upon him. That second, of course, was inexpressible. When his attack was over, and the prince reflected on his symptoms, he used to say to himself: “These moments, short as they are, when I feel such extreme consciousness of myself, and consequently more of life than at other times, are due only to the disease--to the sudden rupture of normal conditions. Therefore they are not really a higher kind of life, but a lower.” This reasoning, however, seemed to end in a paradox, and lead to the further consideration:--“What matter though it be only disease, an abnormal tension of the brain, if when I recall and analyze the moment, it seems to have been one of harmony and beauty in the highest degree--an instant of deepest sensation, overflowing with unbounded joy and rapture, ecstatic devotion, and completest life?” Vague though this sounds, it was perfectly comprehensible to Muishkin, though he knew that it was but a feeble expression of his sensations.X.
“And meanwhile I have never been able, in spite of my great desire to do so, to persuade myself that there is no future existence, and no Providence.“Let me add to this that in every idea emanating from genius, or even in every serious human idea--born in the human brain--there always remains something--some sediment--which cannot be expressed to others, though one wrote volumes and lectured upon it for five-and-thirty years. There is always a something, a remnant, which will never come out from your brain, but will remain there with you, and you alone, for ever and ever, and you will die, perhaps, without having imparted what may be the very essence of your idea to a single living soul.
“Do you know, prince,” he said, in quite a different tone, “I do not know you at all, yet, and after all, Elizabetha Prokofievna would very likely be pleased to have a peep at a man of her own name. Wait a little, if you don’t mind, and if you have time to spare?”
This was a gentleman of about thirty, tall, broad-shouldered, and red-haired; his face was red, too, and he possessed a pair of thick lips, a wide nose, small eyes, rather bloodshot, and with an ironical expression in them; as though he were perpetually winking at someone. His whole appearance gave one the idea of impudence; his dress was shabby.
“How? What kind of person is she?” cried the general, arrived at the limits of his patience. “Look here, Gania, don’t you go annoying her tonight. What you are to do is to be as agreeable towards her as ever you can. Well, what are you smiling at? You must understand, Gania, that I have no interest whatever in speaking like this. Whichever way the question is settled, it will be to my advantage. Nothing will move Totski from his resolution, so I run no risk. If there is anything I desire, you must know that it is your benefit only. Can’t you trust me? You are a sensible fellow, and I have been counting on you; for, in this matter, that, that--”