A row of orange and lemon trees and jasmines, planted in green tubs, stood on the fairly wide terrace. According to Lebedeff, these trees gave the house a most delightful aspect. Some were there when he bought it, and he was so charmed with the effect that he promptly added to their number. When the tubs containing these plants arrived at the villa and were set in their places, Lebedeff kept running into the street to enjoy the view of the house, and every time he did so the rent to be demanded from the future tenant went up with a bound.
“But what on earth did she mean? I assure you it is a real riddle to me--to me, and to others, too!” Prince S. seemed to be under the influence of sincere astonishment.
“Why don’t you tell him about them?” said Vera impatiently to her father. “They will come in, whether you announce them or not, and they are beginning to make a row. Lef Nicolaievitch,”--she addressed herself to the prince--“four men are here asking for you. They have waited some time, and are beginning to make a fuss, and papa will not bring them in.”
“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.“Yes, violent. I can give you a proof of it. A few days ago she tried to pull my hair because I said something that annoyed her. I tried to soothe her by reading the Apocalypse aloud.”
Rogojin suffered from brain fever for two months. When he recovered from the attack he was at once brought up on trial for murder.
So at the risk of missing General Epanchin altogether, and thus postponing his visit to Pavlofsk for a day, at least, the prince decided to go and look for the house he desired to find.
He soon heard that a messenger from the Epanchins’ had already been to inquire after him. At half-past eleven another arrived; and this pleased him.
“I really think I must have seen him somewhere!” she murmured seriously enough.
“He burned his hand!”
“That is a thing I cannot undertake to explain,” replied the prince. Gania looked at him with angry contempt.
“What on earth is she afraid of, then? Tell me plainly, without any more beating about the bush,” said the prince, exasperated by the other’s mysterious grimaces.
“Brought whom?” cried Muishkin.
“Yes, that’s the man!” said another voice.
“However--admit the fact! Admit that without such perpetual devouring of one another the world cannot continue to exist, or could never have been organized--I am ever ready to confess that I cannot understand why this is so--but I’ll tell you what I _do_ know, for certain. If I have once been given to understand and realize that I _am_--what does it matter to me that the world is organized on a system full of errors and that otherwise it cannot be organized at all? Who will or can judge me after this? Say what you like--the thing is impossible and unjust!
This was the note:So saying she gazed into his eyes, longing to see whether she could make any guess as to the explanation of his motive in coming to her house. The prince would very likely have made some reply to her kind words, but he was so dazzled by her appearance that he could not speak.“What is the good of repentance like that? It is the same exactly as mine yesterday, when I said, ‘I am base, I am base,’--words, and nothing more!”
“I was only surprised that Mr. Burdovsky should have--however, this is what I have to say. Since you had already given the matter publicity, why did you object just now, when I began to speak of it to my friends?”
“Of course, of course! How was it?”
“How dared they, how _dared_ they write that hateful anonymous letter informing me that Aglaya is in communication with Nastasia Philipovna?” she thought, as she dragged the prince along towards her own house, and again when she sat him down at the round table where the family was already assembled. “How dared they so much as _think_ of such a thing? I should _die_ with shame if I thought there was a particle of truth in it, or if I were to show the letter to Aglaya herself! Who dares play these jokes upon _us_, the Epanchins? _Why_ didn’t we go to the Yelagin instead of coming down here? I _told_ you we had better go to the Yelagin this summer, Ivan Fedorovitch. It’s all your fault. I dare say it was that Varia who sent the letter. It’s all Ivan Fedorovitch. _That_ woman is doing it all for him, I know she is, to show she can make a fool of him now just as she did when he used to give her pearls.
Before entering he stopped on the threshold, raised his hand as if making a solemn vow, and cried:
“Oh! that’s it, is it!” he yelled. “She throws my letters out of the window, does she! Oh! and she does not condescend to bargain, while I _do_, eh? We shall see, we shall see! I shall pay her out for this.”
“I thought someone led me by the hand and showed me, by the light of a candle, a huge, loathsome insect, which he assured me was that very force, that very almighty, dumb, irresistible Power, and laughed at the indignation with which I received this information. In my room they always light the little lamp before my icon for the night; it gives a feeble flicker of light, but it is strong enough to see by dimly, and if you sit just under it you can even read by it. I think it was about twelve or a little past that night. I had not slept a wink, and was lying with my eyes wide open, when suddenly the door opened, and in came Rogojin.Gavrila Ardalionovitch was in high spirits that evening, and it seemed to the prince that his gaiety was mingled with triumph. Of course he was only joking with Lebedeff, meaning to egg him on, but he grew excited himself at the same time.
“They say that they have come on business, and they are the kind of men, who, if you do not see them here, will follow you about the street. It would be better to receive them, and then you will get rid of them. Gavrila Ardalionovitch and Ptitsin are both there, trying to make them hear reason.”
“_What?_” cried Mrs. Epanchin, raising her hands in horror. “_What’s_ that?”
“I see you had something to do with it.”An ominous expression passed over Nastasia Philipovna’s face, of a sudden. It became obstinate-looking, hard, and full of hatred; but she did not take her eyes off her visitors for a moment.
At length, in the last letter of all, he found:
“Thank you,” he said gently. “Sit opposite to me, and let us talk. We must have a talk now, Lizabetha Prokofievna; I am very anxious for it.” He smiled at her once more. “Remember that today, for the last time, I am out in the air, and in the company of my fellow-men, and that in a fortnight I shall certainly be no longer in this world. So, in a way, this is my farewell to nature and to men. I am not very sentimental, but do you know, I am quite glad that all this has happened at Pavlofsk, where at least one can see a green tree.”
“H’m! impossible is rather a strong word,” said Ivan Petrovitch. “You must allow, my dear prince... However, of course you value the memory of the deceased so very highly; and he certainly was the kindest of men; to which fact, by the way, I ascribe, more than to anything else, the success of the abbot in influencing his religious convictions. But you may ask me, if you please, how much trouble and worry I, personally, had over that business, and especially with this same Gurot! Would you believe it,” he continued, addressing the dignitary, “they actually tried to put in a claim under the deceased’s will, and I had to resort to the very strongest measures in order to bring them to their senses? I assure you they knew their cue, did these gentlemen--wonderful! Thank goodness all this was in Moscow, and I got the Court, you know, to help me, and we soon brought them to their senses.”
“What! didn’t I tell you? Ha, ha, ha! I thought I had. Why, I received a letter, you know, to be handed over--”
“That his arrival at this time of night struck me as more or less strange may possibly be the case; but I remember I was by no means amazed at it. On the contrary, though I had not actually told him my thought in the morning, yet I know he understood it; and this thought was of such a character that it would not be anything very remarkable, if one were to come for further talk about it at any hour of night, however late.
The prince’s tone was so natural and respectful that the general could not possibly suspect him of any insincerity.
“This--this is going beyond all limits!” said Lizabetha Prokofievna, suddenly alarmed.“Father, your dinner is ready,” said Varvara at this point, putting her head in at the door.“Very good. That would increase our income nicely. Have you any intention of being a Kammer-junker?”“Do you admire that sort of woman, prince?” he asked, looking intently at him. He seemed to have some special object in the question.