Evgenie Pavlovitch fell back a step in astonishment. For one moment it was all he could do to restrain himself from bursting out laughing; but, looking closer, he observed that the prince did not seem to be quite himself; at all events, he was in a very curious state.

Recollecting himself, however, and seeing at a glance the sort of people he had to deal with, the officer turned his back on both his opponents, and courteously, but concealing his face with his handkerchief, approached the prince, who was now rising from the chair into which he had fallen.
“Parfen! I won’t believe it.”

“She came up to me and said, ‘Do you know who the Pope of Rome is?’ ‘I’ve heard of him,’ I said. ‘I suppose you’ve read the Universal History, Parfen Semeonovitch, haven’t you?’ she asked. ‘I’ve learned nothing at all,’ I said. ‘Then I’ll lend it to you to read. You must know there was a Roman Pope once, and he was very angry with a certain Emperor; so the Emperor came and neither ate nor drank, but knelt before the Pope’s palace till he should be forgiven. And what sort of vows do you think that Emperor was making during all those days on his knees? Stop, I’ll read it to you!’ Then she read me a lot of verses, where it said that the Emperor spent all the time vowing vengeance against the Pope. ‘You don’t mean to say you don’t approve of the poem, Parfen Semeonovitch,’ she says. ‘All you have read out is perfectly true,’ say I. ‘Aha!’ says she, ‘you admit it’s true, do you? And you are making vows to yourself that if I marry you, you will remind me of all this, and take it out of me.’ ‘I don’t know,’ I say, ‘perhaps I was thinking like that, and perhaps I was not. I’m not thinking of anything just now.’ ‘What are your thoughts, then?’ ‘I’m thinking that when you rise from your chair and go past me, I watch you, and follow you with my eyes; if your dress does but rustle, my heart sinks; if you leave the room, I remember every little word and action, and what your voice sounded like, and what you said. I thought of nothing all last night, but sat here listening to your sleeping breath, and heard you move a little, twice.’ ‘And as for your attack upon me,’ she says, ‘I suppose you never once thought of _that?_’ ‘Perhaps I did think of it, and perhaps not,’ I say. ‘And what if I don’t either forgive you or marry, you?’ ‘I tell you I shall go and drown myself.’ ‘H’m!’ she said, and then relapsed into silence. Then she got angry, and went out. ‘I suppose you’d murder me before you drowned yourself, though!’ she cried as she left the room.

“It is quite true; we had agreed upon that point,” said Lebedeff’s nephew, in confirmation.

“But as if that is enough!” cried Evgenie, indignantly. “As if it is enough simply to say: ‘I know I am very guilty!’ You are to blame, and yet you persevere in evil-doing. Where was your heart, I should like to know, your _christian heart_, all that time? Did she look as though she were suffering less, at that moment? You saw her face--was she suffering less than the other woman? How could you see her suffering and allow it to continue? How could you?”
“Of course he never existed!” Gania interrupted.

Here Hippolyte suddenly, and most unexpectedly, pulled out of his breast-pocket a large sealed paper. This imposing-looking document he placed upon the table before him.

“Of course no one knows anything about her but you,” muttered the young man in a would-be jeering tone.

“Yes, it’s off our hands--off _yours_, I should say.”

“The project was abandoned; Davoust shrugged his shoulders and went out, whispering to himself--‘_Bah, il devient superstitieux!_’ Next morning the order to retreat was given.”

“Impossible!” cried the general, starting up as if he had been shot.

“Oh yes, but that is not enough.”

About fifty yards from the hotel, at the first cross-road, as he passed through the crowd of foot-passengers sauntering along, someone touched his shoulder, and said in a whisper into his ear:

“Oh, I dare say one can; but you had better be calm and lie down, Hippolyte--that’s much more important.”

“It seems to me that all this has nothing to do with your affairs,” remarked the prince.
“It is a law, doubtless, but a law neither more nor less normal than that of destruction, even self-destruction. Is it possible that the whole normal law of humanity is contained in this sentiment of self-preservation?”“One word from her,” he said, “one word from her, and I may yet be free.”

By this time, to judge from appearances, poor Prince Muishkin had been quite forgotten in St. Petersburg. If he had appeared suddenly among his acquaintances, he would have been received as one from the skies; but we must just glance at one more fact before we conclude this preface.

But now his eyes had become so far accustomed to the darkness that he could distinguish the whole of the bed. Someone was asleep upon it--in an absolutely motionless sleep. Not the slightest movement was perceptible, not the faintest breathing could be heard. The sleeper was covered with a white sheet; the outline of the limbs was hardly distinguishable. He could only just make out that a human being lay outstretched there.

“Seriously? Then are you a coward?”

“I will explain my idea by a practical example, to make it clearer. You know the sort of man he is. At present his only failing is that he is crazy about that captain’s widow, and he cannot go to her without money, and I mean to catch him at her house today--for his own good; but supposing it was not only the widow, but that he had committed a real crime, or at least some very dishonourable action (of which he is, of course, incapable), I repeat that even in that case, if he were treated with what I may call generous tenderness, 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 burst into tears, and make a clean breast of the matter; especially if managed with tact, and if you and his family watched his every step, so to speak. Oh, my dear prince,” Lebedeff added most emphatically, “I do not positively assert that he has... I am ready, as the saying is, to shed my last drop of blood for him this instant; but you will admit that debauchery, drunkenness, and the captain’s widow, all these together may lead him very far.”

“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.”

“Ah, you want to arouse our curiosity!” said Aglaya. “And how terribly solemn you are about it!”

He himself, when relating the circumstances of the general’s illness to Lizabetha Prokofievna, “spoke beautifully,” as Aglaya’s sisters declared afterwards--“modestly, quietly, without gestures or too many words, and with great dignity.” He had entered the room with propriety and grace, and he was perfectly dressed; he not only did not “fall down on the slippery floor,” as he had expressed it, but evidently made a very favourable impression upon the assembled guests.

Suddenly, a quarter of an hour after the prince’s departure, Aglaya had rushed out of her room in such a hurry that she had not even wiped her eyes, which were full of tears. She came back because Colia had brought a hedgehog. Everybody came in to see the hedgehog. In answer to their questions Colia explained that the hedgehog was not his, and that he had left another boy, Kostia Lebedeff, waiting for him outside. Kostia was too shy to come in, because he was carrying a hatchet; they had bought the hedgehog and the hatchet from a peasant whom they had met on the road. He had offered to sell them the hedgehog, and they had paid fifty copecks for it; and the hatchet had so taken their fancy that they had made up their minds to buy it of their own accord. On hearing this, Aglaya urged Colia to sell her the hedgehog; she even called him “dear Colia,” in trying to coax him. He refused for a long time, but at last he could hold out no more, and went to fetch Kostia Lebedeff. The latter appeared, carrying his hatchet, and covered with confusion. Then it came out that the hedgehog was not theirs, but the property of a schoolmate, one Petroff, who had given them some money to buy Schlosser’s History for him, from another schoolfellow who at that moment was driven to raising money by the sale of his books. Colia and Kostia were about to make this purchase for their friend when chance brought the hedgehog to their notice, and they had succumbed to the temptation of buying it. They were now taking Petroff the hedgehog and hatchet which they had bought with his money, instead of Schlosser’s History. But Aglaya so entreated them that at last they consented to sell her the hedgehog. As soon as she had got possession of it, she put it in a wicker basket with Colia’s help, and covered it with a napkin. Then she said to Colia: “Go and take this hedgehog to the prince from me, and ask him to accept it as a token of my profound respect.” Colia joyfully promised to do the errand, but he demanded explanations. “What does the hedgehog mean? What is the meaning of such a present?” Aglaya replied that it was none of his business. “I am sure that there is some allegory about it,” Colia persisted. Aglaya grew angry, and called him “a silly boy.” “If I did not respect all women in your person,” replied Colia, “and if my own principles would permit it, I would soon prove to you, that I know how to answer such an insult!” But, in the end, Colia went off with the hedgehog in great delight, followed by Kostia Lebedeff. Aglaya’s annoyance was soon over, and seeing that Colia was swinging the hedgehog’s basket violently to and fro, she called out to him from the verandah, as if they had never quarrelled: “Colia, dear, please take care not to drop him!” Colia appeared to have no grudge against her, either, for he stopped, and answered most cordially: “No, I will not drop him! Don’t be afraid, Aglaya Ivanovna!” After which he went on his way. Aglaya burst out laughing and ran up to her room, highly delighted. Her good spirits lasted the whole day.

She did not finish her indefinite sentence; she restrained herself in a moment; but it was enough.

“The prince will forgive me!” said Lebedeff with emotional conviction.

“The man-servant, while I was waiting to see the general.”

“I am very glad, too, because she is often laughed at by people. But listen to the chief point. I have long thought over the matter, and at last I have chosen you. I don’t wish people to laugh at me; I don’t wish people to think me a ‘little fool.’ I don’t want to be chaffed. I felt all this of a sudden, and I refused Evgenie Pavlovitch flatly, because I am not going to be forever thrown at people’s heads to be married. I want--I want--well, I’ll tell you, I wish to run away from home, and I have chosen you to help me.”

Lebedeff said this so seriously that the prince quite lost his temper with him.“At this very moment, as though divining my thoughts, Rogojin raised his head from his arm and began to part his lips as though he were going to laugh--but he continued to stare at me as persistently as before.A new fancy! The prince reflected, and then mounted the stairs once more. He pulled out the cross without taking it off his neck.

“Be quiet, you can talk afterwards! What was the letter about? Why are you blushing?”

“Don’t remind me of what I have done or said. Don’t! I am very much ashamed of myself, I--”
“This is Pushkin,” replied the girl. “Papa told me to offer it to you.”Gavrila Ardalionovitch meanwhile seemed to be trying to recall something.“You don’t believe it?” said the invalid, with a nervous laugh. “I don’t wonder, but the prince will have no difficulty in believing it; he will not be at all surprised.”“Oh, come--nonsense!” cried Gania; “if you did not go shaming us all over the town, things might be better for all parties.”
Gania was silent for a minute or two, as though thinking out some problem. Suddenly he cried:

Alexandra, who had seemed to wish to put in her word when the prince began, now sat silent, as though some sudden thought had caused her to change her mind about speaking.

“Katia-Pasha! Bring him some water!” cried Nastasia Philipovna. Then she took the tongs and fished out the packet.