“Yes, your father kindly recommended me to him.”

These exclamations but feebly expressed the profound bewilderment into which the prince’s words had plunged Burdovsky’s companions.

He was extremely excited; his lips trembled, and the resentment of an embittered soul was in his voice. But he spoke so indistinctly that hardly a dozen words could be gathered.

Arrived home again, the prince sent for Vera Lebedeff and told her as much as was necessary, in order to relieve her mind, for she had been in a dreadful state of anxiety since she had missed the letter. She heard with horror that her father had taken it. Muishkin learned from her that she had on several occasions performed secret missions both for Aglaya and for Rogojin, without, however, having had the slightest idea that in so doing she might injure the prince in any way.

“I don’t understand you. How could he have me in view, and not be aware of it himself? And yet, I don’t know--perhaps I do. Do you know I have intended to poison myself at least thirty times--ever since I was thirteen or so--and to write to my parents before I did it? I used to think how nice it would be to lie in my coffin, and have them all weeping over me and saying it was all their fault for being so cruel, and all that--what are you smiling at?” she added, knitting her brow. “What do _you_ think of when you go mooning about alone? I suppose you imagine yourself a field-marshal, and think you have conquered Napoleon?”

“Papa, you are wanted!” cried Colia.
“Why so? why so? Because I envy you, eh? You always think that, I know. But do you know why I am saying all this? Look here! I must have some more champagne--pour me out some, Keller, will you?”
“An old peasant woman opened the door; she was busy lighting the ‘samovar’ in a tiny kitchen. She listened silently to my questions, did not understand a word, of course, and opened another door leading into a little bit of a room, low and scarcely furnished at all, but with a large, wide bed in it, hung with curtains. On this bed lay one Terentich, as the woman called him, drunk, it appeared to me. On the table was an end of candle in an iron candlestick, and a half-bottle of vodka, nearly finished. Terentich muttered something to me, and signed towards the next room. The old woman had disappeared, so there was nothing for me to do but to open the door indicated. I did so, and entered the next room.
The prince had, of course, at once received him, and had plunged into a conversation about Hippolyte. He had given the doctor an account of Hippolyte’s attempted suicide; and had proceeded thereafter to talk of his own malady,--of Switzerland, of Schneider, and so on; and so deeply was the old man interested by the prince’s conversation and his description of Schneider’s system, that he sat on for two hours.
“The night before the ball I met Peter, looking radiant. ‘What is it?’ I ask. ‘I’ve found them, Eureka!’ ‘No! where, where?’ ‘At Ekshaisk (a little town fifteen miles off) there’s a rich old merchant, who keeps a lot of canaries, has no children, and he and his wife are devoted to flowers. He’s got some camellias.’ ‘And what if he won’t let you have them?’ ‘I’ll go on my knees and implore till I get them. I won’t go away.’ ‘When shall you start?’ ‘Tomorrow morning at five o’clock.’ ‘Go on,’ I said, ‘and good luck to you.’

“What on earth do you mean? Oh I if only I knew where Colia was at this moment!” cried the prince, standing up, as if to go.

When Keller seized the would-be suicide, the latter fell forward into his arms, probably actually believing that he was shot. Keller had hold of the pistol now. Hippolyte was immediately placed in a chair, while the whole company thronged around excitedly, talking and asking each other questions. Every one of them had heard the snap of the trigger, and yet they saw a live and apparently unharmed man before them.
As most of those present were aware that this evening a certain very important decision was to be taken, these words of Nastasia Philipovna’s appeared to be fraught with much hidden interest. The general and Totski exchanged looks; Gania fidgeted convulsively in his chair.
“Then you were there yesterday?”
“I must admit, prince, I was a little put out to see you up and about like this--I expected to find you in bed; but I give you my word, I was only annoyed for an instant, before I collected my thoughts properly. I am always wiser on second thoughts, and I dare say you are the same. I assure you I am as glad to see you well as though you were my own son,--yes, and more; and if you don’t believe me the more shame to you, and it’s not my fault. But that spiteful boy delights in playing all sorts of tricks. You are his patron, it seems. Well, I warn you that one fine morning I shall deprive myself of the pleasure of his further acquaintance.”

“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.”

“Is such a thing possible?”

But again, amidst the incontrovertible facts just recorded, one more, equally significant, rose up to confront the family; and this was, that the eldest daughter, Alexandra, had imperceptibly arrived at her twenty-fifth birthday. Almost at the same moment, Afanasy Ivanovitch Totski, a man of immense wealth, high connections, and good standing, announced his intention of marrying. Afanasy Ivanovitch was a gentleman of fifty-five years of age, artistically gifted, and of most refined tastes. He wished to marry well, and, moreover, he was a keen admirer and judge of beauty.

“There he is!” she shrieked again, pointing to the prince and addressing Aglaya. “There he is! and if he does not approach me at once and take _me_ and throw you over, then have him for your own--I give him up to you! I don’t want him!”On meeting Colia the prince determined to accompany the general, though he made up his mind to stay as short a time as possible. He wanted Colia, but firmly resolved to leave the general behind. He could not forgive himself for being so simple as to imagine that Ivolgin would be of any use. The three climbed up the long staircase until they reached the fourth floor where Madame Terentieff lived.
“Does she know about father, do you think--or not?”
Hippolyte went out.
We may add that to a business man like General Epanchin the present position of affairs was most unsatisfactory. He hated the uncertainty in which they had been, perforce, left. However, he decided to say no more about it, and merely to look on, and take his time and tune from Lizabetha Prokofievna.
“But he interested me too much, and all that day I was under the influence of strange thoughts connected with him, and I determined to return his visit the next day.

“What have you got there?” asked the prince, with some anxiety.

VIII.
“Your bundle has some importance, however,” continued the clerk, when they had laughed their fill (it was observable that the subject of their mirth joined in the laughter when he saw them laughing); “for though I dare say it is not stuffed full of friedrichs d’or and louis d’or--judge from your costume and gaiters--still--if you can add to your possessions such a valuable property as a relation like Mrs. General Epanchin, then your bundle becomes a significant object at once. That is, of course, if you really are a relative of Mrs. Epanchin’s, and have not made a little error through--well, absence of mind, which is very common to human beings; or, say--through a too luxuriant fancy?”

“Wasn’t she joking? She was speaking sarcastically!”

“Surely not you?” cried the prince.

“‘I’ll do it--I’ll do it, of course!’ he said. ‘I shall attack my uncle about it tomorrow morning, and I’m very glad you told me the story. But how was it that you thought of coming to me about it, Terentieff?’

The prince, when he heard the story afterwards, felt that he had never yet come across so wonderful a humorist, or such remarkable brilliancy as was shown by this man; and yet if he had only known it, this story was the oldest, stalest, and most worn-out yarn, and every drawing-room in town was sick to death of it. It was only in the innocent Epanchin household that it passed for a new and brilliant tale--as a sudden and striking reminiscence of a splendid and talented man.

On the day before the wedding, the prince left Nastasia in a state of great animation. Her wedding-dress and all sorts of finery had just arrived from town. Muishkin had not imagined that she would be so excited over it, but he praised everything, and his praise rendered her doubly happy.

“Just wait a while, my boy!” said she; “don’t be too certain of your triumph.” And she sat down heavily, in the arm-chair pushed forward by the prince.

The same thing happened in the park and in the street, wherever he went. He was pointed out when he drove by, and he often overheard the name of Nastasia Philipovna coupled with his own as he passed. People looked out for her at the funeral, too, but she was not there; and another conspicuous absentee was the captain’s widow, whom Lebedeff had prevented from coming.

“Then you must see that he is not responsible. What does it matter to you now, in any case? What are you hoping for still? If you _have_ a hope left, it is that your suffering air may soften her heart towards you.”“Prince, prince!” he cried, seizing hold of his arm, “recollect yourself! Drop her, prince! You see what sort of a woman she is. I am speaking to you like a father.”

“Yes, especially this kind.”

“Aglaya, make a note of ‘Pafnute,’ or we shall forget him. H’m! and where is this signature?”

The prince was haunted all that day by the face of Lebedeff’s nephew whom he had seen for the first time that morning, just as one is haunted at times by some persistent musical refrain. By a curious association of ideas, the young man always appeared as the murderer of whom Lebedeff had spoken when introducing him to Muishkin. Yes, he had read something about the murder, and that quite recently. Since he came to Russia, he had heard many stories of this kind, and was interested in them. His conversation with the waiter, an hour ago, chanced to be on the subject of this murder of the Zemarins, and the latter had agreed with him about it. He thought of the waiter again, and decided that he was no fool, but a steady, intelligent man: though, said he to himself, “God knows what he may really be; in a country with which one is unfamiliar it is difficult to understand the people one meets.” He was beginning to have a passionate faith in the Russian soul, however, and what discoveries he had made in the last six months, what unexpected discoveries! But every soul is a mystery, and depths of mystery lie in the soul of a Russian. He had been intimate with Rogojin, for example, and a brotherly friendship had sprung up between them--yet did he really know him? What chaos and ugliness fills the world at times! What a self-satisfied rascal is that nephew of Lebedeff’s! “But what am I thinking,” continued the prince to himself. “Can he really have committed that crime? Did he kill those six persons? I seem to be confusing things... how strange it all is.... My head goes round... And Lebedeff’s daughter--how sympathetic and charming her face was as she held the child in her arms! What an innocent look and child-like laugh she had! It is curious that I had forgotten her until now. I expect Lebedeff adores her--and I really believe, when I think of it, that as sure as two and two make four, he is fond of that nephew, too!”

At this moment Lebedeff appeared, having just arrived from Petersburg. He frowned when he saw the twenty-five rouble note in Keller’s hand, but the latter, having got the money, went away at once. Lebedeff began to abuse him.
“Make their acquaintance?” asked the man, in amazement, and with redoubled suspicion. “Then why did you say you had business with the general?”
At the moment when he lost Aglaya, and after the scene with Nastasia, he had felt so low in his own eyes that he actually brought the money back to the prince. Of this returning of the money given to him by a madwoman who had received it from a madman, he had often repented since--though he never ceased to be proud of his action. During the short time that Muishkin remained in Petersburg Gania had had time to come to hate him for his sympathy, though the prince told him that it was “not everyone who would have acted so nobly” as to return the money. He had long pondered, too, over his relations with Aglaya, and had persuaded himself that with such a strange, childish, innocent character as hers, things might have ended very differently. Remorse then seized him; he threw up his post, and buried himself in self-torment and reproach.
It was said that Elizabetha Prokofievna and her daughters had there and then denounced the prince in the strongest terms, and had refused any further acquaintance and friendship with him; their rage and denunciations being redoubled when Varia Ardalionovna suddenly arrived and stated that Aglaya had been at her house in a terrible state of mind for the last hour, and that she refused to come home.

“Prince, my dear fellow, do remember what you are about,” said the general, approaching Muishkin, and pulling him by the coat sleeve.

He paused again, he was trying to make up his mind to something, and was turning the matter over. The prince waited quietly. Once more Gania fixed him with intent and questioning eyes.

He lifted the curtain, paused--and turned to the prince. “Go in,” he said, motioning him to pass behind the curtain. Muishkin went in.When they reached the stairs again he added:
But when she had read it herself once more, it suddenly struck her that surely that conceited boy, Colia, had not been the one chosen correspondent of the prince all this while. She determined to ask him, and did so with an exaggerated show of carelessness. He informed her haughtily that though he had given the prince his permanent address when the latter left town, and had offered his services, the prince had never before given him any commission to perform, nor had he written until the following lines arrived, with Aglaya’s letter. Aglaya took the note, and read it.
“I both believe it and explain it. I am but a poor creature, a beggar, an atom in the scale of humanity. Who has the least respect for Lebedeff? He is a target for all the world, the butt of any fool who chooses to kick him. But in interpreting revelation I am the equal of anyone, great as he may be! Such is the power of the mind and the spirit. I have made a lordly personage tremble, as he sat in his armchair... only by talking to him of things concerning the spirit. Two years ago, on Easter Eve, His Excellency Nil Alexeyovitch, whose subordinate I was then, wished to hear what I had to say, and sent a message by Peter Zakkaritch to ask me to go to his private room. ‘They tell me you expound the prophecies relating to Antichrist,’ said he, when we were alone. ‘Is that so?’ ‘Yes,’ I answered unhesitatingly, and I began to give some comments on the Apostle’s allegorical vision. At first he smiled, but when we reached the numerical computations and correspondences, he trembled, and turned pale. Then he begged me to close the book, and sent me away, promising to put my name on the reward list. That took place as I said on the eve of Easter, and eight days later his soul returned to God.”

“My God! Who would ever have believed this?” cried Mrs. Epanchin, wringing her hands.

“Of course! And it would be a disgrace to marry so, eh?”
The prince took his banknote out and showed it to Ferdishenko. The latter unfolded it and looked at it; then he turned it round and examined the other side; then he held it up to the light.
The prince hesitated. He perceived that he had said too much now.
The general was in ecstasies, for the prince’s remarks, made, as they evidently were, in all seriousness and simplicity, quite dissipated the last relics of his suspicion.

“Indirectly, quite indirectly! I am speaking the truth--I am indeed! I merely told a certain person that I had people in my house, and that such and such personages might be found among them.”