“I don’t know; I--”

Nearly an hour passed thus, and when tea was over the visitors seemed to think that it was time to go. As they went out, the doctor and the old gentleman bade Muishkin a warm farewell, and all the rest took their leave with hearty protestations of good-will, dropping remarks to the effect that “it was no use worrying,” and that “perhaps all would turn out for the best,” and so on. Some of the younger intruders would have asked for champagne, but they were checked by the older ones. When all had departed, Keller leaned over to Lebedeff, and said:
“How do you know that? How do you know that she is not really in love with that--that rich cad--the man she eloped with?”

Lebedeff really had been busy for some little while; but, as usual, his plans had become too complex to succeed, through sheer excess of ardour. When he came to the prince--the very day before the wedding--to confess (for he always confessed to the persons against whom he intrigued, especially when the plan failed), he informed our hero that he himself was a born Talleyrand, but for some unknown reason had become simple Lebedeff. He then proceeded to explain his whole game to the prince, interesting the latter exceedingly.

Gania--confused, annoyed, furious--took up his portrait, and turned to the prince with a nasty smile on his face.
“I am assuredly noble-minded, and chivalrous to a degree!” said Keller, much softened. “But, do you know, this nobility of mind exists in a dream, if one may put it so? It never appears in practice or deed. Now, why is that? I can never understand.”
“Yes--yes--both! I do!” “On the table along with these things were a few old bits of black bread, and some tea in a pot. From under the bed there protruded an open portmanteau full of bundles of rags. In a word, the confusion and untidiness of the room were indescribable. “Well, I am not a great authority on literary questions, but I certainly do hold that Russian literature is not Russian, except perhaps Lomonosoff, Pouschkin and Gogol.”

A man, whose face it was difficult to see in the gloom, approached the bench, and sat down beside him. The prince peered into his face, and recognized the livid features of Rogojin.

“You know,” Adelaida continued, “you owe us a description of the Basle picture; but first I wish to hear how you fell in love. Don’t deny the fact, for you did, of course. Besides, you stop philosophizing when you are telling about anything.”

“Surely not you?” cried the prince.

“I’ve always said she was predisposed to it,” whispered Afanasy Ivanovitch slyly. “Perhaps it is a fever!”
When recalling all this afterwards the prince could not for the life of him understand how to reconcile the beautiful, sincere, pure nature of the girl with the irony of this jest. That it was a jest there was no doubt whatever; he knew that well enough, and had good reason, too, for his conviction; for during her recitation of the ballad Aglaya had deliberately changed the letters A. N. B. into N. P. B. He was quite sure she had not done this by accident, and that his ears had not deceived him. At all events her performance--which was a joke, of course, if rather a crude one,--was premeditated. They had evidently talked (and laughed) over the ‘poor knight’ for more than a month.
“Yes, I will if I may; and--can I take off my cloak”
“‘Maybe sad Love upon his setting smiles, And with vain hopes his farewell hour beguiles.’
When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third-class carriages found themselves opposite each other. Both were young fellows, both were rather poorly dressed, both had remarkable faces, and both were evidently anxious to start a conversation. If they had but known why, at this particular moment, they were both remarkable persons, they would undoubtedly have wondered at the strange chance which had set them down opposite to one another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway Company.
“It is the _heart_ which is the best teacher of refinement and dignity, not the dancing-master,” said her mother, sententiously, and departed upstairs to her own room, not so much as glancing at Aglaya.
“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.
“Certainly. Anything is possible when one is intoxicated, as you neatly express it, prince. But consider--if I, intoxicated or not, dropped an object out of my pocket on to the ground, that object ought to remain on the ground. Where is the object, then?”
“I assure you,” said the general, “that exactly the same thing happened to myself!”
“Oh yes, I do; but it is so unnecessary. I mean, I did not think you need make such a proposition,” said the prince, looking confused.
“She gave it me just now, when I called in to congratulate her. I asked her for it long ago. I don’t know whether she meant it for a hint that I had come empty-handed, without a present for her birthday, or what,” added Gania, with an unpleasant smile.

After moistening his lips with the tea which Vera Lebedeff brought him, Hippolyte set the cup down on the table, and glanced round. He seemed confused and almost at a loss.

He had spoken in a whisper all the way. In spite of his apparent outward composure, he was evidently in a state of great mental agitation. Arrived in a large salon, next to the study, he went to the window and cautiously beckoned the prince up to him.

“What do you say, sir?” growled the general, taking a step towards him.

“Alexandra Michailovna out, too! How disappointing! Would you believe it, I am always so unfortunate! May I most respectfully ask you to present my compliments to Alexandra Michailovna, and remind her... tell her, that with my whole heart I wish for her what she wished for herself on Thursday evening, while she was listening to Chopin’s Ballade. She will remember. I wish it with all sincerity. General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin!”
“My goodness, what utter twaddle, and what may all this nonsense have signified, pray? If it had any meaning at all!” said Mrs. Epanchin, cuttingly, after having listened with great attention.
However, I hope I shall not interfere with the proper sequence of my narrative too much, if I diverge for a moment at this point, in order to explain the mutual relations between General Epanchin’s family and others acting a part in this history, at the time when we take up the thread of their destiny. I have already stated that the general, though he was a man of lowly origin, and of poor education, was, for all that, an experienced and talented husband and father. Among other things, he considered it undesirable to hurry his daughters to the matrimonial altar and to worry them too much with assurances of his paternal wishes for their happiness, as is the custom among parents of many grown-up daughters. He even succeeded in ranging his wife on his side on this question, though he found the feat very difficult to accomplish, because unnatural; but the general’s arguments were conclusive, and founded upon obvious facts. The general considered that the girls’ taste and good sense should be allowed to develop and mature deliberately, and that the parents’ duty should merely be to keep watch, in order that no strange or undesirable choice be made; but that the selection once effected, both father and mother were bound from that moment to enter heart and soul into the cause, and to see that the matter progressed without hindrance until the altar should be happily reached.
“Then swear by it that you did not come here to marry _her!_”

“No, they are not Nihilists,” explained Lebedeff, who seemed much excited. “This is another lot--a special group. According to my nephew they are more advanced even than the Nihilists. You are quite wrong, excellency, if you think that your presence will intimidate them; nothing intimidates them. Educated men, learned men even, are to be found among Nihilists; these go further, in that they are men of action. The movement is, properly speaking, a derivative from Nihilism--though they are only known indirectly, and by hearsay, for they never advertise their doings in the papers. They go straight to the point. For them, it is not a question of showing that Pushkin is stupid, or that Russia must be torn in pieces. No; but if they have a great desire for anything, they believe they have a right to get it even at the cost of the lives, say, of eight persons. They are checked by no obstacles. In fact, prince, I should not advise you...”

“Aglaya, make a note of ‘Pafnute,’ or we shall forget him. H’m! and where is this signature?”
“May I ask your reason for such an insulting supposition, sir?” said Hippolyte, trembling with rage.
“Especially as he asked himself,” said Ferdishenko.
“Lef Nicolaievitch,” said Rogojin, after a pause, during which the two walked along a little further, “I have long wished to ask you, do you believe in God?”
“Thanks, prince, many thanks, eccentric friend of the family, for the pleasant evening you have provided for us. I am sure you are quite pleased that you have managed to mix us up with your extraordinary affairs. It is quite enough, dear family friend; thank you for giving us an opportunity of getting to know you so well.”
The general and his wife were aware of this agreement, and, therefore, when Totski suggested himself for one of the sisters, the parents made no doubt that one of the two elder girls would probably accept the offer, since Totski would certainly make no difficulty as to dowry. The general valued the proposal very highly. He knew life, and realized what such an offer was worth.
“Why? Do you know anything about it? Look here,” continued the general, more agitated than ever, and trembling with excitement, “maybe I have been letting the cat out of the bag too freely with you, if so, it is because you are--that sort of man, you know! Perhaps you have some special information?”
The prince was silent. He sat straight up in his chair and gazed fervently at Ivan Petrovitch. “Hippolyte, stop, please! It’s so dreadfully undignified,” said Varia.
“I really think I must have seen him somewhere!” she murmured seriously enough.
“Well, how much longer is this going to last, Ivan Fedorovitch? What do you think? Shall I soon be delivered from these odious youths?”

“Whoever _can_ suffer is worthy to suffer, I should think. Aglaya Ivanovna wished to see you, after she had read your confession, but--”

“He actually seems to boast of it!” she cried.