“‘If only they would allow me to explain all to his excellency! If I could but be permitted to tell my tale to him!” he cried, trembling with feverish agitation, and his eyes flashing with excitement. I repeated once more that I could not hold out much hope--that it would probably end in smoke, and if I did not turn up next morning they must make up their minds that there was no more to be done in the matter.
“Pure amiable curiosity,--I assure you--desire to do a service. That’s all. Now I’m entirely yours again, your slave; hang me if you like!”
“Thank goodness, we’ve just managed to finish it before you came in!” said Vera, joyfully.
Gavrila Ardalionovitch nodded to the prince and entered the room hastily.
“Is there anything you hold sacred?”
“The visit to Rogojin exhausted me terribly. Besides, I had felt ill since the morning; and by evening I was so weak that I took to my bed, and was in high fever at intervals, and even delirious. Colia sat with me until eleven o’clock.
All this news was received by the company with somewhat gloomy interest. Nastasia was silent, and would not say what she thought about it. Gania was equally uncommunicative. The general seemed the most anxious of all, and decidedly uneasy. The present of pearls which he had prepared with so much joy in the morning had been accepted but coldly, and Nastasia had smiled rather disagreeably as she took it from him. Ferdishenko was the only person present in good spirits.
At the door they met Gania coming in.
“He has told me already that he hates you,” murmured Aglaya, scarcely audibly.

“_What?_” cried Mrs. Epanchin, raising her hands in horror. “_What’s_ that?”

“Yes, he’s boasting like a drunkard,” added Nastasia, as though with the sole intention of goading him.
“It’s all the same; you ought to have run after Aglaya though the other was fainting.”
“Our man-servant?” exclaimed several voices at once.
“It was.”

“I opened the purse and counted it myself; right to a single rouble.”

“Marfa Borisovna! Marfa Borisovna! Here is... the Prince Muishkin! General Ivolgin and Prince Muishkin,” stammered the disconcerted old man.
Above his head some little bird sang out, of a sudden; he began to peer about for it among the leaves. Suddenly the bird darted out of the tree and away, and instantly he thought of the “fly buzzing about in the sun’s rays” that Hippolyte had talked of; how that it knew its place and was a participator in the universal life, while he alone was an “outcast.” This picture had impressed him at the time, and he meditated upon it now. An old, forgotten memory awoke in his brain, and suddenly burst into clearness and light. It was a recollection of Switzerland, during the first year of his cure, the very first months. At that time he had been pretty nearly an idiot still; he could not speak properly, and had difficulty in understanding when others spoke to him. He climbed the mountain-side, one sunny morning, and wandered long and aimlessly with a certain thought in his brain, which would not become clear. Above him was the blazing sky, below, the lake; all around was the horizon, clear and infinite. He looked out upon this, long and anxiously. He remembered how he had stretched out his arms towards the beautiful, boundless blue of the horizon, and wept, and wept. What had so tormented him was the idea that he was a stranger to all this, that he was outside this glorious festival.
“You don’t seem to want to tell us,” said Aglaya, with a mocking air.
It was now close on twelve o’clock.

Suddenly Hippolyte jumped up as though he had been shot.

“Get away!” he shouted frantically, observing that Daria Alexeyevna was approaching to protest against Nastasia’s conduct. “Get away, she’s mine, everything’s mine! She’s a queen, get away!”

“And Nastasia Philipovna?”

“Or would you like me to bid him, _bid him_, do you hear, _command him_, now, at once, to throw you up, and remain mine for ever? Shall I? He will stay, and he will marry me too, and you shall trot home all alone. Shall I?--shall I say the word?” she screamed like a madwoman, scarcely believing herself that she could really pronounce such wild words.

“Yes, I have,” and the prince stopped again.
“Constant?” said the prince, suddenly, and quite involuntarily.
There was absolute hatred in his eyes as he said this, but his look of fear and his trembling had not left him.

“Enough,” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna abruptly, trembling with anger, “we have had enough of this balderdash!”

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.
In another moment, of course, the police would have been on the spot, and it would have gone hard with Nastasia Philipovna had not unexpected aid appeared. “N-no! don’t marry him!” he whispered at last, drawing his breath with an effort.
“What? What _do_ you mean? What roi de Rome?”
“Can’t you even load a pistol?” “Give me a chair!” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, but she seized one for herself and sat down opposite to Hippolyte. “Colia, you must go home with him,” she commanded, “and tomorrow I will come my self.” “Oh, of course, yes; he would have come and wept out his secret on your bosom. Oh, you simpleton--you simpleton! Anyone can deceive you and take you in like a--like a,--aren’t you ashamed to trust him? Can’t you see that he humbugs you just as much as ever he pleases?”

“Come!”

“Yes, believe it or not! It’s all the same to me!”
VI.
“You, you! She has loved you ever since that day, her birthday! Only she thinks she cannot marry you, because it would be the ruin of you. ‘Everybody knows what sort of a woman I am,’ she says. She told me all this herself, to my very face! She’s afraid of disgracing and ruining you, she says, but it doesn’t matter about me. She can marry me all right! Notice how much consideration she shows for me!”
“I knew you would be at that hotel,” he continued, just as men sometimes commence a serious conversation by discussing any outside subject before leading up to the main point. “As I entered the passage it struck me that perhaps you were sitting and waiting for me, just as I was waiting for you. Have you been to the old lady at Ismailofsky barracks?”
Nastasia Philipovna gazed at him with a haughty, ironical expression of face; but when she glanced at Nina Alexandrovna and Varia, and from them to Gania, she changed her tone, all of a sudden.
“Well, hardly at all. I wish I were, if only for the sake of justifying myself in her eyes. Nina Alexandrovna has a grudge against me for, as she thinks, encouraging her husband in drinking; whereas in reality I not only do not encourage him, but I actually keep him out of harm’s way, and out of bad company. Besides, he’s my friend, prince, so that I shall not lose sight of him, again. Where he goes, I go. He’s quite given up visiting the captain’s widow, though sometimes he thinks sadly of her, especially in the morning, when he’s putting on his boots. I don’t know why it’s at that time. But he has no money, and it’s no use his going to see her without. Has he borrowed any money from you, prince?”

“I want to explain all to you--everything--everything! I know you think me Utopian, don’t you--an idealist? Oh, no! I’m not, indeed--my ideas are all so simple. You don’t believe me? You are smiling. Do you know, I am sometimes very wicked--for I lose my faith? This evening as I came here, I thought to myself, ‘What shall I talk about? How am I to begin, so that they may be able to understand partially, at all events?’ How afraid I was--dreadfully afraid! And yet, how _could_ I be afraid--was it not shameful of me? Was I afraid of finding a bottomless abyss of empty selfishness? Ah! that’s why I am so happy at this moment, because I find there is no bottomless abyss at all--but good, healthy material, full of life.

“Nastasia Philipovna!”

“_Après moi le déluge._

The latter had behaved modestly, but with dignity, on this occasion of his first meeting with the Epanchins since the rupture. Twice Mrs. Epanchin had deliberately examined him from head to foot; but he had stood fire without flinching. He was certainly much changed, as anyone could see who had not met him for some time; and this fact seemed to afford Aglaya a good deal of satisfaction.

“But what is the use of talking? I’m afraid all this is so commonplace that my confession will be taken for a schoolboy exercise--the work of some ambitious lad writing in the hope of his work ‘seeing the light’; or perhaps my readers will say that ‘I had perhaps something to say, but did not know how to express it.’
V.
“What! that I’ll cut her throat, you mean?” “He beat me, he thrashed me unmercifully!” replied Lebedeff vehemently. “He set a dog on me in Moscow, a bloodhound, a terrible beast that chased me all down the street.” “You have no right.... I am not simple,” stammered Burdovsky, much agitated.

“You remember,” she continued, “he wrote me a letter at that time; he says you know all about that letter and that you even read it. I understand all by means of this letter, and understand it correctly. He has since confirmed it all to me--what I now say to you, word for word. After receiving his letter I waited; I guessed that you would soon come back here, because you could never do without Petersburg; you are still too young and lovely for the provinces. However, this is not my own idea,” she added, blushing dreadfully; and from this moment the colour never left her cheeks to the end of her speech. “When I next saw the prince I began to feel terribly pained and hurt on his account. Do not laugh; if you laugh you are unworthy of understanding what I say.”

“On the contrary, I shall sit as far from it as I can. Thanks for the hint.”
“Oh, be calm--be calm! Get up!” he entreated, in despair.
“I assure you this business left me no peace for many a long year. Why did I do it? I was not in love with her myself; I’m afraid it was simply mischief--pure ‘cussedness’ on my part.
“No, sir, _not_ corkscrew. I am a general, not a bottle, sir. Make your choice, sir--me or him.”