The visit he was about to pay was, in some respects, a risky one. He was in two minds about it, but knowing that the house was in the Gorohovaya, not far from the Sadovaya, he determined to go in that direction, and to try to make up his mind on the way.
“Happy! you can be happy?” cried Aglaya. “Then how can you say you did not learn to see? I should think you could teach _us_ to see!”
Before them stood Lizabetha Prokofievna.
“I must see it!” cried Mrs. Epanchin. “Where is the portrait? If she gave it to him, he must have it; and he is still in the study. He never leaves before four o’clock on Wednesdays. Send for Gavrila Ardalionovitch at once. No, I don’t long to see _him_ so much. Look here, dear prince, _be_ so kind, will you? Just step to the study and fetch this portrait! Say we want to look at it. Please do this for me, will you?”
Or if that were impossible he would like to be alone at home, on the terrace--without either Lebedeff or his children, or anyone else about him, and to lie there and think--a day and night and another day again! He thought of the mountains--and especially of a certain spot which he used to frequent, whence he would look down upon the distant valleys and fields, and see the waterfall, far off, like a little silver thread, and the old ruined castle in the distance. Oh! how he longed to be there now--alone with his thoughts--to think of one thing all his life--one thing! A thousand years would not be too much time! And let everyone here forget him--forget him utterly! How much better it would have been if they had never known him--if all this could but prove to be a dream. Perhaps it was a dream!
“Wait five minutes more, Mr. Burdovsky,” said Gavrila Ardalionovitch pleasantly. “I have more to say. Some rather curious and important facts have come to light, and it is absolutely necessary, in my opinion, that you should hear them. You will not regret, I fancy, to have the whole matter thoroughly cleared up.”
But they all laughed on.Evgenie Pavlovitch was silent, but Hippolyte kept his eyes fixed upon him, waiting impatiently for more.“Well, wait a bit, before you begin to triumph,” said the nephew viciously; for the words seemed to irritate him. “He is delighted! I came to him here and told him everything: I acted honourably, for I did not excuse myself. I spoke most severely of my conduct, as everyone here can witness. But I must smarten myself up before I take up my new post, for I am really like a tramp. Just look at my boots! I cannot possibly appear like this, and if I am not at the bureau at the time appointed, the job will be given to someone else; and I shall have to try for another. Now I only beg for fifteen roubles, and I give my word that I will never ask him for anything again. I am also ready to promise to repay my debt in three months’ time, and I will keep my word, even if I have to live on bread and water. My salary will amount to seventy-five roubles in three months. The sum I now ask, added to what I have borrowed already, will make a total of about thirty-five roubles, so you see I shall have enough to pay him and confound him! if he wants interest, he shall have that, too! Haven’t I always paid back the money he lent me before? Why should he be so mean now? He grudges my having paid that lieutenant; there can be no other reason! That’s the kind he is--a dog in the manger!”
“That you are rushing madly into the undertaking, and that you would do well to think it over again. It is more than possible that Varvara Ardalionovna is right.”
He looked back at her, but at times it was clear that he did not see her and was not thinking of her.
But the father of the family was out in the road already. Colia was carrying his bag for him; Nina Alexandrovna stood and cried on the doorstep; she wanted to run after the general, but Ptitsin kept her back.
The happy state in which the family had spent the evening, as just recorded, was not of very long duration. Next day Aglaya quarrelled with the prince again, and so she continued to behave for the next few days. For whole hours at a time she ridiculed and chaffed the wretched man, and made him almost a laughing-stock.He caught sight of something flashing in Hippolyte’s right hand, and saw that it was a pistol. He rushed at him, but at that very instant Hippolyte raised the pistol to his temple and pulled the trigger. There followed a sharp metallic click, but no report.
“I was passionately in love with her when she was engaged--engaged to my friend. The prince noticed the fact and was furious. He came and woke me at seven o’clock one morning. I rise and dress in amazement; silence on both sides. I understand it all. He takes a couple of pistols out of his pocket--across a handkerchief--without witnesses. Why invite witnesses when both of us would be walking in eternity in a couple of minutes? The pistols are loaded; we stretch the handkerchief and stand opposite one another. We aim the pistols at each other’s hearts. Suddenly tears start to our eyes, our hands shake; we weep, we embrace--the battle is one of self-sacrifice now! The prince shouts, ‘She is yours;’ I cry, ‘She is yours--’ in a word, in a word--You’ve come to live with us, hey?”
“There is plenty of room here.”“My dear, I am quite ready; naturally... the prince.”
“Nastasia Philipovna, will you excuse the general for a moment? Someone is inquiring for him,” said Nina Alexandrovna in a loud voice, interrupting the conversation.
Hippolyte went out.
“No, it was not the urchin: it was Nicolai Ardalionovitch,” said the prince very firmly, but without raising his voice.“Of course! And it would be a disgrace to marry so, eh?”
“Do you believe all this?” asked Muishkin, looking curiously at his companion.
“I remember--I remember it all!” he cried. “I was captain then. You were such a lovely little thing--Nina Alexandrovna!--Gania, listen! I was received then by General Epanchin.”