“My name really is Lukian Timofeyovitch,” acknowledged Lebedeff, lowering his eyes, and putting his hand on his heart.
“I--I,” the general continued to whisper, clinging more and more tightly to the boy’s shoulder. “I--wish--to tell you--all--Maria--Maria Petrovna--Su--Su--Su.......”
We have seen, however, that the general paid a visit to Lizabetha Prokofievna and caused trouble there, the final upshot being that he frightened Mrs. Epanchin, and angered her by bitter hints as to his son Gania.
The prince paused and all waited, expecting him to go on again and finish the story.

The latter, with one thing and another, was now so disturbed and confused, that when, a couple of hours or so later, a message came from Colia that the general was ill, he could hardly take the news in.

Hippolyte glanced at him suddenly, and when their eyes met Rogojin showed his teeth in a disagreeable smile, and said the following strange words: “That’s not the way to settle this business, my friend; that’s not the way at all.”
“Oh, I saw that at once,” replied the latter. “I don’t think it at all nice of him to play a part. What does he wish to gain by it, I wonder?”
“Laissez-le dire! He is trembling all over,” said the old man, in a warning whisper.
The general interrupted once more with questions; while the prince again replied with the narrative we have heard before. It appeared that the general had known Pavlicheff; but why the latter had taken an interest in the prince, that young gentleman could not explain; probably by virtue of the old friendship with his father, he thought.
“Where have you dropped from?” cried the prince.
A strange rumour began to circulate, meanwhile; no less than that the respectable and highly respected General Epanchin was himself so fascinated by Nastasia Philipovna that his feeling for her amounted almost to passion. What he thought to gain by Gania’s marriage to the girl it was difficult to imagine. Possibly he counted on Gania’s complaisance; for Totski had long suspected that there existed some secret understanding between the general and his secretary. At all events the fact was known that he had prepared a magnificent present of pearls for Nastasia’s birthday, and that he was looking forward to the occasion when he should present his gift with the greatest excitement and impatience. The day before her birthday he was in a fever of agitation.
“Oh! do be quiet! You must be drunk! He has taken it into his head to play the lawyer, prince, and he practices speechifying, and is always repeating his eloquent pleadings to his children. And who do you think was his last client? An old woman who had been robbed of five hundred roubles, her all, by some rogue of a usurer, besought him to take up her case, instead of which he defended the usurer himself, a Jew named Zeidler, because this Jew promised to give him fifty roubles....”
“I sometimes think of coming over to you again,” said Hippolyte, carelessly. “So you _don’t_ think them capable of inviting a man on the condition that he is to look sharp and die?”
“My goodness me! and I gave him twenty-five roubles this morning as though he were a beggar,” blurted out the general, half senseless with amazement. “Well, I congratulate you, I congratulate you!” And the general rose from his seat and solemnly embraced the prince. All came forward with congratulations; even those of Rogojin’s party who had retreated into the next room, now crept softly back to look on. For the moment even Nastasia Philipovna was forgotten.
“And just fancy, this infamy pleased them, all of them, nearly. Only the children had altered--for then they were all on my side and had learned to love Marie.
“I thought you were capable of development,” said Hippolyte, coming out of his fit of abstraction. “Yes, that is what I meant to say,” he added, with the satisfaction of one who suddenly remembers something he had forgotten. “Here is Burdovsky, sincerely anxious to protect his mother; is not that so? And he himself is the cause of her disgrace. The prince is anxious to help Burdovsky and offers him friendship and a large sum of money, in the sincerity of his heart. And here they stand like two sworn enemies--ha, ha, ha! You all hate Burdovsky because his behaviour with regard to his mother is shocking and repugnant to you; do you not? Is not that true? Is it not true? You all have a passion for beauty and distinction in outward forms; that is all you care for, isn’t it? I have suspected for a long time that you cared for nothing else! Well, let me tell you that perhaps there is not one of you who loved your mother as Burdovsky loved his. As to you, prince, I know that you have sent money secretly to Burdovsky’s mother through Gania. Well, I bet now,” he continued with an hysterical laugh, “that Burdovsky will accuse you of indelicacy, and reproach you with a want of respect for his mother! Yes, that is quite certain! Ha, ha, ha!”
The prince remarked that Evgenie Pavlovitch’s plain clothes had evidently made a great impression upon the company present, so much so that all other interests seemed to be effaced before this surprising fact.
Nastasia Philipovna was ready. She rose from her seat, looked into the glass and remarked, as Keller told the tale afterwards, that she was “as pale as a corpse.” She then bent her head reverently, before the ikon in the corner, and left the room.
“Do you wish me to beg pardon of this creature because she has come here to insult our mother and disgrace the whole household, you low, base wretch?” cried Varia, looking back at her brother with proud defiance.
“Good-bye!” she said at last, and rose and left him, very quickly.
“Not for anything!” cried the other; “no, no, no!”
“Oh no--it’s the work of an instant. They put a man inside a frame and a sort of broad knife falls by machinery--they call the thing a guillotine--it falls with fearful force and weight--the head springs off so quickly that you can’t wink your eye in between. But all the preparations are so dreadful. When they announce the sentence, you know, and prepare the criminal and tie his hands, and cart him off to the scaffold--that’s the fearful part of the business. The people all crowd round--even women--though they don’t at all approve of women looking on.”

Rogojin seized her in his arms and almost carried her to the carriage. Then, in a flash, he tore a hundred-rouble note out of his pocket and held it to the coachman.

“I felt sure of that, or I should not have come to you. We might manage it with the help of Nina Alexandrovna, so that he might be closely watched in his own house. Unfortunately I am not on terms... otherwise... but Nicolai Ardalionovitch, who adores you with all his youthful soul, might help, too.”
“You’ve been _there?_” he asked, suddenly.
“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.”
“There, you see! Even your own son supports my statement that there never was such a person as Captain Eropegoff!” that the old fellow muttered confusedly:
“Quite fraternal--I look upon it as a joke. Let us be brothers-in-law, it is all the same to me,--rather an honour than not. But in spite of the two hundred guests and the thousandth anniversary of the Russian Empire, I can see that he is a very remarkable man. I am quite sincere. You said just now that I always looked as if I was going to tell you a secret; you are right. I have a secret to tell you: a certain person has just let me know that she is very anxious for a secret interview with you.”

“Well, I’m going,” he said, at last, preparing to recross the road. “You go along here as before; we will keep to different sides of the road; it’s better so, you’ll see.”

No one met him; the verandah was empty, and nearly pitch dark. He opened the door into the room, but it, too, was dark and empty. He stood in the middle of the room in perplexity. Suddenly the door opened, and in came Alexandra, candle in hand. Seeing the prince she stopped before him in surprise, looking at him questioningly.

“I have waited for you with the greatest impatience (not that you were worth it). Every night I have drenched my pillow with tears, not for you, my friend, not for you, don’t flatter yourself! I have my own grief, always the same, always the same. But I’ll tell you why I have been awaiting you so impatiently, because I believe that Providence itself sent you to be a friend and a brother to me. I haven’t a friend in the world except Princess Bielokonski, and she is growing as stupid as a sheep from old age. Now then, tell me, yes or no? Do you know why she called out from her carriage the other night?”
“So that if I cannot now impart all that has tormented me for the last six months, at all events you will understand that, having reached my ‘last convictions,’ I must have paid a very dear price for them. That is what I wished, for reasons of my own, to make a point of in this my ‘Explanation.’

She had then asked him to play cards--the game called “little fools.” At this game the tables were turned completely, for the prince had shown himself a master at it. Aglaya had cheated and changed cards, and stolen others, in the most bare-faced way, but, in spite of everything the prince had beaten her hopelessly five times running, and she had been left “little fool” each time.

“Dear me--is it possible?” observed the clerk, while his face assumed an expression of great deference and servility--if not of absolute alarm: “what, a son of that very Semen Rogojin--hereditary honourable citizen--who died a month or so ago and left two million and a half of roubles?”
As to the few words which the general had let slip about Aglaya laughing at everybody, and at himself most of all--he entirely believed them. He did not feel the slightest sensation of offence; on the contrary, he was quite certain that it was as it should be.

It was extremely difficult to account for Nastasia’s strange condition of mind, which became more evident each moment, and which none could avoid noticing.

“I will, Nastasia Philipovna.”
“Ah!” she added, as Gania suddenly entered the room, “here’s another marrying subject. How do you do?” she continued, in response to Gania’s bow; but she did not invite him to sit down. “You are going to be married?”
“You say you have been happy, and that proves you have lived, not less, but more than other people. Why make all these excuses?” interrupted Aglaya in a mocking tone of voice. “Besides, you need not mind about lecturing us; you have nothing to boast of. With your quietism, one could live happily for a hundred years at least. One might show you the execution of a felon, or show you one’s little finger. You could draw a moral from either, and be quite satisfied. That sort of existence is easy enough.”
Evgenie Pavlovitch’s friend asked the prince some question, but the latter did not reply, or if he did, he muttered something so strangely indistinct that there was nothing to be made of it. The officer stared intently at him, then glanced at Evgenie, divined why the latter had introduced him, and gave his undivided attention to Aglaya again. Only Evgenie Pavlovitch observed that Aglaya flushed up for a moment at this.
“My goodness!” shivered the clerk. “And his father,” he added, for the prince’s instruction, “and his father would have given a man a ticket to the other world for ten roubles any day--not to speak of ten thousand!”
“Once more let us beg you to be calm, my dear boy. We’ll talk of all this another time--I shall do so with the greatest pleasure, for one,” said the old dignitary, with a smile.
“What for? What was your object? Show me the letter.” Mrs. Epanchin’s eyes flashed; she was almost trembling with impatience.
“And just fancy, this infamy pleased them, all of them, nearly. Only the children had altered--for then they were all on my side and had learned to love Marie.
“Dear me, there’s nothing so very curious about the prince dropping in, after all,” remarked Ferdishenko.
“Well, it is a silly little story, in a few words,” began the delighted general. “A couple of years ago, soon after the new railway was opened, I had to go somewhere or other on business. Well, I took a first-class ticket, sat down, and began to smoke, or rather _continued_ to smoke, for I had lighted up before. I was alone in the carriage. Smoking is not allowed, but is not prohibited either; it is half allowed--so to speak, winked at. I had the window open.” But here the two sisters could restrain themselves no longer, and both of them burst into irrepressible laughter.

The neighbours undoubtedly did hear. Varia rushed out of the room.

“Come along, then. I don’t wish to meet my new year without you--my new life, I should say, for a new life is beginning for me. Did you know, Parfen, that a new life had begun for me?”

“He declares that your humbug of a landlord revised this gentleman’s article--the article that was read aloud just now--in which you got such a charming dressing-down.”

“Gentlemen--” began the prince.
“Hippolyte, probably. He would think it the most delightful amusement in the world to tell her of it the instant he moved over here; I haven’t a doubt of it.”
“To this keen question I replied as keenly, ‘The Russian heart can recognize a great man even in the bitter enemy of his country.’ At least, I don’t remember the exact words, you know, but the idea was as I say. Napoleon was struck; he thought a minute and then said to his suite: ‘I like that boy’s pride; if all Russians think like this child, then--’ he didn’t finish, but went on and entered the palace. I instantly mixed with his suite, and followed him. I was already in high favour. I remember when he came into the first hall, the emperor stopped before a portrait of the Empress Katherine, and after a thoughtful glance remarked, ‘That was a great woman,’ and passed on. “I hinted nothing to him about my ‘final conviction,’ but it appeared to me that he had guessed it from my words. He remained silent--he is a terribly silent man. I remarked to him, as I rose to depart, that, in spite of the contrast and the wide differences between us two, les extremites se touchent [‘extremes meet,’ as I explained to him in Russian); so that maybe he was not so far from my final conviction as appeared.

“H’m! yes, that’s true enough. Well now, how is the law over there, do they administer it more justly than here?”

At last they reached the Litaynaya. The thaw increased steadily, a warm, unhealthy wind blew through the streets, vehicles splashed through the mud, and the iron shoes of horses and mules rang on the paving stones. Crowds of melancholy people plodded wearily along the footpaths, with here and there a drunken man among them.

“Is it today, Gania?” asked Nina Alexandrovna, at last.