“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.’

It was clear that he came out with these words quite spontaneously, on the spur of the moment. But his speech was productive of much--for it appeared that all Gania’s rage now overflowed upon the prince. He seized him by the shoulder and gazed with an intensity of loathing and revenge at him, but said nothing--as though his feelings were too strong to permit of words.
“Gentlemen--” began the prince.
He bowed and retired without waiting for an answer.
“What I expected has happened! But I am sorry, you poor fellow, that you should have had to suffer for it,” he murmured, with a most charming smile.

“There,” he whispered, nodding his head towards the curtain.

“I did not confess anything to you,” said the prince, blushing. “I only answered your question.”

“You mean, no doubt, that you do not deny that might is right?”

“In the first place, my dear prince, don’t be angry with me. I would have come to see you yesterday, but I didn’t know how Lizabetha Prokofievna would take it. My dear fellow, my house is simply a hell just now, a sort of sphinx has taken up its abode there. We live in an atmosphere of riddles; I can’t make head or tail of anything. As for you, I feel sure you are the least to blame of any of us, though you certainly have been the cause of a good deal of trouble. You see, it’s all very pleasant to be a philanthropist; but it can be carried too far. Of course I admire kind-heartedness, and I esteem my wife, but--”

“I asked Nicolai Ardalionovitch...”
“Well, there you see!” said the general, condescendingly. “There is nothing whatever unusual about my tale. Truth very often appears to be impossible. I was a page--it sounds strange, I dare say. Had I been fifteen years old I should probably have been terribly frightened when the French arrived, as my mother was (who had been too slow about clearing out of Moscow); but as I was only just ten I was not in the least alarmed, and rushed through the crowd to the very door of the palace when Napoleon alighted from his horse.”

“Poodle? What was that? And in a railway carriage? Dear me,” said Nastasia, thoughtfully, as though trying to recall something to mind.

The prince who, up to yesterday, would not have believed that he could even dream of such an impossible scene as this, stood and listened and looked on, and felt as though he had long foreseen it all. The most fantastic dream seemed suddenly to have been metamorphosed into the most vivid reality.
After a time it became known that Totski had married a French marquise, and was to be carried off by her to Paris, and then to Brittany.
“Oh! I can’t do that,” said the prince, laughing too. “I lived almost all the while in one little Swiss village; what can I teach you? At first I was only just not absolutely dull; then my health began to improve--then every day became dearer and more precious to me, and the longer I stayed, the dearer became the time to me; so much so that I could not help observing it; but why this was so, it would be difficult to say.”

“Oh, I’m not rejecting her. I may have expressed myself badly, but I didn’t mean that.”

“Yes, it is a fact, and this time, let me tell you, on the very eve of their marriage! It was a question of minutes when she slipped off to Petersburg. She came to me directly she arrived--‘Save me, Lukian! find me some refuge, and say nothing to the prince!’ She is afraid of you, even more than she is of him, and in that she shows her wisdom!” And Lebedeff slily put his finger to his brow as he said the last words.

“Why, goodness me, don’t you know?” Varia stopped short.

These words painfully impressed the whole party; but especially her parents. Lizabetha Prokofievna summoned a secret council of two, and insisted upon the general’s demanding from the prince a full explanation of his relations with Nastasia Philipovna. The general argued that it was only a whim of Aglaya’s; and that, had not Prince S. unfortunately made that remark, which had confused the child and made her blush, she never would have said what she did; and that he was sure Aglaya knew well that anything she might have heard of the prince and Nastasia Philipovna was merely the fabrication of malicious tongues, and that the woman was going to marry Rogojin. He insisted that the prince had nothing whatever to do with Nastasia Philipovna, so far as any liaison was concerned; and, if the truth were to be told about it, he added, never had had. “Old Bielokonski” listened to all the fevered and despairing lamentations of Lizabetha Prokofievna without the least emotion; the tears of this sorrowful mother did not evoke answering sighs--in fact, she laughed at her. She was a dreadful old despot, this princess; she could not allow equality in anything, not even in friendship of the oldest standing, and she insisted on treating Mrs. Epanchin as her _protégée_, as she had been thirty-five years ago. She could never put up with the independence and energy of Lizabetha’s character. She observed that, as usual, the whole family had gone much too far ahead, and had converted a fly into an elephant; that, so far as she had heard their story, she was persuaded that nothing of any seriousness had occurred; that it would surely be better to wait until something _did_ happen; that the prince, in her opinion, was a very decent young fellow, though perhaps a little eccentric, through illness, and not quite as weighty in the world as one could wish. The worst feature was, she said, Nastasia Philipovna.

“H’m! and you take no notice of it?”

“Oh, I won’t read it,” said the prince, quite simply.
“The prince has this to do with it--that I see in him for the first time in all my life, a man endowed with real truthfulness of spirit, and I trust him. He trusted me at first sight, and I trust him!”
“I wish at least _he_ would come and say something!” complained poor Lizabetha Prokofievna.
Hippolyte frowned gloomily.
“Yes; I must say that I am pretty hungry, thanks very much.”
“Nastasia Philipovna!”
“Mamma!” said Alexandra, shocked at her rudeness.
“No, Aglaya. No, I’m not crying.” The prince looked at her.

Five seconds after the disappearance of the last actor in this scene, the police arrived. The whole episode had not lasted more than a couple of minutes. Some of the spectators had risen from their places, and departed altogether; some merely exchanged their seats for others a little further off; some were delighted with the occurrence, and talked and laughed over it for a long time.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, let me speak at last,” cried the prince, anxious and agitated. “Please let us understand one another. I say nothing about the article, gentlemen, except that every word is false; I say this because you know it as well as I do. It is shameful. I should be surprised if any one of you could have written it.” “No, prince, she will not. Aglaya loved like a woman, like a human being, not like an abstract spirit. Do you know what, my poor prince? The most probable explanation of the matter is that you never loved either the one or the other in reality.”

“From you to me? Ha, ha! that’s nothing! Why, she always acts as though she were in a delirium now-a-days! Either she says, ‘Come on, I’ll marry you! Let’s have the wedding quickly!’ and fixes the day, and seems in a hurry for it, and when it begins to come near she feels frightened; or else some other idea gets into her head--goodness knows! you’ve seen her--you know how she goes on--laughing and crying and raving! There’s nothing extraordinary about her having run away from you! She ran away because she found out how dearly she loved you. She could not bear to be near you. You said just now that I had found her at Moscow, when she ran away from you. I didn’t do anything of the sort; she came to me herself, straight from you. ‘Name the day--I’m ready!’ she said. ‘Let’s have some champagne, and go and hear the gipsies sing!’ I tell you she’d have thrown herself into the water long ago if it were not for me! She doesn’t do it because I am, perhaps, even more dreadful to her than the water! She’s marrying me out of spite; if she marries me, I tell you, it will be for spite!”

“By all means! I assure you I am delighted--you need not have entered into all these explanations. As for your remarks about friendship with me--thanks, very much indeed. You must excuse my being a little absent this evening. Do you know, I cannot somehow be attentive to anything just now?”

“I am surprised to see you laugh in that way, like a child. You came to make friends with me again just now, and you said, ‘I will kiss your hand, if you like,’ just as a child would have said it. And then, all at once you are talking of this mad project--of these seventy-five thousand roubles! It all seems so absurd and impossible.”
But Gania first conducted the prince to the family apartments. These consisted of a “salon,” which became the dining-room when required; a drawing-room, which was only a drawing-room in the morning, and became Gania’s study in the evening, and his bedroom at night; and lastly Nina Alexandrovna’s and Varvara’s bedroom, a small, close chamber which they shared together.
Now and then he looked at Aglaya for five minutes at a time, without taking his eyes off her face; but his expression was very strange; he would gaze at her as though she were an object a couple of miles distant, or as though he were looking at her portrait and not at herself at all.

“Why, prince, I declare you must have had a taste of this sort of thing yourself--haven’t you? I have heard tell of something of the kind, you know; is it true?”

“What a dear little thing she is,” thought the prince, and immediately forgot all about her.
“He sat down in amazement, and I lost no time in telling him the medical man’s history; and explained that he, with the influence which he possessed over his uncle, might do some good to the poor fellow.
“Come, come! This is intolerable! You had better stop, you little mischief-making wretch!” cried Varia. Gania had grown very pale; he trembled, but said nothing.
“Those are the two hundred and fifty roubles you dared to send him as a charity, by the hands of Tchebaroff,” explained Doktorenko.
“Old Bielokonski” listened to all the fevered and despairing lamentations of Lizabetha Prokofievna without the least emotion; the tears of this sorrowful mother did not evoke answering sighs--in fact, she laughed at her. She was a dreadful old despot, this princess; she could not allow equality in anything, not even in friendship of the oldest standing, and she insisted on treating Mrs. Epanchin as her _protégée_, as she had been thirty-five years ago. She could never put up with the independence and energy of Lizabetha’s character. She observed that, as usual, the whole family had gone much too far ahead, and had converted a fly into an elephant; that, so far as she had heard their story, she was persuaded that nothing of any seriousness had occurred; that it would surely be better to wait until something _did_ happen; that the prince, in her opinion, was a very decent young fellow, though perhaps a little eccentric, through illness, and not quite as weighty in the world as one could wish. The worst feature was, she said, Nastasia Philipovna.

“Of course not,” replied the prince; “there are none, except myself. I believe I am the last and only one. As to my forefathers, they have always been a poor lot; my own father was a sublieutenant in the army. I don’t know how Mrs. Epanchin comes into the Muishkin family, but she is descended from the Princess Muishkin, and she, too, is the last of her line.”