All this had been very painful to listen to. One fact stood out certain and clear, and that was that poor Aglaya must be in a state of great distress and indecision and mental torment (“from jealousy,” the prince whispered to himself). Undoubtedly in this inexperienced, but hot and proud little head, there were all sorts of plans forming, wild and impossible plans, maybe; and the idea of this so frightened the prince that he could not make up his mind what to do. Something must be done, that was clear.

“On the contrary, he seems to be very well brought up. His manners are excellent--but here he is himself. Here you are, prince--let me introduce you, the last of the Muishkins, a relative of your own, my dear, or at least of the same name. Receive him kindly, please. They’ll bring in lunch directly, prince; you must stop and have some, but you must excuse me. I’m in a hurry, I must be off--”

“Oh yes, of course. You are very beautiful, Aglaya Ivanovna, so beautiful that one is afraid to look at you.”
The prince observed that Aglaya came out of her corner and approached the table at this point.
Hippolyte was very ill, and looked as though he could not long survive. He was tearful at first, but grew more and more sarcastic and malicious as the interview proceeded.
“Lizabetha Prokofievna, what are you thinking of?” cried the prince, almost leaping to his feet in amazement.
“I thought he would cut my throat at first, and went about armed ready to meet him. But he took it differently; he fainted, and had brain fever and convulsions. A month after, when he had hardly recovered, he went off to the Crimea, and there he was shot.
Aglaya observed it, and trembled with anger.
When he signed those notes of hand he never dreamt that they would be a source of future trouble. The event showed that he was mistaken. “Trust in anyone after this! Have the least confidence in man or woman!” he cried in bitter tones, as he sat with his new friends in prison, and recounted to them his favourite stories of the siege of Kars, and the resuscitated soldier. On the whole, he accommodated himself very well to his new position. Ptitsin and Varia declared that he was in the right place, and Gania was of the same opinion. The only person who deplored his fate was poor Nina Alexandrovna, who wept bitter tears over him, to the great surprise of her household, and, though always in feeble health, made a point of going to see him as often as possible.

Aglaya had not foreseen that particular calamity. She herself looked wonderfully beautiful this evening. All three sisters were dressed very tastefully, and their hair was done with special care.

“Surely not _all_, ma’am? They seem so disorderly--it’s dreadful to see them.”
“I’m very, very glad to hear of this, Parfen,” said the prince, with real feeling. “Who knows? Maybe God will yet bring you near to one another.”

“‘I’ll do it--I’ll do it, of course!’ he said. ‘I shall attack my uncle about it tomorrow morning, and I’m very glad you told me the story. But how was it that you thought of coming to me about it, Terentieff?’

“I assure you of it,” laughed Ivan Petrovitch, gazing amusedly at the prince.
“If you insist: but, judge for yourself, can I go, ought I to go?”
“Oh, no--no--I’m all right, I assure you!”
“Aglaya Ivanovna...” began Lebedeff, promptly.

“He’s got some new idea in his head,” thought Varia. “Are they pleased over there--the parents?” asked Gania, suddenly.

The general felt troubled and remained silent, while Lizabetha Prokofievna telegraphed to him from behind Aglaya to ask no questions.
“Married? how--what marriage?” murmured Gania, overwhelmed with confusion.
“Parfen! perhaps my visit is ill-timed. I--I can go away again if you like,” said Muishkin at last, rather embarrassed.
However, he made up his mind that he would himself take the note and deliver it. Indeed, he went so far as to leave the house and walk up the road, but changed his mind when he had nearly reached Ptitsin’s door. However, he there luckily met Colia, and commissioned him to deliver the letter to his brother as if direct from Aglaya. Colia asked no questions but simply delivered it, and Gania consequently had no suspicion that it had passed through so many hands.
“Let him go on reading at all costs!” ordered Lizabetha Prokofievna, evidently preserving her composure by a desperate effort. “Prince, if the reading is stopped, you and I will quarrel.”
“Yes.”

Suddenly Gania approached our hero who was at the moment standing over Nastasia Philipovna’s portrait, gazing at it.

“Why, how could she--”
“Don’t apologize,” said Nastasia, laughing; “you spoil the whole originality of the thing. I think what they say about you must be true, that you are so original.--So you think me perfection, do you?”
“Only because I seem to be giving you a lecture, all the time!”
“You should search your room and all the cupboards again,” said the prince, after a moment or two of silent reflection. “‘No, not yet. At present nothing but the following consideration. You see I have some two or three months left me to live--perhaps four; well, supposing that when I have but a month or two more, I take a fancy for some “good deed” that needs both trouble and time, like this business of our doctor friend, for instance: why, I shall have to give up the idea of it and take to something else--some _little_ good deed, _more within my means_, eh? Isn’t that an amusing idea!’
“Koulakoff... Koulakoff means nothing. This is Sokolovitch’s flat, and I am ringing at his door.... What do I care for Koulakoff?... Here comes someone to open.”
His cab took him to a small and bad hotel near the Litaynaya. Here he engaged a couple of rooms, dark and badly furnished. He washed and changed, and hurriedly left the hotel again, as though anxious to waste no time. Anyone who now saw him for the first time since he left Petersburg would judge that he had improved vastly so far as his exterior was concerned. His clothes certainly were very different; they were more fashionable, perhaps even too much so, and anyone inclined to mockery might have found something to smile at in his appearance. But what is there that people will not smile at?
“He has lost his breath now!” said Lizabetha Prokofievna coldly, looking at him with more curiosity than pity: “Come, my dear boy, that is quite enough--let us make an end of this.”
“‘I have jotted down your name,’ I told him, ‘and all the rest of it--the place you served at, the district, the date, and all. I have a friend, Bachmatoff, whose uncle is a councillor of state and has to do with these matters, one Peter Matveyevitch Bachmatoff.’ “‘A man I knew who had been to Siberia and returned, told me that he himself had been a witness of how the very most hardened criminals remembered the old general, though, in point of fact, he could never, of course, have distributed more than a few pence to each member of a party. Their recollection of him was not sentimental or particularly devoted. Some wretch, for instance, who had been a murderer--cutting the throat of a dozen fellow-creatures, for instance; or stabbing six little children for his own amusement (there have been such men!)--would perhaps, without rhyme or reason, suddenly give a sigh and say, “I wonder whether that old general is alive still!” Although perhaps he had not thought of mentioning him for a dozen years before! How can one say what seed of good may have been dropped into his soul, never to die?’
“Hallo, Gania, you blackguard! You didn’t expect Rogojin, eh?” said the latter, entering the drawing-room, and stopping before Gania.
Aglaya wanted to be angry, of course, but suddenly some quite unexpected feeling seized upon her heart, all in a moment.
“Do you think I am deceiving you?” asked the prince.
“Here you all are,” began the prince, “settling yourselves down to listen to me with so much curiosity, that if I do not satisfy you you will probably be angry with me. No, no! I’m only joking!” he added, hastily, with a smile.
“She has not said ‘no,’ up to now, and that’s all. It was sure to be so with her. You know what she is like. You know how absurdly shy she is. You remember how she used to hide in a cupboard as a child, so as to avoid seeing visitors, for hours at a time. She is just the same now; but, do you know, I think there is something serious in the matter, even from her side; I feel it, somehow. She laughs at the prince, they say, from morn to night in order to hide her real feelings; but you may be sure she finds occasion to say something or other to him on the sly, for he himself is in a state of radiant happiness. He walks in the clouds; they say he is extremely funny just now; I heard it from themselves. They seemed to be laughing at me in their sleeves--those elder girls--I don’t know why.”
“That could only have been on your invitation. I confess, however, that I should not have stayed here even if you had invited me, not for any particular reason, but because it is--well, contrary to my practice and nature, somehow.”

“Well, yes--but we call it from the Jesuits, you know; it comes to the same thing,” laughed the old fellow, delighted with the pleasant recollection.

“I should think not. Go on.”
Colia’s eyes flashed as he listened.
“No, no; it’s all right, come in,” said Parfen, recollecting himself.
But he had hardly become conscious of this curious phenomenon, when another recollection suddenly swam through his brain, interesting him for the moment, exceedingly. He remembered that the last time he had been engaged in looking around him for the unknown something, he was standing before a cutler’s shop, in the window of which were exposed certain goods for sale. He was extremely anxious now to discover whether this shop and these goods really existed, or whether the whole thing had been a hallucination.

“Wouldn’t it be better, esteemed prince, wouldn’t it be better--to--don’t you know--”

“What, did they hang the fellow?”
“There, come along, Lef Nicolaievitch; that’s all I brought you here for,” said Rogojin.
“Oh, but think how delightful to hear how one’s friends lie! Besides you needn’t be afraid, Gania; everybody knows what your worst action is without the need of any lying on your part. Only think, gentlemen,”--and Ferdishenko here grew quite enthusiastic, “only think with what eyes we shall observe one another tomorrow, after our tales have been told!”
Mrs. Epanchin examined the portrait of Nastasia Philipovna for some little while, holding it critically at arm’s length.
“Why do you tease him?” cried the prince, suddenly.

The prince blushed painfully in the darkness, and closed his right hand tightly, but he said nothing.

“Will you let me ask the prince for a cup of tea?... I am exhausted. Do you know what you might do, Lizabetha Prokofievna? I think you wanted to take the prince home with you for tea. Stay here, and let us spend the evening together. I am sure the prince will give us all some tea. Forgive me for being so free and easy--but I know you are kind, and the prince is kind, too. In fact, we are all good-natured people--it is really quite comical.”

Colia took the prince to a public-house in the Litaynaya, not far off. In one of the side rooms there sat at a table--looking like one of the regular guests of the establishment--Ardalion Alexandrovitch, with a bottle before him, and a newspaper on his knee. He was waiting for the prince, and no sooner did the latter appear than he began a long harangue about something or other; but so far gone was he that the prince could hardly understand a word.
Of course much was said that could not be determined absolutely. For instance, it was reported that the poor girl had so loved her future husband that she had followed him to the house of the other woman, the day after she had been thrown over; others said that he had insisted on her coming, himself, in order to shame and insult her by his taunts and Nihilistic confessions when she reached the house. However all these things might be, the public interest in the matter grew daily, especially as it became clear that the scandalous wedding was undoubtedly to take place.