The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter VII.

“I HAD a small pocket pistol. I had procured it while still a boy, at that droll age when the stories of duels and highwaymen begin to delight one, and when one imagines oneself nobly standing fire at some future day, in a duel.

“There were a couple of old bullets in the bag which contained the pistol, and powder enough in an old flask for two or three charges.

“The pistol was a wretched thing, very crooked and wouldn’t carry farther than fifteen paces at the most. However, it would send your skull flying well enough if you pressed the muzzle of it against your temple.

“I determined to die at Pavlofsk at sunrise, in the park — so as to make no commotion in the house.

“This ‘explanation’ will make the matter clear enough to the police. Students of psychology, and anyone else who likes, may make what they please of it. I should not like this paper, however, to be made public. I request the prince to keep a copy himself, and to give a copy to Aglaya Ivanovna Epanchin. This is my last will and testament. As for my skeleton, I bequeath it to the Medical Academy for the benefit of science.

“I recognize no jurisdiction over myself, and I know that I am now beyond the power of laws and judges.

“A little while ago a very amusing idea struck me. What if I were now to commit some terrible crime — murder ten fellow-creatures, for instance, or anything else that is thought most shocking and dreadful in this world — what a dilemma my judges would be in, with a criminal who only has a fortnight to live in any case, now that the rack and other forms of torture are abolished! Why, I should die comfortably in their own hospital — in a warm, clean room, with an attentive doctor — probably much more comfortably than I should at home.

“I don’t understand why people in my position do not oftener indulge in such ideas — if only for a joke! Perhaps they do! Who knows! There are plenty of merry souls among us!

“But though I do not recognize any jurisdiction over myself, still I know that I shall be judged, when I am nothing but a voiceless lump of clay; therefore I do not wish to go before I have left a word of reply — the reply of a free man — not one forced to justify himself — oh no! I have no need to ask forgiveness of anyone. I wish to say a word merely because I happen to desire it of my own free will.

“Here, in the first place, comes a strange thought!

“Who, in the name of what Law, would think of disputing my full personal right over the fortnight of life left to me? What jurisdiction can be brought to bear upon the case? Who would wish me, not only to be sentenced, but to endure the sentence to the end? Surely there exists no man who would wish such a thing — why should anyone desire it? For the sake of morality? Well, I can understand that if I were to make an attempt upon my own life while in the enjoyment of full health and vigour — my life which might have been ‘useful,’ etc., etc. — morality might reproach me, according to the old routine, for disposing of my life without permission — or whatever its tenet may be. But now, NOW, when my sentence is out and my days numbered! How can morality have need of my last breaths, and why should I die listening to the consolations offered by the prince, who, without doubt, would not omit to demonstrate that death is actually a benefactor to me? (Christians like him always end up with that — it is their pet theory.) And what do they want with their ridiculous ‘Pavlofsk trees’? To sweeten my last hours? Cannot they understand that the more I forget myself, the more I let myself become attached to these last illusions of life and love, by means of which they try to hide from me Meyer’s wall, and all that is so plainly written on it — the more unhappy they make me? What is the use of all your nature to me — all your parks and trees, your sunsets and sunrises, your blue skies and your self-satisfied faces — when all this wealth of beauty and happiness begins with the fact that it accounts me — only me — one too many! What is the good of all this beauty and glory to me, when every second, every moment, I cannot but be aware that this little fly which buzzes around my head in the sun’s rays — even this little fly is a sharer and participator in all the glory of the universe, and knows its place and is happy in it; — while I— only I, am an outcast, and have been blind to the fact hitherto, thanks to my simplicity! Oh! I know well how the prince and others would like me, instead of indulging in all these wicked words of my own, to sing, to the glory and triumph of morality, that well-known verse of Gilbert’s:

“‘0, puissent voir longtemps votre beaute sacree Tant d’amis, sourds a mes adieux! Qu’ils meurent pleins de jours, que leur mort soit pleuree, Qu’un ami leur ferme les yeux!’

“But believe me, believe me, my simple-hearted friends, that in this highly moral verse, in this academical blessing to the world in general in the French language, is hidden the intensest gall and bitterness; but so well concealed is the venom, that I dare say the poet actually persuaded himself that his words were full of the tears of pardon and peace, instead of the bitterness of disappointment and malice, and so died in the delusion.

“Do you know there is a limit of ignominy, beyond which man’s consciousness of shame cannot go, and after which begins satisfaction in shame? Well, of course humility is a great force in that sense, I admit that — though not in the sense in which religion accounts humility to be strength!

“Religion! — I admit eternal life — and perhaps I always did admit it.

“Admitted that consciousness is called into existence by the will of a Higher Power; admitted that this consciousness looks out upon the world and says ‘I am;’ and admitted that the Higher Power wills that the consciousness so called into existence, be suddenly extinguished (for so — for some unexplained reason — it is and must be)— still there comes the eternal question — why must I be humble through all this? Is it not enough that I am devoured, without my being expected to bless the power that devours me? Surely — surely I need not suppose that Somebody — there — will be offended because I do not wish to live out the fortnight allowed me? I don’t believe it.

“It is much simpler, and far more likely, to believe that my death is needed — the death of an insignificant atom — in order to fulfil the general harmony of the universe — in order to make even some plus or minus in the sum of existence. Just as every day the death of numbers of beings is necessary because without their annihilation the rest cannot live on —(although we must admit that the idea is not a particularly grand one in itself!)

“However — admit the fact! Admit that without such perpetual devouring of one another the world cannot continue to exist, or could never have been organized — I am ever ready to confess that I cannot understand why this is so — but I’ll tell you what I DO know, for certain. If I have once been given to understand and realize that I AM— what does it matter to me that the world is organized on a system full of errors and that otherwise it cannot be organized at all? Who will or can judge me after this? Say what you like — the thing is impossible and unjust!

“And meanwhile I have never been able, in spite of my great desire to do so, to persuade myself that there is no future existence, and no Providence.

“The fact of the matter is that all this DOES exist, but that we know absolutely nothing about the future life and its laws!

“But it is so difficult, and even impossible to understand, that surely I am not to be blamed because I could not fathom the incomprehensible?

“Of course I know they say that one must be obedient, and of course, too, the prince is one of those who say so: that one must be obedient without questions, out of pure goodness of heart, and that for my worthy conduct in this matter I shall meet with reward in another world. We degrade God when we attribute our own ideas to Him, out of annoyance that we cannot fathom His ways.

“Again, I repeat, I cannot be blamed because I am unable to understand that which it is not given to mankind to fathom. Why am I to be judged because I could not comprehend the Will and Laws of Providence? No, we had better drop religion.

“And enough of this. By the time I have got so far in the reading of my document the sun will be up and the huge force of his rays will be acting upon the living world. So be it. I shall die gazing straight at the great Fountain of life and power; I do not want this life!

“If I had had the power to prevent my own birth I should certainly never have consented to accept existence under such ridiculous conditions. However, I have the power to end my existence, although I do but give back days that are already numbered. It is an insignificant gift, and my revolt is equally insignificant.

“Final explanation: I die, not in the least because I am unable to support these next three weeks. Oh no, I should find strength enough, and if I wished it I could obtain consolation from the thought of the injury that is done me. But I am not a French poet, and I do not desire such consolation. And finally, nature has so limited my capacity for work or activity of any kind, in allotting me but three weeks of time, that suicide is about the only thing left that I can begin and end in the time of my own free will.

“Perhaps then I am anxious to take advantage of my last chance of doing something for myself. A protest is sometimes no small thing.”

The explanation was finished; Hippolyte paused at last.

There is, in extreme cases, a final stage of cynical candour when a nervous man, excited, and beside himself with emotion, will be afraid of nothing and ready for any sort of scandal, nay, glad of it. The extraordinary, almost unnatural, tension of the nerves which upheld Hippolyte up to this point, had now arrived at this final stage. This poor feeble boy of eighteen — exhausted by disease — looked for all the world as weak and frail as a leaflet torn from its parent tree and trembling in the breeze; but no sooner had his eye swept over his audience, for the first time during the whole of the last hour, than the most contemptuous, the most haughty expression of repugnance lighted up his face. He defied them all, as it were. But his hearers were indignant, too; they rose to their feet with annoyance. Fatigue, the wine consumed, the strain of listening so long, all added to the disagreeable impression which the reading had made upon them.

Suddenly Hippolyte jumped up as though he had been shot.

“The sun is rising,” he cried, seeing the gilded tops of the trees, and pointing to them as to a miracle. “See, it is rising now!”

“Well, what then? Did you suppose it wasn’t going to rise?” asked Ferdishenko.

“It’s going to be atrociously hot again all day,” said Gania, with an air of annoyance, taking his hat. “A month of this . . . Are you coming home, Ptitsin?” Hippolyte listened to this in amazement, almost amounting to stupefaction. Suddenly he became deadly pale and shuddered.

“You manage your composure too awkwardly. I see you wish to insult me,” he cried to Gania. “You — you are a cur!” He looked at Gania with an expression of malice.

“What on earth is the matter with the boy? What phenomenal feeble-mindedness!” exclaimed Ferdishenko.

“Oh, he’s simply a fool,” said Gania.

Hippolyte braced himself up a little.

“I understand, gentlemen,” he began, trembling as before, and stumbling over every word,” that I have deserved your resentment, and — and am sorry that I should have troubled you with this raving nonsense” (pointing to his article),“or rather, I am sorry that I have not troubled you enough.” He smiled feebly. “Have I troubled you, Evgenie Pavlovitch?” He suddenly turned on Evgenie with this question. “Tell me now, have I troubled you or not?”

“Well, it was a little drawn out, perhaps; but —”

“Come, speak out! Don’t lie, for once in your life — speak out!” continued Hippolyte, quivering with agitation.

“Oh, my good sir, I assure you it’s entirely the same to me. Please leave me in peace,” said Evgenie, angrily, turning his back on him.

“Good-night, prince,” said Ptitsin, approaching his host.

“What are you thinking of? Don’t go, he’ll blow his brains out in a minute!” cried Vera Lebedeff, rushing up to Hippolyte and catching hold of his hands in a torment of alarm. “What are you thinking of? He said he would blow his brains out at sunrise.”

“Oh, he won’t shoot himself!” cried several voices, sarcastically.

“Gentlemen, you’d better look out,” cried Colia, also seizing Hippolyte by the hand. “Just look at him! Prince, what are you thinking of?” Vera and Colia, and Keller, and Burdovsky were all crowding round Hippolyte now and holding him down.

“He has the right — the right —”-murmured Burdovsky. “Excuse me, prince, but what are your arrangements?” asked Lebedeff, tipsy and exasperated, going up to Muishkin.

“What do you mean by ‘arrangements’?”

“No, no, excuse me! I’m master of this house, though I do not wish to lack respect towards you. You are master of the house too, in a way; but I can’t allow this sort of thing —”

“He won’t shoot himself; the boy is only playing the fool,” said General Ivolgin, suddenly and unexpectedly, with indignation.

“I know he won’t, I know he won’t, general; but I— I’m master here!”

“Listen, Mr. Terentieff,” said Ptitsin, who had bidden the prince good-night, and was now holding out his hand to Hippolyte; “I think you remark in that manuscript of yours, that you bequeath your skeleton to the Academy. Are you referring to your own skeleton — I mean, your very bones?”

“Yes, my bones, I—”

“Quite so, I see; because, you know, little mistakes have occurred now and then. There was a case —”

Why do you tease him?” cried the prince, suddenly.

“You’ve moved him to tears,” added Ferdishenko. But Hippolyte was by no means weeping. He was about to move from his place, when his four guards rushed at him and seized him once more. There was a laugh at this.

“He led up to this on purpose. He took the trouble of writing all that so that people should come and grab him by the arm,” observed Rogojin. “Good-night, prince. What a time we’ve sat here, my very bones ache!”

“If you really intended to shoot yourself, Terentieff,” said Evgenie Pavlovitch, laughing, “if I were you, after all these compliments, I should just not shoot myself in order to vex them all.”

“They are very anxious to see me blow my brains out,” said Hippolyte, bitterly.

“Yes, they’ll be awfully annoyed if they don’t see it.”

“Then you think they won’t see it?”

“I am not trying to egg you on. On the contrary, I think it very likely that you may shoot yourself; but the principal thing is to keep cool,” said Evgenie with a drawl, and with great condescension.

“I only now perceive what a terrible mistake I made in reading this article to them,” said Hippolyte, suddenly, addressing Evgenie, and looking at him with an expression of trust and confidence, as though he were applying to a friend for counsel.

“Yes, it’s a droll situation; I really don’t know what advice to give you,” replied Evgenie, laughing. Hippolyte gazed steadfastly at him, but said nothing. To look at him one might have supposed that he was unconscious at intervals.

“Excuse me,” said Lebedeff, “but did you observe the young gentleman’s style? ‘I’ll go and blow my brains out in the park,’ says he,’ so as not to disturb anyone.’ He thinks he won’t disturb anybody if he goes three yards away, into the park, and blows his brains out there.”

“Gentlemen —” began the prince.

“No, no, excuse me, most revered prince,” Lebedeff interrupted, excitedly. “Since you must have observed yourself that this is no joke, and since at least half your guests must also have concluded that after all that has been said this youth MUST blow his brains out for honour’s sake — I— as master of this house, and before these witnesses, now call upon you to take steps.”

“Yes, but what am I to do, Lebedeff? What steps am I to take? I am ready.”

“I’ll tell you. In the first place he must immediately deliver up the pistol which he boasted of, with all its appurtenances. If he does this I shall consent to his being allowed to spend the night in this house — considering his feeble state of health, and of course conditionally upon his being under proper supervision. But tomorrow he must go elsewhere. Excuse me, prince! Should he refuse to deliver up his weapon, then I shall instantly seize one of his arms and General Ivolgin the other, and we shall hold him until the police arrive and take the matter into their own hands. Mr. Ferdishenko will kindly fetch them.”

At this there was a dreadful noise; Lebedeff danced about in his excitement; Ferdishenko prepared to go for the police; Gania frantically insisted that it was all nonsense, “for nobody was going to shoot themselves.” Evgenie Pavlovitch said nothing.

“Prince,” whispered Hippolyte, suddenly, his eyes all ablaze, “you don’t suppose that I did not foresee all this hatred?” He looked at the prince as though he expected him to reply, for a moment. “Enough!” he added at length, and addressing the whole company, he cried: “It’s all my fault, gentlemen! Lebedeff, here’s the key,” (he took out a small bunch of keys); “this one, the last but one — Colia will show you — Colia, where’s Colia?” he cried, looking straight at Colia and not seeing him. “Yes, he’ll show you; he packed the bag with me this morning. Take him up, Colia; my bag is upstairs in the prince’s study, under the table. Here’s the key, and in the little case you’ll find my pistol and the powder, and all. Colia packed it himself, Mr. Lebedeff; he’ll show you; but it’s on condition that tomorrow morning, when I leave for Petersburg, you will give me back my pistol, do you hear? I do this for the prince’s sake, not yours.”

“Capital, that’s much better!” cried Lebedeff, and seizing the key he made off in haste.

Colia stopped a moment as though he wished to say something; but Lebedeff dragged him away.

Hippolyte looked around at the laughing guests. The prince observed that his teeth were chattering as though in a violent attack of ague.

“What brutes they all are!” he whispered to the prince. Whenever he addressed him he lowered his voice.

“Let them alone, you’re too weak now —”

Yes, directly; I’ll go away directly. I’ll —”

Suddenly he embraced Muishkin.

“Perhaps you think I am mad, eh?” he asked him, laughing very strangely.

“No, but you —”

“Directly, directly! Stand still a moment, I wish to look in your eyes; don’t speak — stand so — let me look at you! I am bidding farewell to mankind.”

He stood so for ten seconds, gazing at the prince, motionless, deadly pale, his temples wet with perspiration; he held the prince’s hand in a strange grip, as though afraid to let him go.

“Hippolyte, Hippolyte, what is the matter with you?” cried Muishkin.

“Directly! There, that’s enough. I’ll lie down directly. I must drink to the sun’s health. I wish to — I insist upon it! Let go!”

He seized a glass from the table, broke away from the prince, and in a moment had reached the terrace steps.

The prince made after him, but it so happened that at this moment Evgenie Pavlovitch stretched out his hand to say good-night. The next instant there was a general outcry, and then followed a few moments of indescribable excitement.

Reaching the steps, Hippolyte had paused, holding the glass in his left hand while he put his right hand into his coat pocket.

Keller insisted afterwards that he had held his right hand in his pocket all the while, when he was speaking to the prince, and that he had held the latter’s shoulder with his left hand only. This circumstance, Keller affirmed, had led him to feel some suspicion from the first. However this may be, Keller ran after Hippolyte, but he was too late.

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.

When Keller seized the would-be suicide, the latter fell forward into his arms, probably actually believing that he was shot. Keller had hold of the pistol now. Hippolyte was immediately placed in a chair, while the whole company thronged around excitedly, talking and asking each other questions. Every one of them had heard the snap of the trigger, and yet they saw a live and apparently unharmed man before them.

Hippolyte himself sat quite unconscious of what was going on, and gazed around with a senseless expression.

Lebedeff and Colia came rushing up at this moment.

“What is it?” someone asked, breathlessly —“A misfire?”

“Perhaps it wasn’t loaded,” said several voices.

“It’s loaded all right,” said Keller, examining the pistol, “but —”

“What! did it miss fire?”

“There was no cap in it,” Keller announced.

It would be difficult to describe the pitiable scene that now followed. The first sensation of alarm soon gave place to amusement; some burst out laughing loud and heartily, and seemed to find a malicious satisfaction in the joke. Poor Hippolyte sobbed hysterically; he wrung his hands; he approached everyone in turn — even Ferdishenko — and took them by both hands, and swore solemnly that he had forgotten — absolutely forgotten — “accidentally, and not on purpose,”— to put a cap in — that he “had ten of them, at least, in his pocket.” He pulled them out and showed them to everyone; he protested that he had not liked to put one in beforehand for fear of an accidental explosion in his pocket. That he had thought he would have lots of time to put it in afterwards — when required — and, that, in the heat of the moment, he had forgotten all about it. He threw himself upon the prince, then on Evgenie Pavlovitch. He entreated Keller to give him back the pistol, and he’d soon show them all that “his honour — his honour,”— but he was “dishonoured, now, for ever!”

He fell senseless at last — and was carried into the prince’s study.

Lebedeff, now quite sobered down, sent for a doctor; and he and his daughter, with Burdovsky and General Ivolgin, remained by the sick man’s couch.

When he was carried away unconscious, Keller stood in the middle of the room, and made the following declaration to the company in general, in a loud tone of voice, with emphasis upon each word.

“Gentlemen, if any one of you casts any doubt again, before me, upon Hippolyte’s good faith, or hints that the cap was forgotten intentionally, or suggests that this unhappy boy was acting a part before us, I beg to announce that the person so speaking shall account to me for his words.”

No one replied.

The company departed very quickly, in a mass. Ptitsin, Gania, and Rogojin went away together.

The prince was much astonished that Evgenie Pavlovitch changed his mind, and took his departure without the conversation he had requested.

“Why, you wished to have a talk with me when the others left?” he said.

“Quite so,” said Evgenie, sitting down suddenly beside him, “but I have changed my mind for the time being. I confess, I am too disturbed, and so, I think, are you; and the matter as to which I wished to consult you is too serious to tackle with one’s mind even a little disturbed; too serious both for myself and for you. You see, prince, for once in my life I wish to perform an absolutely honest action, that is, an action with no ulterior motive; and I think I am hardly in a condition to talk of it just at this moment, and — and — well, we’ll discuss it another time. Perhaps the matter may gain in clearness if we wait for two or three days — just the two or three days which I must spend in Petersburg.”

Here he rose again from his chair, so that it seemed strange that he should have thought it worth while to sit down at all.

The prince thought, too, that he looked vexed and annoyed, and not nearly so friendly towards himself as he had been earlier in the night.

“I suppose you will go to the sufferer’s bedside now?” he added.

“Yes, I am afraid . . . ” began the prince.

“Oh, you needn’t fear! He’ll live another six weeks all right. Very likely he will recover altogether; but I strongly advise you to pack him off tomorrow.”

“I think I may have offended him by saying nothing just now. I am afraid he may suspect that I doubted his good faith — about shooting himself, you know. What do you think, Evgenie Pavlovitch?”

“Not a bit of it! You are much too good to him; you shouldn’t care a hang about what he thinks. I have heard of such things before, but never came across, till tonight, a man who would actually shoot himself in order to gain a vulgar notoriety, or blow out his brains for spite, if he finds that people don’t care to pat him on the back for his sanguinary intentions. But what astonishes me more than anything is the fellow’s candid confession of weakness. You’d better get rid of him tomorrow, in any case.

“Do you think he will make another attempt?”

“Oh no, not he, not now! But you have to be very careful with this sort of gentleman. Crime is too often the last resource of these petty nonentities. This young fellow is quite capable of cutting the throats of ten people, simply for a lark, as he told us in his ‘explanation.’ I assure you those confounded words of his will not let me sleep.”

“I think you disturb yourself too much.”

“What an extraordinary person you are, prince! Do you mean to say that you doubt the fact that he is capable of murdering ten men?”

“I daren’t say, one way or the other; all this is very strange — but —”

“Well, as you like, just as you like,” said Evgenie Pavlovitch, irritably. “Only you are such a plucky fellow, take care you don’t get included among the ten victims!”

“Oh, he is much more likely not to kill anyone at all,” said the prince, gazing thoughtfully at Evgenie. The latter laughed disagreeably.

“Well, au revoir! Did you observe that he ‘willed’ a copy of his confession to Aglaya Ivanovna?”

“Yes, I did; I am thinking of it.”

“In connection with ‘the ten,’ eh?” laughed Evgenie, as he left the room.

An hour later, towards four o’clock, the prince went into the park. He had endeavoured to fall asleep, but could not, owing to the painful beating of his heart.

He had left things quiet and peaceful; the invalid was fast asleep, and the doctor, who had been called in, had stated that there was no special danger. Lebedeff, Colia, and Burdovsky were lying down in the sick-room, ready to take it in turns to watch. There was nothing to fear, therefore, at home.

But the prince’s mental perturbation increased every moment. He wandered about the park, looking absently around him, and paused in astonishment when he suddenly found himself in the empty space with the rows of chairs round it, near the Vauxhall. The look of the place struck him as dreadful now: so he turned round and went by the path which he had followed with the Epanchins on the way to the band, until he reached the green bench which Aglaya had pointed out for their rendezvous. He sat down on it and suddenly burst into a loud fit of laughter, immediately followed by a feeling of irritation. His disturbance of mind continued; he felt that he must go away somewhere, anywhere.

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.

What was this universe? What was this grand, eternal pageant to which he had yearned from his childhood up, and in which he could never take part? Every morning the same magnificent sun; every morning the same rainbow in the waterfall; every evening the same glow on the snow-mountains.

Every little fly that buzzed in the sun’s rays was a singer in the universal chorus, “knew its place, and was happy in it. “Every blade of grass grew and was happy. Everything knew its path and loved it, went forth with a song and returned with a song; only he knew nothing, understood nothing, neither men nor words, nor any of nature’s voices; he was a stranger and an outcast.

Oh, he could not then speak these words, or express all he felt! He had been tormented dumbly; but now it appeared to him that he must have said these very words — even then — and that Hippolyte must have taken his picture of the little fly from his tears and words of that time.

He was sure of it, and his heart beat excitedly at the thought, he knew not why.

He fell asleep on the bench; but his mental disquiet continued through his slumbers.

Just before he dozed off, the idea of Hippolyte murdering ten men flitted through his brain, and he smiled at the absurdity of such a thought.

Around him all was quiet; only the flutter and whisper of the leaves broke the silence, but broke it only to cause it to appear yet more deep and still.

He dreamed many dreams as he sat there, and all were full of disquiet, so that he shuddered every moment.

At length a woman seemed to approach him. He knew her, oh! he knew her only too well. He could always name her and recognize her anywhere; but, strange, she seemed to have quite a different face from hers, as he had known it, and he felt a tormenting desire to be able to say she was not the same woman. In the face before him there was such dreadful remorse and horror that he thought she must be a criminal, that she must have just committed some awful crime.

Tears were trembling on her white cheek. She beckoned him, but placed her finger on her lip as though to warn him that he must follow her very quietly. His heart froze within him. He wouldn’t, he COULDN’T confess her to be a criminal, and yet he felt that something dreadful would happen the next moment, something which would blast his whole life.

She seemed to wish to show him something, not far off, in the park.

He rose from his seat in order to follow her, when a bright, clear peal of laughter rang out by his side. He felt somebody’s hand suddenly in his own, seized it, pressed it hard, and awoke. Before him stood Aglaya, laughing aloud.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:49