“Take care, don’t commit yourself for a whole lifetime.”
“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!”
“Two minutes more, if you please, dear Ivan Fedorovitch,” said Lizabetha Prokofievna to her husband; “it seems to me that he is in a fever and delirious; you can see by his eyes what a state he is in; it is impossible to let him go back to Petersburg tonight. Can you put him up, Lef Nicolaievitch? I hope you are not bored, dear prince,” she added suddenly to Prince S. “Alexandra, my dear, come here! Your hair is coming down.”
At this moment there was a furious ring at the bell, and a great knock at the door--exactly similar to the one which had startled the company at Gania’s house in the afternoon.
But the prince could not finish his question; he did not know what to say. Besides this, his heart was beating so that he found it difficult to speak at all. Rogojin was silent also and looked at him as before, with an expression of deep thoughtfulness.“I shall never forgive you for all this, Ivan Fedorovitch--never! Look at her now. Why doesn’t she make fun of him? She said she would, and she doesn’t. Look there! She stares at him with all her eyes, and doesn’t move; and yet she told him not to come. He looks pale enough; and that abominable chatterbox, Evgenie Pavlovitch, monopolizes the whole of the conversation. Nobody else can get a word in. I could soon find out all about everything if I could only change the subject.”But at this moment Aglaya came back, and the prince had no time to reply.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.
But the prince was not satisfied with what he had said to Rogojin. Only at this moment, when she suddenly made her appearance before him, did he realize to the full the exact emotion which she called up in him, and which he had not described correctly to Rogojin.
“Do you forgive me all--_all_, besides the vase, I mean?” said the prince, rising from his seat once more, but the old gentleman caught his hand and drew him down again--he seemed unwilling to let him go.
And he disappeared, without looking round again.
“Quite likely, though I bought it here. Gania, give the prince some paper. Here are pens and paper; now then, take this table. What’s this?” the general continued to Gania, who had that moment taken a large photograph out of his portfolio, and shown it to his senior. “Halloa! Nastasia Philipovna! Did she send it you herself? Herself?” he inquired, with much curiosity and great animation.“Yes, directly; I’ll go away directly. I’ll--”
“That officer, eh!--that young officer--don’t you remember that fellow at the band? Eh? Ha, ha, ha! Didn’t she whip him smartly, eh?”
II.Gania looked more intently at her.
“And imagine how that Gania annoys me! He has developed the idea--or pretends to believe--that in all probability three or four others who heard my confession will die before I do. There’s an idea for you--and all this by way of _consoling_ me! Ha! ha! ha! In the first place they haven’t died yet; and in the second, if they _did_ die--all of them--what would be the satisfaction to me in that? He judges me by himself. But he goes further, he actually pitches into me because, as he declares, ‘any decent fellow’ would die quietly, and that ‘all this’ is mere egotism on my part. He doesn’t see what refinement of egotism it is on his own part--and at the same time, what ox-like coarseness! Have you ever read of the death of one Stepan Gleboff, in the eighteenth century? I read of it yesterday by chance.”
“I am so glad you chanced to come here, prince.”