It was now close on twelve o’clock.
The prince knew that if he called at the Epanchins’ now he would only find the general, and that the latter might probably carry him straight off to Pavlofsk with him; whereas there was one visit he was most anxious to make without delay.
So at the risk of missing General Epanchin altogether, and thus postponing his visit to Pavlofsk for a day, at least, the prince decided to go and look for the house he desired to find.
The visit he was about to pay was, in some respects, a risky one. He was in two minds about it, but knowing that the house was in the Gorohovaya, not far from the Sadovaya, he determined to go in that direction, and to try to make up his mind on the way.
Arrived at the point where the Gorohovaya crosses the Sadovaya, he was surprised to find how excessively agitated he was. He had no idea that his heart could beat so painfully.
One house in the Gorohovaya began to attract his attention long before he reached it, and the prince remembered afterwards that he had said to himself: “That is the house, I’m sure of it.” He came up to it quite curious to discover whether he had guessed right, and felt that he would be disagreeably impressed to find that he had actually done so. The house was a large gloomy-looking structure, without the slightest claim to architectural beauty, in colour a dirty green. There are a few of these old houses, built towards the end of the last century, still standing in that part of St. Petersburg, and showing little change from their original form and colour. They are solidly built, and are remarkable for the thickness of their walls, and for the fewness of their windows, many of which are covered by gratings. On the ground-floor there is usually a money-changer’s shop, and the owner lives over it. Without as well as within, the houses seem inhospitable and mysterious—an impression which is difficult to explain, unless it has something to do with the actual architectural style. These houses are almost exclusively inhabited by the merchant class.
Arrived at the gate, the prince looked up at the legend over it, which ran:
“House of Rogojin, hereditary and honourable citizen.”
He hesitated no longer; but opened the glazed door at the bottom of the outer stairs and made his way up to the second storey. The place was dark and gloomy-looking; the walls of the stone staircase were painted a dull red. Rogojin and his mother and brother occupied the whole of the second floor. The servant who opened the door to Muishkin led him, without taking his name, through several rooms and up and down many steps until they arrived at a door, where he knocked.
Parfen Rogojin opened the door himself.
On seeing the prince he became deadly white, and apparently fixed to the ground, so that he was more like a marble statue than a human being. The prince had expected some surprise, but Rogojin evidently considered his visit an impossible and miraculous event. He stared with an expression almost of terror, and his lips twisted into a bewildered smile.
“Parfen! perhaps my visit is ill-timed. I—I can go away again if you like,” said Muishkin at last, rather embarrassed.
“No, no; it’s all right, come in,” said Parfen, recollecting himself.
They were evidently on quite familiar terms. In Moscow they had had many occasions of meeting; indeed, some few of those meetings were but too vividly impressed upon their memories. They had not met now, however, for three months.
The deathlike pallor, and a sort of slight convulsion about the lips, had not left Rogojin’s face. Though he welcomed his guest, he was still obviously much disturbed. As he invited the prince to sit down near the table, the latter happened to turn towards him, and was startled by the strange expression on his face. A painful recollection flashed into his mind. He stood for a time, looking straight at Rogojin, whose eyes seemed to blaze like fire. At last Rogojin smiled, though he still looked agitated and shaken.
“What are you staring at me like that for?” he muttered. “Sit down.”
The prince took a chair.
“Parfen,” he said, “tell me honestly, did you know that I was coming to Petersburg or no?”
“Oh, I supposed you were coming,” the other replied, smiling sarcastically, “and I was right in my supposition, you see; but how was I to know that you would come today?”
A certain strangeness and impatience in his manner impressed the prince very forcibly.
“And if you had known that I was coming today, why be so irritated about it?” he asked, in quiet surprise.
“Why did you ask me?”
“Because when I jumped out of the train this morning, two eyes glared at me just as yours did a moment since.”
“Ha! and whose eyes may they have been?” said Rogojin, suspiciously. It seemed to the prince that he was trembling.
“I don’t know; I thought it was a hallucination. I often have hallucinations nowadays. I feel just as I did five years ago when my fits were about to come on.”
“Well, perhaps it was a hallucination, I don’t know,” said Parfen.
He tried to give the prince an affectionate smile, and it seemed to the latter as though in this smile of his something had broken, and that he could not mend it, try as he would.
“Shall you go abroad again then?” he asked, and suddenly added, “Do you remember how we came up in the train from Pskoff together? You and your cloak and leggings, eh?”
And Rogojin burst out laughing, this time with unconcealed malice, as though he were glad that he had been able to find an opportunity for giving vent to it.
“Have you quite taken up your quarters here?” asked the prince
“Yes, I’m at home. Where else should I go to?”
“We haven’t met for some time. Meanwhile I have heard things about you which I should not have believed to be possible.”
“What of that? People will say anything,” said Rogojin drily.
“At all events, you’ve disbanded your troop—and you are living in your own house instead of being fast and loose about the place; that’s all very good. Is this house all yours, or joint property?”
“It is my mother’s. You get to her apartments by that passage.”
“Where’s your brother?”
“In the other wing.”
“Is he married?”
“Widower. Why do you want to know all this?”
The prince looked at him, but said nothing. He had suddenly relapsed into musing, and had probably not heard the question at all. Rogojin did not insist upon an answer, and there was silence for a few moments.
“I guessed which was your house from a hundred yards off,” said the prince at last.
“I don’t quite know. Your house has the aspect of yourself and all your family; it bears the stamp of the Rogojin life; but ask me why I think so, and I can tell you nothing. It is nonsense, of course. I am nervous about this kind of thing troubling me so much. I had never before imagined what sort of a house you would live in, and yet no sooner did I set eyes on this one than I said to myself that it must be yours.”
“Really!” said Rogojin vaguely, not taking in what the prince meant by his rather obscure remarks.
The room they were now sitting in was a large one, lofty but dark, well furnished, principally with writing-tables and desks covered with papers and books. A wide sofa covered with red morocco evidently served Rogojin for a bed. On the table beside which the prince had been invited to seat himself lay some books; one containing a marker where the reader had left off, was a volume of Solovieff’s History. Some oil-paintings in worn gilded frames hung on the walls, but it was impossible to make out what subjects they represented, so blackened were they by smoke and age. One, a life-sized portrait, attracted the prince’s attention. It showed a man of about fifty, wearing a long riding-coat of German cut. He had two medals on his breast; his beard was white, short and thin; his face yellow and wrinkled, with a sly, suspicious expression in the eyes.
“That is your father, is it not?” asked the prince.
“Yes, it is,” replied Rogojin with an unpleasant smile, as if he had expected his guest to ask the question, and then to make some disagreeable remark.
“Was he one of the Old Believers?”
“No, he went to church, but to tell the truth he really preferred the old religion. This was his study and is now mine. Why did you ask if he were an Old Believer?”
“Are you going to be married here?”
“Ye-yes!” replied Rogojin, starting at the unexpected question.
“You know yourself it does not depend on me.”
“Parfen, I am not your enemy, and I do not intend to oppose your intentions in any way. I repeat this to you now just as I said it to you once before on a very similar occasion. When you were arranging for your projected marriage in Moscow, I did not interfere with you—you know I did not. That first time she fled to me from you, from the very altar almost, and begged me to ‘save her from you.’ Afterwards she ran away from me again, and you found her and arranged your marriage with her once more; and now, I hear, she has run away from you and come to Petersburg. Is it true? Lebedeff wrote me to this effect, and that’s why I came here. That you had once more arranged matters with Nastasia Philipovna I only learned last night in the train from a friend of yours, Zaleshoff—if you wish to know.
“I confess I came here with an object. I wished to persuade Nastasia to go abroad for her health; she requires it. Both mind and body need a change badly. I did not intend to take her abroad myself. I was going to arrange for her to go without me. Now I tell you honestly, Parfen, if it is true that all is made up between you, I will not so much as set eyes upon her, and I will never even come to see you again.
“You know quite well that I am telling the truth, because I have always been frank with you. I have never concealed my own opinion from you. I have always told you that I consider a marriage between you and her would be ruin to her. You would also be ruined, and perhaps even more hopelessly. If this marriage were to be broken off again, I admit I should be greatly pleased; but at the same time I have not the slightest intention of trying to part you. You may be quite easy in your mind, and you need not suspect me. You know yourself whether I was ever really your rival or not, even when she ran away and came to me.
“There, you are laughing at me—I know why you laugh. It is perfectly true that we lived apart from one another all the time, in different towns. I told you before that I did not love her with love, but with pity! You said then that you understood me; did you really understand me or not? What hatred there is in your eyes at this moment! I came to relieve your mind, because you are dear to me also. I love you very much, Parfen; and now I shall go away and never come back again. Goodbye.”
The prince rose.
“Stay a little,” said Parfen, not leaving his chair and resting his head on his right hand. “I haven’t seen you for a long time.”
The prince sat down again. Both were silent for a few moments.
“When you are not with me I hate you, Lef Nicolaievitch. I have loathed you every day of these three months since I last saw you. By heaven I have!” said Rogojin. “I could have poisoned you at any minute. Now, you have been with me but a quarter of an hour, and all my malice seems to have melted away, and you are as dear to me as ever. Stay here a little longer.”
“When I am with you you trust me; but as soon as my back is turned you suspect me,” said the prince, smiling, and trying to hide his emotion.
“I trust your voice, when I hear you speak. I quite understand that you and I cannot be put on a level, of course.”
“Why did you add that?—There! Now you are cross again,” said the prince, wondering.
“We were not asked, you see. We were made different, with different tastes and feelings, without being consulted. You say you love her with pity. I have no pity for her. She hates me—that’s the plain truth of the matter. I dream of her every night, and always that she is laughing at me with another man. And so she does laugh at me. She thinks no more of marrying me than if she were changing her shoe. Would you believe it, I haven’t seen her for five days, and I daren’t go near her. She asks me what I come for, as if she were not content with having disgraced me—”
“Disgraced you! How?”
“Just as though you didn’t know! Why, she ran away from me, and went to you. You admitted it yourself, just now.”
“But surely you do not believe that she…”
“That she did not disgrace me at Moscow with that officer, Zemtuznikoff? I know for certain she did, after having fixed our marriage-day herself!”
“Impossible!” cried the prince.
“I know it for a fact,” replied Rogojin, with conviction.
“It is not like her, you say? My friend, that’s absurd. Perhaps such an act would horrify her, if she were with you, but it is quite different where I am concerned. She looks on me as vermin. Her affair with Keller was simply to make a laughing-stock of me. You don’t know what a fool she made of me in Moscow; and the money I spent over her! The money! the money!”
“And you can marry her now, Parfen! What will come of it all?” said the prince, with dread in his voice.
Rogojin gazed back gloomily, and with a terrible expression in his eyes, but said nothing.
“I haven’t been to see her for five days,” he repeated, after a slight pause. “I’m afraid of being turned out. She says she’s still her own mistress, and may turn me off altogether, and go abroad. She told me this herself,” he said, with a peculiar glance at Muishkin. “I think she often does it merely to frighten me. She is always laughing at me, for some reason or other; but at other times she’s angry, and won’t say a word, and that’s what I’m afraid of. I took her a shawl one day, the like of which she might never have seen, although she did live in luxury and she gave it away to her maid, Katia. Sometimes when I can keep away no longer, I steal past the house on the sly, and once I watched at the gate till dawn—I thought something was going on—and she saw me from the window. She asked me what I should do if I found she had deceived me. I said, ‘You know well enough.’”
“What did she know?” cried the prince.
“How was I to tell?” replied Rogojin, with an angry laugh. “I did my best to catch her tripping in Moscow, but did not succeed. However, I caught hold of her one day, and said: ‘You are engaged to be married into a respectable family, and do you know what sort of a woman you are? That’s the sort of woman you are,’ I said.”
“You told her that?”
“Well, go on.”
“She said, ‘I wouldn’t even have you for a footman now, much less for a husband.’ ‘I shan’t leave the house,’ I said, ‘so it doesn’t matter.’ ‘Then I shall call somebody and have you kicked out,’ she cried. So then I rushed at her, and beat her till she was bruised all over.”
“Impossible!” cried the prince, aghast.
“I tell you it’s true,” said Rogojin quietly, but with eyes ablaze with passion.
“Then for a day and a half I neither slept, nor ate, nor drank, and would not leave her. I knelt at her feet: ‘I shall die here,’ I said, ‘if you don’t forgive me; and if you have me turned out, I shall drown myself; because, what should I be without you now?’ She was like a madwoman all that day; now she would cry; now she would threaten me with a knife; now she would abuse me. She called in Zaleshoff and Keller, and showed me to them, shamed me in their presence. ‘Let’s all go to the theatre,’ she says, ‘and leave him here if he won’t go—it’s not my business. They’ll give you some tea, Parfen Semeonovitch, while I am away, for you must be hungry.’ She came back from the theatre alone. ‘Those cowards wouldn’t come,’ she said. ‘They are afraid of you, and tried to frighten me, too. “He won’t go away as he came,” they said, “he’ll cut your throat—see if he doesn’t.” Now, I shall go to my bedroom, and I shall not even lock my door, just to show you how much I am afraid of you. You must be shown that once for all. Did you have tea?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘and I don’t intend to.’ ‘Ha, ha! you are playing off your pride against your stomach! That sort of heroism doesn’t sit well on you,’ she said.
“With that she did as she had said she would; she went to bed, and did not lock her door. In the morning she came out. ‘Are you quite mad?’ she said, sharply. ‘Why, you’ll die of hunger like this.’ ‘Forgive me,’ I said. ‘No, I won’t, and I won’t marry you. I’ve said it. Surely you haven’t sat in this chair all night without sleeping?’ ‘I didn’t sleep,’ I said. ‘H’m! how sensible of you. And are you going to have no breakfast or dinner today?’ ‘I told you I wouldn’t. Forgive me!’ ‘You’ve no idea how unbecoming this sort of thing is to you,’ she said, ‘it’s like putting a saddle on a cow’s back. Do you think you are frightening me? My word, what a dreadful thing that you should sit here and eat no food! How terribly frightened I am!’ She wasn’t angry long, and didn’t seem to remember my offence at all. I was surprised, for she is a vindictive, resentful woman—but then I thought that perhaps she despised me too much to feel any resentment against me. And that’s the truth.
“She came up to me and said, ‘Do you know who the Pope of Rome is?’ ‘I’ve heard of him,’ I said. ‘I suppose you’ve read the Universal History, Parfen Semeonovitch, haven’t you?’ she asked. ‘I’ve learned nothing at all,’ I said. ‘Then I’ll lend it to you to read. You must know there was a Roman Pope once, and he was very angry with a certain Emperor; so the Emperor came and neither ate nor drank, but knelt before the Pope’s palace till he should be forgiven. And what sort of vows do you think that Emperor was making during all those days on his knees? Stop, I’ll read it to you!’ Then she read me a lot of verses, where it said that the Emperor spent all the time vowing vengeance against the Pope. ‘You don’t mean to say you don’t approve of the poem, Parfen Semeonovitch,’ she says. ‘All you have read out is perfectly true,’ say I. ‘Aha!’ says she, ‘you admit it’s true, do you? And you are making vows to yourself that if I marry you, you will remind me of all this, and take it out of me.’ ‘I don’t know,’ I say, ‘perhaps I was thinking like that, and perhaps I was not. I’m not thinking of anything just now.’ ‘What are your thoughts, then?’ ‘I’m thinking that when you rise from your chair and go past me, I watch you, and follow you with my eyes; if your dress does but rustle, my heart sinks; if you leave the room, I remember every little word and action, and what your voice sounded like, and what you said. I thought of nothing all last night, but sat here listening to your sleeping breath, and heard you move a little, twice.’ ‘And as for your attack upon me,’ she says, ‘I suppose you never once thought of that?’ ‘Perhaps I did think of it, and perhaps not,’ I say. ‘And what if I don’t either forgive you or marry, you?’ ‘I tell you I shall go and drown myself.’ ‘H’m!’ she said, and then relapsed into silence. Then she got angry, and went out. ‘I suppose you’d murder me before you drowned yourself, though!’ she cried as she left the room.
“An hour later, she came to me again, looking melancholy. ‘I will marry you, Parfen Semeonovitch,’ she says, not because I’m frightened of you, but because it’s all the same to me how I ruin myself. And how can I do it better? Sit down; they’ll bring you some dinner directly. And if I do marry you, I’ll be a faithful wife to you—you need not doubt that.’ Then she thought a bit, and said, ‘At all events, you are not a flunkey; at first, I thought you were no better than a flunkey.’ And she arranged the wedding and fixed the day straight away on the spot.
“Then, in another week, she had run away again, and came here to Lebedeff’s; and when I found her here, she said to me, ‘I’m not going to renounce you altogether, but I wish to put off the wedding a bit longer yet—just as long as I like—for I am still my own mistress; so you may wait, if you like.’ That’s how the matter stands between us now. What do you think of all this, Lef Nicolaievitch?”
“‘What do you think of it yourself?” replied the prince, looking sadly at Rogojin.
“As if I can think anything about it! I—” He was about to say more, but stopped in despair.
The prince rose again, as if he would leave.
“At all events, I shall not interfere with you!” he murmured, as though making answer to some secret thought of his own.
“I’ll tell you what!” cried Rogojin, and his eyes flashed fire. “I can’t understand your yielding her to me like this; I don’t understand it. Have you given up loving her altogether? At first you suffered badly—I know it—I saw it. Besides, why did you come post-haste after us? Out of pity, eh? He, he, he!” His mouth curved in a mocking smile.
“Do you think I am deceiving you?” asked the prince.
“No! I trust you—but I can’t understand. It seems to me that your pity is greater than my love.” A hungry longing to speak his mind out seemed to flash in the man’s eyes, combined with an intense anger.
“Your love is mingled with hatred, and therefore, when your love passes, there will be the greater misery,” said the prince. “I tell you this, Parfen—”
“What! that I’ll cut her throat, you mean?”
The prince shuddered.
“You’ll hate her afterwards for all your present love, and for all the torment you are suffering on her account now. What seems to me the most extraordinary thing is, that she can again consent to marry you, after all that has passed between you. When I heard the news yesterday, I could hardly bring myself to believe it. Why, she has run twice from you, from the very altar rails, as it were. She must have some presentiment of evil. What can she want with you now? Your money? Nonsense! Besides, I should think you must have made a fairly large hole in your fortune already. Surely it is not because she is so very anxious to find a husband? She could find many a one besides yourself. Anyone would be better than you, because you will murder her, and I feel sure she must know that but too well by now. Is it because you love her so passionately? Indeed, that may be it. I have heard that there are women who want just that kind of love… but still…” The prince paused, reflectively.
“What are you grinning at my father’s portrait again for?” asked Rogojin, suddenly. He was carefully observing every change in the expression of the prince’s face.
“I smiled because the idea came into my head that if it were not for this unhappy passion of yours you might have, and would have, become just such a man as your father, and that very quickly, too. You’d have settled down in this house of yours with some silent and obedient wife. You would have spoken rarely, trusted no one, heeded no one, and thought of nothing but making money.”
“Laugh away! She said exactly the same, almost word for word, when she saw my father’s portrait. It’s remarkable how entirely you and she are at one now-a-days.”
“What, has she been here?” asked the prince with curiosity.
“Yes! She looked long at the portrait and asked all about my father. ‘You’d be just such another,’ she said at last, and laughed. ‘You have such strong passions, Parfen,’ she said, ‘that they’d have taken you to Siberia in no time if you had not, luckily, intelligence as well. For you have a good deal of intelligence.’ (She said this—believe it or not. The first time I ever heard anything of that sort from her.) ‘You’d soon have thrown up all this rowdyism that you indulge in now, and you’d have settled down to quiet, steady money-making, because you have little education; and here you’d have stayed just like your father before you. And you’d have loved your money so that you’d amass not two million, like him, but ten million; and you’d have died of hunger on your money bags to finish up with, for you carry everything to extremes.’ There, that’s exactly word for word as she said it to me. She never talked to me like that before. She always talks nonsense and laughs when she’s with me. We went all over this old house together. ‘I shall change all this,’ I said, ‘or else I’ll buy a new house for the wedding.’ ‘No, no!’ she said, ‘don’t touch anything; leave it all as it is; I shall live with your mother when I marry you.’
“I took her to see my mother, and she was as respectful and kind as though she were her own daughter. Mother has been almost demented ever since father died—she’s an old woman. She sits and bows from her chair to everyone she sees. If you left her alone and didn’t feed her for three days, I don’t believe she would notice it. Well, I took her hand, and I said, ‘Give your blessing to this lady, mother, she’s going to be my wife.’ So Nastasia kissed mother’s hand with great feeling. ‘She must have suffered terribly, hasn’t she?’ she said. She saw this book here lying before me. ‘What! have you begun to read Russian history?’ she asked. She told me once in Moscow, you know, that I had better get Solovieff’s Russian History and read it, because I knew nothing. ‘That’s good,’ she said, ‘you go on like that, reading books. I’ll make you a list myself of the books you ought to read first—shall I?’ She had never once spoken to me like this before; it was the first time I felt I could breathe before her like a living creature.”
“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.”
“Never, never!” cried Rogojin, excitedly.
“Look here, Parfen; if you love her so much, surely you must be anxious to earn her respect? And if you do so wish, surely you may hope to? I said just now that I considered it extraordinary that she could still be ready to marry you. Well, though I cannot yet understand it, I feel sure she must have some good reason, or she wouldn’t do it. She is sure of your love; but besides that, she must attribute something else to you—some good qualities, otherwise the thing would not be. What you have just said confirms my words. You say yourself that she found it possible to speak to you quite differently from her usual manner. You are suspicious, you know, and jealous, therefore when anything annoying happens to you, you exaggerate its significance. Of course, of course, she does not think so ill of you as you say. Why, if she did, she would simply be walking to death by drowning or by the knife, with her eyes wide open, when she married you. It is impossible! As if anybody would go to their death deliberately!”
Rogojin listened to the prince’s excited words with a bitter smile. His conviction was, apparently, unalterable.
“How dreadfully you look at me, Parfen!” said the prince, with a feeling of dread.
“Water or the knife?” said the latter, at last. “Ha, ha—that’s exactly why she is going to marry me, because she knows for certain that the knife awaits her. Prince, can it be that you don’t even yet see what’s at the root of it all?”
“I don’t understand you.”
“Perhaps he really doesn’t understand me! They do say that you are a—you know what! She loves another—there, you can understand that much! Just as I love her, exactly so she loves another man. And that other man is—do you know who? It’s you. There—you didn’t know that, eh?”
“You, you! She has loved you ever since that day, her birthday! Only she thinks she cannot marry you, because it would be the ruin of you. ‘Everybody knows what sort of a woman I am,’ she says. She told me all this herself, to my very face! She’s afraid of disgracing and ruining you, she says, but it doesn’t matter about me. She can marry me all right! Notice how much consideration she shows for me!”
“But why did she run away to me, and then again from me to—”
“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!”
“But how do you, how can you—” began the prince, gazing with dread and horror at Rogojin.
“Why don’t you finish your sentence? Shall I tell you what you were thinking to yourself just then? You were thinking, ‘How can she marry him after this? How can it possibly be permitted?’ Oh, I know what you were thinking about!”
“I didn’t come here for that purpose, Parfen. That was not in my mind—”
“That may be! Perhaps you didn’t come with the idea, but the idea is certainly there now! Ha, ha! well, that’s enough! What are you upset about? Didn’t you really know it all before? You astonish me!”
“All this is mere jealousy—it is some malady of yours, Parfen! You exaggerate everything,” said the prince, excessively agitated. “What are you doing?”
“Let go of it!” said Parfen, seizing from the prince’s hand a knife which the latter had at that moment taken up from the table, where it lay beside the history. Parfen replaced it where it had been.
“I seemed to know it—I felt it, when I was coming back to Petersburg,” continued the prince, “I did not want to come, I wished to forget all this, to uproot it from my memory altogether! Well, good-bye—what is the matter?”
He had absently taken up the knife a second time, and again Rogojin snatched it from his hand, and threw it down on the table. It was a plain looking knife, with a bone handle, a blade about eight inches long, and broad in proportion, it did not clasp.
Seeing that the prince was considerably struck by the fact that he had twice seized this knife out of his hand, Rogojin caught it up with some irritation, put it inside the book, and threw the latter across to another table.
“Do you cut your pages with it, or what?” asked Muishkin, still rather absently, as though unable to throw off a deep preoccupation into which the conversation had thrown him.
“It’s a garden knife, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Can’t one cut pages with a garden knife?”
“It’s quite new.”
“Well, what of that? Can’t I buy a new knife if I like?” shouted Rogojin furiously, his irritation growing with every word.
The prince shuddered, and gazed fixedly at Parfen. Suddenly he burst out laughing.
“Why, what an idea!” he said. “I didn’t mean to ask you any of these questions; I was thinking of something quite different! But my head is heavy, and I seem so absent-minded nowadays! Well, good-bye—I can’t remember what I wanted to say—good-bye!”
“Not that way,” said Rogojin.
“There, I’ve forgotten that too!”
“This way—come along—I’ll show you.”