Mrs. Epanchin gazed keenly into the prince’s eyes. She was anxious to see what impression the news as to Evgenie Pavlovitch had made upon him.
“And now you’ll have a million roubles, at least--goodness gracious me!” exclaimed the clerk, rubbing his hands.
“No--never--nowhere! I’ve been at home all my life, corked up in a bottle; and they expect me to be married straight out of it. What are you laughing at again? I observe that you, too, have taken to laughing at me, and range yourself on their side against me,” she added, frowning angrily. “Don’t irritate me--I’m bad enough without that--I don’t know what I am doing sometimes. I am persuaded that you came here today in the full belief that I am in love with you, and that I arranged this meeting because of that,” she cried, with annoyance.
The prince was away for six months, and even those who were most interested in his destiny were able to pick up very little news about him all that while. True, certain rumours did reach his friends, but these were both strange and rare, and each one contradicted the last.
“Pavlicheff was a man of bright intellect and a good Christian, a sincere Christian,” said the prince, suddenly. “How could he possibly embrace a faith which is unchristian? Roman Catholicism is, so to speak, simply the same thing as unchristianity,” he added with flashing eyes, which seemed to take in everybody in the room.
“Forgive me, it’s a schoolboy expression. I won’t do it again. I know quite well, I see it, that you are anxious on my account (now, don’t be angry), and it makes me very happy to see it. You wouldn’t believe how frightened I am of misbehaving somehow, and how glad I am of your instructions. But all this panic is simply nonsense, you know, Aglaya! I give you my word it is; I am so pleased that you are such a child, such a dear good child. How _charming_ you can be if you like, Aglaya.”
“Oh, then, of course they will remember who you are. You wish to see the general? I’ll tell him at once--he will be free in a minute; but you--you had better wait in the ante-chamber,--hadn’t you? Why is he here?” he added, severely, to the man.A couple of days later, however, Hippolyte’s mother came with tears in her eyes, and begged the prince to come back, “or _he_ would eat her up bodily.” She added that Hippolyte had a great secret to disclose. Of course the prince went. There was no secret, however, unless we reckon certain pantings and agitated glances around (probably all put on) as the invalid begged his visitor to “beware of Rogojin.”
Prince S. looked as black as night, and was silent and moody. Mrs. Epanchin did not say a word to him all the way home, and he did not seem to observe the fact. Adelaida tried to pump him a little by asking, “who was the uncle they were talking about, and what was it that had happened in Petersburg?” But he had merely muttered something disconnected about “making inquiries,” and that “of course it was all nonsense.” “Oh, of course,” replied Adelaida, and asked no more questions. Aglaya, too, was very quiet; and the only remark she made on the way home was that they were “walking much too fast to be pleasant.”
“No, you’re not to drink any more, Hippolyte. I won’t let you.” The prince moved the glass away.
“Oh, no; oh, no! Not to theology alone, I assure you! Why, Socialism is the progeny of Romanism and of the Romanistic spirit. It and its brother Atheism proceed from Despair in opposition to Catholicism. It seeks to replace in itself the moral power of religion, in order to appease the spiritual thirst of parched humanity and save it; not by Christ, but by force. ‘Don’t dare to believe in God, don’t dare to possess any individuality, any property! _Fraternité ou la Mort_; two million heads. ‘By their works ye shall know them’--we are told. And we must not suppose that all this is harmless and without danger to ourselves. Oh, no; we must resist, and quickly, quickly! We must let our Christ shine forth upon the Western nations, our Christ whom we have preserved intact, and whom they have never known. Not as slaves, allowing ourselves to be caught by the hooks of the Jesuits, but carrying our Russian civilization to _them_, we must stand before them, not letting it be said among us that their preaching is ‘skilful,’ as someone expressed it just now.”