At the end of November the thawing train of the Petersburg-Warsaw Railway approached St. Petersburg. In the car, as it usually happens, a conversation was started between fellow travelers. Two young men turned out to be opposite each other.
The first of them was about twenty-seven, black-haired, curly, with small gray but fiery eyes. His thin lips continually formed a mocking smile. He was dressed in a warm sheepskin coat, in which it was possible to bear this chilly weather. But his neighbor was not prepared for this weather, being dressed in a rather wide cloak with a hood, sleeveless, which is often used for carrying travelers abroad. He was also twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, very fair-haired, thick-haired, with sunken cheeks and a light, pointed and almost white beard.
Here, a gentleman entered into the conversation, one of those that everyone knows about everyone. He told the young man that he knew both General Yepanchin and the late Mr. Pavlishchev. Then this gentleman asked who he was talking with, and heard that his companion was called Prince Nikolai Myshkin.
A black-haired man, Parfen Semyonovich Rogozhin, also appeared.
Mr. know-all at once informed everyone that this is the same Rogozhin, whose father died a month ago and left a huge capital. Rogozhin confirmed this. Parfen made a reservation that he irritated his father “through Nastasya Filippovna,” and the gentleman omniscient official immediately
Then Rogozhin told the story of his acquaintance with Nastasya Filippovna, when he bought her diamond pendants for his father’s money. What ended this story, everyone already knew: the illness of Parfen Rogozhin and the death of his father.
And when they were already entering the station, Rogozhin confessed to the prince that he liked him very much. He invited him to his place, and then left his car with all his retinue. The prince thanked him politely and went in the right direction.
General Epanchin lived in his own house, somewhat away from Liteiny Prospekt. He was a man with connections, money and big occupations, although he was a man without education and came from soldier’s children. He was healthy, was what is called in the juice itself, and everything in his life contributed to luck.
He married early, and also successfully. Ivan Fyodorovich respected his wife and was afraid, and even loved. The general’s wife was from the ancient Myshkin family, and her origins contributed a lot to the general’s career.
The three daughters of the general Alexander, Adelaide and Aglaya grew up and ripened. They were very good-looking. The eldest, Alexandra, passed twenty-five years, middle, Adelaide – twenty-three, and the beautiful Aglaya – twenty. They loved each other, they were modest, but they knew their own worth and possessed each remarkable ability. They were horrified at the number of books they had read. Marrying the maid of Epanchins did not hurry.
It was already about eleven o’clock, when the prince called the general’s apartment and told his footman footman his name, title and purpose of the visit. He could not figure out why this guest came and whether he really was Prince Myshkin, and even a relative of the general’s wife. The footman was replaced by the valet, who regarded the prince with no less amazement and could in no way understand the purpose of the visit-to “get acquainted”.
In the end, the prince was asked to remove his cloak, and the servant was ready to report it. Between the prince and the valet of the general, a conversation began about a foreign country, courts there, a guillotine, and the prince provoked a profound sympathy with his interlocutor, who first formed the opinion of the prince as a fool. The servant even offered the prince a smoke, as he wanted, but then a young man with papers in his hands entered the hall. The valet rushed to take off his fur coat from Gavrila Ardalionich and simultaneously told about the prince and the reasons for his appearance in the general’s house. A very handsome young man, a slender blond with a Napoleonic beard asked if the prince wrote a letter to Lizaveta Prokofievna a year ago. The prince answered in the affirmative, to which Gavrila Ardalionovich remarked that they knew about the prince and probably remembered.
“Are you here, Ganya?” Shouted a voice from the office, “but perhaps here!” Gavrila Ardalionovich nodded to the prince and hurriedly went into the office.
A few minutes later Myshkin was invited to the general.
Prince Myshkin appeared before General Epanchin and answered his questions, that, in fact, there was no specific purpose for the visit. He came to the general’s house only to get acquainted, because they are with the wife of the general, Lizaveta Prokofievna, from the same clan, therefore, almost relatives.
Initially, the prince was received by the general only out of pure curiosity, then curiosity changed the dislike of the rich relative to the poor, but then another change occurred. The general decided to finally introduce his wife to this man with an unusually kind look and a smile.
The prince told the general the story of his life and stay in treatment in Switzerland. He explained that since childhood, without parents, he constantly lived in villages, because his health required rural air, and he was constantly helped by someone. The last people who kept him in Switzerland were the same Pavlishchev and Professor Schneider, who sent the prince to Russia. In Russia, however, Lev Nikolaevich had no one.
Asked by the general about what the prince is going to do, he replied that he was a calligrapher and wrote without mistakes. Epanchin asked Gan to give the prince pencils and paper, and at the time when the prince bent over the paper, Epanchin and Ivolgin began to consider the photograph of Nastasya Filippovna, which she sent to Ghana. The conversation between the general and Gani was about a treaty, a given word, and that today everything must be decided. And the merchant has nothing to put in this business. The prince entered into the conversation, noticing that this woman suffered very much.
The general became interested in what the prince wrote. It was the signature of Father Superior Paphnutia, written in a medieval Russian font. Myshkin turned out to be really a calligrapher and immediately received a proposal from the general to set up a service – to write important papers. The general gave him an advance and offered to rent a spare room in the house of Gani Ivolgin. Epanchin left, and Ganya asked the prince, pointing at the portrait, he would have married that woman. Lev Nikolaevich replied that he can not marry, he is not well. When asked if Rogozhin would have married her, the prince replied that he could get married sometime, but in a week he would have stabbed her. Ganya winced, and at that time the prince was summoned to the general’s office.
Athanasius Ivanovich Totsky, who reached the age of fifty-five and held a firm position in the world, planned to marry and decided to make a proposal to one of the daughters of General Yepanchin. This was hampered by one circumstance.
About eighteen years ago he took part in the fate of the girl, the daughter of a neighbor-landowner Nastenka Barashkova, who was left without parents and without means of subsistence. He settled her with his sister, who soon died of pertussis, at her estate and forgot about the girls, but when several years later he came home again, he saw Nastya, who promised extraordinary beauty. In the education of the girl, a serious change occurred, and Totsky himself became a frequent guest in the Otradnoye village, where Nastasya Filippovna was now permanently living in a separate house, under the supervision of governesses in the appropriate surroundings.
Four years later, Nastasya Filippovna heard a rumor that Totsky was marrying a rich and noble beauty, and she herself came to Petersburg to inform him that she would not allow this marriage. Totsky was always unpleasant to her to the deepest contempt, and she decided not to admit this marriage, to at least somehow take revenge on him. Both legally and physically she was a harmless creature, but Totsky was a coward and feared for his reputation. Therefore, I decided to settle Nastasya Filippovna in Petersburg and surround him with unprecedented comfort and luxury. He was very afraid of this woman, she took a lot above him, he did not give in and lived by his own laws.
Totsky asked advice from his old friend General Epanchin, and they both went to Nastasya Filippovna. Totsky blamed himself for what happened to this woman, but it’s the past, and now he’s going to get married. The case was entered Epanchin, adding that the fate of one of his daughters is in the hands of Nastasya Filippovna. When asked what is required of her, both said that they would like to receive guarantees of Afanasy Ivanovich’s peace through her marriage with Gavril Ardalionovich Ivolgin, who had long been without her loving memory.
Nastasya Filippovna’s answer surprised both of them. She agreed to marry someone, trying to resurrect in the family, if not in love. She responded flatteringly about Ghana, but asked her not to rush. Married for him promised to come out only when she was sure that there was no dislike towards him in his family. Assigned to her from Totsky content promised to take as payment for the warped fate.
It might have been possible to consider the matter exhausted, but soon Nastasya Filippovna learned in detail about the scandals of the Ivolgin family at home, connected with the upcoming wedding. She also learned that Ganya is a greedy and envious person, and he does not marry her, but on the money promised for its maintenance. Ivolgin’s soul combined passion and hatred for her, he gave his consent to the marriage, deciding that he would recoup Nastasya Filippovna later. All this Nastasya Filippovna supposedly knew and secretly prepared something.
It turned out to be true and another rumor – about the secret passion of the general to Nastasya Filippovna. He prepared for her birthday an expensive gift – the pearl, which her husband had heard about. To avoid an unpleasant conversation with his wife, he sent a prince to her, which incidentally appeared to them.
Prince Myshkin was introduced by the general to his wife and daughters. Epanchin himself hastily retired. Lizaveta Prokofievna invited the prince to have breakfast with them and was pleased with them. Between the prince and the female part of the Epanchin family there is a detailed confidential conversation. The prince tells about himself, about his stay abroad, including including one story of a man sentenced to death, who was pardoned two minutes before the hanging. This story arose in the memory of the prince as a result of conversations with the daughters of the general about the meaning of life and was listened to them with the greatest attention.
The Prince’s next story was his memories of the unhappy Marie from the village where he lived abroad, about how a disgraced girl became an outcast in society, and only after her death, people accepted her and fell in love with her.
The prince said that Aglaya Ivanovna was as good as Nastasya Filippovna, to which the general’s wife immediately asked how he knew the last. The prince, who did not know how to lie, answered that Ganya had recently brought her portrait to the general in the study and said that there must be a decisive explanation today. Leo Nikolayevich was sent to the general’s office for a portrait, where Gania cursed him. However, after that he asked the prince to give Aglay Ivanovna a note from him. The prince, to whom this instruction was unpleasant, nevertheless agreed to fulfill it. The portrait was handed over to the general’s wife, a note – Aglaya, and Ganya was invited to explain whether he really marries. Ganya at all answered Lizaveta Prokofievna that this was not true. The general’s wife left for advice to the old woman Belokonskaya, Ganya suggested the prince, if he did not change his mind, go to the Ivolgin home,
Aglaya asked the prince to linger to write to her on the album, and while the prince chose a pen, Ganya came up to her and whispered in his ear a prayer about some words that he had expected from Aglaya and who could save him. Aglaya pretended not to understand what was being said. This was for Ghani worse than any contempt. She returned a note to Ghana through the prince, which made the Ivolgin furious, and asked me to convey that she had only regretted Gavril Ardalionovich once, and he accepted it as a hope that he had given.
Ganya was perplexed, as the prince who appeared in the Epanchins’ house only two hours ago, became a hearted attorney in the affairs of Aglaya Ivanovna. The prince could not answer him, and on the way to the Ivolgin was repeatedly insulted by Ghana. He interrupted the stream of rudeness, saying that he could find furnished rooms and not borrow housing from the Ivolgins. Ganya immediately realized that the prince, who at once understood his true nature and tore off the mask of propriety, can not now be released from himself, apologized to him and led him to the threshold of his house.
At home, he introduced Myshkin to members of the family: Father Ardalion Alexandrovich, mother Nina Alexandrovna, sister Varvara Ardalionovna and her fiancé Ivan Petrovich Ptitsyn, and also with younger brother Kolya. The prince met with a roommate, a certain Ferdyshchenko, who at once did not like him.
Ardalion Alexandrovich set off into long memories of his youth and fantasy of Lev Nikolaevich’s parents, who had previously been known to him. Nina Alexandrovna asked the prince to give money to her husband for her apartment. From the former general Ivolgin, the prince learned that the marriage of his son and this ambiguous woman was being prepared, as he called Nastasya Filippovna. But Ivolgin the elder swore to die rather than allow this woman to enter the apartment where his wife and daughter live.
And again, the same portrait as Nastasya Filippovna gave to Ghana, who was awaiting her decision. Varvara Ardalionovna brought him to show her mother and said that today everything will be decided. The complex relationships in the family of the Ivolgins, the tense situation in the house, the expectation of Nastasya Filippovna’s decision, all this again caused mutual irritation. The drawn conversation turned into a scandal. Gavrila Ardalionovich could no longer hide his irritation prince, who was forced to retire from the scene.
Leo Nikolayevich went to his room, but at the entrance doors he saw that someone was trying to ring the bell. The prince opened the door and stepped back in amazement: Nastasya Filippovna stood before him.
She took him for a lackey, was indignant that he was not only too lazy to fix the bell, but also to sit in the hallway. Then she threw off his fur coat, which he did not have time to take, and had to lift it from the floor. Then she asked who this idiot would report. Completely dumbfounded prince said that Nastasya Filippovna. She quickly asked how he knew her, because she had never seen him, and told me to go and report, and at the same time find out what was there for the cry.
The prince entered the moment when the quarrel in the family reached extraordinary heat. It was at that moment that the prince declared that Nastasya Filippovna had come to see them.
All were dumbfounded. Nobody expected this visit. It was clear to Ghana one thing – Nastasya Filippovna came for a reason, not for nothing. Nevertheless, all the external decorum was met. Mother and sister were introduced to the guest. Mother stammered something about the pleasure of seeing the guest, and Varvara did not hide her hatred of Nastasya Filippovna.
When the guest found out that the person she had mistaken for a lackey was actually a prince, she was initially surprised, and then, after exchanging a few words, she was even puzzled by his behavior.
Ganya was utterly furious, when Ardalion Aleksandrovich Ivolgin himself came out to the noise in dress and bosom and was introduced to Nastasya Filippovna. This Ganya, in the words of Nastasya Filippovna, “an impatient beggar,” could not bear.
He had the last torment – the torture of shame for his relatives. He was ashamed of his father’s behavior, and of Nastasya Filippovna’s ridicule over her mother and sister.
While Ganya was trying to remove his father from the room, there was a loud bell from the front bell. An unusual visit was foreshadowed. Kolya ran to open it.
A strange company of ten or twelve men came in, each of them drunk. At its head was Parfen Rogozhin, who was surprised to know the prince. He came to find out whether it was true that Nastasya Filippovna was crowned with Ganya, and received a negative response from her, which was very reassuring. Then he said that he had come to pay Ghana, so that he would give up Nastasya Filippovna. I brought a lot of money, I promised even more. He went into a rage, and Nastasya Filippovna also teased him, wanting to see the reaction of Ghani.
Varya vainly demanded to withdraw from the house “this shameless,” as she called Nastasya Filippovna. She exploded and really was about to leave. Ganya, seeing this, raised his hand to his sister, but the prince stood between them, and a slap came to him. The only thing Leo Nikolayevich could say was that Gania would be ashamed of his act. He was supported by Rogozhin, who was indignant that Ganya had hit such a “sheep”. Ganya was destroyed.
Nastasya Filippovna calmed down and said aloud that somewhere she had actually seen the prince. He, in turn, said that she had nothing to be ashamed of, because she was not what she was trying to seem. Nastasya Filippovna confirmed in absentmindedness that she really was not that kind, she kissed Nina Alexandrovna’s hand and left. On the move, she shouted that they would see them in the evening. Following her, the Rogozhin company fell out. Parfen shouted to Ghana that he had lost.
After all was quiet, Kolya first entered the room of the prince, with whom they discussed what had happened, and then – Varvara Ardalionovna. She noticed that the prince has an influence on today’s guest, since his observation that Nastasya Filippovna was “not that” turned out to be correct. She warned Ganya, who appeared after her, from the evening visit to Nastasya Filippovna, since it could no longer be settled there.
Ganya, left alone with the prince, sincerely asked for his forgiveness. Reconciliation has come. Ganya explained the reasons for which he agreed to this marriage, and set out his observations on the character of Nastasya Filippovna. Then he told me how he was going to do with the bride’s dowry. Money really meant a lot to him.
Once again, Kolya appeared and gave the prince a note from Ardalion Alexandrovich. He was sitting behind a bottle in one of the local drinking establishments. After reading the note, the prince told Kolya that he himself needed to see Colin Father, and asked the boy to go with him.
A few hours later Myshkin, trying to find the house of Nastasya Filippovna, to ask for a birthday party, again meets Kolya, who shows him the way.
In the house of Nastasya Filippovna, he was immediately cordially received, not listening to his apologies. Then they begin to decide whether to marry Gavril Ivolgin, and she suddenly turns to the prince with this question. All present are astonished, because today she first saw a prince in her life, and already makes her fate dependent on his answer. Myshkin gives a negative answer, and Nastasya Filippovna announces that the issue has been resolved.
But at this moment Rogozhin appears with a drunk company and a bundle of money for a hundred thousand, with the intention of buying a birthday girl.
The prince declares that he will take Nastasya Filippovna to marry. He talks about a letter received in Switzerland, which says that he is supposed to get a large inheritance. Nastasya Filippovna at first accepts the offer, but after a few minutes she realizes that the prince is so innocent that she should not overshadow his life by his presence. Therefore, she leaves with Rogozhin, promises to marry him, but several times runs away from him, because he loves the prince, in whose life later there was a love for another woman – Aglaya Epanchina. But this love did not become happy, since compassion for Nastasya Filippovna was stronger. The denouement of the novel, its finale is the death of Nastasya Filippovna, whom Rogozhin kills.