THE prince did not die before his wedding — either by day or night, as he had foretold that he might. Very probably he passed disturbed nights, and was afflicted with bad dreams; but, during the daytime, among his fellow-men, he seemed as kind as ever, and even contented; only a little thoughtful when alone.
The wedding was hurried on. The day was fixed for exactly a week after Evgenie's visit to the prince. In the face of such haste as this, even the prince's best friends (if he had had any) would have felt the hopelessness of any attempt to save "the poor madman." Rumour said that in the visit of Evgenie Pavlovitch was to be discerned the influence of Lizabetha Prokofievna and her husband . . . But if those good souls, in the boundless kindness of their hearts, were desirous of saving the eccentric young fellow from ruin, they were unable to take any stronger measures to attain that end. Neither their position, nor their private inclination, perhaps (and only naturally), would allow them to use any more pronounced means.
We have observed before that even some of the prince's nearest neighbours had begun to oppose him. Vera Lebedeff's passive disagreement was limited to the shedding of a few solitary tears; to more frequent sitting alone at home, and to a diminished frequency in her visits to the prince's apartments.
Colia was occupied with his father at this time. The old man died during a second stroke, which took place just eight days after the first. The prince showed great sympathy in the grief of the family, and during the first days of their mourning he was at the house a great deal with Nina Alexandrovna. He went to the funeral, and it was observable that the public assembled in church greeted his arrival and departure with whisperings, and watched him closely.
The same thing happened in the park and in the street, wherever he went. He was pointed out when he drove by, and he often overheard the name of Nastasia Philipovna coupled with his own as he passed. People looked out for her at the funeral, too, but she was not there; and another conspicuous absentee was the captain's widow, whom Lebedeff had prevented from coming.
The funeral service produced a great effect on the prince. He whispered to Lebedeff that this was the first time he had ever heard a Russian funeral service since he was a little boy. Observing that he was looking about him uneasily, Lebedeff asked him whom he was seeking.
"Nothing. I only thought I — "
"Is it Rogojin?"
"Why — is he here?"
"Yes, he's in church."
"I thought I caught sight of his eyes!" muttered the prince, in confusion. "But what of it! — Why is he here? Was he asked?"
"Oh, dear, no! Why, they don't even know him! Anyone can come in, you know. Why do you look so amazed? I often meet him; I've seen him at least four times, here at Pavlofsk, within the last week."
"I haven't seen him once — since that day!" the prince murmured.
As Nastasia Philipovna had not said a word about having met Rogojin since "that day," the prince concluded that the latter had his own reasons for wishing to keep out of sight. All the day of the funeral our hero, was in a deeply thoughtful state, while Nastasia Philipovna was particularly merry, both in the daytime and in the evening.
Colia had made it up with the prince before his father's death, and it was he who urged him to make use of Keller and Burdovsky, promising to answer himself for the former's behaviour. Nina Alexandrovna and Lebedeff tried to persuade him to have the wedding in St. Petersburg, instead of in the public fashion contemplated, down here at Pavlofsk in the height of the season. But the prince only said that Nastasia Philipovna desired to have it so, though he saw well enough what prompted their arguments.
The next day Keller came to visit the prince. He was in a high state of delight with the post of honour assigned to him at the wedding.
Before entering he stopped on the threshold, raised his hand as if making a solemn vow, and cried:
"I won't drink!"
Then he went up to the prince, seized both his hands, shook them warmly, and declared that he had at first felt hostile towards the project of this marriage, and had openly said so in the billiard-rooms, but that the reason simply was that, with the impatience of a friend, he had hoped to see the prince marry at least a Princess de Rohan or de Chabot; but that now he saw that the prince's way of thinking was ten times more noble than that of "all the rest put together." For he desired neither pomp nor wealth nor honour, but only the truth! The sympathies of exalted personages were well known, and the prince was too highly placed by his education, and so on, not to be in some sense an exalted personage!
"But all the common herd judge 'differently; in the town, at the meetings, in the villas, at the band, in the inns and the billiard-rooms, the coming event has only to be mentioned and there are shouts and cries from everybody. I have even heard talk of getting up a 'charivari' under the windows on the wedding-night. So if 'you have need of the pistol' of an honest man, prince, I am ready to fire half a dozen shots even before you rise from your nuptial couch!"
Keller also advised, in anticipation of the crowd making a rush after the ceremony, that a fire-hose should be placed at the entrance to the house; but Lebedeff was opposed to this measure, which he said might result in the place being pulled down.
"I assure you, prince, that Lebedeff is intriguing against you. He wants to put you under control. Imagine that! To take 'from you the use of your free-will and your money — that' is to say, the two things that distinguish us from the animals! I have heard it said positively. It is the sober truth."
The prince recollected that somebody had told him something of the kind before, and he had, of course, scoffed at it. He only laughed now, and forgot the hint at once.
Lebedeff really had been busy for some little while; but, as usual, his plans had become too complex to succeed, through sheer excess of ardour. When he came to the prince — the very day before the wedding — to confess (for he always confessed to the persons against whom he intrigued, especially when the plan failed), he informed our hero that he himself was a born Talleyrand, but for some unknown reason had become simple Lebedeff. He then proceeded to explain his whole game to the prince, interesting the latter exceedingly.
According to Lebedeff's account, he had first tried what he could do with General Epanchin. The latter informed him that he wished well to the unfortunate young man, and would gladly do what he could to "save him," but that he did not think it would be seemly for him to interfere in this matter. Lizabetha Prokofievna would neither hear nor see him. Prince S. and Evgenie Pavlovitch only shrugged their shoulders, and implied that it was no business of theirs. However, Lebedeff had not lost heart, and went off to a clever lawyer, — a worthy and respectable man, whom he knew well. This old gentleman informed him that the thing was perfectly feasible if he could get hold of competent witnesses as to Muishkin's mental incapacity. Then, with the assistance of a few influential persons, he would soon see the matter arranged.