"'Dead Souls,' yes, of course, dead. When I die, Colia, you must engrave on my tomb:
"'Here lies a Dead Soul, Shame pursues me.'
"Who said that, Colia?"
"I don't know, father."
"There was no Eropegoff? Eroshka Eropegoff?" he cried, suddenly, stopping in the road in a frenzy. "No Eropegoff! And my own son to say it! Eropegoff was in the place of a brother to me for eleven months. I fought a duel for him. He was married afterwards, and then killed on the field of battle. The bullet struck the cross on my breast and glanced off straight into his temple. 'I'll never forget you,' he cried, and expired. I served my country well and honestly, Colia, but shame, shame has pursued me! You and Nina will come to my grave, Colia; poor Nina, I always used to call her Nina in the old days, and how she loved . . . . Nina, Nina, oh, Nina. What have I ever done to deserve your forgiveness and long-suffering? Oh, Colia, your mother has an angelic spirit, an angelic spirit, Colia!"
"I know that, father. Look here, dear old father, come back home! Let's go back to mother. Look, she ran after us when we came out. What have you stopped her for, just as though you didn't take in what I said? Why are you crying, father?"
Poor Colia cried himself, and kissed the old man's hands
"You kiss my hands, MINE?"
"Yes, yes, yours, yours! What is there to surprise anyone in that? Come, come, you mustn't go on like this, crying in the middle of the road; and you a general too, a military man! Come, let's go back."
"God bless you, dear boy, for being respectful to a disgraced man. Yes, to a poor disgraced old fellow, your father. You shall have such a son yourself; le roi de Rome. Oh, curses on this house!"
"Come, come, what does all this mean?" cried Colia beside himself at last. "What is it? What has happened to you? Why don't you wish to come back home? Why have you gone out of your mind, like this?"
"I'll explain it, I'll explain all to you. Don't shout! You shall hear. Le roi de Rome. Oh, I am sad, I am melancholy!
"'Nurse, where is your tomb?'"
"Who said that, Colia?"
"I don't know, I don't know who said it. Come home at once; come on! I'll punch Gania's head myself, if you like — only come. Oh, where are you off to again?" The general was dragging him away towards the door a house near. He sat down on the step, still holding Colia by the hand.
"Bend down — bend down your ear. I'll tell you all — disgrace — bend down, I'll tell you in your ear."
"What are you dreaming of?" said poor, frightened Colia, stooping down towards the old man, all the same.
"Le roi de Rome," whispered the general, trembling all over.
"What? What DO you mean? What roi de Rome?"
"I-I," the general continued to whisper, clinging more and more tightly to the boy's shoulder. "I — wish — to tell you — all — Maria — Maria Petrovna — Su — Su — Su . . . . . . ."
Colia broke loose, seized his father by the shoulders, and stared into his eyes with frenzied gaze. The old man had grown livid — his lips were shaking, convulsions were passing over his features. Suddenly he leant over and began to sink slowly into Colia's arms.
"He's got a stroke!" cried Colia, loudly, realizing what was the matter at last.