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The Idiot

Chapter 2
General Epanchin lived in his own house near the Litaynaya. Besides this large
residence--five-sixths of which was let in flats and lodgings-the general was owner of
another enormous house in the Sadovaya bringing in even more rent than the first.
Besides these houses he had a delightful little estate just out of town, and some sort of
factory in another part of the city. General Epanchin, as everyone knew, had a good
deal to do with certain government monopolies; he was also a voice, and an important
one, in many rich public companies of various descriptions; in fact, he enjoyed the
reputation of being a well- to-do man of busy habits, many ties, and affluent means. He
had made himself indispensable in several quarters, amongst others in his department
of the government; and yet it was a known fact that Fedor Ivanovitch Epanchin was a
man of no education whatever, and had absolutely risen from the ranks.
This last fact could, of course, reflect nothing but credit upon the general; and yet,
though unquestionably a sagacious man, he had his own little weaknesses-very
excusable ones,--one of which was a dislike to any allusion to the above circumstance.
He was undoubtedly clever. For instance, he made a point of never asserting himself
when he would gain more by keeping in the background; and in consequence many
exalted personages valued him principally for his humility and simplicity, and because
"he knew his place." And yet if these good people could only have had a peep into the
mind of this excellent fellow who "knew his place" so well! The fact is that, in spite of his
knowledge of the world and his really remarkable abilities, he always liked to appear to
be carrying out other people's ideas rather than his own. And also, his luck seldom
failed him, even at cards, for which he had a passion that he did not attempt to conceal.
He played for high stakes, and moved, altogether, in very varied society.
As to age, General Epanchin was in the very prime of life; that is, about fifty-five years
of age,--the flowering time of existence, when real enjoyment of life begins. His healthy
appearance, good colour, sound, though discoloured teeth, sturdy figure, preoccupied
air during business hours, and jolly good humour during his game at cards in the
evening, all bore witness to his success in life, and combined to make existence a bed
of roses to his excellency. The general was lord of a flourishing family, consisting of his
wife and three grown-up daughters. He had married young, while still a lieutenant, his
wife being a girl of about his own age, who possessed neither beauty nor education,
and who brought him no more than fifty souls of landed property, which little estate
served, however, as a nest-egg for far more important accumulations. The general
never regretted his early marriage, or regarded it as a foolish youthful escapade; and he
so respected and feared his wife that he was very near loving her. Mrs. Epanchin came
 
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