"It's good business," said Ptitsin, at last, folding the letter and handing it back to the
prince. "You will receive, without the slightest trouble, by the last will and testament of
your aunt, a very large sum of money indeed."
"Impossible!" cried the general, starting up as if he had been shot.
Ptitsin explained, for the benefit of the company, that the prince's aunt had died five
months since. He had never known her, but she was his mother's own sister, the
daughter of a Moscow merchant, one Paparchin, who had died a bankrupt. But the
elder brother of this same Paparchin, had been an eminent and very rich merchant. A
year since it had so happened that his only two sons had both died within the same
month. This sad event had so affected the old man that he, too, had died very shortly
after. He was a widower, and had no relations left, excepting the prince's aunt, a poor
woman living on charity, who was herself at the point of death from dropsy; but who had
time, before she died, to set Salaskin to work to find her nephew, and to make her will
bequeathing her newly-acquired fortune to him.
It appeared that neither the prince, nor the doctor with whom he lived in Switzerland,
had thought of waiting for further communications; but the prince had started straight
away with Salaskin's letter in his pocket.
"One thing I may tell you, for certain," concluded Ptitsin, addressing the prince, "that
there is no question about the authenticity of this matter. Anything that Salaskin writes
you as regards your unquestionable right to this inheritance, you may look upon as so
much money in your pocket. I congratulate you, prince; you may receive a million and a
half of roubles, perhaps more; I don't know. All I DO know is that Paparchin was a very
rich merchant indeed."
"Hurrah!" cried Lebedeff, in a drunken voice. "Hurrah for the last of the Muishkins!"
"My goodness me! and I gave him twenty-five roubles this morning as though he were a
beggar," blurted out the general, half senseless with amazement. "Well, I congratulate
you, I congratulate you!" And the general rose from his seat and solemnly embraced the
prince. All came forward with congratulations; even those of Rogojin's party who had
retreated into the next room, now crept softly back to look on. For the moment even
Nastasia Philipovna was forgotten.
But gradually the consciousness crept back into the minds of each one present that the
prince had just made her an offer of marriage. The situation had, therefore, become
three times as fantastic as before.