Two days after the strange conclusion to Nastasia Philipovna's birthday party, with the
record of which we concluded the first part of this story, Prince Muishkin hurriedly left St.
Petersburg for Moscow, in order to see after some business connected with the receipt
of his unexpected fortune.
It was said that there were other reasons for his hurried departure; but as to this, and as
to his movements in Moscow, and as to his prolonged absence from St. Petersburg, we
are able to give very little information.
The prince was away for six months, and even those who were most interested in his
destiny were able to pick up very little news about him all that while. True, certain
rumours did reach his friends, but these were both strange and rare, and each one
contradicted the last.
Of course the Epanchin family was much interested in his movements, though he had
not had time to bid them farewell before his departure. The general, however, had had
an opportunity of seeing him once or twice since the eventful evening, and had spoken
very seriously with him; but though he had seen the prince, as I say, he told his family
nothing about the circumstance. In fact, for a month or so after his departure it was
considered not the thing to mention the prince's name in the Epanchin household. Only
Mrs. Epanchin, at the commencement of this period, had announced that she had been
"cruelly mistaken in the prince!" and a day or two after, she had added, evidently
alluding to him, but not mentioning his name, that it was an unalterable characteristic of
hers to be mistaken in people. Then once more, ten days later, after some passage of
arms with one of her daughters, she had remarked sententiously. "We have had enough
of mistakes. I shall be more careful in future!" However, it was impossible to avoid
remarking that there was some sense of oppression in the household--something
unspoken, but felt; something strained. All the members of the family wore frowning
looks. The general was unusually busy; his family hardly ever saw him.
As to the girls, nothing was said openly, at all events; and probably very little in private.
They were proud damsels, and were not always perfectly confidential even among
themselves. But they understood each other thoroughly at the first word on all
occasions; very often at the first glance, so that there was no need of much talking as a