General Ivan Fedorovitch Epanchin was standing In the middle of the room, and gazed
with great curiosity at the prince as he entered. He even advanced a couple of steps to
The prince came forward and introduced himself.
"Quite so," replied the general, "and what can I do for you?"
"Oh, I have no special business; my principal object was to make your acquaintance. I
should not like to disturb you. I do not know your times and arrangements here, you
see, but I have only just arrived. I came straight from the station. I am come direct from
The general very nearly smiled, but thought better of it and kept his smile back. Then he
reflected, blinked his eyes, stared at his guest once more from head to foot; then
abruptly motioned him to a chair, sat down himself, and waited with some impatience for
the prince to speak.
Gania stood at his table in the far corner of the room, turning over papers.
"I have not much time for making acquaintances, as a rule," said the general, "but as, of
course, you have your object in coming, I--"
"I felt sure you would think I had some object in view when I resolved to pay you this
visit," the prince interrupted; "but I give you my word, beyond the pleasure of making
your acquaintance I had no personal object whatever."
"The pleasure is, of course, mutual; but life is not all pleasure, as you are aware. There
is such a thing as business, and I really do not see what possible reason there can be,
or what we have in common to--"
"Oh, there is no reason, of course, and I suppose there is nothing in common between
us, or very little; for if I am Prince Muishkin, and your wife happens to be a member of
my house, that can hardly be called a 'reason.' I quite understand that. And yet that was
my whole motive for coming. You see I have not been in Russia for four years, and
knew very little about anything when I left. I had been very ill for a long time, and I feel
now the need of a few good friends. In fact, I have a certain question upon which I much
need advice, and do not know whom to go to for it. I thought of your family when I was
passing through Berlin. 'They are almost relations,' I said to myself,' so I'll begin with
them; perhaps we may get on with each other, I with them and they with me, if they are
kind people;' and I have heard that you are very kind people!"