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The Idiot

Chapter 5
Mrs. General Epanchin was a proud woman by nature. What must her feelings have
been when she heard that Prince Muishkin, the last of his and her line, had arrived in
beggar's guise, a wretched idiot, a recipient of charity--all of which details the general
gave out for greater effect! He was anxious to steal her interest at the first swoop, so as
to distract her thoughts from other matters nearer home.
Mrs. Epanchin was in the habit of holding herself very straight, and staring before her,
without speaking, in moments of excitement.
She was a fine woman of the same age as her husband, with a slightly hooked nose, a
high, narrow forehead, thick hair turning a little grey, and a sallow complexion. Her eyes
were grey and wore a very curious expression at times. She believed them to be most
effective--a belief that nothing could alter.
"What, receive him! Now, at once?" asked Mrs. Epanchin, gazing vaguely at her
husband as he stood fidgeting before her.
"Oh, dear me, I assure you there is no need to stand on ceremony with him," the
general explained hastily. "He is quite a child, not to say a pathetic-looking creature. He
has fits of some sort, and has just arrived from Switzerland, straight from the station,
dressed like a German and without a farthing in his pocket. I gave him twenty-five
roubles to go on with, and am going to find him some easy place in one of the
government offices. I should like you to ply him well with the victuals, my dears, for I
should think he must be very hungry."
"You astonish me," said the lady, gazing as before. "Fits, and hungry too! What sort of
"Oh, they don't come on frequently, besides, he's a regular child, though he seems to be
fairly educated. I should like you, if possible, my dears," the general added, making
slowly for the door, "to put him through his paces a bit, and see what he is good for. I
think you should be kind to him; it is a good deed, you know--however, just as you like,
of course--but he is a sort of relation, remember, and I thought it might interest you to
see the young fellow, seeing that this is so."
"Oh, of course, mamma, if we needn't stand on ceremony with him, we must give the
poor fellow something to eat after his journey; especially as he has not the least idea
where to go to," said Alexandra, the eldest of the girls.