"I have no wit, Nastasia Philipovna," began Ferdishenko, "and therefore I talk too much,
perhaps. Were I as witty, now, as Mr. Totski or the general, I should probably have sat
silent all the evening, as they have. Now, prince, what do you think?--are there not far
more thieves than honest men in this world? Don't you think we may say there does not
exist a single person so honest that he has never stolen anything whatever in his life?"
"What a silly idea," said the actress. "Of course it is not the case. I have never stolen
anything, for one."
"H'm! very well, Daria Alexeyevna; you have not stolen anything-- agreed. But how
about the prince, now--look how he is blushing!"
"I think you are partially right, but you exaggerate," said the prince, who had certainly
blushed up, of a sudden, for some reason or other.
"Ferdishenko--either tell us your story, or be quiet, and mind your own business. You
exhaust all patience," cuttingly and irritably remarked Nastasia Philipovna.
"Immediately, immediately! As for my story, gentlemen, it is too stupid and absurd to tell
"I assure you I am not a thief, and yet I have stolen; I cannot explain why. It was at
Semeon Ivanovitch Ishenka's country house, one Sunday. He had a dinner party. After
dinner the men stayed at the table over their wine. It struck me to ask the daughter of
the house to play something on the piano; so I passed through the corner room to join
the ladies. In that room, on Maria Ivanovna's writing-table, I observed a three-rouble
note. She must have taken it out for some purpose, and left it lying there. There was no
one about. I took up the note and put it in my pocket; why, I can't say. I don't know what
possessed me to do it, but it was done, and I went quickly back to the dining-room and
reseated myself at the dinner-table. I sat and waited there in a great state of excitement.
I talked hard, and told lots of stories, and laughed like mad; then I joined the ladies.
"In half an hour or so the loss was discovered, and the servants were being put under
examination. Daria, the housemaid was suspected. I exhibited the greatest interest and
sympathy, and I remember that poor Daria quite lost her head, and that I began
assuring her, before everyone, that I would guarantee her forgiveness on the part of her
mistress, if she would confess her guilt. They all stared at the girl, and I remember a
wonderful attraction in the reflection that here was I sermonizing away, with the money
in my own pocket all the while. I went and spent the three roubles that very evening at a