The Idiot HTML version

Chapter 1
Towards the end of November, during a thaw, at nine o'clock one morning, a train on
the Warsaw and Petersburg railway was approaching the latter city at full speed. The
morning was so damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the day
succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish anything more than a few
yards away from the carriage windows.
Some of the passengers by this particular train were returning from abroad; but the
third-class carriages were the best filled, chiefly with insignificant persons of various
occupations and degrees, picked up at the different stations nearer town. All of them
seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a shivering expression, while
their complexions generally appeared to have taken on the colour of the fog outside.
When day dawned, two passengers in one of the third-class carriages found themselves
opposite each other. Both were young fellows, both were rather poorly dressed, both
had remarkable faces, and both were evidently anxious to start a conversation. If they
had but known why, at this particular moment, they were both remarkable persons, they
would undoubtedly have wondered at the strange chance which had set them down
opposite to one another in a third-class carriage of the Warsaw Railway Company.
One of them was a young fellow of about twenty-seven, not tall, with black curling hair,
and small, grey, fiery eyes. His nose was broad and flat, and he had high cheek bones;
his thin lips were constantly compressed into an impudent, ironical--it might almost be
called a malicious--smile; but his forehead was high and well formed, and atoned for a
good deal of the ugliness of the lower part of his face. A special feature of this
physiognomy was its death-like pallor, which gave to the whole man an indescribably
emaciated appearance in spite of his hard look, and at the same time a sort of
passionate and suffering expression which did not harmonize with his impudent,
sarcastic smile and keen, self-satisfied bearing. He wore a large fur--or rather
astrakhan--overcoat, which had kept him warm all night, while his neighbour had been
obliged to bear the full severity of a Russian November night entirely unprepared. His
wide sleeveless mantle with a large cape to it--the sort of cloak one sees upon travellers
during the winter months in Switzerland or North Italy--was by no means adapted to the
long cold journey through Russia, from Eydkuhnen to St. Petersburg.
The wearer of this cloak was a young fellow, also of about twenty-six or twenty-seven
years of age, slightly above the middle height, very fair, with a thin, pointed and very
light coloured beard; his eyes were large and blue, and had an intent look about them,