5. CHAPTER V.
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
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 fits?"
"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."