14. CHAPTER XIV.
"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 you.
"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.