1. CHAPTER I.
THE Epanchin family, or at least the more serious members of it,
were sometimes grieved because they seemed so unlike the rest of
the world. They were not quite certain, but had at times a strong
suspicion that things did not happen to them as they did to other
people. Others led a quiet, uneventful life, while they were
subject to continual upheavals. Others kept on the rails without
difficulty; they ran off at the slightest obstacle. Other houses
were governed by a timid routine; theirs was somehow different.
Perhaps Lizabetha Prokofievna was alone in making these fretful
observations; the girls, though not wanting in intelligence, were
still young; the general was intelligent, too, but narrow, and in
any difficulty he was content to say, "H'm!" and leave the matter
to his wife. Consequently, on her fell the responsibility. It was
not that they distinguished themselves as a family by any
particular originality, or that their excursions off the track
led to any breach of the proprieties. Oh no.
There was nothing premeditated, there was not even any conscious
purpose in it all, and yet, in spite of everything, the family,
although highly respected, was not quite what every highly
respected family ought to be. For a long time now Lizabetha
Prokofievna had had it in her mind that all the trouble was owing
to her "unfortunate character, "and this added to her distress.
She blamed her own stupid unconventional "eccentricity." Always
restless, always on the go, she constantly seemed to lose her
way, and to get into trouble over the simplest and more ordinary
affairs of life.
We said at the beginning of our story, that the Epanchins were
liked and esteemed by their neighbours. In spite of his humble
origin, Ivan Fedorovitch himself was received everywhere with
respect. He deserved this, partly on account of his wealth and
position, partly because, though limited, he was really a very
good fellow. But a certain limitation of mind seems to be an
indispensable asset, if not to all public personages, at least to
all serious financiers. Added to this, his manner was modest and
unassuming; he knew when to be silent, yet never allowed himself
to be trampled upon. Also--and this was more important than all--
he had the advantage of being under exalted patronage.