“No, no! I cannot allow this,--this is a little too much,” cried Lizabetha Prokofievna, exploding with rage, and she rose from her seat and followed Aglaya out of the room as quickly as she could.

“A great disgrace.”

“Gentlemen, you’d better look out,” cried Colia, also seizing Hippolyte by the hand. “Just look at him! Prince, what are you thinking of?” Vera and Colia, and Keller, and Burdovsky were all crowding round Hippolyte now and holding him down.

In reply to a very guarded question of her sisters’, Aglaya had answered coldly, but exceedingly haughtily:

“It’s a lovely carriage,” said Adelaida.
“Don’t go so fast, Lebedeff; you are much milder in the morning,” said Ptitsin, smiling.
The prince took his banknote out and showed it to Ferdishenko. The latter unfolded it and looked at it; then he turned it round and examined the other side; then he held it up to the light.

“Oh, but it is absolutely necessary for me,” Gania entreated. “Believe me, if it were not so, I would not ask you; how else am I to get it to her? It is most important, dreadfully important!”

Prince S. ran up to her and persuaded her, at last, to come home with them.But it was difficult, if not impossible, to extract anything from Lebedeff. All the prince could gather was, that the letter had been received very early, and had a request written on the outside that it might be sent on to the address given.“The night before the ball I met Peter, looking radiant. ‘What is it?’ I ask. ‘I’ve found them, Eureka!’ ‘No! where, where?’ ‘At Ekshaisk (a little town fifteen miles off) there’s a rich old merchant, who keeps a lot of canaries, has no children, and he and his wife are devoted to flowers. He’s got some camellias.’ ‘And what if he won’t let you have them?’ ‘I’ll go on my knees and implore till I get them. I won’t go away.’ ‘When shall you start?’ ‘Tomorrow morning at five o’clock.’ ‘Go on,’ I said, ‘and good luck to you.’
“Oh, go on,” he said, “finish your sentence, by all means. Say how odd it appears to you that a man fallen to such a depth of humiliation as I, can ever have been the actual eye-witness of great events. Go on, _I_ don’t mind! Has _he_ found time to tell you scandal about me?”
“Ah, Gania knows nothing about it? It seems there are many things that Gania does not know,” exclaimed the prince, as he considered Colia’s last words.“I must also admit,” said the prince, “that I have not seen much, or been very far into the question; but I cannot help thinking that you are more or less right, and that Russian liberalism--that phase of it which you are considering, at least--really is sometimes inclined to hate Russia itself, and not only its existing order of things in general. Of course this is only _partially_ the truth; you cannot lay down the law for all...”

“Is it really you?” muttered the prince, not quite himself as yet, and recognizing her with a start of amazement. “Oh yes, of course,” he added, “this is our rendezvous. I fell asleep here.”

“No, I know nothing whatever about it. I assure you I had nothing at all to do with it.”

The clerk stood looking after his guest, struck by his sudden absent-mindedness. He had not even remembered to say goodbye, and Lebedeff was the more surprised at the omission, as he knew by experience how courteous the prince usually was.

Lizabetha Prokofievna received confirmatory news from the princess--and alas, two months after the prince’s first departure from St. Petersburg, darkness and mystery once more enveloped his whereabouts and actions, and in the Epanchin family the ice of silence once more formed over the subject. Varia, however, informed the girls of what had happened, she having received the news from Ptitsin, who generally knew more than most people.

“I have no idea,” replied General Ivolgin, who presided with much gravity.
“Get away then, all of you. I shall do as I like with my own--don’t meddle! Ferdishenko, make up the fire, quick!”
“When the old woman took to her bed finally, the other old women in the village sat with her by turns, as the custom is there; and then Marie was quite driven out of the house. They gave her no food at all, and she could not get any work in the village; none would employ her. The men seemed to consider her no longer a woman, they said such dreadful things to her. Sometimes on Sundays, if they were drunk enough, they used to throw her a penny or two, into the mud, and Marie would silently pick up the money. She had began to spit blood at that time.
“The prince is clearly a democrat,” remarked Aglaya.
“Come, come! This is intolerable! You had better stop, you little mischief-making wretch!” cried Varia. Gania had grown very pale; he trembled, but said nothing.

At length, in the last letter of all, he found:

The general felt troubled and remained silent, while Lizabetha Prokofievna telegraphed to him from behind Aglaya to ask no questions.“It is not in the least beyond all limits, mamma!” said her daughter, firmly. “I sent the prince a hedgehog this morning, and I wish to hear his opinion of it. Go on, prince.”

He had fallen in an epileptic fit.

These were the tears of joy and peace and reconciliation. Aglaya was kissing her mother’s lips and cheeks and hands; they were hugging each other in the most ardent way.“To _read?_” cried Gania, almost at the top of his voice; “to _read_, and you read it?”
“What, about that boy, you mean? Oh dear no, yesterday my ideas were a little--well--mixed. Today, I assure you, I shall not oppose in the slightest degree any suggestions it may please you to make.”

“I have a couple of words to say to you,” he began, “and those on a very important matter; let’s go aside for a minute or two.”