"I see what you are driving at," said Nastasia Philipovna. "You imply that the prince is after the seventy-five thousand roubles — I quite understand you. Mr. Totski, I forgot to say, 'Take your seventy-five thousand roubles' — I don't want them. I let you go free for nothing take your freedom! You must need it. Nine years and three months' captivity is enough for anybody. Tomorrow I shall start afresh — today I am a free agent for the first time in my life.
"General, you must take your pearls back, too — give them to your wife — here they are! Tomorrow I shall leave this flat altogether, and then there'll be no more of these pleasant little social gatherings, ladies and gentlemen."
So saying, she scornfully rose from her seat as though to depart.
"Nastasia Philipovna! Nastasia Philipovna!"
The words burst involuntarily from every mouth. All present started up in bewildered excitement; all surrounded her; all had listened uneasily to her wild, disconnected sentences. All felt that something had happened, something had gone very far wrong indeed, but no one could make head or tail of the matter.
At this moment there was a furious ring at the bell, and a great knock at the door — exactly similar to the one which had startled the company at Gania's house in the afternoon.
"Ah, ah! here's the climax at last, at half-past twelve!" cried Nastasia Philipovna. "Sit down, gentlemen, I beg you. Something is about to happen."
So saying, she reseated herself; a strange smile played on her lips. She sat quite still, but watched the door in a fever of impatience.
"Rogojin and his hundred thousand roubles, no doubt of it," muttered Ptitsin to himself.