"But I'm forbidden your house as it is, without your added threats!" cried the prince after her.
"What? Who forbade you?"
She turned round so suddenly that one might have supposed a needle had been stuck into her.
The prince hesitated. He perceived that he had said too much now.
"WHO forbade you?" cried Mrs. Epanchin once more.
"Aglaya Ivanovna told me — "
"When? Speak — quick!"
"She sent to say, yesterday morning, that I was never to dare to come near the house again."
Lizabetha Prokofievna stood like a stone.
"What did she send? Whom? Was it that boy? Was it a message?-quick!"
"I had a note," said the prince.
"Where is it? Give it here, at once."
The prince thought a moment. Then he pulled out of his waistcoat pocket an untidy slip of paper, on which was scrawled:
"PRINCE LEF NICOLAIEVITCH, — If you think fit, after all that has passed, to honour our house with a visit, I can assure you you will not find me among the number of those who are in any way delighted to see you.
Mrs. Epanchin reflected a moment. The next minute she flew at the prince, seized his hand, and dragged him after her to the door.
"Quick — come along!" she cried, breathless with agitation and impatience. "Come along with me this moment!"
"But you declared I wasn't — "
"Don't be a simpleton. You behave just as though you weren't a man at all. Come on! I shall see, now, with my own eyes. I shall see all."
"Well, let me get my hat, at least."
"Here's your miserable hat He couldn't even choose a respectable shape for his hat! Come on! She did that because I took your part and said you ought to have come — little vixen! — else she would never have sent you that silly note. It's a most improper note, I call it; most improper for such an intelligent, well-brought-up girl to write. H'm! I dare say she was annoyed that you didn't come; but she ought to have known that one can't write like that to an idiot like you, for you'd be sure to take it literally." Mrs. Epanchin was dragging the prince along with her all the time, and never let go of his hand for an instant. "What are you listening for?" she added, seeing that she had committed herself a little. "She wants a clown like you — she hasn't seen one for some time — to play with. That's why she is anxious for you to come to the house. And right glad I am that she'll make a thorough good fool of you. You deserve it; and she can do it — oh! she can, indeed! — as well as most people."