"It is madness — it is merely another proof of her insanity!" said the prince, and his lips trembled.
"You are crying, aren't you?"
"No, Aglaya. No, I'm not crying." The prince looked at her.
"Well, what am I to do? What do you advise me? I cannot go on receiving these letters, you know."
"Oh, let her alone, I entreat you!" cried the prince. "What can you do in this dark, gloomy mystery? Let her alone, and I'll use all my power to prevent her writing you any more letters."
"If so, you are a heartless man!" cried Aglaya. "As if you can't see that it is not myself she loves, but you, you, and only you! Surely you have not remarked everything else in her, and only not THIS? Do you know what these letters mean? They mean jealousy, sir — nothing but pure jealousy! She — do you think she will ever really marry this Rogojin, as she says here she will? She would take her own life the day after you and I were married."
The prince shuddered; his heart seemed to freeze within him. He gazed at Aglaya in wonderment; it was difficult for him to realize that this child was also a woman.
"God knows, Aglaya, that to restore her peace of mind and make her happy I would willingly give up my life. But I cannot love her, and she knows that."
"Oh, make a sacrifice of yourself! That sort of thing becomes you well, you know. Why not do it? And don't call me 'Aglaya'; you have done it several times lately. You are bound, it is your DUTY to 'raise' her; you must go off somewhere again to soothe and pacify her. Why, you love her, you know!"
"I cannot sacrifice myself so, though I admit I did wish to do so once. Who knows, perhaps I still wish to! But I know for CERTAIN, that if she married me it would be her ruin; I know this and therefore I leave her alone. I ought to go to see her today; now I shall probably not go. She is proud, she would never forgive me the nature of the love I bear her, and we should both be ruined. This may be unnatural, I don't know; but everything seems unnatural. You say she loves me, as if this were LOVE! As if she could love ME, after what I have been through! No, no, it is not love."
"How pale you have grown!" cried Aglaya in alarm.
"Oh, it's nothing. I haven't slept, that's all, and I'm rather tired. I — we certainly did talk about you, Aglaya."
"Oh, indeed, it is true then! You could actually talk about me with her; and — and how could you have been fond of me when you had only seen me once?"
"I don't know. Perhaps it was that I seemed to come upon light in the midst of my gloom. I told you the truth when I said I did not know why I thought of you before all others. Of course it was all a sort of dream, a dream amidst the horrors of reality. Afterwards I began to work. I did not intend to come back here for two or three years — "
"Then you came for her sake?" Aglaya's voice trembled.
"Yes, I came for her sake."
There was a moment or two of gloomy silence. Aglaya rose from her seat.
"If you say," she began in shaky tones, "if you say that this woman of yours is mad — at all events I have nothing to do with her insane fancies. Kindly take these three letters, Lef Nicolaievitch, and throw them back to her, from me. And if she dares," cried Aglaya suddenly, much louder than before, "if she dares so much as write me one word again, tell her I shall tell my father, and that she shall be taken to a lunatic asylum."
The prince jumped up in alarm at Aglaya's sudden wrath, and a mist seemed to come before his eyes.
"You cannot really feel like that! You don't mean what you say. It is not true," he murmured.
"It IS true, it IS true," cried Aglaya, almost beside herself with rage.
"What's true? What's all this? What's true?" said an alarmed voice just beside them.
Before them stood Lizabetha Prokofievna.
"Why, it's true that I am going to marry Gavrila Ardalionovitch, that I love him and intend to elope with him tomorrow," cried Aglaya, turning upon her mother. "Do you hear? Is your curiosity satisfied? Are you pleased with what you have heard?"
Aglaya rushed away homewards with these words.
"H'm! well, YOU are not going away just yet, my friend, at all events," said Lizabetha, stopping the prince. "Kindly step home with me, and let me have a little explanation of the mystery. Nice goings on, these! I haven't slept a wink all night as it is."
The prince followed her.