"Or would you like me to bid him, BID HIM, do you hear, COMMAND HIM, now, at once, to throw you up, and remain mine for ever? Shall I? He will stay, and he will marry me too, and you shall trot home all alone. Shall I? — shall I say the word?" she screamed like a madwoman, scarcely believing herself that she could really pronounce such wild words.
Aglaya had made for the door in terror, but she stopped at the threshold, and listened. "Shall I turn Rogojin off? Ha! ha! you thought I would marry him for your benefit, did you? Why, I'll call out NOW, if you like, in your presence, 'Rogojin, get out!' and say to the prince, 'Do you remember what you promised me?' Heavens! what a fool I have been to humiliate myself before them! Why, prince, you yourself gave me your word that you would marry me whatever happened, and would never abandon me. You said you loved me and would forgive me all, and — and resp — yes, you even said that! I only ran away from you in order to set you free, and now I don't care to let you go again. Why does she treat me so — so shamefully? I am not a loose woman — ask Rogojin there! He'll tell you. Will you go again now that she has insulted me, before your eyes, too; turn away from me and lead her away, arm-in-arm? May you be accursed too, for you were the only one I trusted among them all! Go away, Rogojin, I don't want you," she continued, blind with fury, and forcing the words out with dry lips and distorted features, evidently not believing a single word of her own tirade, but, at the same time, doing her utmost to prolong the moment of self-deception.
The outburst was so terribly violent that the prince thought it would have killed her.
"There he is!" she shrieked again, pointing to the prince and addressing Aglaya. "There he is! and if he does not approach me at once and take ME and throw you over, then have him for your own — I give him up to you! I don't want him!"
Both she and Aglaya stood and waited as though in expectation, and both looked at the prince like madwomen.
But he, perhaps, did not understand the full force of this challenge; in fact, it is certain he did not. All he could see was the poor despairing face which, as he had said to Aglaya, "had pierced his heart for ever."
He could bear it no longer, and with a look of entreaty, mingled with reproach, he addressed Aglaya, pointing to Nastasia the while:
"How can you?" he murmured; "she is so unhappy."
But he had no time to say another word before. Aglaya's terrible look bereft him of speech. In that look was embodied so dreadful a suffering and so deadly a hatred, that he gave a cry and flew to her; but it was too late.
She could not hold out long enough even to witness his movement in her direction. She had hidden her face in her hands, cried once "Oh, my God!" and rushed out of the room. Rogojin followed her to undo the bolts of the door and let her out into the street.
The prince made a rush after her, but he, was caught and held back. The distorted, livid face of Nastasia gazed at him reproachfully, and her blue lips whispered:
"What? Would you go to her — to her?"
She fell senseless into his arms.
He raised her, carried her into the room, placed her in an arm-chair, and stood over her, stupefied. On the table stood a tumbler of water. Rogojin, who now returned, took this and sprinkled a little in her face. She opened her eyes, but for a moment she understood nothing.
Suddenly she looked around, shuddered, gave a loud cry, and threw herself in the prince's arms.
"Mine, mine!" she cried. "Has the proud young lady gone? Ha, ha, ha!" she laughed hysterically. "And I had given him up to her! Why — why did I? Mad — mad! Get away, Rogojin! Ha, ha, ha!"
Rogojin stared intently at them; then he took his hat, and without a word, left the room.
A few moments later, the prince was seated by Nastasia on the sofa, gazing into her eyes and stroking her face and hair, as he would a little child's. He laughed when she laughed, and was ready to cry when she cried. He did not speak, but listened to her excited, disconnected chatter, hardly understanding a word of it the while. No sooner did he detect the slightest appearance of complaining, or weeping, or reproaching, than he would smile at her kindly, and begin stroking her hair and her cheeks, soothing and consoling her once more, as if she were a child.