"Listen — I know it is best not to speak! It is best simply to give a good example — simply to begin the work. I have done this — I have begun, and — and — oh! CAN anyone be unhappy, really? Oh! what does grief matter — what does misfortune matter, if one knows how to be happy? Do you know, I cannot understand how anyone can pass by a green tree, and not feel happy only to look at it! How anyone can talk to a man and not feel happy in loving him! Oh, it is my own fault that I cannot express myself well enough! But there are lovely things at every step I take — things which even the most miserable man must recognize as beautiful. Look at a little child — look at God's day-dawn — look at the grass growing — look at the eyes that love you, as they gaze back into your eyes!"
He had risen, and was speaking standing up. The old gentleman was looking at him now in unconcealed alarm. Lizabetha Prokofievna wrung her hands. "Oh, my God!" she cried. She had guessed the state of the case before anyone else.
Aglaya rushed quickly up to him, and was just in time to receive him in her arms, and to hear with dread and horror that awful, wild cry as he fell writhing to the ground.
There he lay on the carpet, and someone quickly placed a cushion under his head.
No one had expected this.
In a quarter of an hour or so Prince N. and Evgenie Pavlovitch and the old dignitary were hard at work endeavouring to restore the harmony of the evening, but it was of no avail, and very soon after the guests separated and went their ways.
A great deal of sympathy was expressed; a considerable amount of advice was volunteered; Ivan Petrovitch expressed his opinion that the young man was "a Slavophile, or something of that sort"; but that it was not a dangerous development. The old dignitary said nothing.
True enough, most of the guests, next day and the day after, were not in very good humour. Ivan Petrovitch was a little offended, but not seriously so. General Epanchin's chief was rather cool towards him for some while after the occurrence. The old dignitary, as patron of the family, took the opportunity of murmuring some kind of admonition to the general, and added, in flattering terms, that he was most interested in Aglaya's future. He was a man who really did possess a kind heart, although his interest in the prince, in the earlier part of the evening, was due, among other reasons, to the latter's connection with Nastasia Philipovna, according to popular report. He had heard a good deal of this story here and there, and was greatly interested in it, so much so that he longed to ask further questions about it.
Princess Bielokonski, as she drove away on this eventful evening, took occasion to say to Lizabetha Prokofievna:
"Well — he's a good match — and a bad one; and if you want my opinion, more bad than good. You can see for yourself the man is an invalid."
Lizabetha therefore decided that the prince was impossible as a husband for Aglaya; and during the ensuing night she made a vow that never while she lived should he marry Aglaya. With this resolve firmly impressed upon her mind, she awoke next day; but during the morning, after her early lunch, she fell into a condition of remarkable inconsistency.
In reply to a very guarded question of her sisters', Aglaya had answered coldly, but exceedingly haughtily:
"I have never given him my word at all, nor have I ever counted him as my future husband — never in my life. He is just as little to me as all the rest."
Lizabetha Prokofievna suddenly flared up.
"I did not expect that of you, Aglaya," she said. "He is an impossible husband for you, — I know it; and thank God that we agree upon that point; but I did not expect to hear such words from you. I thought I should hear a very different tone from you. I would have turned out everyone who was in the room last night and kept him, — that's the sort of man he is, in my opinion!"
Here she suddenly paused, afraid of what she had just said. But she little knew how unfair she was to her daughter at that moment. It was all settled in Aglaya's mind. She was only waiting for the hour that would bring the matter to a final climax; and every hint, every careless probing of her wound, did but further lacerate her heart.