“Come along then,” said Evgenie; “it’s a glorious evening. But, to prove that this time I was speaking absolutely seriously, and especially to prove this to the prince (for you, prince, have interested me exceedingly, and I swear to you that I am not quite such an ass as I like to appear sometimes, although I am rather an ass, I admit), and--well, ladies and gentlemen, will you allow me to put just one more question to the prince, out of pure curiosity? It shall be the last. This question came into my mind a couple of hours since (you see, prince, I do think seriously at times), and I made my own decision upon it; now I wish to hear what the prince will say to it.”

“There are a couple of torn volumes somewhere; they have been lying about from time immemorial,” added Alexandra.

“Seeking?”

“Quite so--parties--you are very right,” said the prince. “I was reading a book about Napoleon and the Waterloo campaign only the other day, by Charasse, in which the author does not attempt to conceal his joy at Napoleon’s discomfiture at every page. Well now, I don’t like that; it smells of ‘party,’ you know. You are quite right. And were you much occupied with your service under Napoleon?”

“She postponed the pleasure--I see--I quite understand!” said Hippolyte, hurriedly, as though he wished to banish the subject. “I hear--they tell me--that you read her all that nonsense aloud? Stupid bosh it was--written in delirium. And I can’t understand how anyone can be so--I won’t say _cruel_, because the word would be humiliating to myself, but we’ll say childishly vain and revengeful, as to _reproach_ me with this confession, and use it as a weapon against me. Don’t be afraid, I’m not referring to yourself.”

“Really, mother,” he had assured Nina Alexandrovna upstairs, “really you had better let him drink. He has not had a drop for three days; he must be suffering agonies--” The general now entered the room, threw the door wide open, and stood on the threshold trembling with indignation.

Though he seemed to wish to say much more, he became silent. He fell back into his chair, and, covering his face with his hands, began to sob like a little child.

“Not at all!” said the prince, blushing. “I was only going to say that you--not that you could not be like Gleboff--but that you would have been more like--”

The prince gave him his hand and congratulated him upon “looking so well.”
“For Heaven’s sake, don’t misunderstand me! Do not think that I humiliate myself by writing thus to you, or that I belong to that class of people who take a satisfaction in humiliating themselves--from pride. I have my consolation, though it would be difficult to explain it--but I do not humiliate myself.The prince began to give his reasons, but she interrupted him again.