When the prince ceased speaking all were gazing merrily at him-- even Aglaya; but
Lizabetha Prokofievna looked the jolliest of all.
"Well!" she cried, "we have 'put him through his paces,' with a vengeance! My dears,
you imagined, I believe, that you were about to patronize this young gentleman, like
some poor protégé picked up somewhere, and taken under your magnificent protection.
What fools we were, and what a specially big fool is your father! Well done, prince! I
assure you the general actually asked me to put you through your paces, and examine
you. As to what you said about my face, you are absolutely correct in your judgment. I
am a child, and know it. I knew it long before you said so; you have expressed my own
thoughts. I think your nature and mine must be extremely alike, and I am very glad of it.
We are like two drops of water, only you are a man and I a woman, and I've not been to
Switzerland, and that is all the difference between us."
"Don't be in a hurry, mother; the prince says that he has some motive behind his
simplicity," cried Aglaya.
"Yes, yes, so he does," laughed the others.
"Oh, don't you begin bantering him," said mamma. "He is probably a good deal cleverer
than all three of you girls put together. We shall see. Only you haven't told us anything
about Aglaya yet, prince; and Aglaya and I are both waiting to hear."
"I cannot say anything at present. I'll tell you afterwards."
"Why? Her face is clear enough, isn't it?"
"Oh yes, of course. You are very beautiful, Aglaya Ivanovna, so beautiful that one is
afraid to look at you."
"Is that all? What about her character?" persisted Mrs. Epanchin.
"It is difficult to judge when such beauty is concerned. I have not prepared my judgment.
Beauty is a riddle."
"That means that you have set Aglaya a riddle!" said Adelaida. "Guess it, Aglaya! But
she's pretty, prince, isn't she?"
"Most wonderfully so," said the latter, warmly, gazing at Aglaya with admiration. "Almost
as lovely as Nastasia Philipovna, but quite a different type."
All present exchanged looks of surprise.