Fyodor Dostoevsky - The Idiot
“Prince,” Nastasya Filippovna suddenly addressed him sharply and unexpectedly, “these old friends of mine, the general and Afanasy Ivanovich, keep wanting to get me married. Tell me what you think: should I get married or not? I’ll do as you say.”
Afanasy Ivanovich turned pale, the general was dumbfounded; everyone stared and thrust their heads forward. Ganda froze in his place.
“To … to whom?” asked the prince in a sinking voice.
“To Gavrila Ardalionovich Ivolgin,” Nastasya Filippovna went on as sharply, firmly, and distinctively as before.
Several moments passed in silence; the prince seemed to be trying hard but could not utter a word, as if a terrible weight were pressing on his chest.
“N-no … don’t!” he whispered at last and tensely drew his breath.
“And so it will be! Gavrila Ardalionovich!” she addressed him imperiously and as if solemnly, “did you hear what the prince decided? Well, so that is my answer; and let this business be concluded once and for all!”
“Nastasya Filippovna!” Afanasy Ivanovich said in a trembling voice.
“Nastasya Filippovna!” the general uttered in a persuading and startled voice.
Everyone stirred and stared.
“What’s wrong, gentlemen?” she went on, peering at her guests as if in amazement. “Why are you all so aflutter? And what faces you all have!”
“But … remember, Nastasya Filippovna,” Totsky murmured, faltering, “you gave your promise, quite voluntarily, and you might be a little sparing … I’m at a loss and … certainly embarrassed, but … In short, now, at such a moment, and in front … in front of people, just like that … to end a serious matter with this petit jeu, a matter of honor and of the heart … on which depends …”
“I don’t understand you, Afanasy Ivanovich; you’re really quite confused. In the first place, what is this ‘in front of people’? Aren’t we in wonderfully intimate company? And why a petit jeu? I really wanted to tell my anecdote, and so I told it; is it no good? And why do you say it’s ‘not serious’? Isn’t it serious? You heard me say to the prince: ‘It will be as you say.’ If he had said ‘yes,’ I would have consented at once; but he said ‘no,’ and I refused. My whole life was hanging by a hair—what could be more serious?”
“But the prince, why involve the prince? And what, finally, is the prince?” muttered the general, now almost unable to hold back his indignation at such even offensive authority granted to the prince.