The scene is the same as in Act I. RAKITINand SHPIGELSKY come in from the outer room.
SHPIGELSKY. Well, how about it, Mihail Alexandritch? For goodness sake do help me.
RAKITIN. In what way can I help you, Ignaty Ilyitch?
SHPIGELSKY. In what way? Why, put yourself in my place, Mihail Alexandritch. This is no concern of mine, really. Indeed, I've been acting chiefly from a wish to serve others. . . . My kind heart will be my ruin!
RAKITIN [laughing]. Well, ruin's a good way off still.
SHPIGELSKY [laughing too]. About that there's no knowing, but my position is certainly awkward. I brought Boishintsov here at Natalya Petrovna's wish, and have given him her answer with her permission, and now on one side I get sulky looks as though I'd done something foolish, and on the other, Bolshintsov gives me no peace. They avoid him and won't say a word to me. . . .
RAKITIN. What possessed you to take up this business, Ignaty Ilyitch? Why, Bolshintsov, between ourselves . . . he's simply a fool.
SHPIGELSKY. Well, I declare! Between ourselves! That's a piece of news! And since when have sensible men been the only ones to marry? We must leave the fools free to get married, if nothing else. You say I've taken up this business. . . . Not at all, I'll tell you how it came about: a friend asks me to put in a word for him. Well, was I to refuse? I'm a good-natured man, I don't know how to refuse. I carry out my friend's commission: the answer I get is: 'Very much obliged; pray, don't trouble yourself further.' I understand and don't trouble myself further. Then they take it up themselves and encourage me, so to