"We shall see," said he, "whether thou wilt keep thy word; a poet requires a listener, just as Ivan Kouzmitch requires the vodka decanter before dinner. Say, who is that Masha to whom thou declarest thy tender passion and thy woes in love? Can it be Maria Ivanovna?"
"It is no business of thine," I replied, frowning, "who this Masha is. I ask neither thy opinion nor thy suppositions."
"Oho! conceited poet and cautious lover!" continued Shvabrine, irritating me more and more; "but listen to a friendly piece of advice; if thou art anxious to meet with success I advise thee not to have recourse to songs."
"What does this mean, sir? explain thyself."
"Willingly. This means that if thou will'st that Masha Mironoff should meet thee at twilight, thou must, instead of these tender verses, present her with a pair of earrings."
My blood boiled.
"And why hast thou formed that opinion of her?" I asked, with difficulty suppressing my indignation.
"Because," answered he with a diabolical smile, "I know by experience her tastes and habits."
"Thou liest, blackguard!" exclaimed I furiously; "thou liest shamelessly."
Shvabrine's face altered.
"This cannot be passed over," said he, squeezing my hand; "you will give me satisfaction."
"Very well; whenever you please," answered I, rejoiced.
At that moment I was ready to tear him to pieces. I