Valerian Vladimirovitch, just referred to the sale of gentlemen's estates. Well? Is not that a fact?'
'But it's impossible to sell them nowadays; nobody wants them!' cried the irritable general.
'Perhaps . . . perhaps. For that very reason we ought to proclaim that fact . . . that sad fact at every step. We are ruined . . . very good; we are beggared . . . there 's no disputing about that; but we, the great owners, we still represent a principle . . . un principe. To preserve that principle is our duty. Pardon, madame, I think you dropped your handkerchief. When some, so to say, darkness has come over even the highest minds, we ought submissively to point out (the general held out his finger) with the finger of a citizen the abyss to which everything is tending. We ought to warn, we ought to say with respectful firmness, 'turn back, turn back. . . . That is what we ought to say.'
'There 's no turning back altogether, though,' observed Ratmirov moodily.
The condescending general only grinned.
'Yes, altogether, altogether, moп très cher.The further back the better.'
The general again looked courteously at Litvinov. The latter could not stand it.
'Are we to return as far as the Seven Boyars, your excellency?'