'Not at all . . . the ministry indeed! But really one can't refuse to recognise things.'
Boris plunged his fingers again into his whiskers, and stared into the air.
'Social life is very important, because in the development of the people, in the destinies, so to speak, of the country——'
'Valérien,' interrupted Boris reprovingly, 'il у a des dames ici. I did not expect this of you, or do you want to get on to a committee?'
'But they are all closed now, thank God,' put in the irritable general, and he began humming again 'Deux gendarmes un beau dimanche.'
Ratmirov raised a batiste handkerchief to his nose and gracefully retired from the discussion; the condescending general repeated 'Rascal! rascal!' but Boris turned to the lady who 'grimaced upon the desert air' and without lowering his voice, or a change in the expression of his face, began to ply her with questions as to when 'she would reward his devotion,' as though he were desperately in love with her and suffering tortures on her account.
At every moment during this conversation Litvinov felt more and more ill at ease. His pride, his clean plebeian pride, was fairly in revolt.
What had he, the son of a petty official, in common with these military aristocrats of Petersburg? He loved everything they hated;