'Now ... at once.'
Litvinov merely made a gesture with his hand.
'Irina Pavlovna,' pursued Potugin, 'supposes that the . . . how can I express it . . . the environment, shall we say, in which you found her the other day, was not likely to be particularly attractive to you; but she told me to tell you, that the devil is not so black as he is fancied.'
'Hm. . . . Does that saying apply strictly to the environment?'
'Yes . . . and in general.'
'Hm. . . . Well, and what is your opinion, Sozont Ivanitch, of the devil?'
'I think, Grigory Mihalitch, that he is in any case not what he is fancied.'
'Is he better?'
'Whether better or worse it's hard to say, but certainly he is not the same as he is fancied. Well, shall we go?'
'Sit here a little first. I must own that it still seems rather strange to me.'
'What seems strange, may I make bold to inquire?'
'In what way can you have become a friend of Irina Pavlovna?'
Potugin scanned himself.
'With my appearance, and my position in