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flung a swift glance at Potugin, murmured 'merci' and holding out her hand to Litvinov reproached him amicably for forgetfulness.

'And you such an old friend!' she added.

Litvinov was beginning to apologise. 'C'est bien, c'est bien,' she assented hurriedly and, taking his hat from him, with friendly insistence made him sit down. Potugin, too, was sitting down, but got up again directly, and saying that he had an engagement he could not put off, and that he would come in again after dinner, he proceeded to take leave. Irina again flung him a rapid glance, and gave him a friendly nod, but she did not try to keep him, and directly he had vanished behind the portiere, she turned with eager impatience to Litvinov.

'Grigory Mihalitch,' she began, speaking Russian in her soft musical voice, 'here we are alone at last, and I can tell you how glad I am at our meeting, because it . . . it gives me a chance . . .' (Irina looked him straight in the face) 'of asking your forgiveness.'

Litvinov gave an involuntary start. He had not expected so swift an attack. He had not expected she would herself turn the conversation upon old times.

'Forgiveness . . . for what? ' . . . he muttered.

Irina flushed.