'Before telling my story, I have to thank you,' began Litvinov.
'For the bouquet of flowers, which made its appearance in my room.'
'What bouquet? I know nothing about it.'
'I tell you I know nothing about it. . . . But I am waiting. . . I am waiting for your story. . . . Ah, what a good fellow that Potugin is to have brought you!'
Litvinov pricked up his ears . 'Have you known this Mr. Potugin long?' he queried.
'Yes, a long while . . . but tell me your story.'
'And do you know him well?'
'Oh, yes!' Irina sighed. 'There are special reasons. . . . You have heard, of course, of Eliza Byelsky. . . . Who died, you know, the year before last, such a dreadful death? . . . Ah, to be sure, I 'd forgotten you don't know all our scandals. ... It is well, it is well indeed, that you don't know them. О quelle chance! at last, at last, a man, a live man, who knows nothing of us! And to be able to talk Russian with him, bad Russian of course, but still Russian, not that everlasting mawkish, sickening French patter of Petersburg.'