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opinion ... on the part she played in Petersburg. What was that part, in reality?'

'I really don't know what to say to you, Grigory Mihalitch; I was brought into rather intimate terms with Madame Ratmirov . . . but quite accidentally, and not for long. I never got an insight into her world, and what took place in it remained unknown to me. There was some gossip before me, but as you know, it 's not only in democratic circles that slander reigns supreme among us. Besides I was not inquisitive. I see though,' he added, after a short silence, 'she interests you.'

'Yes; we have twice talked together rather openly. I ask myself, though, is she sincere?'

Potugin looked down. 'When she is carried away by feeling, she is sincere, like all women of strong passions. Pride too, sometimes prevents her from lying.'

'Is she proud? I should rather have supposed she was capricious.'

'Proud as the devil; but that 's no harm.'

'I fancy she sometimes exaggerates. . . .'

'That's nothing either, she's sincere all the same. Though after all, how can you expect truth? The best of those society women are rotten to the marrow of their bones.'

'But, Sozont Ivanitch, if you remember, you