Page:The Novels of Ivan Turgenev (volume V).djvu/23

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of the Princess Mathilde, so happily remarked in the presence of the Emperor: Madame, le principe de la proprieté est profondément ébranlé en Russie! At the Russian tree, à l'arbre Russe, our dear fellow-countrymen and countrywomen were assembled after their wont. They approached haughtily and carelessly in fashionable style, greeted each other with dignity and elegant ease, as befits beings who find themselves at the topmost pinnacle of contemporary culture. But when they had met and sat down together, they were absolutely at a loss for anything to say to one another, and had to be content with a pitiful interchange of inanities, or with the exceedingly indecent and exceedingly insipid old jokes of a hopelessly stale French wit, once a journalist, a chattering buffoon with Jewish shoes on his paltry little legs, and a contemptible little beard on his mean little visage. He retailed to them, à ces princes russes, all the sweet absurdities from the old comic almanacs Charivari and Tintamarre, and they, ces princes russes, burst into grateful laughter, as though forced in spite of themselves to recognise the crushing superiority of foreign wit, and their own hopeless incapacity to invent anything amusing. Yet here were almost all the ' fine fleur ' of our society, 'all the high-life and mirrors of

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