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dinner party, but I wanted above everything to see you. . . . That is your betrothed, I suppose, with whom I met you to-day?'

'Yes, that was my betrothed,' said Litvinov, with emphasis on the word 'was.'

'And so I wanted to see you for one minute, to tell you that you must consider yourself absolutely free, that everything that happened yesterday ought not to affect your plans. . . .'

'Irina!' cried Litvinov, 'why are you saying this?' He uttered these words in a loud voice. There was the note in them of unbounded passion. Irina involuntarily closed her eyes for a minute.

'Oh, my sweet one!' she went on in a whisper still more subdued, but with unrestrained emotion, 'you don't know how I love you, but yesterday I only paid my debt, I made up for the past. . . . Ah! I could not give you back my youth, as I would, but I have laid no obligations on you, I have exacted no promise of any sort of you, my sweet! Do what you will, you are free as air, you are bound in no way, understand that, understand that!'

'But I can't live without you, Irina,' Litvinov interrupted, in a whisper now; 'I am yours for ever and always, since yesterday. . . . I can only breathe at your feet. . . .'