Page:The Novels of Ivan Turgenev (volume V).djvu/333

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
SMOKE

thirty years; young men out of number fall in love with her, and would fall in love with her even more, if . . . if . . .

Reader, would you care to pass with us for a few instants to Petersburg into one of the first houses there? Look; before you is a spacious apartment, we will not say richly—that is too low an expression —but grandly, imposingly, inspiringly decorated. Are you conscious of a certain flutter of servility? Know that you have entered a temple, a temple consecrated to the highest propriety, to the loftiest philanthropy, in a word, to things unearthly. . . . A kind of mystic, truly mystic, hush enfolds you. The velvet hangings on the doors, the velvet curtains on the window, the bloated, spongy rug on the floor, everything as it were destined and fitted beforehand for subduing, for softening all coarse sounds and violent sensations. The carefully hung lamps inspire well-regulated emotions; a discreet fragrance is diffused in the close air; even the samovar on the table hisses in a restrained and modest manner. The lady of the house, an important personage in the Petersburg world, speaks hardly audibly; she always speaks as though there were some one dangerously ill, almost dying in the room; the other ladies, following her example, faintly whisper; while her sister, pouring out tea, moves her lips so

313