I remember, Piotr Ivanitch said about her, and very true it is, qu'elle a . . . qu'elle a an ironical intellect.'
'Elle na pas la foi,' the hostess's voice exhaled like the smoke of incense,— 'С'est une âme égarée. She has an ironical mind.'
And that is why the young men are not all without exception in love with Irina. . . . They are afraid of her . . . afraid of her 'ironical intellect.' That is the current phrase about her; in it, as in every phrase, there is a grain of truth. And not only the young men are afraid of her; she is feared by grown men too, and by men in high places, and even by the grandest personages. No one can so truly and artfully scent out the ridiculous or petty side of a character, no one else has the gift of stamping it mercilessly with the never-forgotten word. . . . And the sting of that word is all the sharper that it comes from lovely, sweetly fragrant lips. ... It 's hard to say what passes in that soul; but in the crowd of her adorers rumour does not recognise in any one the position of a favoured suitor.
Irina's husband is moving rapidly along the path which among the French is called the path of distinction. The stout general has shot past him; the condescending one is left behind.