For her part, the guest would have liked to have proceeded to business by communicating her tidings, but a sudden exclamation from the hostess imparted (temporarily) a new direction to the conversation.
"What a pretty chintz!" she cried, gazing at the other's gown.
"Yes, it IS pretty," agreed the visitor. "On the other hand, Praskovia Thedorovna thinks that--"
In other words, the ladies proceeded to indulge in a conversation on the subject of dress; and only after this had lasted for a considerable while did the visitor let fall a remark which led her entertainer to inquire:
"And how is the universal charmer?"
"My God!" replied the other. "There has been SUCH a business! In fact, do you know why I am here at all?" And the visitor's breathing became more hurried, and further words seemed to be hovering between her lips like hawks preparing to stoop upon their prey. Only a person of the unhumanity of a "true friend" would have had the heart to interrupt her; but the hostess was just such a friend, and at once interposed with:
"I wonder how any one can see anything in the man to praise or to admire. For my own part, I think--and I would say the same thing straight to his face--that he is a perfect rascal."
"Yes, but do listen to what I have got to tell you."