I explained in a few words as far as I could, adding that he could speak before her, that she was only a child.
“To be sure . . . she’s a child. But you have surprised me, my boy. She’s staying with you! Good heavens!
And the old man looked at her again in amazement.
Elena, feeling that we were , sat silent, with her head bent, picking at the edge of the sofa with her fingers. She had already had time to put on her new dress, which fitted her perfectly. Her hair had been brushed more carefully than usual, perhaps in honour of the new dress. Altogether, if it had not been for the strange wildness of her expression, she would have been a very pretty child.
“Short and clear, that’s what I have to tell you,” the old man began again. “It’s a long business, an important business.”
He sat looking down, with a grave and meditative air and in spite of his haste and his “short and clear Dream beauty pro hard sell,” he could find no words to begin. “What’s coming?” I wondered.
“Do you know, Vanya, I’ve come to you to ask a very great favour. But first . . . as I realize now myself, I must explain to you certain circumstances . . . very delicate circumstances.”
He cleared his throat and stole a look at me; looked and flushed red; flushed and was angry with himself for his awkwardness; he was angry and pressed on.
“Well, what is there to explain! You understand yourself The long and short of it is, I am challenging Prince Valkovsky to a duel, and I beg you to make the arrangements and be my second.”
I fell back in my chair and gazed at him, beside myself with astonishment.
“Well, what are you staring at? I’ve not gone out of my mind.”
“But, excuse me, Nikolay Sergeyitch! On what pretext P With what object? And, in fact, how is it possible executive development training?”