In the fifth figure, when my partner had to leave me for the other side and I, counting the beats, was getting ready to dance my solo, she pursed her lips gravely and looked in another direction; but her fears for me were groundless. Boldly I performed the chasse en avant and chasse en arriere glissade, until, when it came to my turn to move towards her and I, with a comic gesture, showed her the poor glove with its crumpled fingers, she laughed heartily, and seemed to move her tiny feet more enchantingly than ever over the parquetted floor.
How well I remember how we formed the circle, and how, without withdrawing her hand from mine, she scratched her little nose with her glove! All this I can see before me still. Still can I hear the quadrille from "The Maids of the Danube" to which we danced that night.
The second quadrille, I danced with Sonetchka herself; yet when we went to sit down together during the interval, I felt overcome with shyness and as though I had nothing to say. At last, when my silence had lasted so long that I began to be afraid that she would think me a stupid boy, I decided at all hazards to counteract such a notion.
"Vous etes une habitante de Moscou?" I began, and, on receiving an affirmative answer, continued. "Et moi, je n'ai encore jamais frequente la capitale" (with a particular emphasis on the word "frequente"). Yet I felt that, brilliant though this introduction might be as evidence of my profound knowledge of the French language, I could not long keep up the conversation in that manner. Our turn for dancing had not yet arrived, and silence again ensued between us. I kept looking anxiously at her in the hope both of discerning what impression I had produced and of her coming to my aid.
"Where did you get that ridiculous glove of yours?" she asked me all of a sudden, and the question afforded me immense satisfaction and relief. I replied that the glove belonged to Karl Ivanitch, and then went on to speak ironically of his appearance, and to describe how comical he looked in his red cap, and how he and his green coat had once fallen plump off a horse into a pond.
The quadrille was soon over. Yet why had I spoken ironically of poor Karl Ivanitch? Should I, forsooth, have sunk in Sonetchka's esteem if, on the contrary, I had spoken of him with the love and respect which I undoubtedly bore him?
The quadrille ended, Sonetchka said, "Thank you," with as lovely an expression on her face as though I had really conferred, upon her a favour. I was delighted. In fact I hardly knew myself for joy and could not think whence I derived such case and confidence and even daring.
"Nothing in the world can abash me now," I thought as I wandered carelessly about the salon. "I am ready for anything."