that there is not a man in the whole town happier than you. But I tell you: ten or twenty minutes would beenough for me to make you sit down to this table and write to your fiancée, breaking off your engagement."I laughed." 'Don't laugh, I am speaking seriously,' said my friend. 'If I choose, in twenty minutes you will be happy at thethought that you need not get married. Goodness knows what talent I have, but you are not one of the strongsort.'" 'Well, try it on!' said I." 'No, what for? I am only telling you this. You are a good boy and it would be cruel to subject you to such anexperiment. And besides I am not in good form to-day.'"We sat down to supper. The wine and the thought of Natasha, my beloved, flooded my whole being with youthand happiness. My happiness was so boundless that the lawyer sitting opposite to me with his green eyesseemed to me an unhappy man, so small, so grey. . . ." 'Do try!' I persisted. 'Come, I entreat you!"The lawyer shook his head and frowned. Evidently I was beginning to bore him." 'I know,' he said, 'after my experiment you will say, thank you, and will call me your saviour; but you see Imust think of your fiancée too. She loves you; your jilting her would make her suffer. And what a charmingcreature she is! I envy you.'"The lawyer sighed, sipped his wine, and began talking of how charming my Natasha was. He had anextraordinary gift of description. He could knock you off a regular string of words about a woman's eyelashes or her little finger. I listened to him with relish." 'I have seen a great many women in my day,' he said, 'but I give you my word of honour, I speak as a friend,your Natasha Andreyevna is a pearl, a rare girl. Of course she has her defects -- many of them, in fact, if youlike -- but still she is fascinating.'"And the lawyer began talking of my fiancée's defects. Now I understand very well that he was talking of women in general, of their weak points in general, but at the time it seemed to me that he was talking only of Natasha. He went into ecstasies over her turn-up nose, her shrieks, her shrill laugh, her airs and graces, preciselyall the things I so disliked in her. All that was, to his thinking, infinitely sweet, graceful, and feminine."Without my noticing it, he quickly passed from his enthusiastic tone to one of fatherly admonition, and then toa light and derisive one. . . . There was no presiding judge and no one to check the diffusiveness of the lawyer. Ihad not time to open my mouth, besides, what could I say? What my friend said was not new, it was whateveryone has known for ages, and the whole venom lay not in what he said, but in the damnable form he put itin. It really was beyond anything!"As I listened to him then I learned that the same word has thousands of shades of meaning according to thetone in which it is pronounced, and the form which is given to the sentence. Of course I cannot reproduce thetone or the form; I can only say that as I listened to my friend and walked up and down the room, I was movedto resentment, indignation, and contempt together with him. I even believed him when with tears in his eyes heinformed me that I was a great man, that I was worthy of a better fate, that I was destined to achieve somethingin the future which marriage would hinder!