14 January 2010

I knew it pleased her

"Laugh, laugh at me!" I exclaimed in intoxication, because I was terribly pleased with this whole conversation and the direction it had taken. "From you it only gives me pleasure. I love your laughter, Anna Andreevna! You have this feature: you keep silent and suddenly burst out laughing, instantly, so that even an instant earlier one couldn't have guessed it by your face. I knew a lady in Moscow, distantly, I watched her from a corner. She was almost as beautiful as you are, but she couldn't laugh the way you do, and her face, which was as attractive as yours—lost its attraction; but yours is terribly attractive . . . precisely for that ability . . . I've long been wanting to tell you."
  When I said of the lady that "she was as beautiful as you are," I was being clever: I pretended that it had escaped me accidentally, as if I hadn't even noticed; I knew very well that women value such "escaped" praise more highly than any polished compliment you like. And as much as Anna Andreevna blushed, I knew it pleased her. And I invented the lady; I didn't know any such lady in Moscow, it was only so as to praise Anna Andreevna and please her.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Adolescent (2003: 240-241)