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WELL, PRINCE, so Genoa and Lucca are now
just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I
warn you, if you don't tell me that this means
war, if you still try to defend the infamies and
horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist I real-
ly believe he is Antichrist I will have nothing
more to do with you and you are no longer my
friend, no longer my 'faithful slave,' as you
call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have
frightened you sit down and tell me all the
It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the
well-known Anna Pdvlovna Sch^rer, maid of
honor and favorite of the Empress Marya Fe-
dorovna. With these words she greeted Prince
Vasili Kurdgin, a man of high rank and impor-
tance, who was the first to arrive at her recep-
tion. Anna Pdvlovna had had a cough for some
days. She was, as she said, suffering from la
grippe; grippe being then a new word in St.
Petersburg, used only by the elite.
All her invitations without exception, writ-
ten in French, and delivered by a scarlet-liver-
ied footman that morning, ran as follows:
"If you have nothing better to do, Count [or
Prince], and if the prospect of spending an
evening with a poor invalid is not too terrible,
I shall be very charmed to see you tonight be-
tween 7 and 10 Annette Sch^rer."
"Heavens! what a virulent attack!" replied
the prince, not in the least disconcerted by this
reception. He had just entered, wearing an em-
broidered court uniform, knee breeches, and
shoes, and had stars on his breast and a serene
expression on his flat face. He spoke in that
refined French in which our grandfathers not
only spoke but thought, and with the gentle,
patronizing intonation natural to a man of
importance who had grown old in society and
at court. He went up to Anna Pavlovna, kissed
her hand, presenting to her his bald, scented,
and shining head, and complacently seated
himself on the sofa.
"First of all, dear friend, tell me how you
are. Set your friend's mind at rest," said he
without altering his tone, beneath the polite-
ness and affected sympathy of which indiffer-
ence and even irony could be discerned.
"Can one be well while suffering morally?
Can one be calm in tirrfes like these if one has
any feeling?" said Anna Pdvlovna. "You are
staying the whole evening, I hope?"
"And the fete at the English ambassador's?
Today is Wednesday. I must put in an appear-
ance there," said the prince. "My daughter is
coming for me to take me there."
"I thought today's fete had been canceled.
I confess all these festivities and fireworks are
"If they had known that you wished it, the
entertainment would have been put off," said
the prince, who, like a wound-up clock, by
force of habit said things he did not even wish
to be believed.
"Don't tease! Well, and what has been de-
cided about Novosiltsev's dispatch? You know
"What can one say about it?" replied the
prince in a cold, listless tone. "What has been
decided? They have decided that Buonaparte
has burnt his boats, and I believe that we are
ready to burn ours."
Prince Vastti always spoke languidly, like
an actor repeating a stale part. Anna Pdvlovna
Scherer on the contrary, despite her forty years,
overflowed with animation and impulsiveness.
To be an enthusiast had become her social vo-
cation and, sometimes even when she did not
feel like it, she became enthusiastic in order
not to disappoint the expectations of those
who knew her. The subdued smile which,
though it did not suit her faded features, al-
ways played round her lips expressed, as in a
spoiled child, a continual consciousness of her
charming defect, which she neither wished, nor
could, nor considered it necessary, to correct.
In the midst of a conversation on political
matters Anna Pdvlovna burst out:
"Oh, don't speak to me of Austria. Perhaps
- Stevie 2016
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