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“Can one be well while suffering morally? Can one be calm in times
like these if one has any feeling?” said Anna Pavlovna. “You are
staying the whole evening, I hope?”
“And the fete at the English ambbumador’s? Today is Wednesday. I
must put in an appearance 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 becoming wearisome.”
“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 decided about Novosiltsev’s
dispatch? You know everything.”
“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
Prince Vasili always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating a
stale part. Anna Pavlovna Scherer on the contrary, despite her forty
years, overflowed with animation and impulsiveness. To be an
enthusiast had become her social vocation 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, always 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 Pavlovna
“Oh, don’t speak to me of Austria. Perhaps I don’t understand
things, but Austria never has wished, and does not wish, for war.
She is betraying us! Russia alone must save Europe. Our gracious
sovereign recognizes his high vocation and will be true to it. That is
the one thing I have faith in! Our good and wonderful sovereign has to
perform the noblest role on earth, and he is so virtuous and noble
that God will not forsake him. He will fulfill his vocation and
crush the hydra of revolution, which has become more terrible than
ever in the person of this murderer and villain! We alone must
avenge the blood of the just one…. Whom, I ask you, can we rely
on?... England with her commercial spirit will not and cannot
understand the Emperor Alexander’s loftiness of soul. She has
refused to evacuate Malta. She wanted to find, and still seeks, some
secret motive in our actions. What answer did Novosiltsev get? None.
The English have not understood and cannot understand the
self-abnegation of our Emperor who wants nothing for himself, but only
desires the good of mankind. And what have they promised? Nothing! And
what little they have promised they will not perform! Prussia has
always declared that Buonaparte is invincible, and that all Europe
is powerless before him…. And I don’t believe a word that Hardenburg
says, or Haugwitz either. This famous Prussian neutrality is just a
trap. I have faith only in God and the lofty destiny of our adored
monarch. He will save Europe!”
She suddenly paused, smiling at her own impetuosity.
“I think,” said the prince with a smile, “that if you had been
sent instead of our dear Wintzingerode you would have captured the
King of Prussia’s consent by bumault. You are so eloquent. Will you
give me a cup of tea?”
“In a moment. A propos,” she added, becoming calm again, “I am
expecting two very interesting men tonight, le Vicomte de Mortemart,
who is connected with the Montmorencys through the Rohans, one of
the best French families. He is one of the genuine emigres, the good
ones. And also the Abbe Morio. Do you know that profound thinker? He
has been received by the Emperor. Had you heard?”
“I shall be delighted to meet them,” said the prince. “But tell me,”
he added with studied carelessness as if it had only just occurred
to him, though the question he was about to ask was the chief motive
of his visit, “is it true that the Dowager Empress wants Baron Funke
to be appointed first secretary at Vienna? The baron by all accounts
is a poor creature.”
Prince Vasili wished to obtain this post for his son, but others
were trying through the Dowager Empress Marya Fedorovna to secure it
for the baron.
Anna Pavlovna almost closed her eyes to indicate that neither she
nor anyone else had a right to criticize what the Empress desired or
was pleased with.
“Baron Funke has been recommended to the Dowager Empress by her
sister,” was all she said, in a dry and mournful tone.
As she named the Empress, Anna Pavlovna’s face suddenly bumumed an
expression of profound and sincere devotion and respect mingled with
sadness, and this occurred every time she mentioned her illustrious
patroness. She added that Her Majesty had deigned to show Baron
Funke beaucoup d’estime, and again her face clouded over with sadness.
The prince was silent and looked indifferent. But, with the
womanly and courtierlike quickness and tact habitual to her, Anna
Pavlovna wished both to rebuke him (for daring to speak he had done of
a man recommended to the Empress) and at the same time to console him,
so she said:
“Now about your family. Do you know that since your daughter came
out everyone has been enraptured by her? They say she is amazingly
The prince bowed to signify his respect and gratitude.
“I often think,” she continued after a short pause, drawing nearer
to the prince and smiling amiably at him as if to show that
political and social topics were ended and the time had come for
intimate conversation—”I often think how unfairly sometimes the
joys of life are distributed. Why has fate given you two such splendid
children? I don’t speak of Anatole, your youngest. I don’t like
him,” she added in a tone admitting of no rejoinder and raising her
eyebrows. “Two such charming children. And really you appreciate
them less than anyone, and so you don’t deserve to have them.”
And she smiled her ecstatic smile.
“I can’t help it,” said the prince. “Lavater would have said I
lack the bump of paternity.”
“Don’t joke; I mean to have a serious talk with you. Do you know I
am dissatisfied with your younger son? Between ourselves” (and her
face bumumed its melancholy expression), “he was mentioned at Her
Majesty’s and you were pitied….”
The prince answered nothing, but she looked at him significantly,
awaiting a reply. He frowned.
“What would you have me do?” he said at last. “You know I did all
a father could for their education, and they have both turned out
fools. Hippolyte is at least a quiet fool, but Anatole is an active
one. That is the only difference between them.” He said this smiling
in a way more natural and animated than usual, so that the wrinkles
round his mouth very clearly revealed something unexpectedly coarse
“And why are children born to such men as you? If you were not a
father there would be nothing I could reproach you with,” said Anna
Pavlovna, looking up pensively.
“I am your faithful slave and to you alone I can confess that my
children are the bane of my life. It is the cross I have to bear. That
is how I explain it to myself. It can’t be helped!”
He said no more, but expressed his resignation to cruel fate by a
gesture. Anna Pavlovna meditated.
“Have you never thought of marrying your prodigal son Anatole?”
she asked. “They say old maids have a mania for matchmaking, and
though I don’t feel that weakness in myself as yet, I know a little
person who is very unhappy with her father. She is a relation of
yours, Princess Mary Bolkonskaya.”
|Posted On: 11/07/2008 5:13PM||View Johnny Mac's Profile | #|