In the midst of a conversation about politics, Anna Pavlovna became greatly excited.

“Ah, don’t talk to me about Austria! I know nothing about it, perhaps, but Austria has never wanted, and doesn’t want war. She is betraying us. Russia alone is to be the saviour of Europe. Our benefactor knows his lofty destiny, and will be true to it. That’s the one thing I have faith in. Our good and sublime emperor has the greatest part in the world to play, and he is so virtuous and noble that God will not desert him, and he will fulfil his mission—to strangle the hydra of revolution, which is more horrible than ever now in the person of this murderer and miscreant.… Whom can we reckon on, I ask you? … England with her commercial spirit will not comprehend and cannot comprehend all the loftiness of soul of the Emperor Alexander. She has refused to evacuate Malta. She tries to detect, she seeks a hidden motive in our actions. What have they said to Novosiltsov? Nothing. They didn’t understand, they’re incapable of understanding the self-sacrifice of our emperor, who desires nothing for himself, and everything for the good of humanity. And what have they promised? Nothing. What they have promised even won’t come to anything! Prussia has declared that Bonaparte is invincible, and that all Europe can do nothing against him.… And I don’t believe a single word of what was said by Hardenberg or Haugwitz. That famous Prussian neutrality is a mere snare. I have no faith but in God and the lofty destiny of our adored emperor. He will save Europe!” She stopped short abruptly, with a smile of amusement at her own warmth.

“I imagine,” said the prince, smiling, “that if you had been sent instead of our dear Wintsengerode, you would have carried the Prussian king’s consent by storm,—you are so eloquent. Will you give me some tea?”

“In a moment. By the way,” she added subsiding into calm again, “there are two very interesting men to be here to-night, the vicomte de Mortemart; he is connected with the Montmorencies through the Rohans, one of the best families in France. He is one of the good emigrants, the real ones. Then Abbé Morio; you know that profound intellect? He has been received by the emperor. Do you know him?”

“Ah! I shall be delighted,” said the prince. “Tell me,” he added, as though he had just recollected something, speaking with special non-chalance, though the question was the chief motive of his visit: “is it true that the dowager empress desires the appointment of Baron Funke as first secretary to the Vienna legation? He is a poor creature, it appears, that baron.” Prince Vassily would have liked to see his son appointed to the post, which people were trying, through the Empress Marya Fyodorovna, to obtain for the baron.

Anna Pavlovna almost closed her eyes to signify that neither she nor any one else could pass judgment on what the empress might be pleased or see fit to do.

“Baron Funke has been recommended to the empress-mother by her sister,” was all she said in a dry, mournful tone. When Anna Pavlovna spoke of the empress her countenance suddenly assumed a profound and genuine expression of devotion and respect, mingled with melancholy, and this happened whenever she mentioned in conversation her illustrious patroness. She said that her Imperial Majesty had been graciously pleased to show great esteem to Baron Funke, and again a shade of melancholy passed over her face. The prince preserved an indifferent silence. Anna Pavlovna, with the adroitness and quick tact of a courtier and a woman, felt an inclination to chastise the prince for his temerity in referring in such terms to a person recommended to the empress, and at the same time to console him.

“But about your own family,” she said, “do you know that your daughter, since she has come out, charms everybody? People say she is as beautiful as the day.”

The prince bowed in token of respect and acknowledgment.

“I often think,” pursued Anna Pavlovna, moving up to the prince and smiling cordially to him, as though to mark that political and worldly conversation was over and now intimate talk was to begin: “I often think how unfairly the blessings of life are sometimes apportioned. Why has fate given you two such splendid children—I don’t include Anatole, your youngest—him I don’t like” (she put in with a decision admitting

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