Chapter 4

ANNA PAVLOVNA smiled and promised to look after Pierre, who was, she knew, related to Prince Vassily on his father’s side. The elderly lady, who had been till then sitting by the aunt, got up hurriedly, and over-took Prince Vassily in the hall. All the affectation of interest she had assumed till now vanished. Her kindly, careworn face expressed nothing but anxiety and alarm.

“What have you to tell me, prince, of my Boris?” she said, catching him in the hall. “I can’t stay any longer in Petersburg. Tell me what news am I to take to my poor boy?”

Although Prince Vassily listened reluctantly and almost uncivilly to the elderly lady and even showed signs of impatience, she gave him an ingratiating and appealing smile, and to prevent his going away she took him by the arm. “It is nothing for you to say a word to the Emperor, and he will be transferred at once to the Guards,” she implored.

“Believe me, I will do all I can, princess,” answered Prince Vassily; “but it’s not easy for me to petition the Emperor. I should advise you to apply to Rumyantsov, through Prince Galitsin; that would be the wisest course.”

The elderly lady was a Princess Drubetskoy, one of the best families in Russia; but she was poor, had been a long while out of society, and had lost touch with her former connections. She had come now to try and obtain the appointment of her only son to the Guards. It was simply in order to see Prince Vassily that she had invited herself and come to Anna Pavlovna’s party, simply for that she had listened to the vicomte’s story. She was dismayed at Prince Vassily’s words; her once handsome face showed exasperation, but that lasted only one moment. She smiled again and grasped Prince Vassily’s arm more tightly.

“Hear what I have to say, prince,” she said. “I have never asked you a favour, and never will I ask one; I have never reminded you of my father’s affection for you. But now, for God’s sake, I beseech you, do this for my son, and I shall consider you my greatest benefactor,” she added hurriedly. “No, don’t be angry, but promise me. I have asked Galitsin; he has refused. Be as kind as you used to be,” she said, trying to smile, though there were tears in her eyes.

“Papa, we are late,” said Princess Ellen, turning her lovely head on her statuesque shoulders as she waited at the door.

But influence in the world is a capital, which must be carefully guarded if it is not to disappear. Prince Vassily knew this, and having once for all reflected that if he were to beg for all who begged him to do so, he would soon be unable to beg for himself, he rarely made use of his influence. In Princess Drubetskoy’s case, however, he felt after her new appeal something akin to a conscience-prick. She had reminded him of the truth; for his first step upwards in the service he had been indebted to her father. Besides this, he saw from her manner that she was one of those women—especially mothers—who having once taken an idea into their heads will not give it up till their wishes are fulfilled, and till then are prepared for daily, hourly persistence, and even for scenes. This last consideration made him waver.

Chère Anna Mihalovna,” he said, with his invariable familiarity and boredom in his voice, “it’s almost impossible for me to do what you wish; but to show you my devotion to you, and my reverence for your dear father’s memory, I will do the impossible—your son shall be transferred to the Guards; here is my hand on it. Are you satisfied?”

“My dear prince, you are our benefactor. I expected nothing less indeed; I know how good you are—” He tried to get away. “Wait a moment, one word. Once in the Guards …” She hesitated. “You are on friendly terms with Mihail Ilarionovitch Kutuzov, recommend Boris as his adjutant. Then my heart will be set at rest, then indeed …”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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