Prince Vassily smiled. “That I can’t promise. You don’t know how Kutuzov has been besieged ever since he has been appointed commander-in-chief. He told me himself that all the Moscow ladies were in league together to give him all their offspring as adjutants.”

“No, promise me; I can’t let you off, kind, good friend, benefactor …”

“Papa,” repeated the beauty in the same tone, “we are late.”

“Come, au revoir, good-bye. You see how it is.”

“To-morrow then you will speak to the Emperor?”

“Certainly; but about Kutuzov I can’t promise.”

“Yes; do promise, promise, Basile,” Anna Mihalovna said, pursuing him with the smile of a coquettish girl, once perhaps characteristic, but now utterly incongruous with her careworn face. Evidently she had forgotten her age and from habit was bringing out every feminine resource. But as soon as he had gone out her face assumed once more the frigid, artificial expression it had worn all the evening. She went back to the group in which the vicomte was still talking, and again affected to be listening, waiting for the suitable moment to get away, now that her object had been attained.

“And what do you think of this latest farce of the coronation at Milan?” said Anna Pavlovna. “And the new comedy of the people of Lucca and Genoa coming to present their petitions to Monsieur Buonaparte. Monsieur Buonaparte sitting on a throne and granting the petitions of nations! Adorable! Why, it is enough to drive one out of one’s senses! It seems as though the whole world had lost its head.”

Prince Andrey smiled sarcastically, looking straight into Anna Pavlovna’s face.

“God gives it me; let man beware of touching it,” he said (Bonaparte’s words uttered at the coronation). “They say that he was very fine as he spoke those words,” he added, and he repeated the same words in Italian: “Dio me l’ha data, e quai a chi la tocca.

“I hope that at last,” pursued Anna Pavlovna, “this has been the drop of water that will make the glass run over. The sovereigns cannot continue to endure this man who is a threat to everything.”

“The sovereigns! I am not speaking of Russia,” said the vicomte deferentially and hopelessly. “The sovereigns! … Madame! What did they do for Louis the Sixteenth, for the queen, for Madame Elisabeth? Nothing,” he went on with more animation; “and believe me, they are undergoing the punishment of their treason to the Bourbon cause. The sovereigns! … They are sending ambassadors to congratulate the usurper.”

And with a scornful sigh he shifted his attitude again. Prince Ippolit, who had for a long time been staring through his eyeglass at the vicomte, at these words suddenly turned completely round, and bending over the little princess asked her for a needle, and began showing her the coat-of-arms of the Condé family, scratching it with the needle on the table. He explained the coat-of-arms with an air of gravity, as though the princess had asked him about it. “Staff, gules; engrailed with gules of azure—house of Condé,” he said. The princess listened smiling.

“If Bonaparte remains another year on the throne of France,” resumed the vicomte, with the air of a man who, being better acquainted with the subject than any one else, pursues his own train of thought without listening to other people, “things will have gone too far. By intrigue and violence, by exiles and executions, French society—I mean good society—will have been destroyed for ever, and then…”

He shrugged his shoulders, and made a despairing gesture with his hand. Pierre wanted to say something—the conversation interested him —but Anna Pavlovna, who was keeping her eye on him, interposed.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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