“Well, I’m not likely to run after a young man before visitors.…”

“Well, she has gained her object!” Nikolay put in; “she has said something nasty to every one, and upset everybody. Let’s go into the nursery.”

All four rose, like a flock of scared birds, and went out of the room.

“You’ve said nasty things to me, and I said nothing to any one,” said Vera.

“Madame de Genlis! Madame de Genlis!” cried laughing voices through the door.

The handsome girl who produced such an irritating and unpleasant effect on every one smiled; and, obviously unaffected by what had been said to her, she went up to the looking-glass and put her scarf and her hair tidy. Looking at her handsome face, she seemed to become colder and more composed than ever.

In the drawing-room the conversation was still going on.

Ah, chère,” said the countess, “in my life, too, everything is not rose-coloured. Do you suppose I don’t see that, in the way we are going on, our fortune can’t last long? And it’s all the club and his good- nature. When we’re in the country we have no rest from it,—it’s nothing but theatricals, hunting parties, and God knows what. But we won’t talk of me. Come, tell me how you managed it all. I often wonder at you, Annette, the way you go racing off alone, at your age, to Moscow, and to Petersburg, to all the ministers, and all the great people, and know how to get round them all too. I admire you, really! Well, how was it arranged? Why, I could never do it.”

“Ah, my dear!” answered Princess Anna Mihalovna, “God grant that you never know what it is to be left a widow, with no one to support you, and a son whom you love to distraction. One learns how to do anything,” she said with some pride. “My lawsuit trained me to it. If I want to see one of these great people, I write a note: ‘Princess so-and-so wishes to see so-and-so,’ and I go myself in a hired cab two or three times—four, if need be—till I get what I want. I don’t mind what they think of me.”

“Well, tell me, then, whom did you interview for Borinka?” asked the countess. “Here’s your boy an officer in the Guards, while my Nikolinka’s going as an ensign. There’s no one to manage things for him. Whose help did you ask?”

“Prince Vassily’s. He was so kind. Agreed to do everything immediately; put the case before the Emperor,” said Princess Anna Mihalovna enthusiastically, entirely forgetting all the humiliation she had been through to attain her object.

“And how is he? beginning to get old, Prince Vassily?” inquired the countess. “I have never seen him since our theatricals at the Rumyantsovs’, and I dare say he has forgotten me. He paid me attentions,” the countess recalled with a smile.

“He’s just the same,” answered Anna Mihalovna, “so affable, brimming over. Greatness has not turned his head. ‘I am sorry I can do so little for you, Princess,’ he said to me; ‘I’m at your command.’ Yes, he’s a splendid man, and very good to his relatives. But you know, Natalie, my love for my boy. I don’t know what I would not do to make him happy. And my means are so scanty,” pursued Anna Mihalovna, dropping her voice mournfully, “that now I am in a most awful position. My wretched lawsuit is eating up all I have, and making no progress. I have not, can you conceive it, literally, not sixpence in the world, and I don’t know how to get Boris’s equipment.” She took out her handkerchief and shed tears. “I must have five hundred roubles, and I have only a twenty-five rouble note. I’m in such a position.… My one hope now is in Prince Kirill Vladimirovitch Bezuhov. If he will not come to the help of his godson—you know he is Boris’s godfather—and allow him something for his maintenance, all my efforts will have been in vain; I shall have nothing to get his equipment with.”

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