The doctor looked at his memoranda.

“Take a glass of boiled water and put in a pinch” (he showed with his delicate fingers what was meant by a pinch) “of cream of tartar.”

“There has never been a case,” said the German doctor to the adjutant, speaking broken Russian, “of recovery after having a third stroke.”

“And what a vigorous man he was!” said the adjutant. “And to whom will his great wealth go?” he added in a whisper.

“Candidates will be found,” the German replied, smiling. Every one looked round again at the door; it creaked, and the second princess having made the drink according to Lorrain’s direction, carried it into the sick-room. The German doctor went up to Lorrain.

“Can it drag on till to-morrow morning?” asked the German, with a vile French accent.

Lorrain, with compressed lips and a stern face, moved his finger before his nose to express a negative.

“To-night, not later,” he said softly, and with a decorous smile of satisfaction at being able to understand and to express the exact position of the sick man, he walked away.

Meanwhile Prince Vassily had opened the door of the princess’s room.

It was half dark in the room; there were only two lamps burning before the holy pictures, and there was a sweet perfume of incense and flowers. The whole room was furnished with miniature furniture, little sideboards, small bookcases, and small tables. Behind a screen could be seen the white coverings of a high feather-bed. A little dog barked.

“Ah, is that you, mon cousin?”

She got up and smoothed her hair, which was always, even now, so extraordinarily smooth that it seemed as though made out of one piece with her head and covered with varnish.

“Has anything happened?” she asked. “I am in continual dread.”

“Nothing, everything is unchanged. I have only come to have a little talk with you, Katish, about business,” said the prince, sitting down wearily in the low chair from which she had just risen. “How warm it is here, though,” he said. “Come, sit here; let us talk.”

“I wondered whether anything had happened,” said the princess, and with her stonily severe expression unchanged, she sat down opposite the prince, preparing herself to listen. “I have been trying to get some sleep, mon cousin, but I can’t.”

“Well, my dear?” said Prince Vassily, taking the princess’s hand, and bending it downwards as his habit was.

It was plain that this “well?” referred to much that they both comprehended without mentioning it in words.

The princess, with her spare, upright figure, so disproportionately long in the body, looked straight at the prince with no sign of emotion in her prominent grey eyes. She shook her head, and sighing looked towards the holy pictures. Her gesture might have been interpreted as an expression of grief and devotion, or as an expression of weariness and the hope of a speedy release. Prince Vassily took it as an expression of weariness.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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