massive woman of imposing presence, who had once been beautiful, sat in the hostess’ place, with the most honoured guests on each side of her—an old general and his wife, and Anna Pavlovna Scherer. Towards the bottom of the table sat the less elderly and less honoured guests, and there too sat as members of the family Pierre and Ellen, side by side. Prince Vassily did not take supper. He moved to and fro about the table, in excellent spirits, sitting down beside one guest after another. To every one he dropped a few careless and agreeable words, except to Pierre and Ellen, whose presence he seemed not to notice. Prince Vassily enlivened the whole company. The wax candles burned brightly, there was a glitter of silver and crystal on the table, of ladies’ ornaments and the gold and silver of epaulettes. The servants threaded their way in and out round the table in their red coats. There was a clatter of knives, glasses, and plates, and the sound of eager talk from several separate conversations round the table. The old kammerherr at one end could be heard asseverating to an elderly baroness his ardent love for her, while she laughed. At the other end an anecdote was being told of the ill-success of some Marya Viktorovna. In the centre Prince Vassily concentrated the attention on himself. With a playful smile on his lips, he was telling the ladies about the last Wednesday’s session of the privy council, at which Sergey Kuzmitch Vyazmitinov, the new military governor-general of Petersburg, had received and read a rescript—much talked of at the time—from the Emperor Alexander Pavlovitch. The Emperor, writing from the army to Sergey Kuzmitch, had said that on all sides he was receiving proofs of the devotion of his people, and that the testimony from Petersburg was particularly gratifying to him, that he was proud of the honour of being at the head of such a people, and would do his best to be worthy of it. This rescript began with the words: “Sergey Kuzmitch. From all sides reports reach me,” etc.

“So that he never got further with it than ‘Sergey Kuzmitch’?” one lady asked.

“No, no, not a syllable,” Prince Vassily answered laughing. “ ‘Sergey Kuzmitch…from all sides.’ ‘From all sides…Sergey Kuzmitch.…’ Poor Vyazmitinov could not get any further. Several times he started upon the letter again, but no sooner did he utter ‘Sergey,’…than a sniff…‘Kuz…mi…itch’—tears…and ‘from all sides’ is smothered in sobs, and he can get no further. And again the handkerchief and again ‘Sergey Kuzmitch from all sides’ and tears,…so that we begged some one else to read it.…”

“ ‘Kuzmitch…from all sides’…and tears.…” some one repeated, laughing.

“Don’t be naughty,” said Anna Pavlovna, from the other end of the table, shaking her finger at him. “He is such a worthy, excellent man, our good Vyazmitinov.”

Every one laughed heartily. At the upper end of the table, the place of honour, every one seemed in good spirits, under the influence of various enlivening tendencies. Only Pierre and Ellen sat mutely side by side almost at the bottom of the table. The faces of both wore a restrained but beaming smile that had no connection with Sergey Kuzmitch—the smile of bashfulness at their own feelings. Gaily as the others laughed and talked and jested, appetising as were the Rhine wine, the sauté, and the ices they were discussing, carefully as they avoided glancing at the young couple, heedless and unobservant as they seemed of them, yet it was somehow perceptible from the glances stolen at times at them, that the anecdote about Sergey Kuzmitch, and the laughter and the dishes, were all affectation, and that the whole attention of all the party was really concentrated simply on that pair—Pierre and Ellen. Prince Vassily mimicked the sniffs of Sergey Kuzmitch, and at the same time avoided glancing at his daughter, and at the very time that he was laughing, his expression seemed to say: “Yes, yes, it’s all going well, it will all be settled to-day.” Anna Pavlovna shook her finger at him for laughing at “our good Vyazmitinov,” but in her eyes, which at that second flashed a glance in Pierre’s direction, Prince Vassily read congratulation on his future son-in-law and his daughter’s felicity. Old Princess Kuragin, offering wine to the lady next her with a pensive sigh, looking angrily at her daughter, seemed in that sigh to be saying: “Yes, there’s nothing left for you and me now, my dear, but to drink sweet wine, now that the time has come for the young people to be so indecently, provokingly happy!” “And what stupid stuff it all is that I’m talking about, as though it interested me,” thought the diplomat, glancing at the happy faces of the lovers. “That’s happiness!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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