The count pondered.

“Couldn’t do with less, three … mayonnaise, one,” he said, crooking his finger.

“Then it’s your excellency’s order to take the big sturgeons?” asked the manager.

“Yes; it can’t be helped, we must take them, if they won’t knock the price down. Ah, mercy on us, I was forgetting. Of course we must have another entrée on the table. Ah, good heavens!” he clutched at his head. “And who’s going to get me the flowers? Mitenka! Hey, Mitenka! You gallop, Mitenka,” he said to the steward who came in at his call, “you gallop off to the Podmoskovny estate” (the count’s property in the environs of Moscow), “and tell Maksimka the gardener to set the serfs to work to get decorations from the greenhouses. Tell him everything from his conservatories is to be brought here, and is to be packed in felt. And that I’m to have two hundred pots here by Friday.”

After giving further and yet further directions of all sorts, he was just going off to the countess to rest from his labours, but he recollected something else, turned back himself, brought the cook and manager back, and began giving orders again. They heard in the doorway a light, manly tread and a jingling of spurs, and the young count came in, handsome and rosy, with his darkening moustache, visibly sleeker and in better trim for his easy life in Moscow.

“Ah, my boy! my head’s in a whirl,” said the old gentleman, with a somewhat shamefaced smile at his son. “You might come to my aid! We have still the singers to get, you see. The music is all settled, but shouldn’t we order some gypsy singers? You military gentlemen are fond of that sort of thing.”

“Upon my word, papa, I do believe that Prince Bagration made less fuss over getting ready for the battle of Schöngraben than you are making now,” said his son, smiling.

The old count pretended to be angry.

“Well, you talk, you try!” And the count turned to the cook, who with a shrewd and respectful face looked observantly and sympathetically from father to son.

“What are the young people coming to, eh, Feoktista?” said he; “they laugh at us old fellows!”

“To be sure, your excellency, all they have to do is to eat a good dinner, but to arrange it all and serve it up, that’s no affair of theirs!”

“True, true!” cried the count; and gaily seizing his son by both hands, he cried: “Do you know now I’ve got hold of you! Take a sledge and pair this minute and drive off to Bezuhov, and say that Count Ilya Andreivitch has sent, say, to ask him for strawberries and fresh pineapples. There’s no getting them from any one else. If he’s not at home himself, you go in and give the message to the princesses; and, I say, from there you drive off to the Gaiety—Ipatka the coachman knows the place—and look up Ilyushka there, the gypsy who danced at Count Orlov’s, do you remember, in a white Cossack dress, and bring him here to me.”

“And bring his gypsy girls here with him?” asked Nikolay, laughing.

“Come, come! …”

At this moment Anna Mihalovna stepped noiselessly into the room with that air of Christian meekness, mingled with practical and anxious preoccupation, that never left her face. Although Anna Mihalovna came upon the count in his dressing-gown every day, he was invariably disconcerted at her doing so, and apologised for his costume.

“Don’t mention it, my dear count,” she said, closing her eyes meekly. “I am just going to see Bezuhov,” she said. “Young Bezuhov has arrived, and now we shall get all we want, count, from his greenhouses.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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