“A good figure and in her first bloom,” he was saying, but seeing Rostov he broke off and frowned.

“What do you want? A petition? …”

“What is it?” asked some one in the next room.

“Another petition,” answered the man in the braces.

“Tell him to come later. He’ll be coming out directly; we must go.”

“Later, later, to-morrow. It’s too late.…”

Rostov turned away and would have gone out, but the man in the braces stopped him.

“From whom is it? Who are you?”

“From Major Denisov,” answered Rostov.

“Who are you—an officer?”

“A lieutenant, Count Rostov.”

“What audacity! Send it through the proper channel. And go along with you, go.…” And he began putting on the uniform the valet handed him.

Rostov went out into the hall again, and noticed that by this time there were a great many officers and generals in full dress, and he had to pass through their midst.

Cursing his temerity, ready to faint at the thought that he might any minute meet the Emperor and be put to shame before him and placed under arrest, fully aware by now of all the indecorum of his action, and regretting it, Rostov was making his way out of the house with downcast eyes, through the crowd of the gorgeously dressed suite, when a familiar voice called to him, and a hand detained him.

“Well, sir, what are you doing here in a frock coat?” asked the bass voice.

It was a cavalry general who had won the Emperor’s special favour during this campaign, and had formerly been in command of the division in which Rostov was serving.

Rostov began in dismay to try and excuse himself, but seeing the good-naturedly jocose face of the general, he moved on one side, and in an excited voice told him of the whole affair, begging him to intercede for Denisov, whom the general knew.

The general on hearing Rostov’s story shook his head gravely. “I’m sorry, very sorry for the gallant fellow; give me the letter.”

Rostov had scarcely time to give him the letter and tell him all about Denisov’s scrape, when the clank of rapid footsteps with spurs was heard on the stairs, and the general left his side and moved up to the steps. The gentlemen of the Emperor’s suite ran downstairs and went to their horses. The postillion, the same one who had been at Austerlitz, led up the Emperor’s horse, and on the stairs was heard a light footstep which Rostov knew at once. Forgetting the danger of being recognised, Rostov moved right up to the steps together with some curious persons from the town; and again after two years he saw the features he adored: the same face, the same glance, the same walk, the same combination of majesty and mildness.… And the feeling of enthusiasm and devotion to the Emperor rose up again in Rostov’s heart with all its old force. The Emperor wore the uniform of the Preobrazhensky regiment, white elk-skin breeches and high boots, and a star which Rostov did not recognise (it was the star of the Legion of Honour). He came out on the steps, holding his hat under his arm, and putting on his glove.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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