“Yes,” answered Vera, “I don’t at all desire that. We must live for society.”

“Princess Yusupov was wearing one just like that,” said Berg, pointing with a happy and good-humoured smile to the bertha.

At that moment they were informed that Count Bezuhov had arrived. Both the young couple exchanged glances of self-satisfaction, each mentally claiming the credit of this visit.

“See what comes of knowing how to make acquaintances,” thought Berg. “See what comes of behaving properly!”

“But, please, when I am entertaining guests,” said Vera, “don’t you interrupt me, because I know with what to entertain each of them, and what to say in the company of different people.”

Berg, too, smiled.

“Oh, but sometimes men must have their masculine conversation,” he said.

Pierre was shown into the little drawing-room, in which it was impossible to sit down without disturbing the symmetry, tidiness, and order; and consequently it was quite comprehensible, and not strange, that Berg should magnanimously offer to disturb the symmetry of the armchair or of the sofa for an honoured guest, and apparently finding himself in miserable indecision in the matter, should leave his guest to solve the question of selection. Pierre destroyed the symmetry, moved out a chair for himself, and Berg and Vera promptly began their soirée, interrupting each other in their efforts to entertain their guest.

Vera, deciding in her own mind that Pierre ought to be entertained with conversation about the French Embassy, promptly embarked upon that subject. Berg, deciding that masculine conversation was what was required, interrupted his wife’s remarks by reference to the question of war with Austria, and made an unconscious jump from that general subject to personal considerations upon the proposal made him to take part in the Austrain campaign, and the reasons which had led him to decline it. Although the conversation was extremely disconnected, and Vera resented the intervention of the masculine element, both the young people felt with satisfaction that although only one guest was present, the soirée had begun very well, and that their soirée was as like every other soirée as two drops of water,—with the same conversation and tea and lighted candles.

The next to arrive was Boris, an old comrade of Berg’s. There was a certain shade of patronage and condescension in his manner to Berg and Vera. After Boris came the colonel and his lady, then the general himself, then the Rostovs, and the soirée now began to be exactly, incontestably, like all other soirées. Berg and Vera could hardly repress their smiles of glee at the sight of all this movement in their drawing-room, at the sound of the disconnected chatter, and the rustle of skirts and of curtsies. Everything was precisely as everybody always has it; especially so was the general, who admired their rooms, clapped Berg on the shoulder, and with paternal authority insisted on arranging the table for boston. The general sat by Count Ilya Andreivitch, as the guest next in precedence to himself. The elderly guests were together, the younger people together, the hostess at the tea-table, on which there were cakes in the silver cake- basket exactly like the cakes at the Panins’ soirées. Everything was precisely like what everybody else had.

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