“No peace, damn them!” he grumbled, with inward rage at some persons unknown. “Yes, yes, there was something else of importance — something of great importance I was saving up to think of in bed. The bolts? No, I did speak about them. No, there was something, something in the drawing-room. Princess Marya talked some nonsense. Dessalle — he’s a fool — said something, something in my pocket — I don’t remember.”

“Tishka! what were we talking about at dinner?”

“About Prince Mihail …”

“Stay, stay” — the prince slapped his hand down on the table. “Yes, I know, Prince Andrey’s letter. Princess Marya read it. Dessalle said something about Vitebsk. I’ll read it now.”

He told Tihon to get the letter out of his pocket, and to move up the little table with the lemonade and the spiral wax candle on it, and putting on his spectacles he began reading. Only then in the stillness of the night, as he read the letter, in the faint light under the green shade, for the first time he grasped for an instant its meaning. “The French are at Vitebsk, in four days’ march they may be at Smolensk; perhaps they are there by now. Tishka!” Tihon jumped up. “No, nothing, nothing!” he cried.

He put the letter under the candlestick and closed his eyes. And there rose before his mind the Danube, bright midday, the reeds, the Russian camp, and he, a young general, without one wrinkle on his brow, bold, gay, ruddy, entering Potyomkin’s gay-coloured tent, and the burning sensation of envy of the favourite stirs within him as keenly as at the time. And he recalls every word uttered at that first interview with Potyomkin. And then he sees a plump, short woman with a sallow, fat face, the mother empress, her smiles and words at her first gracious reception for him; and then her face as she lay on the bier, and the quarrel with Zubov over her coffin for the right to kiss her hand

“Oh, to make haste, to make haste back to that time, and oh, that the present might soon be over and they might leave me in peace!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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