Pavlovna, with a smile at her own enthusiasm. “We belong to different camps, but that does not prevent me from appreciating her as she deserves. She is very unhappy,” added Anna Pavlovna.

Supposing that by these last words Anna Pavlovna had slightly lifted the veil of mystery that hung over the countess’s illness, one unwary young man permitted himself to express surprise that no well-known doctor had been called in, and that the countess should be treated by a charlatan, who might make use of dangerous remedies.

“Your information may be better than mine,” cried Anna Pavlovna, falling upon the inexperienced youth with sudden viciousness, “but I have it on good authority that this doctor is a very learned and skilful man. He is the private physician of the Queen of Spain.”

And having thus annihilated the young man, Anna Pavlovna turned to Bilibin, who was talking in another group about the Austrians, and had his forehead puckered up in wrinkles in readiness to utter un mot.

“I think it is charming!” he was saying of the diplomatic note which had been sent to Vienna with the Austrian flags taken by Wittgenstein, “le héros de Pétropol,” as he was called at Petersburg.

“What? what was it?” Anna Pavlovna inquired, creating a silence for the mot to be heard, though she had in fact heard it before.

And Bilibin repeated the precise words of the diplomatic despatch he had composed.

“The Emperor sends back the Austrian flags,” said Bilibin; “drapeaux amis et égarés qu’il a trouvés hors de la route,” Bilibin concluded, letting the wrinkles run off his forehead.

“Charming, charming!” said Prince Vassily.

“The road to Warsaw, perhaps,” Prince Ippolit said loudly, to the general surprise. Everybody looked at him, at a loss to guess what he meant. Prince Ippolit, too, looked about him with light-hearted wonder. He had no more notion than other people what was meant by his words. In the course of his diplomatic career he had more than once noticed that words suddenly uttered in that way were accepted as highly diverting, and on every occasion he uttered in that way the first words that chanced to come to his tongue. “May be, it will come out all right,” he thought, “and if it doesn’t, they will know how to give some turn to it.” And the awkward silence that reigned was in fact broken by the entrance of the personage of defective patriotism whom Anna Pavlovna was waiting for to convert to a better mind; and smiling, and shaking her finger at Prince Ippolit, she summoned Prince Vassily to the table, and setting two candles and a manuscript before him, she begged him to begin. There was a general hush.

“Most high and gracious Emperor and Tsar!” Prince Vassily boomed out sternly, and he looked round at his audience as though to inquire whether any one had anything to say against that. But nobody said anything. “The chief capital city, Moscow, the New Jerusalem, receives her Messiah”—he threw a sudden emphasis on the “her”—“even as a mother in the embraces of her zealous sons, and through the gathering darkness, foreseeing the dazzling glory of thy dominion, sings aloud in triumph: ‘Hosanna! Blessed be He that cometh!”’

Prince Vassily uttered these last words in a tearful voice.

Bilibin scrutinised his nails attentively, and many of the audience were visibly cowed, as though wondering what they had done wrong. Anna Pavlovna murmured the words over beforehand, as old women whisper the prayer to come at communion: “Let the base and insolent Goliath…” she whispered.

Prince Vassily continued:

“Let the base and insolent Goliath from the borders of France encompass the realm of Russia with the horrors of death; lowly faith, the sling of the Russian David, shall smite a swift blow at the head of his

  By PanEris using Melati.

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